Sunday, June 30, 2013

***On “Now” Photos For The AARP Generation

For Robert Flatley, North Adamsville Class Of 1964

A YouTube film clip of Iris Dement performing After You're Gone.

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

“’Cause I’ve memorized each line in your face, and not even death can ever erase the story they tell to me”-a line from the folksinger/songwriter Iris DeMent’s hauntingly beautiful song, After You’re Gone.

Well, of course, those hard-wire lyrics only apply to our male classmates. After all Iris is singing about her gone man. He long gone but not forgotten man. I do not, this age of sexual equality notwithstanding, want to extend their application to our sister classmates because I do not need to have every cyber-stone in the universe thrown at me. But those same lyrics do bring me to the purpose for today’s comment. As part of getting a 'feel' for writing about our days at old North Adamsville High I have perused some of the class profiles this infernal 1964 class committee that keeps badgering me for ever more information has provided me. Apparently once you answer a couple of off-hand questions about your doings (or not-doings) over the past half century you are fair game for every possible form of interrogation. Interrogations that would shame even the most hardened CIA or NSA bureaucrat. I don’t know about you but I am thinking of hiring a lawyer and putting a stop to this maddening harassment, and possible constitutional violation. But that is a subject for another day. For now, forward.

A number of you have placed your current photos on the profile pages thoughtfully provided by said committee, although a number of people, including myself, are apparently camera-shy. I admit to not being particularly camera-shy but rather to being something of a technological luddite (look that word up on Wikipedia if you do not know it) in that I do not own the digital camera required to upload a snappy photo, have no immediate intention of owning one, and would, moreover be helpless to do such a tortuous task as uploading a photo. Truth. Some, however, like the Chase brothers are not. Not camera shy or apparently luddites that is. (By the way, Jim and John, and others as well, what is up with wearing hats these days? We are Kennedy-era boys and hats most definitely were not part of our uniform.) Or like born again "muscle man" (read: huge) Bill Bailey, the star cross- country runner and track man from our class, whom I have has previously written about in this space as slender-strided and gracefully-gaited. That photo-readiness on the part of some classmates forms the basis for my comment. Those who are photo-less can breathe a sigh of relief-for now.

I have to admit that I have been startled by some of the photos. Many of them seem to have been taken by your grandchildren just before their naps. Or maybe by you just before your naps, or some combinations of the two especially for those who are performing grandparental (is their such a word?) duty as “babysitters” in a world where both parents are forced by hard-time circumstances to work to make ends meet these days. Isn’t the digital age supposed to have made the camera instantly user-friendly? Why all the out-of-focus, soft-focus, looking through a fish tank or a looking- glass kind of shots. And why does everyone seem to be have been photographed down the far end of some dark corridor or by someone about six miles away? Nobody expects Bachrach-quality photos but something is amiss here. [ Bachrach’s was the photograph studio that took our individual class pictures for those who don’t remember or didn’t otherwise know.-Markin]

In contrast, a new arrival on this class committee profile page interrogation wall (sorry), Robert Flatley, has found just the right approach. Initially, Robert placed a recent shot of himself on his profile page. Frankly, the old codger looked like he was wanted in about six states for “kiting” checks, or maybe had done a little “time” in some far-off county farm or state prison for armed robbery. More recently, however, his page has been graced with a stock photo provided by the site, a tastefully-shot, resplendent wide old oak tree. Automatically I now associate Robert with the tree of life, with oneness with the universe, with solidity, with the root of matter in him, and with bending but not breaking. Wise choice, Brother Flatley. Now, moreover, I do not have to suppress a need to dial 911, but rather can think of Robert as one who walks with kings, as a sage for the ages. And nothing can ever erase the story that tells to me.

Artist: Dement Iris
Song: After You're Gone
Album: Infamous Angel Iris Dement Sheet Music

There'll be laughter even after you're gone.
I'll find reasons to face that empty dawn.
'Cause I've memorised each line in your face,
And not even death can ever erase the story they tell to me.

I'll miss you.
Oh, how I'll miss you.
I'll dream of you,
And I'll cry a million tears.
But the sorrow will pass.
And the one thing that will last,
Is the love that you've given to me.

There'll be laughter even after you're gone.
I'll find reasons and I'll face that empty dawn.
'Cause I've memorized each line in your face,
And not even death could ever erase the story they tell to me.
***“Young America”- The Stephen A, Douglas Story (Yah, The Guy That Debated Lincoln Way Back When)

Book Review

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

Stephen A. Douglas: Defender Of The Union, Gerald M. Capers, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1959

At a time when we are deep into commemorating the 150thanniversary of the American Civil War (yes I know the sesquicentennial but who knows that word now so 150th okay) my recent reading interest has been on some of the outstanding figures from that period. Not the obvious big name figures who, one way or the other drove the political or military action, like John Brown, Lincoln, Seward and Davis or Grant and Lee but other figures important to understanding how the conflict, in the final analysis, as Seward (and others pointed out) was irrepressible. That led me to and old time biography (1959 old, old by the furious standard of revisionist biography) by Professor Caper done at a time when the 100th anniversary (okay, okay centennial) of the war was approaching.

Now Douglas died near the beginning of the war and so his effect on the outcome was small but as the leading advocate for the theory of popular sovereignty that swirled around in the decade before the war he was certainly an influential figure in the political struggle to do something, something seemingly benign in his case, to avoid the war that he also knew was coming, and that would be, as it turned out, be bloody hell. Although he is popularly known, if now known at all, as Lincoln’ s punching bag (okay nemesis) during the 1858 Illinois senatorial campaign debates he actually was a more powerful figure than Lincoln and his fledgling Republican Party (to speak nothing of the moribund Whigs and Know-Nothings of unblessed memory) during this period. Moreover Dougal was a central power, and perennial presidential candidate, in the northern wing of the Democratic Party and it was thus no accident that Professor Caper’ s wrote his biography at that time.

The figure of Abraham Lincoln has been subjected to many periodic revisions, most recently around whether he was just another redneck racist who just so happened to see that if the union was to be preserved and to prosper that damn slavery had to go. That swirling teacup controversy got me thinking about how Douglas’ reputation would stand up today since even under Professor Caper’s sympathetic story line Douglas was not a friend of black people, no serious opponent of slavery except as it affected the preservation of the union, and was prepared to sees its extension under the terms of his popular sovereignty doctrine to any place that it could thrive. So a biographer writing today would almost be honor bound to create a more critical study. In short, among the various revisionist trends today, Lincoln should not, could not, be the only white man to take a serious posthumous beating by historians on the question of racial attitudes.

Strangely the figure of Douglas, a poor boy from the sticks who made good in Chicago real estate and other ventures and had a “fire within” desire to be an important political figure, to be president, like Lincoln was perfect example of that Western (then western) ethos that sprang up in this country from about Andrew Jackson’s time. That bootstrap ethos formed the core of the “Young America” movement, a movement that was part of a larger international movement of the times, which inhaled the nationalist spirit and heralded the rise of the capitalist ethos as the way forward for America. Douglas’ popular sovereignty doctrine where under its terms each new state (or territory) would determine in its own way whether slavery was to be permitted in its jurisdiction fed right into that spirit. Of course Douglas paid a heavy political price, the split, north and south, and of his beloved Democratic Party which would howl in the wilderness for most of the rest of the 19th century and the effective thwarting of his presidential ambitions, for his steadfast adherence to his doctrine.

