Friday, April 16, 2021

When Hammer Productions Pulled The Hammer Down-Cushing And Merill’s “Cash On Demand” (1961)-A Film Review

When Hammer Productions Pulled The Hammer Down-Cushing And Merill’s “Cash On Demand” (1961)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Sarah Lemoyne

Cash On Demand, starring Peter Cushing, Andre Merill, 1961 

[Unlike some of the other writers, film reviewers at this publication who use this space, according to site manager Greg Green, to go off on tangents discussing everything but the film they are supposed to be reviewing I am using it to introduce myself. Hi-Sarah Lemoyne is my name and this is my first serious job in journalism after several years doing a little of this and of that while keeping myself alive as a barista at Starbucks. Greg hired me for now as a stringer which he, and all the older writers, tell me is the way that things work in this business. Leslie Dumont told me that when she was hired by Allan Jackson, the former site manager when this publication was a hard copy edition, a number of years ago before she got her by-line in Women Today she had not only been a stringer, meaning then that she got paid by the word but had written half of the film reviews that Sam Lowell got credit for in his by-line when he was drunk, doped up or off chasing some woman. Funny meeting him after what Leslie told me he seemed nice and certainly not a guy who would pilfer somebody else’s work but I still have a lot to learn.

That is really what I want to talk about, about learning things, as I work on my first assignment which Greg says will help broaden my horizons. I have been given the chance to review a block of six films, six black and white films from the 1950s and early 1960s put out through the Hammer Production Company in England and distributed in America by Columbia Pictures. I will admit that before this assignment came up I had never seen a black and white film (Greg told me to include this point). Since I started here Seth Garth has sat with me when we watched what he called a classic black and white film worthy of note from a period later than the 1940s and 1950s The Last Picture Show  starring Jeff Bridges whom I did know from the movie Crazy Hearts. I am not sure I like black and white film as a way to create a certain mood but like Greg says it will broaden my horizons and reviewing older films will allow me to learn from my mistakes without causing a whole lot of problems for him. Sarah Lemoyne]   

Seth Garth mentioned to me when I told him that my assignment was this Hammer Production series and that I had never seen a black and white film since I was born in 1988 that the Hammer operation was based on a low budget schedule using unknown British actors who would work on the cheap and getting the guys who wrote books to do the screenplay to save money on writing and production time. Still he seemed to think that dollar for dollar they have held up. His experience had been reviewing the monster and ghoul movies Hammer was famous for and an important film noir series which he had reviewed in this space a few years ago. With that advice, and mention that I should take it easy and not go crazy trying to think up some “cinematic studies” stuff to what he called “padding” the review, I worked my way through the first film Cash on Demand, I don’t think they spent much money on figuring snappy titles, which seemed a little weird a couple of times to make sure I got the plot right. (Seth also said if you are in trouble with a review just go heavy on the plot and characters which is what most readers want anyway which seemed like good advice.)  

Seth also said that everybody loves a con man, everybody except the person being conned and although I don’t agree with him the con man, the bank robber here seems to be what had Seth all in a dither when I told him the plot and was looking for advice about what everybody around here calls “the hook,” what you want the reader get out of your considered judgment of the merits of the film. This con man, a Colonel played by Andre Morell, posing as an insurance investigator has the uptight and strait-laced branch manager of a London bank, Harry Fordyce, played by Peter Cushing beside himself just before Christmas when he descended on the bank supposedly for an audit. Once the scene get reduced to a battle of wits between the two the Colonel lays out his plan, or rather his intention to rob the bank without firepower or visible accomplices. Lays it out so that Harry has no choice but to go along. The Colonel has buffaloed  Harry with the idea, complete with telephone conversation (which turned out to be tapes when the whole scam was exposed later), that his unseen accomplices were holding Harry’s wife and son hostage and would do them grievous bodily harm if he did not comply to the letter with the instruction being laid out to him.  

The Colonel’s “hook” was that Harry only and solely cared about his wife and child and despite every instinct he had learned as a banker and as an uptight person he went grudgingly along with the con, with the robbery of some 93, 000 pounds sterling which seems like a lot of money for the times and even today when I would be glad to have such a sum to get out from under my college tuition debt hanging over me. The Colonel had Harry in a box until it comes time to depart with the dough. Then everything broke loose although not to Harry’s liking because one of his employees has called the coppers when things didn’t seem to add up. The London coppers apparently so clever on the pursuit brought that the Colonel was brought back in handcuffs to confront his “confederate”-the perplexed Harry.

After a bit of sleight of hand Harry was angled into going to the police station to answer a lot of questions about why he shouldn’t be sitting in the cell next to the Colonel at Dartmoor prison. Chastised by the experience we are left with the implication that hereafter Harry will be better toward his fellows and a more stand-up man. I hope everybody is okay with the synopsis and that this little tale has some meaning about being less uptight in the world and filled a bit more with the milk of human kindness. First review done and hopefully accepted.       

The Great Art Heist Caper-Carmen Diaz and Colin Firth’s “ Gambit” (2012)- A Film Review

The Great Art Heist Caper-Carmen Diaz and Colin Firth’s “ Gambit” (2012)- A Film Review   

DVD Review

By Sam Lowell

Gambit, starring Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Allan Rickman, 2012

Willie Sutton the great and legendary bank robber was reputed to have said (I assume when he was in police custody although who knows maybe he gave free-lance interviews on the fly) when asked why he robbed banks answered truly enough “that was where the money was.” Okay, but dear sweet Willie was an old-fashioned boy and while in his time that was the place to go to earn his daily living that mode of employment is now rather dangerous filled with sensors, wires and the 3rd Marine Division, or so it seems. Moreover as the film under review The Gambit amply demonstrates there are more ways to heaven through guile, and through a choice piece in the international art market. That guile is important since there are basically two ways to acquire art and amass your fortune. That aforementioned guile which will drive the action in this film and a straight out heist into some museum overriding the security systems and such which is the stuff of more than one cinematic storyline. I like the second way quite a bit since I have been around long enough to have seen the masters of the profession at work in the famous, or infamous your choice, big rip-off at the Gardner Museum in Boston which to this day has the frames of the ripped off art work as painful reminders that those objects have never been recovered and the police and others are still scratching their heads on that one.

The guile strategy does have its good points though especially if you have a ready buyer and you have an enflamed unscrupulous individual wealthy, wealthy these days meaning a billionaire or one who has access to billions. Especially when it is an inside job, a comeuppance inside job. The average person probably does not know it since the very rich in Scotty Fitzgerald’s famous aphorism are different, very different from you and me but high end art collectors can put art experts on their payrolls without thinking about it. A wise investment when you think about it guarding against fakes and frauds and tax deductible too. That is the case here with hired gun art expert Deane, played by Colin Firth who is out to bamboozle an ugly rich and nude everyman billionaire do we really need to know names, played by the villainous late British actor Alan Rickman.

This is how this caper played out and you really have to admire it even if your heart is with those Gardner master thieves. Claude Monet, the max daddy Impressionist, painted a couple of haystacks out in the French countryside in the 1890s, one at dawn the other at dusk. The “at dawn” one money bags already has but the other “at dusk” had a long and troubled history including being part of German Nazi Goring’s private collection and supposedly  subsequently when the Reich fell down in poor Podunk, Texas in the hands of the guy who grabbed it when the Nazi went down. Or rather to complete the key ensemble, his granddaughter PJ now, played by Cameron Diaz, a true cowgirl in the sand.

Deane’s play is to convince the dear Lord that the Texas Monet is legitimate and enlists PJ in the caper to add the final touch to the also lecherous Lord. The caper goes through a bunch of perhaps unnecessary pratfalls once PJ hits London in order to get her claws into the Lord, get them in good so he buys the story, takes the bait. Which he does. This is the beauty of the play though. Deane had his confederate master art forger paint two Monets-dawn and dusk and through a series of flimflam maneuvers is able to substitute a fake “dawn” for the real one in the Lord’s possession while claiming the dusk one is a fake (which it is of course). Deane sells the real “dawn” to a Japanese competitor of the Lord’s for a cool ten million-pounds (pre-Brexit). Nice play-and PJ gets a big cut too before heading back to Podunk, Texas. I wonder if the dear Lord is interested in a Rembrandt self-portrait–cheap at the price.                     

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-Lost In The Rain-With The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-Lost In The Rain-With The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter In Mind

By Allan Jackson

[All roads lead back to Markin, Peter Paul Markin, a guy from the old growing up neighborhood back in the working class, that fact is important, Acre section of North Adamsville. Lead back from my having taken his name as my moniker when I was the site manager of this publication all the way to his being an important bell weather for what went on in our generation our Generation of ’68 as it has been characterized here and elsewhere, the vaunted baby-boomer generation just now starting to pass the baton to younger generations hoping they are up to the tasks of this wonderful, weird, treacherous century as it gathers some steam. Markin whom we always called Scribe from very early on since he always had a pencil or pen and notebook at the ready in his shirt pocket to write something down and bore us with it later. Always had pen or pencil ready when our acknowledged leader of the corner Frankie Riley had something to say which I think is the original way Markin got the name. Yeah, Scribe was a piece of work and if I live to be one hundred something I am not sure now that a am on the short side of that possibility I want to make I will always think of something the bastard did or said in his short sweet sad life.

