Thursday, August 25, 2016

Once Again On Making Allies Where You Can-On The Question Of The War Tax Resisters



Frank Jackman comment:


Recently I made a comment concerning this same general subject of basically individual resistance to war by refusing to pay for the war taxes demanded by the government to continue their endless wars where I mentioned that a long time ago I had given up trying to figure out the best way to combat war, the best way to make the war- makers scream “uncle” (“Uncle Sam,” better). This of course was said in frustration after I/we had tried to shame the monster back in the old days of the Vietnam War with marches, vigils, rallies in our local cities and towns, and ultimately Washington when the monster continued to prove unmovable. Tried to shut down their damn government, unsuccessfully, bitterly unsuccessfully, on May Day 1971 and got nothing but mace, tear gas and mass arrests into the bastinado for our efforts. Tried to get to the front-line fighters of their wars-the mainly working class soldiers, the cannon-fodder, the grunt who fight every war with coffeehouses and advice that it was in their hands to end the damn thing. To walk away guns in hand and say the hell with it and if that didn’t work maybe “turn the guns around” on those who were ordering the fighting from the front-line generals to the President and his cronies.


All along that way, working in the background a lot except for the requisite formal endorsement of whatever good work was worth endorsing-on paper anything- stood the War Resisters League with the seemingly simple proposition that if you, meaning you the individual, withheld your war tax money from the government that would dry up their capacity to fund war, and thus put a big crimp in their ability to wage war.


I also mentioned in that comment that sometimes though a simple proposition turns into its opposite, turns into a nightmare of bureaucratic paperwork when you come right down to the core of the matter. The dear friends at the IRS do not like, very much do not like, folks who do not pay their taxes, for good reasons or bad. Strangely go after the good reasons, the refusal to fund wars reasons almost more fervently that fraudulent tax evaders and others seem not to pay their fair share for the wars they have created, or have a vested interest in. Don’t like folks sending in letters in lieu of taxes saying exactly why they are not paying up. Get worked up so bad that they have a field day dragging you before investigators, inspectors, supervisors, boards, and such. Are gleeful when they are able to finally garnish your salary including lots of penalties and interest. So that simple strategy, one might say absolutely rational strategy, got added by one Frank Jackman to the heap of ideas that did not work out so well about stopping the war-makers in their footsteps. Oh, by the way, that has not stopped one Frank Jackman from protesting every other way he has been able to raise as much hell as he could with the war-makers.               


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Arson, My Sweet-With Cary Grant’s Talk Of The Town In Mind (1942)-a Film Review       


DVD Review


By Sam Lowell


The Talk Of The Town, starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Ronald Colman, 1942


No question the late 1930s, early 1940s was the golden age of romantic comedies, and if it was left at that this film under review directed by George Stevens one of the three best such directors along with Preston Sturgis and Frank Capra (and maybe a fourth with Howard Hawks but you can bicker among yourselves on that one), The Talk of the Town, would survive scrutiny in that category. Certainly with well-known skilled comedic actor Cary Grant at that phase of his career and Jean Arthur the wise almost girl next door with the heartland heart of gold in the lineup with her own set of comedic skills the argument could be made for throwing this one under that category.


But hear me out on this one. Agreed that the late 1930s and early 1940s were something like the golden age of romantic comedy which were necessary in the hard-bitten Great Depression times to keep people from falling off their chairs but it was also the age of social dramas, movies that took on some of the social issues that pressed against the times. Here’s the play. Leopold Dilg (played by Grant) is something of a poor man’s social philosopher who winds up on the wrong side of the stick when the local town factory goes up in flames and the foreman is allegedly killed as the place burns to the ground. The owner accused the rabble-rouser Dilg of the dirty deed and is able to make it stick, make it stick with a slander campaign that gets the town all riled up at the agitator. So they are ready, well, a jury of his peers and county men are ready to make him take the big step-off since he cannot prove that he did not do the deed.               


