Monday, October 31, 2011

***Out In The Be-Bop 1940s Night-I’ll Get By As Long As I Have You-For Prescott And Delores Breslin



A YouTube film clip Bing Crosby performing Far Away Places to give a little flavor to this sketch.

CD Review

Sentimental Journey, Pop Vocal Classics, Volume 2: 1947-1950, Rhino Records, 1993

Scene:
Brought to mind by the sepia-toned family album-style photograph that graces the cover of this CD and by the song Far Away Places.


“Prescott James Breslin get your dirty hands off that wall this minute, yelled Delores Breslin (nee LeClerc), Mother Breslin to some, including the yelled at Prescott, honey, to Prescott Breslin, Senior, Father Breslin to the junior one being yelled at just this minute. Just as Mother Breslin, hell, let’s call her Delores, was getting ready for cascade rant number two aimed in Prescott, Junior’s direction wafting through the air, the radio WJDA air, came the melodious voice of Bing Crosby singing in that sweet, nuanced voice of his, Far Away Places. Their song. Their forever memory song.

Delores flashed back to the night in 1943 over at the Stardust Ballroom on East Grand in Old Orchard Beach that she, then a typist for the State Insurance Company right here in Olde Saco (and making good money for a single, no high maintenance girl) and Marine PFC Prescott Breslin, stationed after serious service in the Pacific wars (Guadalcanal, etc.) at the Portsmouth Naval Base met while they were playing that song on the jukebox between sets. Sets being performed by the Be-Bop Sextet, a hot, well, be-bop band that was making a national tour to boost civilian morale while the boys were off fighting. They hit it off right away, made Far Away Places their song, and prepared for a future, a joint future, once the war was over, and they could get their dream, shared dream, little white house, with or without picket fence, maybe a dog, and definitely kids, a few although they never specified a number. The perfect dream to chase the old Great Depression no dough blues and World War II fighting dust away, far away. And to be to breath a decent breathe, a not from hunger breathe.

Just then Delores snapped back into the reality, the two by four reality, of their made due, temporary veterans’ housing set up by the Olde Saco Housing Authority (at the request of and funded by the War Department) to house the housing-hungry returning vets and give them a leg up. Add on the further reality that Prescott’s job at the Macadam’s Textile Mill was none too sure now that rumors were circulating around town that the mill-owners were thinking of relocating to North Carolina. And the biggest reality of all: well, Prescott, Junior, Kendrick, and most recently still in the cradle Joshua. And three is enough, more than enough thank you. But as that terrific tenor of Dick Haymes singing Little White Lies was making its way into her air space she fell back to thinking about that now old dream of the little white house, with or without picket fence, a dog and a few (exactly three, thank you) that was coming just around next corner. And just as she was winding up to blast young Prescott, his dirty hands, and that wall, maybe a little less furiously that she intended before, her thoughts returned to her Prince Charming, Starlight Ballroom1943, and their song. Their forever memory song. Yes, she would get by.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

***Out In The 1950s Be-Bop Night- Josh Breslin Comes Of Age- Kind Of




YouTube film clip of Elvis Presley performing I Forgot To Remember To Forget.

CD Review

The Heart Of Rock ‘n’ Roll: 1953-1955, various artists, Time-Life Music, 1997

Scene: Brought to mind by the black and white family album-style photograph that graces the cover of this CD. On this one we are treated to a photograph of a well-groomed boy and girl, teenagers of course, who else would listen to rock and roll in the be-bop 1950s night. Every parent, every square parent, and they were legion, who had any sense at all was banning, confiscating, burning, or otherwise destroying every record, 45 RPM or long-playing, that came through the front door with junior and missy. Reason? Said rock ‘n’ roll led to communistic thoughts, youth tribal hanging together (to the exclusion, no, to the denials of the existence of, parents), bad teeth, acne, brain-death, or most dreaded the “s” word, s-x.

But let’s leave the world of parents and concentrate on the couple in the photo, Josh Breslin, and his date, his first date, his first date ever, Julie Dubois, who are just now shuffling the records looking to see if Earth Angel by the Penquins is in the stack to chase away the awkwardness both are feeling on this first date. It turns out that both are crazy about that platter so they are reaching way back in their respective minds' recesses to come up with every arcane fact they know about the song, the group, how it was produced, anything to get through that next few moment until the next dance started.

Now Josh always thought he was cool, at least cool when he was dealing with his boy gang boys. But this girl thing was a lot harder than it looked, once he had exhausted every possible fact about Earth Angel and then had to reach way back in the mind’s recesses again when he tried to do the same for The Clover’s version of Blue Velvet. No sale, Julie didn’t like that one; she smirked, not dreamy enough. Then ditto when, Julie, seriously trying to hold up her end went on and on about Elvis’ Blue Moon cover. No sale, no way, no dice said Josh to himself and then to Julie since they had vowed, like some mystical rite of passage passed down from eternal teenager-ness, be candid with each other. Finally, Julie’s shuffling through the platters produced The Turban’s When You Dance and things got better. Yes, this was one tough night, on tough first date, first date ever night.

Maybe the whole thing was ill-fated from the beginning. Josh’s friend, maybe best friend, at Olde Saco Junior High, Rene Leblanc, was having his fourteenth birthday party, a party that his mother, as mothers will, insisted on being a big deal. Big deal being Rene inviting boys and girls, nice boys and girls, dressed in suits, or a least jackets and ties (boys), and party dresses (girls) and matched-up (one boy, one girl). Mrs. Leblanc was clueless that such square get-ups and social arrangements in the be-bop teen night would “cramp” every rocking boy and girl that Rene (or Josh) knew. But the hardest part was that Josh, truth, had never had a boy-girl date and so therefore had no girl to bring to Rene’s party. And that is where Julie, Rene’s cousin from over in Ocean City, came in. She, as it turned out, had never had a girl-boy date. And since when Mrs. Leblanc picked Josh up on party night and then went over to Ocean City for Julie, introduced then, and there was no love at first sight clang, Josh figured that this was to be one long, long night.

So the couple, the nervous couple, nervous now because the end of the stack was being reached when mercifully Marvin and Johnny’s Cherry Pie came up, both declared thumbs, both let out a simultaneous spontaneous laugh. And the reason for that spontaneous laugh, as they were both eager to explain in order to have no hurt feelings, was that Josh had asked Julie if she was having a good time and she said, well, yes just before they hit Cherry Pie pay-dirt. Just then Rene came over and shouted over the song being played on the record player, TheMoonglow’s Sincerely, “Why don’t you two dance instead of just standing there looking goofy?” And they both laughed again, as they hit the dance floor, this time with no explanations necessary.

Friday, October 28, 2011

***In The Be-Bop 1960s Night- When "Stewball" Stu Stewart ’57 Chevy Ruled The “Chicken” Roads



A YouTube film clip of Chuck Berry performing his classic School Days to give a flavor of the times to this piece

CD Review

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Era: 1957, various artists, Time-Life Music, 1987


Scene: Brought to mind by the cover artwork that graces the front of the booklet that accompanies this CD. The artwork contains, in full James Dean-imitation pout, one good-looking, DA-quaffed, white muscle-shirted young man, an alienated young man, no question, leaning, leaning gently, very gently, arms folded, on the hood of his 1950’s classic automobile, clearly not his father’s car, but also clearly for our purposes let us call it his “baby.”

And that car, that extension of his young manhood, his young alienated manhood, is Friday night, Saturday night, or maybe a weekday night if it is summer, parked (priority parked, meaning nobody with some Nash Rambler, nobody with some foreign Volkswagen, no biker even , in short, nobody except somebody who is tougher, a lot tougher, than our alienated young man better breathe on the spot while he is within fifty miles of the place) directly in front of the local teenage (alienated or not) "hot spot." And in 1950s’ America, a teenage America with some disposal income (allowance, okay), that hot spot is likely to be, as here, the all-night Mel’s (or Joe’s, Adventure Car-Hop, whatever) drive-in restaurant opened to cater to the hot dog, hamburger, French fries, barbecued chicken cravings of exhausted youth. Youth exhausted after a hard night, well, let’s just call it a hard night and leave the rest to your knowing imagination, or their parents’ evil imaginations.