The Scribe was no generational Everyman, no way, but he did represent a certain aspect of that generation, a certain aspect of what went into making the 1960s a wasn’t that a time moment and the scourge of the night-takers who to this day have been fighting a frontal assault on whatever dreams we thought we could create. Of course certain things lead you to think about the old days when you are old enough  to have old days and for me it had been a haunting and hollow feeling in the back of my brain ever since the Fall of 2017 when I was watching Ken Burns ten part-eighteen hour Vietnam War series on Public Television. What has got me thinking about that series is how many of the experiences mainly by guys just like the guys in our Acre neighborhood paralleled Scribe’s (and my own). How we got patriotically bamboozled into serving in the military in that war. I especially related to Tim O’Brian, a guy who has written many good pieces of literature about those times, about how he too got snookered into the service by everything that he knew or felt. Every minute I watched I couldn’t help but think of Scribe, help think that if not Everyman his life story-better his dreams-were part of the mix and not the worst part either.
I don’t know about “red diaper’ babies, sons and daughters of radicals and communists when that was okay in the 1930s and early 1940s before the hammer came down and everybody had to put their heads down-or else-in that red scare Cold War night that forms part of the title to this series. I don’t know about kids from our generation who grew up in the leafy suburbs and mother had a Volkswagen or some such car to talk the kids to and fro (we, and this included Scribe’s family as well only have private transportation when there was enough money for a car otherwise we were captives of the slow-death public transportation). For that matter I don’t know about what were then called the ghettos where black people, people who later would be kindred, were huddled and abused. Didn’t know about the barrio a much lesser ethnic group then or about how the Indians, Native Americans, indigenous peoples now, survived. Or what went on, except at second hand, down in the hills and hollows of poor white Appalachia. Neither did Scribe although lightning rod that he was he actually studied up on such stuff, took an interest when all the rest of us cared about was cars, girls, and having sex with the same, with the girls. He did too but not with our desperate intensity.

What Scribe knew about, what we corner boys knew about was white working poor Northern stuff, although we probably unlike to day when identity politics of all types and were are in a cold civil war according to writer Frank Jackman shared plenty of common customs, dreams, commitments and myths with the other aforementioned groupings. What Scribe knew about was “from hunger,” our from hunger world (funny I remember he told me once he did not realize that he and his family was poor because in “the projects” where he grew up, grew up early in, everybody was poor, white poor in the golden age of up and coming for whites after World War II and it was not until sixth or seventh grade in school when kids outside the projects attended the same school that he was painfully and thoughtlessly made very aware that he was poor-from girls who scorned him for his poverty as well as other indignities. So “from hunger” fits.

That is one part Scribe but the part the part that made him that bell weather was some kind of instinct, maybe dream instinct, that something new was coming along in our times and we had better grab it with all hands since it might not last (later as it faded with the ebbing of the 1960s cultural shifts he refused to believe the fury of the times was fading, the newer world was dying, which I believe, and not just me believe, was part of his untethering, of his early death down in fucking dust-strewn back streets Sonora, Mexico dead by his own overweening from hunger appetites). I didn’t, nobody did except maybe Frankie Riley and he only because he thought it would provide him with the main chance, realize that a “new breeze” was blowing through the land. Scribe was on it from the sense he had that beatnik thing that we were just too young to have sensed was our thing although that didn’t stop Scribe from on lonely Friday nights on the corner spouting forth with verses from “fag” Allen Ginsberg’s “faggy” negro streets avenging angels Howl  which we couldn’t get him to stop yakking about.   

More of our time the time which none of us patriotic working stuff boys understood when he went with the freaking Quakers and other commies to call for nuclear disarmament or walk the sidewalks in front of Woolworth’s on Washington Street in Boston for the “n----rs” (you figure it out but that was what we called then in the Acre including Scribe early on) down South who wanted to eat lunch in the place but couldn’t by custom and threat. More sensible (to me) since he took me there were the trips to Harvard Square when beatnik turned to folkie which would turn to hippie to listen to songs and poems which were totally different from our heaven-sent rock and roll that had sustained us in the dark days of the 1950s when we didn’t know we were from hunger but knew something was missing-at least I hope we did.

But the biggest thing and it was epidemic so I don’t know how we missed it especially since Scribe endlessly harped on was when he got all of us, almost all of us except a couple of guys from the corner Ricky Rizzo and Jimmy James who had already enlisted and would perish in Vietnam and have a place of honor down on black granite in Washington, D.C., to head out to California after he came back from there and got us in the Summer of Love, 1967. That set us on a different course, set me on a different course for sure. Then the “shit hit the fan.” Scribe had decided that fateful 1967 to drop out of college, a bad mistake since was drafted the next year and sent to Vietnam. I went there too but later after I finished college and was drafted. This is where our white working class beginnings and ethos left us without a compass. Where, as Tim O’Brian in that Ken Burns series eloquently put it, was there space in small town, neighborhood but it might as well have been a small town since the ethos was the same to rebel against induction. Who including patriotic World War II serving parents would have supported us. And so Scribe’s fate was cast, cast in a very different way than we would have expected earlier in the decade. After ‘Nam he never was the same although he wrote some great stuff, did some great politic work but the “real” world was getting nastier and nastier and not where he expected it to go. So a “lost boy.” Still fifty years later all roads lead back to Markin. Allan Jackson]    

Peter Paul Markin, but after this introduction just Markin, at least that is what I have always called him ever since we first met down in my hometown of Hullsville in the summer of 1964 was for a long time out of step with his generation. Or at least I, Jimmy Jenkins, have always liked to think that he was out of step with the best part of our generation, the generation of ’68 name so by me and others later to reflect that ebb-tide year when all hell broke loose and many things were possible, the part of our generation that tried to turn the world upside down, tried the great decade boxed in jail-break out. It was not that Markin did not have appetites, in fact after many talks with him I found like many working-class kids from hunger like the two of us he had huge appetites, for changing the world, a world that neither he nor I created but which we each on our own way had wanted to spin on a different axis. To include us in the day to day calculations. My story was rather simple as I simply went with the flow as it drifted toward a counter-cultural expression but Markin, well, Markin’s is something else again.   
But enough of trying to tease out an explanation and let’s get to the skinny, the story.  Hullsville is about twenty miles south of Markin’s hometown of North Adamsville which meant that ordinarily the chances of us meeting were slim seeing that after graduation from high school he was going off to college in Boston and I was getting ready to go to work in Jim Snyder’s Auto Body Shop over on Route 3A on the Hingham line to make some money and maybe after a while go into the service and then to college on the GI Bill since our family did not have dollar one to send me to college. Moreover while the teachers in school called me smart, some said too smart and one old-time History teacher who looked like he might have participated on the White side in the Russia civil wars after the revolution in 1917 called me a “Bolshevik” once for giving a snarly answer to one of his silly questions about some date in history, I was too much into being a corner boy to keep up my grades enough to get some scholarship help like Markin got. Nobody called him a Bolshevik then as far as I know and he never mentioned anything like that after I told him one time the History teacher story, and how he had kept me after school a few days running when I did not give him what he considered an appropriate answer to why I was acting like Bolshevik in his class. 

What is remarkable, remarkable when you think about how possessive and cut-throats guys were in those days about girls and girlfriends and we were no exceptions, was the way we met one night shortly after we had graduated from our respective high schools at the Sea ‘n’ Surf Ballroom in my hometown.  This locally famous dance hall, now long gone to condominiums, had been located right at the start of the ocean end of Hullsville, an oceanfront which extended the length of the town right up to the Daley Point Lighthouse. The place catered to those from eighteen to twenty-one who could not legally drink liquor and only served soft drinks and snacks. That oceanfront had been a draw in its own right for those moments during dance hall intermission when guys and gals went out to for smoke, a cigarette smoke then as far as I know although I had heard rumors that in California people were smoking other stuff, marijuana, and Markin had told me that he had read about the “beats” who came a little before us, you know Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, guys like that in the Village, out in North Beach places like that who were high all the time on bennies and marijuana so there could have been some of that going on too. Maybe the guys and gals, and this I know from my own frayed nerves especially around girls then, girls who I might try to pick up, fed up with the soda inside stepped out to gain “liquid courage” with some cheapjack low-end Johnny Walker whiskey to calm the nerves, and later in the evening, those midnight hours, that oceanfront acted as a local lovers’ lane complete with some car window-fogging action for those who got lucky, or were horny.

The Sea ‘n’ Surf in those days held a weekly rock ‘n’ roll dance in the main ballroom all year-round on Friday and Saturday nights, Sunday afternoons were left to real ballroom dancing by those like our parents who did not know fast-dancing or anything like that and the rest of the week the place stood empty. Back then the main ballroom featured a live cover band, the famous Rockin’ Ramrods, locally famous anyway, who went on to front at many concerts like when the Stones and Grateful Dead were in Boston although they never quite had enough of whatever it took to make it big on their own.

See that night we both, Markin and I, had our eyes set on the same girl, same young woman, if we were talking about her now, Laura McCarthy, who was nothing but a heart-breaker. Heart-breaker in a lot of ways but mainly, which both of us were clueless about at the time since we had been nothing but grinds and narrowly- focused guys, because she, an absolutely ethereal beauty all wispy and dreamy like some Botticelli model  was maybe a step ahead of her time in her sense of sexual liberation (or at least wanting to break the mold of that prevalent mores of working one’s way steadily toward the marriage altar), of being her own woman and of being into the very closed “new dope” scene, meaning LSD, mescaline, peyote buttons, and the like not the junkie nose candy or H stuff like some Nelson Algren junkie man with a golden arm Frank Sinatra thing in the movies and he trying go cold turkey all for Kim Novak and making a mess of it. (I did not know until a few years later that a Botticelli model is what Laura should have been compared too since I had never been to an art museum and Markin only mentioned it later after he had taken some required Art Appreciation course and I had seen a photograph of one of his paintings, and after he had showed it to me and we both immediately thought of that little long gone heart-breaker)

So yes we became friends out of trying to make the same girl who played us like we were on yo-yo strings, and subsequently dumped both of us in succession, me last, and left plenty of lovelorn scars on our psyches. We had heard back then that Laura had subsequently drifted to a commune out in Taos, New Mexico and she might still be there for all we know as improbable as that sounds. But in the ins and outs of that competition for her favors is a whole other story, a boy-girl story that has been told since Adam and Eve time, maybe before, and not knowing that information does not add to the story I want to tell you about what was taking place with Markin in the mid-1960s. A time when we were trying to figure out all the implications of that new wave blowing across America, a generic youth wave which included Markin and me too, a wave away from almost everything our parents, all those in charge, and other interested parties were into as we sought the newer world that we expected was just around the corner where we would finally be free to express ourselves in a world that we had created, or at least had a say in. But I will fill you in on the general outlines of that big picture quest as I go along. Right now this is about Markin’s long journey on that road, longer that one would have thought when the dust finally settled later but once you knew everything that drove him back then it makes sense that it would be nothing but a long journey, and a close thing in the making at that when all is said and done. 