Being a smart guy and knowing that if “justice” prevails he is liable to be at the short end of a rope Dilg escapes the bastinado and eventually winds up at the house that Miss Nora Shelley (played by Arthur) is preparing for law school dean Lightcap (played by straight man Ronald Colman) who is looking for a little peace and quiet in order to write a nice little lawyerly book about the virtues of the rule of law. Naturally Nora cannot feed Dilg to the wolves on his trail s so there is a slew of misadventures to keep the wolves away from Leopold but also to keep stickler for the law Professor Lightcap in the dark about his presence.  


Eventually the good professor catches on about who Dilg really is and is ready to send for the gendarmes and let justice take its due course. Along the way the good professor is told that he has been nominated by the President to be on the United States Supreme Court and so he had better keep his nose clean, keep a low profile. Naturally everything militates against that as he is dragged into Dilg’s defense both by Nora’s entreaties and by the cut of Dilg’s jibe (that fellow philosopher king business). Through stealth and just plain pluck the good professor finds out that the allegedly dead foreman is not but hiding out in the wilds of Boston. The whole arson thing had been a caper by the failing owner of the factory and the foremen to grab the insurance money and run. Although it was a close thing the rule of law trumped that of mob rule (the influential had the townspeople all riled up and ready for a lynching). In between it turned out that both the fellow philosophers had eyes for wholesome heartland girl-next-door Nora but you know as well as I do that Dilg/Grant would win that battle. But do you see what I mean about his being more than a romantic comedy and more of a social drama. You decide, okay.      

Monday, August 22, 2016

When The Folk Minute Faded-With The Music Of Erick Saint-Jean In Mind.

CD Review

By Zack James

Urban Folk Blues, various artists including Erick Saint-Jean, Astra Records, 2006

It was bound to happen if one lived long enough was Seth Garth’s immediate impression after a first listening to the Urban Folk Blues album Sid Daniels, the key producer of the compilation as it was in its  pre-release stage for comment by various music critics, send him. Despite the fact that he was in semi-retirement, had not written for the natural publication to place the review The American Folk Newsletter for years and had pretty much he thought exhausted his supply of worthwhile comment on the folk minute of the 1960s since it was, well, only a minute guys like Sid, seemingly a thousand guys like Sid who remembered his work from Rock magazine and Rolling Stone and it seemed every week would bring some memory CD trying to cash in on the hard commercial fact that after a certain age people tended to want to listen to the music that brought them to the music of their generation. So everybody was trying to cash in on the big baby boomer demographic that had a fair amount of discretionary income before the extra dough as he was beginning to become too familiar with would have to go to medicines and doctors’ bills.  

That “bound to happen” moment he had after listening to Sid’s CD had been the realization that some of the songs on the CD had been covered by guys like Dave Von Ronk doing his version of Cocaine Blues and Erick Saint Jean doing his cover of Railroad Bill which they had “discovered” in their travels through the earlier American songbook they were all crazy, Seth too, to find out about in order to break out of the vanilla existence that was their growing up times when their parents’ generation wanted to bury the past. Didn’t want to go back any further that Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee who helped them get through World War II. And now here he was being asked to review a compilation of works which were now seen as classics for his aging generation. Yeah, what goes around comes around.   

The second impression that Seth got though had more to do with who was on the compilation, and what they hell had happened to them. Everybody knew that the “king of the hill” bob Dylan had embarked on what would eventually be a never-ending tour and that prior to his death Dave Von Ronk would show up regularly on the dwindling folk circuit, the few places scattered in the universe where there were enough old folkies to sustain a coffeehouse-you know Ann Arbor, Berkeley, the Village, Harvard Square- or if away from those old-time centers then some thoughtful monthly coffeehouses at UU churches or places like that. But Seth was not thinking about the fates of those guys which was well documented but a guy like Erick Saint James who back in the day looked like he would threaten Dylan for that king of the hill title.  