And in front of the restaurant, in front of that leaned-on “boss” automobile stands one teenage girl vision. One blondish, pony-tailed, midnight sun-glassed, must be a California great American West night teeny-bopper girl holding an ice cream soda after her night’s work. The work that we are leaving to fertile (or evil, as the case may be) imaginations. Although from the pout on Johnny’s (of course he has to be a Johnny, with that car) face maybe he “flunked out” but that is a story for somebody else to tell. Here’s mine.
********
Not everybody, not everybody by a long-shot, who had a “boss” ’57 cherry red Chevy was some kind of god’s gift to the earth; good-looking, good clothes, dough in his pocket, money for gas and extras, money for the inevitable end of the night stop at Jimmy John’s Drive-In restaurant for burgers and fries (and Coke, with ice, of course) before taking the date home after a hard night of tumbling and stumbling (mainly stumbling). At least that is what one Joshua Breslin, Josh, me, freshly minted fifteen- year old roadside philosopher thought as for the umpteenth time “Stewball” Stu left me by the side of Albemarle Road and rode off into the Olde Saco night with his latest “hot” honey, fifteen year old teen queen Sally Sullivan.

Ya, Stewball Stu was nothing but an old rum-dum, a nineteen year old rum-dum, except he had that “boss” girl-magnet ’57 cherry red Chevy (painted that color by Stu himself) and he had his pick of the litter in the Olde Saco, maybe all of Maine, night. By the way Stu’s official name, was Stuart Stewart, go figure, but don’t call him Stuart and definitely do not call him “Stewball” not if you want to live long enough not to have the word teen as part of your age. The Stewball thing was strictly for local boys, jealous local boys like me, who when around Stu always could detect a whiff of liquor, usually cheap jack Southern Comfort, on his breathe, day or night.

Figure this too. How does a guy who lives out on Tobacco Road in an old run-down trailer, half-trailer really, from about World War II that looked like something out of some old-time Hooverville scene, complete with scrawny dog, and tires and cannibalized car leavings every which way have girls, and nothing but good-looking girls from twelve to twenty (nothing older because as Stu says, anything older was a woman and he wants nothing to do with women, and their women’s needs, whatever they are)? And the rest of us get his leavings, or like tonight left on the side of Route One? And get this, they, the girls from twelve to twenty actually walk over to Tobacco Road from nice across the other side of the tracks homes like on Atlantic Avenue and Fifth Street, sometimes by themselves and sometime in packs just to smell the grease, booze, burnt rubber, and assorted other odd-ball smells that come for free at Stu’s so-called garage/trailer.

Let me tell you about Stu, Sally, and me tonight and this will definitely clue you in to the Stu-madness of the be-bop Olde Saco girl night. First of all, as usual, it is strictly Stu and me starting out. Usually, like today, I hang around his garage on Saturdays to get away from my own hell-house up the road and I am kind of Stu’s unofficial mascot. Now Stu had been working all day on his dual-exhaust carburetor or something, so his denims are greasy, his white tee-shirt (sic) is nothing but wet with perspiration and oil stains, he hasn’t taken a bath since Tuesday (he told me that himself with some sense of pride) and he was not planning to do so this night, and of course, drinking all day from his silver Southern Comfort flask he reeked of alcohol (but don’t tell him that if you read this and are from Olde Saco because, honestly, I want to live to have twenty–something as my age). About 7:00 PM he bellows out to me, cigarette hanging from his mouth, a Lucky, let’s go cruising.

Well, cruising means nothing but taking that be-bop ’57 cherry red Chevy out on East Grand and look. Look for girls, look for boys from the hicks with bad-ass cars who want to take a chance on beating Stu at the “chicken run” down at the flats on the far end of Sagamore Beach, look for something to take the edge off the hunger to be somebody number one. At least that last is what I figured after a few of these cruises with Stu. Tonight it looks like girls from the way he put some of that grease (no not car grease, hair-oil stuff) on his nappy hair. Yes, I am definitely looking forward to cruising tonight once I have that sign because, usually whatever girl Stu might not want, or maybe there are a couple of extras, or something I get first dibs. Ya, Stu is righteous like that.

So off we go, stopping at my house first so I can get a little cleaned up and put on a new shirt and tell my brother to tell our mother that I will be back later, maybe much later, if she ever gets home herself before I do. The cruising routine in Olde Saco means up and down Route One (okay, okay Main Street), checking out the lesser spots (Darby’s Pizza Palace, Hank’s Ice Cream joint, the Colonial Donut Shoppe where I hang during the week after school and which serves a lot more stuff than donuts and coffee, sandwiches and stuff, and so on). Nothing much this Saturday. So we head right away for the mecca, Jimmy John’s. As we hit Stu’s “saved” parking spot just in front I can see that several stray girls are eyeing the old car, eyeing it like tonight is the night, tonight is the night Stu, kind of, sort of, maybe notices them (and I, my heart starting to race a little in anticipation and glad that I stopped off at my house, got a clean shirt, and put some deodorant on and guzzled some mouthwash, am feeling tonight is the night too).

But tonight is not the night, no way. Not for me, not for those knees-trembling girls. Why? No sooner did we park than Sally Sullivan came strolling (okay I don’t know if she was strolling or doo-wopping but she was swaying in such a sexy way that I knew she meant business, that she was looking for something in the Olde Saco night and that she had “found” it) out to Stu’s Chevy and with no ifs, ands, or buts asked, asked Stu straight if he was doing anything this night. Let me explain before I tell you what Stu’s answer was that this Sally Sullivan is nothing but a sex kitten, maybe innocent-looking, but definitely has half the boys, hell maybe all the boys at Olde Saco High, including a lot of the guys on the football team drooling over her. I know, because I have had more than one sleepless night over her. See, she is in my English class and because Mr. Murphy let’s us sit where we want I usually sit with a good view of her. So Stu says, kind of off-handedly, like having the town teen fox come hinter on him was a daily occurrence, says kind of lewdly, “Well, baby I am if you want to go down Sagamore Rocks right now and look for dolphins?” See, Sagamore Rocks is nothing but the local lovers’ lane here and “looking for dolphins” is the way everybody, every teenage everybody in town says “going all the way,” having sex for the clueless. And Sally, as you can guess if you have been following my story said, “Yes” just like that. At that s why I was dumped, unceremoniously dumped, at my street while they roared off into the night. So like I said not every “boss” car owner is god’s gift to women, not by a long shot. Or maybe they are.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

***Up, Up And Away- George Clooney’s “Up In The Air”-A Film Review




Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the film Up In The Air.

DVD Review

Up In The Air, starring George Clooney, Vera Farmiga,Anna Kendrick, Paramount Pictures, 2009


The last time that I reviewed a film starring George Clooney in this space he portrayed a much put-upon, but ultimately triumphant, fixer-man lawyer in the film Michael Clayton. I mentioned there that you may “buy” the fixer-man off, you may knock him around the courts a little with some silly law suit but in no way do you try to kill the bugger when he is doing what he does best, fixing things. Apparently, according the story line here where Clooney plays the hatchet-man for a company that “fires” high level people for those who do not want to get their hands messy, or place themselves in the line of fire if things go awry, that same poor judgment prevails here.

Oh no, no one is trying to kill Brother Clooney here, well, except maybe kill his spirit through the huge advances in communications technology that allow a company to avoid the expenses associated with flying all over the place in economic bad times to do the ”canning” and thus taking away an old school-style job from Clooney that he has become skilled at. It seems that somebody at headquarters got the bright idea to do the whole process by remote control, through computers. And the avatar of that idea was none other than a freshly- minted MBA (played by Anna Kendrick) out to win her spurs in the tough world of high-tech software innovations. Along the way though, as she tags along with Clooney on his aero-rounds, she gets “religion” and steps away to find a more socially useful way to flaunt her skills.

But back to George. See, he can see the writing on the wall a little but he is determined to run a rearguard action to defend his reason for existence, his style. Here he is clearly the first, well maybe not first but close, post-modern plastic card man who like Saul Bellows’ Dangling Man, or any one of a number of John Updike’s modern men, lives a purely existential life, and likes it. With the exception of a baffling relationship with a fellow female business-class traveler (played by fetching Vera Farmiga) who, shockingly (to Clooney) and incongruously (to me), turns out to be just another soccer mom on a lark his life, his solo life, is lived in hotels, airplanes, and rental cars. By the way (BTW for the cyber-slang crazed) George Clooney’s cool, clinical demeanor, and his quietly-determined quest for ever more frequent-flyer miles is perfect in this role. But one more time-don’t mess with the fixer-man, or the hatchet-man, not if his name is Clooney. Got it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

***The Heart Of The San Francisco Fillmore Night, Circa 1967



A YouTube film clip of The Jefferson Airplane performing their classic wa-wa song Volunteers to give a flavor of the times to this piece

Scene: Brought to mind by one of the songs in this compilation, The Jefferson Airplane’s Fillmore West-driven classic wa-wa song, Someone To Love.

