Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-One Night With You- Sam’s Song- With The Chiffons’ He’s So Fine In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-One Night With You- Sam’s Song- With The Chiffons’ He’s So Fine In Mind    

Introduction by Allan Jackson

[I don’t know what poor guys do these days to keep themselves out of mischief if that is what they want. I used to see young guys, girls too, a few years ago hanging out in the malls, just hanging but not so much recently so that maybe mall security or somebody has made it clear or unpleasant just to hang for a few hours buying maybe a soda or something to cover their asses as paying customers. Back in my day, Jesus, here comes that old chestnut, we used to hang by fiat around Tonio’s Pizza Parlor in what was called the “up the Downs” retail store section of North Adamsville not far from the Acre neighborhood where we grew up. Grew up in the then proud and defiant tradition of corner boys a situation that today’s working poor kids might envy. See Tonio, long gone Tonio although the pizza joint is still there run by a couple of Armenians, thought having wayward and seemingly harmless corner boys add some “class” to his place. Reason: of course you know the reason if you have read page one of these sketches or have a knack for figuring things out-girls.     

The girls, even the working poor girls, always seemed to have money and so say after school would stop by Tonio’s for a slice of pizza and a soda (which in the neighborhood we called tonic but which now seems to have gone the way of the horse and buggy since even I don’t use the term but say my proper soda)-and play that crazed jukebox to perdition. More seriously on date nights the girls would show up with their guys, or maybe just a bunch of girls looking for dates or company, and buy whole pizzas and some sodas and play that crazed jukebox to perdition and back. So Tonio, who was like a father to our corner boy leader Frankie Riley, except on family nights which we understood and when except in summer we would not be hanging around Tonio’s anyway was glad to have us as advertisements.

We were clean-cut enough at least in general appearance and quiet enough to give the place a certain cache. Even though Tonio knew, knew as well as he knew anything in that giant immigrant heart of his, that we were planning “midnight creep” capers in other neighborhoods to get dough. I don’t think I have to spell it out but I will-we would burglarized certain homes and had a “fence” buy the stuff. The girls I don’t believe ever knew but when some corner boy would ask a girl for a date out of the blue that meant we had just scored and he had money to go out on that date. Otherwise we would be cadging girls to play certain songs on the jukebox with every trick in the book we could use to hoodwink them out of the dreamy awful stuff they really wanted to play.

So we led kind of charmed lives as Tonio’s corner boys and I am not sure if every poor neighborhood has such gradations so that any shop-owners actually wanted the general riff-raff that went by the title corner boy. The stereotype and that was in books, in the movies and in real life was the gang led by Red Riley (no relation to Frankie, the Riley name was endemic in deeply Irish Acre land) who hung around Harry’s Variety Store and dared anybody to say or do anything untoward within about a mile of the place. Here is the twist there at Harry’s. The store was just a front for his book-making operation in which in the coppers came in to place their off-the-rack bets too and Red and his boys made sure Harry was not messed with-even by the coppers except the few times they “raided” the joint (and still got their cut).

Red was the meanest guy I ever saw, even in the Army where there were plenty of tough guys, some there, in the Army that is, via the justice system rather than go to jail forever. I saw him with my own eyes chain-whip and if you don’t know what that is look it up on the Internet a guy just because he was from a different corner and was just passing through our neighborhood. The guy was a bloody mess and Red just walked away-walked away too from any charges since the guy who got whipped knew he would be dead, very dead, if he mentioned word one about how he got in his bloody condition.

Red and his maybe half dozen confederates, they tended to turn over a bit since they would go from the corner to jail or some such place with the exception of Red who lived his own version of the charmed life at least in the Acre looked exactly the Marlon Brando, white tee shirt with cigarettes rolled in one sleeve, dungarees (when jeans were dungarees and only corner boys and farmers wore them), engineer boots and more likely than not some whip-chain hanging down their asses. The girls were the same (except as I found out later more than one nice girl once she lost her virginity might take a walk on the wild side before returning to nice girl-dom). Here is the cautionary tale part and I have stated more than one time what a close thing our own nice corner boy existence was for us to wind up the same way.  Red finally cashed his check down in some junkie haven White Hen store in North Carolina I think which he tried to rob solo and got nothing but serious lead for his troubles. Allan Jackson]  

He’s So Fine
(Do-lang, do-lang, do-lang)
(Do-lang, do-lang)
He's so fine
Wish he were mine
That handsome boy overthere
The one with the wavy hair
I don't know how I'm gonna do it
But I'm gonna make him mine
He's the envy of all the girls
It's just a matter of time
He's a soft [Spoken] guy
Also seems kinda shy
Makes me wonder if I
Should even give him a try
But then I know he can't shy
He can't shy away forever
And I'm gonna make him mine
If it takes me forever
He's so fine
(Oh yeah)
Gotta be mine
(Oh yeah)
Sooner or later
(Oh yeah)
I hope it's not later
(Oh yeah)
We gotta get together
(Oh yeah)
The sooner the better
(Oh yeah)
I just can't wait, I just can't wait
To be held in his arms
If I were a queen
And he asked me to leave my throne
I'll do anything that he asked
Anything to make him my own
For he's so fine
(So fine) so fine
(So fine) he's so fine
(So fine) so fine
(So fine) he's so fine
(So fine) oh yeah
(He's so fine) he's so fine
(So fine) uh-huh
(He's so fine)
He's so fine.....

