Monday, May 22, 2017

On The Occasion Of The Centennial Of John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s Birthday-Frank Jackman’s Journey



By Political Commentator Frank Jackman

Sure now, as anybody who is familiar with the American Left History on-line site and The Progressive Journal print site that I write for these days knows, or should be expected to know, I along with many of my political kindred have long raked many of the policies and projects that John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States 1961-1963, initiated over the coals. Most notable for those of us who were inspired, maybe inflamed by the exploits of the revolutionaries (without being revolutionaries ourselves but proper liberals and social democrats) in Cuba who overthrew the Batista regime was the fumbled Bay of Pigs invasion in the spring of 1961 which was our first point of serious differences with a generally positive attitude toward Camelot and the deep state escalation of American involvement in Vietnam which led to the slippery slope that tore this society asunder as we can as near to a cold civil war as we had in this country until very recently. There were other generic differences that came to the fore later when we were seeking, desperately seeking, for what brother Robert Kennedy called, “stealing” a page from Alfred Lord Tennyson, “ a newer world.” Looking for more socialist-oriented solutions to what ailed society.        

All that however was later. Today I want to speak of the promise that the election of JFK meant to a bunch of Irish Catholic corner boys from the poverty-stricken Acre section of North Adamsville back in the fall of 1960 when we felt that first fresh breeze coming over the land from the icy depths of the red scare Cold War night that we had come of political age in. That “fresh breeze,” as I have noted many, many times elsewhere an expression that fellow corner boy the late Peter Paul Markin (the actual Markin, not the moderator of the ALH blog site who uses that moniker in honor of our fallen brother long departed) would endlessly bore us with in those days when all we gave a rat’s ass (also an expression I have used many, many times concerning our reaction to Markin’s “fresh breeze” statement) was girls, getting dough to deal with girls and cars, “boss” cars not necessarily in that order. (To be fair to Markin he was the king hell king of the midnight creep when we needed dough at the times when his seamier side got ahead of the “better angel of his nature”). 

While none of us, me, Jack Callahan, Frankie Riley, Phil Larkin, Jimmy Murphy, Ralph Kiley, Ricky Russo, Allan Stein, the corner boys although the latter two were not full Irish, but only half Irish got as carried away with Markin’s fresh breeze coming that he continued to spout forth for another half decade before it did come in the form of the many threads that led up to the Summer of Love, San Francisco, 1967 which Alex James and others have written about in this the 50th anniversary year of that “youth nation” explosion we were thrilled beyond words to be able to say “one of own,” an Irish Catholic had done what Al Smith could not do a few decades before and get elected president in a low-slung Protestant-controlled country. (My grandfather never got over the dirty campaign waged by the “refined” WASPs, the Brahmins, you know the people with the three-name monikers like Wesley Stuart Gardner, names like that.) It did not matter that JFK was the scion of “chandelier” Irish unlike our own “shanty” Irish digs. He was ours in all its glory.            

Markin, like in many other such endeavors was the bell-weather for our take on JFK. For getting enthusiastic about the guy, about getting out the vote in our town for our man. But that election of 1960 was also a prime example of the contradictions that would a little over decade later do Markin in and which for many of the rest of us was a close thing between freedom and a dark dungeon. See Markin was all hopped up about getting rid of nuclear weapons, was all hopped up for the United States to get rid of them unilaterally if necessary. The rest of us, especially Frankie Riley, our undisputed and acknowledged leader, thought he was crazy, crazy with the Russian armed to the teeth with similar such weapons as we were still seriously hung up on the Cold War stuff we read about and were taught was the real deal in school.

One thing about Markin was he put his money where his mouth was most of the time. He had heard about a rally, stand-out, vigil or something in Boston, at the Boston Common near the Park Street subway station against nuclear weapons in October of 1960 a few weeks before the election sponsored by a group called SANE, Doctor Spock’s group, some Quakers and other odd-balls. He was determined to go although he expressed some fears that he might be harmed by pro-nuclear weapons people and he did so saying later to us that he had found some kindred spirits who were not afraid unlike a fourteen year old boy and that got him through. (This is not the place to digress too much about side stuff but Markin’s fear was the subject of a bet between him and Frankie Riley that he would not go. Markin was very proud of winning that bet and would bring it up periodically long after we could have given a rat’s ass about the wager since we were always betting on almost any propositions that struck our fancies.)


Here’s where the Markin contradiction came in, maybe the human condition contradiction when all is said and done after my own fifty plus years of having gone through my own sets of contradictions. During the television debates between JFK and his Republican opponent, then Vice President Nixon who was later a president in his own right and a common criminal as well Kennedy made a great deal out of some supposed “missile gap” between the United States and Russia that had developed under the Eisenhower-Nixon regime. To our disadvantage. That “gap” was among others things in the number and effectiveness of the American nuclear arsenal. Kennedy’s solution: build more and better such weapons. Nevertheless the very next weekend after that Boston anti-nuclear weapons rally Markin rounded us up to go up to the North Adamsville Kennedy for President headquarters located in a small shed-like building on the property of the Knights of Columbus and grab a bunch of leaflets to go door to door putting them in mail slots. Such were the ups and downs of having “one of our own” getting elected to the White House in sunnier days.               

Sunday, May 21, 2017

“Even The President Of The United States Sometimes Must Have To Stand Naked”- Tales From The “Pennsylvania Avenue Bunker”





It's All Right Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)




Lyrics
Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child's balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying
Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool's gold mouthpiece
The hollow horn plays wasted words
Proves to warn that he's not busy being born
Is busy dying
Temptation's page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover that you'd just be
One more person crying
So don't fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It's alright ma, I'm only sighing
As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don't hate nothing at all
Except hatred
Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Made everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It's easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred
While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked
An' though the rules of the road have been lodged
It's only people's games that you got to dodge
And it's alright ma, I can make it
Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you're the one
That can do what's never been done
That can win what's never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you
You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you
A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy
Insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to
Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing ma, to live up to
For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Do what they do just to be nothing more than something they invest in
While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say "God bless him"
While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society's pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole that he's in
But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it's alright ma, if I can't please him
Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn't talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony
While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer's pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death's honesty
Won't fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes must get lonely
My eyes collide head-on with stuffed graveyards
False gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough
What else can you show me?
And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They'd probably put my head in a guillotine
But it's alright ma, it's life, and life only
Songwriters: Bob Dylan
It's Alright, Ma lyrics © Bob Dylan Music Co.
Released1965
GenreFolk-rock


By Political Commentator Frank Jackman

Yeah, the legendary now Nobel Literature Laureate Bob Dylan had it right way back in 1965, in the time of Lyndon Johnson, President of the United States and major war criminal when he wrote as part of the lyrics to the early folk rock song It’s All Right Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) the following “… even the president of the United States must have to sometimes stand naked.” Maybe he was thinking LBJ but somehow the current occupant of the White House seems more appropriate. See it took LBJ almost four years to get down into the bunker and today’s occupant, do I need to mention his name, has gone down into the bowels of the Pennsylvania Avenue bunker after only four months. That is newsworthy, worthy moreover of some extended commentary in this space as we begin the “death watch” that has become something of a familiar part of the modern American presidential landscape.     