It wasn’t my idea, not the way I was feeling then although I had “married” them under the stars one night, one late June night, in this year of our summer of love 1967. Married Prince Love (a.k.a. Joshua Breslin, late of Olde Saco High School Class of 1967, that’s up in Maine) and Butterfly Swirl (a.k.a. Kathleen Clarke, Carlsbad High School Class of 1968, that’s down south here in California), my “family” as such things went on the merry prankster yellow brick road bus that brought us north to ‘Frisco. I had only “adopted” the Prince here on Russian Hill one day when he was looking for dope. Before that I had traveled all through the great western blue-pink night, as my North Adamsville corner boy friend, Peter Paul Markin, would say from Ames, Iowa where I got “on the bus,” the Captain Crunch merry prankster bus).

I brought Butterfly and Lupe Matin (her Ames “road” name then although now she is going under the name Lance Peters. No, don’t get the idea she has gone male, no way, no way in freaking hell and I have the scars on my back to prove it. It’s just her, well, thing, the name-changing thing, and her real name anyway is Sandra Sharp from Vassar, that’s a high–end New York college for women, okay) up here for a serious investigation of the summer of love we kept hearing about down in Carlsbad where we camped out (actually we looked out for the estate of a friend, or maybe better an associate, of our “leader,” Captain Crunch, as care-takers). Yes, the “old man,” me, Far-Out Phil (a. k. a. Phil Markin, North Adamsville Class of 1964, that’s in Massachusetts, okay) married them but I was not happy about it because I was still not done with Butterfly myself. Only the residual hard-knocks North Adamsville corner boy in me accepted, wise to the ways of the world, that Butterfly had flown from me.

It was all Captain Crunch’s idea, although Mustang Sally (a. k. a. Susan Stein), if she was talking to the Captain (a. k. a Samuel Jackman) just then, which was always a sometime thing lately since she had taken up with a drummer from one of the myriad up-and-coming “acid rock” bands that had sprouted out of the Golden Gate night, The Magic Mushrooms, and the Captain was not pleased, not pleased at all, probably was the real force behind the idea. The idea? Simple enough, Now that they, the they being the thousands of young people who had fled, fled a millions ways, west, were about creating a merry prankster yellow bus world on the hills of San Francisco the notion that Prince Love and Butterfly Swirl were “married” under the sign of “Far-Out Phil and would have now have a proper bourgeois “wedding reception” was impossible. Celebrate yes, no question. Celebrate high and hard, no question. But the times demanded, demanded high and hard, some other form of celebration. And that is where the Captain (or, as seemed more and more likely once more facts came out, Mustang Sally) hit his stride.

Here is the “skinny.” The Captain knew somebody, hell the Captain always knew somebody for whatever project he had in mind, connected to the Jefferson Airplane, a hot band that was going to be playing at the Fillmore that next Saturday night. And that somebody could get the Captain twenty prime tickets to the concert. [Everybody suspected that the deal was more nuanced than that, probably the tickets for a batch of Captain-produced acid, or in a two-fisted barter, a big pile of dope, mary jane most likely, from somebody else for something else and then a trade over for the tickets. That high finance stuff was never very clear but while nobody worried much about money, except a few hungry times out in some god-forsaken desert town or something, there usually was plenty of Captain dough around for family needs.] So the Captain’s idea was that this concert would be an electric kool-aid acid test trip that was now almost inevitably part of any 1967 event, in lieu of that bourgeois (the Captain’s word, okay) wedding reception. And, see, the Prince and Butterfly, were not to know because this was going to be their first time taking some of that stuff, the acid (LSD, for the squares, okay). And once the acid hit the Captain said, and the rest of us agreed, there would be no sorrow, no sorrow at all, that they had not had some bogus old bourgeois wedding reception.

Saturday night came, and everybody was dressed to the nines. (Ya, that’s an old Frankie Riley, North Adamsville corner boy leader, thing that I held onto, still do, to say hot, edgy, be-hop.) Let’s just concentrate on the “bride” and “groom” attire and that will give an idea of what nines looked like that night. Butterfly, a genuine West Coast young blonde beauty anyway, formerly hung-up on the surfer scene (or a perfect-wave surfer guy anyway), all tanned, and young sultry, dressed in a thin, almost see-through, peasant blouse. According to Benny Buzz, a kind of connoisseur on the subject, it wasn’t really see-through but he lied, or close to it, because every guy in the party or later, at the concert, craned his neck to look at the outline of her beautiful breasts that were clearly visible for all to see. And while she may have been “seek a new world” Butterfly Swirl she was also an old-fashioned “tease,” and made no apologies for being so. She also wore a short mini-skirt that was de rigueur just then that highlighted her long well-turned legs (long flowing skirts were to come in a little later) and had her hair done up in an utterly complicated braid that seemed impossible to have accomplished piled high on her head, garlands of flowers flowing out everywhere, and silvery, sparkling, starry mascara eyes and ruby-red, really ruby red lips giving a total effect that even had the Captain going, and the Captain usually only had his eyes, all six of them, fixed on Mustang Sally.

And the “groom”? Going back to Olde Saco roots he wore along with his now longer flowing hair and less wispy beard an old time sea captain’s hat, long flared boatswain's whites, a sailor’s shirt from out of old English Navy times and a magical mystery tour cape in lieu of the usual rough crewman's jacket. A strange sight that had more than one girl turning around and maybe scratching her head to figure out his “statement.” That didn’t however stop them from looking and maybe making a mental note to “try him out” sometime. (By the way, I told the Captain later that the Prince had no idea of making a statement and, being more than a little stoned on some leftover hash that he found around he just grabbed what was at hand).

Now back to the action. In order to “fortify” everyone for the adventure the Captain proposed a “toast” to the happy couple before we left the merry prankster yellow bus to make the one mile trip to the Fillmore. So everybody, including the bride and groom toasted with Dixie cups of kool-aid. The Prince and Butterfly were bemused that, with all the liquor available around the bus, the Captain proposed to use kool-aid for the toast. Well, we shall see. And they shall see.

And they “saw,” or rather saw once the acid (LSD) kicked in about an hour later, more or less. Now what you “see” on an acid trip is a very individual thing, moreover other than that powerful rush existential moment that you find yourself living in it defies description, literary niceness description, especially from a couple of kids on their “wedding night.” So what is left? Well, some observations by “father” Far-Out Phil, now a veteran acid-eater, as I hovered over my new-found “family” to insured that they made a safe landing.

The first thing I noticed was that Butterfly Swirl was gyrating like crazy when the female singer in front of Jefferson Airplane, Grace Slick, started up on their acid rock anthem, White Rabbit. Some of Butterfly’s moves had half the guys in the place kind of male hippie “leering” at her (mainly giving her a sly nod of approval, and making a mental note to check her out later when the dope hit her at the high point in another couple of hours or so). (Remember she had on that diaphanous peasant blouse, and also remember that sexual thoughts, leering sexual thoughts or not, did not fade away when under the influence of LSD. In many cases the sexual arousal effect was heightened, particularly when a little high- grade herb was thrown into the mix.) I thought nothing in particular of her actions just then, many guys and girls were gyrating, were being checked-out and were making mental notes of one kind or another. It is only when Butterfly started to “believe” that she was Alice, the Alice of the song and of wonderland, and repeated “I am Alice, I am alive,” about thirteen times that I moved over to her quickly and gave her a battle-scarred veteran’s calming down, a couple of hits off the Columbia Red that I had just coped from some freak.

And where was Prince Love during the trial by fire honeymoon night? Gyrating with none other than Lance Peters, who you may know as Luscious Lois or seven other names, by who was my main honey now that Butterfly has flown my coop. But don’t call her Lance Peters this night because after a tab of acid (beyond her congratulations kool-aid cup earlier) she is now Laura Opal in her constant name-game change run through the alphabet. Prince Love had finally “seen” the virtues of being with older woman like I had learned back in Ames Iowa time, an older voluptuous woman and although she was wearing no Butterfly diaphanous blouse Prince felt electricity running through his veins as they encircled each other on the dance floor. Encircled each other and then, slyly, very slyly, I thought when I heard the story the next day, backed out of the Fillmore to wander the streets of Haight-Ashbury until the dawn. Then to find shelter in some magic bus they thought was the Captain’s but when they were awoken by some tom-toms drumming out to eternity around noontime found out that they were in the “Majestic Moon” tribe’s bus. No hassle, no problem, guest always welcome. Ya, that is the way it was then. When I cornered, although corned may be too strong a word, the Prince later all that he would commit to was that he had been devoured by Mother Earth and had come out on the other side. That, and that he had seen god, god close up. Laura Quirk, if she is still running under that name now, merely stated that she was god. Oh ya, and had seen the now de rigueur stairway to heaven paved with brilliant lights. She certainly knew how to get around her Phil when the deal went down, no question.

