Monday, March 28, 2011

***Out In The Be-Bop Night- The Search For The Blue-Pink Great Western Night-Postscript- The Torch Is Passed?- February 2011

Markin comment:

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of the California night calling after too long an absence, the California be-bop late 1960s night, the eternal California be-bop night after years of Maine solitude, of Maine grey-blue-white washed, white-crested, white-capped, foam-flecked Atlantic ocean-flotsam and jetsam strewn waters. After all no all oceans are created the same, not all oceans speak to one in the same way, although they are all old Father Neptune’s thoughtful playgrounds. California’s, yes, white-washed, yes, white-crested, yes, white-capped, yes, foam-flecked speak to gentle, warm lapis lazuli blue wealth dreams of the quest, the long buried life long quest for the great blue-pink great American West night, blue-pinked skies of course. Yes maybe it was just that sheer hard fact that pushed me out of Eastern white, white to hate the sight of white, snowed-in doors, Eastern gale winds blowing a man against the sand-pebbled seas, and into the endless starless night. Yes, maybe just a change of color, or to color, from the white white whiteness of the sea walk white-etched night. Right down to the shoreline white.

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of preparing, against the timetable of that Eastern white night, this and that for the winter California day, and night, the ocean California that set the thoughts of the be-bop night, and the quest for the blue-pink skies humming once again in the, admittedly, older-boned voyager, voyeur of dreamed once sultry, steamy nights. A different proposition, a different proposition, on most days, from preparing to face fierce Maine winter mornings, unaided by the graces and forms nature provides its hardier creations. No thoughts today of heavy woolen coats, double-stitched, double-plied, doubled-vested, old nor’ easter worthy, or heavy woolen pants, same chino pants of youth, same black chino pants, no cuffs, except winter weight, not the always summer weight on no knowledge youth, or heavy boots, heavy clunky rubberish boots mocking against the snow-felt, ocean-edged soft sand streets, or maybe, more in tune with aged-bone recipes heavy-soled, heavy-rubber soled (or was it rubber souled) running shoes (also known in the wide world of youth as sneakers, better Chuck’s). Of scarves, and caps, full-bodied caps, better seaman’s caps, heavy, wool, dark blue, built to stand against the ocean-stormed waves crashing and thrashing against ships hulls, and gloves, gloves to keep your hands from frosty immobility I need not speak. Or will not speak.

No, today we think of great controversies of age, well, mini-controversies anyway, between hi-tech-derived aero-flow, toe-fitted, sheer meshed sneakers, or just old-fashioned, Velcro-snapped criss-cross leather sandals, toe-dangling in the sand streets ready. Or between jungle-fitted, twelve-pocketed (or so it seems), straight from the Ernest Hemingway African safari night ( so it seems, again) else, maybe, out of mad man gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson in full loathing regalia, or Reebok, Nike, Adidas, New Balance free-for-all athletic shorts. Or between hearty windbreakers, fit for eastern gales and western el ninos, versus light denim, light blue, tight fit, well, maybe tight fit, be young Marlon Brando or James Dean-worthy in some motorcycle hidden fantasy, jackets. All decisions, all timed but irrevocable once inside the airport terminal, and its maze, no beyond maze, beyond rate maze, of security and scrutiny.

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of just that airport invasion, the hard fact of the post-9/11 travel world. The running the gauntlet of checkpoints, charts, human body scanning screens, magic forgery detecting pens, bells, whistles, and surly, or maybe better, indifferent, human scanners, human searchers, human checkers. The piles of thrown away, seemingly harmless, harmless to these eyes, water bottles, pure-springed water bottles (Evian, Poland Springs, Belmont Springs, home-filled reusable, filtered tap water L.L. Bean bottles, whatever) which now are deadly weapons, or could be, are a twisted metaphor for the scene. All in order to get from point A (east coast angry ocean waters) to point B (west coast, or hipper, at least used to be hipper, left coast gentle, spa-like, or faux spa waters) in less than six hours. No more of timeless trips, or at least of months long trips, aimless but aim-full in their purposeful search. No more of Boston to Angelica Steubenville to roots Prestonsburg to Lexington (Kentucky that is, not revolutionary battlefield Lexington, not that trip anyway). No more Moline meltdowns and Neola corn field nights and Aunt Betty lazy, crazy, hazy suppers or solidarity rides to the desert Native American ghost sky night, drums beating back to primal times, and then over the last mountains down into California blue-pink haze. No, six hours, no more, or else breakdown against those bone-aged facts, and bone-aged stiffness rebellions. Or worst surrender to the think better, or at least twice, of such a trip gods, Egad has it come to that.

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of riding a rental car, a rental car, my god, a mid-sized, almost brand new, gadget-filled lights, horns, windshield wipers all controlled, whiplash computer-controlled, at the touch power steering. And I like a kid, a dumb, no California hot-rod head under the hood kid with car-ness in the very blood, but more of a youth spent no car, not dough for a car, miles walked, sneaker miles walked, kid, scratching my head to figure out what goes where and screaming onto that good night about how the hell have we come to such a complicated place where it requires seven degrees in astro-physics, at least, to get the damn thing started. No more of drowsy early morning truck stop diner pick-ups by benny-high, reds-low, mortgaged to the teeth zen truck-driving road masters carrying freights from here to there (I would say from point A to point B but that is used up already). No more of psychedelic- painted, further night, magical tour buses, old time yellow brick road school buses converted to living, breathing space on the endless hippie hitchhike 1960s road. No more even of old country hay wagons named, or misnamed, trucks picking up likely farm hands, penny-poor likely farm hands, to work for a few days before moving on. No more of that, indeed.

Maybe, and here we are reaching some home truths, it was the sheer, hard fact of seeing the azul ocean sea coming over the horizon at Laguna Hills or one of those endless, one-name-fits-all or should fit all Southern California beach towns filled with the mandatory fake, yes, fake Spanish d├ęcor. Of the ticky-tack rows (thanks Malvina Reynolds via Pete Seeger) of “Spanish” houses, oh, I mean, estates, where I see kids, kids no different than I was just waiting for the jail-break event of their generation, if it comes, and if they want long enough but not too long. Of the million and one surf shops for the youngsters to wax and wane on seeking of their own blue-pink nights (or days, more likely), the endless quest for the perfect wave. Of the strip mall rows of fast food eateries, fast clothes chanceries (swim suits a specialty), of sun-free indoor tanning against the rages of father sun. Of the quaint (nice word, right?), yes, quaint lobster dinner (lobster flown in from, from, ah, Maine), California fresh fish of the day, freshly caught, beach view restaurants or other finery, and of cruising (no, not that cruising) pedestrians of all sizes and shapes. Shapes including show-off lovely formed younger girls, ah, women, maybe a young Angelica waiting to splash her first splash in mother Pacific, peaceful mother pacific. And all races and languages and ethnicities trying to figure out the lure of the heathered (almost like Scotland, Scotland of no burr) coastal shore to the Okies, Arkies and Texies, who descended here a couple of generations ago, planted roots, their migratory roots, not Eastern forever and a day roots, and never left. But still the gnawing question, the question of questions-where to go west from here. Not back to the okie dust bowl, that is for sure, not for those now corn-fed, yellow-haired (maybe genetically yellow from that corn) beauties of both sexes who are tied to the sea, to the endless quest for the perfect wave sea, even though from the look of them if I posed the question that way, that perfect wave search way, I would shunted away screaming in that previously mentioned good night.

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of walking ancient shoreline walks, soft sand kicking, shodless feet kicking, tracing new written configurations to ancient gods in the previously clean-slated sand surface, occasionally pebble-dotted, seashell-scattered, as the ocean screams for quiet from those walking in its space and pleads, like some latter day librarian, not to disturb others. Of thoughts of ancient sorrows, and ancient laughters. Remembrances of Angelica first time ocean splashes, of riptide saves, of hero’s rewards for heroic saves, rewards better left to the imagination, ancient imagination. Of scaled seawalls that hold back tide, time and the brick-a-brack whims of fickle man, of humankind. Of squirrels, everlasting, ever-present seashore-loving burrowing squirrels filching, filching and begging, begging for human food against all good nature’s wisdom. And getting it. The food that is. Of ocean side night campfires to protect against the force of the ocean chill, of ocean shadows, and of ocean smokes, thinking back to the days when cigarette smokes filled many pubic spaces. But better smells now of mesquite wood smells, of charcoals broils smells, of sea-drug up woods smoothed from ocean pounds smells. Of high ganja smells, of pellets and pills to ward off the ocean calls to the endless sleep, of the return to the homeland, of the homeland seas. And of skies of daytime blue, blue, blue enough to make a pair of pants out of, cloudless in afternoon after fogged-down mornings. Ah, but you what’s coming, what the whole shore line walk means. Yes, the night, no, not the night night, the dark, starless night of the poet’s lament, of ancient times wonder, and of modern no night human-crafted light beams breaking the will of the dark night. No, not that night but rather the earlier part, the part after the sun goes on its business below the horizon and leaves as a reminder the blue-pink night hanging over the ocean, tourist taking pictures, taking camera, digital camera pictures today, instant, mainly, but, hell who need such tacky reminders when the mind’s eye reeks of blue-pink memory, ancient blue-pink memories.


Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of leaving, of returning east fast, faster as it turns out that heading west, west to the blue-pink night, to the be-bop night. I will not speak of that airport maze, rat-like or not, again it does not vary on the way back any more than going to. Now I speak of those haunts, those dreaded ancient haunts of having to return to eastern concerns, eastern worries, eastern woes, and a feeling, an old feeling an old Joyel-time feeling of having to go back to routines, not the regular routines that make life bearable but the routines of routines that drive one out on the midnight run to wherever, whenever. And to see, although see only in a flash, the contours of the American night, of the sense of the American landscape, of roads and rivers it took months for ancient pioneer Conestoga wagons to traverse, and weeks for ancient hitchhike roads to swallow.
All blaze past in a flash, all lighted strange patterns civilization.