Now that we have it straight on the Markin moniker part, the name part which I said before I have always called him and not just me since that is what everybody in old North Adamsville except his dear mother, Delores, well, maybe not so dear but his mother anyway, and later his first frenetic ex-wife, Joyce, which explains a lot about why she was an ex-wife called him we can try to fit the pieces together that made up Markin then (strangely Joyce had been  another woman that we both lusted after but I did mine in secret, or a little subtly, since she always had eyes for Markin from the first and my only hope was that she would fall off his train but she never did, damn, she never did, and when they split she headed to Frisco so I never had a proper shot at her. Markin when we talked about it much later after many other affairs fell through for both of us gave me plenty of reason to be glad that she never got her hooks into me, although I still think I would not have minded taking the ticket, taking the ride back then). Markin never could figure out then what the attraction was for all those desperate children of the light camped out, rain or shine, on the Boston Common in that summer of love year, 1967. (That desperate part strictly in Markin’s head, maybe the “children of light” part too but the “desperate” part tells a lot about the way that Markin saw the new wave coming, knew it was coming but was totally out of synch with what was coming down like I say driven by his own life’s trajectory and his outsized dreams). This was not some abstract question since a number of his old time friends, his corner boys, a couple of whom I met before they headed west, headed west physically and in their minds to a very different place than they had talked about on those lonely Friday nights in front of their bowling alley hang-out.

A lot of what went on back then, a lot of the questioning, a lot of things that were pulling people every which way was associated with the west just like out forbears, including our immediate spiritual forbears, the “beats” who through their writing, through their life-style and through the sheer fact that they themselves were always physically heading west in those broken-down, stolen, or hitch-hiked cars and trucks drove us that way. (Strangely as far removed from the “beat” scene as Markin was he was fascinated by their writings, especially Kerouac’s, a working-class former football hero who he said “spoke” to him in some literary way. What he hated was the dope, “fag,” hey that’s the word we used, midnight sunglasses part tied in with a little plebian anti-intellectualism carried over from those North Adamsville streets where “street smart” trumped “book smart.”) Those old corner boys from the old town had “gone over to the other side” as Markin saw the matter when he heard where they had gone, gone to ground on that very Common with the other desperate children, saw them turning seemingly in a minute from stolid old corner boys holding up walls in front of Doc’s Drugstore, Salducci’s Pizza Parlor or the Jack Slack’s Bowling Alleys (along with him) to drug addicts, ne’er do wells and vagabonds. No question in those days no matter what else was going through his mind Markin was a man out of sorts with his generation, out of sorts with the wave, out of sorts about what I thought although I had been a little slow to pick up on the wave myself being stuck in that garage job in Podunk.

Funny that “drug addict” business, Markin actually used that word when talking about all the new smells in the air when we went to rock concerts and dances in those days say in 1965, 1966, reflected Markin’s old-timey notion picked up from some black and white 1930s morality play film or cautionary tale about those who went off the straight and narrow that “smokin’ a bone,” having a marijuana joint, a few puffs to ease the burdens of life would inevitably lead to life of crime, rapine, debauchery and about sixteen other social evils. Or maybe he got it from reading Nelson Algren’s Man With The Golden Arm (which he told me about after he had read the book, filled in the story for me since my take had been based on the film adaptation with Sinatra and Novak which I vaguely remembered my parents had taken us in tow to see since there was no money for baby-sitters and young kids got in free with an adult) or from one of Algren’s haunting short stories about people on the edge, doper-related short stories where the parties were led into the rude life of junkies and spiraled down from there.
A lasting image of the time for me, an image picked up now in retro-1960s “hippie” nostalgia exhibitions, movies, memoirs and from folk tales sputtered out by the now aging remnant, was of dazed kids in all kinds of exotic regalia, some carefully crafted to give a certain look for the cameras that were swirling around at the time when everybody, every journalist too, was looking to see what the “scene” was about.  Others just thrown together haphazardly with whatever was at hand, at hand being from the nearest “free” box, the latest offering from some skid row Army and Navy store or whatever somebody straight people had donated for resale at the Sally’s (Salvation Army), who obviously had been at the hash pipe, the joint or had swallowed something not on Doc’s Drugstore list. 

All harmless, mostly. That ne’er-do-well business reflected, including the use of the term, the moral pounding that Markin had taken as a child and teenager from Grandmother Riley about the dangers of drink, about laying around and becoming a wastrel, worse a charge on the state like her own brother before they found him in a dark alley in Boston’s South End and put him in a potter’s grave before the family could find out about what happened. (Markin’s first drink had come via that same grandmother who having had a crippling accident at some time earlier in her life had been house-bound for years and would ask him to go get her prescriptions from Doc’s Drugstore, real name of the place, and so Doc got used to seeing him for her orders. On occasion she would also order a small flask, a pint of whiskey, to have when her sisters came to visit. Although underage Doc would just place the bottle in the same bag as the pills and lotions. One time when he was about sixteen he decided that he wanted to taste what liquor was like and so when he went to Doc’s for the order he added a bottle in. No questions asked. He said that when he drank the stuff, drank the whole bottle with a friend down at Adamsville Beach he was sick for days after). But that was the start of the ne’r-do-well campaign for him although many nights including the night not long along when we were talking about the “1960s wave” that he was befuddled by at first we were sitting in Rummy Jacks’ over in Cambridge sipping whiskeys and scotches. That vagabond thing was something he thought about, maybe more when he saw photographs  which looked like something out of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath with rootless people, old Okie tramps, toothless hags, not well put together, just picking up stakes and heading west. So no Markin was not at all sympathetic to the new migration, to the new consciousness, to that new wave that was sneaking up on us.

Where did it all come from, why was he so adamant about hating that whole scene with a vengeance, of seeing it as a threat even, more importantly, going out of his way to belittle those who were seeking a different way of doing their life’s business, of chilling out before being burned out, including more than one go around with me causing a rift between us for certain short periods. A lot of it had to do with his grandmother, Grandmother Riley (the one who he used to get the medications at Doc’s for) and her worldview. See Markin’s home life was hell (as was mine as well), his mother always on his case, always trying to cramp his style, always saying no to any project he expressed interest in, any request for a couple of bucks, anything, okay and so he sought refuge at grandmother’s house a few blocks away (although he told me once it was more like ten thousand miles away with the quiet and the food that she would provide him, well-made food unlike at home where his hard-pressed  mother was an indifferent cook serving indifferent food). The price he paid for that refuge though was an indoctrination in the small-minded house-bound views of his grandmother. So as the hippie movement surfaced in the media old grandmother would go into her take on the matter for his edification, his edification about drug addicts, ne’er-do-wells, and vagabonds.        

In short as his sainted grandmother, sainted for putting up with a crotchety old grandfather if nothing else, would say the “queer people” and not for their sexual orientation as now because everybody in the old neighborhood knew those kind of queers as “fags,” “light on their feet” or “different” but in the old Irish sense, the sense in which the playwright Brendan Behan used it in one of his plays, the sense instilled in him as well by his mother (nee Riley), she too of the “different” usage passed on from grandmother (to give a true case of that being “different” a guy from the house across from his own, Johnny was “different” since, although thirty-five years old, he still lives with his mother, does not have a girlfriend, expresses no interest in having a girlfriend much less marriage, drinks his drinks at the all men’s tavern across the road and is always when not in the pub going into the South End in Boston to the clubs there. It did not take much even for na├»ve Markin when told these facts how Johnny was different, the “fag”) Meaning more broadly that those who did not profess their faith as often as possible (that faith being the true church Roman Catholic faith and not some heathen Protestant or worse Christ-killer Jewish faith which formed something like the cycle of life around which Markins and Rileys did their daily business. The Sunday masses, the holy days loaded with sweet-smelling incense, the dreaded Saturday confessions, the first communion/confirmation/six other sacraments and a damper around anything that smacked of idolatry), those who did not stay away from the drink, keep clear of the ever-present taverns that dotted the neighborhood landscape more numerous in number than the churches that dotted the neighborhood tempting many a man to part with his hard-earned paycheck  before he got home to his wife and her weekly bill-paying envelopes. (Many a wife stood guard at many a tavern door on payday, usually Thursday when the shipyard was running strong provided many jobs in the area, in order to fill those desperate envelopes although many a husband got wise and would head out of town to do his Thursday night drinking until many a wife got wise and stood guard at the bank to cut many a husband off at the pass. Some husbands though nevertheless spent the paycheck and so every once in a while you would see a neighbor’s apartment in a triple-decker tenement vacated in the middle of the night with everything packed up and gone, including some Jimmy who had become your best friend now gone with no forwarding address.)

Drugs, marijuana or whatever you called it in your neighborhood, cocaine, you know cousin, junk, you know heroin, were beyond mother and grandmother comprehension, were so far from their home tragedies that bringing that up as something to “stay away from” in order to live the good life never would have occurred to them in a thousand years then. That scourge would come later and hit them and the neighborhood with full force, as night time robberies, jack-rolling, and auto theft became rampart as the need for a “fix” moved from the movie screen or a clever book by the likes of Nelson Algren to next door and all subject to some God forsaken whim of some dope feign, those who did not work hard (and often, unlike some transient skid row bums working for daily pay and be quick about it in order to get their hands on a vagrant bottle of booze, taking whatever brainless damn work was available if necessary especially po’boy father’s like Markin’s to the coals mines of Kentucky born and thus in the razzle-dazzle of the greater Boston labor market reduced to last hired, first fired work where he could get it mainly in some outfit loosely affiliated with the old town’s declining shipbuilding industry), or did not  sanctify their lusts with marriage were odd, were outsiders in their own community (and lustful girls too although every boy, every man wanted to touch their satin sheets, hell, their good Catholic linen sheets damned to hell and called whore, whore of Babylon for those who had read their scripture and lustful boys called perverts, called Onan, call seed-spillers and succumbers to wretched linen sheets after some rabid priest called them calamites from the pulpit on high).