And how did the evening end with Butterfly and me, after I “consoled” her with my ready-teddy herbal remedy? After a search for Prince and Lance, a pissed off search for me, we went over into a corner and started staring at one of the strobe lights off the walls putting ourselves into something of a trance-like mood. A short time later, I, formerly nothing but a hard-luck, hard-nosed, world-wide North Adamsville corner boy in good standing started involuntarily yelling, “I am Alice, I am alive,” about ten times. Butterfly though that was the funniest thing she had ever heard and came over to me and handed me a joint, a joint filled with some of that same Columbia Red that settled her down earlier. And I, like Butterfly before me, did calm down. Calmed down enough to see our way “home” to Captain Crunch’s Crash-Pad where we, just for old time’s sake, spend the hours until dawn making love. (I send my apologies to those two thousand guys at the Fillmore who had made notes to check on Butterfly later. Hey, I was not a king hell corner boy back in the North Adamsville be-bop night for nothing. You have to move fast sometimes in this wicked old world, even when the point was to slow the circles down.) Asked later what her “trip” had felt like all Butterfly could utter was her delight in my antics. That, the usual color dream descriptions, and that she had climbed some huge himalaya mountain and once on top climbed a spiraling pole forever and ever. I just chuckled my old corner boy chuckle.

And what of Butterfly and Prince’s comments on their maiden voyage as newlyweds? They pronounced themselves very satisfied with their Fillmore honeymoon night. They then went off for what was suppose to be a few days down to Big Sur where Captain Crunch had some friends, Captain had friends everywhere, everywhere that mattered, who lent them their cabin along the ocean rocks and they had a “real” honeymoon. A few weeks later Prince Love, now a solo prince, came back to the bus. It seems that Butterfly had had her fill of being “on the bus,” although she told the Prince to say thanks to everybody for the dope, sex, and everything but that at heart her heart belonged to her golden-haired surfer boy and his search for the perfect wave.

Well, we all knew not everybody was build for the rigors of being “on the bus” so farewell Kathleen Clarke, farewell. And just then, after hearing this story, I thought that Prince had better keep his Olde Saco eyes off Lannie Rose (yes she has changed her name again) or I might just remember, seriously remember, some of those less savory North Adamsville be-bop corner boy nights. Be forewarned, sweet prince.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

***Out In The Be-Bop, Be-Bop 1960s Night- The Great San Francisco Summer Of Love Explosion- In The Heart Of The Fillmore Night


YouTube film clip of The Jefferson Airplane performing their classic wa-wa song Someone To Love to give a flavor of the times to this piece

CD Review

Classic Rock: 1967, various artists, Time-Life Music, 1988


Scene: Brought to mind by one of the songs in this compilation, The Jefferson Airplane’s Fillmore West-driven classic wa-wa song, Someone To Love.

It wasn’t my idea, not the way I was feeling then although I had “married” them under the stars one night, one late June night, in this year of our summer of love 1967. Married Prince Love (a.k.a. Joshua Breslin, late of Olde Saco High School Class of 1967, that’s up in Maine) and Butterfly Swirl (a.k.a. Kathleen Clarke, Carlsbad High School Class of 1968, that’s down south here in California), my “family” as such things went on the merry prankster yellow brick road bus that brought us north to ‘Frisco. I had only “adopted” the Prince here on Russian Hill one day when he was looking for dope. Before that I had traveled all through the great western blue-pink night, as my North Adamsville corner boy friend, Peter Paul Markin, would say from Ames, Iowa where I got “on the bus,” the Captain Crunch merry prankster bus).

I brought Butterfly and Lupe Matin (her Ames “road” name then although now she is going under the name Lance Peters. No, don’t get the idea she has gone male, no way, no way in freaking hell and I have the scars on my back to prove it. It’s just her, well, thing, the name-changing thing, and her real name anyway is Sandra Sharp from Vassar, that’s a high–end New York college for women, okay) up here for a serious investigation of the summer of love we kept hearing about down in Carlsbad where we camped out (actually we looked out for the estate of a friend, or maybe better an associate, of our “leader,” Captain Crunch, as care-takers). Yes, the “old man,” me, Far-Out Phil (a. k. a. Phil Markin, North Adamsville Class of 1964, that’s in Massachusetts, okay) married them but I was not happy about it because I was still not done with Butterfly myself. Only the residual hard-knocks North Adamsville corner boy in me accepted, wise to the ways of the world, that Butterfly had flown from me.

It was all Captain Crunch’s idea, although Mustang Sally (a. k. a. Susan Stein), if she was talking to the Captain (a. k. a Samuel Jackman) just then, which was always a sometime thing lately since she had taken up with a drummer from one of the myriad up-and-coming “acid rock” bands that had sprouted out of the Golden Gate night, The Magic Mushrooms, and the Captain was not pleased, not pleased at all, probably was the real force behind the idea. The idea? Simple enough, Now that they, the they being the thousands of young people who had fled, fled a millions ways, west, were about creating a merry prankster yellow bus world on the hills of San Francisco the notion that Prince Love and Butterfly Swirl were “married” under the sign of “Far-Out Phil and would have now have a proper bourgeois “wedding reception” was impossible. Celebrate yes, no question. Celebrate high and hard, no question. But the times demanded, demanded high and hard, some other form of celebration. And that is where the Captain (or, as seemed more and more likely once more facts came out, Mustang Sally) hit his stride.

Here is the “skinny.” The Captain knew somebody, hell the Captain always knew somebody for whatever project he had in mind, connected to the Jefferson Airplane, a hot band that was going to be playing at the Fillmore that next Saturday night. And that somebody could get the Captain twenty prime tickets to the concert. [Everybody suspected that the deal was more nuanced than that, probably the tickets for a batch of Captain-produced acid, or in a two-fisted barter, a big pile of dope, mary jane most likely, from somebody else for something else and then a trade over for the tickets. That high finance stuff was never very clear but while nobody worried much about money, except a few hungry times out in some god-forsaken desert town or something, there usually was plenty of Captain dough around for family needs.] So the Captain’s idea was that this concert would be an electric kool-aid acid test trip that was now almost inevitably part of any 1967 event, in lieu of that bourgeois (the Captain’s word, okay) wedding reception. And, see, the Prince and Butterfly, were not to know because this was going to be their first time taking some of that stuff, the acid (LSD, for the squares, okay). And once the acid hit the Captain said, and the rest of us agreed, there would be no sorrow, no sorrow at all, that they had not had some bogus old bourgeois wedding reception.

Saturday night came, and everybody was dressed to the nines. (Ya, that’s an old Frankie Riley, North Adamsville corner boy leader, thing that I held onto, still do, to say hot, edgy, be-hop.) Let’s just concentrate on the “bride” and “groom” attire and that will give an idea of what nines looked like that night. Butterfly, a genuine West Coast young blonde beauty anyway, formerly hung-up on the surfer scene (or a perfect-wave surfer guy anyway), all tanned, and young sultry, dressed in a thin, almost see-through, peasant blouse. According to Benny Buzz, a kind of connoisseur on the subject, it wasn’t really see-through but he lied, or close to it, because every guy in the party or later, at the concert, craned his neck to look at the outline of her beautiful breasts that were clearly visible for all to see. And while she may have been “seek a new world” Butterfly Swirl she was also an old-fashioned “tease,” and made no apologies for being so. She also wore a short mini-skirt that was de rigueur just then that highlighted her long well-turned legs (long flowing skirts were to come in a little later) and had her hair done up in an utterly complicated braid that seemed impossible to have accomplished piled high on her head, garlands of flowers flowing out everywhere, and silvery, sparkling, starry mascara eyes and ruby-red, really ruby red lips giving a total effect that even had the Captain going, and the Captain usually only had his eyes, all six of them, fixed on Mustang Sally.

And the “groom”? Going back to Olde Saco roots he wore along with his now longer flowing hair and less wispy beard an old time sea captain’s hat, long flared boatswain's whites, a sailor’s shirt from out of old English Navy times and a magical mystery tour cape in lieu of the usual rough crewman's jacket. A strange sight that had more than one girl turning around and maybe scratching her head to figure out his “statement.” That didn’t however stop them from looking and maybe making a mental note to “try him out” sometime. (By the way, I told the Captain later that the Prince had no idea of making a statement and, being more than a little stoned on some leftover hash that he found around he just grabbed what was at hand).

Now back to the action. In order to “fortify” everyone for the adventure the Captain proposed a “toast” to the happy couple before we left the merry prankster yellow bus to make the one mile trip to the Fillmore. So everybody, including the bride and groom toasted with Dixie cups of kool-aid. The Prince and Butterfly were bemused that, with all the liquor available around the bus, the Captain proposed to use kool-aid for the toast. Well, we shall see. And they shall see.

