Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Poet's Corner- On Armistice Day Weekend- From World War I- Wilfred Owen's Dulce Est Decorum Est

Dulce et Decorum Est
best known poem of the First World War
(with notes)


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares(2) we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest(3) began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots(4)
Of tired, outstripped(5) Five-Nines(6) that dropped behind.

Gas!(7) Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets(8) just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime(9) . . .
Dim, through the misty panes(10) and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering,(11) choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud(12)
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest(13)
To children ardent(14) for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.(15)

Wilfred Owen
8 October 1917 - March, 1918

Notes on Dulce et Decorum Est
1. DULCE ET DECORUM EST - the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace). The words were widely understood and often quoted at the start of the First World War. They mean "It is sweet and right." The full saying ends the poem: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - it is sweet and right to die for your country. In other words, it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country.

2. Flares - rockets which were sent up to burn with a brilliant glare to light up men and other targets in the area between the front lines (See illustration, page 118 of Out in the Dark.)

3. Distant rest - a camp away from the front line where exhausted soldiers might rest for a few days, or longer

4. Hoots - the noise made by the shells rushing through the air

5. Outstripped - outpaced, the soldiers have struggled beyond the reach of these shells which are now falling behind them as they struggle away from the scene of battle

6. Five-Nines - 5.9 calibre explosive shells

7. Gas! - poison gas. From the symptoms it would appear to be chlorine or phosgene gas. The filling of the lungs with fluid had the same effects as when a person drowned

8. Helmets - the early name for gas masks

9. Lime - a white chalky substance which can burn live tissue

10. Panes - the glass in the eyepieces of the gas masks

11. Guttering - Owen probably meant flickering out like a candle or gurgling like water draining down a gutter, referring to the sounds in the throat of the choking man, or it might be a sound partly like stuttering and partly like gurgling

12. Cud - normally the regurgitated grass that cows chew usually green and bubbling. Here a similar looking material was issuing from the soldier's mouth

13. High zest - idealistic enthusiasm, keenly believing in the rightness of the idea

14. ardent - keen

15. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - see note 1 above.

To see the source of Wilfred Owen's ideas about muddy conditions see his letter in Wilfred Owen's First Encounter with the Reality of War.

From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin-The She Be-Bop Beach

“Josh called, Josh called, Josh called about seven times while you were out Betty,” a somewhat harried Mrs. Becker yelled up to Betty rushing to her room in order to get ready for her big date with new romance Teddy. Elizabeth Becker (named after favorite grandmother Elizabeth Simpson although everybody called her, the favorite granddaughter, Betty to keep things straight) froze for just a minute, just a minute decisive minute. Today Betty’s world turned, and she thought for the better or at least a chance for the better, and no Josh, Josh Breslin was going to hold her back. Hold her back from getting ahead in this wicked old world (to use a forever Josh expression) even if they had been going “steady” for the past two years since they met Freshman year in that silly old Civics class where Josh offered to help her through the thickets of the American governmental, local, state, and federal process. They fell for each other although he for her more than she for him especially lately, and she was wearing his class ring (Class of 1961) as of last summer.  

Today though the world turned . Teddy, Teddy Andrews turned. Teddy today freshly met, six hours and fifteen minutes ago freshly met, at the beach, the beautiful, beautiful Olde Saco Beach, formerly just a beach, a too stony to the Betty feet touch beach, fetid at low tide (it stunk, honestly) and on more than one occasion held to be a beach fit solely for lowlife by one Betty Becker. But now beautiful, beautiful since Teddy, Teddy Andrews, had noticed her, had graced and traversed with his bare feet that stony brine in order to introduce himself to her, her Betty Becker, soon to be a senior at Olde Saco High and then, then …fleeting moments of fantasy, Mrs. Teddy Andrews.

Now it was not merely happenstance that Betty Becker was on Olde Saco Beach this July 1960 afternoon, stationed there along with her bevy of summering Olde Saco High School girls (okay, okay three other girls just in case four does not make a bevy) in their sacred sanctified spot between the Seal Rock Yacht Club and the South Saco River Club. This spot had been a dedicated place for the pick (and not so pick) of the Olde Saco High soon to be senior girls since, well, since there was probably an Olde Saco Beach, or at least as far back as anyone, any soon to be senior girl could remember. Reason: reason number one and there was (is) no other reason worthy of mention was this was prime real estate, stony brine or not, to be noticed, noticed in summer swim suits or diaphanous sun dresses, by what passed for the Olde Saco Mayfair set, junior division. In short, future husband or lover material to take a step or two up in the world without much heavy lifting (or so most of these young unworldly women thought).

That reason was moreover of more recent origin, and datable as well, since Lydia LeClair, Olde Saco Class of 1944, a friend and classmate of Betty’s  Aunt Judy, and of humble MacAdams Textile Mills mill worker family had snagged Robert MacAdams, a grandson of the founder, and was even now comfortable ensconced in a small mansion over in Ocean City for all to see, and admire. Aunt Judy had brought Betty over there a couple of times to see how the other half lived and to emphasize that with Betty’s good looks she too should be thinking of snagging some local scion of a Mayfair swell family. After that first couple of visits Betty needed no coaxing to go pass that mansion on her own (or rather with that bevy of girls she hung around with) and dream her Betty dreams about getting out from under her gentile shabby existence (her mother’s term for the downwardly mobile fate of this branch of the Becker family since the old small Becker mill had closed a decade or so before).

So from that Lydia LeClair snag onward not only was this spot sacred senior girl ground but the seat of dreams, of getting out from under some small white picket fence cottage over on Atlantic Avenue and a pinched life fate like their parents. So daily in the summer, pretty girls, not so pretty girls, even just average girls could be found between those two boat clubs and nowhere else. And heaven help, no better, hell help any soon to be freshman, sophomore or junior girl (one not even need to mention junior high girls) found in that precinct before her time. Come to think of it most days anybody at all but that select company. (And those any other at all would be well advised to avoid that place what with the preening, the giggles, and the incessant johnny angel, teen angel, fool in love, earth angel, angel baby, endless sleep, music roaring out of those collective transistor radios). But enough of beaches, enough of stones, enough of boat clubs, enough of blaring music back to Betty Becker and her palpable dream.