So when Markin heard the news, presumably from mother and grandmother, that old junior high school fellow corner boy Timmy Kiley (the star quarterback on the black and red Red Raider high school football team although not considered bright enough to do much more than toss balls, well or poorly, and so reduced to clerkship in his uncle’s downtown North Adamsville clothing store after his high school heroics went silently to some local newspaper grave), high school corner boy Red Kelly (fresh from two years with Uncle seeing hazardous duty in red scare Cold War Germany and not in hellhole hot war Vietnam but the service broke him from that knee-jerk patriotism,  that easy-going Fourth of July and salute the flag that had been handed down from generation to generation since sometime before the Spanish-American war, Teddy’s splendid war, and so when the wave broke, broke in New York City and out in Frisco town first he grabbed onto the damn thing, the wave as we are calling it now and a guy, well, a journalist like Hunter Thompson called it then, called it, sadly, when he saw its ebb and flow hit the ebb tide, damn, like a man struggling for a life-preserver), ditto corner boy Sean Murphy (the pretty boy on the stoop, out in the corner boy night, who got married right out of  high school to the belle of the ball, Sarah Bennett, the senior prom queen until she, and then they, discovered that their projected parent-trap endorsed by Good Housekeeping and expectant grandparents went to an all-night party and got stoned and liked it , liked the idea that they could be close but free of bourgeois convention, a term that was beginning to make the rounds as a sign of disenchantment) and sometime corner boy Bob Stone (heady Bob who had gone out to California in the summer of 1965 after dropping out of college and fully partaking of what was out there after finding a waif woman named Magic Sunshine, high as a kite on mary jane but also high on life, high on folk wisdom that would later turn into a huge industry when the new age turned into the New Age, on Fillmore Street one late night who had actually been to one of Ken Kesey’s acid blow-outs in La Honda, knew the long-running sagas of the magical mystery tour yellow brick road school bus that Tom Wolfe would eulogize in his sociological treasure-trove The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and turned him around, or better as I resurrect the language of the time “turned him on”) had taken up the “queer” life he could not understand why, or what made such things attractive to them.

Couldn’t understand why the discontent, why the infernal searching, why the need to blast the church, and remember which church in case you forgot, and remember too that blasphemous Markin even then had quietly slipped away from church, had taken to spending his Sunday mornings with some heathen for a night woman, thankfully, messing up the sheets and causing any number of hers, since he was still hell-bent on Irish Catholic women, to miss Mass. Forget confession or anything exotic like that but he still hung to the basic feeling of the faith, the basic square-ness of the faith in a faithless world even if only because his future plans, his political plans required at least lip service to the old pieties, could understand why blast the education system for allegedly making them helpless against the big modern current that was ready to crash down on their heads, their parents who did not understand why they were rebelling against the golden American age, against the steel, iron, aluminum world that had bequeathed to them, why it had turned to ashes in their mouths, and worse, worse because he represented the social glue that held the society together, the President of the United States. And for Markin, Markin the born in the manger rising from the ashes guy who expected to ride the political rails to his own worthy future drew the line in the sand at that proposition. Could not see the point, whatever one thought of the war in Vietnam that was also causing his generation to kick up some dust, and he was not quite sure what he thought about that war although he knew when his time came if he was drafted and the war was still on as appeared more and more likely that he would to go just like generations before had done since Markins and Rileys had come to the American shores from the old countries.

See just then worthy college student Markin had it all mapped out, had it figured that he would ride the political whirlwind to get as he said to anything who would listen to him on the corner “get his while doing good in the world,” that first coming from his from hunger existence, from his huge unabated, unquenched wanting habits, the second from some home-spun god Catholic Worker stuff he had read about in school and that his Aunt May  would talk to him about when he went over her house (her house more of a journey and so used less frequently as a refuge since she lived across town in Adamsville proper and that required taking the damn private line bus which never seemed to come when he needed it and so the less frequently) when the whirlwind at home was too fierce for him to combat (and when Grandmother Riley was firmly taking her daughter’s side on those few occasions when that event occurred). So, truth to tell he would rock no boats, would not try to turn over the fig leaf that was holding society together, and decidedly would not call the President of the United States a whoremonger, a baby-killer or oversized baboon with the brain of an amoeba who needed to be castrated, or worse. No, up and coming junior politicians on the make just did not do that in 1965, 1966 maybe forever. Markin already had his mind made up in the summer of love of 1967 when all the social glues were coming undone, when kids his age were shedding good sense, good taste, good lives to become vagabonds in some ill-defined lustful night he fully intended to support the President against the main scourge of the age, one Richard Milhous Nixon who was beginning to rear his ugly head once again. Once again Nixon acting like the beast with five claws ready to do muck to everything it touched. So Markin had no time for fallen corner boys, for dreaming guys who used to have their heads on right, who wanted to say “fuck you” to all that he liked about his America.              

And it was not for lack of asking that Markin could not understand his old-time corner boys (who at some down-the-road point he expected to form the initial cadre for any political operation he was going to run but he was damned if he was going to have dope-addled, long-haired unwashed, what were they starting to call them, oh yeah, hippies and their caravans and love trains ruin his beautiful dream, no sir). A dutiful son of the working-class (and just plain street smart hustler if you thought about the matter), working his way through college by driving a truck on a route through downtown Boston he would after making a delivery at one of his stops on Beacon Street walk across to the tent-festooned Common to search his old corner boys out when possible and try to reason with them (those attempts to reach them, not the reason for doing it part, were done always assuming that he could get a parking spot rather than double-park as was his usual habit but was considered ,well, not good form for  longer than the time it took to deliver his goods and he had a couple of traffic citations to verify the truth of that “not good form”). 

Their arguments however seemed ridiculous to him, or at least did not seem worth the effort, the effort they called “creating the counter-culture” or that was the expression that Sean Murphy, the most intelligent of the tribe and the one that Markin respected the most used to defend the new life-style that Sean and the others and their brethren were embarked upon. The life-style including a new-found disinterest in keeping their hair groomed (which would have shocked Tonio, the barber “up the Downs,” who specialized in one cut, boys’ regular, and had even looked askew at Markin when he, in order not to be completely outside the new generational norm wore his sideburns a little longer like some second-coming of Elvis), growing mustaches and beards (Timmy looking nothing but a scraggly muppet with his chin whiskers which he kept solely because some chick had told him he looked cool that way), wearing what Markin could  only describe as second-hand “Bargie” (a pre-Wal-Mart-type store that sold low-priced, and odd-ball merchandise out of fashion at best), stuff that he, and formerly they, were required out of poverty to wear when they got, or rather their mothers got them their twice-yearly new clothing at the beginning of school and at Easter). The “in” wardrobe stripped pants, frilly-cuffed shirts, holey bell-bottom blue jeans, threadbare sandals, all guaranteed not to hold up for the length of time it would take to become hand-me-downs for younger brothers and outer garments from Jay’s Army and Navy Store, things like World War II army jackets (Markin had to laugh at that one since all his old corner boys with the exception of Red who had already done his military service and so could justifiably wear such garb were committed to opposition to LBJ’s war front, were instinctively anti-military, although all their now befuddled fathers had been through hellhole World War II and yet reached out in desperation to be part of an army, if only Gideon’s), Eisenhower, Jesus, Eisenhower jackets, used (Markin, and they did too, used to run home at noon break in elementary school to watch Big Brother salute old man Ike with a glass of milk, didn’t these guys remember or were the drugs and the life so corrosive that they had lost their memory banks), navy skullcaps (last used one night when they were hungry for dough and had heard about a big house with nobody home had taken what they wanted under such cover), dog soldier army black leather boots (with some poor GIs’  shine so sarge could see himself reflected in the boot’s glory long gone, long gone to rain-pelted muds, wore-out heels from walking as much as hitching out on the great American highway west, long-gone to kicking out the jams if it came to that come some midnight fire festival with magic elixirs, magic bongos, magic kazoos in a pinch, the works).

But the clothing regalia would not end there for everything in the new dispensation had to reflex the new color world explosion, the mauves, violet purples, magentas, tangerines, white blacks, you name it, and in Day-Glo the pigment for the new age a-dawning. The exploded world seen through LSD or mescaline lenses if one could explain to the square or hip alike the colors bleeding in their chemical heads. The mushroom cloud of the new reality splintering visions about twelve different ways (hey, only an estimate could have been fifty or a hundred who knows) so exploding purple apples, orange bananas, magenta pears, and that was just the fruits and even Markin knew they were not fruits like you though just like they were not queer like you and your Irish South Boston/Dorchester/North Adamsville brethren kept harping on but that didn’t save Timmy, Sean and the boys from going under it spell. After a few months, he stopped going over to the national encampment (the guys were tired too of his noise they had once collectively said to him half in jest half in rancor).  See he had met down in Falmouth during that summer of love July a young woman, Jewel Diamond. (Jesus he was tired of all the name changes like changing a name would do the trick to produce a new identity. He respected, at least he thought he respected, those blacks who during this time, those who came out of the extreme end of the black liberation struggle, called the black civil rights movement then but they are both the same thing, who wanted no part of their old slave names and so were X this and X that but white- breads had no such history to eradicate)  Jewel wanted to show her new boy a trip around the world in her bedroom, wanted in too on his soft-shell political dreams (thinking she would be some latter day Jackie O, some White House princess) wanted just like him to have that white picket fence complete with white shingled house, couple of kids, and a dog and wanted to be a step or two ahead of where their parents had left off and so she dreamed with him, while taking her daddy around the world (yeah, she was that kind of girl half-virgin mary, half-whore and half her mother’s daughter), yes, dreaming that dream.    