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of grabbing a midnight-like cab for the ride home, eastern home, eastern snow-drenched home that had not changed in sight but changed from still present blue-pink memories as always, from leaving but still necessary to face. On such cab rides, such youthfully scorned cab rides, and truth be known youthfully unaffordable rides, I now take when language is no barrier to asking for cabbie stories (although many times such is a problem as this is now a profession, a city profession, by recent immigrants, dominated, seemingly oxymoronic, since how would such fellows know the ancient trails of the east, at least in pre-techno- GPS days) in the hopes of finding some gem story to feed the literary lights, not blue-pink lights by any means, just fill-in road stories. And this night, this night when thoughts have been whirling for weeks about ancient things, ancient things described above, I find a kindred. Cabbie X, ancient cabbie X, fires back in full-bodied, “I don’t have any cabbie stories to tell, but I have some hitchhike stories.” Hell, hell on wheels, be still my heart, tell, brother, tell kindred tell all, and drive slow, stop at every traffic light slow, I have dough in my pocket and a hunger, an unspeakable, unquenchable just now hunger, to hear your tales, your ancient 1960s hitchhike road tales. Tales about his road from Missoula, Montana to New Haven, Connecticut. (Yes, avoid hitching on those Connecticut roads, and Arizona’s too. Agreed). Of Truckee truck stops. Of truck stop road side diners, and endless cups of coffee, and badgering truckers for long-haul rides. Of hard driving, get to the coast, benny-high truckers seeking to spill their guts to some lone stranger in order to keep awake and pass the hard highway mile. Of Pacific Coast highways brimming with converted magical mystery tour school buses, converted to living housing for the broken-hearted, the love-lorn, the be-bop nighters. Ah, memory. “Hey, you almost didn’t stop at that last traffic light, brother.”

More, more please. Of Nevada desert stops, waiting by lonely crossroads for hours, reading scrawled signs from ancient forbears, maybe those very Conestoga folk, warning that one may wait for a ride to perdition there. Of dope smoke, of friendships, many fleeting, but a feel for that good moment. And at the close of that cabbie night a thought , a cabbie thought- we made it, we were better for it, and we can survive in this old world because we made that venture. No need to speak of the blue-pink night to this brother, such words would be wasted. This is that now dwindling fraternity that sought, maybe still seeks that good night, and that is all that needs to be said. A revolutionary brotherhood handshake, a handshake too hard to describe here but fraught with meaning back in those days, at my door seals our night’s work. Yes, memory almost like a yesterday memory, finely-etched in our collective minds, recallable at an instant.

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of carrying around , winter long, winter, snow-blasted long, a song/story in my head, a story recorded by Red Sovine and which I heard by way of the inscrutable Tom Waits, Big Joe and Phantom 309. A story of a fellow hitchhike roader caught out in one of those lonely crossroads to nowhere that every seeker knows about, although they are not always windswept and rain-drenched. Sometimes they are snow-frozen, sometimes, heat-drowned, sometimes, not enough times, just plain, ordinary sunny-dayed. Out of the mist comes the mythical trucker, Big Joe will serve as well any other name, although when I think trucker I always think Denver Slim as he was neither slim (far from it) nor from Denver, and that tells a tale right there. So they ride the night away telling lies and other stories until they come near a truck stop and Big Joe freaks, and the hitchhiker is left, after Big Joe pitches him a dime, to go in for a cup of coffee on Big Joe. Said hitchhiker goes in and tells his story of the ride and with whom and gets the lowdown from a waiter. See Big Joe died, truck-faithful, Phantom 309 faithful died, when he avoided a school bus filled with kids out on that lonely pick-up crossroad. But see Big Joe did another favor, a hitchhike brotherhood favor as the waiter says “have another cup of coffee and keep the dime, keep the dime as a souvenir of Big Joe and Phantom 309.” Great story and I have my own just like it, and Brother Cabbie X had his own, and every man and woman who ever hit the road, by force or desire, has that same story just mix it up a little.

Maybe it was just the sheer, hard fact of listening, listening attentively, listening eagerly on the rented car California roads to old road warrior, Wobblie, kindred of tramps, bums, and hoboes of an earlier age, an age which intersected with the hippie hitchhike road of the 1960s, the late folksinger/songwriter Bruce “Utah” Phillips and his definite Songbook. Listening to old songs of struggle from prairie days, of hobo jungles by the railroad tracks (not today’s high speed ones, no way), and train-jumpers (a different breed that we highway hitchhikers but still searchers. I never had much luck on the trains, and got tossed off a few by the railroad bulls, so I will leave that mode of transportation alone), skid row nights, sidewalk sneers, and destruction of the western hobo night by gentrification. Of paperless street benches, of paper-filled bus depot benches, of public bathroom stenches, of half-way house snores and hostels bland food that dotted the old transient landscape, and have seemingly faded from memory, except on twilight California streets as the homeless hoboes make way to the beach and night time sleeps, sleep it offs, mainly.

Ya, maybe it was all those sheer, hard facts, collectively or individually, that brought me back to memories of the ancient hitchhike road, especially that brother cabbie scene but, finally, here is the real reason. Let me go back to those California roads for a minute, no, not the Pacific Coast highway freedom road (Routes 1 and 101) but the high volume, hard-driving, eighty billion-laned (okay, I exaggerate) Interstate 5 that, one way or another, goes up and down the length of the state. Actually let me go back to the one of the entrances, one of the Oceanside entrances, where beyond belief I spy two youths, a male and female, two youthful Markins and Angelicas maybe, standing on the corner, waiting, waiting for a what. A hitchhike ride of course. In the second it took me to realize that this is what they were doing (they held out no thumb, nor had a sign indicating where they were heading, obviously “green” at this work) and slammed on the brakes I was beside them. “Where are you heading?” asks ancient seeker narrator of this tale. “L.A.,” they shoot back. “Get in.” And they do, the guy (Brandon) in the front and the gal (Lillian) in back. At least they have enough sense to make that configuration, that pair male –female configuration, like we did in the old days just in case things got weird. And I had no intention, no intention in hell, of going back to L.A. that day, except one million questions about their purpose, their reasons for being on the road, and ancient courtesies that dictated that I pick up hitchhikers, a rare, incredibly rare occurrence these days. I will let them tell their stories some other time because this after all is my story but their quest, in any case, involves nothing as grandiose as the search for the blue-pink night although it involved Generation X dreams, and that will have to do.

So the torch is passed, maybe…

Or maybe it is the sheer, hard fact of that knapsack, old Army surplus olive green knapsack, moth-eaten, maybe, moldy, well hitchhike-traveled, well-worn, a lasting memento to that 1969 Angelica-paired road trip sitting in some back closet, up in the attic, or worst, down in the forlorn cellar crying to get out, or maybe some old sea shell of infamous origin also back there calling me back, back to our homeland the road, and the eternal, now I know it is eternal, search for that blue-pink great American West night.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

***Those Oldies But Goodies…Out In The Be-Bop ‘50s Song Night- The Shirelles “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”- Billie’s, Billie The Pope Of “The Projects” Night, View

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of The Shirelles performing the classic Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?.

Markin comment:

This is another tongue-in-cheek commentary, the back story if you like, in the occasional entries under this headline going back to the primordial youth time of the mid to late 1950s with its bags full of classic rock songs for the ages. Of course, any such efforts have to include the views of one Billie, William James Bradley, the schoolboy mad-hatter of the 1950s rock jailbreak out in our “the projects” neighborhood. Ya, in those days, unlike during his later fateful wrong turn trajectory days, every kid, including best friend Markin, me, lived to hear what he had to say about any song that came trumpeting over the radio, at least every one that we would recognize as our own.

Note:

Billie and I spent many, many hours mainly up in his tiny bedroom, his rock heaven bedroom, walls plastered with posters of Elvis, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry and of every new teen heartthrob singer, heartthrob to the girls that is, around, every new record Billie could get his hands on, by hook or by crook, and neatly folded piles of clothing, also gathered by that same hook or by crook, appropriate to the king hell king of the schoolboy rock scene, the elementary school rock scene between about 1956 to 1960. Much of that time was spent discussing the “meaning” of various songs, especially their sexual implications, ah, their mystery of girls-finding-out-about worthiness.

Although in early 1959 my family was beginning to start the process of moving out of the projects, and, more importantly, I had begun to move away from Billie’s orbit, his new found orbit as king hell gangster wannabe, I still would wander back until mid-1960 just to hear his take on whatever music was interesting him at the time. These commentaries, these Billie commentaries, are my recollections of his and my conversations on the song lyrics in this series. But I am not relying on memory alone. During this period we would use my father’s tape recorder, by today’s standard his big old reel to reel monstrosity of a tape recorder, to record Billie’s covers of the then current hit songs (for those who have not read previously of Billie’s “heroics” he was a pretty good budding rock singer at the time) and our conversations of those song meanings that we fretted about for hours. I have, painstakingly, had those reels transcribed so that many of these commentaries will be the actual words (somewhat edited, of course) that appear in this space. That said, Billie, king hell rock and roll king of the old neighborhood, knew how to call a lyric, and make us laugh to boot. Wherever you are Billie I’m still pulling for you. Got it.
********
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? Lyrics

Carole King

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

Tonight you're mine completely,
You give your love so sweetly,
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes,
But will you love me tomorrow?

Is this a lasting treasure,
Or just a moment's pleasure,
Can I believe the magic of your sighs,
Will you still love me tomorrow?

Tonight with words unspoken,
You said that I'm the only one,
But will my heart be broken,
When the night (When the night)
Meets the morning sun.

I'd like to know that your love,
Is love I can be sure of,
So tell me now and I won't ask again,
Will you still love me tomorrow?
Will you still love me tomorrow?

**********
Billie back again, William James Bradley, if you didn’t know. Markin’s pal, Peter Paul Markin’s pal, from over the Adamsville Elementary School and the pope of rock lyrics down here in “the projects.” The Adamsville projects, if you don’t know. Markin, who I hadn’t seen for a while since he moved “uptown” to North Adamsville, came by the other day to breathe in the fresh air of the old neighborhood and we got to talking about this latest record, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? by the Shirelles. They are hot.

Fair’s fair right, so I’ll give you Markin’s, Peter Paul’s, take on the lyrics, so I can come crashing down on his silly pipe dream ideas. By the way if you don’t know, and he will tell you this himself if he is honest, he was behind, way behind, in figuring out girls, and their girlish charms. I had to practically tell him everything he knows. Where did I learn it? Hell like everybody else from the older kids, the older guys, and my older sisters too if you can believe that. So I know a lot, or at least enough to keep old Peter Paul from being a total goofball. Still, see, he thinks the main thing is that the girl in the song here is worried about her reputation because she has just given in, in a moment of passion, to her boyfriend, it’s way too late to turn back and yet she is having second thoughts, second thought regrets, about it, and about what he will think of her and whether it will get around that she “does it.”