That afternoon Teddy (father a lawyer for the MacAdams Textile Mills and therefore worthy of local Mayfair swell-dom) had spied her, he said, from the deck of the Seal Rock Club and was compelled, compelled he said, to check out the foxy blonde-haired chick (boy term of art, circa 1960 and forward, for, girl, woman) in the red bikini. Betty smiled, smiled the smile of the knowing, knowing that she had turned more than one head this summer, older guys too sporting silly no-account leering looks, with that very revealing bathing suit. Unlike the others though, young and old, that she would have rebuffed if they had approached (some if they had come within a mile of her) Teddy had noticed, saw red, saw sex in big letters, walked over to the bevy of blankets (the other three of the so-called bevy not exactly unbecoming but not blonde and red-bikini-ed and therefore this day not Teddy Andrews temperature raising) told her just that, told her how foxy she looked. And she practically swooned (although already practiced in coyness-ship just smiled, obligatory smile responded). A few minutes of off-hand banter and they were dated up for the evening.

Dreamy Teddy, rich Teddy, of the father-bought new Pontiac Star Chief sitting in front of the Seal Rock Club for all the world, all the Olde Saco girl world to see, and that was what mattered, with plenty of zip and style (car and boy) that every girl in school was crazy to get in the front seat of, and with. Teddy of the now forget Josh, forget he ever existed Josh. But more importantly, forget Josh in a “what is a girl to do, big doings, and a big hungry world ,” walking Josh of the no car fraternity. Josh and Betty eternally walking from her house to wherever, mainly the summerfallwinterfspring   hang-out seawall in front of Seal Rock at the far end of the beach or, worst (since she did not like him) double-dating, eternally back seat double-dating with Josh’s corner boy (their term) Jimmy Leclerc and whatever thing he brought with him. Josh of the no dough family even lower on the totem pole that the Becker family what with his father unemployed a lot and sometimes without a car, or even a phone. Not even a phone. Blah.

And before Betty could hear the faint ring of another Josh call she was out the door and planned to be off-limits, Teddy off-limits, to every Josh in school, including Josh, until somebody came by with a father-bought Cadillac and then maybe she would find herself in the front seat of that automobile. Maybe. Yes, a girl, a working-class girl with good looks, a good personality but admittedly a little light on the book smarts, and a lot light on the dough smarts had to look out for herself. Josh, eternally understanding Josh, would understand, wouldn’t he?

Meanwhile Josh, Josh of the infinite nickels, had stepped away from the public telephone at Doc’s Drugstore over on Main Street after making that eighth call to one Betty Becker. See, Josh had two reasons for using the public telephone at Doc’s, first, he didn’t want snooping older brothers to harass him over his long Betty craze (they had her figured as, at best, a gold-digger and was just hanging on to Josh until the next best thing came along) and so he would not use a home phone to call her. And secondly, currently, the Breslin residence, due to an out of work father, had no phone with which to call Miss Betty in any case. So he was pushing shoe leather between the telephone booth and his stool at Doc’s where a forlorn Coke (cherry Coke) was waiting on the completion of his errand. He said to himself one more time was all and then he would head home. Ninth call, no soap, and he left saying a pitiful good night to Doc.

Out on Main Street Josh walked head down, lost in thought, when a big new Pontiac, two-toned (a couple of shades of green then stylish, uh, cool) passed him by, honking like crazy. He didn’t realize who it was until the car came back to him honking like crazy again. Then he saw Betty and her dreamy Teddy laughing, laughing like crazy at the “pedestrian.” The car stopped, Betty got out and gave Josh his class ring back saying that she was not walking any place anymore, thank you. And then, to add insult to injury, Teddy floored the gas pedal leaving dust all over Josh. He could faintly sense what he thought was them laughing, laughing like crazy once again as they drove away. Betty though was miffed at Teddy for that last act, and she later through one of her girlfriends conveyed that message, although she never said anything to Josh about it then or latter since she avoided him like the plague thereafter.

That emissary also found out and conveyed to Betty information that Josh had thought over the situation and while he was still hurt he could see that Betty had to take her chance, take her chance to get out from under the Olde Saco rock and while he didn’t forgive her he did understand. What he didn’t understand, and said he wouldn’t understand for many years, was why she acted that way that night on Main Street after they had just recently discussed the issue of not making fools of each other under any circumstances. That conversation ended when Betty and he had laughed at that thought promising eternally that such would never be their fates. Betty froze for another moment on hearing that news but her fate was cast. Just then Teddy honked his beautiful new Pontiac horn and she was off. That night as if to seal her new fate she let Teddy finally have his way with her. 

[Betty MacAdams, nee Becker, did eventually find her Mayfair swell, for a while, marrying a great-grandson of the founder of the MacAdams textile fortune, moved over with the rest of the clan to Ocean City, had a couple of kids, was eventually divorced by that great-grandson when he went to live with his mistress, and was last heard to be living quietly in Europe on her divorce settlement. For a while, until such things went out of fashion, public fashion anyway, Betty was held up as the Olde Saco High senior girl example of the possibilities of summering between those two old boat clubs waiting on the Mayfair swells, junior division.- JLB]



Monday, October 29, 2012

Those Oldies But Goodies…Out In The Be-Bop ‘50s Song Night- The Chiffons’ He’s So Fine

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of The Chiffons performing the classic doo wop song He’s So Fine.

Joshua Lawrence Breslin comment:

This is another tongue-in-cheek commentary, the back story if you like, in the occasional entries under this headline going back to the primordial youth time of the 1950s with its bags full of classic rock songs for the ages. Now many music and social critics have done yeomen’s service giving us the meaning of various folk songs, folk protest songs in particular, from around this period. You know they have essentially beaten us over the head with stuff like the meaning of Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind as a clarion call for now aging baby-boomers back then and a warning (not heeded) that a new world was a-bornin’, or trying to be. Or better, The Times They Are A-Changin’ with its plaintive plea for those in charge to get hip, or stand aside. (They did neither.) And we have been fighting about a forty year rearguard action to this very day trying to live down those experiences, and trying to get new generations to blow their own wind, change their own times, and sing their own plainsong in a similar way.