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

 Sam Lowell thought it was funny how things worked out sometimes in such a contrary fashion in this wicked old world, not his expression that “wicked old world” for he preferred of late the more elastic and ironic “sad old world” but that of his old time North Adamsville corner boy Peter Markin who will be more fully introduced in a moment (Markin aka Peter Paul Markin although nobody ever called him that except his mother, as one would expect although he hated to be teased by every kid from elementary school on including girls, girls who liked to tease him, tease him when they wanted to show their interest usually, and his first ill-advised wife, Martha, a heiress of the local Mayfair swells who tried, unsuccessfully since they sensed right away that he was not one of them, to impress her leafy horse country Dover suburban parents with the familiar Waspy triple names).
Neither of those expressions referred to however dated back to their youth since neither Sam nor Peter back then, back in their 1960s youth, would have used such old-fashioned religious-drenched expressions to explain their take on the world since as with all youth, or at least youth who expected to “turn the world upside down” (an expression that they both did use although each in very different contexts) they would have withheld such judgments or were too busy doing that “turning” business they had no time for adjectives to express their worldly concerns. No that expression, that understanding about the wickedness of the world, had been picked up by Sam from Peter when they had reconnected a number of years before after they had not seen each other for decades to express the uphill battles of those who had expected humankind to exhibit the better angels of their natures on a more regular basis. Some might call this nostalgic glancing back, especially by Peter since he had more at stake in a favorable result, on a world that did not turn upside down or did so in a way very different from those hazy days.  

The funny part (or ironic if you prefer) was that back then Sam had been in his youth the least political, the least culturally-oriented, the least musically-oriented of those corner boys like Markin, Jack Dawson, Jimmy Jenkins and “max daddy” leader Fritz Fallon who kept the coins flowing into the jukebox at Phil’s House of Pizza (that “max daddy” another expression coined by Peter so although he has not even been properly introduced we know plenty about his place in the corner boy life, his place as “flak,” for Fritz’s operation although Fritz always called him “the Scribe” when he wanted something written and needed to play on Peter’s vanity). That shop had been located down a couple of blocks from the choppy ocean waters of Adamsville Beach (and is still there although under totally different management from the arch-Italian Rizzo family that ran the place for several generations now run by some immigrant Albanians named Hoxha).
That jukebox made Phil’s among other things a natural hang-out place for wayward but harmless poor teenage corner boys. The serious “townie” professional corner boys, the rumblers, tumblers, drifters, grifters and midnight sifters hung around Harry’s Variety with leader Red Riley over on Sagamore far from beaches. Night haunting boys far from sweated sun, tanned daytime beaches, with their equally pale, black dress-etched “tramps,” well known in the boyos network at the high school for those few adventurous enough to mess with an off-hand “from hunger” girl looking for kicks and a fast ride in some souped-up Chevy or on back of fat hog Harley, the bike of choice around the town. Although tanned daytime beaches rumors had it that the beach, the isolated Rock Island section, had been the site of more than one nighttime orgy with “nice” publicly virginal girls looking for kicks with rough boys down among the briny rocks. Rumors they remained until Sam ran into Sissy Roswell many years later who confessed to him that she and the “social butterfly” prom/fall dance/ yearbook crowd she hung around with on a couple of occasions had been among the briny rocks the summer after graduation when school social ladders and girls’ locker room talk didn’t mean a thing.   

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

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

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

Now here is what Johnny “knew” about almost every girl if they had the quarter which allowed them to play three selections. He would let them pick that first one on their own, maybe something to express interest in his flirtation, maybe her name, say Donna, was also being used as the title of a latest hit, or if broken up some boy sorrow thing. Brenda Lee’s I Want To Be Wanted, stuff like that. The second one he would “suggest” something everybody wanted to listen to no matter what but which was starting to get old. Maybe so Elvis, Roy Orbison, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee thing still on the jukebox playlist but getting wearisome. Then he would go in for the kill and “suggest” they play this new platter, you know, something like Martha and the Vandelas Dancing in the Streets or Roy’s Blue Bayou both of which he had heard on the midnight radio airwaves out of Detroit one night and were just getting play on the jukeboxes. And bingo before you know it she was playing the thing again, and again. Beautiful. And Johnny said that sometimes he would wind up with a date, especially if he had just scored about three touchdowns for the school, a date that is in the days before he and Kitty Kelly became an “item.” An item, although it is not germane to the story, who still is Johnny’s girl, wife, known as Mrs. Toyota now.
But enough of this downstream stuff Sam thought. The hell with Johnny and his cheapjack tricks (although not to those three beautiful touchdowns days, okay) this thing gnawing at him was about old age angst and not the corner boy glory days at Phil’s, although it is about old time corners boys and their current doings, some of them anyway. So yeah he had other things he wanted to think about (and besides he had already, with a good trade-in, gotten his latest car from Mr. Toyota so enough there), to tell a candid world about how over the past few years with the country, the world, the universe had been going to hell in a hand-basket. In the old day, like he kept going back to, back in the day he was not the least bit interested in anything in the big world outside of sports, and girls, of course. And endlessly working on plans to own his own business, a print shop, before he was twenty-five. 
Well, he did get that small business, although not until thirty and had prospered when he made connections to do printing for several big high-tech companies, notably IBM when they began outsourcing their work. He had prospered, had married (twice, and divorced twice), had the requisite tolerated children and adored grandchildren, and in his old age a woman companion to ease his time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Peter was a walking contradiction, although that was probably not as strange now as it seemed back then when every new thing was looked at with suspicion, and when kids like Peter were twisted in the wind between being corner boys and trying to figure out what that new wind was that was blowing though the land, when Sam and the other corner boys, except Jimmy and sometimes Jack would try to talk him out of stuff that would only upset everybody in town.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night- The Smells, Ah, The Smells Of Childhood- Ida's Bakery-With Little Anthony And The Imperials Tears On My Pillow In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night- The Smells, Ah, The Smells Of Childhood- Ida's Bakery-With Little Anthony And The Imperials Tears On My Pillow In Mind