Ya, she does it, now officially certified a woman, or at least acting like a woman can act, that is what my sister Donna says, and from the feel of the song, probably in some back seat of some “boss” convertible, a Chevy I hope. Her guy, some under the hood day and night guy making that baby, his real baby, hum against the in-stock store-bought standards of his father’s car, his old fogy father’s car. She was breathless weeks ago when her Chevy guy came up gunning that beast behind her walking home from school and said “Hop in.” And she did, now she's the queen bee of the high school adventure car hop night. All the other girls, friend or foe, frantic at her fortune and ready to leap, girls’ “lav” leap, all over her come Monday morning finely-tuned grapevine gossip time. So tonight is paying back time, car hop queen bee paying back time. No turning back.

I hope, I really hope, they “did the deed” down by the seashore, big old moon out, big old laughing moon, waves splashing against the rocks and against the sounds of the night, the sounds of the be-bop moaning and groaning night. Call me a romantic but at least I hope that is where she gave it up. Or, maybe, away from coastal shoreline possibilities it was at some secluded lovers’ lane mountain top, tree-lined, dirt road, away from the city noise, some be-bop music playing on the car radio, just to keep those mountain fears away, motor humming against the autumn chill and the creaking sun ready to devour that last mountain top and face the day, and face the music.

But see that’s where Markin has got it all wrong, all wrong on two counts, because Chevy guy two-timing her, or spreading the “news” about his conquest, or even that hellish girls’ lav whirlwind inferno is not really what’s bothering her. Markin has got this starry-eyed thing, and I think it is from hanging around, or being around, all those straight lace no-go Catholic girls, who do actually worry about their reputations, at least for public consumption. That is why high Catholic that I am, just like old Markin, I don’t go within twenty yards of those, well, teasers. Ya, teasers but that’s a story for another time, because right now we have only time for women, or girls who act like women. What’s bothering moonstruck girl, number one, is that she likes it, she liked doing it with Chevy guy, and is worried that she’ll go crazy every time a boy gets within arms length of her. She “heard” that once a girl starts doing it they can’t help themselves and are marks, easy marks, for every guy who gives them the eye. Jesus, where did she ever get that idea. Must have been out in the streets, although I personally never heard such an idea when I was asking around. This is what I heard, well, not from the street but from my sister Donna, she said it was okay, natural even, for girls to like sex. If the moment was right, and maybe the guy too. It wasn’t some Propagation of the Faith, do-your-sex-duty to multiply thing we heard in church. Hell, Donna said she liked it too, and believe me, old Donna doesn’t like much if you listen to her long enough. So moonstruck girl don’t worry.

But number two you do have to worry about, although I don’t know what you can do about it now I never did ask Donna about that part. Pregnant. Ya, the dreaded word for girls and guys alike when you were just trying to have a little fun, just liking it. Now everything your mother told you about “bad” girls, about leaving school, about shot-gun weddings, or about having to go to “Aunt Bessie’s” for a few months, flood memories and as the sun comes up there is momentary panic. Like I say I don’t know what you can do. I don’t know the medical part of the thing. But Peter Paul, leave it to Peter Paul, who knows diddley about sex (except what I tell him) says do you know about “rubbers.” And he got all in a lather telling me that there is some new pill coming out, and coming out soon, so you don’t have to worry. This from a guy was practically missed the first time he kissed a girl. But if he is right, and I ain’t saying he is, then check it out and then you can still like “doing it.” And not worry.

Monday, March 21, 2011

***Those Oldies But Goodies…Out In The Be-Bop ‘50s Song Night- The Shirelles “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?"

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of The Shirelles performing the classic Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?.

Markin comment:
This is another tongue-in-cheek commentary, the back story if you like, in the occasional entries under this headline going back to the primordial youth time of the 1950s with its bags full of classic rock songs for the ages.

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? Lyrics

Artist:Carole King

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

Tonight you're mine completely,
You give your love so sweetly,
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes,
But will you love me tomorrow?

Is this a lasting treasure,
Or just a moment's pleasure,
Can I believe the magic of your sighs,
Will you still love me tomorrow?

Tonight with words unspoken,
You said that I'm the only one,
But will my heart be broken,
When the night (When the night)
Meets the morning sun.

I'd like to know that your love,
Is love I can be sure of,
So tell me now and I won't ask again,
Will you still love me tomorrow?
Will you still love me tomorrow?
*****
Christ, finally a teen-oriented set of lyrics that you can sink your teeth into. A teen angst, teen alienation, teen love question that was uppermost in all our minds, one way or the other, sex. Ya, I don’t know about you but I was getting kind of tired, and Billie, William James Bradley, my old schoolboy friend, elementary schoolboy friend from the old Adamsville projects days was too, of these outlandish side issue things. Like the whereabouts of Eddie, his intentions, his financial condition, his ability to write and so on in Eddie My Love. Or the dumb cluck bimbo, as old Billie called her in Teen Angel who didn’t have enough sense to know that Mr. Right, Mr. High School Right, gave her some cheapjack class ring when she went running back to the car, a car stuck, by the way, on some lonesome railroad track, with the train bearing down as far as we know in the story. Needless to say said bimbo did not make it. Or how about the forlorn lover, almost like in some Greek mythical tragedy, in Endless Sleep who after some spat decided that life was not worth living and goes down to the sea, our homeland the sea, and is ready to desecrate that space by ending it all and then giving a siren call to her lover boy to join her. Even Billie, sympathetic as he was to her plight, had to balk at that one.

No today we are in pure teen angst territory and rightly so. Back in those days what we did not, most of us anyway, know about sex, about the “birds and the bees”, about babies and where they came from, and how to protect against having them, would have filled volumes. Still, we were, most of us anyway, crazy to know more about sex, and do something about it. Whatever that was. Come on now, it was natural, natural as hell. Of course as the lyrics here indicate there was a price to be paid. See kids, meaning about anyone from thirteen to eighteen (maybe older even) were NOT suppose to do it, do the do I mean, and I guess if you listened to parents or teachers not even to think about it. But here is the dilemma in this story. Teens did it, and were anxious about that fact, for lots of reasons.

Obviously the most pressing question in 1960, the time of this song and the time just before the news of “the pill” got out (what “the pill” was you know, or should know, so I won’t go on about that) was getting pregnant, girls getting pregnant. So the disinformation, no information, no talk to your parents about it because they are afraid to talk about information, getting what you know on the streets information, really disinformation all over was part of it. But, and I think this is what the lyrics really speak to, it was as much about reputation, a girl’s reputation, about your good name, and about whether you were “easy.” See guys could be stud-of-the-week and, maybe mother, his mother, wouldn’t like it but everybody under eighteen saw you as cool. But gals were either virgins, known far and wide as such and don’t even bother messing with them, or willing but not wanting to be seen as “easy” held themselves back. And, while I do not know about other neighborhoods although I suspect the same was true, our mainly Irish and Italian working class Roman Catholic, made a very big issue out of the two, at least parents and gossip held forth that way.

Still when you went out on a date, a serious date, maybe to a dance, maybe to some party, maybe just down to the seashore and everything is all right to “pet,” or whatever, this question, this teen question of questions, always came up when the lights went down low. How many "no's" are there in the universe? And then some night some rainy night maybe, or maybe after that last dance and you held each other close, or maybe, you have a shot of booze, or, I don’t know, maybe you just felt like it because it was a warm spring evening and you were young, and life was just fine that day, or maybe your guy asked you to go steady, or some solid, teen solid thing like that, you said, “let’s see what it is all about.” And your guy, your ever-loving’ guy, your ever-loving’ horny guy was more than willing to take you for the ride. But then, in the afterglow, you had your doubts, especially in the wee morning hours when you knew you were going to get hell for being out so late. And maybe, that cold break of day, got you to thinking about what the girls in the "lav" would say, or what your guy will tell his friends, his snickering friends, and you get the nervous doubts about your course. Ya, this song speaks to that whole pre-sexual revolution generation, and maybe not so far off for teens today. Ms. King and friends certainly asked the right question, that’s for damn sure.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

***Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Night-Juke Box Cash-In


 Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Jerry Lee Lewis performing Breathless to give a little flavor of the early 1960s American teen angst night.

Markin comment:

Frankie, Frankie, king of the old North Adamsville neighborhood, Frankie, king hell king, Frankie, king arbiter of the teen social mores, was the alpha and omega. Or that is what his relentlessly self- promoted image would have you believe. Most of it was strictly “flak” and now that we have some serious distance of time and space to shield us from retribution it can be safely told that a lot of this “mystique”, this Frankie, king of the hill, mystique, was made up by me to enhance his authority. Nothing wrong with that kings, and lesser kings and, hell, just average jacks and jills have been using this gag for centuries. What is not a gag, what is not “flak” is what I have to tell you here.

Frankie and I, of course, if you have been paying attention went back to old North Adamsville middle school days and although we had some tight moments old king Frankie, giving the devil his due, guided me fairly well through the intricacies of, well, ah, girls, girlish ways, and girlish charms. No question that I would have been left to dry out, alone, in that great teenage angst night if not for my brother, Frankie. And I’ll just give you one example, and you can judge for yourself. Okay.

 

I was just the other day telling someone about how in the great 1960s teen night a lot of our time, our waiting around for something, anything to happen time, was spent around places like pizza parlors, drugstore soda fountains, and corner mom and pop variety stores throwing coins into the old jukebox to play the latest “hot’ song for the umpteenth time (and then discard them, most of them anyway, after a few days). This is the scene that Frankie ruled over wherever he set up his throne. I was also telling that person about a little “trick” that I used to use when I was, as I usually was, chronically low on funds to feed the machine.

 

See, part of that waiting around for something, anything to happen, a big part, was hoping, sometimes hoping against hope, that some interesting looking frail (girl in the old neighborhood terminology, boy old neighborhood terminology that is, first used by Frankie, and then picked up by everyone else) would come walking through that door. And, especially on those no dough days, would put some coins in that old jukebox machine. I swear, I swear on anything, that girls, girls, if you can believe this, always seemed to have dough, at least coin dough, in those days to play their favorite songs.

 

So here is the trick part, and see it involves a little understanding of human psychology too, girl human psychology at that. Okay, say, for a quarter you got five selections on the juke box. Well, the girl, almost any girl that you could name, would have a first pick set, some boy romance thing, and the second one too, maybe a special old flame tryst that still hadn’t burned out. But, see after that, and this is true I swear, they would get fidgety about the selections. And, boy, that is where you made your move. You’d chime up with some song that was on your “hot” list like Save the Last Dance for Me, or some other moody thing and, presto, she hit the buttons for you.