Like I said the critics have had a field day (and long and prosperous academic and journalistic careers as well) with that kind stuff, fluff stuff really. The hard stuff, the really hard stuff that fell below their collective radars, was the non-folk, non-protest, non-deep meaning (so they thought) stuff, the daily fare of popular radio back in the day. A song like today’s selection, He’s So Fine. A song that had every red-blooded American (and, who knows, maybe world teen) wondering their own wondering about the fate of the song’s narrator and her quest for that elusive Johnnie. About her plan to capture old Johnnie’s heart so that she, in Johnnie’s reflected glory, could be the envy of all the girls. More importantly, if he becomes stubborn and does not fall to her charms right away will she continue her pursue, continue it forever. Yes, that is the hard stuff of social commentary, the stuff of popular dreams, and the stuff that is being tackled head on in this series- Those Oldies But Goodies…Out In The Be-Bop ‘50s Song Night. Read on.

Susie Murphy comment:

Gee, can it be over a year, over a whole year since I spotted Johnnie, Johnnie Cain over at the Adventure Car-Hop over in Centerville where I was working as a car hop at the time trying to put nickels and dimes together so that I could go to secretarial school over up in Boston , Fisher College, you might have heard of it, to study in order to become an executive secretary to some big businessman and not be stuck, stuck like my sister, Sandra, in some lowly steno pool over at the John Hancock Insurance Company being bored to death just pounding the keys all day and dreaming of, dreaming of I don’t know what. I don’t know what lately moreover as Sandy and I don’t cross paths so much since I started working as a nighttime car-hop to get better tips.   

Can it really be almost two years since I graduated from Northfield High (Class of 1961) and broke up with my senior year high school flame Frankie Larkin after that graduation night when he tried taking certain liberties with me when I didn’t want such liberties taken (although, I am not prude, and on previous occasions it was just fine ). Let’s just leave it at that although our break-up was almost a sure thing since Frankie was going off to college in New Haven (which is why he thought that he could do what he tried to do to me as a lasting symbol of our love before he left, left to screw around with every girl from New Haven to New York City that would give him the time of day. Yah, right Frankie no girl has ever heard that line before). I was, moreover, determined to make some money that summer to go to school and not burden my poor widowed mother who was barely able to make ends meet without Sandy’s help. So sex, and the possibilities of getting pregnant were, low on my calendar that night and for a while thereafter.        

Come to think of it can it really be over two years since I started working at the car-hop, first the afternoon family and after school shift (and no serious tips, although plenty of guff, plenty of get me this and get me that, from harried mothers with a carful of kids and snooty high schoolers who though that I was an indentured servant) and then nights and plenty of tips, big tips from guys hanging out expecting a little something extra for their generosity along with their hamburgers and Cokes. Like a buck or two got them some privilege to get more than a grateful thank you. Of course they were guys, single guys, in their souped-up cars, or a bunch of guys “cruising” the strip (really Main Street but everybody calls it the strip since that movie, that James Dean movie, Rebel Without A Cause came out a few years ago. Guys with their honeys, guy with their girlfriends might give me an eye but mainly they were eyes straight forward, or else, and coin tips. 

Most night though it was fun, although my feet were tired by the end of the shift (one in the morning weeknights, two, weekends, Wednesday through Sunday). I enjoyed, enjoyed from a safe distance, a distance enforced by Morey the short order cook and part- owner if one of his car-hops was in need of such protection, guys hitting on me with their silly lines. I think they must have learned their lines from some junior high school boys’ lav wall where they are etched for eternity, and eternal use because after a while I could almost recite the lines back to them. A couple of times I went out, quietly went out, with a guy but that just didn’t work out since he was married, very married (with two kids) which he told me about on our second date.         

Then one night, one slow Thursday night ( a slow night even in summer since everybody was saving their burger and shakes money, with tips, I hoped, for the weekend and the prospect of , well, I am no prude, the prospect of getting lucky, sex lucky, okay), Johnny, dreamboat Johnny, came in, came in alone, came in his sedate-looking Pontiac. Probably his father’s on loan I thought since it showed no souped-up signs.  I waited on him, took his order (cheeseburger, medium well, no ketchup, no onions, fries, and a cherry Coke, large), left to put in the order, returned with it from the cook station and placed the tray on his front door window. I gave him the bill for two dollars and some change; he paid me and added a generous dollar tip. Like always, like always except he didn’t give me any snappy come on line like every other single guy that evening, didn’t say anything except a manly mannerly thank you, I appreciate the service, a thank you like it meant something to him to say thank you in just that way.

Like always, as well, my usual friendly service except I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. He was beautiful; or rather he had beautiful, meaningfully beautiful, blue eyes which made the rest of him beautiful too. (A fellow car-hop, who had waited on him on previous occasions, said it better perhaps, he had “bedroom eyes.”) I watched him as I waited on other customers wondering what he was all about, wondering why he didn’t make a pass at me when I thought I distinctly gave the impression that I was Johnny make-a- pass-able. Nothing. He finished his order and left. He came back several times over the next couple of months after that, sometimes I waited on him (usually the same order, always the same generous tip, and always with me having a big sign on me saying “make a pass, brother, brother, make a pass, you’ll be glad you did” –nothing), sometimes one of the other girls would beat me to him.      

I had pretty much given up on my Johnnie boy, figuring that he was either married like that other guy I dated on the job, on the run, a homosexual, or something because, frankly, no guys had ever said that I was hard to look at. And I wasn’t. Especially in my car-hop uniform (in summer a halter and short shorts which showed off my long legs to advantage) that made more than one guy think bedroom thoughts. Still many nights, and not just nights when he came in, I would toss and turn over him, and maybe do some other things too, some private things, okay, before going to sleep.     

Then one night, late afternoon really, Carla, my closest car-hop friend told me that she had heard that Johnnie (who she was interested in too and put out a bigger “make a pass, buddy” sign out than I did when she waited on him)  worked for his father over at the John Cain& Son law office near Smith Street downtown. She said that she was going to go over there the next afternoon before work and take her chances to see if he would bite when she was not in uniform. I panicked.   