Erick Saint James had it all going for him, a strong baritone, good basic guitar skills, knew a dozen chords or so, which as one wag mentioned at the time was all you needed to get a place in the folk universe, better, have all the girls hanging around you. Erick in addition was a good-looking guy who graced many covers of Rise Up Singing Folk, the original “must read” publication that got many young folkies their first look see. He had big hits with covers like Railroad Bill but also with his own compositions like Falling Light Rain and Panama Special. Then a few years later he fell off the folk map, Seth who spent many hours tracing the whereabouts of every possible folksinger in order to keep up with the movement, and grab free-lance jobs once editors like Benny Gold and Sam Lawrence knew that he had enough knowledge to write quick reviews when they were pressed for publication time-lines.   

So Seth worked his way back. Found out that Erick had had a streak of bad luck, bad management, a bum agent both things besides talent which you need to have working for, not against, you. Had a few songs, a couple of albums that went nowhere. Of course that was around the edge of the folk minute, the point where folk rock was the place to be or get off the boat. That was the fact of life. Part of Seth’s loss of Erick’s whereabouts had been that he was on the envelope of what would later be called the “acid” rock moment and so had let whatever he knew about folk kind of fall off of his planet. That was where his career was heading, where he was getting assignments and so the fate of stray folk guys like Erick faded in the background. That too was a hard fact of life just ask Benny or Sam. 

Then Erick hit some skids, got caught up doing too much alcohol and later too much grass, then heroin. As far as Seth could trace that decline into the late 1980s that was what had happened to Erick. One source said he went down to Mexico to study painting while he was trying to dry out. Another said that he was down in some Jersey Holiday Inn doing a lounge lizard act for coffee and cakes. In any case the trail ended around 1990 so who knows what happened to him. All Seth knew was that back in the day Erick could cover the old time folk songs, worked at it and added a few gems to the folk section of the American songbook. Yeah, if you want to know what it was like when guys and gals sang folk for keeps, when Erick Saint James sang folk for keeps grab Sid’s compilation. Listen to Dave, Tom, Geoff, Tracey and Jesse too but weep a tear for Erick and your lost youth too.      

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Heading Toward The Danger When It Counted In The Red Scare 1950s Night-The Saga Of The Golden Rule


Frank Jackman:

Those of us who grew in the blessedly behind us Red Scare Cold War 1950s night and who innocently suffered through the torments of ducking our heads and asses down in some forlorn school basement come air-raid drill time missed a few things. Didn’t get to know much more than if we didn’t duck those heads and asses we were doomed. Like if the “big one,” and everybody from about first grade on knew the big one meant that the Russkies, Uncle Joe and his minions, had set the trail for total destruction had really occurred some candy-ass basement was going to save us. What we didn’t know because nobody gave a rat’s ass to tell us we would have been just as well off staying right at our desks in the classroom because when and if the big one blew around Boston town we were goners anyway.

Well, enough of youthful Cold War horror stories because the really important thing that we did not know, as elementary and junior high school students did not know, was that there were people, brave people anyway you cut it who challenged the conventional wisdom, did not buy into the idea that we all had to suffer the nuclear winter the governmental flaks were warning us about if we didn’t go toe to toe with Uncle Joe and his minions and built more and more thermonuclear bombs. And test then out in what was supposed to be “no man’s land,” out in the deep Pacific. But some brave souls in places like New York and Boston demonstrated against the nuclear madness. And they were brave. But the bravest of them all, the ones we should thank profusely even today, maybe especially today as a new cold war seems to be on the agenda were those serious pacifists who outfitted the Golden Rule and headed toward, not away from, the danger of the nuclear test bomb sites to say, well, to say “stop the madness.” Yeah, stop the madness now. Check out the story of the Golden Rule and its recent restoration to once again go toward not away from the danger.   