 

That choice by you rather than, let’s say Breathless by Jerry Lee Lewis which maybe was your real “hot” choice told her you were a sensitive guy and worthy of a few minutes of her time. So you got your song, you got to talk to some interesting frail (you remember who that is, right?), and maybe, maybe in that great blue-pink great American teen night you got a telephone number even if she had a boyfriend, a forever boyfriend. Nice, right?

But here is the part, the solemn serious part, that makes this a Frankie story although He is not present in this scene, at least not physically present. Who do you think got me “hip” to this trick? Yes, none other than Francis Xavier Riley, Frankie, king of the teen night, king of the North Adamsville teen night. And, this is why he was king. He was so smooth, after a while, at directing the selections that girls would not even get a chance to pick those first current flame and old flame selections but he would practically be dropping their quarters in the machine for them. Hail Frankie.

 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

***Out In The Be-Bop Late 1950s Night- Boy Meets "Our Lady Of The Saint Patrick’s Day Night" Girl- For Joanne-Class of 1964

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for Saint Patrick's Day for those three people in the North Adamsville universe who may not know what it is all about.

Markin comment:

I am fuming but I will get to that part in a minute. First, let me just point out the trouble I had figuring out what I should use as a headline for this entry. See, this is a Frankie story, a Francis Xavier Riley story, maybe you already know the name, Frankie, king of the old North Adamsville working class neighborhood schoolboy night in the early 1960s. That part, the boy part is simple, the other part is less so because this is a story, or is going to be a story, once again straight from the horse’s mouth, the Frankie mouth.

I have been letting Frankie spew forth in this space whenever a subject comes up that is from “pre-markinian” times, the time before we became fast friends in the seventh grade North Adamsville Middle School (then junior high) days. And the subject here is how Frankie “courted” his ever lovin’ sweetie, Joanne, a sweetie whom he “went steady with” from middle school all the way though to the end of high school. And that courtship, its twists and turns, is linked to the observance, the non-heathen observance of Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17th (although any real Irish partisan, heathen or non-heathen knows, or should know, that the observance of Easter 1916 is the real Irish deal). So once again because he did okay, or at least good enough, on his previous two endeavors (the weirdly interesting king of the skees carnival story from his innocent dream pre-teen days and his saga, christ that is the only word to describe it, of his “conversion” from no name football wannabe to midnight sunglassed king hell king of the late 1950s, early 1960s be-bop North Adamsville schoolboy night) he gets to speak his piece here.

Now for the fuming part. In that just mentioned football conversion saga Frankie said, although it was not strictly part of the story (or part of the deal in my letting him use this space for his spewing), that he wanted one and all to have an example of how his be-bop “beat” style worked magic on the, frankly, bewildered North Adamsville Middle School girls (and whatever other stray frails he could corner with his pitch). And the story he wanted to tell, the primo, numero uno, ace example one story was how he captured (and kept) the elusive, ever lovin’ Joanne. So rather than just coming out in manly fashion, manly working class fashion, and asking for space he tried an "end around." Just to goad me into another story he mentioned that somehow in that desperate late 1950s night I was smitten with Joanne, and that she was smitten with me, before he honed in on her and worked his magic. Needless to say once said Frankie magic was applied that previous configuration was ancient history.

So just to set the record straight before Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, spins his misbegotten yarn let me say my piece:

In order to set the background to this dispute up for those who don’t know I had arrived from the Adamsville Middle School just at the beginning of 1959, about half way through seventh grade. As a twelve year old boy, almost thirteen, after some delay I had developed a very healthy interest in girls. In their girlish charms, if not their giggles. Of course, as anybody who went through the experience knows, which means just about everybody, the social pecking order in middle school (and high school too, but maybe a little less so) is etched in stone for the duration about the second or third week of school.

So I was nothing but an "outsider," an outsider waiting to be an insider if I could hitch onto somebody else’s star. That star, no question, was Frankie. But Frankie’s “style” was different, not a football or sports thing, or an intellectual thing (although that is what it was, it just didn’t look like it at the time), or a best looking thing (wiry Frankie did have pretty decent Steve McQueen-type looks though). What he had, and what made him a magnet for me (and, strangely, those girls with their girlish charms not giggles that I was attracted to) was this be-bop, “faux” beat thing. He will describe it better in his story but it certainly caused a stir, especially the eternal midnight sunglasses that he wore part.

Now what does all that have to do with Joanne, my attraction to her (or her to me)? Well, everything. See Joanne was the smartest person in the seventh grade class. Book smart for sure. Answering teachers’ questions smart, definitely. She also was pretty, but no more so, and maybe a little less so, than some of the other less bright girls. And she had, had when she wanted to have it, a very winning smile. Moreover, and here is when Frankie seems to have gotten his signals crossed for once, she was friendly toward me, me, an outsider, friendly in a universal kindly way, even before I started running around with Frankie (or she did either).

So as any observant person could see there was nothing to the whole thing but kid’s stuff and, as I thought about it later (and just now as I am re-thinking about it) Joanne had a huge dose of Roman Catholic fellowship and rectitude, meaning doing the right social thing. Frankie is right about the part that we, Joanne and I, were civil to each other in his presence later but that is after a whole bunch of other things happened to sour our relationship. But enough of this because this is stuff that Frankie will, I am sure, tell you about. Let me just finish with something I wrote in another Frankie story, one that I told so I know it’s true. I will swear on a book with seven seals the following- when it came to Joanne, and this was true even before Frankie whiz kid moved in, she was okay, but not someone that I would jump off a bridge over. There were girls, some of those other less bright girls, whom I would have jumped off that bridge for, and gladly. But not her. That should put paid to this subject.

Francis Xavier Riley comment:

See, I told you I still had the kingly touch. I knew, and know now, just how to get to Markin, Peter Paul Markin, get him where he has to defer, humbly defer, to my "goading" as he called it. Of course, and here is the beauty of the king’s touch, I knew, and I damn well should know even fifty years later, that old Markin never carried the torch for Joanne. But see I just threw that little doubt in his direction and he jumped at it. And then that “social” thing, that Peter Paul Markin sense of fair play, that overweening sense of his about giving the other side a chance to speak their minds (if only, as he used to say, to hang themselves) came into play. A piece of cake. And for those who don’t know, or don’t understand, how old Markin could have got bested for the kingship of the old neighborhood in the old schoolboy nights this is a prime example. His failed attempt was so utterly a failure that we all, everybody except Markin that is, spent more than a few off moments, a few nothing dull moments, giving it a big laugh every now and again when we needed a laugh. But enough of that I have a story to tell, and by hook or by crook, I ‘m going to tell it.

See, as anyone can see from the last paragraph, it is about knowing human psychology. No, not some book, Sigmund or Anna Freud, Ernest Jones, Melanie Klein, Carl Jung, christ, even R.D. Laing goof thing. Hell no, it is about observing people and what they like and don’t like, what makes them pay attention to your patter and what doesn’t. Now the big thing about this is, let’s face it, for a red-blooded boy like me, not just to inspect people in general but girls, girls with girlish charms, all the way back to middle school girlish charms. I already told you before about my short-lived football scrawny kid career and how through perseverance, perversity, and perdition I figured out my place in the sun by my wits(a thing Markin was always yakking about, but you've probably figured that out by now)and by knowing what Markin insists was "arcane" knowledge. But see it was just that arcane knowledge part, weak as it was, and it really was looking back on it, and the way the knowledge was presented both by style and by fit that made the difference. On behalf of the interest of that honey you were aiming your stuff at.

See, Markin never really got it, got how the knowledge and presentation worked together, and probably still doesn’t from what I can see. Let me give you the wrong example before I tell how this thing worked to bring me and my ever lovin’ Joanne together back in the day. Markin, after he started hanging around with me for a while, decided that he would try my method out after he saw that the foxiest girls, the cutest girls, and well, as always in a pinch, those just girls with their girlish charms (giggles and all, see, that is where Markin and I had big differences always-the giggles go with the charms-get it Peter Paul) who were hanging around me before school, during passing time, lunch time and, a little, at least in middle school, after school.

So, and so help me this is true, even he won’t forget this one, Markin decides that he will go up to this cute girl with a French name, Barbette or something like that, and start in on every known fact about the French revolution, the French revolution of the 18th century, you know the Jacobins, Girondins, Marat, Robespierre and those guys- the "liberty, equality, fraternity" guys. See, this is something he is interested in, interested in like crazy if I remember. Ya, I know you know, no dice. But here is the thing-a couple of weeks later as Barbette starts to hang around the outer edges of our circle she confides in me (no secret here as I told Markin at the time to try to straighten him out) that she thought Markin was okay but that she was afraid, get this, afraid of him because of his flipping out (my term) over something she knew nothing about. I admit that I never got too far with old Barbette myself, but at least I didn’t scare her half to death.

Hey, I actually have a better example now that I think about it. A lot of this arcane knowledge thing was, as you can figure, playing the percentages. Probably Barbette was a “no sale” anyway. But Evelyn, Evelyn Smythe, was a different matter. Ya, now that I think about it forget Barbette as an example and pay attention to this one. Okay, Evelyn through my intelligence network of sources (that’s part of the secret to success too) was seriously into church, her church, her Episcopalian church and its history. I found out, and its shows you an example of good intelligence work, through my sources that she had given a class report on said subject. Bingo. Now Evelyn is nice, Evelyn is cute, Evelyn is smart (although not as smart as Joanne), and Evelyn has that winning smile we were always on the lookout for in those days. But see, Evelyn was a, a, how should I say it, Protestant so she was a “no go, no way” for one Francis Xavier Riley, one Francis Xavier Riley to the cold-water tenements, the Irish Catholic, more Roman than the Romans Catholic, tenements born. No way that, outside of the gates of hell, that Patrick “Boyo” Riley, and on this issue one Maude Grace Riley, nee O’Brian, were going to let their blessed son within twenty non-school paces of said Evelyn Smythe. Not seventh grade Frankie anyway (later I had more Protestant girl friends that I care to remember, if for no other reason than they weren’t so religion crazy, Roman Catholic religion crazy, mainly)

But see ecumenical Markin, Peter Paul Markin, Irish Catholic brought up, and church mouse poor, but with a heathen Protestant father (except for that he was a good man whom everybody liked, even Boyo) decides he will take a shot at sweet Evelyn. Now his approach, since he knows from my intelligence report that she’s also some kind of history nut, is to start talking about the word "anti-disestablishmentarianism," then the longest word in the English dictionary, and for all I know still is, and related somehow, although don’t press me on this to Puritan stuff or English stuff, because, again, he’s crazy, crazy as a loon for Puritan heritage English colonial stuff. I mean really crazy. I think that he was born on Plymouth Rock in another life, maybe. Now sweet Evelyn was, if nothing else, polite and she hears him out. And since I was near the scene of this encounter I heard him say as she drifted off, “and my father’s a protestant too.” Like the co-religionist link is going to clinch the thing. Christ.