The next morning about nine o’clock, still tired from the last late night shift I was sitting in the law offices of John Cain &Son when Johnny came walking in the office door. I turned red, beet red, when he looked at me, looked at me not recognizing me at first and then something clicked and he said something like he didn’t know Adventure Car-Hop had a take-out service. We laughed and then I turned red, beet red again. I froze, froze for a moment, realizing this was all wrong, that he was not all that interested and was just being polite to a dumb cluck and then just ran out of the office. What a foolish thing, what silly high school kind of thing to do, although later that afternoon as I was getting ready for work I was glad I at least tried, tried for the brass ring. And that…        

Oh, sorry, I hear a honk outside and I have to leave now. I have to leave because Johnny said he would pick me up at eight so we can celebrate our first anniversary together. I can’t stay out late because I have an early class tomorrow but he insisted we celebrate tonight.  See, my foolish girlish stunt at the office touched something in Johnnie, something that his lawyer’s mind (first year law school student actually which explained a lot) said “needed further investigation” (I am quoting him now).  That night, really morning, just before closing, he showed up at the restaurant , waved off the charging Carla, and just sat there, not saying a word until I came over to his car, took his order (same old, same old) except this time he said and I quote- “I’ll wait for you until you finish work, alright?” And he did.       


From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin-Twisted Fate- Edmond O’Brien’s-Backfire- A Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the film noir Backfire.

DVD Review

Backfire, starring Edmond O’Brien, Dane Clark, Virginia Mayo, Gordon MacRae, Warner Brothers, 1950

Sometimes a woman will twist up a man so bad it is not funny. Twist up a guy like Ben Arno so bad that he is ready to give up everything, including his life, just for a whiff of that perfume, or whatever it is that drove him to it, to murder. (And guys can do the same to women, okay, but just this minute, this film noir minute, it is about what dames do to guys, seemingly rational guys, okay). And it’s not like Ben (played by a seemingly sane Dane Clark), a genuine bad guy in the end, is not the only one caught up by that damn fragrance. Good guys, tough guys, guys that don’t crack so easy like Robert Mitchum turned to putty once Jane Greer came within ten feet of that café down Sonora, Mexico way or wherever it was, in Out Of The Past. Hang him high. Ditto a genuine smart guy like Orson Welles when Rita Hayworth (who had her own) asked for a tramp cigarette in New York’s Central park in The Lady From Shang-hai. End of story. Need I mention street-wise, hobo road king John Garfield when he spied Lana Turner coming through that diner door in The Postman Always Rings Twice. Gone. Or Fred MacMurray, a guy who should have figured the percentages better since he was in the insurance business, when he saw Barbara Standwyck (hell, saw just her damn bracelet) coming down those stairs in Double Indemnity. Hell, it hit a small, no account guy like Harry in The Big Sleep who was ready to give his all, and did, for his round-heeled Agnes. Even hard guy Sam, Sam Spade, was led a merry chase before he sobered after getting a look at Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon, but I’ll bet he spent many a lonely winter night wondering, candidly wondering, whether he had played it right. So Ben join the line, the long line. 

Here is why. Lysa (no sic here, that is the way she spelled it, spelled her foreign name, probably the first lure that roped Ben in), a refugee from war-torn Austria, who like a lot of men and women in that period in Europe grabbed whatever they could, with whatever they had. And what Lysa had was that fragrance, or something like that, and Ben fell, fell hard, brought her back to the states, set her up as his untamed mistress and was ready to fight tooth and nail to get her to love him, love him just a little, damn. That is literally tooth and nail. See, Ben would see red (and about six other colors) if another guy looked at her, or maybe even thought about it. And that maddened state is what drives the plot of this little 1950 film noir.     

Ben was, well, let’s call him a sportsman, a gentleman gambler, out in California (back East or in Chicago, less kind and exalted places he would be called a flat-out hood) and, as a favor to an old World War II war buddy, Steve (played by Edmond O’Brian last seen in this space trying to figure out how he died, and who did it, in the classic  D.O.A.) in need of dough he  hires him on as a high-grade enforcer, maybe gofer is better. Problem is that Steve too gets a whiff of that perfume, or whatever it is that old Lysa had, that drove both good guys and bad guys hoopy. And then Ben sees the pair one night in a lovers’ embrace. Like I said he didn’t like, didn’t like that one bit and tried to kill Steve via the old automobile smash. He didn’t succeed but in a rage he started killing off, including Lysa for different reasons obviously, anyone that could connect him with Steve, and his rage.     

Well as we have gotten this far you might as well know just in case you are not a film noir fan, or if you couldn’t figure things out for yourself, that Ben can’t get away with all this murder stuff. Crime does not pay, remember, film noir 101. That is where his severely wounded war buddy recuperating in a VA hospital, Bob (played by Gordon MacRae), comes in, as well as Bob’s VA nurse love interest, Julie, (played by Virginia Mayo). Ben has Steve hidden away recuperating (maybe) while he covers his tracks. Bob, like a good war buddy, has to find out what happened to him after he get discharged from the hospital since Steve  stopped coming to the hospital to see him. And so they proceed to do just that.

I have mentioned in other film noir reviews how ordinary citizens, here ordinary citizen-soldiers, are important to the solution of certain noir crimes, of taking care of business especially when their necks (or their buddy’s neck) are on the line. In film noir, as in life, solving big time crimes like murder can’t be left to the cops, no way. They, the cops, are good for writing up traffic tickets and telling drivers to move on, maybe collaring you for some tickets to some police charity, cadging some coffee and crullers, and, maybe coming in at the end to brace the bad guys but to solve a murder when your neck is on the line, no, no.

Although Bob and Julie co-operate (kind of) with the local cops (headed by a Captain played by classic character actor Ed Begley) who are looking for Steve in order to pin a murder on him they figure that they had better solve this crime spree themselves. And they do, but you can watch this so-so film noir (a little too good guy cute in places, a little too pat in the dialogue, and a few too many false leads place helter-skelter to make it really work). But remember this one is about what a dame, a good dame here, can do to twist a guy up, twist him up bad.    


From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin- A New York City Saga- Deadline At Dawn- A Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the film noir Deadline at Dawn. 