Introduction by Allan Jackson

[Of course a writer, even a half-baked ex-editor like myself, and remember the old saying that those who can’t write, teach-or edit and so that is my writing resume, editor, writes about personal emotions, his, hers, some third party disguised or true, writes about places seen and described, and sounds, heard or belled. Less expressed, and maybe that was just my prejudice as an editor were pieces written which dealt with smells, the smells of something-fair or foul. But more than that smells associated with certain people like the elderly lady here who only gets her minute in the sun via those smells she produced in her homemade bakery. That is the nail that Seth Garth hung his hat on when he made one of his rare adult trips back to the old Acre neighborhood where he, we, came of age back in the day. Frankly, at first I balked at publishing the piece, showing that prejudice mentioned above but also fearing that to let the sun shine on the role of youthful smells ran counter to what we were trying to do with this series, a series dedicated mainly to sights and sounds.               

I let the piece go at the time figuring that it was harmless enough. But in a recent re-read to figure out how to introduce a piece that was not directly related to corner boy life or rock and roll I realized that smells, Ida’s bakery smells, were part of the fabric of those growing up experiences not all of them beautiful smells either. While I would today still be a little hesitant to let Seth run wild with such a piece if he, or somebody else added something about the smell of such a situation as part of a larger perspective I would not squawk.

After all how could you avoid smell when you were describing the first time Scribe, or any one of us, had our first tastes of whiskey which was a rite of passage in our neighborhood-and not when one reached the legal twenty-one age requirement. Scribe’s story was that he grabbed his first bottle of liquor when he went to Doc’s Drugstore up on Newbury Avenue in order to get his grandmother’s prescriptions filled and had Doc, a little sharpie by the way, throw in a pint of whiskey in with the order. In those days, maybe now too for all I know, druggists carried liquor for “medicinal” purposes and on occasion Scribe’s grandmother would order a bottle for herself so Doc threw the bottle in without question even though Scribe was maybe fourteen or fifteen.

The smell parts came from the nasty breathe that Scribe (and his confederate in the caper Frankie Riley) had as the aftermath of this occasion when the two went down to Adamsville Beach and sat on the seawall drinking swigs and slivering the taste. Worse, worse by far was the smell from Scribe when he vomited the contents of his stomach after the pint was finish and even Frankie wanted to get away from him-and in those days Frankie and Scribe were fast friends. My own whiskey experience at sixteen was not far off from that except in our extended family the tradition was that an uncle would take a male child well under that twenty-one requirement to the Dublin Pub and buy him his first whiskey. Although not the last that first ones smell lasted in my mouth for days it seemed.

I won’t dwell too much on this smell business but on the more positive side how could you explain the budding romance that Sam Lowell had in junior high school with Marla O’Hara without mentioning that fragrance she emitted from the perfume, maybe grabbed from her mother’s bureau top or maybe it was bath soap or something that lured him in like a little puppy dog. A year before, a year before puberty okay, Sam could hardly stand being around her, taunted her, made her cry I think and then the next year that smell which was the siren call, a siren call that would carry through three ex-wives and a number of love affairs. Maybe he was endlessly trying to recreate that first bloom of youth.

My own experience was less exalted when I was pursing Theresa Wallace who also had the bath soap scent but who dropped me like a hot potato when I showed up with a ton of Wildroot tonic on my hair, a ton of Listerine (or some mouthwash) on my breathe and Right Guard (or some such deodorant) on my underarms. She wondered what the hell the smells were when we had our first (and last) dance. Yeah, sometimes things don’t work out and describing those smells is the only way to convey what was what. Allan Jackson]     

There are many smells, sounds, tastes, sights and touches stirred up on the memory’s eye trail in search of the old days in North Adamsville. Today though I am in thrall to smells. The why of this thralldom is simply put. I had, a short while ago, passed a neighborhood bakery here on the corner of St. Brendan Street that reeked of the smell of sour-dough bread being baked on the premises. The bakery itself, designated as such by a plainly painted sign-Mrs. Kenney’s Bakery- was a simple extension of someone’s house, living quarters above, and that brought me back to the hunger streets of the old home town and Ida’s holy-of-holies bakery over on Sagamore Street.

Of course one could not dismiss, dismiss at one’s peril, that invigorating smell of the salt air blowing in from North Adamsville Bay when the wind was up. A wind that spoke of high-seas adventures, of escape, of jail break-outs from landlocked spiritual destitutes, of, well, on some days just having been blown in from somewhere else for those who sought that great eastern other shoreline. Or how could one forget the still nostril-filling pungent fragrant almost sickening smell emanating from the Proctor &Gamble soap factory across the channel down in the old Adamsville Housing Authority project that defined many a muggy childhood summer night air instead of sweet dreams and puffy clouds. Or that never to be forgotten slightly oily, sulfuric smell at low- tide down at North Adamsville Beach, the time of the clam diggers and their accomplices trying to eke a living or a feeding out of that slimy mass. Or evade the fetid smell of marsh weeds steaming up from the disfavored Squaw Rock end of the beach, the adult haunts. (Disfavored, disfavored when it counted in the high teenage dudgeon be-bop 1960s night, post-school dance or drive-in movie love slugfest, for those who took their “submarine races” dead of night viewing seriously. And I do not, or will not spell the significance of that teen lingo race expression even for those who did their teenage “parking” in the throes of the wild high plains Kansas night. You can figure that out yourselves.)