The “Shame” Culture Of Poverty- Down In The Base Of Society Life Ain’t Pretty



By Josh Breslin


Recently in reviewing Frank McCourt’s memoir of his childhood in Ireland, “Angela’s Ashes”, I noted that McCourt’s story was my story. I went on to explain that although time, geography, family composition and other factors were different the story he tells of the impoverished circumstances of his growing up “shanty” in Limerick, Ireland, taking all proportions into consideration, was amazingly similar to those I faced growing up “shanty” in a Boston, Massachusetts suburb a generation later. The commonality? I would argue that down at the base of modern industrial society, down at that place where the working poor meets what Karl Marx called the lumpen proletariat the sheer fact of scarcity drives life very close to the bone. Poverty hurts, and hurts in more ways than are apparent to the eye. No Dorothea Lange photograph can find that place.


I also mentioned in that McCourt review that the dreams that came of age in that Limerick childhood neighborhood, such as they were, were small dreams. I immediately picked up on his references to what constituted “respectability” in that milieu- getting off the “dole” and getting a low-level governmental civil service job that after thirty some years would turn into a state pension in order to comfort oneself and one’s love ones in old age. Hell, not even a gold watch for meritorious service for God’s sake. That, my friends, is a small dream by anybody’s standard but I am sure that any reader who grew up in a working poor home in America in the last couple of generations knows from where I speak. I can hear my mother’s voice urging me on to such a course as I have just described. Escaping that fate was a near thing though. The crushing out of big dreams for the working poor may not be the final indictment of the capitalist system down at the base but it certainly will do for starters.


In the recent past one of the unintended consequences of trying to recount my roots through contacting members of my high school class has been the release of a flood of memories from those bleak days of childhood that I had placed (or thought I had) way, way on the back burner of my brain. A couple of year ago I did a series of stories, “Tales From The ‘Hood,” on some of those earlier recalled incidents. Frank McCourt’s recounting of some of the incidents of his bedraggled upbringing brought other incidents back to me. In “Angela’s Ashes” he mentioned how he had to wear the same shirt through thick and thin. As nightwear, school wear, every wear. I remember my own scanty wardrobe and recounted in one of those stories in the series, “A Coming Of Age Story”, about ripping up the bottoms of a pair of precious pants for a square dance demonstration in order to ‘impress’ a girl that I was smitten with in elementary school. I caught holy hell for that (and missed my big chance with the youthful “femme fatale” as well-oh memory).


I have related elsewhere in discussing my high school experiences in that series that I did a couple of years ago at the request of one of my high school classmates, that one of the hardships of high school was (and is) the need , recognized or not, to be “in”. One of the ways to be “in”, at least for a guy in my post-World War II generation, the “Generation of ’68,” and the first generation to have some disposable income in hand was to have cool clothes, a cool car, and a cool girlfriend. “Cool”, you get it, right? Therefore the way to be the dreaded “out” is….well, you know that answer. One way not to be cool was to wear hand-me-downs from an older brother. Or to wear oddly colored or designed clothes. This is where not having enough of life’s goods hurts. Being doled out a couple of new sets of duds a year was not enough to break my social isolation from the “cool guys”. I remember the routine-new clothes for the start of the school year and then at Easter. Cheap stuff too, from some Wal-Mart-type store of the day.


All of this may be silly, in fact is silly in the great scale of things. But those drummed-in small dreams, that non-existent access to those always scarce “cool” items, those missed opportunities by not being ‘right’ added up. All of this created a ‘world’ where crime, petty and large, seemed respectable as an alternative (a course that my own brothers followed), where the closeness of neighbors is suffocating and where the vaunted “neighborhood community” is more like something out of “the night of the long knives”. If, as Thomas Hobbes postulated in his political works, especially "Leviathan", in the 17th century, life is “nasty, short and brutish” then those factors are magnified many times over down at the base.