Now Markin was not so square, or better to say in those days, un-cool, as not to  appreciate that young guys might want to get high, get laid (he could certainly understand that since half, no, nine-tenth of corner boy life was about getting some easy sex from some fox and if not some fox then some young thing who wanted no commitments just like him, better yet get some head, you know, the “toot the root” that a guy could talk a chick into in lieu of having vaginal intercourse with all its dangers, some head like that Jewel from down the Cape could be talked into if you gave her a couple of drinks or if she had taken her medication and had those same drinks which made her speedy), and lay around all day philosophizing about the world and never get beyond cleaning up their tents, if that. (Not that Markin was above a marathon philosophy talk spending many a night talking of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill like they were second cousins but would give the air to Baba Ram Dass, Timothy Leary or even Eric Hoffer when those names came up, pure hippie words in the night madness)

Also Markin could appreciate guys getting out from under mother’s and/or grandmother’s apron strings as he himself had done just the previous year since he and his mother had had their twelve-hundredth argument about when he got home, who he was hanging with, what he was intending to do with this or that girl (no, not the sex thing, Jesus, no, the word was obliterated from the Markin household vocabulary and he had learned whatever he had learned about sex in the streets and on the corners just like his former corner boys who were boffing every girl in sight, and, get this, them, the girls starting things up, starting with that come hither look and their own sexual vocabulary learned in their streets), was he going to settle down and get married  right after college, stuff like that. So no he was no square like that and truth be known, although not to mother or grandmother who would have flipped out, gone wiggy if they knew that he had been with a heathen women, a bloody Protestant girl who he had run into one night at Jack’s, Jacks’ over in Cambridge where some musical infusions were starting to roar up and take the sails out of stogy old folk music that had died years before but if you went into some of the coffeehouses still existed there (although only in that town in homage to some worthy past) you would still get twenty-seven varieties of Bob Dylan covers done off-key (if that was possible with that gravelly voice) or Joan Baez ironing-board haired princesses calling for the world to kumbaya, kumbaya until the next century from what the scene looked like.

Some called it acid rock, some called it flamingo for all he knew but that night high on his Irish whiskey sots she was sitting at the bar, all ethereal, all feathers and fandangos and no bra (no bra a victory for every shy boy who ever tried to unhook some strange virginal girl and get it all wrong and, damn, she had to unhook the damn thing herself), a tent-like dress worn just so, what did she call it when he asked about it, oh yeah, hippie chic. She just in from Fargo just out in the Dakotas having fled some scene that he was not privy to but which made Boston seem like Frisco town thought he, slightly side-burned, lean, with a wicked Boston accent (really filtered neighborhood North Adamsville Irish-flecked accent but to the rubes from Fargo wicked Boston), she having no experience bought his line of patter, gave him some speed and they stayed up all night at his place making love and talking like two magpies. But even Markin knew he was just slumming around the edges of the new dispensation that night since she was there, she was available and she thought he was nice so that hippie chic business should not be weighed heavily in the Markin argument. Who knows she could have, like a later Angelica, Angelica from out in Muncie just been tasting the wares before going back to whatever the Great Society was offering in its turn.                      

See that is where Markin was really at, really just another in a long line of Irish guys, Irish on the cookie-cutter machine guys, guys on the hustle except the hustle played out with him getting his while he was helping the brethren. (Old Aunt May invoked at every turn.) He would eat much crow, eat many words as each new treachery wended  its way around his brain but he was young, was committed to the easy life of an “on the make” politician who would not sell his mother to the highest bidder so he had his virtues since most of the previous generation’s “pols” had done just that. Yeah, the map was set, maybe not in every detail but set. He had already that summer of love although he heard war cry rumblings from the likes of Eugene McCarthy’s tribe and that of his own gangster saint Robert Kennedy hero that they might oppose the President on the war issue, make him pay hell at the polls if he listened to the never-ending requests for men and materials from the generals, committed to LBJ in that eternal fight against the impeding dirty nasty fight that was coming. Had lined up Jewel Diamond (she would have to get rid of that moniker and go back to being Joyell but he would humor her for now, especially since she was quite inventive in bed and had the heart of a princess-warrior then). All he needed as he headed into 1968, all he thought he had to do was get that degree, do his military service if he was drafted, get married (in the church of course, no one would countenance the simple civil ceremony he would have personally preferred) and ride LBJ’s wave into some cushy Washington job and that white picket fence was a sure thing.        

…And then came the notice from his friends and neighbors at the draft board in North Adamsville. Having exhausted his college deferment and with the recent withdrawal of exemptions for law students which would have been his obvious shelter had that route been available he was prime material for induction. Although Markin had softened somewhat on his stand of emphasizing the good parts of the Vietnam War in the fight against world-wide communism and his former adherence to the “domino” theory that if one nation in Southeast Asia fell all would fall which drove all thinking the death of Jack “Bone-Crusher” Maloney who lived down the at the end of his street, a guy with whom he had been a corner boy in junior high school with shook him a little. Still, although no way in hell had he intended to volunteer, enlist as regular Army, given his career plans that were tied up with doing one’s public duty would accept induction if drafted. In those days, now too probably although it no longer has the same cache, military service still counted for guys who aspire to public service careers. In early 1969 while all hell was going on in the country, while people including me were being “chicken shit” busted for opposing the war, or smoking dope, or other random acts of “being free” Markin headed south down to South Carolina for boot camp.  (As for me a couple of serious leg problems derived from childhood illnesses gave me a 4-F status, although it is still an open question whether I would have accepted induction or not since down in Hullsville whatever else they thought or cared about guy did their military service when called so despite the dope and counter-culture the pull of that would have been a factor.)       

Truth. About three or four days after he got down there I got a call from Markin, collect, at my girlfriend’s apartment in Allston where I was staying at the time which I accepted not knowing what the hell was going on. I thought poor clumsy Markin might have hurt himself or something. The gist of the call though had bene that Markin said he had made a mistake, that the whole military thing appalled him and that he, and I quote “was starting to get ‘religion’” about the war, was going back to some deep recess Aunt May Catholic Worker, social consciousness thing inherited through her from some forbears, or something. That night I thought he may have been sincere as far as he had thought it out to that point, although all those endless conversations pointed the other way.
If Markin was sincere what to do about it was another question since he was down south a long way from home and support (support he could have gotten in Boston, one of the true hotbeds of anti-war activity where many were willing to help entrapped GIs figure out a way out. But for the period of basic training and then when he was assigned to Advanced Infantry Training (AIT) he merely refined his sentiments in letters that he would sent to me every few days. That AIT designation meant only one thing-they were training him to be as he put it a “grunt,” or as I put it then “cannon-fodder” and the only place where that “skill” was needed just then was on the China Sea, in Vietnam.        

Among the things that Markin asked me to do in those long ago letters was to get in touch with some Quakers over in Cambridge to see what they thought he could do if he got orders for Vietnam. I did so, hoping against hope that he would not have to go. But at the end of AIT he did receive his orders to report to Fort Lewis out in Washington for transit to Southeast Asia. He was to have a month’s leave before then so he came home and I met him at the airport. He was leaner than when I had seen him last carrying that tell-tale duffle bag over his shoulder. But here is where I realized that he had done some serious thinking, had come part way, so I thought, over to the side of the angels. He was sporting a very busy mustache which Army regulations allowed then (although his unkempt one surely could not have passed muster) AND wearing a new pair of bell-bottomed jeans, a sign of the times.  

But that was the exterior, the look to fit in. Here was his plan. He was the next day going to Cambridge to get some advice from the Quakers about what to do, about how to forestall going to ‘Nam as he now called the place under the influence of those nasty drill sergeants he would tell me about. But that was the surface, the paper chase. Almost before we got out of the airport he made it very plain that he was not going to ‘Nam, no way. Although a look in his eyes told me he knew that there was a long road ahead.
Here is how that road unfolded. The Quakers at that meeting in their counselling center in Cambridge gave him several options, mainly about filing for conscientious objector status through the military. Although possible to apply for that was a very hard road then once you had actually been inducted and made doubly so because the basis of his objection would had to have been centered on his faith, his formal faith, Roman Catholicism which was mired in “just war theory,” and not a basis for discharge. (That “just war theory” was in fact his own position although without the Catholic trimmings, a position that he still holds today, sometimes there is no way around fighting the oppressor except by picking up the gun and that was that with all its contradictions.) But the application was merely a holding action, forlorn as that was. Another part of that option, advised informally, by one of the counsellors and not official policy was to go Absent Without Leave (AWOL) for more than thirty day, or until he had been “dropped from the rolls” at Fort Lewis and then turn himself in at Fort Devens out in central Massachusetts where he could make his CO application. Tactically, and here I admit I pushed him toward that idea, it made sense to work things out close to home and also where GI resistance support work was becoming a central focus to opposing the war. (He felt in tough moments that like those nasty drill instructors told him and his fellow recruits if you got out of line he was bound for some stockade anyway, or at least he recognized from other cases he had read and heard about that place was a possible endpoint) And so he did, did go AWOL for a while, turned himself in at Fort Devens and put in his application which held him there. Held him there until his application was denied, summarily denied on those above-mentioned grounds of not being an absolute objector to war like the Quakers, Mennonites and such. And given orders once again to report to Fort Lewis for transit to Vietnam.                

Even today the rest of the Markin Army story is a little hazy, and anytime it comes up as when the latest American war puts “grunts” at risk for some unknown, maybe unknowable reason, he will dismiss further talk with a simple “I did what I had to do, and I have no regrets about it.” Part of that haziness is that his case bent a little heavy on the legal side since I was not privy to those maneuvers but that decision to stay in the Boston area helped Markin since some people got him in touch with a lawyer and one way or another that lawyer’s work held him at Fort Devens until the legal proceedings in the civilian courts had worked its way to the end. Hazy too though because of the actions Markin had taken while those legal proceedings were working their slow way through the system. Actions done without counseling me but when I tell you what he did you will understand.

All during this period of waiting, and getting a foreboding feeling for where things would lead, lead to some stockade time that he had avoided by being contrite on the AWOL charges Markin was getting more and more serious about his anti-war position and about doing something about it. Something symbolic. Well, he sure did something, something out of the ordinary. The way I heard the story from him later went like this. One Monday morning in the late fall of 1969 when the whole fort, the whole of Fort Devens, was on the main parade grounds for what is called the morning report, basically to see who is and who is not present, not AWOL, after the weekend, Markin walked out onto the field in civilian clothes, those now not new bell-bottomed jeans included, carrying a fairly large hand-made sign-“Bring The Troops Home” for all to see. Needless to say he was quickly pounced on by some lifer-sergeants and eventually taken to the stockade for questioning and to await charges. To make a long story short, Markin spent the rest of time in the Army in that stockade, spent almost two years there, including some time in solitary (not for doing anything wrong but the Army officials were so freaked by his actions, so fearful his actions might spread, that they did not want him mixing in with the rest of the stockade population). He eventually did get out though those slow legal proceedings in civilian court otherwise as he always kids me, he might still be there.              