My, our, motivation on this site for this new series of commentaries is that we are truly worried about the fate of the Republic these days. Something that even in the darkest days of the Lyndon Baine Johnson administration and the criminally dark days of his successor one Richard Milhous Nixon, a lowly common criminal as it turned out we did not see tattering. I have “confessed” elsewhere that I had seriously underestimated the differences between the wretch Hillary Clinton and this sociopath we are contenting with now and that underestimation has only led me to become haunted by the specter of having to fight in the streets to defend the hard-fought democratic gains of the past couple of centuries that are now on the chopping block. We are in hard and troubled times and as much as I like to give conventional bourgeois politics the back of my hand the times demand more-demand some contributions to build the resistance, build it right now as a firewall against the time when these guys come up and out of the bunker one more time. More, much more later as this cheapjack soap opera unfolds before our disbelieving eyes. I can only add where is “Doctor Gonzo,” the late journalist Hunter S. Thompson when you need him. He would have this thing picked clean already. Stay tuned.             

Saturday, May 20, 2017


“To Be Young Was Very Heaven”-With The 50th Anniversary Of The “Summer Of Love, 1967” In Mind-Frankie Riley's Story





Revised Introduction by Zack James

[I was about a decade or so too young to have been washed, washed clean to hear guys like Peter Paul Markin, more on him below, tell the tale, by the huge counter-cultural explosion that burst upon the land (and by extension and a million youth culture ties internationally before the bubble burst) in the mid to late 1960s and maybe extending a few year into the 1970s depending on whose ebb tide event you adhere to. (Markin’s for very personal reasons having to do with participating in the events on May Day 1971 when the most radical forces tried to stop the Vietnam War by shutting down the government and got kicked in the teeth for their efforts. Doctor Gonzo, the late writer Hunter Thompson who was knee-deep in the experiences called it 1968 around the Democratic Party convention disaster in Chicago. I, reviewing the material published on the subject mostly and on the very fringe of what was what back then would argue for 1969 between Altamont and the Days of Rage everything looked bleak then and after.)

Over the next fifty years that explosion has been inspected, selected, dissected, inflected, infected and detected by every social science academic who had the stamina to hold up under the pressure and even by politicians, mostly to put the curse of “bad example” and “never again” on the outlier experimentation that went on in those days. Plenty has been written about the sea-change in mores among the young attributed to the breakdown of the Cold War red scare freeze, the righteous black civil rights struggles rights early in the decade and the forsaken huge anti-Vietnam War movement later. Part of the mix too and my oldest brother Alex, one of Markin’s fellow corner boys from the old neighborhood is a prime example, was just as reaction like in many generations coming of age, just the tweaking of the older generations inured to change by the Cold War red scare psychosis they bought into. The event being celebrated or at least reflected on in this series under the headline “To Be Very Young-With The Summer of Love 1967 In Mind” now turned fifty was by many accounts a pivotal point in that explosion especially among the kids from out in the hinterlands, like Markin an Alex, away from elite colleges and anything goes urban centers.   The kids, who as later analysis would show, were caught up one way or another in the Vietnam War, were scheduled to fight the damn thing, the young men anyway, and were beginning, late beginning, to break hard from the well-established norms from whence they came in reaction to that dread.

This series came about because my already mentioned oldest brother, Alex James, had in the spring of 2017 taken a trip to San Francisco on business and noticed on a passing Muni bus that the famed deYoung Museum located in the heart of Golden Gate Park, a central location for the activities of the Summer of Love as it exploded on the scene in that town, was holding an exhibition about that whole experience. That jarred many a half forgotten memory in Alex’s head. Alex and his “corner boys” back in the day from the old Acre neighborhood in North Adamsville, a suburb of Boston where we all came of age, had gotten their immersion into counter-cultural activities by going to San Francisco in the wake of that summer of 1967 to “see what it was all about.”

When Alex got back from his business trip he gathered the few “corner boys” still standing, Frankie Riley, the acknowledged leader of the corner boys, Jimmy Jenkins, Si Lannon, Jack Callahan, Bart Webber, Ralph Kelly, and Josh Breslin (not an actual North Adamsville corner boy but a corner boy nevertheless from Olde Sacco up in Maine whom the tribe “adopted” as one of their own) at Jimmy’s Grille in North Adamsville, their still favorite drinking hole as they call it, to tell what he had seen in Frisco town and to reminisce. From that first “discussion” they decided to “commission” me as the writer for a small book of reflections by the group to be attached alongside a number of sketches I had done previously based on their experiences in the old neighborhood and in the world related to those times. So I interviewed the crew, wrote or rather compiled the notes used in the sketches below but believe this task was mostly my doing the physical writing and getting the hell out of the way once they got going. This slender book is dedicated to the memory of the guy who got them all on the road west-Peter Paul Markin whom I don’t have to mention more about here for he, his still present “ghost” will be amply discussed below. Zack James]              

To the memory of the late Peter Paul Markin on the occasion of the 50th anniversary year of the Summer of Love, San Francisco, 1967



[Although this small tribute book is dedicated to the memory of Peter Paul Markin from the corner boys days of the old Acre neighborhood of North Adamsville and will have contributions from all the surviving member of that tribe there are other corner boys who have passed away, a couple early on in that bloody hell called Vietnam, Ricky Russo and Ralph Morse, RIP brothers, you did good in a bad war, Allan Jackson, Allan Stein, “Bugger” Shea and Markin’s old comrade, Billy Bradley. You guys RIP too.]          




By Francis Xavier Riley (Frankie)




Markin was a piece of work. If not one of kind then close to it and I can still say that some sixty years since we first met. Met in seventh grade in junior high school at the old North Adamsville Junior High. I had been recognized as the leader of a bunch of guys who hung around the traditional junior high hangout, Doc’ Drugstore, which had the added attraction of being not only a place where the ill and lame got their cures but had a soda fountain attached to a jukebox. A jukebox that got all kinds of play from the young bud girls that were throwing their dimes and quarters into to hear their latest for the minute heartthrob. So you mostly know why we hung around that spot just as our older brothers did and maybe some of the fathers even before that.


Markin had come over from across town, from the Brook Meadows Junior High a couple of months into the school year so he already had one strike against him since by then all the social and personal relationships which would last through high school and beyond (beyond in our case enough to have been around when Markin came making his clarion call to head west and see what the emerging “youth nation” was all about in the Frisco Summer of Love). Moreover he was even then kind of a nerdy guy, you know, always spouting odd-ball facts and figure like we gave rat’s ass about any of it. (That “rat’s ass” which I haven’t said in years maybe since Markin’s time was the “in” word we used to fluff off anything that was not important to us-important being mostly girls, cars and how to get money to deal with either, or both.)


His idea, once we became friends and he would confide in me some of his feelings, not a lot, that wasn’t our style, the style, then that the reason he became a wizard at certain things was because he had maybe read that knowing such stuff, like who was who in folk music when that stuck his fancy also something that then the rest of us could have given a rat’s ass about, was the way to meet interesting girls. Or then any girls once his hormonal urges got into overdrive. I would tell you more about Markin’s theory and the reality of his junior high and high school love life such as it was except this is about the Summer of Love where his approach was something like pure magic when he and the young women were stoned, you know high as kites on the drug of the day. On the West Coast they flocked around him like acolytes-and he took full advantage of that luck.


Another strike, and maybe the definitive one once Markin said he had thought about it later, was that he had come from the even then notorious Adamsville “projects,” public assistance housing. Between the large family, four siblings along with him and his father’s lack of education that was where the family was thrown helter-skelter in his early years. Years that formed the hard edge as he said of that “from hunger” feeling that drove a lot of the seamier side of his personality. Strangely most of us in the Acre section of North Adamsville were in some cases poorer, or at least as poor, as Markin’s family but that “projects” albatross designation hanging around his neck in the small one family houses or at worst a double-decker apartment in the Acre caused him some isolation before we became friends. (My mother when things were tough in our family or when one of us went off the rails would spring the “wind up in the projects” on us to try to make us behave which worked when we were younger but was like water off a duck’s back later.) Funny thought when I thought about it later myself we all had that “from hunger” edge, and acted on it. Some of us grew out of it, some didn’t. Markin never had a fighting chance to test that out either way.


