Tuesday, July 17, 2012

From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin- She’s Got To Hold On

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Tom Waits performing Hold On.

Hold On Lyrics-Tom Waits

They hung a sign up in our town
"if you live it up, you won't
live it down"
So, she left Monte Rio, son
Just like a bullet leaves a gun
With charcoal eyes and Monroe hips
She went and took that California trip
Well, the moon was gold, her
Hair like wind
She said don't look back just
Come on Jim

Oh you got to
Hold on, Hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I'm standing right here
You gotta hold on

Well, he gave her a dimestore watch
And a ring made from a spoon
Everyone is looking for someone to blame
But you share my bed, you share my name
Well, go ahead and call the cops
You don't meet nice girls in coffee shops
She said baby, I still love you
Sometimes there's nothin left to do

Oh you got to
Hold on, hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I'm standing right here, you got to
Just hold on.

Well, God bless your crooked little heart St. Louis got the best of me
I miss your broken-china voice
How I wish you were still here with me

Well, you build it up, you wreck it down
You burn your mansion to the ground
When there's nothing left to keep you here, when
You're falling behind in this
Big blue world

Oh you go to
Hold on, hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I'm standing right here
You got to hold on

Down by the Riverside motel,
It's 10 below and falling
By a 99 cent store she closed her eyes
And started swaying
But it's so hard to dance that way
When it's cold and there's no music
Well your old hometown is so far away
But, inside your head there's a record
That's playing, a song called

Hold on, hold on
You really got to hold on
Take my hand, I'm standing right here
And just hold on.

JLB Note: It really doesn’t take much these days, these old time memory be-fogged days, to have some snippet come swirling out of the air, some caught phrase in a passing conversation, some half-glanced word mentioned on some media outlet, some fragrance smelled from long ago soaps, perfumes, downy billows, to get me into that frame of mind to speak of old time Olde Saco (that is up in Maine for the unknowing heathens). The Olde Saco of the 1960s dying textile mills, of various working- class rites of passage, of teenage this and that, and most of all of the French-Canadian (on my mother Delores’ side, the side that counted, nee LeBlanc) ethos, pathos, and bathos that permeated the town. And of course, of F-C loves, lost and found.

The genesis of this particular air-borne swirl came via YouTube when I was searching for Tom Waits’ knows-skid-row-in-his-heart version of Yip Harsburg’s Brother Can You Spare A Dime? and I noticed his Hold On as part of his available playlist (the list of other stuff by an artist located on the right side of the screen if that is not what it is called). Upon listening that song brought to mind one Yvette Genet, her mad passion for men (boys really but I will get to that below), her mad passion for poetry and her mad passion for the “beats,” for the odd and unusual in grey old 1960s Olde Saco. She was to pay a dear price for those passions on October 23, 1964 (that date is important to the story, to my memory of her, and to her fate so I mention here first).
They kicked Yvette Genet out of town, kicked her out calling her a social disease, kicked her out before she could give every boy (and maybe every man but that was left unspoken) in town some social disease [a sexually transmitted disease, venereal disease, the “clap” for the less sensitive-JLB] they said. They kicked her out and told her in no uncertain terms not to come back on that fateful October 23, 1964 day. The day, night really, they found her, well, buck naked in her big ’56 Chevy (bought courtesy of some old-time flame for her “favors” from what I had heard) down in back of the parking lot of Jimmy Jake’s Diner with an identically clad under-aged boy (meaning not out of high school) going at it hammer and tongs. [Having sex, big old sex, in some odd position, not missionary-style for the less sensitive-JLB]

Hey, I had better back up and clarify this kicking out, this Yvette kicking out thing, before you get the wrong idea, or maybe better half-wrong idea about growing up in Olde Saco. Before you thing I grew up in the Stone Age or something and not at the threshold of the sexual revolution here in America. Of course, as far as I know, sex, consensual (and unfortunately not consensual too) under-aged sex, illicit sex, sex with somebody not you betrothed, or anything like that has been going on since, well, since Adam and Eve. Even in Olde Saco, and maybe especially in Olde Saco (the “summer guest” part of the town near the ocean anyway when about forty bars and clubs lure every available taste).