Contrary to Hobbes, however, the way forward is through more social solidarity, not more guards at the doors of the rich. All of this by way of saying in the 21st century we need more social solidarity not less more than ever. As I stated once in a commentary titled, “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?,” one of the only virtues of growing up on the wrong side of the tracks among the working poor is that I am personally inured to the vicissitudes of the gyrations of the world capitalist economy. Hard times growing up were the only times. But many of my brothers and sisters are not so inured. For them I fight for the social solidarity of the future. In that future we may not be able to eliminate shame as an emotion but we can put a very big dent in the class-driven aspect of it.

An Encore -In The Time Of Elvis' Time-One More Time Down 1950s Record Memory Lane


Sam Lowell, considered himself a corner boy from the time in the early 1960s when in the working-class neighborhoods of America were filled to the brim with such guys hanging out on the corners, in his case North Adamsville not far from urban Boston. Here is the progression not too atypical of corner boys with too little money and too much time on their hands which underscored the corner boy 1960s night plight (and which still plagues corner boys even though they no longer for the most part hang on corners but malls and other places where there are not any “No trespassing, police take notice” signs to harass young men still with not enough dough and too much time on their hands). If you grew up in the Acre, Sam’s growing up section of town you progressed from one place in elementary school, another in junior high school when corners and who was on what corner started to get sorted out in earnest, and high school where the corners were doled out hard as steel in high school.

Places like South Boston (an all Irish enclave then where even those who like Sam’s maternal grandparents had moved out of the enclave to an Irish neighborhood in North Adamsville were considered suspect, were looked at with jaundiced eye even by the relatives left behind), Main Street in Nashua (at the time a dying city what with the mills heading south to cheaper labor and eventually overseas and so a tough place to dream in), New Hampshire, 125th Street in high Harlem< New York City  (with all the excitement of jazz and be-bop but with all the high segregation of the South except for the formality of Mister James Crow’s laws),  any of a million spots on Six Mile Road in Detroit (never a place of dreams but of steady work in the golden age of the American automobile for those from Delta Mister James Crow black refugees to the Okie/Arkie white rabble coming out of the hills and dustbowls), the same on Division Street in Chi town (the beat street divide of many of Nelson Algren’s tales of drugs, urban lost-ness, and sullen back streets disappointments), the lower end of North Beach beyond where the “beats” of a few years before did their beat thing (the places where the longshoremen and waterfront workers did their heavy drinking after work and where the sailors off their Pacific ocean ships fought all- comers from the Artic to the Japan seas).


Jack Slack’s was the last port of call for the Acre crowd, for that motley collection of corner boys picked up and discarded along the way although the core of Frankie , Jack, Jimmy, Allan, Markin and Five-Fingers held throughout which had started at Doc’s Drugstore complete with sofa fountain and shiny glass penny candy-case to draw selections from after  school to energize up for the real world activities of kid-dom in elementary school, Miller’s Diner for the jukebox in junior high when they were just becoming aware of girls, maybe having to dance with them, and maybe trying to figure out, the eternal trying to figure out how to approach them without them giggling back and Salducci’s Pizza Parlor in early high school before the new owners decided that unlike Tonio, the previous owner who sold out to go back to Italy from when he came as a boy they did not want colorful rough-necked boys standing one knee against the wall in front of their family friendly establishment scaring the bejesus out of the important Friday and Saturday give Mom a break family trade.

That time, those early 1960s times for some reason known only to them, was time that you had best have had corner boy comrades when you hung out on date-less, girl-less, dough-less Friday and Saturday nights to have your back if trouble brewed (that “comrade” not a word to be used then in the tail end of the height of the red scare Cold War night not if you wanted knuckle sandwiches from the unthinking patriotic guys but that does convey the sense of “having your back” critical to your place in those woe begotten streets).