I was on the West Coast, in San Jose, when I heard that Markin had been released for the stockade in 1971. A couple of weeks later when I came back East and I went over to Cambridge where he was staying with some young Quaker gal whom had taken a fancy to him and he to her (and who I took a fancy to as well, living with her off and on for about a year after Markin left her for Joyce, who would be that frenetic first wife of his, since that Quaker gal was a different breathe of fresh air for both of us but in the end too good and kind for old- time rough and tumble corner boys no matter how we had changed) there he was, a little pale and smelling that faint indescribable smell of prison, growing the first remnants of a beard, letting his hair grow longer, wearing those now fading bell-bottomed denims and a leather jacket somebody had given him.       

As we talked one night a few weeks later about the future both sensing that the effect of trying to turn the world upside down had been ebbing of late I told him this when he tried to dismiss what he had done in the Army to slow the machine down. “But get this, and get it right, Peter Paul Markin has gotten in synch with his generation, in synch with the best of his generation, no, with the very best of that generation.” Enough said.      

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Oh, Down In The Big Easy, Oh-The Best Of The Neville Brothers (2004) CD Review

Oh, Down In The Big Easy, Oh-The Best Of The Neville Brothers (2004) 
CD Review

By Zack James

The Best Of The Neville Brothers: The Millennium Collection, the Neville Brothers, 2004 

I think it was Seth Garth, the old time film reviewer who was friends with my oldest brother Alex in our growing up Acre neighborhood section of North Adamsville although I didn’t know him growing up at all and only got to know him here, said that in the early 1980s in despair over where rock and roll was heading, or had been, he had a “outlaw country music minute” when guys like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Townes Van Zandt were breaking out of the George Jones mold and making some interesting music and more interesting lyrics beyond making love to their hot rod NSCAR car cars, four by four trucks, guns of whatever caliber and field of fire and whiskey-bonded or not. Whatever happened to old Hank Williams’ two-timing heart-breaking running around women or hey good looking company with a two dollar buck, maybe unchaining the poor bastard’s heart or some bitch who did him wrong winning again. Then Seth moved on or back to his real loves blues, you know Muddy Waters, the Wolf, some old stuff you can now only find in old line record stores or on Amazon, and rock and roll although he said not back to classic since a good look at the lyrics were suitable only for teenage angst and alienation. I had the same such moment with Cajun, Zydeco and the music of the Louisiana bayou and swamps among other places, places like Lake Charles and Lafayette to name a couple.           

In the late 1980s frankly I was in despair first over the way that for a minute anyway hip-hop music, let me just call it that for reference had taken a dramatic turn to some unapproachable, unapproachable to me anyway “gangsta” trend and the other big turn was in techno music which for other reasons did not appeal to me. (Those other reasons having to do with that brother Alex and a couple of older brothers in between us leaving me their leavings of rock and roll from the 1960s and more importantly the blues of which a stem of Cajun, the black part and no so much the French Acadian exile part passes through.)

The specific event which triggered all of this at a time of musical ellipse was actually a film Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin’s hot over the top The Big Easy about cops and corruption in, well the Big Easy. It was the soundtrack which included a couple of numbers by Aaron Neville and the Neville Brothers well-known although not to me New Orleans fixtures and a number of other Jolie Blon Cajun-Zydeco numbers which did the trick. New and fresh, new and a different sound reflecting that black-creole-Acadian experience of the big jumbo which is New Orlean’s musical culture.   

That Cajun-Zydeco minute as with Seth Garth’s outlaw country minute did not last long and I too reverted back to the blues and rock and roll that “spoke” to me in my youth which strangely now seems to be the fate over every music lover-the music of youth drives a lot of what subsequent music you are attracted to or stay with. Still around my way, around that Acre neighborhood mentioned earlier maybe something of that Cajun-Creole swamp and bayou connected us with them-the outcasts, the ones who didn’t get the golden goose in the golden age of the American experience. Needless to say the driving high-pitched voice of Aaron and the backup harmonies are righteous. So if you want to have your very own Cajun-Zydeco Big Easy moment this is your first stop.

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-“You Are On The Bus Or Off The Bus”- The Transformation Of “Foul-Mouth” Phil Into “Far-Out” Phil- With Mad Hatter Writer Ken Kesey And His Merry Pranksters In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-“You Are On The Bus Or Off The Bus”- The Transformation Of “Foul-Mouth” Phil Into “Far-Out” Phil- With Mad Hatter Writer Ken Kesey And His Merry Pranksters In Mind

As Told To Allan Jackson

[Christ is there anybody who does not know that a bunch of corner boys led by the late Peter Paul Markin forever called Scribe for his two million notes, his six bulging notepads at any time from his funky long sleeve shirts as always as well totally out of style by the time he wore them courtesy of mother buys at the Bargain Center, a pre-Walmart cheapjack place where she bought her boys twice yearly (beginning of school and Easter the never-ending sequence, which sold last year or the year before style, and I should know since my mother was probably ready to lay on hands once the mothers got to the bins of suck-ass clothing for their charges) headed to California in the Summer of Love, circa 1967 along with a hundred thousand or so others in the same damn boat looking, looking for something. The reason I ask, ask theoretically, is that very recently when I was out there, out in that same California trying to start my life over in the publishing business and then when that idea went into the tank mainly because I was too old to start over (really that somebody had put the kiss of death on me calling me, me of all people, hard to work with) and subsequently had to hit the Bay Area to call in some cash from sources that I had helped in the past I met Jacko Devine on Post Street and he asked me whether what he had heard about us, us North Adamsville corner boys, back in the Summer of Love about riding on Captain Crunch’s yellow brick road converted school bus sucking up every known substance in the pharma world, sucking down pooh bear wine and sleeping with every women not tied down was true. Naturally I said it was and was ready to move on when he told me that he had heard it from a friend of Phil Larkin, the guy this sketch is about and his conversion from “Foul-Mouth” Phil in the old Acre neighborhood to “Far-Out Phil when he went West, who had read it here several years ago and had contacted Phil then and was told it was total bullshit. Of course Phil now a successful sell-out businessman denied his past like everybody from Bill Clinton to Harry Harnett just in case anybody important might find out the obvious about our generation-everybody who could do so without total physical harm smoked and ingested as much dope as was around, and there was plenty. In those days Phil, and a whole bunch of others as well saw their rebellion as some red badge of courage but perhaps I speak too much of ancient history.

That reference to Phil in either of his identities made me think back to those days and how Scribe had to pull Phil kicking and screaming to get him to go out. Said he didn’t want to be part of the freak show, didn’t want to be some low-rent carnival act. Then we get him out there and he is like the resurrection and the light. Goes literally from that low-sling corner boy to an upper layer of the hippie kingdom. The girls went crazy for him. That is kind of what I wanted to get off my chest, what I get kind of bilious about when I think about what madness Scribe put us through and how some of us, and I wish to include myself as one of the brethren and will brook no contradiction on the fact, were washed clean by the experiences, took a very different path than what working class boys wearing last year or the year before fashions expected to get out of life. Others like Phil and I will only pick on him because Jacko mentioned his name tome last year out in desolation row Frisco town couldn’t go the distance, didn’t get washed clean, maybe couldn’t and so when that long-range backlash blow-back hit the shores he folded. Folded when he didn’t have to like Madame La Rue had to do since she was only a fellow-traveler at best. There is a great accounting coming, maybe already has come for those who were part of the great Generation of “68 experiments. I wonder if Phil knows that.

P.S Scribe with his two thousand at the ready facts from who the fuck knows where. (I can say that since right this minute the bile in rising when I think about all the crap he laid on us on those lonesome Friday nights in front of hang-out Tonio Pizza Parlor looking, looking for who knows what.) Those two thousand fact his lame idea of how to impress girls who were supposed to fall down at his feet in awe like he was the second coming, or maybe the herald of end times. I have already mentioned and it not worth doing so again that he never after a few fateful attempts mainly with Minnie Murphy and Melinda Loring which proved totally futile and which he moreover smart guy that he was knew were totally futile had date number one with any growing up town North Adamsville girl, from high school or in town. I didn’t either but get this somehow Scribe was the conduit, maybe they saw him as some kind of eunuch, for all the confidential information the girls would tell him like he was an older brother or priest or something and was an invaluable source to every corner boy about the status of any girl of interest. Where those two thousand facts did come in handy was when he hit Harvard Square and laid his line on the neurotic, intellectual girls, what we called “beatniks in that pre-hippie time who went crazy for him in the Hayes-Bickford night but somebody already told that story and this is about a more crass figure from that time who abandoned ship when it was convenient for him to do so. So let’s get to it. Allan Jackson]        

Everybody, well everybody who checks things out here, or on other sites that I am associated with, knows that I am dedicated to swapping lies about the old days. The old days in this case being the 1960s, and more specifically the 1960s old time corner boy days in front of Salducci’s Pizza Parlor in North Adamsville, my growing-up working class hometown. And, of course, if one wants to swap lies about those old days, or any days, then one needs a, well, foil, or foils. Needless to say, via the “miracle” of the Internet, in its various manifestations, all one has to do is latch onto some search engine, type in “corner boys,” “North Adamsville,” or some such combinations and, like lemmings from the sea, our homeland the sea, every surviving corner boy with enough energy to lift his stubby little fingers will be on your screen before you can say, well, say, be-bop night.

Frankie Riley, our lord and chieftain was the first, although he has lost much speed in his pitch since the old days. I won’t bore you with the details of his “exploits.” You can fumble through the archives for that. Nor will I speak of fast-talking Johnny Silver, except to point out that he is the culprit, there is no other way to put it, who started the sexual revolution. No, no the real one that started with “the pill” in the early 1960s and continues through to today with the struggle for women’s liberation, liberation from all kinds of second-class citizen stuff from jobs and wages to help with childcare and housework. No, Johnny started the AARP-version of the sexual revolution-old geezers looking for love, looking for love in all the wrong places, if you ask me but nobody is, asking that is. Those gripping tales can also be found in the archives.