No sale, amigo. But here is the kicker, a couple of years later, when Joanne and I had, uh, uh, one of our “misunderstandings” I ran into Evelyn one night down at the seashore. Now by this time she had blossomed into a certified twist, although I also knew that she was still into religion because she belonged to some Protestant girls' club, some religiously-oriented girls' club. But see she had that winning smile still, that winning smile that we were on the lookout for in those days, and by then after another earlier Joanne “misunderstanding” I had already sold my soul to the devil and taken a Protestant girl out, and liked it. So, because in the meantime I had started to get a little Puritan nutty like Markin I started on my patter and mentioned that word anti-disestablishmentarian and what it was all about. We must have talked for about two hours about this and that on the subject; two hours can you believe it.

But see here is where the lesson is. Peter Paul got the context all balled up so bad he was arguing about the beauties of Oliver Cromwell, or the Quakers or something. Those were not Evelyn’s forebears. He had the wrong side, although, as usual, he had it right for the side he liked. Evelyn couldn’t figure it out. What she could figure out, and figure out fast, if not necessarily accurately in Markin’s case, was that she was a minority in a heavily Irish Catholic working class neighborhood and so Markin was probably putting her down for being a Protestant. Christ, again. As a postscript I will mention that sweet, smiling Evelyn and I had a couple of nice weeks together before "ball and chain" Joanne and I stopped our "misunderstandings." I won’t give the details of Evelyn's and my tryst because, see, and especially Markin see, she is now an Episcopal priest, or something like that and does not need that kind of publicity.

So you can see that the be-bop pitter-patter was (or is) not for amateurs, or the faint-hearted, and requires some skill. Especially for hormonally-charged twelve and thirteen year old boys who are only vaguely, at best, aware that this thing requires skills, finely-honed skills. All of this is to say that whatever skills I had in, let’s say October and November of 1958, needed to be used in the hard nut to crack case of one Joanne Marion Murphy, one lace curtain Irish Catholic, more Roman than the Romans Catholic, Joanne Marion Murphy, to the lace curtain single house working class family born.

Markin mentioned in his “introduction” that Joanne was smart, check, pretty, check, had a winning smile, check, and was, as he put it and rightly so I think, universally kind out her religiously-derived social sense, check. What she was not, at least for a long time, was very interested in one Francis Xavier Riley and his cohorts, amigos, and “faux” beat aficionados. She had moved into the neighborhood, neighborhood in the widest sense because no way did she live near my cold-water flats district or Markin’s cottage-like (to be kind) dwelling on the wrong side of the tracks, in sixth grade but went to Adamsville Central Elementary School and so I did not pick up her scent until middle school, the first day of middle school, no, the first hour of middle school, jesus, no, the first minute. Sure she had all the checked things above but she also carried herself, her twelve year old self, in a very intriguing way and so I took a note, literally, took a note on her. But for a while nada, nothing, nowhere and partly because that intriguing carriage included what to me, shanty boy me, was that lace curtain Catholic by the rules thing despite smarts, pretties, winsome smile, and kindliness I thought no way. No way one Francis Xavier Riley was going to get involved with that scene, not with that frail, no way I said, did you hear me?

Truth. Once I started to have a first little success with my girl-directed be-bop pitter-patter Joanne kind of went off the radar even though I saw her every day in class, every day. Truth again. I had no angle on this girl, no angle at all. See the other less bright girls kind of got caught up in the sunglasses, be-bop words, long-gone daddy, rock ‘n’ roll, heartthrob thing. And I loved that, loved the idea that I could be the max daddy king of that scene with a few breaks. So it was not until a couple of real frailly frails came round my table, good-looking girls, maybe not beautiful, not twelve year old beautiful anyway, but smart enough, whimsical enough, and daredevil enough that I noticed Joanne starting to pay attention in my direction. You know that look, that look a guy twelve or twelve hundred is ready to leap off bridges for, and as Markin mentioned before, gladly. Well, if someone is giving old Francis Xavier Riley the look well what is he going to do but look back, right?

This went on for a while, as such things do. But you can't depend on the after-effects of "the look" to determine your whole twelve year old life so what you need, and need badly is intelligence. Any king of the hill, any poor boy, boondocks, third-rate king, hell, any king of the pizza parlor night (in-waiting at that point) needs all kinds of intelligence from whatever source. In this case it was like manna from heaven as my younger sister, Catherine Anne (not Kathy Anne, not Kate, straight Catherine Anne with no bluster nicknames like with my older brothers Tommy and Timmy), was friendly with Joanne's younger sister, Mary Margaret (there are more Marys with various middle names, more Elizabeths, ditto with middle names, and more Catherines, with or without Annes, in this early 1960s Irish working class neighborhood than you can shake a stick at but that is another story, a Markin sociology of the neighborhood story for another time, I am sure) over at North Adamsville Elementary School. This intelligence was gold because it seems that beyond that "look," that jump off the bridge look that I just mentioned, Joanne liked me. But wait a minute no teen saga can just end like that, a story goes with it. See, Joanne was put off by my devil-make-care-attitude which seemed to her, pious girl that she was, kind of sacrilegious, but on the other hand she liked the cool midnight blessed sunglasses. Ya, women.

Let me get back to that pious part for a minute because it will explain lots of things, lots of things that even Markin didn't get. Like when Joanne and I would later have our "misunderstandings" and break-ups which is usually when I looked around for another girl. Not the slanderous way Markin made it seem like I was 24/7 on the hunt even when Joanne and I were in our glory days. See, and here is where the intelligence from Mary Margaret (hereafter, Moe, which is a reasonable nickname and she liked it as well) was invaluable, although if I thought about it I should have after hearing the gist of it ran, ran like hell to Africa or some place like that. See, even worst that in mother Maude's household the religion, the hard core Roman Catholic religion, the more Roman than the Romans religion, its superstitions, its dogmas, and its graces were pervasive via Joanne's mother (Doris). And while mother Maude, and to a lesser extent mother Arlene (Markin's mother), bore down, and bore down hard, with their religious tyrannies toward us boys the girls took the serious brunt of the damage to their fragile psyches. No question.

See here is the set-up. Pious mother (learning from pious mothers back to Stone Age Ireland, and elsewhere I suppose) had a funny standard. They, with the boys, would give kind of a sacramental dispensation for wayward behavior up to, and including, the occasional armed robbery (I am not kidding that happened with one of Markin’s brothers, and others, too many others in the old neighborhood) except, of course, holy of holies, taking the lord’s name in vain and stuff like that. With the girls though, and maybe with some malice, I don’t know, but at least in the family of Doris Anna Murphy, nee Mulvey, it seemed so. They, the girls that is, were held to a higher standard of behavior and were suppose to act as such, at least for public consumption. (I found out later that the public consumption part was all that really mattered for some later flames who, as Markin very succinctly pointed out, had twelve novena books in their hands and lust in their hearts, great lust, praise be). This is the backdrop to my struggle to win Joanne’s affections.

But see that was only part of it, the religious part, the Roman Catholic religious part (I won’t say again the more Roman than the… , ah, forget it) part of it. Let me show you how I got it wrong at first though to show you how tough it was to get my signals straight. Based on my intelligence service (My Catherine Anne-Moe intelligence) I took my best shot at Joanne by going on and on about the Church (you know now what church), about ritual, about various disputes, theological disputes, City of God, Thomist, Counter-Reformation, Virgin Mary disputes, about the meaning of the religious experience in one’s life, etc. Basically blarney, okay (I am also being polite here as I, like Markin, prefer to be so in the public prints).

I swear I thought I was making some headway when all of a sudden I started balling things up, balling them up like I just learned them rather than had them down pat like I should. Now remember this is before Pope John XXIII’s Vatican Council II thing and we were all confronted with the mysteries of the Latin mass, a weird language that confronted us kids like the bloody English language did when those heathens stepped into (and over) the old sod Ireland, plebeian anti-Semitic hatred of the Jews (hell, they killed our savior, didn’t they), and other doctrinal stuff that didn’t mean much. I tried to be cute, meaning I tried to bail out as best I could, by reciting what I knew (and knew haphazardly) about Christian doctrine. Without boring everybody with how I held forth on such esoteric things like how many angels can fit on the head of a needle and other Thomisms the long and short of it is I busted flat, busted flat hard. No sale, no wannabe sale, nada, nothing. Joanne stiffly proud, stiffly piously proud, just kind of dismissed me out of hand, with the flip of a wrist. Vanquished. Gone. In short, she just walked away. (Later, she told me she actually liked my pitter-patter but that on Church matters, you know what church matters, I should leave it to the priests, and guys like that. Fine.)

But that little setback was obviously not the end of my hopes, not even close, because, as I gathered from my Catherine Anne-Moe CIA connections my approach was all wrong. How? Well, Joanne, as it turned out, was pious, no question, pious for public consumption anyway, but that her Catholicism was very much colored by the Irish aspect of it. An Irish expression drilled into her by her grandmother, Anna, who apparently was next to, or close by, when old Saint Patrick did his demon-devouring tricks in the old country. Okay, no problem I will just be-bop on John Bull’s tyranny, eight hundred years of oppression, the bastard Oliver Cromwell (sorry Markin), and the heathen English at Wexford and Drogheda (and in the North).

See here is where it gets tricky again though, actually weird is a better word, because as Irish as the shamrock as I am, I didn’t know a lot about the history of the old Catholic, blighted (like the potatoes too often), priest-ridden (oops) Irish. And I didn’t want to get all balled up like I did with Christian doctrine (or like Markin with Evelyn and her Protestant ways). But I got well fast as I studied up on my own, and again giving the devil his due, Markin filled me in on some stuff. (Wouldn’t you know it took a half–arsed Irishman with a bloody protestant father, although everybody liked old father Prescott, would be giving me, a full-blooded son of the old sod Irishman chapter and verse, christ). In any case one day after school I was walking up Atlantic Street (or was it Appleton) and I noticed Joanne coming out of the old Thomas Crane Public Library branch, the one that was nothing but an old unused storefront that they used until they built a larger one up in Norfolk Downs (by the way although the Irish and Italians build modern Adamsville, or modern in those days, way back when back in Plymouth Rock times every name was bloody English so all the streets names and section names reflect either that or the Indian (oops), Native-American, influence). When Joanne sees me walking her way she gives me the cursory, kindly (really kiss-off okay, twelve year old kiss-off) nod to acknowledge my existence but no little “the look” (discussed previously and the reader is presumed both to remember such details and to “know” the look from his or her own life experiences). Nevertheless this is my golden opportunity-out in the street-no crazy classmates around, no Markin fouling the waters around, and no distractions. Yes, just the right time to do my sing-song, pitter-patter be-bop night paean to the plight of bloody, but not bowed, Ireland and its churchly concerns.