So Markin and I met in seventh grade and after a few disputes we became friends and would stay that way for as long as he was in contact with any of us, when he was alive although Josh Breslin who will tell his own story about Markin not I was the last to see him before the fateful drug trip down to Mexico. I could tell lots of things about Markin but what is important for this piece is that he and his odd-ball facts and figures drove him to the conclusion starting I think in tenth grade that there was a “new breeze coming through the land” or that was his idea that he would periodically pound into us on a stray Friday or Saturday hanging out night when other prospects had petered out. Again the rest of us could have given a rat’s ass about it until much later, later when it was obvious even to the socially dumbest of us that indeed a new breeze was in the air. How Markin, a guy from nowhere in the social firmament, from a hick town to boot knew what he sensed is beyond me all I know is until 1967 every time he would begin his rant I would close my ears, close them tight.   


I was shocked, we all were shocked, when Markin told us one day in the spring of 1967 that he was dropping out of school, out of Boston University, where he had a scholarship and maybe some financial aid. All I know is that his family not matter what the tuition had no money, none, to send him, the first in his family to go to college, there. Even in my own case where I went to a branch of State U later my parents were hard-pressed to find some spare dough to send me and I had to work as well all through school. The idea he presented to us was that from what he had heard about what was happening out West that the time of the new breeze had come and he was going to what he called “find” himself.(Of course as Alex James has already mentioned in his introductory piece that fateful decision which sounded good in the short haul especially when we imbibed some weed a habit which Markin had begun to indulge in at college along with about half our generation and introduced us to wound up in the long haul not so good. I won’t repeat here what Alex has said but Markin eventually wound up getting drafted since he had lost his student deferment, getting his ass into Vietnam, and afterward, after coming back to the “real” world he called it, the trip down the slippery slope. The ultimate “from hunger” move that haunted his whole blessed life.)  


Markin would sent back reports about what was happening out West when he finally got out there after hitchhiking out on his first trip. (That first hitchhike road inspired by his inflamed reading of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road in high school and trying. Again just then we could have given a rat’s ass about that.) He wound up in Golden Gate Park where a couple of stray California girls befriended him once they heard his accent and thought it was “cute,” or something like that. That and about ten thousand facts about music and literature, On The Road, finally getting him some positive play when they found out that he had hitchhiked out across the country to find out what was what out West, found out if that new breeze was really here.       


The thing about the spring of 1967 is that like lemmings to the sea lots of young people were heading west (according to Alex’s report on the deYoung Museum exhibit something like 100, 000) and the town was taxed to the limit with so many stray kids, some runaways from Podunk towns like ours, some like Markin looking to “find” themselves so it was fortunate that Markin had run into Aphrodite and Venus (not their real names but I don’t remember them, their real names, and besides what was important at that time was coming up with a moniker to “reinvent” yourself with. Markin was the Be-Bop Kid paying homage to his semi-beat roots and I was Cowboy playing to my childhood love of watching Westerns on television Saturday mornings and later at the Strand Theater Saturday matinees. Others can give their monikers in their pieces if they wish.). They had actually come up from Laguna Beach a couple of months before on Captain Crunch’s converted yellow brick road school bus (Markin’s expression for the vehicle) and that was where after a couple of days of sleeping out in the air on his improvised bedroll in the Park he wound up.


This Captain Crunch was his own piece of work. He was an older guy, older then being maybe thirty or a little younger, who had been travelling up and down the Pacific Coast Highway in his own version of what the author Ken Kesey had started with his own school bus Further On complete with Merry Pranksters who set the tone for the whole West Coast experience of “drug, sex and rock and roll.” Kesey had been the guy who did all the “acid test” stuff that the writer Tom Wolfe would write about later and drive even more kids west (or if not West then to do what was happening there in towns like New York City, Boston, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Madison and any place where there were enough young people to hold the experience together. The Captain knew Kesey and as Alex mentioned we had been to his place in La Honda when we went out and joined Markin on the bus. Reportedly, and in all the time we were on the bus we could never pin the story down fully anyway, the Captain had traded a bag of serious dope for the bus. All I know is that we never lacked for drugs all through the experiences as the Captain always had a ready supply from weed to speed to acid.                 


When Aphrodite and Venus introduced Markin to the Captain a couple of days later once they thought he was “cool” the pair immediately took to each other. Had some kind of wavelength thing that I could never quite figure since the Captain had gone to an elite Ivy League school, Columbia if I recall, and had a certain aristocratic sensibility about him. Maybe it was Markin’s ten billion facts, or his enthusiasm, or maybe they were connected because each in their own way were what Alex called small letter prophets the Captain too having sensed early that a new day was coming and had grabbed the bus and all and started to live out the dream. Before Markin would come back to make his pitch in the late summer he had gone with the bus twice down toward Los Angeles and back again. As Markin was at pains to tell us in his pitch every day was another days of drug, sex and rock and roll if you wanted it. (Aphrodite and Venus before they left the bus just before Markin headed East were successively his first two girlfriends out West. They were totally unlike the tight Eastern Irish Catholic girls we grew up with or even like the girls who would hover around Markin at Boston University. They were converted “surfer girls” and had nothing but easy ways and good time delights on their minds. They would Markin thought not make the long road in the search for utopia that was what we were really looking for if you had to give an academic explanation for it  but were a very pleasant diversion along the road.)           


When Markin hitchhiked back from Frisco he was taking no prisoners, not taking no for an answer among the corner boys who were still around (a couple of guys were in the service, in Vietnam where Ricky Russo and Ralph Morse would lay down their heads and be forever etched in black granite down in Washington and at the town square memorial in Adamsville, North Adamsville is for governmental purposes if not for social purposes part of Adamsville proper, and a couple of others had left town for jobs or some other reason but the bulk of us were still attached to the town, a few still are). The breeze was here and whether we liked it or not we were going to check it out. This by the way was very unusual for Markin to assert himself so forcefully since he usually was the guy who proposed stuff to me and I would take it from there in the hierarchy which ruled at the time which was headed by me. Frankly, and this may tell something about why Markin fell down in Mexico trying to deal with organizing something. He was a great idea man for fresh breeze stuff and the stuff that we did give a rat’s ass about which was grabbing dough fast and easy. That is the part of Markin I always appreciated. He always had an idea, maybe ten at a time, on how to get dough fast and easy. He would conger up some scheme and I would lead the operation. The one time he actually did try to lead one of his schemes he almost got us all arrested since he forgot the cardinal rule to have a lookout when you were going through a house not your own.            


As Alex mentioned once Markin got us fired up he and Markin took off for California via the hitchhike trail since Alex had no job to ditch which I had to do before I could head out. I keep thinking today how crazy we were to even attempt to hitchhike across town never mine across the country with all the crazies out there but we did it collectively a couple of dozen times without a problem. There was a point maybe sometime around the exposure of the Charles Manson madness in Southern California when hitching became dangerous and passé but by then we were all off the road one way or another.