If you want to understand the seismic roilings of the 1850s in this country over the extension of slavery into places like Kansas and California then knowing about Douglas’ place in those political struggles is important. As for Professor Caper’s old time biography that would be a place to start not to finish now in the study of this central figure leading up to the Civil War.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

***When Radio Ruled The Air-Waves

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin

Josh Breslin always, when talking about his place in the sun, made a point to explain to whoever would listen (mainly me over a scotch, or seven) that he was a first generation child of the television age, although in recent years he said he had  spent more time kicking and screaming about that fact than watching the damn thing. Of course I too am a first generation child of the television age, although I do not take that as a special emblem of some kind of wisdom about the world since virtually everybody who is now AARP-worthy, in the process of applying for   Social Security benefits, or is dipping into some  401k retirement fund is in that same category.  I don’t take my status as a child of television that is except, that is, when I perhaps had more scotch and got all rum brave in battling Josh’s foolishness. But here I will let the remark slide since I have the big picture to look at.    

What got Josh on his high-horse most recently about his place in the television age sun was his purchase of a little compilation of Decca hits and standard tunes from the 1940s and early 1950s. He had bought the thing in a nostalgic fit as a valentine offering to the radio days of his parents’ youth, parents who came of musical age (and every other kind of age as well) during the Great Depression of the 1930s and who fought, or waited for those out on the front lines fighting, World War II. His relationship with his parents, his second generation parents, from up in Olde Saco , Maine was to say the least rocky (as was my relationship with  mine except they were not second-generation but about fifth and of course did not live in Olde Saco but down by the shore in North Adamsville in Massachusetts) and before their respective passings was still strained (ditto mine) so I was surprised that he would pick up such a compilation, much less as some kind of posthumous valentine peace offering to the departed..      

Those selections when he played them for me one time when we were driving to New York City got me to thinking that I was just old enough though to remember the strains of songs like the harmonic –heavy Mills Brothers Paper Dolls (a favorite of my mother’s) and The Glow Worm (not a favorite of anybody as far as I know although the harmony is still first-rate) that came wafting, via the local Adamsville radio station WJDA, through our big box living room radio in the early 1950s. One could hardly get away from it when my father had been drinking and was nostalgic for his Marine Corps times during World War II or my mother was weepy about something, about some lost thing that had escaped her grasp, her dreams, facing the hard reality of three growing boys and not enough to go around. It seemed they, or maybe the Andrews Sisters, be-bopping (be-bopping now, not then, you do not want to know what I called it then), on Rum And Coca-Cola or tagging along with Bing Crosby on Don’t Fence Me In were permanent residents of the airs-waves in the 1950s Markin household.

But see, I like Josh (hell, we met in San Francisco in the Summer of Love, yes, capitals, 1967 when rock, serious, mind-bending rock, was breaking out over the known world), am also an unapologetic child of Rock 'n' Roll but those above-mentioned tunes were the melodies that my mother and father came of age to and the stuff of their dreams during World War II and its aftermath. The rough and tumble of my parents raising a bunch of kids might have taken the edge off it but the dreams remained. In the end it is this musical backdrop, the backdrop behind the generation musical fights that roiled the Markin household in teen times, that hit a chord and made this compilation most memorable to me.

Just to say names like Dick Haymes (I think my mother had a “crush” on him at some point), Vaughn Monroe, The Inkspots (who, truth, I liked even then, even in my “high, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee, Buddy Holly days, especially on If I Didn’t Care and I’ll Get By-wow), and Louis Armstrong. Or songs like Blueberry Hill, You’ll Never Know, A- Tisket- A Tasket, You Always Hurt The One You Love and so gather in a goodly portion of the mid-20th century American Songbook. Other talents like Billie Holiday, The Weavers, and Rosemary Clooney and tunes like Lover Man (and a thousand and one Cole Porter Billie-sung songs), Fever, and As Time Goes By (from Dooley Wilson in Casablanca) came later through very different frames of reference. But the seed, no question, no question now, was planted then.

Let’s be clear, since Josh likes to make such a big deal about it, going back to that first paragraph mention of television - there something very different between the medium of the radio and the medium of the television. The radio allowed for an expansion of the imagination (and of fantasy) that the increasingly harsh realities of what was being portrayed on television did not allow one to get away with. The heart of World War II, and in its immediate aftermath, was time when one needed to be able to dream a little. The realities of the world at that time seemingly only allowed for nightmares. My feeling is that the songs contained in that compilation probably touched a lot of sentimental nerves for the World War II generation (that so-called ‘greatest generation’), including my growing-up Irish working- class families on the shores of North Adamsville. Nice work, Josh.
***Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Night-"What Folksinger Dave Van Ronk Stole"

YouTube film clip of Dave Van Ronk performing Fair and Tender Ladies.

What Folksinger Dave Van Ronk Stole

“Hey Joyell, good news, Dave Van Ronk is playing at the Club Morocco over in Harvard Square next Friday night, do you want to go?” Phil Kiley asked over the telephone, the late night telephone as was his habit in dealing with Joyell, Joyell Davidson. While he waited for an answer he thought about how he had started making these late night calls. Reason: well two reasons really, Joyell worked at the Eden Café in Kenmore Square as a waitress most week nights for a few hours for pocket change to be among what she sardonically called the “proles,” and what she called part of a proper education, a sociology degree-driven education, about how the other half lived. Of course, the so-called proles were other girls from the university, some whom Joyell knew from her classes, who were also seeing how the other half lived, more or less, although some may have actually needed the pocket change.

This Eden Café, by the way, catered to nothing but university students, mainly university students who had fathers who had dough like Joyell’s (her father was some rich stockbroker in New York City and, from what Phil gathered, she hardly needed to work), so the whole bourgeois-prole combination running its commentary through every 1960s college was rather comical every time Phil, a real prole, a real son of the working poor at university on a partial scholarship, went into the place. Went in to see or pick up Joyell, not to eat. Too expensive for him, he tended to eat at Timmy’s Irish Pub down near Fenway Park where the “eats” was cheap, and plentiful.

But that Eden Café “experience,” or more the idea behind it, is what drove Phil toward Joyell in the first place. That "bourgeois slumming" make him desire her even more ever since they met last month at the beginning of school in Professor Sharpe’s Modern Social Theory seminar. And one thing led to another and now they were at the talking stage, talking over the phone or after work as he walked her to her apartment that she shared with another girl, a decidedly bourgeois non-slumming girl, down Commonwealth Avenue toward the Boston Common. And that was the second reason that Phil made his late night calls. He was just flat-out scared that anything he said to Joyell, a New York City girl, a Hunter College High girl, and a Jewish girl (or mostly Jewish according to the way that she described her family’s genealogy, but enough Jewish to satisfy the Israelis is the way she put it) might be taken the wrong way.