All of this, of course, is prelude to the real subject here. Phil Larkin’s transformation from corner boy “Foul-Mouth” Phil (and he really was, as he would tell you in that moment of candor that he is occasionally capable of) in early 1960s North Adamsville to “Far-Out” Phil on one of the ubiquitous Merry Prankster-inspired converted yellow brick road school buses that dotted the highways and by-ways of the American be-bop heading west night from about the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s (maybe a little earlier in the ‘70s). (For those too young to know, those who have forgotten, and those who have conveniently feigned forgetfulness just in case some statute of limitations has not run out check Wikipedia for an entry for the Merry Pranksters.)
When last we hear from Phil he was heading to Pennsylvania to meet up with some doctoral program research addict whom he “met” on Facebook. That tale, ah, can also be found in the archives. However, unlike these seemingly endless “haunting the Internet” schoolboy antics from guys old enough, well I am no snitch, so let’s say old enough to know better, looking for the fountain of youth, or whatever this Phil transformation story actually interests me. And so here it is. As usual I edited it lightly but it is Phil’s story, and I am pleased to say a good one.

Phil Larkin here. Jesus, The Scribe [Markin: Like I warned the other guys, Phil, watch on that scribe, or The Scribe thing] actually liked this idea of me telling about riding the, what did he call it, oh yah, the yellow brick road bus, back in my prankster days [Markin: Just to keep things straight, since Phil still likes to play a little rough with the truth, not the famous Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters bus made famous through Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, but certainly inspired by it]. I barely got by with my stories about real stuff that people want to read like the trials and tribulations of an older guy trying to “hook-up” with the ladies on what amounted to a sexless sex site and my rendezvous with Amy (and she is not a research addict, Markin, no way, although she is an addict another way but you don’t want to hear that real stuff story), my lovely sociology doctoral student down at Penn State (Go, Nittany Lions!). But he is all over, all f—king over, some little bit of “cultural history” stuff that nobody, except AARP-guys (and dolls) would do anything but yawn over. And those AARP-guys (and dolls) are too busy trying to “hook-up,” to grab some sex before is too late to spent more than two seconds on ancient history. So this one is strictly for The, oops, Peter Paul Markin.

What got the whole memory lane thing started was that somewhere Markin picked up, probably second-hand off of Amazon if I know him, a CD from Time-Life Music entitled something like Shakin’ It Up: 1966. Now the music on the compilation, the music in the post-British invasion, heart of acid rock night, was strictly for laughs. But the artwork on the cover (as Markin told me was true on other CDs in this expansive classic rock 'n' roll era series) featured nothing more, or nothing less, than a day-glo bus right out of my prankster days, complete with some very odd residents (odd now, not then, then they were righteous, and maybe, just maybe still are). That scene gave us a couple of hours of conversation one night and jogged my memory about a lot of things. Especially about what Markin, hell, me too, called the search of the great American freedom night. (He put some colors, blue-pink like just before dark, dark out West anyway, in his but we, for once. were on the same page.)

Naturally, Markin as is his wont [Markin: “Wont” is my word not Phil’s. His, I prefer, strongly prefer, to not to post], once he played the CD and played me for information (I know this guy, remember) ran off like a bunny and wrote his version as part of a review of the CD. Of course, being, well, being Markin he got it about half-right. So let me tell the story true and you can judge who plays “rough” with the truth.

Markin at least had it just about right when he described that old bus:
“A rickety, ticky-tack, bounce over every bump in the road to high heaven, gear-shrieking school bus. But not just any yellow brick road school bus that you rode to various educationally good for you locations like movie houses, half yawn, science museums, yawn, art museums, yawn, yawn, or wind-swept picnic areas for some fool weenie roast, two yawns there too, when you were a school kid. And certainly not your hour to get home daily grind school bus, complete with surly driver (male or female, although truth to tell the females were worst since they acted just like your mother, and maybe were acting on orders from her) that got you through K-12 in one piece, and you even got to not notice the bounces to high heaven over every bump of burp in the road. No, my friends, my comrades, my brethren this is god’s own bus commandeered to navigate the highways and by-ways of the 1960s, come flame or flash-out. Yes, it is rickety, and all those other descriptive words mentioned above in regard to school day buses. That is the nature of such ill-meant mechanical contraptions after all. But this one is custom-ordered, no, maybe that is the wrong way to put it, this is “karma”-ordered to take a motley crew of free-spirits on the roads to seek a “newer world,” to seek the meaning of what one persistent blogger on the subject has described as the search for the great blue-pink American Western night.”

“Naturally to keep its first purpose intact this heaven-bound vehicle is left with its mustard yellow body surface underneath but over that primer the surface has been transformed by generations (generations here signifying not twenty-year cycles but trips west, and east) of, well, folk art, said folk art being heavily weighted toward graffiti, toward psychedelic day-glo splashes, and zodiacally meaningful symbols. And the interior. Most of those hardback seats that captured every bounce of childhood have been ripped out and discarded who knows where and replaced by mattresses, many layers of mattresses for this bus is not merely for travel but for home. 

To complete the “homey” effect there are stored, helter-skelter, in the back coolers, assorted pots and pans, mismatched dishware and nobody’s idea of the family heirloom china, boxes of dried foods and condiments, duffel bags full of clothes, clean and unclean, blankets, sheets, and pillows, again clean and unclean. Let’s put it this way, if someone wants to make a family hell-broth stew there is nothing in the way to stop them. But also know this, and know it now, as we start to focus on this journey that food, the preparation of food, and the desire, except in the wee hours when the body craves something inside, is a very distant concern for these “campers.” If food is what you desired in the foreboding 1960s be-bop night you could take a cruise ship to nowhere or a train (if you could find one), some southern pacific, great northern, union pacific, and work out your dilemma in the dining car. Of course, no heaven-send, merry prankster-ish yellow brick road school bus would be complete without a high- grade stereo system to blast the now obligatory “acid rock” coming through the radiator practically.”

That says it all pretty much about the physical characteristics of the bus but not much about how I got on the damn thing. Frankly, things were pretty tough around my house, things like no having much of a job after high school just working as a dead-ass retail clerk up at Raymond’s Department Store in Adamsville Plaza. Not really, according to dear mother, with dear old dad chiming in every once in a while especially when I didn’t come up with a little room and board money, being motivated to “better myself,” and being kind of drift-less with my Salducci’s Pizza Parlor corner boys long gone off to college, the service, or married, stuff like that. Then too I was having some girl trouble, no, not what you think girl baby trouble just regular the battle of the sexes stuff when my honey, Ginny McCabe, practically shut me off because I didn’t want to get married just then. But I knew something was in the air, something was coming like “the scribe” was always predicting. [Markin: I'll let that small case scribe pass, Phil] And for once I wanted in on that. But the specific reason that I split in the dead of the North Adamsville night was that I was trying to avoid the military draft, now that the war in Vietnam was escalating with nowhere else to go. I knew my days were numbered and while I was as patriotic (and still am, unlike that parlor pinko, commie, Markin) as the next guy (and these days, girls) I was not ready to lay down my life out in the boondocks right then. So I headed out on the lam.

[Markin: Phil, as he related this part of the story that night, had me all choked up about his military plight and I was ready to say brother, welcome to the anti-imperialist resistance. Then I realized, wait a minute, Phil was 4-F (meaning he was not eligible for drafting for military service due to some medical or psychological condition in those days for those who do not know the reference. A prima facie example, I might add, of that playing rough with the truth I warned you about before.]

Hey, I am no slave to convention, whatever the conventions are, but in those days I looked like a lot of young guys. Longish hair, a beard, a light beard at the time, blue jeans, an army jacket, sunglasses, a knapsack over my shoulder, and work boots on my feet.(Sandals would not come until later when I got off the road and was settled in a “pad” [Markin: house, rented or maybe abandoned, apartment, hovel, back of a “free” church, back of a store, whatever, a place to rest those weary bones, or “crash”] in La Jolla and were, in any case, not the kind of footwear that would carry you through on those back road places you might find yourself in, places like Deadwood, Nevada at three in the morning with a ten-mile walk to the nearest town in front of you). I mention all this because that “look” gave me the cache to make it on the road when I headed out of the house that Spring 1966 be-bop night after one final argument with dear mother about where I was going, what was I going to do when I got there, and what was I going to do for money. Standard mother fare then, and now I suppose.

So short on dough, and long on nerve and fearlessness then, I started to hitchhike with the idea of heading west to California like about eight million people, for about that same number of reasons, have been heading there since the Spanish, or one of those old-time traveling by boat nations, heard about the place. Of course, nowadays I would not think to do such a thing in such a dangerous world, unless I was armed to the teeth and that would take a little edge off that “seeking the newer world” Markin has been blabbing about since about 1960. But then, no problem, let’s get going. Especially no problem when just a few miles into my journey a Volkswagen mini-bus (or van, neither in the same league as the yellow brick road school bus, no way, that I will tell you about later but okay for a long ride, and definitely okay when you are in some nowhere, nowhere Nebraska maybe, back road, hostile territory dominate by squares, squares with guns and other evil implements and they, the VW-ites, stoned, stoned to the heavens stop to ask you directions because they are “lost” and invite you on board) stopped on Route 128, backed up, and a guy who looked a lot like me, along with two pretty young girls says, “where are you heading?” (Okay, okay, Markin, young women, alright.) West, just west. And then the beatified words, “Hop in.”

Most of the road until the Midwest, Iowa is the Midwest right, was filled with short little adventures like that. A mini-van frolic for a few hours, or a few days. Maybe a few short twenty-miles non-descript rides in between but heading west by hook or by crook. Did I like it? Sure I did although I was pretty much an up-tight working class guy (that was what one of those pretty girls I just mentioned called me when I “passed” on smoking a joint and, hell, she was from next door Clintondale for chrissakes) who liked his booze, a little sex {Markin: Phil, come on now, a little?], and just hanging around the old town waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I could see, after a few drug experiences, no, not LSD, that I was starting to dig the scene. And I felt every day that I was out of North Adamsville that I was finally shaking off the dust from that place.