In any case my first trip out along with Jack Callahan, the great football player from our high school days who despite that acclaim was nothing but a hardcore corner boy and good to have around since he was as tough as nails (except with his high school sweetheart Chrissie McNamara whom he is still married to all these years later unlike me with three marriages and three divorces under my belt) was via the Greyhound bus. Part of that was to placate my mother who would have run me down all the way to China if I had told her I was hitchhiking. Nevertheless that bus ride was the only time I, we, used that horrible form of cross-country travel. Travel with screaming kids, overweight people sitting next to you or snoring and just the nerve-racking experience of being cooped up in a bus without proper hygiene for five or six days straight. No matter what they say about the health conditions, sanitary conditions, in Haight-Ashbury it was no worse than the damn bus. Certainly when we got onto the Captain’s bus that was clearly healthier if more primitive since the Captain and his lady Mustang Sally made that a condition was travelling with them. Over the couple of years I was on that bus several people were summarily excluded for poor hygiene or not pulling their weight keeping the quarters clean.


I will say that Markin who as you might have suspected of a minor prophet was filled with hyperbole about lots of stuff but he had the skinny on the wild and wonderful scene out in Frisco town (and later on the trips up and down the coast). Now when we were growing up, when we were hanging around the corners of North Adamsville, even the idea of drugs other than the traditional alcohol haze that half the Acre drifted around in was anathema. That stuff was for junkies, guys like Frankie Machine in the film adaptation of Nelson Algren’s The Man With The Golden Arm but the stuff Markin had us try Columbia Red, good weed, got us all changed around. Needless to say except for LSD, acid, none of us turned down whatever drug was cooked up. That combined with the wild girls, wild girls in comparison the rough bible between their knees Irish Catholic girls who drove us crazy and gave us nothing whatever we might say on the corner about how we scored like crazy with some Suzy.


But it was not just the drugs, the wanton women, the music, or even all of them put together but that new spirit of adventure that took us, us corner boys from North Adamsville out of our ruts and gave us a sense of community which we never had beyond our corner boys’ bondings. On the 50th anniversary hell I still miss it, still wouldn’t mind  travelling that road again. Yes, Markin, the Scribe, as I dubbed him half in fun when we first met can take a bow even all these years later for that. And yes I still miss the crazy bastard as much as ever. 
 
An Encore -He Saw Starlight On The Rails-With The Irascible Bruce “Utah” Phillips in Mind
 
 

From The Pen Of Bart Webber

Jack Dawson was not sure when he had heard that the old long-bearded son of a bitch anarchist hell of a songwriter, hell of a story-teller Bruce “Utah” Phillips caught the westbound freight, caught that freight around 2007 he found out later a couple of years after he too had come off the bum this time from wife problems, divorce wife problems (that "westbound freight" by the way an expression from the hobo road to signify that a fellow traveler hobo, tramp, bum it did not matter then the distinctions that had seemed so important in the little class differences department when they were alive had passed on, had had his fill of train smoke and dreams and was ready  to face whatever there was to face up in hobo heaven, no, the big rock candy mountain that some old geezer had written on some hard ass night when dreams were all he had to keep him company). That “Utah” moniker not taken by happenstance since Phillips struggled through the wilds of Utah on his long journey, played with a group called the Utah Valley boys, put up with, got through a million pounds of Mormon craziness and, frankly, wrote an extraordinary number of songs in his career by etching through the lore as he found it from all kinds of Mormon sources, including some of the dark pages, the ranch war stuff, the water stuff not the polygamy stuff which was nobody's business except the parties involved of those latter day saints.

For those who do not know the language of the road, not the young and carefree road taken for a couple of months during summer vacation or even a Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac-type more serious expedition under the influence of On The Road (what other travelogue of sorts would get the blood flowing to head out into the vast American Western night) and then back to the grind but the serious hobo “jungle” road like Jack Dawson had been on for several years before he sobered up after he came back from ‘Nam, came back all twisted and turned when he got discharged from the Army back in 1971 and could not adjust to the “real world” of his Carver upbringing in the East and had wound up drifting, drifting out to the West, hitting California and when that didn’t work out sort of ambled back east on the slow freight route through Utah taking the westbound freight meant for him originally passing to the great beyond, passing to a better place, passing to hard rock candy mountain in some versions here on earth before Black River Shorty clued him in.

Of course everybody thinks that if you wind up in Utah the whole thing is Mormon, and a lot of it is, no question, but when Jack hit Salt Lake City he had run into a guy singing in a park. A guy singing folk music stuff, labor songs, travelling blues stuff, the staple of the genre, that he had remembered that Sam Lowell from Carver High, from the same class year as him, had been crazy for back in the days when he would take his date and Jack and his date over to Harvard Square and they would listen to guys like that guy in the park singing in coffeehouses. Jack had not been crazy about the music then and some of the stuff the guy was singing seemed odd now too, still made him grind his teeth.  but back then it either amounted to a cheap date, or the girl actually liked the stuff and so he went along with it.

So Jack, nothing better to do, sat in front of guy and listened. Listened more intently when the guy, who turned out to be Utah (who was using the moniker “Pirate Angel” then, as Jack was using "Daddy Two Cents"  reflecting his financial condition or close to it, monikers a good thing on the road just in case the law, bill-collectors or ex-wives were trying to reach you and you did not want to reached), told the few bums, tramps and hoboes who were the natural residents of the park that if they wanted to get sober, if they wanted to turn things around a little that they were welcome, no questions asked, at the Joe Hill House. (No questions asked was right but everybody was expected to at least not tear the place up, which some nevertheless tried to do.)



That Joe Hill whom the sobering up house was named after by the way was an old time immigrant anarchist who did something to rile the Latter Day Saints up because they threw he before a firing squad with no questions asked. Joe got the last line though, got it for eternity-“Don’t mourn (his death), organize!”                   

Jack, not knowing anybody, not being sober much, and maybe just a tad nostalgic for the old days when hearing bits of folk music was the least of his worries, went up to Utah and said he would appreciate the stay. And that was that. Although not quite “that was that” since Jack knew nothing about the guys who ran the place, didn’t know who Joe Hill was until later (although he suspected after he found out that Joe Hill had been a IWW organizer [Wobblie, Industrial Worker of the World] framed and executed in that very state of Utah that his old friend the late Peter Paul Markin who lived to have that kind of information in his head would have known. See this Joe Hill House unlike the Sallies (Salvation Army) where he would hustle a few days of peace was run by this Catholic Worker guy, Ammon Hennessey, who Utah told Jack had both sobered him up and made him some kind of anarchist although Jack was fuzzy on what that was all about.


So Jack for about the tenth time tried to sober up, liquor sober up this time out in the great desert (later it would be drugs, mainly cocaine which almost ripped his nose off he was so into it that he needed sobering up from). And it took, took for a while.        

Whatever had been eating at Jack kept fighting a battle inside of him and after a few months he was back on the bottle. But during that time at the Joe Hill House he got close to Utah, as close as he had gotten to anybody since ‘Nam, since his friendship with Jeff Crawford from up in Podunk Maine who saved his ass, and that of a couple of other guys in a nasty fire-fight when Charley (G.I. slang for the Viet Cong originally said in contempt but as the war dragged on in half-hearted admiration) decided he did indeed own the night in his own country. Got as close as he had to his corner boys like Sam Lowell from hometown Carver. Learned a lot about the lure of the road, of drink and drugs, of tough times (Utah had been in Korea) and he had felt bad after he fell off the wagon. But that was the way it was. 
Several years later after getting washed clean from liquor and drugs, at a time when Jack started to see that he needed to get back into the real world if he did not want to wind up like his last travelling companion, Denver Shorty, whom he found face down one morning on the banks of the Charles River in Cambridge and had abandoned his body fast in order not to face the police report, he noticed that Utah was playing in a coffeehouse in Cambridge, a place called Passim’s which he found out had been taken over from the Club 47 where Sam had taken Jack a few times. So Jack and his new wife (his and her second marriages) stepped down into the cellar coffeehouse to listen up.