I will say I “stepped up to the plate” on this one. I even brought in the Book of Kell, for christ’s sake, and how the Irish Church, the blessed Irish church and the monasteries were fountains of knowledge , wisdom, …faith (she said later she loved that one) when the dirty-handed, unwashed English were eating their meals off the hip in their dingy little hovels. Suddenly she said “Stop.” My heart fell, oh my god, I’ve blown it. No, not this “scholarly” twelve year old. Well maybe. Joanne said she knew I was up to something (she had intelligence, exclusive intelligence, from, ah, Catherine Anne and Moe) and although I had actually had a fair number of facts balled up (about bloody Oliver Cromwell and Wexford and Drogheda for one, that damn Markin put his secular spin on the thing and made the hated Cromwell the hero, although from this reference you can see what kind of ammunition I was throwing out like this was a meeting of the Central Committee of the Irish Republican Army, (IRA), or something). She was “impressed”, impressed as hell (my term, okay) that I thought enough of her to go to the bother. And then she gave me a winsome smile. (Hey, Markin is not the only one susceptible to that smile.) Home run.

On the basis of that smile I “asked her out.” Now twelve year old “asking out,” then anyway, and probably now too, was usually something like going to a dance after school, or maybe getting a bite to eat at the soda fountain (including listening to the jukebox, coins in hand), bowling, ya, bowling, or a matinee movie thing. But see here is where old Frankie knew how to segue into this proposition based on his recent pitter-patter. I asked Joanne to go the upcoming March 17th Saint Patrick’s Day Parade over in South Boston with me. Nice touch, right.

Now in those days, and you can ask your parents and grandparents about it if you are too young to remember the be-bop 1950s night, the parade was actually held on March 17th, whatever day of the week it fell on so that meant “skipping” school that year. See in Adamsville March 17th, unlike in Boston, was not a day off-a holiday and even in Boston, officially, it was not a day off for blessed Saint Patrick. It was to celebrate the bloody British defeat in Boston- Evacuation Day- a worthy reason in its own right. Joanne “freaked” out at this idea at first. But then I worked on her, and worked on her, with the notion that it was her patriotic duty, her grandmother Anna memory honor duty, to go and pretend we were in the old sod for the day. Ya, I know bringing in grandma was off base but, well, but… As an added kicker, and to show my honorable intentions, I told her that Markin was also going although I had not asked him at the time (and didn’t want him around anyway). That day she said no, but over the next several days she started to weaken.

In the meantime (although I guess my intelligence network was on “vacation” or, like the current day CIA, “out of the loop” because I didn’t know this) Joanne was working on her mother by putting up an argument that it was her religious duty to stand up for the Irish Church on that day (christ, she sounded like me after a while). Finally mother Doris said yes and Joanne said yes. Of course, as this was going on, old Peter Paul, old true-blooded, down with John Bull’s tyranny, Markin wimped out, yes, wimped out, saying he did not want to miss school. As it turned out (and was Joanne’s expression after she heard that Markin had wimped out) three was one too many (and both Joanne and I agreed on this one, with a little snicker, many times later). And the reason that Joanne said that, to make a long story short because you really don’t need me to go into the details of the parade-marching bands, drill teams, bagpipes, twirlers, drunken green-faced rowdies and all that- or the results of my efforts, was that she figured (as she told me later) we would probably get around to kissing (be still my heart on hearing this even now) and she didn’t want Markin to blab it all over school. And guess what? We did kiss, kissed in honor of Saint Patrick, the Irish Church, the Book of Kell, and I don’t know how many other things, Irish things, naturally-hey, maybe even the blarney stone.

Now Markin in one of his foolish, damn foolish, commentaries once asked a question to his fellow North Adamsville high school classmates about whether, in the old days, anybody “skipped” school to go over to Southie and see the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. We know he wimped out, always. But note this, Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, has a very big A (for absent) next to his name for March 17, 1959. And he is proud of it. I’ll even get a notarized copy of the damn North Adamsville Middle School transcript to prove it. So there.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

***Out Of The Be-Bop Film Noir Night- The Crime Noir “Kansas City Confidential”

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the crime film noir, Kansas City Confidential.

DVD Review

Kansas City Confidential, John Payne, Preston Foster, Coleen Gray, Jack Elam, directed by Phillip Karlson, United Artists, 1952

I have said this many times. Sure I am an aficionado of film noir, especially those 1940s detective epics like the film adaptations of Dashiell Hammet’s Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe in The Big Sleep. Nothing like that gritty black and white film, ominous musical background, and shadowy moments to stir the imagination. Others in the genre like Gilda, The Lady From Shang-hai, and Out Of The Past rate a nod because in addition to those attributes mentioned above they have classic femme fatales to add a little off-hand spice to the plot line, and, oh ya, they look nice too. Beyond those classics this period (say, roughly from the mid-1940s to mid-1950s produced many black and white film noir set pieces, some good, some not so good. For plot line, and plot interest, the film under review, Kansas City Confidential, is in the former category.

And why shouldn’t it be. One fall guy Joe (fall guys seem always to be named Joe, regular Joes I guess), played here in a understated way by John Payne, a little the worst for wear in post-World War II America, having had a few legal problems of his own, gets caught up in the dragnet after a major heist (over a million dollars, a lot of money then but just pocket change today) of a bank, in of all places Kansas City. Now all of this, aside from the criminal intent and cash reward, has been set-up by a disgruntled, vengeful ex-cop (played by Preston Foster) who masterminds the whole thing. Of course such a major heist then (as now) requires several, um, “associates”, in this case masked associates (for their own and Foster's self-protection against the dreaded “stoolie’ syndrome. Said associates are not anyone you or I would want to hang around with, these guys are strictly losers, especially one grafter extraordinaire, Pete Harris, played to manic perfection by Jack Elam. (The others are perennial bad guys Lee Van Cleef and Neville Brand).

Now Joe, as one might expect, takes umbrage, yes, umbrage at having taken a beating from the cops, and also for being set up as the fall guy. So, naturally, as any crime noir hero worth his salt would do, he is going to get to the bottom of this thing come hell or high water. And the rest of the plot line centers of following the clues, and following the sun to sunny Mexico (low film budget faux Mexico, to be sure) to undo the bad guys, and maybe catch a reward. Or at least a stray gringa or senorita. Naturally he does, the gringa part anyway, although she turns out to be mastermind ex-cop’s daughter (law student daughter, by the way, played by Coleen Gray). Other than the inevitable tacky ending ( I won’t spoil your fun by telling what it is) this one moves along nicely, is filled with some nice twists, and is, as usual with black and white noir films great on those shadowy takes which reveal evil in the making. Especially those loser, grifter, chain-smoking Jack Elam takes. Some noirs you watch for the magic camera work, some for the femme fatales that drive the story line, some for the tough guys and their gaff. This one you get for the plot line.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

***Out Of The Be-Bop Film Noir Night- The Crime Noir “The Kiss of Death”-

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the film noir classic, Kiss of Death.

DVD Review

Kiss of Death, Victor Mature, Coleen Gray, Richard Widmark, directed by Henry Hathaway, 20th Century Fox, 1947

Sure I am an aficionado of film noir, especially those 1940s detective epics like the film adaptations of Dashiell Hammet’s Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe in The Big Sleep. Nothing like that gritty black and white film, ominous musical background and shadowy moments to stir the imagination. Others in the genre like Gilda, The Lady From Shang-hai, and Out Of The Past rate a nod because, in addition to those attributes mentioned above, they have classic femme fatales to add a little off-hand spice to the plot line, and, oh ya, they look nice too. Beyond those classics this period (say, roughly from the mid-1940s to mid-1950s) produced many black and white film noir set pieces, some good, some not so good. For plot line, and plot interest, the film under review, Kiss of Death, is under that latter category.

But hold on though. Although the plot line is thin, mainly about a middle level career con gone wrong once again who, to save his kids from a fatherless and motherless future (mother having committed suicide), decides to play ball with the law. Thus, chump Nick Bianco (played pretty well by Victor Mature, given what he had to work with) turned stoolie, rat, fink, turncoat and the other ten thousand names for such a wrong gee and the rest of the plot hangs on that idea. Say idea being that it is not good business (and for all I know, maybe, unethical, unethical in the criminal code of conduct, although my own very small youthful experience is that it is "every man for himself") to turn stoolie, especially if the price of “freedom” is to tangle, tango, or whatever with one Tommy Udo. No way, no how, not for anything.

And that is what saves this thing as a crime noir classic, the performance of Richard Widmark as psycho-killer for hire Tommy Udo. Everything about him from minute one says wrong gee, don’t mess. Although, needless to say, Nick will mess (Tommy has threatened his kids and his new honey after all). Yes, although I was only a babe then I will give a retroactive vote to Richard Widmark for that 1947 Oscar he won for best supporting actor. There have been a lot of scary psycho-killers that have come down the pike since then but I would not, and would not advise others, to tangle with this guy. And you would too. Kudos.

Monday, March 14, 2011

***Out In The Be-Bop Night- Scenes From The Search For The Blue-Pink Great American West Night-The High White Note -2007

Markin comment:

The scene below stands (or falls) as a moment in support of that eternal search mentioned in the headline.

Scene Eleven: Scenes From Search For The Blue-Pink Great American West Night- The High White Note-2007


The High White Note, The High White Western Night and The High White Wave Merged
I am a driven man. I am a driven man, imprisoned, six by twelve room driven, but more by a mental six by twelve internal, eternal, infernal almost paternal quest, and that is the only word that fits for the elusive high white note, or the high white something, that I have spent a lifetime searching for. Certainly longer that other search, that more physical search for the blue-pink great American West that disturbed my youth, and beyond, and pushed me through many a long, lonesome highway hitchhike mile. But you know that story already now that you have read the previous scenes.