Sure Phil had plenty of girls, plenty of kind of interesting girls back at North Adamsville High a couple of years back, but they were all cookie-cutter Irish Catholic girls of varying degrees of virtue who mainly thought about marriage, white picket fences, and more than he would like to admit, girls who wanted to have many kids to honor Jesus, jesus. But Joyell talked of things that he had not heard of like the ballet, the opera, the opera for christ sakes, and Broadway (and, more often, off-Broadway off-beat plays). Phil had read a ton of modern plays, O’Neill, Brecht, Tennessee Williams, and so on but he had never actually seen a Broadway play, just some hokey high school production of Chekov’s Cherry Orchard and stuff like that. But the saving grace was Joyell’s fantastic interest in the burgeoning folk scene-the one that had developed right down the street from her (so to speak) in the Village (Greenwich Village in New York City for the greenhorns).

This interest mirrored Phil’s own fascination with roots music, first with rockabilly before rock ‘n’ roll got stale, country blues, then city blues, and now going through folk traditional and protest songs, especially the protest songs. Joyell actually knew people who knew the likes of Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez and other folk names the reader might not recognize but that Phil spent many a Sunday radio night listening to for hours on the local folk station. And, back in North Adamsville High days, he developed an intense interest in the music of folksinger Dave Van Ronk. Not just of his vast knowledge of the American songbook but for his very gritty-voiced (and professional) renditions of those songs. He heard Van Ronk's version of Come All You Fair And Tender Ladies first and flipped out. That is the one that he, timidly, sang to Joyell when they were comparing notes about folksingers. Strangely, as important as Van Ronk was to the behind- the-scenes New York (and general) folk scene that was working its way west to San Francisco and north to Boston (although Boston, with the Club 47 in Harvard Square and the like, of starting out Joan Baez and whiz Eric Von Schmidt, could stake its own secondary claims to importance) he was not that well-known. So when he heard that Van Ronk was coming to town he was beside himself fretting away the hours to ask Joyell for their first "date."

“Sure,” answered Joyell, “I hope he is all that you have cracked him up to be. If I don’t see you before then come by around seven o’clock and we can walk over if it is a nice night and save the cab fare. And if you get a chance come by Thursday to the ‘Eden’ and you can walk me home, okay?”

(Another funny Joyell "prole" thing, she thought taxis were too, too bourgeois although she didn’t say it exactly that way, Phil thought afterwards. She never mentioned taking the bus, the bus from Dudley that almost passed her apartment. He also found out later that everybody, everybody with the price of the fare, and tip of course, took cabs in New York City).

“Okay,” was all Phil could say, "and I will try to come by Thursday but I have to work that night myself." (Phil, no prole status -craving student looking for pocket change had a job driving a truck around the city delivering boxes, boxes of this and that, to stores and factories a few nights a week depending on demand.)

As it turned out Phil had to work that Thursday night and so did not see Joyell until he showed up at her door around seven o’clock that Dave Van Ronk Friday night. Melissa (the non-slumming bourgeois roommate) opened the door and pretty much ignored his existence after that, although freshman year they had had a couple of classes together and she sat a few seats away from him then. But Phil hardly noticed the snub, if it was a snub, and not just Melissa’s problem with men, or something like that because he was hopped-up, not drug hopped-up if that’s what you think, but maybe more sexual promise hopped-up if anything but mainly just excited to have a date with such an exotic flower as Joyell.

Then she came out of her room looking, well, looking fetching with a peasant blouse (expensive peasant blouse if that is not an oxymoron), the de rigueur jeans of the folk scene, sweater on her arm against a possible cool weather night, black hair gleaning, eyes flashing, laughing eyes he thought. God’s own gypsy princess. On seeing her then he got even more hopped-up, if that was possible.

And his luck had held, that night was a clear, fall-ish October night, big moon, big promise, and perfect for walking over the Massachusetts Avenue bridge (pavement smoots and all) through Central Square to the edge of Harvard Square where the Club Morocco’s lights beckoned all to come and eat, drink and be merry. Of course Phil was also hopped-up on talking about Dave Van Ronk, like somehow keeping the talk on him was a magic mantra to ward off their social differences (although pro-prole Joyell seemed to like him well enough his insecurities as well as his lack of social lacks some times got the best of him, especially with her). As he analyzed the situation later this over-hype was probably decisive in what happened later.

But, except for that nervousness, things went along okay, maybe better than okay as Joyell suddenly displayed a great deal of knowledge about mountain music, a staple of Van Ronks’s play list. She rattled off some stuff about the British musicologist, Cecil Sharpe, who had “discovered” that Fair and Tender Ladies song that Phil was always harping on down in the hills and hollows of Kentucky in 1916 He was impressed (and was still impressed later, but for another reason) when he found out that trying to impress him she had gone, as he had and many others as well, to Sandy’s Records on Mass Ave. where she got the “skinny” on lots of folk information).

You knew, if you have been to Harvard Square anytime between the landing of the Mayflower and 1963, that the Club Morocco was not so much a coffeehouse, the vital core of the folk revival existence, as a be-bop jazz club. Moreover they sold liquor, liquor by the glass, as Phil’s Irish-born grandmother used to say when his father and his cronies hightailed it over to North Adamsville’s Dublin Grille to toss down a few (well, more than a few) rather than a sober (lesser, really) amount at home, so naturally Phil and Joyell were carded at the door to make sure they were twenty-one. No problem, no problem either in finding some seats near the front to hear Mr. Van Ronk better. While getting seated, they half, or maybe quarter-listened to the front performer twanging away on some sing-along thing that was supposed to get everybody in the spirit of the thing. (Why, Phil wondered, did they always have some lame, half on, half off-key local “coming folk star” to warm up the audience when you came to see, see exclusively that night, the main performer. And the front guy, and it was usually guys, was never heard from again, usually.)

More importantly, Phil noticed Dave at the bar drinking a couple of shots (whiskey shots, he assumed) straight-up. Well anything to fortify you Phil thought. Probably will help to get that gravelly voice razor-edged. Then Dave tossed another as Phil turned to give his undivided attention to his gypsy princess. Damn she looked, well, fetching was the word that came to his mind, at least for public consumption, although if Phil was was honest with himself he was just hopped-up, sexually hopped up.

The front man finished up to lackluster applause, as he should have expected except for his sing-along rendition of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land always a crowd-pleaser, especially late in the night. The MC announced Dave to hearty applause; aficionados were clearly in the house for this performance. Phil noticed that as he came away from the bar Dave tossed another straight-up whisky down. He got slightly nervous never having heard any rumors about a drinking problem but also knowing, first hand-knowing, or rather observing, that several straight-up drinks were not a good sign. Moreover Dave had what Phil thought at first was a water bottle (or soda, although he had always been taught at home to call it tonic) but on closer inspection looked much more like a flask on his hip. Dave took to the impromptu stage, taking the steps steadily enough, introduced himself, and after the applause died down, started in right away on his Fair and Tender Ladies version, sounding a little tinny in the process. And sipping from the flask.