As Jack waited in the rest room area a door opened from the other side across the narrow passageway and who came out but Utah. As Jack started to grab his attention Utah blurred out “Daddy Two Cent, how the hell are you?” and talked for a few minutes. Later that night after the show they talked some more in the empty club before Utah said he had to leave to head back to Saratoga Springs in New York where he was to play at the CaffĂ© Lena the next night.         



That was the last time that Jack saw Utah in person although he would keep up with his career as it moved along. Bought some records, later tapes, still later CDs just to help the brother out. In the age of the Internet he would sent occasional messages and Utah would reply. Then he heard Utah had taken very ill, heart trouble like he said long ago in the blaze of some midnight fire, would finally get the best of him. And then somewhat belatedly Jack found that Utah had passed on. The guy of all the guys he knew on the troubled hobo “jungle” road who knew what “starlight on the rails” meant to the wanderers he sang for had cashed his ticket. RIP, brother.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

“To Be Young Was Very Heaven”-With The 50th Anniversary Of The “Summer Of Love, 1967” In Mind





Revised Introduction by Zack James

[I was about a decade or so too young to have been washed, washed clean to hear guys like Peter Paul Markin, more on him below, tell the tale, by the huge counter-cultural explosion that burst upon the land (and by extension and a million youth culture ties internationally before the bubble burst) in the mid to late 1960s and maybe extending a few year into the 1970s depending on whose ebb tide event you adhere to. (Markin’s for very personal reasons having to do with participating in the events on May Day 1971 when the most radical forces tried to stop the Vietnam War by shutting down the government and got kicked in the teeth for their efforts. Doctor Gonzo, the late writer Hunter Thompson who was knee-deep in the experiences called it 1968 around the Democratic Party convention disaster in Chicago. I, reviewing the material published on the subject mostly and on the very fringe of what was what back then would argue for 1969 between Altamont and the Days of Rage everything looked bleak then and after.)

Over the next fifty years that explosion has been inspected, selected, dissected, inflected, infected and detected by every social science academic who had the stamina to hold up under the pressure and even by politicians, mostly to put the curse of “bad example” and “never again” on the outlier experimentation that went on in those days. Plenty has been written about the sea-change in mores among the young attributed to the breakdown of the Cold War red scare freeze, the righteous black civil rights struggles rights early in the decade and the forsaken huge anti-Vietnam War movement later. Part of the mix too and my oldest brother Alex, one of Markin’s fellow corner boys from the old neighborhood is a prime example, was just as reaction like in many generations coming of age, just the tweaking of the older generations inured to change by the Cold War red scare psychosis they bought into. The event being celebrated or at least reflected on in this series under the headline “To Be Very Young-With The Summer of Love 1967 In Mind” now turned fifty was by many accounts a pivotal point in that explosion especially among the kids from out in the hinterlands, like Markin an Alex, away from elite colleges and anything goes urban centers.   The kids, who as later analysis would show, were caught up one way or another in the Vietnam War, were scheduled to fight the damn thing, the young men anyway, and were beginning, late beginning, to break hard from the well-established norms from whence they came in reaction to that dread.

This series came about because my already mentioned oldest brother, Alex James, had in the spring of 2017 taken a trip to San Francisco on business and noticed on a passing Muni bus that the famed deYoung Museum located in the heart of Golden Gate Park, a central location for the activities of the Summer of Love as it exploded on the scene in that town, was holding an exhibition about that whole experience. That jarred many a half forgotten memory in Alex’s head. Alex and his “corner boys” back in the day from the old Acre neighborhood in North Adamsville, a suburb of Boston where we all came of age, had gotten their immersion into counter-cultural activities by going to San Francisco in the wake of that summer of 1967 to “see what it was all about.”

When Alex got back from his business trip he gathered the few “corner boys” still standing, Frankie Riley, the acknowledged leader of the corner boys, Jimmy Jenkins, Si Lannon, Jack Callahan, Bart Webber, Ralph Kelly, and Josh Breslin (not an actual North Adamsville corner boy but a corner boy nevertheless from Olde Sacco up in Maine whom the tribe “adopted” as one of their own) at Jimmy’s Grille in North Adamsville, their still favorite drinking hole as they call it, to tell what he had seen in Frisco town and to reminisce. From that first “discussion” they decided to “commission” me as the writer for a small book of reflections by the group to be attached alongside a number of sketches I had done previously based on their experiences in the old neighborhood and in the world related to those times. So I interviewed the crew, wrote or rather compiled the notes used in the sketches below but believe this task was mostly my doing the physical writing and getting the hell out of the way once they got going. This slender book is dedicated to the memory of the guy who got them all on the road west-Peter Paul Markin whom I don’t have to mention more about here for he, his still present “ghost” will be amply discussed below. Zack James]              

To the memory of the late Peter Paul Markin on the occasion of the 50th anniversary year of the Summer of Love, San Francisco, 1967

[Although this small tribute book is dedicated to the memory of Peter Paul Markin from the corner boys days of the old Acre neighborhood of North Adamsville and will have contributions from all the surviving member of that tribe there are other corner boys who have passed away, a couple early on in that bloody hell called Vietnam, Ricky Russo and Ralph Morse, RIP brothers, you did good in a bad war, Allan Jackson, Allan Stein, “Bugger” Shea and Markin’s old comrade, Billy Bradley. You guys RIP too.]          

By Alex James

Let’s get this whole, I will put it in capitals just like the sociologists of the event and whoever puts anything about it on YouTube, Summer of Love.1967 thing straight. This whole turning away for a while by most of us corner boys from the Acre from the “square” nine to five, little white picket fence with kids and dogs thing was totally and solely the work of one Peter Paul Markin. Markin whom our acknowledged leader Frankie Riley dubbed the “Scribe” and I will call him that hereafter was the first one of us to get a whiff of the fresh breeze as he called it of something new and different coming down the road. Excuse my language but while the rest of us on those strange and sometimes oddly eventful Friday and Saturday were worrying about getting enough dough together for a date, or if without a date getting one, or if with a date getting some action from the chick, getting laid, “doing the do” as we called it the Scribe was like some fucking prophet proclaiming the new day coming. And seriously all through high school we could have given a fuck about what he was talking about.       

Don’t get me wrong the Scribe was a good guy to have a round most days and while no way he could lead the guys, even now the idea is totally preposterous, he, aside from that “new day coming” bullshit was a straight up guy. Was the guy we looked to, including Frankie, to tell us what was going on right then. That “right then” was whatever scheme he had figured out, okay, what con or midnight sneak job he had figured out, legal or illegal mostly the latter, for us to get money to have a shot at those dates and a shot at “doing the do.” Moreover since behind that larcenous, grand larcenous if there is such a term little head of his he was a conduit to the girls. See he was the “sensitive” guy, the guy who liked poetry and literature which we could have given a fuck about but which a lot of girls at school and around town were into and they would flock around him and tell him stuff-like who they liked or didn’t like. Liked and didn’t like among the corner boys especially and he would pitch or not pitch for us. The funny part like with the larcenous schemes which no way would he execute but left to Frankie’s fiendish organizing Markin never had dates with those girls, none in town either. He would run over to Harvard Square find some “folkie” chick he called them and some of them were foxes, were bowled over by his knowledge of folk music and by his prophecy that some new breeze was coming that girls like that went crazy for at the time.              