Monday, October 24, 2011

***Poet's Corner- Bertolt Brecht's "To Those Born After"-As The Torch Passes-In Honor Of Those Who Fight To "Seek A Newer World"

Click on the headline to link to updates from the Occupy Boston website. Occupy Boston started at 6:00 PM, September 30, 2011. I will post important updates as they appear on that site.
********
We Created The Wealth, Let's Take It Back! Labor And The Oppressed Must Rule!
********
To Those Born After

I

To the cities I came in a time of disorder
That was ruled by hunger.
I sheltered with the people in a time of uproar
And then I joined in their rebellion.
That's how I passed my time that was given to me on this Earth.

I ate my dinners between the battles,
I lay down to sleep among the murderers,
I didn't care for much for love
And for nature's beauties I had little patience.
That's how I passed my time that was given to me on this Earth.

The city streets all led to foul swamps in my time,
My speech betrayed me to the butchers.
I could do only little
But without me those that ruled could not sleep so easily:
That's what I hoped.
That's how I passed my time that was given to me on this Earth.

Our forces were slight and small,
Our goal lay in the far distance
Clearly in our sights,
If for me myself beyond my reaching.
That's how I passed my time that was given to me on this Earth.

II

You who will come to the surface
From the flood that's overwhelmed us and drowned us all
Must think, when you speak of our weakness in times of darkness
That you've not had to face:

Days when we were used to changing countries
More often than shoes,
Through the war of the classes despairing
That there was only injustice and no outrage.

Even so we realised
Hatred of oppression still distorts the features,
Anger at injustice still makes voices raised and ugly.
Oh we, who wished to lay for the foundations for peace and friendliness,
Could never be friendly ourselves.

And in the future when no longer
Do human beings still treat themselves as animals,
Look back on us with indulgence.

*******
Markin comment October 24, 2011:

Recently I have, as an old-time radical, a 1960s radical but don’t hold that against me, been commenting in this space about my favorable reaction to the creation of the Occupy Boston site (and the several hundred others set up here in America and world-wide in the wake of Occupy Wall Street). I have backed that favorable reaction with all kinds of support, including physical defense of the Occupy Boston site in the early hours of Tuesday October 11, 2011 when the Boston police raided and shut down the second site. During the course of various conversations over past couple of weeks, mainly with the young campers and their supporters, I have repeatedly made the statement that “the torch has been passed.” This statement has met with a certain amount of bewilderment and incomprehension on the part of some young listeners. All that the statement means, perhaps reflecting my own political origins as a left-liberal democrat who fiercely supported John F. Kennedy’s presidential victory in 1960 and was enthralled by his use of the term in his inaugural address in 1961, is that we older radicals now had young radicals to pass the lessons of the struggle on to. Unfortunately, until very recently, I and a fair number of other older radicals, were somewhat in despair because with a very un-radical “missing generation” (our sons and daughters, and today’s youth’s parents) the links to the past struggles might not get passed on. I breathe easier now knowing we have reinforcements, and plenty of them.

I breathe easier still knowing that like the narrator in Bertolt Brecht's poem above, To Those Who Come After, by my actions over a long political career, a career filled with its fair share of mistakes and wrong roads taken that I can post this poem in solidarity with the narrator. I have continued the fight for the “newer world” that I started out as a starry-eyed youth to fight for long ago in the early 1960s when I attended my first public demonstration in favor of nuclear disarmament. I, we, did not set the terms that we fought under, mostly the rich and powerful set the agenda and we reacted, fitfully, to their outrages in order to stop their wars, stop their violations of our civil liberties, and stop their hoarding of the common wealth. But mainly, well or poorly, I, we, fought. I, we, got up, stood up, stood up for my (our) rights as Bob Marley’s song of the same name would have it. So remember, as the last lines of the poem plead-“And in the future when no longer, Do human beings still treat themselves as animals, Look back on us with indulgence.”

***Fragments Of A Treasure Island (Cady Park) Dream #2- A Family Outing

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for Wollaston Beach (called Adamsville Beach in the story). The photo in the entry appears to have been taken from a point not far from Treasure Island (Cady Park).

Peter Paul Markin, North Adamsville Class Of 1964, comment:

Do you need to know about all the little family trips over to Treasure Island, a picnic spot down at the Merrymount end of Adamsville Beach that I have threatened to talk about when I mentioned how I “sold out” to my mother for a little Kennedy’s Deli home-style potato salad? Trips, that kind of formed the bookends of my childhood. Jesus, no. A thousand time no, and I say that having lived through them. My childhood memories overall can be best summed up in the words of the now long-departed black rapper extraordinaire, Biggie Smalls. He expressed it best and spoke a truth greater than he might have known, although he was closer to “hip-hop nation” than I ever could be, or could be capable of – “Christmas kind of missed us, birthdays were the worst days.” Ya, that’s the big truth, no question, but not the little Treasure Island truth, wobbly as it might come out. One such episode will give you an idea of what we (meaning me and my two brothers, one a little younger the other a little older than me) were up against but also, in the end, why although there were precious few wonderful childhood memories that are now worth the ink to tell you about, this one serves pretty well. Let me have my say.

******
There was a madness in this country in the 1950s. No, not the Cold War atomic-bomb-is-going-to-get-us-we-are-all-going-to-be-dead-next-week or “better dead than red” kind of madness although there was plenty of that, but a madness for the automobile, the sleeker, the more airplane-like, and more powerfully-engined the better. And, it wasn’t just, deafeningly mad as they were, those guys in the now almost sepia-faded photographic images of tight T-shirt wearing, rolled sleeve cigarette-packed, greased Pompadour-haired, long side-burned, dangling-combed , engineer-booted, chain-wielding, side of the mouth butt-puffing , didn’t care if school kept or not types bent over the hood of some souped-up ’57 Chevy working, sweating pools of sweat, sweating to get even more power out of that ferocious V-8 engine for the Saturday night “ chicken" run.

And it wasn’t even those mad faux James Dean-sneered, "rebel without a cause"-posed, cooled-out, maybe hop-headed guys either. And it was always guys, who you swore you would beat down if they ever even looked at your sister, if you had a sister, and if you liked her enough to beat a guy down to defend her honor, or whatever drove your sense of right. And, of course she, your sister no less, is looking for all she is worth at this “James Dean” soda jerk (hey, what else could he be) because this guy is “cute”. Go figure.

No, and forget all those stereotypes that they like to roll out when they want to bring a little “color” to the desperately color-craving 1950s. This car madness was driven, and driven hard, by your very own stay-at-home-and watch the television, water the lawn, if you have a lawn and it needed watering and sometimes when it didn’t just to get out of the house, have couple of beers and take a nap on Saturday afternoon father (or grandfather, I have to remember who might be in my audience now) who always said “ask your mother” to blow you off. You know him. I know you know him he just has a different name than mine did. And maybe even your very own mother (or grandmother) got caught up in the car thing too, your mother the one who always would say “ask your father. You know her too, don’t say no. I hope by now you knew they were working a team scam on you even if you didn’t have the kind of proof that you could take to court and get a little justice on.

Hell, on this car thing they were just doing a little strutting of their stuff in showcase, show-off, “see what I got and you don’t” time. Come on now, don’t pretend that you don’t know what I am talking about, at least if you too grew up in the 1950s, or heard about it, or even think you heard about it. Hey, it was about dreams of car ownership for the Great Depression-ed , World War II-ed survivors looking to finally cash in, as a symbol that one, and one’s family, has arrived in the great American dream, and all on easy monthly payments, no money down, and the bigger, the sleeker the better and I’ll take the heavy- chromed, aerodynamically-designed, two-toned one, thank you. That was how you knew who counted, and who didn’t. You know what I mean.

Heck, that 50s big old fluffy pure white cloud of a dream even seeped all the way down into “the projects” in Adamsville, and I bet over at the Columbia Point “projects” in Boston too that you could see on a clear day from Adamsville beach, although I don’t know for sure on that, and maybe in the thousand and one other displaced person hole-in-the-walls “projects” they built as an afterthought back then for those families like mine caught on the slow track in “go-go” America. Except down there, down there on the edge of respectability, and maybe even mixed in with a little disrespectability, you didn’t want to have too good of a car, even if you could get that easy credit, because what we you doing with that nice sleek, fin-tailed thing with four doors and plenty of room for the kids in the back in a place like “the projects” and maybe there was something the “authorities” should know about, yes. Better to move on with that old cranky 1940s-style un-hip, un-mourned, un-cool jalopy than face the wrath and clucking of that crowd, the venom-filled, green-eyed neighbors.

Yes, that little intro is all well and good and a truth you can take my word for but this tale is about, if I ever get around to it, those who had the car madness deep in their psyche, but not the wherewithal- this is a cry, if you can believe it today, from the no car families. Jesus, how could you not get the car madness then though, facing it every night stark-naked in front of you on the television set, small as the black and white picture was, of Buicks, and Chevys and Pontiacs and whatever other kind of car they had to sell to you. But what about us Eastern Mass bus dependents? The ones who rode the bus, back or front it didn’t matter, at least here it didn’t matter. Down South they got kind of funny about it.