Another song, Cocaine Blues, followed. And then the axe. Well the axe for Phil, anyway. Dave literally mumbled the old time traditional song Railroad Boy. Joyell had had enough by then. As she explained while they were walking out the door she was no “purist” but she wasn’t going to spend the night listening to a drunk, a drunk that she could have listened to on the street outside to better effect. Out the door she spied an MTA bus, the one to Dudley that went right by her apartment, and told Phi that she was going to take it home. Home alone. And that was what Dave Van Ronk stole from one heart-broken Phillip Francis Kiley.

Friday, June 28, 2013

***Out In The 1940s Crime Noir Night-Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake’s “This Gun For Hire”-A Film Review

DVD Review

This Gun For Hire, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, based on a novel by Graham Greene, Paramount Pictures, 1942

No question I am a film noir, especially a crime film noir, aficionado. Recently I have been on a tear reviewing various crime noir efforts and drawing comparisons between the ones that “speak” to me and those that, perhaps, should have been better left on the cutting room floor. The classics are easy and need no additional comment from me as their plot lines stand on their own merits. Others, because they have a fetching, or wicked, for that matter, femme fatale to muddy the waters also get a pass. Some, such as the film under review from 1942, This Gun For Hire, offers parts of both. The plot line maybe less so, although because it is set in World War II America and indirectly part of the fight to defeat the nefarious (in this case Japanese) enemy it has a certain intrigue factor. As for femme fatale energy, or rather quasi-femme fatale energy, although I have always considered Veronica Lake (and her classic air over her eye look) fetching here she is a cross between that type and the girl next door.

As for the plot. Alan Ladd, a gun for hire to the highest bidder does his job as expected and is paid off for doing so. Unfortunately those that hired Ladd to silence an employee of a chemical company whose president was ready to sell poison gas to the highest bidder (Japan)were not on the level. They tried, might and main, to set Brother Ladd up as the fall guy. But one does not get to be, or rather one does not survive in the hired gun business, by being a chump for some nefarious scheme. Needless to say the plot is partially driven by his well-earned revenge.

However, a second plot line is brought in by Ms. Lake. America was at war and selling poison gas to the highest bidder, Japan, was, well, not right so she is “hired” to get the goods on the chemical operation through a weak-link, one of the company executives. Naturally in the course of these two plots unwinding the Ladd-Lake combination is brought to a boil, well, almost a boil. Through twists and turns the pair get the bad guys, although Ladd as a bad guy himself, or maybe just misunderstood, has to take a bullet for the cause because as we all know- “crime, especially murder, does not pay.” Not as good a pairing of Ladd and Lake as in The Glass Key but okay. But you can see what I mean about this one being sort of a semi-classic noir, right?
***On Intergenerational Sex-“…And Keep Me Young As I Grow Old”- With A Tip Of The Stetson To The “Belfast Cowboy,” Van Morrison

YouTube film clip of Van Morrison performing The Beauty Of The Days Gone By which has the "... and keep me young as I grow old" line in it.

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin

This space, fundamentally, is devoted to political struggles, the big picture communist future political struggles that reflect the hard fact, as noted by Leon Trotsky's definitive biographer, Isaac Deutscher, that we communists have in the past, and continue now, to devote the bulk of our energies to the most immediately pressing of the three great tragedies of life, the struggle against hunger. The other two, sex and death, have gotten short shrift other than to be dealt with in broad brush stokes, basically arguing that in our communist future those two acknowledged mysterious passages will be dealt with more thoughtfully, less traumatically, and with deeper insight.

That said, where does that leave my old North Adamsville High School Class of 1964 corner boy class mate, Johnny Silver, and his twin sex and death dilemmas-growing old and still having a yearning for sexual adventure, sexual adventure with younger, much younger women. Other than calling him, rightly I think, a “ dirty old man” for even thinking about having sex with a young, curvaceous, nubile woman, to speak nothing of what it might do to his physical condition, we have no immediate communist program to alleviate his problem. Sorry Johnny. No question though under such a now seemingly utopian regime inter-generational sex will be no more the subject of scandalous gossip that various other homo and heterosexual variations of sexual activity that are the norm now.

Now, if one has been attentive, I have, with the exception of Leon Trotsky’s brief fling with Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in the late 1930s during his Mexican exile, not spent much time on the personal sex lives of our revolutionary forbears. That has been in keeping with the traditional reticence of revolutionaries to discuss their personal sexual lives. And with my own preferences in the uses of this space. I, however, feel that Johnny Silver’s case can be instructive for those of us who are going into our “golden years” and are still as randy as middle- schoolers. Therefore I have posted Johnny Silver’s story, non-communist, non-political, Johnny Silver’s story, here for your perusal. The weak of heart, those under a doctor’s care, and assorted outraged moral philistines should avoid reading this for the good of your lives and/or souls. Note, and note carefully that other than a little editorial work this is strictly Johnny’s responsibility although I will admit my temperature and pulse were vicariously rising somewhat while performing this onerous task.

Johnny Silver’s comment:

I always liked younger girls when I was just a kid and I never got out of that habit, that sweet young thing habit. I used to take a lot guff from Frankie Riley, Peter Paul, and the other corner boys “up the Downs” at our hang-out, Salducci’s Pizza Parlor, when at sixteen I dated up twelve-year old “Luscious” Linda Lorraine. But she was “hot,” hot way beyond her years as I found out, have mercy, when she practically “raped” me, raped me if you can believe that, on our first date down at the North Adamsville Beach one summer night. I won’t say more because Peter Paul, who is editing this thing, might take a heart attack when he reads this since he never got to first base with her, and he tried, at least that is what she said, they all tried. They would yell “jail bait,” “baby-snatcher,” “cradle-robber,” and all that stuff that has been said by people, guys especially, since about the time Adam tried to date up Eve (who was a lot younger than he was and must have been pretty “hot” herself to get Adam off the straight and narrow) but she was fine, some sweet soap-smelling fine, and just getting some nice curves and stuff. Maybe that is where I go the habit.

[Markin: All we ever said was “watch out” Johnny. Linda, who lived the next street over from me then, was nothing but a “man trap,” a serious man-trap and Johnny was only one of several who enjoyed her “favors” in those days. Despite Johnny’s obvious lapse of memory I never tried to get to first base, or any base with her. As for the others, the corner boy others, I would not be surprised if on some “horny” girl friend-less nights they didn’t take a shot at it. It wasn’t hard. Last we heard of Linda she had had several kids by her early twenties and died of a heroin overdose in her mid-thirties so it wasn’t the age thing at all about Linda whatever Johnny might say now.]

And it's always pretty much was that way going forward. My first wife, Laurie, whom I met and who Peter Paul knows, was nothing but a fox when I was in graduate school and she was in high school and whom I met when I came back for a North Adamsville –Adamsville high school Thanksgiving Day football game. She was captain of the Red Raider cheer-leaders and I took dead aim at her.

[Markin: I agree Laurie was a fox, no question, but again we told Johnny to “watch out” on her as well because she was nothing but a man-eater as he found out a few kids, and a lot of alimony payments, later. I admit I took a “run” at her myself when they split up but I am still grinding my teeth over the way she treated me during our short “affair,” if that’s what you could call it.]

When I met my second wife, Alicia, she was just in graduate school and I was in my late thirties.