That is all stuff though while we were in high school mostly although Markin’s Harvard Square rendezvous thing continued after we graduated from old North Adamsville High in 1965. Of course like any group in high school once everybody graduated (a couple of our guys didn’t until 1966 for some reason not germane here) they went to a degree in their own directions mostly to work, a few like Frankie and the Scribe to college. But we would gather, whoever was around, several times a year for the next couple of years to keep in touch and to “keep the flame” as the Scribe called it lit. Things just went along for most of us like they had for our parents, start working, work your way up some ladder, or get started anyway, get more steady in the girl department (although no guy I knew, corner boy or not, passed on a stray encounter whether they were seriously “going steady’, engaged or married for that matter), began that uphill climb toward marriage, kids, pets and the picket fence.

All of us except the late Ricky Russo who had volunteered right out of high school and would become an Airborne Ranger in Vietnam before being blown away in some stinking village in the Central Highlands were scared as hell of the draft which lingered over our heads (a couple of other corner boys beside Ricky would volunteer when the sense they were to be called up and another guy, Allan Jackson, “volunteered” through the justice system after being caught stealing six cars out of the local car dealership lot one drunken night by having the option of five years in the can or go into the Army thrown at him)      

Then in the early spring of 1967 the Scribe shocked all of us by telling us that he was quitting college, quitting Boston University to go “find himself” out West, out in California, out in San Francisco although that destination came later. Remember this is a working class kid whose folks had no dough for college, none not with five boys to raise, who got a scholarship and some other financial deal to go giving that all up  to “find himself.” We all knew a girl, a wild Irish girl, Mary Shea, had gotten into his head and had gone West already but to give up that scholarship and to face the draft straight up with the loss of his student exemption was crazy and we told him so. He just said to us the “new day” was here and he did not want to miss the opportunity. He would take his chances with the draft. A fateful, a very fateful, decision which would eventually lead to his downfall.              

In any case the Scribe dropped out put a knapsack or two together, maybe that second thing was a bedroll and headed West, hitchhiking like some Jack Kerouac On The Road character, bum we called it. The Scribe in high school had made us all read the book, or parts of it, or he would read parts of it to us but mostly we could have given a fuck about hitchhiking and old timer adventurers and 1940s passe cars although Dean Moriarty the king of the road seemed cool to me. We all wanted cars, fast cars, and not sticking our thumbs out on some desolate road waiting for some desperate pervert to pick us up. (The Scribe’s cross-country hitchhike run would be the first of many that he, and all the rest of us who headed west in his wake, would take before the ebb tide set in and you just couldn’t depend on that mode of transportation to get you across town never mind across country.) So the Scribe was in Frisco town when the whole thing exploded, when drugs became a serious part of youth nation life, when the music got amped up and the chains that held previous society, or the youth part anyway or maybe I had better say part of the youth part since most young people as it turned out went about their square lives being square (it would take the rest of us, or most of the rest of us, a while, a few years anyway to get back in harness), when consensual sex became a lovely experience rather than just hormonal hunger (although that came into it too) and other ways of organizing your life were explored (not all for the better but mostly if you could keep the pyschos and crazies at bay).        

The Scribe hitchhiked back to the Acre in late summer on a mission. Get his square, hanging around mopping, nowhere corner boys to pack up and head west on another run. I was between jobs, between girls and bored enough to jump when the Scribe called the tune. (The dope he brought back for us, we “liquor heads” to try helped once the initial fear and hassle of drugs and the old junkie stigma evaporated in a haze). Frankie would also go out on that trip although I think his first trip out like Josh’s was on the stinking five or six day Greyhound bus out (that experience would get both men on the hitchhike road thereafter after dealing with that craziness). And everything was in late 1967 for the most part as advertised. I went back and forth for the next couple of years but mostly staying out there after we hooked up with mad man savior helmsman Captain Crunch and his magical mystery tour bus but I think Josh will deal with that episode so I will end here. 
End here except to say I believe we all were, maybe still are grateful that the Scribe put us on the road, had given us a few years of breaking out, jail breaking out of our doomed Acre existences. Everybody who went out after the Scribe survived for a long while except Ralph Morse who died in the swampy stinking Mekong Delta and of course Ricky Russo who never got a chance to go West with us before his death. And except sad to say the Scribe whose decision back in the spring of 1967 to “find himself”’ would several years later wind up costing him his precious life in a dirty dusty backroad down in Sonora, Mexico with two slugs in his head after what apparently was a busted drug deal since we never got conclusive information about exactly what had happened before we were warned off by the Federales down there.


Fateful since the Scribe was eventually drafted in late 1968 and having then no serious reason not to accept induction did so and wound up in Vietnam which changed him in many ways that he could not have imagined back in 1967. He like a lot of guys who were in what they called ‘Nam had trouble adjusting to the “ real” world coming back and he drifted into this and that writing assignment out in the West Coast for a while, did the remarkable “Brothers Under The Bridge” series about guys, veterans, like him living out there in their alternative community under the bridges, along the railroad tracks and aside the arroyos for the East Bay Eye, long defunct, had a wife for a while and was living with our old adopted corner boy Josh Breslin when he got seriously into a cocaine addiction. Began “running” product back and forth to Mexico at a time when cocaine was becoming the drug of choice and the beginning of the serious cartels. The last Josh knew the Scribe was down south of the border doing a run or trying to put a deal together. Something went wrong on one end or the other and the Scribe now rests in a potter’s field down in Sonora and still missed, crazy missed as we used to call it when we hadn’t seen somebody we loved for a while. Well he is still crazy missed by this guy. Thanks for the fresh breeze Scribe, thanks.           
The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love- Out In The Seals Rock Inn Frisco Town Night –Take Two 


[Comment by social commentator Zack James: I came by my knowledge of the Summer of Love, a key 1960s counter-cultural event out in San Francisco in 1967 (and a little beyond that year as well), second-hand through my oldest brother Alex telling me stories later (and recently in the wake of the 50th anniversary celebration which got his in a nostalgic mood) who along with a group of his high school corner boys from our growing up town North Adamsville went out there at various times in 1967 and also stayed for various lengths of time. They had been egged on to make the trip (s) by the late Peter Paul Markin (whose name is used by the moderator of this site as his moniker in honor of his fallen friend). I was at a decade younger than Alex would have been just too young to have appreciated what he had to say if he had told me his tales when I was twelve in 1967 and struggling with a million puberty-girl-identity problems far removed from “drugs, sex, and rock and roll. Later (and more recently) I took up the subject in great detail as part of my work as a writer and social commentator. Over the years since I have produced many articles which have at least touched on the 1960s counter-cultural themes and have taken the liberty this historic year to reproduce them in this space.]          



Funny he, Adam Evans, thought, a little sweaty and overheated from the turned too high thermostat put on earlier to ward off the open- eyed chill of the room, as he laid in his toss and turn early morning Seals Rock Inn, San Francisco bed, the rain pouring down in buckets, literally buckets, at his unprotected door, the winds were howling against that same door, and the nearby sea was lashing up its fury, how many times the sea stormy night, the sea fury tempest day, the, well, the mighty storm anytime, had played a part in his life. He was under no circumstances, as he cleared his mind for a think back, a think back that was occupying his thoughts more and more of late, trying to work himself into a lather over some metaphorical essence between the storms that life had bestowed on him and the raging night storm within hearing distance. No way, too simple. Rather he was just joy searching for all those sea-driven times, times when a storm, a furious storm like this night or maybe just an average ordinary vanilla storm passing through and complete in an hour made him think of his relationship with his homeland the sea and with its time for reflection. And so on that toss and turn bed he thought.