As you might have figured out by now, and if you didn’t I will tell you, that was our family’s fate, more often than not. It was not that we never had a car back then, but there were plenty of times when we didn’t and I have the crooked heels, peek-a-boo-soles, and worn out shoe leather from walking rather than waiting on that never-coming bus to prove it. And not only that but I got so had no fear of walking, and walking great distances if I had to, all the way to Grandma’s Young Street, “up-town” North Adamsville if I had to. That was easy stuff thinking back on it. I‘ll tell you about walking those later long, lonesome roads out West in places like just before the mountains in Winnemucca, Nevada and 129 degree desert- hot Needles, California switching into 130 degree desert-hot Blythe, Arizona some other time, because it just doesn’t seem right to talk about mere walking, long or short, when the great American automobile is present and rolling by.

It’s kind of funny now but the thing was, when there was enough money to get one, that the cars my poor old, kind of city ways na├»ve, but fighting Marine-proud father would get, from wherever in this god forsaken earth he got them from would be, to be polite, clunkers and nothing but old time jalopies that even those “hot rod” James Dean guys mentioned above would sneer, and sneer big time, at. It would always be a 1947 something, like a Hudson or Nash Rambler, or who knows the misty, musty names of these long forgotten brands. The long and short it was, and this is what’s really important when you think about it, that they would inevitably break down, and breakdown in just the wrong place, at least the wrong place if you had a wife who couldn’t drive or help in that department and three screaming, bawling tow-headed boys who wanted to get wherever it was we were going, and get there-now.

I swear on those old battered crooked-heeled, peek-a-boo soled shoes that I told you about that this must have happened just about every time we were going on a trip, or getting ready to go on a trip, or thinking about going on a trip. So now you know what I was up against when I was a kid. Like I already told you before, in some other dream fragment, I was an easy target to be “pieced off” with a couple of spoonfuls of Kennedy's potato salad when things like that happened. Or some other easy “bought off” when the “car” joke of the month died again and there wasn’t any money to get it fixed right away and we couldn’t go more than a few miles. I blew my stack plenty and righteously so, don't you think?

So let me tell you about this one time, this one summer time, August I think, maybe in 1956, when we did have a car, some kind of grey Plymouth sedan from about 1947, that year seems to always come up when car year numbers come to mind, like I said before. Or maybe it was a converted tank from the war for all I know, it kind of felt like that sitting in the back seat because as the middle boy I never got to ride “shot gun” up front with Dad so I bore the brunt of the bumps, shakes, blimps, and slips in the back seat. I do know I never felt anything better than being nothing but always queasy back there.

This one, this beauty of a grey Plymouth sedan, I can remember very well, always had some major internal engine-type problem, or telltale oil- spilling on the ground in the morning, or a clutch-not-working right, when real cars had clutches not this automatic stuff, making a grinding sound that you could hear about half way around the world, but you will have to ask some who knows a lot more about cars about than I do for the real mechanical problems. Anyway this is the chariot that is going to get us out of “the projects” and away from that fiery, no breathe “projects” sun for a few hours as we started off on one of our family-famous outings to old Treasure Island down at the Merymount end of Adamsville Beach, about four or five miles from “the projects”, no more. It was hot as blazes that day that’s for sure, with no wind, no air, and it was one of those days, always one of those days, you could smell the sickly sweet fragrant coming from over the Proctor & Gamble soap factory across the channel on the Fore River side.

We got the old heap loaded with all the known supplies necessary for a “poor man’s” barbecue in those days. You know those cheap plastic lawn chairs from Grossman’s or Raymond’s or one of those discount stores before they had real discount stores like K-Mart and Wal-Mart, a few old worn-out blankets fresh from night duty on our beds, some resurrected threadbare towels that were already faded in about 1837 from the six thousand washings that kids put even the most resilient towel through in a short time, the obligatory King’s charcoal briquettes, including that fear-provoking, smelly lighter fluid you needed to light them with in those barbaric days before gas-saturated instant-lite charcoal. For food: hot dogs, blanched white-dough rolls, assorted condiments, a cooler with various kinds of tonic (a.k.a. soda, for the younger reader) and ice cream. Ya, and some beach toys, including a pail and shovel because today, of all days, I am bound and determined to harvest some clams across the way from the park on Adamsville Beach at low tide just like I’d seen all kinds of guys doing every time we went there so that we can have a real outing. I can see and hear them boiling in that percolating, turbulent, swirling grey-white water in the big steaming aluminum kettle already.

All of this stuff, of course, is packed helter-skelter in our “designer” Elm Farms grocery store paper shopping bags that we made due with to carry stuff around in, near or far. Hey, don’t laugh you did too, didn’t you? And what about hamburgers you say, right? No, no way, that cut of meat was too pricey. It wasn’t until much later when I was a teenager and invited to someone else’s family-famous barbecue that I knew that those too were a staple, I swear. I already told you I was the “official” procurer of the Kennedy’s potato salad in another dream fragment so I don’t need to tell you about that delicacy again, okay?

And we are off, amazingly, this time for one of the few time in family-recorded history without the inevitable- “who knows where it started or who started it” -incident, one of a whole universe of possible incidents that almost always delayed our start every time our little clan moved from point A to point B. Even a small point A to point B like this venture. So everything was okay, just fine all the way up that single way out of “the projects,” Palmer Street, until we got going on Sea Street, a couple of miles out, then the heap started choking, crackling, burping, sneezing, hiccupping, smoking and croaking and I don’t know what else. We tumbled out of the car, with me already getting ready to do my, by now, finely-tuned “fume act” that like I told you got a work-out every time one of these misadventures rolled around, and pulled out everything we could with us.

Ma, then knowingly, said we would have to go back home because even she knew the car was finished. I, revolutionary that I was back then, put my foot down and said no we could walk to Treasure Island, it wasn’t far. I don’t know if I can convey, or if I should convey to you, the holy hell that I raised to get my way that day. And I did a united front with my two brothers, who, usually, ignored me and I ignored them at this point in our family careers. Democracy, of a sort, ruled. Or maybe poor Ma just got worn out from our caterwauling. In any case, we abandoned a few things with my father, including that pail and shovel that was going to provide us with a gourmet’s delight of boiled clams fresh from the now mythical sea, and started our trek with the well-known basics-food and utensils and toys and chairs and, and…

Let me cut to the chase here a little. Of course I have to tell you about our route and about how your humble tour director got the bright idea that we could take a short cut down Chickatawbut Street. (This is a real street, look it up. I used to use it every time I wanted to ride my bike over to Grandma’s on Young Street in North Adamsville.) The idea of said "smart guy" tour director was to get a breeze, a little breeze while we are walking with our now heavy loads by cutting onto Shore Avenue near the Merrymount Yacht Club. The problem is that, in search of breeze or of no breeze, this way is longer, much longer for three young boys and a dragged-out mama. Well, the long and short of it was, have you ever heard of the “Bataan Death March” during World War II? If you haven’t, look it up on “Wikipedia.” Those poor, bedeviled guys had nothing on us by the time, late afternoon, we got to our destination. We were beat, beat up, beat down, beat around, beat six ways to Sunday, beat every way a human being can be beat. Did I say beat? Oh ya, I did. But Ma, sensing our three murderous hearts by then, got the charcoals burning in one of the fireplaces they provided back then, and maybe they still do. And we were off to the races.

Hey, do you really need to know about mustard and relish crammed char-broiled hot dogs or my brother’s strange ketchup-filled one on white-breaded, nasty-tasting hot dog rolls that we got cheap from Elm Farms or maybe it was First National, or my beloved Kennedy’s potato salad that kind of got mashed up in the mess up or "Hires" root beer, or "Nehi" grape, or "Nehi" orange or store–bought boxed ice cream, maybe, "Sealtest" harlequin (chocolate, strawberry and vanilla all together, see), except melted. Or those ever- present roasted marshmallow that stuck to the roof of my mouth. You’ve been down that road yourselves so you don’t need me for a guide. And besides I’m starting to get sleepy after a long day. But as tired, dusty, and dirty as I am just telling this story… Ah, Treasure Island.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

***Fragments Of A Treasure Island (Cady Park) Dream #1, Circa 1955

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for Paragon Park down at Nantasket Beach. Once again, thanks Internet.