[Markin: Johnny and I started drifting apart then, mainly different parts of the country, so I don’t know about Alicia’s qualities but Johnny says that she treated him “good,” which to Johnny always meant good at giving him oral sex and stuff like that. Okay, get used to it we are adults and more explicit sexual details will be coming up so be forewarned. And take your heart medicine for god’s sake.]

My third wife, Becky, was barely out of college and I was in my forties when we met but she was “good.”

After that I stopped marrying them and just settled into a steady diet of “dating” seemingly ever younger women that I met through my work contacts or other social situations. [Markin: Johnny was, and is, a very good construction site consulting engineer.] And then, after Carrie left to pursue her screen-writing “dream” in California things dried up, dried up hard for this older man [Markin: Carrie was Johnny’s last serious live-in girlfriend, emphasis on the girl part, barely legal]. Well, first, damn the computer age for one thing, since it meant I could do more of my consulting work from home. And get more work done (and charge more as well). But it meant that the social situations also dried up. And no 50-something guy, no 50-something guy in his right mind, is going to the “meat market” singles bars around town trying to pick up the young ones when they have plenty of young guys around to moon over and get worked up about.

[Markin: I am trying to be gentle with Brother Silver here but he “forgot” to mention getting laughed at, ridiculed and told to go “back to the nursing home” by those self-same younger women. He also “forgot” to mention that he was not a 50-something guy but a 60-something guy when the “heat” came on him.].

And second, damn, whatever that Adam “spreading his seed” thing was because even if things dried up socially this old man wasn’t dried up, if you get my meaning. [Markin: Translation; he was still as randy as a middle- schooler] So I did whatever any “on the information super-highway” guy would do, I went online looking for sex sites, younger women-centered sex sites.

[Markin: Johnny didn’t have to work up a sweat finding them they practically come at you from the homepage onward.]

Of course “dating” services have been going on since just after Adam and Eve got it on. (Eve, by the way, a younger woman, a much younger woman and probably pretty “hot,” with a firm, curvaceous, naked body hot from what I heard, if I didn’t mention it before). Nowadays though (thank god, and thank god I took my medicine beforehand) the sexually explicit stuff women are putting online for your perusal is “over the top,” especially the younger ones, thank god. So naturally I filled out my “profile” page, paid my dough (via credit card but be careful), and “joined” all the other guys, horny guys waiting, wanting to “get laid” tonight.

Well things were kind of slow for a while since I blocked off returning messages to any women over thirty, and rightly so as they started looking kind of sad sack by then (although there were plenty of them around, around with kid baggage, if that is where your tastes run go see). I though at first it might be because there was a prejudice against 50-something guys in this hellish youth-drive universe.

[Markin: See note above on the age question, the Johnny Silver age question.]

And then Tracy, sweet eighteen-year old Tracy, answered my plea.

Now Tracy was not your average young woman (girl really but let’s leave it at that). She was eighteen, bright, intelligent, ambitious, resourceful, and looking for a “sugar daddy,” whatever that might mean. Yes dear, Johnny Silver is just your meat.

[Markin: After some research this old-fashioned term “sugar daddy” could mean, like in the old days, someone, some man, who paid the freight to today’s “hook-up” or “friends-with benefits," or something entirely innocuous.]

But here is where the problem came in. We sent many message back and forth and we were making some headway. She stated clearly that she was not into “mere boys,” but older men who had been around, and knew a thing or two (or three). Yes Tracy, Johnny is very, very just your meat.

Eventually she agreed to meet me in a public place to discuss, discuss our “the exact meaning of sugar daddy" business, and the like. But here is where the wheels started to come off, almost. She wanted some pictures of me, presumably recently up-loaded digital camera-produced photos, before we met. Her idea, innocent enough, and actually reasonable enough, was to make sure I was not some three-headed monster or, perhaps, someone recently released from parole for any number of charges from sexual offenses to murder and mayhem

[Markin: Smart girl. As for any possible sexual offenses, as far as I know, they were all consensual and not in the least bit criminal although a few irate fathers might differ. The murder and mayhem I would advise that Johnny plead the Fifth on that one.]

And that was the first stumbling block. See, old guys like Peter Paul and me, were not suckled on computer technology practically from birth like today’s kids. We survive on the “information super-highway” but just barely and while I know, as Markin does, enough to get by let’s just call us “primitives.” In short, I confess, bitterly confess, any pictures I had were not digital, and even if they were I did not know how to up-load them onto any site, sex site or not. Truth. However Tracy did not believe me, and it made sense in her iPhone, iPad, texting, Facebook world that everybody knew how to do such an eight- year old simple task. I only avoided total defeat by producing some older photos and reading every manual for up-loading that came with the printer. But it was a near thing.

I won’t bore the reader with the details of our first meeting, or our later meetings but she was certain fetching in person and wiser in age than some of the older young women that I have been with through the years. But the big thing was that she was wonderful in bed. And this is where the faint-hearted, or just plain perverted, can get off and find your own sex site. Well let’s start off as always with the firm, soft, wrinkle-free skin, breast, buttock, thighs, that has driven me wild since old-time Linda Lorraine (hell, I can still smell her Palmolive soap, or perfume or whatever she used to drive the boys wild even now). Then of course the school-girlish strip tease that always gets me going. And then placing her mouth, well, placing her mouth where it did some good. Hell though everybody who reads this knows what’s what. I don' t have to draw a diagram, do I? Yes, we did it did several times (not all in one day, Viagra is good but no that good). She was very inventive with positions and of course, I knew a thing or two (or three) that got her going (read: moaning and groaning for her sugar daddy and not the old –fashioned meaning of the word either whatever Markin’s research said it meant in the old days). She still smiles about those two (or three things) when I bring it up.

But the point is really about “… and keep me young while getting old” as the line from the Van Morrison song, The Beauty Of The Days Gone By. Some guys get it by pumping iron or other maniac strenuous exercising, and some by endless youth-enhancing operations. And some, like Markin, by writing endlessly about the old days like they were coming back, or could do anybody any good.

[Markin: Watch it, Johnny, watch it brother.]

Me, no, I want a young thing, a young firm thing, a young sex-crazed thing, a firm young thing that wants a lesson in those two (or three) things I could teach her (and have her sweaty-smiling a couple of days later over) right next to me right up until, and maybe past, judgment day. Can you blame me?

Markin postscript comment:
We had better get to that communist future in a hurry, a real hurry. In the meantime I’ll go off and take a shower, a very cold shower. Oh yes, Johnny, by the way (BTW for the cyber-slang crowd) what is Tracy’s cell phone number? Or does she have a geezer-craving girlfriend? Whatever you do, Johnny- “don’t watch out, not now.”
***Moody Street Blues –With Jeanbon Kerouac In Mind

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

He was drawn like a lemming to the sea to the town, drawn to the siren call of the town, the last signposts town, Lowell home ground, from when Jean bon ruled the beat social lion night. Some automatic response deep in his brain, deep in his DNA called him every so often to go to replenish his soul, to go where Jack worked his brain with projects like seven banshees and fretted, fretted over seven hundred boyhood things. He made his way over the dusty streets, Bridge Street, Aikens Street, Merrimack Street, the vast number of streets over in three-decker tenement Pawtucketville (now sharing space with various public building modern U/Mass-Lowell campus facilities) crowded, over-crowded with the new-born screamers of new generations of different ethnic groups leaving only a remnant of the old Irish-Italian- Greek –French-Canadian screamers from Jack time. Drawn too to his river, the Jack river of his youth, the Merrimack. Ha, merry mack, mary mack, mary mack all dressed in black. Is that okay Jack, is it okay to speak that way of the ancient loomed river, the ancient dyed river, the sacred river of Om, of the rushing waters over-flowing.