That corner boy business extended through the 1960s after high school for a couple of years when in addition to being a corner boy Sam became a “flower child” along with his long mourned and lamented friend the late Peter Paul Markin heading out west on the hitchhike roads when the world turned upside down later in the decade. (Markin who met a horrible end down in sunny Mexico after the fresh breeze of the 1960s turned in on itself and he got flat-footed by the backlash ebb tide riptide and could no longer hold back his “from hunger” wanting habits held in check through summers of love and a tight tour of Vietnam and made the fatal, very fatal, mistake of trying to broker an independent drug deal and got two slugs to the back of his head for the attempt.) Sam, now a sedate grandfatherly semi-retired lawyer filled with respectability and memories had to laugh about how much he of late had been thinking about the 1950s, about not just those corner boy days but about the music that drove every corner boy, including Markin, make that perhaps most of all Markin, to distraction as they tried to eke out a sound that they could call their own. A jailbreak sound that was not something their parents would approve of at a time when titanic generational battles were foaming at the mouth.

Thinking about the 1950s the times when he came of age, came of musical age, an age very mixed up with that corner boy comradery, that hanging at Doc’s and Miller’s Diner when he started noticing girls and their charms (amid the first blush of giggles which he soon figured out was their rational response to whatever was going on inside their bodies just like guys like Sam were going through in their bodies). Those first noticings started his life-long journey of trying to figure out what made them tick, what they wanted, wanted of him, from a girl-less family making everything that much harder. Noticing that they too hung around Miller’s in order to play that fantastic jukebox which had all the latest tunes and plenty of oldies too (oldies being let’s say we are talking about 1958 then maybe 1955 hits like Eddie, My Love, Rock Around The Clock, and Bo Diddley showing that teen time, youth time anyway is measured differently from old man lawyerly time, measured in days, weeks, months at the most-years were beyond the pale) drawing away from the music on his parents’ family living room radio and their cranky old record player music.

Music in the teen households emphatically not on Miller’s jukebox or there would have been a civil war no question, a civil war avoided in his own home after his parents had bought, to insure domestic peace and tranquility if he remembered correctly, his first transistor radio down at the now long gone Radio Shack store and he could sit up in his room and dream of whatever coming of age boys dreamed about, mainly how those last year’s bothersome girls became this year’s interesting objects of discussion (by the way in that small crowded upstairs bedroom, shared with his two brothers, he found out he could discover the beauty of the “hold up to your ear”  transistor radio and drown out the world of brotherly scuffings). 


More than that though, more than just thinking about the old days like every old guy probably does, even guys who had not been lawyers as a professional career, guys who you see sitting on park benches, a little disheveled, maybe some crumbs in their unkempt beards, feeding the birds and half-muttering to themselves about how when FDR was around everybody stood tall, every country bent it knees in homage to America, or else, or old bag ladies rummaging through trash barrels looking for long lost lovers or their faded beauty Sam had been purchasing compilations of what are commercially called “oldies but goodies” CDs. Doing so via the user-friendly confines of the Internet, at Amazon if you need a name like today anybody, except maybe three people up in heathen Alaska or the Artic,  doesn’t know that is the site to get such material these days instead of traipsing over half the East Coast trying to cadge a few examples from the dwindling oldies and used records emporia, and  purchasing several record compilations of the “best of” that period from a commercial distributor (and also keeping up to date on various versions of the songs on YouTube) and through his friend and old corner boy Frankie Riley been spilling plenty of cyber-ink on Frankie’s blog, In The Be-Bop ‘50s Night, going back to the now classic age of rock and roll.


Sam had to laugh about that situation back in the day as well since he had been well known back on the corner, back holding up the wall in front of Salducci’s Pizza Parlor, on many of those date-less, date-less because although he might have been an all “hail fellow, well met” hard-assed corner boy full of bluster and blah he was sister-less and hence baffled by girls and their ways and very shy around the question of asking for dates although he was quite willing to tell each and every girl who would listen to him about ten thousand fact on any of sixteen subjects, not excluding science, philosophy, and the poor fate of the Red Sox then. Although those ten thousand facts would come in handy when he got to college a couple of years later and he had girls hanging off the walls in debate class waiting for him to ask them out then those precious facts did not add up to a date by osmosis but rather incomprehension even by girls like Patty Lewis and Mary Shea who liked him and would have be glad if he asked them for a date without the ten thousand facts, thank you.