This one is more wistful, although I have caught a whisper of it here and there along the way. Now it looks like I’m stuck with it to the end, the quest that is. Here I sit, in any case, quarantined, in desolate, high, hard wind-swept, sunless-sea-ed, busted sand-duned, green sea-grass-blown, icy white-capped waved, Atlantic–oceaned, ragged, rugged, jagged Maine-coasted shack of a room getting ready to search, and search hard this time, for that white puff of a thing that keeps disturbing my rest.

I will, for the duration, put up with an ill-lit stove, half broken from generations of use by others, passing strangers, maybe seeking their own high white notes, or high white something. Or, maybe, just passing sweaty, drunken nights in some fore-doomed attempt to avoid oblivion. I will, moreover, put up with that high-pitched, annoying, buzzing refrigerator in back of me that means, at least, a touch of civilization. And the bubbly, perking, hard-hearted coffee-making machine, chipped plates, moldy-cushioned sofa, and this stuffy-aired place in order to make sense of what drove me here once again to place my shoulder against the wind, the whistling wind that signals that it is time to take note, and to seriously take note, of the demands of the quest.

And I came here for a purpose, always a purpose, to leave home and sweet-loved, sweet love. And to get away, to clean a man’s mind from the humdrum, fairwayed, fresh-ponded, sun-walked, run-runned, walk-runned, city-maddened depths. Also while we are on the subject from the technological-driven, cell-phoned, personal computer-strapped like some third hand or second-brained, four-walled nightmare. Nightmare-evading Maine fits the bill just fine, although truth to tell Maine figures, Maine always figures in the white note fight, although it is hardly the only place.

I can almost read your thoughts about my thoughts right now. It goes something like this- here he goes again, you say, on some incensed holy grail trip of the mind, or maybe he is for real, real time, real places but still a trip that would embarrass and shame any self-respecting errant knight of yore, searching for that perfect fair damsel in distress to bring home, or more likely, to carry off, kicking and screaming, to some cozy, stone-faced, thatched-roofed, smoke-filled, forested cottage for two. Or of old mad, maddened, maddening Captain Ahab and his foolish fish, or whatever woe begotten thing that he was really looking for in the Melville deep. Or, maybe, some fiendish, freakish, madman pioneer monkishly doing his own shouldering against the storms, against the snowstorms, against the storms of life of the white-peaked Western trek nights. Ah, the vision of the blue-pink Western sky. I wish you well pioneer brother, wherever you landed.

No, it is not like that at all. This is not some half-baked, half-bright, half-thought out, interior dialogue that I usually get myself tangled up into. Tangled so bad I have to break it up for a while. No, none of that this time. No intellectual gymnastics, no mental tepidity, no squarey circles or circley squares. No this is purely, or almost purely, a memory trip and that seems about right, you know, if you really want to know it has been painful at times, but no way, no way at all, that it is one of those ill-digested whims that you are thinking of. No way.

And, beside that, from the great American West night hitchhike road I have already gone through many pairs of worn-out, worn-soled, worn-heeled, down at the heel shoe leather (now thick-soled, thick-heeled, logo-addled running sneakers); worn-thumbed, back-pack-ladened, some forgotten town destination sign-waving, hitch-hiked mile (that means bumming free rides on the road, the wide American highway, for those too young, or too proper to the know the long gone, way long gone, exotic word that sustained many a hobo, tramp or bum in his (or her) search for the Great American night) through every nowhere, no-name, no wanna know the name, bus-depot-ed, stranger-unfriendly town from here to Mendocino. Moreover, here I have marks, and here you can call it intellectual or spiritual or whatever, from every diesel-trailed, oil-slicked, mud-flatted, white-lined, white-broken-lined, two-laned, no passing , hard-bitten, steam-fooded truck stop from here to Frisco as well. So don’t tell me I haven’t paid my dues.

Or it could have been some smoke-filled, nicotine-plastered walls in some long defunct coffee house (when smoking was de rigueur), or some gin-sweated, smoke-fogged Cambridge bar (in the days when smoking was allowed), listening to some local group trying to make it out of town, one way or another. Or it could have been being chained-smoked cigarette (ditto above) writing like crazy, every soul thing, every non-soul thing, every anti-soul thing after passing on the last call train out to the sticks at that old reliable, just don’t have the eggs scrambled Hayes-Bickford, where we all believed that if you just spent enough nights, enough hot, heavy-aired July nights, or enough snow-bound, frost-bitten January nights (this before Super Bowl suspense filled in January) maybe something major would come out, and maybe fame, big fame too, fame etched by the gods.

Hey, did I tell you how I got here, got here to ocean-winded Maine, this time that is? Did I forget that in my frenzy to tell you what is? Ya, I guess I did forget reading back. Let me tell you of my dreams, or at least the story of my dreams to make it right, okay? One recent, sweat-drenched night I woke up, or was I woken up by one of the cats, in a start. I had a weird old dream, or maybe just a flash of a dream, where I saw, in living, livid color a big old beautiful high white note floating, free and easy, as you might guess on a very stormy high white wave. After than flash, if that is what it was, I could not get back to sleep and lay there, soaking a little and trying to soak off that soaking with an old bedraggled railroad man’s roaring red handkerchief. Or that is at least what I call them ever since I first saw a railroad guy walking down the line when I was a kid, carrying one in the left back pocket of his dirt-stained denims as he uncoupled one train from another, maybe sending it into the great western night.

But we have already been into that great Western night, or what I think is my idea of the great Western night so I don't know how it figures in the meaning of this dream. It is really bothering me, and it should because, lately, I have been thinking and thinking hard about that very subject. The relationship between the two. No, it did not just come out of the blue, come on now, you guys know better than that. Ain’t you read Freud, or his acolytes or renegades, these things all have secret meanings of their own. But no surprise if you think about it. I have been thinking about the high white note for a while, ever since I read poor old, black, gay, exiled against his will, writer James Baldwin and his infernal short story, Sonny’s Blues.

You know I really should make you read the whole thing and then you could come back and get an idea about my dream, or the thought of what my dream was all about. And then the great Western trek into the night, hell in the day time even, would make a great deal more sense. But I am going to let you off the hook this time and just tell you that old “Sonny” is a story about brothers, and I have been thinking about that too lately, although not in the friendly, gee I should get back in touch with my own brother sense, but about brothers who drifted back and forth in each others lives until one day the reality set in hard and hard was that Sonny, a high white note-seeking jazz pianist really got high on the white note. Busted, busted hard, busted back to clean but busted and his brother, would you know that it was his big brother, had to help him put back the pieces, even though the pieces were what made Sonny interesting and alive. That's me, living on old sweet, sweet dream of that white note, and, as well, Angelica-ish-driven memories of that old time blue-pink night before I go.

Monday, March 7, 2011

***Out In The Be-Bop Night- You've Got To Be A Football Hero....

Click on the headline to link to the "Boston.com" high school sports section. Hey, it's the only link that I could think to give some flavor to this post.

Markin comment:

Well, I guess I can trust Frankie after all. Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, my old middle school and high school pal who I have been telling one and all about in a few stories, stories that prove, prove beyond a doubt, that teen angst, teen alienation, teen love, teen whatever is not some recent invention. Hell, even we now celebrated (maybe) baby-boomers had those maladies. I would further argue that we developed them into rarefied art forms, but that is for another time.

What I have on my mind at this time is based on Frankie’s creditable story about his pre- friendship with me (with me, Peter Paul Markin) adventures in the great carnival skeets night. I got kind of nervous at first when he started right off the bat about my take on his attempt to be king of the teen dance club night scene but by the end of his tale I kind of automatically dismissed his early remark as just sour grapes and a rather unreasonable bitterness about a mere passing fancy. The carnival skeets story, well, it was good. Frankie good.

Like I said in the introduction to Frankie’s guest skeets story I have plenty of my own carnival and amusement park stories to tell, with and without Frankie, and will, but today I am, once again, giving my space over to Frankie, Frankie straight up, Frankie in his own voice, and his story about how he fared as a budding young football star. The time of this story is, as least the heart of it, also once again just before I linked up with him in middle school (I didn’t arrive at the school until about mid-school year of seventh grade). As I also mentioned in introducing the skeets story the other stories I have told you about were from later, later, when I was there as an eye witness so I can trust them a little. This one though also seems kind of, well, Frankie-like so let him take responsibility for telling it.

Note: I do not have, other than as sporting propositions (bets, okay), as a fervent youthful follower of the hometown North Adamsville High School football team, and a rooting interest in the results of the “mythical” college football national championships, have much insider information about the nature of the game on the field and so do not really know much about the inside stuff that Frankie will tell you, if he does so. You know things like how to crack block a guy across from you and not get caught by the refs, or what kind of jaw-breaking stuff to have in your hands for the close in-fighting, or talking trash about the mother of the guy across from you to throw him off his game. Kid’s stuff really. If it sounds kind of fishy to you don’t blame me, or if you, can let me know where something is off and set me straight so I can tell Frankie off.

Francis Xavier Riley comment:


Football is serious business, American-style football that is, manly football, not that namby-pamby old sod knee pants and polo shirt soccer stuff everybody else in the world calls football. At least it was serious, American serious, business in my 1950s growing-up cold-water flat in a North Adamsville tenement, Sagamore Street tenement, presided over by one Patrick James Riley, my father, but known far and wide (neighborhood, far and wide, especially Shamrock Grille far and wide) as “Boyo” Riley.

Who knows, I certainly don’t in any case, when I got my first inkling that football was indeed the serious business of the Riley quarters. Maybe a Cold War night pick-up sandlot grade school game where blessed, or half-blessed, maybe, Patrick “Boyo” Riley, cheered bloody murder from the sidelines when my oldest brother, four years older brother, Tommy (known as “Tommy Thunder” in his high school playing days for those who remember that legendary North Adamsville High name) pushed one over the goal-line.

Or, maybe, even back before memory, before football name memory, sitting in the old (now old), wind-swept, uncomfortable-seat Veterans Stadium watching, totally confused and only marginally interested, as North Adamsville duked it out with cross-town arch-rival Adamsville for bragging rights for the year on hallowed Thanksgiving Days. Or, maybe, and more probable than not, hearing the lord Boyo making another of those ill-timed, ill-advised “sneak” (sneak from my mother, blessed mother, not half-blessed, no way, Maude) bets over the hushed telephone on “Fighting Irish” Notre Dame in their ignoble 1950s black night period.