He sensed the river, the river pull, the river flow, this day rapid white-capped, white- capped waves, the waters overflowing the banks creating tree lakes, oh well, tree ponds and maybe adventures, Jack adventures running toward the Dracut woods, running toward New Jack City, running toward the Frisco night and another land’s end. The historic river touched off by the mile of red, red-brick factory walls now long ago converted to historic sites or living space for the up and coming of the town. Is it still a mile of bricks like it says on the points of interest panels that dot the river edge walk though, it seemed shorter when he walked it this time? Walked it passing the old Boott Diner closed, no more hamburger/onion/eggs/burnt offerings grease smells to salivate over, Jack salivate over, thinking Jack thoughts, thinking about how he had only touched the edges of the beat, beat down, beatified night, too young to do anything but play the black-bereted mock heroic faux poet, but what did he know then. Walked along with some empty tank in his head trying to figure out how anybody could have come out of that rushing river, come out of the French-Canadian working class quarters and made that mad man big splash.

Later he walked past the high school, Jack’s school, Jack’s legend prowess football school and heroic victory over Lawrence up the river, up the not Jack part of the river and so left to herald some 1912 IWW-led textile strike as a point of interest, a last time point of interest. Jack’s skipping classes high school now vastly expanded, also public building modern like some third-rate architect low bid the world and threw every building no matter the function through a cookie cutter to, to, oh yah, save costs, to reflect added programs, added bureaucracies, and the sense that added-ness was important. Past Jack’s cavern school library hiding place, hiding from goofs, hiding from prying girls, hiding away by himself to learn two thousand facts of the known world, to read two thousand books of the known world, to be able to be ready when he day came, when his day came and he would show the world what writing was all about Hemingway/Dos Passo/Fitzgerald be damned. That is the secret Lowell, the Lowell that provided the yeast for his grand experiment when his day did come.

Then onto the great mandala fast by the Lowell Sun sign just ahead on the shortened skyline, the great mandala that some commissioned sculptor thought appropriate (hopefully not a low- bid sculptor, not for big-hearted Jack) that formed the core of Jack square, Jack memory square, Jack honored son square (well after the fact since before he was a mere beatnik, a bum, unkind to his mother, a drunk and a dope fiend to straight-laced Lowell). So he sat, sat among the marble looking this way and that at the etched words on the marbled stacks. Words from Mexico City Blues, words from Visions of Doulouz, words see.

Funny that day he sat among the marble, sat alone for a while, then a crowd, a young boy crowd, Latino, Asian, maybe a black kid and white mixed in, came to “possess” jack space. To do fandangle roller-blade tricks against the creviced landscapes. He thought back to Maggie Cassidy and a time two, maybe three now, generations removed when Jack and friends would cover the downtown area with their antics, with their foolery, with their first young manhood drunks, and with their escape back woods Lowell dreams. Funny too he sensed that day, and he hoped that he was wrong on that score, that those today young boys were totally ignorant of the sacred ground they stood on, that they showed not a whit of interest in the words that outlined their race course. What would Jeanbon say to that.

Then before he left, sobered a little by that hard forgetful fact that time stirs no ashes, except by accident, he turned, as he always did when he was called to this town, called like a lemming to the sea to read that last page, last couple of paragraphs really, from On The Road, his great escape novel, his statement to a less than candid world. That last part where he talked about his max daddy road wizard pal Dean Moriarty (nee Neal Cassady) as the father he never knew. Yah, he thought as he walked away like just like Jack Keroauc, the father we never knew too.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

***Out In The 1950s Film Noir Night– Joe Spain’s Saga

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

That Dora MacKay, Devil Dora, he called her, must have been something else, must have been a real devil like he called her. The he in question being Detective Sergeant Joe Spain, one of San Francisco’s finest, and that was meant in a couple of ways. For a cop he was a flashy dresser not some off the rack stuff, ill-fitted and rumbled like most of the cops who come into my place, The Last Chance Bar & Grille, the place where I work as the night bartender, and have for the past four years. They come in, come in at all hours, in all conditions, but inevitably all rumbled up since The Last Chance is right across the street from Police Headquarters. Except, like I say, Joe Spain who no matter what the time of day always looked like a guy who could pass for a wise guy, a connected guy, another kind of guy who shows up in my place. Joe said one time when I asked him why he took such pains to dress up in a well-fitted suit, shoes shines, a nice soft hat set at a rakish angle on his head that he wanted to make the wise guys think, think for just a minute, that he could be bought off, could be on the take.

And that brings me to the second way. Joe also had the reputation, a hard- earned reputation for being not for sale, for being not in somebody hip pocket and was ready to fight anybody who differed on that estimation. The first night I worked here I tried to give him a scotch on the house after he broke up what could have been a serious brawl that, big as I am. I would have had trouble squelching and he just put his money plus tip, on the bar counter. He wouldn’t even take an offered pull of beef jerky from me. Jesus, I can’t remember the last time a cop did that, left a tip that is, or for that matter paid for a drink if he could help it, or didn’t eat everything edible on the counter. But this story is not about Joe’s virtues, sartorial or moral, or just a little, but about this Dora dame that was on his mind a lot when he got in a certain mood.

See Detective Sergeant Joseph Spain had sent this Dora over about five years before, a while before I got here, so he felt duty-bound to tell me about her. Tell me how he had to send her over. Now most cops, and Joe agreed on this when I pressed him on it one time, do a job, close a case and forget about it. They certainly don’t go on about it five years later but this Dora case, Joe just couldn’t let go. Some nights when he came in and had his usual two scotches, his self-imposed limit, that that would be it. But if he asked for a third then I knew he had Dora on his mind and would tell me, or whoever he could corral sitting at the bar, all about the case. I got so I could almost recite the thing before Joe got the thought out of his mouth. Here it is the way I can tell it, tell it as a guy who was from nowhere on the case, and had never been in Dora’s clutches like Joe almost was at the end. “Almost” he would always say but in the cold sober light of day he played the percentages like everybody else and since Dora had sent three guy to their just or unjust rewards he didn’t want to be number four when Dora got her wanting habits on. But I am getting ahead of myself so let me go back and reconstruct Joe’s saga for you and maybe it will make more sense why he did what he did.