Funny, although not humorously funny like his nymph tryst with Terry that he had just finish thinking about, or ironically funny like his bonding with the sea from birth that got him started on this think, but kind of sad sack funny how he and Diana had met, met in Harvard Square in the summer of love, 1967 (check it out on Wikipedia for the San Francisco version of that same year but basically, in both cases although more flagrantly in ’Frisco, it was the winds blowing the right way for once when make love not war, make something, make your dreams come true with sex, drugs, music had its minute, has its soon faded minute via self –imposed hubris and the death-dealing, fag-hating, nigger-hating, women-hating, self-hating bad guys with the guns and the dough leading, and still leading, a vicious counter-attack), she from Podunk Mid-West (Davenport out in the Iowas if you need to know) far from ocean waters, but thrilled by the prospect of meeting an ocean boy (okay, okay man, twenty- three, she twenty-one)who actually had been there, to the ocean that is.

Oh yah, how they met in that Harvard Square good night for the curious, simplicity itself (his version), she was sitting about half way across the room, the cafeteria room, the old Hayes-Bickford awful dish- water coffee out of necessarily sturdy ceramic mugs , runny eggs, steamy to perdition everything else room, although the food and its conditions was not why you hung out there, just up from the old Harvard Square subway stop (and no longer there, long gone and missed, nor is that subway stop the end of the Red Line), if that name helps (and it did , did help that is, if you had any pretensions to some folkie literary career, some be-bop blessed poet life, or just wanted to rub elbows with what might be the next big thing after that folk minute expired of a British invasion of sexed-up moppets and wet dream bad boys and poetry died of T.S. Eliot and rarified air, or, maybe just a two in the morning coffee, hard pressed sudsy coffee, but coffee, enough to keep a seat in the place, after a tough night at the local gin mills, and hadn’t caught anybody’s attention), sitting by herself, writing furiously, on some yellow notepad, and she looked up. He, just that moment looked up as well (although he had taken about six previous peeks in her direction but she ignored them, studiously ignored, with her furious pen), and smiled at her. And she gave him a whimsical, no a melt smile, a smile to think about eternities over, about maybe chasing some windmills about, about, about walking right over and asking about the meaning of, well, that smile. And he did, and she did, she told him that is. And in the telling, told him, that she had half seen (her version) him peeking and wondered about it.

All this peeking, half- peeking(her version, remember) , got him a seat at her table, and her a cup of awful coffee and a couple of hours, where are you from, what do you like, what is the meaning of existence and what the hell are you writing so furiously about at two o’clock on Sunday morning. And one thing led to another and eventually the sea came in, although, damn age against he couldn’t for the life of him remember how that subject came up, except maybe something triggered when she mentioned Iowa, and he said please don’t bury me there but near some seaside bluff, or something.

And what did she look like, for the male reader in need of such detail, especially since she was sitting alone writing furiously at two in the morning, maybe she was, ah, ah, a dog. Nah, she was kind of slender, but not skinny, slender in that fresh as sweet cream Midwestern corn-fed way that started to happen after the womenfolk, not prairie fire pioneer women any longer, had been properly fed for a couple of generations after those hard Okie/Arkie push on days of eating chalk dust and car smoke trailing dreams. With the long de riguer freshly- ironed (really, after the Joan Baez fashion or just some college girl fad) brown hair pulled back from her face (otherwise she would have constantly had to interrupt her furious writing to keep it out of her face as she wrote). And a pleasing face, bright blue eyes, good nose, and nice lips, kissable lips. Nice legs from what he could see when he went over. But who was he kidding, it was that whimsical, no, melt, smile, that smile that spoke of eternities, although what it spoke of at two in the morning was gentle breezes, soft pillows, of that Midwestern what you see is what you get and what you get, well, you better hang on, and hang on tight, and be ready to take some adversity, to keep around that smile. But that was later, later really, when he had figured it out better about why he tossed and turned all that night (really morning) and that smile thought would not let him be.

Memory bank of their first time up in ocean’s kingdom, the next day actually she was so anxious to see the ocean, or maybe anxious to see it with him, they talked about it being that way too but let’s just memory call it her anxiety, the rugged cross salvation rocks that make up Perkin’s Cove in southern Maine, up there by Ogunquit. There are stories to be told of his own previous meetings with Mother Perkin’s but this is Diana’ s story and those stories, his stories, involved other women, other treacheries, other immense treacheries, and other angel-sized delights too. That day thought she flipped out, flipped out at the immensity of it, of the majestic swells (and of her swaying, gently, but rhythmically to the rise and fall of each wave) of the closeness of a nature that she, she of wind- swept wheat oceans, of broken-back bracero wet back labor to bring in the crop, of fights against every form of land injury, dust, bugs, fire, drought had not dreamed of. And as if under some mystic spell, or some cornfield ocean mistake, she actually plunged fully-clothed (not having been told of the need for a swimsuit since the ocean itself was the play, the hugeness of it, the looking longingly back to primordial times of it, the reflection in the changings winds of it), in to the ocean at that spot where there is just enough room if the tide is right, just ebbing enough to create a sand bar to do so (today there is no problem getting down there as the Cove trustees have provided a helpful stairs, concrete-reinforced, against old time lumber steps breakaway and lost in some snarled sea) and promptly was almost carried out by a riptide. 

He saved her, saved her good that day. Saved her with every ounce of energy he had to take her like some lonesome sailor saving his shipmate, save just to be saving, saving from the sea for a time anyway, or better, saving like the guy, that long gone daddy, who did or said some fool thing to his woman and she flipped out and make a death pact with old King Neptune (and wouldn’t you know want to bring long gone daddy along for the ride) from that song Endless Sleep by Jody Reynolds. But get this, and get it from him straight just in case you might have heard it from her. That day she was so sexed-up, there is no other way to say it, and there shouldn’t be, what with the first look ocean swells and her swaying , and her getting dunked good (with wet clothes and a slight feverish chill), and her being so appreciative of him saving her (the way she put it, his version anyway, was that save, that unthinking save, meant that whatever might come that she knew, knew after one day, and knew she was not wrong, that he would not forsake her for some trivial) that she wanted to have sex with him right there, right in the cove. (In those days there was a little spot that he knew, a little spot off a rutted dirt path that was then not well known, was unmarked , and was protected by rows of shrubbery so there was no problem about “doing the do” there and frankly that thought got him sexed-up too. Today there are so many touristas per square inch in high season and that old rutted path now paved so that the act would be impossible. It would have to wait hard winter and frozen asses, if that same scenario came up again.)