DVD Review

Deadline at Dawn, starring Susan Hayward, Bill Williams, Paul Lukas, Warner Brothers, 1948,
Sure, everybody knows there are eight million, more or less, stories in the Naked City. Yah, the Big Apple, New Jack City, hell, you know New York City. At least everybody should know since we are beaten over the head with that hard fact every day, every day somebody wants to discuss crime, welfare fraud, the immigration problem, the national debt or whatever else they think they can fob off on a big city that can’t defend itself, or at least has to plead guilty as charged. Now not all the stories going to back when the place first changed hands for a couple of beads from some crafty Dutchmen or now are worthy of note. Mostly the people behind those eight million, more or less, stories are just struggling to stay above water, just trying to get to and fro without getting mugged on the IRT, or worst just trying to hail a cab at rush hour or the early hours. Hey, most of them are leading, what was it called, yah, lives of quiet desperation just like the rest of us. Here’s a story though, a story with a murder in it, maybe uncommon in you burg but not so uncommon in the big city, ever, and a story about how ordinary guys and dolls, ordinary guys and dolls though who had gotten themselves through World War II, take care of their own business when the deal goes down.          

Some guys are born fall guys, some guys grow into the role and our sailor boy Alex (played by Bill Williams a good choice with that angelic mom’s boy and apple pie face) is one of them. Alex, who saw more than enough of service during the war, is a prime example of that golly-gee American manhood who nevertheless helped put paid to the likes of Hitler, Tojo and Il Duce when they needed stopping. But still naïve, big city golly gee naïve, and in the Naked City that spells only one thing-patsy, fall guy, mark, or whatever you call it out your way. So our lonely guy on furlong gets taken for a ride, or is set up for it. Naturally it involves a woman, Lisa, a woman of the night to be kind, just in case there are some gentle souls in the audience.  A woman who as her protective nefarious “connected” brother said, thinks like a man. And thinking like a man for a woman, a New York City woman of the night (and not just New York City either), is the oldest gag in book. Get guys, especially married guys, to tumble, get them to tumble hard, get them asking for more and then, boom, a threat of quick call or note to wifey and then just wait for the pay off. Nice.  A nice racket if you don’t get too greedy, or get a wrong gee working against you.

 So Alex gets himself a little drunk, well, maybe a lot drunk  and finds that he has taken by mistake (remember Alex is nothing but a chump) a wad of dough from Lisa’s place as he is heading out the door to return to his naval base down in Norfolk, Virginia. And as an honest guy he, by hook or by crook, has got to get the dough back to Lisa (see what I mean about naïve) before the deadline. The deadline here being 6:00 AM that next morning so he can take that dreary old Greyhound bus (with the  inevitable too large, too breathe smelly, too loud snoring companion in the next seat). But New York is full of diversions, planned and unplanned, and along the way he finds himself in a dance hall, a dime-a-dance hall, if you get what I mean.

And there, as is the case with any film not just film noir, or most any film, even those centered in the Naked City, that involves boy meets girl he finds her. Her being one tired dime-a-dance girl June (played by a. how can I put it, oh, fetching, very fetching, Susan Hayward) who has been in the big city for long enough to know that dreaming about the bright lights of the great white way ain’t all it’s cracked up to be back down in Podunk (which by coincidence just happens to be Norfolk). Maybe she had dreams of being a dancer, a chorine, or some big theater actress, maybe working a few songs in some intimate café society bistro. Or, maybe, she was just looking for a sugar daddy and the line filled with fetching girls looking for sugar daddies was long that season in the city but there she was, jaded or half-jaded, wearing out her toes with any guy who had a fistful of tickets. And our boy Alex did.           

So boy meets girl, ho hum, we have seen that theme worked about five million ways in about six million books and about seven million films. But wait a minute Alex has to get the dough back to Lisa, June is about to get off work off, and well, maybe there is a  little, little spark between the two.  Alex somehow persuades June to go with him to take back the dough. See, rube that he is his scared. So they hail a cab (good luck in real New York at that hour, right) and are off to do the right thing.  Oh, I mentioned murder before and there is one that has been committed, murder most foul, since Alex last left Lisa’s place.  And guess who is set to take the fall for that dastardly deed, to step off for it up in Sing Sing. Yah, that ‘s right. 

Now here is where the ordinary citizen (ordinary citizens who had trudged through the war remember) taking care of business part comes in courtesy of the screenplay-writing Clifford Odets (of Waiting For Lefty fame and red scare cold war fink infamy) known for such common touch efforts. In film noir, and in life, solving big time crimes like murder can’t be left to the cops, no way.  They, the cops, are good for writing up traffic tickets and telling drivers to move on, maybe collaring you for some tickets to some police charity, cadging some coffee and crullers, and, maybe coming in at the end to brace the bad guys but to solve a murder when your neck is on the line, no, no. Even Podunk Alex knows that and so the pair decided not to tell the police about Lisa’s untimely demise and furthermore they decide that if Alex is to keep on the square that they had better solve this crime themselves. And do it by that deadline mentioned before.     

And they do. They do solve it as any self-respecting film noir fan knows because, in the end, the motif of noir is that crime does not pay. For those who actually commit a crime. Now how they solve this thing, which has more false leads and red herrings (oops, I better not use that color where Brother Odets is concerned), herrings, than you can shake a stick at I will leave to your viewing. But along the way you will get plenty of cabbie street philosophy of life, plenty of common stuff about how the lower half lives and about the glass being half full not half empty. Yes, there are eight million stories, more or less, in the Naked City and this is one of the quirkiest ones  


Sunday, October 28, 2012

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

Markin comment:

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of the California night calling after too long an absence, the California be-bop late 1960s night, the eternal California be-bop night after years of Maine solitude, of Maine grey-blue-white washed, white-crested, white-capped, foam-flecked Atlantic ocean-flotsam and jetsam strewn waters. After all not all oceans are created the same, not all oceans speak to one in the same way, although they are all old Father Neptune’s thoughtful playgrounds.

California’s, yes, white-washed, yes, white-crested, yes, white-capped, yes, foam-flecked speak to gentle, warm lapis lazuli blue wealth dreams of the quest, the long buried life long quest for the great blue-pink great American West night, blue-pinked skies of course. Yes maybe it was just that sheer hard fact that pushed me out of Eastern white, white to hate the sight of white, snowed-in doors, Eastern gale winds blowing a man against the sand-pebbled seas, and into the endless starless night. Yes, maybe just a change of color, or to color, from the white white whiteness of the sea walk white-etched night. Right down to the shoreline white.