Peter Paul Markin, North Adamsville High School Class Of 1964, comment:

It’s funny how working now, on one thing or another, will bring back those childhood hurts, those feelings sealed, or is it seared, so deep in memory that one does not expect them to resurface for love or money, although this little piece did not start out that way and probably won’t finish up that way either. This “dream” started off from seeing, a few months ago, an unexpected and fairly unusual surname of a fellow female elementary school classmate innocently listed in an off-hand, indirect North Adamsville Internet connection. The very sight of that name triggered a full-blown elementary school “romantic” daydream, from my days down at the old Adamsville “projects” where I came of age, that blossomed into a pining prose sonnet that would have made Shakespeare blush. I’ll tell you about that one sometime, but not now.

That flashback, in turn, got me into a fierce sea-faring dreaming, rolling-logged, oil-slicked, ocean water on three sides, stone-throwing Adamsville projects mood that turned into a screed on the trials and tribulations of growing to manhood in the shadows of tepid old Adamsville Beach. And that, naturally enough, triggered a quick remembrance of too infrequent family barbecue outings as the old Treasure Island (now named after a fallen Marine, Cady, if I recall correctly). At least I think that was the name in those days. That’s what we called it anyway, down at the Merrymount end of the beach. You know where I mean, you probably had your family memory barbecue outings there too, as least some of them. But enough of that background. Let me tell you what I really want to talk about, the tricks that parents used to use, and still do I suppose, to get their way. The story isn’t pretty, or for the faint of heart.

I swear I knew, and I am pretty sure that I knew for certain early on when I was just a half-pint kid myself, that kids, especially younger kids, could be “bought off” by their parents and easily steered away from what they really wanted to do, or really wanted to have, by a mere trifle. Probably you got wise to the routine early too. Still, it’s ridiculous how easily we were “pieced off”, wise as we were, and I firmly believe that there should have been, and there should be now, something like the rules of engagement that govern civilized behavior in war-time written out in the Geneva Conventions against that form of behavior by mothers and fathers. After all what is childhood, then or now, except one long, very long, battle between two very unevenly matched sides with kids, then and now, just trying to do the best they can in a world that they didn’t create, and that they didn’t get a say in creating.

I learned this little nugget of “wisdom” from battle-tested, many times losing, keep- in-there-swinging, never-say-die, first-hand experience, although I guess I might have been a little too thin-skinned and have been a little too quick to feel slighted about it at the time to really focus in on its meaning. I know that you learned this home truth this way as well whether you got onto the scam early on or not. Sure, I could be bought off, I am not any better than the rest of you on that score, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t nurse many a grievance to right those wrongs(and, incidentally, plotted many a feverish revenge, in my head at least, some of them, if impractical, pretty exquisitely drawn).

Sometimes it was just a word, sometimes literally just one word, usually a curt, cutting, razor-edged one from Ma that sent you reeling for cover ready to put up the white flag, if you ever even got that chance. Sometimes it was a certain look, a look that said “don’t go there." And, maybe, depending how you were feeling, you did and maybe you didn’t, go there that is. Hell, sometimes it could even be a mere inside-the family-meaningful side-long glance, a glance from Ma, a thing from her eye, her left one usually, brow slightly arched, that said "case closed," and forget about the pretense behind the “don’t go there” look, which at least gave you the dignity of having the opportunity to put up a little fight no manner the predetermined ending. Sometimes though, and this is hard to “confess” fifty years later and ten thousand, thousand other experiences later, that lady switched up on us and "pieced" us off with some honey-coated little thing. That damn honey-coated thing, that “good” thing standing right in front of full-blown evil, or what passed for that brand of evil in those days, is what this dream fragment is all about.

Now don’t tell me you don’t know what I am talking about in the Ma wars, and don’t even try to tell me it wasn’t usually Ma who ran point on the “no” department when you went on the offensive for some thing you wanted to have, or some place you wanted to go, especially when “desperately” was attached to the "have" or to the "go" part. No, just don’t do it. Dad, Pa, Father, whatever you called him, was held in ready-reserve for when the action got hot and heavy. Maybe, in your family, your father was the point-man but from what I have learned over the last couple of years about our parents from information that I have gathered from some of you that was a wasted strategy. We were that easy. No need for the big guns, because our ever-lovin’, hard-working, although maybe distant, fathers were doing what fathers do. Provide, or go to the depths in that struggle to provide. Ma was for mothering and running interference. That was that. Thems were the rules then, if not now. The main thing was the cards were stacked against us because what we really didn't know was they were really working as a team, one way or another. In any case, I don’t have time to dilly-dally over their strategies as I have got to move on here.

See, here is what you don’t know. Yet. Those family trips to old Treasure Island, whether they were taken from down in Adamsville or later, when we moved "up-town" to North Adamsville, as they tapered off when we three boys (my two brothers, one a little younger one a little older, and me) got too big to pretend that we really wanted to go, were really the ‘booby prize’ for not going to places like Paragon Park down in Nantasket or down to Plymouth Rock or, christ, any place that would be a change of scenery from the claptrap projects. Of course, the excuse was always the same-dad was too tired to drive after working some killer hours at some dirty old dead-end job, or one of a succession of old, hand-me-down, barely running jalopies (and I am being kind here, believe me) wasn’t running, or running well enough to make the trip, or something else that meant we couldn’t go some place.

Ya, that was all right for public consumption but here is the real reason; no dough, plain and simple. Why Ma and Dad just didn’t tell us that their circumstances were so tight that spending a couple of dollars on the roller coaster (which I didn’t care about anyway), or playing “Skee” (which I did care about), or getting cotton-candy stuck every which way (which I didn’t care about), or riding the Wild Mouse (cared about) would break the bank I will never know. Or the extra gas money. Or the extra expense of whatever. How do I know. All I knew is that we weren’t going. Period.

But, here, finally, is where the simple “bought off” comes in, although I really should have been more resolute in my anger at not going and held out for better terms. Such is the fate of young mortals, I guess. My mother, and this was strictly between me and my mother as most things were in those days, dangled the prospect of having some of Kennedy’s potato salad in front of my face on the next family picnic. You remember Kennedy’s, right? If you don’t then the rest of this thing is going to come as less that the “Book of Revelation”. Or ask your parents, or grandparent. There was one in Adamsville Square about half way down Hancock Street on the old South Shore Bank side and there was one in Norfolk Downs almost to the corner of Hancock Street and Billings Road next to the old A&P. I am not sure, and someone can help me on this, whether it was called Kennedy’s Food Shop, or Deli, or whatever but it had the best potato salad around. And fresh ground peanut butter, and sweet fragrant coffee smells, and… But I will get to describing that that some other time. Right now I am deciding whether I can be bought off or not. Yes, shamefacedly, I can and here is the closer -I can even go to Kennedy's and get the stuff myself. What do you think about that? From then on, moreover, I became the “official” Kennedy’s boy of the family. Did I sell out too cheaply? No way.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

***When Prince Love Loved In The 1967 San Francisco Summer Of Love




From The Pen Of Frank Jackman 


“Jesus, I never thought I would get here and here I am in San Francisco all in one piece standing at the foot of Russian Hill where all the “hippies” were hanging out before they went over to Golden Gate Park and “blew” their minds,” Joshua Breslin (a.k.a. Prince Love or Prince, and hereafter so identified), late of Olde (very old to hear him tell it) Saco (Maine) High School Class of 1967, but just now of youth nation, youth nation descending on friendly, friend-sized, go West young man (and woman), go West, heaven said to his boon companion of three days, Benny Buzz (real name Lawrence Stein, Brooklyn High School of Science, Class of 1967), also currently of youth nation. It was Benny Buzz who, having the vast experience of having been in ‘Frisco for a week now, and having “been up the hill,” who guided Prince Love to the foot of Russian Hill in preparation for, well, for his first summer of love experience. No, not the eternal teen summer of love at some beach, camp or vacationland amusement park where boys ogle girls (and they back, maybe) but the long expected jail break-out from the squares, from the cradle to grave plan-every-step world, and from the hassles, man, just the hassles.

Yes, Prince Love, could write the book on hassles, hassles followed by man, or not. Just a few week before he, having just graduated from Olde Saco High, had a “job offer,” a job working as a janitor in Shepard’s Textile Mill, ya, the ones who make those “boss” sweaters the girls are all crazy for these days. Crazy for in winter anyway because right now warm suns, California, Denver, hell even Maine suns, require nothing more than some skimpy top, shoulders showing, and a pair of shorts, short shorts depending on the legs or vanity. His father, Prescott, a long time employee of the mills, the lifeblood of Olde Saco just then, “pulled a few wires” to get him the job for the summer before he went off to State U in the fall. Last year, last year when he was nothing but a raw hang-out in front of the Colonial Doughnut Shoppe on Main Street (officially U.S. Route 1) with his boys (and occasionally girls, but only for a few moments while they picked up their orders) he would have jumped with both feet, maybe with both hands and feet, at the job to get some money for college.