Here’s the thing thought she, Diana, from the sticks, from the Iowa fresh-mown fields, new to Harvard Square summer of love and Boston college scene school didn’t take birth control pills or have any other form of protection that day, although she was fairly sexually experienced (some wheat field farmer boy and then the usual assortment of colleges guys, some honest, some, well, one- night stands). And he, he not expecting to be a savior sailor that day carried no protection, hell, condoms (and, truth, his circle, the guys anyway, and really the girls knowing what the guys expected too, left it up to their partners to protect themselves. Barbarians, okay). So before they could hit the bushes, before they could lose themselves in the stormy throes of love he had to run up (yes, he ran, so you knew he was sexed-up too) to Doc’s Drugstore (no longer there, since Doc passed away many years ago and his sons became lawyers and not pharmacists) on U.S. 1 right in the center of Ogunquit. And red- faced purchased their “rubbers” (and wouldn’t you know there was some young smirky high school sales girl behind the counter when he paid for his purchase, jesus, with that knowing look of I know what you are up, mister). So as the sun started blue –pink setting in the west and to the sound, the symphony really, of those swells clanging on those rugged cross rocks they made love for the first time, not beautiful sultry night pillow love in some high-end hotel (like later), or fearfully (fearful that her prudish dorm roommate would bust in on them) in her dorm room but fiercely, fiercely like those ocean waves crashing mercilessly to shore. The time for exotic, genteel, gentle love-making (“making it,” out of some be-bop hipster lexicon their want to way of expressing that desire) would could later, later intermingled with the seventeen differences and sixteen almost reconciliations.

Funny too in that same sad sack love way they early on had vowed, secular vowed (no, not that Perkin’s Cove love day, sex is easier to agree to, to make and unmake than vows, religious, secular, or blasphemous), that they would not, like their parents fight over every stupid thing.. That night in her dorm room after that full day of activity they stayed up half the night (hell with a little benny that wasn’t hard, and perhaps they stayed up all night, and although her roommate never showed that night they did not, his version, did not make love) remembering his Velcro Ma wars and, as she related that night and many night after, her Baptist father repent sinners weird wars. He related in detail his various wars, wars to the death that left him with no option, no he option except to leave the family house and strike it on his own, on his summer of love terms if possible, since he had sensed that wind that storm swell coming for a while and was as ready as any “hippie” (quaint term, although he did not, and never did, consider himself a hippie but rather traced his summer of love yearnings to beat times, to be-bop boys and girls with shaded eyes and existential desires). She related in detail her devil father, with seven prayer books in all his hands on Sunday and a thwarted creep up to her room every other day, and of his bend bracero hatred short-changing the wages of the wetbacks who came via train smoke and dreams to bring in the crop (or have the complaisant county sheriff kick them out wage-less, or with so many deductions for cheap- jack low rent shack barely held together against the fury of prairie winds room and board, food just shy of some Sally (Salvation Army) hand out in some desolate back street town (and Adam knew of such foods, and of kindly thanks yous but that was give away food not sweated labor food) that it made the same thing. Justified of course by some chapter and verse about the heathens (Catholic heathens and he, the father , still fighting those 16th century religious wars out on prairie America and, and, winning against hard luck ,move on to the next shack and hand-out worthy food harvest stop, endlessly), and their sorrows .


And they didn’t , didn’t act like their parents, their he and she parents, that summer of love, that overblown ,frantic , wind-changing summer of love, when they sensed that high tide rolling in, hell, more than sensed it, could taste it, taste in the their off-hand love bouts not reserved for downy billows (and he glad, glad as hell, that she, his little temptress she, had freely offered herself to him up on those rugged cross rocks so that he, when he needed a reason, coaxed her to some landlocked bushes, or some river, some up river ,Charles River, of course hide-out and she, slightly blushing, maybe, with the thought of it, followed along),taste it is the sweet wines handmade in some friend experiment , hey try this (and experiment yogurts, ice cream, dough bread, and on and on, too) , taste it in the tea, ganga, herb, hemp smoke curling through their lungs and moment peace, or later, benny high to keep sleep from their eyes on the hitchhike road, or later too, sweet cousin cocaine, cheap, cheap as hell, and exotic to snuffed noses to take away the minute blues creeping in, taste it in the new way that their brethren, that small crowd (after all not everybody got caught up in the summer of love minute, some went jungle-fighting, some went wall street back-biting, some went plain old ordinary nine to five- routining, some went same old same, old love and marriage and here come X and Y with a baby carriage , and mortgages , and saving for junior’s college and ,and, and…, offered this and that, free, this and that help, this and that can I have this free, taste it in, well, if you don’t want to do that, hell, don’t and not face Ma, or kin, or professional wrath (or she father fire and brimstone), taste it out in those friendly streets, no not Milk Street, not Wall Street, not the Loop, but Commonwealth Avenue, Haight Street, Division Street, many Village streets, many Brattle streets, many Taos streets, Venice Beach streets, all the clots that make the connections, the oneness of it all, the grandness of it all, the free of it all.

They, they made the kindness, the everyday kindness of it, the simple air-filled big balloon kindness of it like some Peter Max cartoonish figure, and when they filled that balloon with enough kindness and against the sluttiness remarks of high Catholic Ma disapproving of heathens (see not all bigots were out in the prairie wheat field strung out on the lord and, wheat profits) and she Pa disapproving of hippie (never was , beat, beat, yes) they married , justice of the peace high wind Perkin’s Cove consummated married, she all garlanded up like some Botticelli doll model picture (Botticelli’s mistress, his whore, from what they had heard, and she blushed at that knowledge), flowered, flowing garment, free hair in the wind and he some black robe throw around , and feasting, feasting on those rugged cross rocks . Too much.

And for as long as they could see some new breeze blowing that they felt part of they were kind to each other (and others, of course). Then the winds of change shifted, and like the tides the ebbs set in, maybe not obvious at first, maybe not that first series of defeats, that Loop madness in ’68, that first bust for some ill-gotten dope and some fool snitch to save his ass from stir turned on him, some brethren (he hated snitch, the very word snitch, from that time down in that rolling barrel slope in the water episode as a kid with his older brother, and he didn’t snitch on his older brother now name etched in black marble in Washington along with other old neighborhood names), that first Connecticut highway hitchhike bust as they headed to D.C. for one more vain and futile attempt to stop the generation’s damn war, that several hour wait in Madison for some magnificent Volkswagen bus to stop and get them from point C to point D on their journey to this very storm- driven San Francisco spot (a few blocks up over in North Beach the old beat blocks, Haight Street hippie having turned into a free-fire zone, that” no that is six dollars for those candles , not free anymore brother” sea-change, and the decline of kindness, first casualty their own kindnesses, their own big balloon kindnesses more less frequently evoked, more tired from too much work, more “sorrybut I have a headache ,”he too, and less thoughts about trysts in hidden bushes, or downy billows for that matter. Worse, worse still, he went his way, and she went hers, trying to make it (no longer their “make it” signal to chart love’s love time) in the world, hell, nine to five routining it but it was the kindnesses, those big ball kindnesses that went (and that they both spoke of marriage counselor spoke of missing), and seventeen differences, substantial differences, and sixteen almost reconciliations, they grew older and apart, and…

She left him for another man, another non-sea driven man, a man who hated the outdoors, hated the thought of the ocean (he grew up in lobstertown Maine and had his fill of oceans, of fierce winds, of rubber hip boots, and of rugged cross rocks thank you, she told him non-ocean man had told her) when she called it seventeen times was enough quits after they had spent a couple of months up in that storm-ravaged Maine cottage that he insisted they go to reconcile after the last difference bout where she, quote, was tired as hell of the sea, of the wind, of the stuff that the wind did to her sensitive skin ( big old sadness at that remark by him for he never said, kindness, said anything about that, or never said he could stop the ravages of time), and, and, tired of him playing out some old man of the seas, some man against nature thing with her in his train, unquote. Yah, she up and left him. Damn, and he had had thoughts of eternity, of always being around that smile, that quizzical smile, or the possibility of that smile, that he first latched onto that first Harvard Square night when he had smiled at her across the room, and she had smiled that smile right between his eyes at him.