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

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

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of just that airport invasion, the hard fact of the post-9/11 travel world. The running the gauntlet of checkpoints, charts, human body scanning screens, magic forgery detecting pens, bells, whistles, and surly, or maybe better, indifferent, human scanners, human searchers, human checkers. The piles of thrown away, seemingly harmless, harmless to these eyes, water bottles, pure-spring-ed water bottles (Evian, Poland Springs, Belmont Springs, home-filled reusable, filtered tap water L.L. Bean bottles, whatever) which now are deadly weapons, or could be, are a twisted metaphor for the scene. All in order to get from point A (east coast angry ocean waters) to point B (west coast, or hipper, at least used to be hipper, left coast gentle, spa-like, or faux spa waters) in less than six hours.

No more of timeless trips, or at least of months long trips, aimless but aim-full in their purposeful search. No more of Boston to Angelica Steubenville to roots Prestonsburg to Lexington (Kentucky that is, not revolutionary battlefield Lexington, not that trip anyway). No more Moline meltdowns and Neola corn field nights and Aunt Betty lazy, crazy, hazy suppers or solidarity rides to the desert Native American ghost sky night, drums beating back to primal times, and then over the last mountains down into California blue-pink haze. No, six hours, no more, or else breakdown against those bone-aged facts, and bone-aged stiffness rebellions. Or worst surrender to the think better, or at least twice, of such a trip gods, Egad has it come to that.

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

Maybe, and here we are reaching some home truths, it was the sheer, hard fact of seeing the azul ocean sea coming over the horizon at Laguna Hills or one of those endless, one-name-fits-all or should fit all Southern California beach towns filled with the mandatory fake, yes, fake Spanish décor. Of the ticky-tack rows (thanks Malvina Reynolds via Pete Seeger) of “Spanish” houses, oh, I mean, estates, where I see kids, kids no different than I was just waiting for the jail-break event of their generation, if it comes, and if they want long enough but not too long. Of the million and one surf shops for the youngsters to wax and wane on seeking of their own blue-pink nights (or days, more likely), the endless quest for the perfect wave. Of the strip mall rows of fast food eateries, fast clothes chanceries (swim suits a specialty), of sun-free indoor tanning against the rages of father sun. Of the quaint (nice word, right?), yes, quaint lobster dinner (lobster flown in from, from, ah, Maine), California fresh fish of the day, freshly caught, beach view restaurants or other finery, and of cruising (no, not that cruising) pedestrians of all sizes and shapes.

Shapes including show-off lovely formed younger girls, ah, women, maybe a young Angelica waiting to splash her first splash in mother Pacific, peaceful mother pacific. And all races and languages and ethnicities trying to figure out the lure of the heathered (almost like Scotland, Scotland of no burr) coastal shore to the Okies, Arkies and Texies, who descended here a couple of generations ago, planted roots, their migratory roots, not Eastern forever and a day roots, and never left. But still the gnawing question, the question of questions-where to go west from here. Not back to the okie dust bowl, that is for sure, not for those now corn-fed, yellow-haired (maybe genetically yellow from that corn) beauties of both sexes who are tied to the sea, to the endless quest for the perfect wave sea, even though from the look of them if I posed the question that way, that perfect wave search way, I would shunted away screaming in that previously mentioned good night.

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of walking ancient shoreline walks, soft sand kicking, shod-less feet kicking, tracing new written configurations to ancient gods in the previously clean-slated sand surface, occasionally pebble-dotted, seashell-scattered, as the ocean screams for quiet from those walking in its space and pleads, like some latter day librarian, not to disturb others. Of thoughts of ancient sorrows, and ancient laughters. Remembrances of Angelica first time ocean splashes, of riptide saves, of hero’s rewards for heroic saves, rewards better left to the imagination, ancient imagination. Of scaled seawalls that hold back tide, time and the brick-a-brack whims of fickle man, of humankind. Of squirrels, everlasting, ever-present seashore-loving burrowing squirrels filching, filching and begging, begging for human food against all good nature’s wisdom.

And getting it. The food that is. Of ocean side night campfires to protect against the force of the ocean chill, of ocean shadows, and of ocean smokes, thinking back to the days when cigarette smokes filled many pubic spaces. But better smells now of mesquite wood smells, of charcoals broils smells, of sea-drug up woods smoothed from ocean pounds smells. Of high ganja smells, of pellets and pills to ward off the ocean calls to the endless sleep, of the return to the homeland, of the homeland seas. And of skies of daytime blue, blue, blue enough to make a pair of pants out of, cloudless in afternoon after fogged-down mornings. Ah, but you what’s coming, what the whole shore line walk means. Yes, the night, no, not the night night, the dark, starless night of the poet’s lament, of ancient times wonder, and of modern no night human-crafted light beams breaking the will of the dark night. No, not that night but rather the earlier part, the part after the sun goes on its business below the horizon and leaves as a reminder the blue-pink night hanging over the ocean, tourist taking pictures, taking camera, digital camera pictures today, instant, mainly, but, hell who need such tacky reminders when the mind’s eye reeks of blue-pink memory, ancient blue-pink memories.

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

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of grabbing a midnight-like cab for the ride home, eastern home, eastern snow-drenched home that had not changed in sight but changed from still present blue-pink memories as always, from leaving but still necessary to face. On such cab rides, such youthfully scorned cab rides, and truth be known youthfully unaffordable rides, I now take when language is no barrier to asking for cabbie stories (although many times such is a problem as this is now a profession, a city profession, by recent immigrants, dominated, seemingly oxymoronic, since how would such fellows know the ancient trails of the east, at least in pre-techno- GPS days) in the hopes of finding some gem story to feed the literary lights, not blue-pink lights by any means, just fill-in road stories. And this night, this night when thoughts have been whirling for weeks about ancient things, ancient things described above, I find a kindred. Cabbie X, ancient cabbie X, fires back in full-bodied, “I don’t have any cabbie stories to tell, but I have some hitchhike stories.” Hell, hell on wheels, be still my heart, tell, brother, tell kindred tell all, and drive slow, stop at every traffic light slow, I have dough in my pocket and a hunger, an unspeakable, unquenchable just now hunger, to hear your tales, your ancient 1960s hitchhike road tales.