Or the smell sound of the ocean floor (or dawn, if you got lucky) at twilight on those days when the usually tepid waves aimlessly splashed against the shoreline stones, broken clam shells, and other fauna and flora turned around and became a real roaring ocean, acting out Mother Nature’s high life and death drama, and in the process acted to calm a man’s (or a man-child’s) nerves in the frustrating struggle to understand a world not of one’s own making. Moreover, I know I do not have to stop very long to tell this retro crowd, the crowd that will read this piece, about the smell taste of that then just locally famous HoJo’s ice cream back in the days. Jimmied up and frosted to take one’s breath away. Or those char-broiled hot dogs and hamburgers sizzling on your back-yard barbecue pit or, better, from one of the public pits down at the beach. But the smell that I am ghost-smelling today is closer to home as a result of a fellow old time classmate’s bringing this to my attention awhile back (although, strangely, if the truth be known I was already on the verge of “exploring" this very subject). Today, after passing that home front bakery, as if a portent, I bow down in humble submission to the smells from Ida’s Bakery.

You, if you are of a certain age, at or close to AARP-eligible age, and neighborhood, Irish (or some other ethnic-clinging enclave) filled with those who maybe did not just get off the boat but maybe their parents did, remember Ida’s, right? Even if you have never set foot one in old North Adamsville, or even know where the place is. 

If you lived within a hair’s breathe of any Irish neighborhood and if you grew up probably any time in the first half of the 20th century you “know” Ida’s. My Ida ran a bakery out of her living room, or maybe it was the downstairs and she lived upstairs, in the 1950s and early 1960s (beyond that period I do not know). An older grandmotherly woman when I knew her who had lost her husband, lost him to drink, or, as was rumored, persistently rumored although to a kid it was only so much adult air talk, to another woman. 

Probably it was the drink as was usual in our neighborhoods with the always full hang-out Dublin Grille just a couple of blocks up the street. She had, heroically in retrospect, raised a parcel of kids on the basis of her little bakery including some grandchildren that I played ball with over at Welcome Young field also just up the street, and also adjacent to my grandparents’ house on Kendrick Street.

Now I do not remember all the particulars about her beyond the grandmotherly appearance I have just described, except that she still carried that hint of a brogue that told you she was from the “old sod” but that did not mean a thing in that neighborhood because at any given time when the brogues got wagging you could have been in Limerick just as easily as North Adamsville. Also she always, veil of tears hiding maybe, had a smile for one and all coming through her door, and not just a commercial smile either. Nor do I know much about how she ran her operation, except that you could always tell when she was baking something in back because she had a door bell tinkle that alerted her to when someone came in and she would come out from behind a curtained entrance, shaking flour from her hands, maybe, or from her apron-ed dress ready to take your two- cent order-with a smile, and not a commercial smile either but I already told you that.

Nor, just now, do I remember all of what she made or how she made it but I do just now, rekindled by this morning’s sour-dough yeasty smell, remember the smells of fresh oatmeal bread that filtered up to the playing fields just up the street from her store on Fridays when she made that delicacy. Fridays meant oatmeal bread, and, as good practicing Catholics we were obliged to not eat red meat on that sacred day, so tuna fish. But, and perhaps this is where I started my climb to quarrelsome heathen-dom I balked at such a desecration. See, grandma would spring for a fresh loaf, a fresh right from the oven loaf, cut by a machine that automatically sliced the bread (the first time I had seen such a useful gadget). And I would get to have slathered peanut butter (Skippy, of course) and jelly (Welch’s grape, also of course) and a glass of milk. Ah, heaven.

And just now I memory smell those white-flour dough, deeply- browned Lenten hot-cross buns white frosting dashed that signified that hellish deprived high holy catholic Lent was over, almost. Beyond that I draw blanks. Know this those. All that sweet sainted goddess (or should be) Ida created from flour, eggs, yeast, milk and whatever other secret devil’s ingredient she used to create her other simple baked goods may be unnamed-able but they put my mother, my grandmother, your mother, your grandmother in the shade. And that is at least half the point. You went over to Ida’s to get high on those calorie-loaded goodies. And in those days with youth at your back, and some gnawing hunger that never quite got satisfied, back then that was okay. Believe me it was okay. I swear I will never forget those glass-enclosed delights that stared out at me in my sugar hunger. I may not remember much about the woman, her life, where she was from, or any of that. This I do know- in this time of frenzied interest in all things culinary Ida's simple recipes and her kid-maddening bakery smells still hold a place of honor.

La Dolce Vita-Senior Set-Tennessee Williams’ “The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone” (1961)-A Film Review

La Dolce Vita-Senior Set-Tennessee Williams’ “The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone” (1961)-A Film Review         

DVD Review

By Sam Lowell

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, starring Vivian Leigh, Warren Beatty, from the play by Tennessee Williams, 1961

The playwright Tennessee Williams was a hard fought acquired taste for me. Hard fought since the subject matter, or subplot anyway, of many of his most famous works revolved around homosexuality even if in a somewhat muted manner reflecting those harsh times when sodomy was on the criminal law books and everybody stayed at least publically in the closet, deep in the closet in the case of one of my hometown hang-out corner boys Timmy Riley, oddness and off-beat-ness in general, loneliness and assorted despairs. Back to that hard fought part though when I first read I think the play Suddenly Last Summer and then saw the film starring Kate Hepburn, Liz Taylor and Monty Clift I was put off by the insinuated homosexual procuring process which was behind the storyline. Kate as mother procuress and Liz as “bait” for the boys.