Then one night, sitting in the front seat of a big old Pontiac (not everybody, not every “hip” everybody had the mini-bus, van or school bus handy for their “search” for the great American night), Big Bang Jane between us, the Flip-Flop Kid driving like god’s own mad driver, smoking a joint, laughing with the couple in back, Bopper Billy and Sweet Pea, we headed into a pay-as- you go roadside camp near Ames out in Iowa. And at that campsite parked maybe five or six places over from where we planted ourselves was god’s own copy of that day-glo merry prankster bus I mentioned before. I flipped out because while I had hear about, and seen from a distance, such contraptions I hadn’t been up close to one before. Wow!

After we settled in, the Flip-Flop Kid (and the guy really could never make up his mind about anything, anything except don’t go too close to Big Bang Jane, no kidding around on that, no sir), Bopper Billy (who really thought he was king of the be-bop night, but, hell in the North Adamsville corner boy night Frankie Riley, hell, maybe even Markin, would have out be-bopped him for lunch and had time for a nap), Big Bang Jane (guess what that referred to, and she gave herself that nickname, but I never tried to make a move on her because she was just a little too wild, a little too I would have to keeping looking over my shoulder for me then, probably later too when things got even looser. And then there was the Flip-Flop Kid’s warning ), and Sweet Pea (and she was a sweet pea, if Bopper Billy wasn’t around, well we both agreed there was something there but in those 1966 days we were still half tied up with the old conventions of not breaking in between a guy and his girl, well that was the convention anyway whether it was generally honored or not, I did) we headed over once we heard the vibes from the sound system churning out some weird sounds, something like we had never heard before (weird then, little did we know that this was the wave of the future, for a few years anyway).

Naturally, well naturally after the fact once we learned what the inhabitants of the bus were about, they invited us for supper, or really to have some stew from a big old pot cooking on a fireplace that came with the place. And if you didn’t want the hell-broth stew then you could partake of some rarefied dope (no, again, no on the LSD thing. It was around, it was around on the bus too, among its various denizens, but mainly it was a rumor, and more of a West Coast thing just then. In the self-proclaimed, tribal self-proclaimed Summer of Love of 1967, and after that, is when the acid hit, and when I tried it but not on this trip. This trip was strictly weed, hemp, joint, mary jane, marijuana, herb, whatever you wanted to called that stuff that got you high, got you out of yourself, and got you away from what you were in North Adamsville, Mechanicsville or whatever ville you were from, for a while.

So that night was the introduction to the large economy size search for the freedom we all, as it turned, out were looking for. I remember saying to Sweet Pea as we went back to our campsite (and wishing I wasn’t so square about messing with another guy’s girl, and maybe she was too, maybe wishing I wasn’t square about it) that we had turned a corner that night and that we had best play it out all the way to the end right then for the chance might not come again.

The next day, no, the next night because I had spent the day working up to it, I became “Far-Out” Phil, or the start of that Phil. Frankly, to not bore you with a pipe by pipe description of the quantity of dope that I smoked that day (herb, hashish, a little cocaine, more exotic and hard to get then than it became later) or ingested (a tab of mescaline), I was “wasted.” Hell I am getting “high” now just thinking about how high I was that day. By nightfall I was ready for almost anything as that weird music that crept up your spine got hold of me. I just, as somebody put a match to the wood to start the cooking of the night’s pot of stew to keep us from malnutrition, started dancing by myself. Phil Larkin, formerly foul-mouthed Phil, a cagey, edgy guy from deep in corner boy, wise guy, hang-out guy, never ask a girl to dance but just kind of mosey up world, started dancing by himself. But not for long because then he, me, took that dance to some other level, some level that I can only explain by example. Have you ever seen Oliver Stone’s film, The Doors, the one that traced the max-daddy rocker of the late 1960s night Jim Morrison’s career from garage band leader to guru? One of the scenes at one of the concerts, an outdoor, maybe desert outdoor one, had him, head full of dope, practically transformed into a shaman. Yah, one of those Indian (Markin: Native American, Phil] religious leaders who did a trance-dance. That was me in late May of 1966, if you can believe that.

And see, although I wasn’t conscious of it first I was being joined by one of the women on the bus, Luscious Lois, whom I had met, in passing the night before. This Lois, not her real name, as you can tell not only were we re-inventing ourselves physically and spiritually but in our public personas shedding our “slave names” much as some blacks were doing for more serious reasons than we had at the time. [Markin: Nice point, Phil, although I already ‘stole’ that point from you in my review.] Her real name was Sandra Sharp, a college girl from Vassar who, taking some time off from school, was “on the bus” trying to find herself. She was like some delicate flower, a dahlia maybe, like I had never encountered before. I won’t bore you with the forever have to tell what she looked like stuff because that is not what made her, well, intriguing, maddeningly intriguing, like some femme fatale in a crime noir film that Markin, from what I can gather, is always running on about. She was pretty, no question, maybe even a dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty if it came to a fair description in the light of day but what made her fetching, enchanting, if that is a different way to say it, was the changes in her facial expressions as she danced, and danced provocatively, dance half-nakedly, around my desire. And I danced, shedding my shirt although I do not remember doing so, danced half-naked around her desire. Then, faintly like a buzz from some hovering insect, maybe a bee, and then more loudly I kept hearing the on-lookers, half-mad with dope and with desire themselves, yelling far out, far out. And Far-Out Phil was born.

Oh, as for Luscious Lois and her desire, well, you figure it out. I might not have been as wise to the ways of the Vassar world in those days when such places were bastions to place the young women of the elite and keep them away from clawing upstarts from the corner boy night as I should have been but the rest of my time on the bus was spend hovering around Lois, and keeping other guys away. I even worked some plebeian “magic” on her one night when I started using certain swear words in her ear that worked for me every Sunday after 8:00 AM Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church with foxy Millie Callahan, back in the day. Far-Out Phil got a little something extra that night, proper Vassar girl or not.

No offense against Iowa, well only a little offense for not being near an ocean, I think. No offense against the university there, well only a little offense for not being Berkeley but after about a week of that campsite and its environs I was ready to move on and it did not matter if it was with Flip-Flop and his crowd or with Captain Crunch (the guy who “led” his clot of merry pranksters, real name, Samuel Jackman, Columbia Class of 1958, who long ago gave up searching, searching for anything, and just hooked into the idea of taking the ride). Captain Crunch, as befitted his dignity (and since it was “his” bus paid for out of some murky deal, probably a youthful drug deal, from what I heard), was merely the “leader” here. The driving was left to another, older guy. This driver was not your mother-sent, mother-agent, old Mrs. Henderson, who prattled on about keep in your seats and be quiet while she is driving (maybe that, subconsciously, is why the seats were ripped out long ago on the very first “voyage” west) but a very, very close imitation of the god-like prince-driver of the road, the "on the road” pioneer, Neal Cassady, shifting those gears very gently but also very sure-handedly so no one noticed those bumps (or else was so stoned, drug or music-stoned, that those things passed like so much wind). His name: Cruising Casey (real name, Charles Kendall, Haverford College Class of ’64, but just this minute, Cruising Casey, mad man searching for the great American be-bop night under the extreme influence of one Ken Kesey, the max-daddy mad man of the great search just then). And Cruising was, being just a little older, and about one hundred years more experienced, also weary, very weary of co-eds, copping dope and, frankly, staying in one place for so long. He also wanted to see his girlfriend, or his wife, I am not sure which in Denver so I knew where we were heading. So off we go, let’s get going.

And the passengers. Nobody from the Flip-Flop Express (although Flip-Flop, as usual, lived up to his name and hemmed and hawed about it), they were heading back east, back into the dark Mechanicsville night. I tried, tried like hell, to get Sweet Pea to come along just in case the thing with Lois fell apart or she took some other whim into her head. See, re-invented or not, I still had some all-the-angles boyhood rust hanging on me. We did know for sure that Casey was driving, and still driving effortlessly so the harsh realities of his massive drug intake had not hit yet, or maybe he really was superman. Other whose names I remember: Mustang Sally (Susan Stein, Michigan, Class of 1959, ditto on the searching thing), Captain Crunch’s girlfriend, (although not exclusively, not exclusively by her choice, not his, and he was not happy about it for lots of reasons which need not detain us here). Most of the rest of the “passengers” have monikers like Silver City Slim, Penny Pot (guess why), Moon Man, Flash Gordon (from out in space somewhere, literally, as he told it), Dallas Dennis (from New York City, go figure), and the like. They also had real names that indicated that they were from somewhere that had nothing to do with public housing projects, ghettos or barrios. And they were also, or almost all were, twenty-some-things that had some highly-rated college years after their names, graduated or not). And they were all either searching or, like the Captain, were at a stage where they are just hooked into taking the ride.

As for the rest. Well, no one could be exactly sure, as the bus approached the outskirts of Denver, as this was strictly a revolving cast of characters depending on who was hitchhiking on that desolate back road State Route 5 in Iowa, or County Road 16 in Wyoming, and desperately needed to be picked up, or face time, and not nice time with a buzz on, in some small town poky. Or it might depend on who decided to pull up stakes at some outback campsite and get on the bus for a spell, and decide if they were, or were not, on the bus. After all even all-day highs, all-night sex, and 24/7 just hanging around listening to the music is not for everyone. And while we had plenty of adventures, thinking back on it now, they all came down to drugs, sex, and rock and roll with a little food on the side. If you want to hear about them just ask Markin to contact me. The real thing though, the thing that everybody should remember is that dance night in Ames, Iowa when Phil Larkin got “religion,” 1960s secular religion. He slid back some later, like everybody does, but when he was on the bus he was in very heaven.

Markin note: No question that this story, except perhaps for hormonal adolescents, is better than those dreary old geezer searching for young love tales that he ran by us before. By the way Phil, you don’t happen to have Luscious Lois’, ah, Sandra Sharp’s, cell phone number or e-mail address. And don’t lie and say you don’t have it. You never crossed off a woman’s name from your book in your life. Give it up.