Here though is something about the mores of the time that young people today might not comprehend girls just waited for guys to make a move, or moved on to the next guy who would, especially if he had a boss ’55 Chevy, like Patty and Mary did. Also girl-less (already explained but here the question is having a serious girl and the just mentioned facts will hold here as well), and dough-less (self-explanatory in working-class North Adamsville, the sorry fate of the working poor, the marginally employed like his father, no money when the rent was due and Ma had not money for the damn rent collector much less discretionary money for dates with girls) on Friday and Saturday nights when he  proclaimed to all who would listen (mainly Frankie, Markin, Jimmy Jenkins, Jack Callahan, Kenny Hogan and Johnny “Thunder” Thornton and an occasional girl who all wondered what he was talking about) that “rock and roll will never die.”


Mainly, through the archival marvels of modern technology, pay-per-song, look on YouTube, check out Amazon Sam had been right, rock and roll had not died although it clearly no longer provided the same fuel for later generations more into hip-hop-ish, techno music, or edge city rock. But Sam always though it funny when kids, his grandkids, for example, heard (and saw) Elvis, all steamy, smoldering and swiveling in some film clip to make the older almost teenage girls among them almost react like the girls in his time did when they saw him on the Ed Sullivan Show and had half-formed girlish dreams about personally erasing that snarl from his face. Especially that flip clip of the prison number in Jailhouse Rock. Bo Diddley proclaiming to the whole wide world that he in fact had put the rock in rock and roll and who could dispute that claim when he went bonkers in some Afro-Carib number with that rectangular guitar. Say too Chuck Berry telling a candid world, a candid teenage world which after all was all that counted then, now too from what Sam had heard from his grandchildren, that Mister Beethoven from the old fogy music museum had better take himself and his cronies and move over because a new be-bop daddy, a new high sheriff was in town, was taking the reins, making the kids jump on jump street. Ditto curl-in-hair Buddy Holly pining away for his Peggy Sue.

Better, mad monk swamp rat Jerry Lee Lewis sitting, maybe standing for all Sam knew telling that same candid world that Chuck was putting on fire everybody had to do the high school hop bop, confidentially. And how about Wanda Jackson proclaiming that it was party time and an endless host of one hit wonders and wanna-bes they went crazy over. Yeah, those kids, those for example grandkids jumping around just like the young Sam who could not believe his ears when he had come of age and, yeah, jumping around for those same guys who formed his musical tastes back in the 1950s when he had come of age, musical age anyway. Jesus, Jesus too when he came of teenage age and all that meant of angst and alienation something no generation seems to be able to escape since the world had no less dangerous, no less incomprehensible today.


Sam had thought recently about going back to those various commercially-produced compilations put out by demographically savvy media companies that he had purchased on Amazon to cull out the better songs, some which he had on the tip of his tongue almost continuously since the 1950s (the Dubs Could This Be Magic the great last chance dance song that bailed him out of being shut out of more than one dance night although his partner’s feet borne the brunt of the battle, and the Teen Queens Eddie My Love, where Eddie took advantage of the girl and she was wondering, maybe still is, when he is coming back, a great love ‘em and leave ‘em song and the answer is still he’s never coming back, are two examples that quickly came to his mind). Others like Johnny Ace’s Pledging My Love or The Crows Oh-Gee though needed some coaxing by listening to the compilations to be remembered.