Reason: well, reason which even Timmy Riley claimed to understand when he hung around with us. “Fags,” guys light on their feet that kind of were nothing but subject matter for verbal abuse, fights and endless baiting. It was sometime after Stonewall in 1969, a few years later, when Allan Jackson found out that Timmy was gay, and was also doing a drag queen act in Frisco where he fled to when his parents essentially disowned him after he told them about his sexual preferences. (WFT, Timmy had been the lead guy when we went down drunk as skunks to eternally gay-friendly Provincetown with the specific purpose of gay-baiting some poor sap in order to beat him up. What awful stuff Timmy must have gone through since he later told Allan he knew his was gay from about thirteen). That and Scribe finally telling us we had been dead ass wrong about those fights and that bear-baiting we indulged in on the corner.

That was when I went all out to check out Tennessee Williams after seeing The Glass Menagerie on the stage at I think the ART in Cambridge. Funny the more I checked on Williams the more I found out that half the literary figures, or so it seemed, were gay or lesbian. Guys like Walt Whitman, Auden, Allan Ginsberg (although I knew he was gay before vaguely from when Scribe would recite Howl to us and almost get murdered for it, not because of the homosexuality but because we could have given a fuck about such stuff when we were hanging out Friday nights girl   dateless).         

I may have read the offering here The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone in play form but I don’t remember it so this is my first take on his take of the underside of the ex-pat community, the well-heeled single older women part, in Rome in the post-World War II la dolce vita world of those lonely, worried types who need plenty of assurance that they still had “it,” still had sex appeal of one form or another. Take the lead character Karen Stone, played by Vivian Leigh who was facing her own battle as a fading actress after her legendary performance as Scarlett  O’Hara in Gone With The Wind, she Karen of the famed legitimate theater, the Broadway white lights when that meant something. Her latest effort, a run at Shakespeare’s As You Like It trying to play the young queen type was in her mind a bust. Friends were publicly more generous but among themselves knew the thing was a stinker. That led to her closing the play and taking off for parts unknown with her ill husband. During the trip there he had a heart attack and died leaving Karen to face the future alone.

Karen went into exile in Rome after that in order to as she said “drift.” But drifting only goes so far for a still young senior set denizen. Of course in those days proper and rich women left by themselves didn’t go to the Yellow Pages looking for companionship or go to get picked up in a bar. It was all done through various nefarious upscale native connections but in the end there was no dearth of poor beautiful young men to “escort” milady-for a fee one way or another usually with “gifts” or expense accounts. That was how Mrs. Stone met Paolo, played by a very young Warren Beatty. The duel here is between Paolo’s alleged sensibilities about Karen and her fending him off as another gigolo- for a while. But soon the inevitable expense account gets established and she plays his bills. Problem or rather two problems, one, Paolo is a whore and goes after a young American actress and two, on the rebound of sorts, Karen goes the go with another beautiful young man who has been stalking her. We are left with some serious doubts about what will happen with that young man who looks like he could murder her and not give a damn about the consequences. Pure Tennessee.              

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night- Ancient Dreams, Dreamed- With Diana Talbot In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night- Ancient Dreams, Dreamed- With Diana Talbot In Mind

Introduction by Allan Jackson

[A lot of what the now locally legendary corner boys from the brick front of Tonio’s Pizza Parlor in the woe begotten working poor Acre section of North Adamsville talked about on lonely Friday nights was about the opposite sex (even Timmy Riley now known in Frisco town among the drag queen connoisseurs at his very successful Kit Kat Club as Miss Judy Garland). About what to do about, how to get close to them (after clearing the Scribe’s intelligence to see if they were “spoken for” meaning  “going steady” or some other such arrangement), and, frankly how to get into their pants (a lot harder in some cases than you might think and easier in others you might not think of). By the way that locally legendary part no misstatement for those from high school who stayed in town, not many but enough in the wandering generation, passed on the lore to their kids, (and now the kids to theirs). So that it would not be uncommon for kids today, those who still get their pizza from still-standing Tonio’s although minus Tonio to speak in reverent terms about the guys who went wild in the 1960s. At some point I am sure mall-dom will erase even though few remaining memories (although nothing will erase Richard Rizzo, 1946-66 and David White, 1946-67 KIA in Vietnam and remembered by Tonio with a plague in the front of the building etched in the brick wall.

That might be true, the girl part, which to those who have passed the age of 64 mentioned below probably don’t have the same testosterone ardor of their youth but recent trips back to the Acre to get some “color” for the series made me realize that there were plenty of other things that preoccupied our minds, or maybe best said Scribe, Seth Garth, Sam Lowell and my mind. Things about family and the few good times we had in my household when we went, even in high school to day time Squaw Rock for barbecues (night time Squaw Rock was another thing, the local lovers’ lane thing and best not be mentioned here just in case some ancient mother gets wind of what I have to say here. In any case no self-respecting parent would be caught dead with impressible youth within five hundred yards of the place as sunstroke turned to dusk). Things about the various projects we got involved in some of them like getting books for school kids in Jim Crow Alabama which almost got us skinned alive. Things like the Fourth of July festival which the local fathers and uncles put together in the days when pre-Vietnam we guys were as patriotic as any kids out in heartland America and could have gone toe to toe with any Norman Rockwell or Grant Wood pictorial take on the matter. Those precious although no not obvious memories are what drove this sketch. You can fill in your own memoires as well. Allan Jackson] 

YouTube  film clip of the Beatles performing When I'm Sixty-Four from the animated movie Yellow Submarine.

Many of my fellows from the Generation of '68 (a. k. a. baby-boomers) will be, if you can believe this, turning sixty-four this year. So be it.