What got Yvette Genet on the wrong side of things was that she, all of eighteen, all of Gallic beauty (thin, blonde hair, natural, natural as any blonde’s can be, no bosom like most all F-C [French- Canadian] girls and a come hither smile that said “welcome,” welcome not in a lewd way but in a you-are-a- man-and- I-like men way) did what she pleased, and where, as the incident at Jimmy Jake’s Diner (not exactly out in the boondocks) gives graphic expression to. And that was too much for the madames of the Atlantic section of Olde Saco (the men, if they said anything or thought anything probably were half-thinking about that buck naked scene), the F-C quarters. A place with its own ethos derived from generations of previous Gallic F-C Roman Catholics and on the surface very, very proper.

They, the good F-C mothers, the good merchants who catered to the F-C community, the good F-C priests (with their own lusts, or wanna-be lusts),
“froze” Yvette out just as surely as any medieval town did with their scorning parades, and their various physical acts of isolating of the “different.” So Yvette left, left with a tank full of gas (according to Stewball “Stu” who worked as a gas jockey at Jimmy Jake’s Gas Station [the one adjoining the diner, not the one of Atlantic Avenue]), left first for Portland where she could blend into the crowd, and then headed west. The reason I knew all this, and knew of her whereabouts for a while, was her brother Johnny (okay, okay Jean) was a good friend of mine at Olde Saco High School where we ran track together.

I wondered, wondered for a time (a long teenage time, a couple of years before I graduated from high school and lost track of Yvette, and Johnny, as I made my own trek west) why she had to leave. Sure she liked sex, liked showing the boys a good time. But no boy that I knew (or man when I later got to that stage) ever complained, privately anyway, about that charm. About that certain charm in connection with any girl/woman. She also was something of a “beatnik,” or what passed for beat in far-removed and last news Olde Saco in 1964 when that was getting to be old hat elsewhere. Johnny said she loved poetry. Howling into that good night Allen Ginsberg, Olde Saco South mill town (Lowell, Massachusetts) million word on the road Jack Kerouac, zen buddha wordsmith Gary Snyder, mad street gangster saint out of some Catholic Worker shelter Gregory Corso. Names that I was starting to recognize and “dig.” (Along with a madness for T.S Eliot modern wastelands and John Milton ancient paradise losts, figure that out for yourselves). She also didn’t go to Ste. Brigitte’s like she should, and that had those very catholic rite watching madames in a tizzy (and the priests too, once the madams gave their marching orders) . But mainly, I guess, she made a point, a very big point of being independent, enough to make her stand out way before women learned to run amok and have nobody (or almost nobody think twice about it).

Enough of Olde Saco, its witchcraft traditions, its fake exorcisms, and its babble. This is after all about Yvette. I told you about her going to Portland (hey, I just thought, the Maine Portland not the Oregon one. They don’t consider it proper to have sex there either from what I heard, at least non-politically correct sex.). There she worked in a topless bar for a while for coffee and cakes, took a couple of classes in poetry at Bowdoin (quoting Ginsberg’ Howl from memory I heard later, much later, when I ran into an English professor from there at some anti-war march and he mentioned her after he made the Olde Saco connection), and met some wrong gee, some grifter, some Faro Jack, some five- card stud player, and headed west.

The heading west part was harder to pin down, as Johnny got fewer and fewer phone calls and letters from her (more often just some postcard from some Podunk town like Olde Saco as she, they, passed through). What we pieced together (and this was pure speculation on our part) was that she was “showing the boys a good time” for dough to keep them in coffee and cakes when Faro Jack hit a rough patch with the cards. [Read: worked as a prostitute, hooker, whore, for the less sensitive.]

But Yvette was also working on her own poetry. She sent Johnny (and mentioned to him to show it to me) a poem one time that had gotten published in some now forgotten poetry journal. And when you think about it our speculation wasn’t that far off, she loved sex and poetry. Like I said I lost contact with Johnny and thus her later story but I like to think that her charms (she really was beautiful in that “who was that woman who just passed by subtle Gallic way” that has you thinking, hell, that drove to distraction, some later sleepless night about some unnamed, maybe un-nameable, fragrance) and her poetry allowed her to hold on.

Oh, yes, and that boy, that under-aged buck naked boy sitting (actually lying down) in a big old two-toned ’56 Chevy, brought courtesy of some guy for Yvette’s favors, down in the back of Jimmy Jake’s Diner, that was me, Josh Breslin. But that is a story for another day. Yah, I hope she held on.

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