But Sam, old lawyerly Sam, had finally found a sure-fire method to aid in that memory coaxing. Just go back in memory’s mind and picture scenes from teenage days and figure the songs that went with such scenes (this is not confined to 1950s aficionados anybody can imagine their youth times and play). But even using that method Sam believed that he was cheating a little, harmlessly cheating but still cheating. When he (or anybody familiar with the times) looked at the artwork on most of the better 1950s CD compilations one could not help but notice the excellent artwork that highlights various institutions illustrated back then. The infamous drive-in movies where you gathered about six people (hopefully three couples but six anyway) and paid for two the other four either on the back seat floor or in the trunk. They always played music at intermission when that “youth nation” cohort gathered at the refreshment stand to grab inedible hot dogs, stale popcorn, or fizzled out sodas, although who cared, especially if that three couples thing was in play, and that scene had always been associated in Sam’s mind with Frankie Lyman and the Teenager’s Why Do Fools Fall In Love.


That is how Sam played the game. Two (or more) can play so he said he would just set the scenes and others could fill in their own musical selections. Here goes: the first stirrings of interest in the opposite sex at Doc’s Drugstore with his soda fountain AND jukebox; the drive-in restaurant with you and yours in the car, yours’ or father-borrowed for an end of the night bout with cardboard hamburgers, ultra-greasy french fries and diluted soda; the Spring Frolic Dance (or name your seasonal dance) your hands all sweaty, trying to disappear into the wall, waiting, waiting to perdition for that last dance so that you could ask that he or she that you had been eyeing all evening to dance that slow one  all dreamy; down at the beach on day one of out of school for the summer checking out the scene between the two boat clubs where all the guys and gals who counted hung out; the night before Thanksgiving football rally where he or she said they would be there, how about you; on poverty nights sitting up in your bedroom listening to edgy WMEX on your transistor radio away from prying adult eyes; another poverty night you and your boys, girls, boys and girls sitting in the family room spinning platters; that first sixth grade “petting” party (no more explanation needed, right); cruising Main Street with your boys or girls looking for, well, you figure it out listening to the radio in that “boss” Chevy, hopefully; and, sitting in the balcony “watching” the double feature at the Strand Theater on Saturday afternoon when you were younger and at night when older. Okay, Sam has given enough cues. Fill in the dots, oops, songs and add scenes too.                      

When The Bourgeoisie Was In Full Flower-In The Times Of Isabella Stewart Gardner And Her Museum 


By Sam Lowell


When I was much younger, after I had gotten out of the Army and was all raw from the experience, had had a close call with having to go to Vietnam and was “saved” only by some last minutes self-imposed graces I was all hopped up on changing the way this society did business, the way those in charge treated people from soldiers to workers to the dispossessed and homeless to the hobos, bums, and tramps who I ran with for a while. One of the way stations that I was attracted to for a while was the Marxist analysis of capitalist society. At that time I was thrilled by the analysis of how to overturn the system through some revolutionary purge of the old society and the creation of new forms of communal existence. Very appealing then and now although it does not look like I will see anything like those possibilities created this side of the grave.


All of the above a roundabout way of saying something that I found at the time very odd about the Marxist analysis but which makes more sense now. Marx and his followers were ready to concede that capitalism was not only a necessary stage of more effective and productive way gathering up the collective good of society as against earlier forms of production and distribution such as in feudal times. Was willing to say that at certain stage of history that capitalism was progressive in undertaking certain tasks. That hard fact was true in his own times as he projected forward. Capitalism then unlike in the 20th and now 21st century still had something progressive to offer despite its contradictions.    


Even in America, even in the late 18th century in the age of the robber barons who grabbed everything not nailed down with every hand, there was still a spark of progressive thought and action. In short in time span of the life of Isabella Stewart Gardner, a woman born into wealth and who married wealth, from before the American Civil War until after the First World War such socially important tasks as creating a museum for everybody to see great works of art in accrued to those scions of the capitalist class. Now we will not inquire too closely into how she purchased some of her prized possessions, not will be inquire into how they got into the country, nor even about the fact that she could drive as hard a bargain against her fellow robber barons confederates but I for one am glad, glad as hell to live close enough to go see what she pirated away over there in the Back Bay. So if you need one, or can only think of one example of a time when the bourgeoisie was in full flower-think Mrs. Gardner.