Yah, sometimes, and maybe more than sometimes, a frail, a frill, a twist, a dame, oh hell, let’s cut out the goofy stuff and just call her a woman and be done with it, will tie a guy’s insides up in knots so bad he doesn’t know what is what. Tie up a guy so bad he will go to the chair, go to the big step-off kind of smiling, okay maybe just half-smiling. Frank (read: future Peter Paul and a million, more or less, other guys) had it bad as a man could have from the minute Ms. Cora walked through the door in her white summer blouse, shorts, and the then de rigueur bandana holding back her hair, also white. She may have been just another blonde, very blonde, frail serving them off the arm in some seaside hash joint but from second one she was nothing but, well nothing but, a femme fatale. I swear, I swear on seven sealed bibles that I yelled, yelled through the womb or some toddler’s crib maybe, at the screen for him to get the hell out of there at that moment. But do you think he would listen, no not our boy. He had to play with fire, and play with it to the end.

Nose flattened cold against the frozen, snow falling front window “the projects” wait on better times, get a leg up, don’t get left behind in the dawning American streets paved with gold dream but for now just hang your hat dwelling, small, too small for three growing boys with hearty appetites and desires to match even then, warm, free-flow oil spigot warm, no hint of madness, or crazes only of sadness, brother kinship sadness, sadness and not understanding of time marching, relentlessly marching as he, that older brother, went off to foreign places, foreign elementary school reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic places and, he, the nose flattened against the window brother, is left to ponder his own place in those kind of places, those foreign-sounding places, when his time comes. If he has a time, has the time for the time of his time, in this red scare (but what knows he of red scare only brother scares), cold war, cold nose, dust particles floating aimlessly in the clogging still air night.
A cloudless day, a cloudless blasted eternal, infernal Korean War day, talk of peace, merciless truce peace and uncles coming home in the air, hot, hot end of June day laying, face up on freshly mown grass near fellowship carved-out fields, fields for slides and swings, diamonded baseball, no, friendlier softball fields the houses are too close, of gimps, glues, cooper-plated portraits of wildly-maned horses, of sweet shaded elms, starting, now that he too, that nose-flattened brother, has been to foreign places, strange boxed rooms filled with the wax and wane of learning, simple learning, in the time of his time, to find his own place in the sun but wondering, constantly wondering, what means this, what means that, and why all the changes, slow changes, fast changes, blip changes, but changes.

Nighttime fears, red-flagged Stalin-named fears, red bomb aimed right at my head unnamed shelter blast fears, named, vaguely named, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg hated stalinite jews killed fears, jews killed our catholic lord fears, and what did they do wrong to get the chair anyway fears against the cubed glass glistening flagless flag-pole rattling dark asphalt school yard night. Alone, and, and, alone with fears, and avoidance, clean, clear stand alone avoidance of old times sailors, tars, sailors’ homes AND deaths in barely readable fine- marked granite-grey lonely seaside graveyards looking out on ocean homelands and lost booty. Dead, and the idea of dead, the mystery of dead, and of sea sailor dead on mains, later stream thoughts of bitch proctoresses, some unnamed faraway crush teacher who crossed my path and such, in lonely what did he do wrong anyway prison cells, smoking, reading, writing of dinosaurs die and other laments. Dead.

Endless walks, endless one way sea street water rat-infested fear seawall walks, rocks, shells, ocean water-logged debris strewn every which way, fetid marsh smells, swaying grasses in light breezes to the right, mephitic swamps oozing mud splat stinks to the left making hard the way, the path, the symbolic life path okay, to uptown drug stores, some forgotten chain-name drug store, passing perfumes, lacquers, counter drugs, ailments cured, hurts fixed and all under a dollar, trinkets ten cents baubles, gee-gads, strictly gee-gads, grabbing, two-handed grabbing, heist-stolen valentines, a metaphor in the making, ribbon and bow ruby-red valentine night bushel, signed, hot blood-signed, weary-feet signed, if only she, about five candidates she, later called two blondes, two brunettes, and a red-head, sticks all, no womanly shape to tear a boy-man up, would give a look his way, his look, his newly acquired state of the minute Elvis-imitation look, on endless sea streets, the white-flecked splash inside his head would be quiet. Man emerging out of the ooze, and hope.

Walks, endless waiting bus stop, old late, forever late, story of a young boy’s life late, diesel-fueled, choking fumed non-stop bus stop walks, no golden age car for jet moves in American Dream wide-fin , high tech automatic drive nights, walks, walks up crooked cheap, low-rent, fifty-year no fix rutted pavement streets, deeply gouged, one-lane snow-drift hassles, you get the picture, pass trees are green, coded, secretly coded even fifty street rutted years later, endless trees are green super-secret-coded except for face blush waiting, waiting against boyish infinite time, infinite first blush of innocent manhood, boyhood times, gone now. For what? For one look, one look, and not a quick no-nonsense, no dice look, no time for ragamuffin boys either that would elude him, elude him forever. Such is life in lowly spots, lowly, lowly spots. And no dance, no coded trees are green dance, either, no high school confidential (hell elementary school either, man), handy man, breathless, Jerry Lee freak-out, at least no potato sack stick dance with coded name trees are green brunette. That will come, that will come. But when?

City square, no trespass, no standing, standing, low-slung granite buildings everywhere, granite steps leading to granite doors leading to granite gee-gad counters, hated, no name hated, low-head hated, waiting slyly, standing back on heels, going in furtively, coming out ditto, presto coming out with a gold nugget jewel, no carat, no russkie Sputnik panel glitter for his efforts such is the way of young lumped-up crime, no value, no look, just grab, grab hard, grab fast, grab get yours before the getting is over, or before the dark, dark night comes, the dark pitched-night when the world no longer is young, and dreamed dream make no more sense that this bodily theft.