Tales about his road from Missoula, Montana to New Haven, Connecticut. (Yes, avoid hitching on those Connecticut roads, and Arizona’s too. Agreed). Of Truckee truck stops. Of truck stop road side diners, and endless cups of coffee, and badgering truckers for long-haul rides. Of hard driving, get to the coast, benny-high truckers seeking to spill their guts to some lone stranger in order to keep awake and pass the hard highway mile. Of Pacific Coast highways brimming with converted magical mystery tour school buses, converted to living housing for the broken-hearted, the love-lorn, the be-bop nighters. Ah, memory. “Hey, you almost didn’t stop at that last traffic light, brother.”

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

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

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

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

So the torch is passed, maybe…

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


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


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

Markin comment:

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

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

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

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? Lyrics

Carole King

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

Tonight you're mine completely,

You give your love so sweetly,

Tonight the light of love is in your eyes,

But will you love me tomorrow?


Is this a lasting treasure,

Or just a moment's pleasure,

Can I believe the magic of your sighs,

Will you still love me tomorrow?


Tonight with words unspoken,

You said that I'm the only one,

But will my heart be broken,

When the night (When the night)

Meets the morning sun.


I'd like to know that your love,

Is love I can be sure of,

So tell me now and I won't ask again,

Will you still love me tomorrow?

Will you still love me tomorrow?

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

Fair’s fair right, so I’ll give you Markin’s, Peter Paul’s, take on the lyrics, so I can come crashing down on his silly pipe dream ideas. By the way if you don’t know, and he will tell you this himself if he is honest, he was behind, way behind, in figuring out girls, and their girlish charms. I had to practically tell him everything he knows.

Where did I learn it? Hell like everybody else from the older kids, the older guys, and my older sisters too if you can believe that. So I know a lot, or at least enough to keep old Peter Paul from being a total goofball. Still, see, he thinks the main thing is that the girl in the song here is worried about her reputation because she has just given in, in a moment of passion, to her boyfriend, it’s way too late to turn back and yet she is having second thoughts, second thought regrets, about it, and about what he will think of her and whether it will get around that she “does it.”

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

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

But see that’s where Markin has got it all wrong, all wrong on two counts, because Chevy guy two-timing her, or spreading the “news” about his conquest, or even that hellish girls’ lav whirlwind inferno is not really what’s bothering her. Markin has got this starry-eyed thing, and I think it is from hanging around, or being around, all those straight lace no-go Catholic girls, who do actually worry about their reputations, at least for public consumption. That is why high Catholic that I am, just like old Markin, I don’t go within twenty yards of those, well, teasers. Yah, teasers but that’s a story for another time, because right now we have only time for women, or girls who act like women.

What’s bothering moonstruck girl, number one, is that she likes it, she liked doing it with Chevy guy, and is worried that she’ll go crazy every time a boy gets within an arm’s length of her. She “heard” that once a girl starts doing it they can’t help themselves and are marks, easy marks, for every guy who gives them the eye. Jesus, where did she ever get that idea. Must have been out in the streets, although I personally never heard such an idea when I was asking around. This is what I heard, well, not from the street but from my sister Donna, she said it was okay, natural even, for girls to like sex. If the moment was right, and maybe the guy too. It wasn’t some Propagation of the Faith, do-your-sex-duty to multiply thing we heard in church. Hell, Donna said she liked it too, and believe me, old Donna doesn’t like much if you listen to her long enough. So moonstruck girl don’t worry.

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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin- Three’s A Crowd- Ida Lupino’s Road House-A Film Review



Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the film noir Road House.

DVD Review

Road House, starring Ida Lupino, Cornel Wilde, Richard Widmark, 20th Century Fox, 1948

It’s always about a dame, a noir dame, in the end. Or dough. But here it is strictly about the dame. A dame who has the boys running their laps even though she plays it straight, well, as straight as a noir woman can, and as far as a noir guy will let her, okay. Really though it is about three being a crowd if you want to know. The dame in this case being a very versatile, saucy and salty Lily (played by Ida Lupino, last seen here as hard-bitten serving them off the sleeve Marie making tough old gangster old Roy Earle rest easy in High Sierra) .That’s one. The two and three being two bosom buddies, well almost, Jefty (played by Richard Widmark) the owner of the road house of the title and Pete (played by Cornel Wilde) who manages the place while rich boy (daddy left him the place) Jefty plays the girl field. This pair get twisted up by number one, that nifty dame, whom Jefty found playing for quarters at the piano in some dump, some Chicago dump, and convinced her to go west for real dough and some fresh air. And that little financial decision, wink, wink, love affair proposal is what crowds up the field.        

See, Chicago-home grown Lily has all the answers, or is close, so when Jefty offers her dough and a contract she is westward bound. Under her own terms though. Or so she thinks. There at the old road house she tangles first to keep Jefty out of her bed and then to get Pete in there. So the pitter-patter between Lily and Pete before they catch the downy billows is pure film noir and pretty snappy. Along the way Lily displays talent for singing like a purebred (if low-key) torch singer bringing in the customers, as a swimmer, and, ah, as one who can bowl a string or two if she is pressed (a little quirky aside to the road house is the bowling alley but it figures out in Podunk if not in the big city).        

Oh, I forgot to tell you. Jefty has a little problem too.  As a spoiled rich boy he doesn’t know how to take no for an answer, especially when he finds out the girl he intends to marry, Lily, is, well, smitten, smitten bad, by Pete and they are going to be married. Jefty thereafter turns into just another garden variety American Psycho (and Widmark’s patented facial contours shot up-close add to the effect of his rage as they did in his Oscar-winning performance as gunsel Tommy Udo in Kiss Of Death) as he plots to frame his old buddy Pete. Frame him big time, and hang him high as they say.  But in the end no way can things go Jefty’s way, not when love is a-blooming  and so he has to take the big fall leaving just two, and no crowd, to walk away from the carnage to a new life in that little white picket fence, white house included, the pair yearns for to consummate their love. Sorry Jefty.

From Out In The Be-Bop 1950s Night- Could This Be Magic? –The Dubs-A CD Review

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of The Dubs performing the classic Could This Be Magic.