But that was then and this is now, as they say. Now, or rather the now just a few weeks or so before he got to the foot of Russian Hill, he had received word through that mysterious youth nation grapevine that parents, squares, cops, and authority guys were frantic to figure out, but who, in the end, were clueless about, of a “great awakening” that was going on in ‘Frisco and that news fed, fed deep, into the wells of the discontent he was feeling, about his own desire to break-out from the squares, from the cradle to grave plan-every-step world, and from the hassles, man, just the hassles mentioned before. The grapevine, by the way, was not all that mysterious. Some young, long-haired, wild-looking guy dressed in a blotted multi-colored shirt (later he found out such things were called tie-dyed) from the West Coast had come east to see his grandparents who lived on Olde Saco Beach a few miles down the road and had run into Prince Love at the doughnut shop when he was looking for some joe and cakes to tide him over before a walk on the beach and told him about what was happening on the West Coast. Simple as that, okay.

That information, those pressing on the brain existential jail-break things, and well, he had just broken up with his girl, his long-time high school honey, Julie Cobb, were what drove him to seek the road west. Simple as that. Well not so simple, really, because, if the truth be known, Julie left him for another guy, an older guy who was already working in the mills (not Shepard’s but Cullen’s, the high society linen-makers), had some dough, had a boss 1964 Mustang and, most importantly, wanted to get married, and pretty soon too. That was the sticking point between the Prince and Julia, the marriage game thing that had been going on in the town since, since, well Prince didn’t know but it was pretty common. Graduate Olde Saco, work in the mills, get a couple of bucks, get married, get a tiny house on Atlantic Avenue, maybe, have two point six children, throw in a dog or two cats, and then finish up whitewashing that picket fence in front of the house with the grandchildren. No sale, not for Prince Love. He was going to college, leave the dust of that old town behind, and make a name for himself at something before he settled down in not-Olde Saco, maybe, maybe on the settle down. And from what he heard on his way west, and since he had arrived in San Fran a lot of people were feeling, wondering, groping for some answers just like him. And, ya, looking to try some dope, listen to some far-out music, grab some cool chick to shack up with, and really leave that hometown dust behind before going back east for the fall semester of school.

Now you are filled in, a little, on the what and the why of Prince (and Benny Buzz who however is right then leaving Prince to go see a man, well, go see a man about something, let’s just leave it at that) being on Russian Hill, that classic San Francisco hill mentioned a while back. A hill not previously known to first time ‘Frisco Prince Love, although maybe to some ancient Native American shaman delighted to see our homeland, the sea, out in the bay working it way to far-off Japans. Or to some Spanish conquistador, full of gold dreams but longing for the hills of Barcelona half a world away.

I just remembered, you know everything, everything except how Prince Love got here which is not a big deal since he took some dough he had originally saved up for college and used it for the Greyhound bus fare to get him here. Not for him the hitchhike road through every back road. Not for him merry prankster buses driven by mad-monk zen masters in the heated western night.

Why? Well, come on now, not everybody got every piece of news, especially in Podunk Maine, about the ways west, VW bus west, stick-out-the-thumb west and that there were people, your kind of people, ready to pick you up and take you down the road a piece. Even backing up on super-highway interstates to pick up a fellow youth nation straggler left on some desolate stretch fair game for hungry police eyes. Besides, after about a two-day bout with his parents about not taking that summer job, using the dough for college for such foolishness (to quote his everywoman mother), and other assorted arguments, family arguments started back in childhood, he had promised them to take the bus west. Let’s just say hassles, man, hassles and be done with it. And now we are done with past.

Right then though, after saying a few things in parting to Benny Buzz about catching up with each other later, as he started walking up the hill toward the entrance to the mini-“people’s park” that was about half way up Russian Hill Prince spied a tall young man, maybe a few years older than him although such things were always hard to tell with older looking beards, drug haggards, and glazed looks. He was, at second glance, tall but not as tall as Prince, lanky, maybe not as lanky as him either and from the look of him his drug stews diet had taken some additional pounds off, and some desire for pounds as well, not really normally lanky. Dressed, always worthy of description in 1967 “Frisco, male or female, in full “hippie” regalia (faded olive drab World War II army jacket, half-faded blue jeans, bright red bandanna headband to keep his head from exploding, striped checkerboard flannel shirt against the cold bay winds, against the cold bay winds even in summer, and nighttime colds too, and now that we are on the West Coast, with roman sandals on his feet). And to draw the eye more fully to the scene he is sitting with two foxy-looking young women. One, the younger one, maybe a high school student, blonde, blue-eyed, slender, short shorts belying West Coast origin, and de rigueur practical road-worthy peasant blouse. A poster child for San Francisco summer of love if he ever saw one, and of his own feverish Maine night teenage desire summer or winter of love now that Julia was past. The other women, whom he found out later called herself Lupe Matin just then although the Prince found out that she had run through several monikers previously, a college student for sure , dark-haired, dark-eyed, slightly voluptuous, seemingly a little out of place, out of figuring place, with her current male companion completed the entourage. (Her real name, Susan Sharp, Vassar College, Class of 1966, and “trying to find herself.”)

Prince cast several glances at that regal company, nodded slightly, a knowing nod, eyes fixed, as was the fashion just then, and then turned around and asked to no one in particular but kind of zeroing in on the blonde (ya, he had a thing for blondes, see Julia was just that same kind of waspy blonde, minus the tan and year-round sunshine, that he fell for, fell for hard and fast), “Got some dope, for a hungry brother?” The male, who Prince would later come to know as Far-Out Phil (Phillip Larkin, North Adamsville, Massachusetts, Class of 1964), looked at him in a bemused manner (nice touch, right). Except for shorter hair, which only meant that this traveler had either not been on the road very long or had just recently caught the “finding himself” bug he could have, thought Far-Out to himself, been Phil’s brother, biological brother.

That line, that single Prince Love line, could have been echoed a thousand, maybe ten thousand times that day along a thousand hills (well maybe not that many in San Fran), aimed at any small clot of like-minded spirits. And Phil sensing that just that one sentence spoke of kindred said, “Sure, a little Columbia Red for the head, okay?” And so started the long, well hippie long, 1960s long anyway, relationship between one Phillip Larkin and one Joshua Breslin. And, maybe, including the women too.

And, of course, as well was that sense that Far-Out had that he and Prince Love were kindred was based on the way that the Prince posed that first question. His accent spoke, spoke hard of New England, not Boston but farther north. And once the pipe had been passed a couple of times and the heat of day started getting everybody a little talkative then Prince spilled out his story. Yes, he was from Olde Saco, Maine, born and bred, a working-class kid whose family had worked the town mills for a couple of generations, maybe more, but times were getting hard, real hard in those northern mill towns now that the mill-owners had got the big idea to head south and get some cheaper labor, real cheap. So Joshua, after he graduated from high school a few weeks before decided, on a whim (not really a whim though), to head west and check out prospects here on the coast for later use after college. Josh, now fully into his Prince Love self finished up his story by saying, “And here I am a few weeks later sitting on Russian Hill smoking righteous dope and sitting with some sweet ladies.”

The Prince was just being a little off-handedly flirtatious as was his style when around women, young or old (old being thirty, tops), aiming his ammunition in general but definitely honing in on the blonde, the blonde now identified for all eternity as Butterfly Swirl (real name, Kathleen Clarke, Carlsbad High School, California, Class of 1968). (Phil, by the way, never ever said what his reaction to that last part of the Prince’s spiel, the flirtatious part, which seemed, the way it was spoken, spoken by Phil in the re-telling, filled with menace. Girl-taking menace. Well, old North Adamsville corner boy Phil would have felt that way but maybe in that hazed-out summer of love it just passed by like so much air.) Naturally Phil, a lordly road warrior now, "on the bus" now, whatever his possible misgivings, invited the Prince to stay with them, seeing as they were practically neighbors back home. Prince Love was “family” now, and Butterfly seemed gladder than the others of that fact.

And of course, family, meant home, and home for Far-Out, Butterfly Swirl, and Lupe Matin meant the now locally famous (West Coast local, okay) yellow brick road bus now known as Captain Crunch’s Crash Pad (after the owner of the bus, and “leader,” whatever that meant, of the expedition). Prince Love, from the first night, not only felt that he had found a home, a home that he never felt he had in Olde Saco but that whatever happened out here he would survive. And as more dope-filled pipes were passed that night, and as the music played louder into the sea-mist bay night, and lights gleamed from all directions the Prince grew stronger in that conviction. Especially when Far Out Phil, acting out of some old testament patriarchal script, came sauntering over to the Prince around midnight and whispered in his ear, “Butterfly Swirl wants to be with you, okay?” And that night the Prince and Butterfly Swirl were “married.”