Joe said he followed up on Dora’s background somewhat after he sent her over and then when the trail got cold, real cold, he just let it go, let what he knew stand as it was. She came out of England someplace before the war, World War II, which was rough on the English. Dora, like a lot of us including Joe, had come out of some cheap mean streets and once she blew the dust off those streets off she swore she wasn’t going back. She had been involved in a jack-roller scheme with a couple of small-time hoods in Manchester and had received probation since she was a minor when one of the victims complained, complained to the cops. Later she did a little time working in some high- grade whore house in London until she got tired of the wear and tear. Then after the war she headed over here to America landing in New York, and landing in some gangster’s lap at the Kit Kat Club where she worked as a “hostess.” When that connected guy got wasted, got found face down with a couple of slugs in him, in some turf war she blew town and headed to Frisco.

That is really where Joe’s story begins but he insisted on telling her early history to show she was no frail violet who just got mixed up with some wrong gees because she didn’t know better. No, she knew the score, knew it cold, and maybe knew it from day one- get yours while the getting is good She was working in a dime-a-dance joint over in North Beach when she met Frankie, Frankie Murphy the bank robber who is still remembered around this town as very good at his trade.

Now Frankie Murphy was from the old school, old school as far banks goes, which was to work alone, mainly, grab the dough at the point of a gun and blow the joint. He was also old school as far as women went, when he was out of stir and in the clover. All his dough would go to keeping his women in style and this is all that Dora needed to hear. Now this Frankie was not anything to look at but he was true to his word on dough, and when that ran out he would just rob another bank. So Dora held her nose and stuck with Frankie, stuck with him up in a nice apartment he provided and with dough for clothes and other expenses. Of course Dora got the taste for fine things as any woman from cheap street, or for that matter any woman from Mayfair, would, and Frankie’s so money got kind of low more quickly carrying her freight and so he needed to put together another heist. This time would be no nickel and dime thing though but a big caper, a big caper indeed, holding up an armored truck when it was vulnerable sitting at bank.

Well one thing you could say for Frankie he certainly knew his stuff because he actually pulled it off, pulled off the biggest heist around, pulled down 400, 000 big ones. Although there were a couple of complications, first, in the melee Frankie killed a guard, killed him dead, and second, when Frankie got to Dora’s with no dough she started squawking about telling her where the dough was and telling Frankie to get the hell away from her since he was radioactive with a cop killing hanging over his head. She wound up squawking with a little gun when Frankie wouldn’t tell her where the dough was and he tried to attack her. That was her story anyway. So that was guy number one, and that is really where Joe Spain first ran into one Dora Mackay. Ran into her while he was investigating the whole Frankie robbery and killing case. He wasn’t afraid to admit to anybody who would listen that he was attracted to her right from the first moment he saw her, although he didn’t believe her story for a minute. But when a woman cries self-defense against some big lug known to be a cop-killer and who robs banks for a living who is going to go screwy over the details. Not Joe, not Joe with the big Dora eyes.

Here is where guys are funny though, maybe screwy when it comes to dames because Frankie wanted to make sure that Dora was taken care of , but didn’t trust her enough to tell her where the dough was. Wasn’t sure whether she was two-timing him or not with some other guy, an occupational hazard with crooks, and with guys without good looks. So all he had in his pockets when Dora sifted through them looking for some clue was Vince Malone’s telephone number and address. She assumed that Vince might have a clue where the money was so she telephoned him, made a date to meet and see what happened. Here is where dames are smart though. At their meeting one night at the Red Hat Club Dora put on her best come hither performance, really outdid herself for Vince. And Vince, nothing but a con man and skirt-chaser in real life, did what every con man not working a con himself does, and bought into her con. Although that part came later after they had slipped under a few sheets and she had him all worked up. After that it was like taking candy from a baby for Dora.

Until the other shoe dropped. The other shoe for Vince. Once she had hoodwinked Vince into giving out the spot where the moola was she went rooty-toot-toot on the late Vince Malone, RIP. Nice, right. So naturally Dora’s defense was that Vince tried to attack her, attack her for chrissakes and she had to shoot him in, ah, self-defense. Joe got that case too and while he, and half the citizens of Frisco town, were more than happy to see the cockroach go down under Joe was getting a little weary of Dora’s explanations. Still he was interested in her, more so when she planted a sweet kiss on his lips in thanks, thanks for who knows what. Yah, he was hooked, hooked bad but that wasn’t the end of it.

Dora, no question was a man-trap and being one included grabbing every stray guy who crossed her path in order to pursue her goal of getting that damn dough, that cool 400K even if she had to split it, at least that is what she had talked herself into. Frankie, not trusting a soul, a female soul anyway, had made sure that any two-timing dame was not going to get his money if she wasn’t on the square so he gave the directions to Vince but those directions led to Luther Adler, Luther an old con whom Frankie had known at the Q (San Quentin if you don’t know what Q means). Luther was holding a strong box with the kale in it although he didn’t know what was in the box, at least that is what he told Dora. But being an old con Luther wanted to see the contents of the box to see if he maybe was due a cut for services rendered to his old jailbird pal. Dora, naturally, tried the old come hither approach but Luther wasn’t buying into that trap. It didn’t matter though, didn’t matter at all, since Dora in her frenzy for the money put two right through his heart. Finished, done, all the dough was hers, and well- earned.

Well, almost done. And here is where Joe Spain comes in as a cop, a good cop, a cop that couldn’t be bought. After the phooey incident with Vince he began to tail Dora (also he wasn’t sure whether she didn’t have another guy on the line despite that big kiss back at Vince’s place) and that led him to Luther’s just after he heard those two shots that Dora blasted him with. Joe knocked on Luther’s door, Dora answered, and as he entered the room he saw Luther sprawled out on the floor. Dead, dead as a doornail. He confronted Dora who at least didn’t try the attack dodge this time. She merely went over to Joe, planted another big kiss on his lips, and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Her, her sex, and the dough, simple. Joe hesitated, thinking through his options. He was tempted, strongly tempted until he took another look in Luther’s direction and then said nix.

But Dora Mackay from cheap streets England did not know how to take no for an answer when she had had her wanting habits on. So she tried the rooty-toot-toot on Detective Sergeant Joseph Spain. And that was her last act on this earth as Joe put one right through her heart, or the place where her heart would be if she had a heart. But here again where guys get squirrely over dames. Joe has finished up his story the same way every time since he has been coming in. He always wonders out loud whether he should have just run off with Dora and left everything else behind. Yah that Dora Mackay must have been something else.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

***When Radio Ruled The Air-Waves

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin

CD Review

Stardust: The Classic Decca Hits and Standards Collection, various artists, Decca Records, MCA, 1994

I am a first generation child of the television age, although in recent years I have spent more time kicking and screaming about that fact than watching the damn thing. Nevertheless I can appreciate this little compilation of Decca hits and standard tunes from the 1940s and 1950s as a valentine to the radio days of my parents’ youth, parents who came of musical age (and every other kind of age as well) during the Great Depression of the 1930s and who fought, or waited for those out on the front lines fighting, World War II. I am just old enough though, although generation behind them, to remember the strains of songs like the harmonic –heavy Mills Brothers Paper Dolls (a favorite of my mother’s) and The Glow Worm (not a favorite of anybody as far as I know although the harmony is still first-rate) that came wafting, via the local Adamsville radio station WJDA, through our big box living room radio in the early 1950s. It seemed they, or maybe the Andrews Sisters, be-bopping (be-bopping now, not then, you do not want to know what I called it then), on Rum And Coca-Cola or tagging along with Bing Crosby on Don’t Fence Me In were permanent residents of the airs-waves in the Markin household.