CD Review

The Best Of The Dubs, The Dubs, Rhinos Records, 1991

Sometimes, and less frequently than you might imagine, a song and a moment meet, meet in the mind’s memory even many years afterward. I am not, repeat, not referring to such 1960s seminal songs as Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind or The Times They Are A-Changin’ which every ARRP-worthy baby-boomer commentator drags out when they want to cut up old torches about how they went mano y mano with the bad guys and gave up the best two years of their lives to the revolution back in the day before heading off to a life of dentistry or academia. No, enough of that. What I mean is those songs like The Dubs 1950s Could This Be Magic which formed the backdrop for more than one social setting, one teen social setting and that is all that counted, back in the day.    

Now I do not know the fates of the individual members of The Dubs but the music business was, and is, a fast turnover place and so they may have just had their few moments of glory and then went back to the plumbing business, some office job, or wound up on some Skid Row, a not infrequent fate for many one-hit wonders. But for that one moment, for that one almost perfect expression of a song moment, from the opening drum roll to the crescendo-ing mix of voices to that final dramatic fade out, The Dubs captured our attention before we headed off to the plumbing business, some office job, or wound up on Skid Row, a not uncommon fate for those of that generation who fought and bled in Vietnam or got catch up in their own personal drug traumas. It was no accident that the director George Lucas when he put together the mood frame work of American Graffiti included Could This Be Magic as part of the soundtrack.   

So that song formed the backdrop for fumbling, awkward Peter Paul Markin over in Adamsville, Massachusetts near the beach as he tried to figure out girls, figure them out in a hurry, figure them out in a very hurry since he had a date down at that very beach coming up in about two hours and after having dolled himself up enough (hair brushed, underarms coated, breathe freshened and re-freshened) he was fretting, fretting whether  his arranged date (arranged by his corner boy Frankie Larkin, as usual) with Susie Murphy would product any sparks. Or another time, speaking of sparks, when he, riding “shotgun” in Frankie’s big old 1959 Dodge as they pulled, girl-less, into the Adventure Car-Hop Drive-In, looking to finish the busted evening out with burgers and shakes (and maybe a free look at Lannie, the hot new car-hop) and he spied her (name a secret , a secret unto death, just in case her descendants see this) a couple of cars over with her girls, boy-less, and she looked over and gave him the greatest come hither look of his uneventful young life. Or better yet, when he was at the freshman mixer, kind of new in town, kind of low man on the totem pole of the school etched- in- stone pecking order, he was feeling kind of blue (and, as usual, girl-less, school dance girl-less) holding up his end of a wallflower wall with head down, Luscious Lucy Lane (that is what she was called by one and all, including her parents) came over and ordered, ordered if you can believe this, him to dance that last dance school dance with her.            

And the song came into play up in forlorn Olde Saco, Maine as well where Josh Breslin, poor, woe begotten Josh, new to the girl wars, was trying to beat the time of some foolish skee ball game down at the local arcade in order to win a rabbit’s foot for some misbegotten twelve year old girl who, off-handedly, called over from the Seal Rock sea wall that she thought Josh was cute. A couple of years later, veteran of the girl wars and decidedly more than cute according to local girl lore, Josh walking into Jimmy Jake’s Dinner (the one on Main Street set aside for teens not the one on Atlantic Avenue near the beach set aside for blue- haired ladies’ blue- plate specials and summer fast food-craving touristas) sits at his stool, his gathering stool, as Sandy Leclerc comes up, gives him a kiss on the cheek, and puts a quarter into the jukebox to play their song five times running. Later still, Josh and Debbie Dubois, sitting in the back seat of Jimmy Leblanc’s double-date 1961 Pontiac at the Olde Saco Drive-In Theater would “get in the mood” after putting the movie sound speaker back in its cradle and turning on all rock WMEX.    

Finally Betty Becker down in Newport, Rhode Island, well before she met Josh Breslin out in the San Francisco summer of love 1967 night after he had blown in from dust-off Olde Saco in search of, well, just in search of, spun the platter on her record player up in her forlorn teen-age bedroom waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for, hell, what’s his name, to call. And, he, what’s his name, did. Later, when she had filled out, filled out nicely from all reports, especially filled out nicely in a bathing suit, and guys were waiting by the midnight phone for her call, she had new love Tommy Wordsworth III, ask the DJ to play it for them at the annual Newport Yacht Club Junior Dance. Then, then (before the summer of love 1967 turned things around in her head) when she had very good prospects of being asked the big question by Marvin Steele, the heir to the Hanson oil fortune, he had called and told her he had a big question ask her, well, you know what she had ready to play.                

Could this be magic, indeed



Friday, October 26, 2012

From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin-Not Your Father’s Automobile, Circa 1955

CD Review

The Rock and Roll Era: The‘50s: Rave On, various artists, Time-Life Music, 1990

No question kids today grow up faster than we did back in the 1950s be-bop minute, the minute when the generation of ’68 began to twist and turn with the hard facts of life. The hard facts of life for boys being what to do about girls (and girls, or other combinations today, can chime in with their own sagas on the personal relationship heartache road). The thing consumed many an abandoned night trying figure out if Sherry this liked Willie that. Or if that glance from Lorraine meant what the Be-Bop Kid (my moniker for a while in middle school) though it meant when she passed him and looked back in the hallway between classes. Stuff like that. Purely kid’s stuff but the glue that held us together.

See a lot of stuff was from ignorance, willful ignorance brought to us by our parents, our churches and our school (acting as substitute parents, I won’t use the common Latin term because this is no dead language screed) to keep us in the dark about, well, sex, for openers. Nowadays every ten year old kid knows more real stuff about the subject (and probably as much unreal stuff as back in the day too) than you could shake a stick at. And I hope it helps them through teen angst and teen alienation time.

But I wonder about a certain period that period when for boys, some boys anyway, when girls turn from sticks to shapes. You know what I am talking about. When Jenny, who last year was nothing but a nuisance, a giggling nuisance chattering away with her girlfriends and making odd ball remarks about you being this or that, or maybe taking a hard punch at you just for looking at her the wrong way now looked kind of, well, interesting. And maybe she is taking her first blushed peeps at you too.

Here is where it all got really confusing though, that time when Jenny and her girlfriends invited you, you of all people, to her house for a party and you went, you trembling went. And as the evening wore on (maybe eight o’clock kid’s time late) the inevitable lights when out and the “petting” began. And then you would think about what old rock and rock king Chuck Berry meant when his latest single , Almost Grown, hit the airwaves (and was played a couple of times at said party). Jesus, kid’s today have it a hundred times easier. Right?