A bridge too far, an unarched, unsteeled, unspanned, unnerved bridge too far. One speed bicycle boy, dungarees rolled up against dog bites and geared meshes, churning through endless heated, sweated, no handkerchief streets, names, all the parts of ships, names, all the seven seas, names, all the fishes of the seas, names, all the fauna of the sea, names. Twelve-year old hard churned miles to go before sleep, searching for the wombic home, for the old friends, the old drifter, grifter, midnight shifter petty larceny friends, that’s all it was, petty and maybe larceny, hard against the named ships, hard against the named seas, hard against the named fishes, hard against the named fauna, hard against the unnamed angst, hard against those changes that kind of hit one sideways all at once like some mack the knife smack devilish thing

Lindo, lindos, beautiful, beautifuls, not some spanish exotic though, maybe later, just some junior league dream fuss though, some future cheerleader football dame though, some sweated night pasty crust and I, too slip-shot, too, well, just too lonely, too lonesome, too long-toothed before my time to do more than endless walks along endless atlantic streets to summon up the courage to glance, glance right at windows, non-exotic atlantic cheerleader windows. Such is the new decade a-borning, a-borning but not for me, no jack swagger, or bobby goof as they run the table on old tricky dick or some tired imitation of him. Me, I’ll take exotics, or lindos, if they every cross my path, my lonely only path

Sweated dust bowl nights, not the sweated exotic atlantic cheerleader glance nights but something else, something not endless walked about, something done, or with the promise of done, for something inside, for some sense of worth in the this moldy white tee shirt, mildewy white shorts, who knows what diseased sneakers, Chuck Taylor sneakers pushing the red-faced Irish winds, harder, harder around the oval, watch tick in hand, looking, looking I guess for immortality, immortality even then. Later, in bobby darin times or percy faith times, who knows, sitting, sitting high against the lion-guarded pyramid statute front door dream, common dreams, common tokyo dreams, all gone asunder, all gone asunder, on this curious fact, no wind, Irish or otherwise. Stopped short. Who would have figured that one?

Main street walked, main street public telephone booth cheap talk walked searching for some Diana greek goddess wholesale on the atlantic streets. Diana, blonde Diana, cashmere-sweatered, white tennis –shoed Diana, million later Dianas although not with tennis shoes, really gym shoes fit for old ladies to do their rant, their lonely rant against the wind. Seeking, or rather courage-seeking, nickel and dime courage as it turns out; nickel and dime courage when home provided no sanctuary for snuggle-eared delights. Maybe a date, a small-time after school soda split sit at the counter Doc’s drugstore date, or slice of pizza and a coke date at Balducci’s with a few nickels juke boxed in playing our song, our future song, a Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall song, and dreams of I Want To Wanted sifting the hot afternoon air, maybe just a swirl at midnight drift, maybe a view of local lore car parked submarine races and mysteries unfurled, ah, to dream, no more than to dream, walking down friendly aisles, arm and arm along with myriad other arm and arm walkers on senior errands. No way, no way and then red-face, alas, red-faced no known even forty years later. Wow.

Multi-colored jacket worn, red and black, black and red, some combination reflecting old time glories, or promises of glory, cigarette, Winston small-filtered, natch, no romantic Bogie tobacco-lipped unfiltered, hanging from off the lip at some jagged angle, a cup of coffee, if coffee was the drink, in hand, a glad hand either way, look right, look left, a gentle nod, a hard stare, a gentle snarl if such a thing is possible beyond the page. Move out the act onto Boston fresh-mown streets. Finally, that one minute, no not fifteen, not fifteen at all, and not necessary of the fame game, local fame, always local fame but fame, and then the abyss on non-fame, non- recognition and no more snarls, gentle or otherwise. A tough life lesson learned, very tough. And not yet twenty.

Drunk, whisky drunk, whisky rotgut whisky drunk, in some bayside, altantic bayside, not childhood atlantic bayside though, no way, no shawlie way, bar. Name, nameless, no legion. Some staggered midnight vista street, legs weak from lack of work, brain weak, push on, push on, find some fellaheen relieve for that unsatisfied bulge, that gnawing at the brain or really at the root of the thing. A topsy-turvy time, murder, death, the death of death, the death of fame, murder, killing murder, and then resolve, wrong resolve and henceforth the only out, war, war to the finish, although who could have known that then. Who could have know that tet, lyndon, bobby, hubert, tricky dick war-circus all hell broke loose thing then, or wanted to.

Shaved-head, close anyway, too close to distinguish that head and ten-thousand, no on hundred-thousand other heads, all shave-headed. I fall down to the earth, spitting mud-flecked red clay, spitting, dust, spitting, spitting out the stars over Alabama that portent no good, no earthy good. Except this-if this is not murder, if this is not to slay, then what is? And the die is cast, not truthfully cast, not pure warrior in the night cast but cast. Wild dreams, senseless wild dreams follow, follow in succession. The days of rage, rage against the light, and then the glimmer of the light.
The great Mandela cries, cries to the high heavens, for revenge against the son’s hurt, now that the son has found his way, a strange way but a way. And a certain swagger comes to his feet in the high heaven black Madonna of a night. No cigarette hanging off the lip now, not Winston filter-tipped seductions, no need, and no rest except the rest of waiting, waiting on the days to pass until the next coming, and the next coming after that. Ah, sweet Mandela, turn for me, turn for me and mine just a little. Free at last but with a very, very sneaking feeling that this is a road less traveled for reason, and not for ancient robert frost to guide you… Just look at blooded Kent State, or better, blooded Jackson State. Christ.