Although I cannot name that first time, for sure, I can name the time of the time of Francis Xavier Riley’s understanding of when he knew he had better make football serious business, or else. Yes, indeed it was that sandlot grade school game, that now inevitable Riley baptism game where that self-same blessed, or half-blessed, maybe, Patrick “Boyo” Riley, cheered bloody murder from the sidelines when my next older brother, two years older brother, Timmy (known as “Timmy the Tiger” in his high school playing days for those who remember that also legendary North Adamsville High name) pushed one over the goal-line. That’s where Boyo laid down the law that come next fall, that 1956 next fall, I would be getting my Riley turn to tear up that sandlot over the younger brothers of those on the field that day.

And I bought into it, bought into it heart and soul, then anyway. So, naturally, dutifully the next fall I was in passed down uniform as one Patrick “Boyo” Riley screamed bloody murder from the sidelines as I performed my Riley baptism in that sandlot grade school game, and pushed my own football over the goal-line. Pushed that football for all it was worth, moaning and groaning, twisting and turning, all one and ten pounds of me, maybe, over some guys like Fallon, McNally, and Hennigan, who would take their own places along side Tommy Thunder and Timmy the Tiger come their Class of 1964 North Adamsville time.

But I have to tell you about the why, seriously. The why of why I bought into the Riley curse. Sure I was just a grade school kid of ten and didn’t know what the hell I wanted, or didn’t want. And, yes, before you all go off and try to psycho-analyze my behavior to kingdom come, I wanted to please Boyo. Or else. That "or else" being a boxing, or six, behind the ears, if you didn’t know. And actually football was fun, for the minute it took anyway, to find “daylight” and run like crazy, unimpeded, on that field toward that goal-line. With Boyo, and his cronies screaming that bloody murder like crazy. (I didn’t know until later, about twenty years later, that the damned fool bet, “sneaky” bet, from my mother, as usual, heavily on these games with said cronies. Jesus.)

But that’s just the obvious stuff. Here’s the boy’s-eye stuff that kept me going for more than a while. Tommy (I won’t use the Thunder part, although Markin would probably beat that nickname to death if he told the story) was beginning to make a name for himself up at the high school, even if it was only the junior varsity at first, when I started to notice how I fit into the Riley scheme of things. See, because Tommy, tough, hard, chip off the old block (of Boyo, naturally), corner boy, hell, king corner boy who else would it be, bulging tee-shirt, swivel-hipped Tommy was getting attention for his football exploits. People, old people, and others would give me the “nod.” You know the nod, right. Nothing said, just a little tip of the neck to signify that you were somebody, or related to somebody that mattered in the North Adamsville universe. And, of course, I gave that same nod back to signify that I knew that they were paying proper respect to the brother of their knight-errant. Ask Markin about it, about the nod. I think, now that I have had a good amount of time to think on it, that half the reason that he hung around me was to bask in that nod glow. Ya, ask him, although on this so-called "pre-markinian” stuff he may be agnostic. The bastard. Whatever else I swear just the nod, and the expectation of the nod, kept me on track for a year, maybe more.

There’s more though, and maybe in today’s hyped-up and pampered football world when serious prospects start getting the royal treatment at about age six this is no big deal. Tommy started to get some serious attention from my father’s cronies (there is no other way to describe this Irish mafia lot, who inhabited that Shamrock Grille like it was a holy sanctuary, and, although I didn’t realize it at the time, it was) and “cadging” an occasion drink, a liquor drink, a fellowship liquor drink from them. Ya, everybody wanted to be around Tommy, just for the rub off. And you know, I still don’t know whether all that crazy attention was good or bad. See, the idea was that they thought that he was going to be picked up by some college team after high school (he really was that good) and they would have inside information on some real bets. Of course, they all secretly or openly, were praying, if they knew how to pray, or remembered, wanted that college to be black night 1950s Notre Dame but I don’t know for a fact that they were all that choosy about what school took him.

Okay enough with the early reasons. They were all right, and sufficient, but as Tommy’s fame grew a little wider (and Timmy started making moves in that same football star direction) all of a sudden (all of a sudden for then girl-shy, but girl-interested, girl mystery charms interested anyway, me) girls, good-looking girls, some from the high school, some from I don’t know where, started showing up at the Sagamore Street cold-water flat. With cars. And with letting Tommy drive those cars. And not some dumpy your father’s car either (if your father had a car, which Boyo, like Markin’s father, usually didn’t which is probably why we both friendship connected on the car issue).

Sure the cars were a draw early, sweet Chevvies, some convertibles, a little of this and that but as I got older just having those girls around when I started to know the what’s up about girls, although there still was plenty of mystery about them, was enough. See, the girls were practically camped out in front of the house. They obviously didn’t notice or care about the crooked, jammed front door that you had to lift just right to get in the front door of the tenement downstairs. Or that paint, that paint that was desperately needed about six years before as the shingles had that weather-beaten look, that weather-beaten look that spoke of careless renters and not owner-occupiers. All I know was that there were horns at all times of the day and night, especially in summer, pushed down by nervous girls of all sizes and shapes, all foxy sizes and shapes that is.

This you will not believe but one time three girls showed up together. I asked them where they were going to meet the other two guys on the date at just to pass the time of day (and, as Tommy’s brother, to see whether they met my secret worthiness test). And one, one honey blond, slender with black Capris on, and, and , well, let’s leave it at that, plus about a hundred pounds of purring sexuality (and who caused me more than one restless night, and a few hundred Hail Marys) said, “Oh no, we’re all going together with just Tommy.” What? And Tommy, Tommy said, well, you know what he said- “What can a man do?” Yes, indeed, what can a man do. So I will give you three guesses about what kept me motivated, football motivated, when the nod thing got old.

And so, as 1958 arrives and “serious” seventh grade organized middle school football was all the talk, you expect me to now go into my own Riley legendary status. Right? And I would, except there isn’t one. See, old rugged, chip off the old block, corner boy tough (and that was tough in those days if you wanted to keep your place in front of some mom and pa variety store) Tommy and old muscle-chiseled Timmy got whatever one Patrick “Boyo” Riley (and sainted Maude) had to give in the way of football genes to his progeny. Tommy weighed in at about 210, a mean football field 210 (heck, that was a corner store hangout, beach shoreline drinking bout complete with hanging girls, off-hand barroom brawl 210 as well) and chiseled Timmy (no drink) at 195. I never weighed more than 120 (or more than 140, wet or dry it seemed, all through high school) once I made my big move at that sandlot debut I told you about before. More than that though, I had the "slows" that need no further description, and was un-coordinated to boot. Finished. So in seventh grade, the autumn “pre-markinian” (watch Peter Paul go crazy over that one like he did when he read my skeets story) seventh grade part, I tried out for the team but didn’t make it. And, funny, the old man, the old man for once did not box ears, or moan and groan about some mystical Fighting Irish lost and continued black night because I was not going to, single-handedly, save their “bloody arses” (a Boyo quote on that last part).

But still, and blame this strictly on Tommy and Timmy not the old man, the half-blessed old man, maybe, and certainly not sainted Ma, Maude, I developed a very, a very healthy, interest in girls, and kept looking for one like that honey blond that I interviewed and told you about before. (Ya, the one that gave me the restless nights, that one.) But, see, that kind of thing takes a whole different skill set. You bet it does. So when I didn’t make the team I started going book nutty. Oh sure I liked books before, and liked to read, especially detective stories (that’s where I got half the names I made up to call twists, oops, girls), but now I started to read everything and anything.

Why? Well, maybe you don’t remember, or maybe you’re just too young to know, but when we were growing up and Markin will back me up on this, christ we talked about it enough, the “beat” thing, or as Markin put it in one of his foolish stories about me the “faux” beat thing, was in high gear. What I noticed, or two things I noticed, was that the “beat” girls I saw in Boston and Cambridge looked kind of foxy (and kind of easy to get to know) and that some of the nubiles (ya, girls, I learned that one from going to the Museum of Fine Arts over there on Huntington Avenue in Boston. They had some neat Egypt stuff there too.) at old North Adamsville Junior High (ya, ya, I know just like Markin that it’s now middle school) were dressing kind of “beat.” So I started dressing (much to Maude’s and Boyo’s displeasure, especially Maude’s) beat-flannel shirt, work boots (couldn’t afford engineer boots that I would have died for), black chino pants (no cuffs, Markin, get it) and my own personal touch, what I was known for from middle school to the end of high school- my midnight sunglasses.

So with my dressing the part and my new found wisdom I started to make my moves, my “faux” beat moves, quietly at first just a little off-hand remark here or there to some girl. Most moved off, offended by something, probably the midnight sunglasses in school. But here is where psychology comes in. If I started saying stuff in a sing-song way, a really be-bop way like you’d see or hear the beat poets do, and I kept at it rather than give up after a few words some of the girls, and here is the beautiful part, some of the best looking, cutest, and brightest girls, the girls that counted started to stay around me. That’s where Markin came in, came to our school, and cashed in on my psychological insights.

And guess who one of the girls was who liked my pitter-patter, although not the first, definitely not the first with her little Catholic rectitude thing (a serious copy of Ma Maude’s little Catholic rectitude thing), my everlovin’ sweetie, my main squeeze (although I wouldn’t dream of calling her that to her face, even in private), my middle school and high one and only, Joanne. Now Markin said this thing was about football so I will see if I can talk him into letting me tell you about the ins and outs of my “courtship” of Joanne another time. Probably not, see, they, Markin and Joanne, didn’t get along, although they were always civil to each other, at least that’s how I remember it. But, maybe, I can tell you something here that will cause him to relent. Markin was sweet, sweet as a girl-shy, off-beat, hell, timid, boy could be, in middle school, on Joanne. And she was sweet on him, at least that’s what I heard. Sweet on him before I worked my be-bop in the 1950s schoolboy beat night on her. After that, strictly no contest.

As for the football. Did I regret not growing big enough to eat a house for lunch and have room to spare and also not having to work overtime to have the girls come ‘round the house like they did with Tommy and Timmy. Well, yes I did, but like Tommy always used to say- “What’s a man to do?’’ Do not get me wrong, I spend many an enjoyable granite-grey autumn Saturday afternoon watching and screaming my head off as the lads, some of those same lads that I ran roughshod over in sandlot grade school, did their business, especially that final victory over arch-rival Adamsville High in November, 1963. The thing is what they did the rest of the week? Those six periods of gym per day must have been exhausting. Those 'study' halls must have really taxed their abilities to the limit. Moreover, being fed the victor's grapes by nubile young women must have atrophied their mental capacities. Meanwhile this long gone daddy, this arcane knowledge-ladened long gone daddy, with Markin in tow, always in tow, be-bopped his way into the 1960s night.