Joshua Lawrence Breslin comment:
He, Peter Paul Markin to give him a name although many of the generation of ‘68 had been on the same quest, for a whole number of reasons both personal and political, had been on the trail of his roots, including trips to the old working class neighborhoods where he came of political age. Through various methods, including extensive use of the glorious Internet, he was able to track down a couple of guys from the old neighborhood whose family story had gripped him in olden times.
As an unintended result of that research he have also come in contact with some helpful old high school classmates, North Adamsville High School (that’s in Massachusetts) Class of 1964 . One such helpful person, a class officer back in the day, had asked him to answer some questions that her committee was putting together for his high school class with an eye to the upcoming 50th anniversary reunion. You know the “what the hell have you done with your ill-begotten life for the past half century,” how many kids, grandkids,egad, great-grandkids do you have, don’t lie about anything in any answer because we have ways of finding out the truth of your silly life. How do you think we find you after all these years anyway? (Although, as simple matter, a glance a local telephone book would have provided the answer.)
Got it. Peter Paul got it alright. He had answered some of the more pertinent questions, the dream questions, like how did things actually work out as against one’s totally inflated and obscenely optimistic teenage dream goals, as truthfully as possible, or as any of the old gang needed to know and gave forth with the expected fair percentage of lies, half-lies, and bizarre falsehoods that they should have expected for him, despite the fore-warnings. And they, in turn provided their inflated estimates. No foul, no harm. He dutifully posted those on the class website, although not without noting that this “memoir” excursion was getting to be a seemingly endless task as the more questions he answered the more they (really she, she unnamed she, just in case legal action becomes necessary) kept sending him. Such is life. But, through some of the interchange correspondence he uncovered more information about his roots coming from an earlier period, the dark “projects” coming of age period . Such is life, indeed.
He told me, one melancholy barroom veranda afternoon, some of the details of his “discovery.” How his family had started life in a housing project in Adamsville with all that implied, then and now. By the beauties of the Internet social networking he have come in contact with someone who remembered him (or rather his brother, his older brother, Prescott- she was sweet on him in elementary school), a woman named Sherry. She had lived in that housing project during his family’s stay there and for many, many year after his family had left (to move to the other side of town in a broken down single, well, shack was the only work he could think of to describe it) , and saw its transformation from a temporary way station for returning World War II veterans as had been its original intention to a classic drug-strewn crime-ridden ‘den of iniquity’ as portrayed in subsequent media accounts, She agreed to be his ‘hood historian. Moreover she had brothers, sisters, children and grandchildren who had memories from that place and she agreed to pump them for their remembrances.
And that is where I came in. Peter Paul, my old yellow brick road magical mystery tour brother from the 1960s summer of love (summers of love?) generational break-out since we met on the West Coast one sunny year called on me to work out some of the kinks in the stories, something he felt was too close to believe that he could do them some small measure of justice. He presented the concept as something that could very well be a slice of life series on the trials and tribulations of members of the marginally working poor, a section of the working class with which I am also very familiar coming from old time mill town Olde Saco up in Maine. See too from my vantage point the thing could have produced a study, with all its inherent limitations, of the decline and disintegration of working class political consciousness in America since World War II. I had (have) written other stories from the Olde Saco days that played out one way with a section of the working class that was slightly above the one that Peter Paul came from, but just above, the steadily employed working people who dotted the coastal Maine landscape back then. That saga did not paint a pretty political picture. Nor would this one, I feared. But, damn, we both agreed, why shouldn’t these people have their stories told, warts and all.
Again, like that Olde Saco series (with a ponderous series title of History and Consciousness, H&C, I have gotten better with my titles since then, thank you), this series would really narrate a very prosaic working class set of stories. I planned, however, to organize these stories differently because now I know what I am looking for and each story will be able to stand on its own. In H&C the stories as they unfolded piecemeal, frankly, got out of control and I do not believe that when I put all the parts together at the end that it had the power that I wanted it to have, and that it did have for me as they unfolded.
That said, if this time last year somebody asked me, including Peter Paul, if I would be doing another series like H&C I would have said they were crazy. I then wanted to discuss the finer theoretical points of organizing for the American withdrawal from Afghanistan Iraq or building a workers’ party in this country. But this series seemed like finding the philosopher’s stone. This was the “real deal” down at the base of society, from a time when with a little tweaking things could have gone in another direction.
I prepared the first story (since published) that dealt with how this poor woman Sherry, Peter’s ‘hood historian, was humiliated by other students (girls mainly) at his elementary school for the mere fact of being from “the projects.” This writer was painfully aware of that type of humiliation as he faced the same thing up in Olde Saco. H expected to use that introductory story to draw some political conclusions, if possible. Again, as I had in H&C, I asked the question- will there be political lessons to be learned? I did not believe so, directly. However, real stories about the fate of the working class down at the base can help explain the very real retardants to working class political consciousness that we face as we try to organize here in America to take back the republic. I have spent a lifetime quoting radical socialist principles, chapter and verse, elsewhere. These stories desperately need to be told. Sadly, after that first story though Sherry passed away and we, Peter Paul and I, have been left a little rudderless. Time is not always on our side. Sherry from the ‘hood, RIP.