Bloodless bloodied streets, may day tear down the government days, tears, tear-gas exploding, people running this way and that coming out of a half-induced daze, a crazed half-induced daze that mere good- will, mere righteousness would right the wrongs of this wicked old world. But stop. Out of the bloodless fury, out of the miscalculated night a strange bird, no peace dove and no flame-flecked phoenix but a bird, maybe the owl of Minerva comes a better sense that this new world a-bornin’ will take some doing, some serious doing. More serious that some wispy-bearded, pony-tailed beat, beat down, beat around, beat up young stalwart acting in god’s place can even dream of.

Chill chili nights south of the border, endless Kennebunkports, Bar Harbors, Calais’, Monktons, Peggy’s Coves, Charlottetowns, Montreals, Ann Arbors, Neolas, Denvers by moonlight, Boulders echos, Dinosaurs dies, salted lakes, Winnemuccas’ flats, golden-gated bridges, malibus, Joshua Trees, pueblos, embarcaderos, and flies. Enough to last a life-time, thank you. Enough of Bunsen burners, Coleman stoves, wrapped blankets, second-hand sweated army sleeping bags, and minute pegged pup tents too. And enough too of granolas, oatmeals, desiccated stews, oregano weed, mushroomed delights, peyote seeds, and the shamanic ghosts dancing off against apache (no, not helicopters, real injuns) ancient cavern wall. And enough of short-wave radio beam tricky dick slaughters south of the border in deep fall nights. Enough, okay.

He said struggle. He said push back. He said stay with your people. He said it would not be easy. He said you have lost the strand that bound you to your people. He said you must find that strand. He said that strand will lead you away from you acting in god’s place ways. He said look for a sign. He said the sign would be this-when your enemies part ways and let you through then you will enter the golden age. He said it would not be easy. He said it again and again. He said struggle. He said it in 1848, he said it in 1917, he said it in 1973. Whee, an old guy, huh.

Greyhound bus station men’s wash room stinking to high heaven of seven hundred pees, six hundred laved washings, five hundred wayward unnamed, unnamable smells, mainly rank. Out the door, walk the streets, walk the streets until, until noon, until five, until lights out. Plan, plan, plan, plain paper bag in hand holding, well, holding life, plan for the next minute, no, the next ten seconds until the deadly impulses subside. Then look, look hard, for safe harbors, lonely desolate un-peopled bridges, some gerald ford-bored antic newspaper-strewn bench against the clotted hobo night snores. Desolation row, no way home.

A smoky sunless bar, urban style right in the middle of high Harvard civilization, belting out some misty time Hank Williams tune, maybe Cold, Cold Heart from father home times. Order another deadened drink, slightly benny-addled, then in walks a vision. A million time in walks a vision, but in white this time. Signifying? Signifying adventure, dream one-night stands, lost walks in loaded woods, endless stretch beaches, moonless nights, serious caresses, and maybe, just maybe some cosmic connection to wear away the days, the long days ahead. Ya that seems right, right against the oil-beggared time, right.

Lashed against the high end double seawall, bearded, slightly graying against the forlorn time, a vision in white not enough to keep the wolves of time away, the wolves of feckless petty larceny times reappear, reappear with a vengeance against the super-rational night sky and big globs of ancient hurts fester against some unknown enemy, unnamed, or hiding out in a canyon under an assumed name. Then night, the promise of night, a night run up some seawall laden streets, some Grenada night or maybe Lebanon sky boom night, and thoughts of finite, sweet flinty finite haunt his dreams, haunt his sleep. Wrong number, brother. Ya, wrong number, as usual.

White truce flags neatly placed in right pocket. Folded aging arms showing the first signs of wear-down, unfolded. One more time, one more war-weary dastardly fight against Persian gulf oil-driven time, against a bigger opponent, and then the joys of retreat and taking out those white flags again and normalcy. The first round begins. He holds his own, a little wobbly. Second round he runs into a series of upper-cuts that drive him to the floor. Out. Awake later, seven minutes, hours, eons later he takes out the white flags now red with his own blood. He clutches them in his weary hands. 
The other he said struggle, struggle. Ya, easy for you to say.
Desperately clutching his new white flags, his 9/11 white flags, exchanged years ago for bloodied red ones, white flags proudly worn for a while now, he wipes his brow of the sweat accumulated from the fear he has been living with for the past few months. Now ancient arms folded, hard-folded against the rainless night, raining, he carefully turns right, left, careful of every move as the crowd comes forward. Not a crowd, no, a horde, a beastly horde, and this is no time to stick out with white flags (or red, for that matter). He jumps out of the way, the horde passes brushing him lightly, not aware, not apparently aware of the white flags. Good. What did that other guy say, oh yes, struggle.

One more battle, one more, please one more, one fight against the greed tea party night. He chains himself, well not really chains, but more like ties himself to the black wrought-iron fence in front of the big white house with his white handkerchief. Another guy does the same, except he uses some plastic hand-cuff-like stuff. A couple of women just stand there, hard against that ebony fence, can you believe it, just stand there. More, milling around, disorderly in a way, someone starts om-ing, om-ing out of Allen Ginsberg Howl nights, or at least Jack Kerouac Big Sur splashes. The scene is complete, or almost complete. Now, for once he knows, knows for sure, that it wasn’t Ms. Cora whom he needed to worry about, and that his child dream was a different thing altogether. But who, just a child, could have known that then.