I am also an unapologetic child of Rock 'n' Roll but those above-mentioned tunes were the melodies that my mother and father came of age to and the stuff of their dreams during World War II and its aftermath. The rough and tumble of my parents raising a bunch of kids might have taken the edge off it but the dreams remained. In the end it is this musical backdrop, behind the generation musical fights that roils the Markin household in teen times, that makes this compilation most memorable to me. Just to say names like Dick Haymes (I think my mother had a “crush” on him at some point), Vaughn Monroe, The Inkspots (who, truth, I liked even then, even in my “high, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee, Buddy Holly days, especially on If I Didn’t Care and I’ll Get By-wow), and Louis Armstrong. Or songs like Blueberry Hill, You’ll Never Know, A- Tisket- A Tasket, You Always Hurt The One You Love and so gather in a goodly portion of the mid-20th century American Songbook. Other talents like Billie Holiday, The Weavers, and Rosemary Clooney and tunes like Lover Man (and a thousand and one Cole Porter Billie-sung songs), Fever, and As Time Goes By (from Dooley Wilson in Casablanca) came later through very different frames of reference. But the seed, no question, no question now, was planted then.

Let’s be clear as well going back to that first paragraph mention of television - there something very different between the medium of the radio and the medium of the television. The radio allowed for an expansion of the imagination (and of fantasy) that the increasingly harsh realities of what was being portrayed on television did not allow one to get away with. The heart of World War II, and in its immediate aftermath, was time when one needed to be able to dream a little. The realities of the world at that time seemingly only allowed for nightmares. My feeling is that this compilation will touch a lot of sentimental nerves for the World War II generation (that so-called ‘greatest generation’), including my growing-up Irish working- class families on the shores of North Adamsville. Nice work.
***“First Let’s Kill All The Lawyers”-Not

DVD Review

The Lincoln Lawyer, starring Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tormei, based on the novel by Michael Connelly, Liongate, 2011

Yes, I know, everybody, everybody hates lawyers including Richard III, I think, who uttered some variation of the idea, the moldy old idea of let's get rid of the lawyers and the earth will again go back to some edenic time, in William Shakespeare’s play of the same name. Hates them until old justice time comes along and everyone, including this writer, hopes to high heaven that their lawyer is up to the task of representing them zealously, and in some desperate cases more than zealously. And that combination of sentiments, that hate/love thing, is what drives this film which according to my usually reliable sources follows the Michael Connelly novel pretty closely.

Needless to say, except for the thugs, pimps, dope dealers, hellish motorcycle angels, bail bondmen, public servant grifters and grafters and a bewitching lawyer ex-wife (played by Marisa Tormei) nobody, no viewer anyway, is suppose to like the Lincoln lawyer at the outset. (Named the Lincoln lawyer, by the way, not for his ethical resemblance to Father Abraham but because he rides around in a chauffeur-driven Lincoln.) His wheeling and dealing just this side of the law is what makes him the darling of that rogue’s gallery of characters listed above (except, of course, the fetching ex-wife, and maybe her a little too) and the bane of the District Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles Police Department establishment.

That deft and ruthless maneuvering is what also draws him to the attention of a vicious killer of women, women of the night to use a quaint phrase, and a surefire way to commit the “perfect murder” and like so many before him said murderer thought he was scot-free as is the usual case once the Lincoln lawyer was on the case. But see, said Lincoln lawyer “got religion” along the way after he and those around him were slated to take the fall if that vicious killer (a mommy’s boy to boot) got tripped up.

So you know damn well pretty early on that our trusty Lincoln lawyer is not taking the fall and, moreover, is going to see that an actual piece of real justice occurs in the process by the freeing a framed man who was sitting in stir through his negligence (and disbelief in innocence) by seeing that that vicious killer gets his jolt up at Q. Therefore you see we had it all wrong. There is some rough justice in the world. And one had better not kill off all those lawyers if there is going to be even that amount. The twists and turns getting there, although fairly well-worn by now in movie-dom, are what make this film one to see.
***In The Matter Of The Zen Western

DVD Review

Dead Man, starring Johnny Depp, Robert Mitchum, eerily edgy music by Neil Young, Miramax 1995

Sure, I have taken plenty of shots at variations on the great American West, past and present, from Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove to The Last Picture Show from The Wild Bunch to Crazy Hearts and everything in between. As well, I have always been glad, glad as hell, to review any movie starring Johnny Depp that might come my way. So here we have the combination of Johnny Depp as, well, Johnny Depp as usual (except maybe for those seemingly endless Pirate sequels) taking on an edgy role that less talented or more timid male actors would have walked away from, way away from.

No one doubts that the old Hollywood (and dime store novel) vision of the old John Wayne "howdy, partner" American West is long gone. And with the ground-breaking work of The Wild Bunch back in the 1970s we have seen, well we have been treated to let's face it, more plausibly views of that old time West, including some pretty unsavory characters in search of fame and fortune around the edges of the great frontier before it melted at the turn of the 20th century (as per the famous land's end thesis of Professor Frederick Jackson Turner. That pasting of the frontier, of course, did not stop anybody with the least carefree spirit or who was just plain tired of the “civilized” East from heading by any way they could to the great expanses of the old-time West. And that is where William Blake (played by Johnny Depp), no not the 18th century mad man English poet visionary and supporter of the ideals of the French Revolution (although that mistake plays a part in the plot), but an accountant, for god’s sake, enters the story.

William Blake’s transformation into a man of the West complete with notches on his revolver, seemingly in slow-motion at times and all in black and white, is what drives this curious film. We have an educated “savage," Native American, savage white man bounty-hunters, a twisted rich land-owners (played by the late Robert Mitchum) and every mangy "old dog" who made it, or did not make it in the West. And every pathology known to humankind showed its face in this fierce portrayal of the West but also a very surprising positive portrayal of Native American culture and its demise with the advance of the white man. William Blake, accountant, is one of Johnny Depp’s edgier performances, no question, and if you can stay with the zen aspect of the thing a very well done performance. Not for everyone, and certainly not for those who might still be clinging to some John Wayne The Searchers idea of the West.
***The Road To…., The Corner Boys Of The 1930s

DVD Review

The Road To Perdition, starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins, Dreamworks, 2002

I have spent a lot of time in this space writing about my corner boy experiences growing up in my old Irish and Italian ethnic mix (or not mix as occurred quite often when it was time to see who was king of the hill, who had what, who had cojones) working-class neighborhood in the late 1950s and early 1960s in a town, North Adamsville just outside Boston. I have also spent some time writing about the corner boys who just immediately preceded us in the early 1950s, our role models and advisors in the ways of the streets who learned what they knew from their corner boy forebears and so on back to Adam and Eve, maybe before, actually now that I think about it, definitely before. Pretty tame really, mainly hanging off the walls of some storefront, dreaming although we would not have dignified our thought by such an elegant term. Unless of course you were on the receiving end of a vicious beating, reason given or not, got your money stolen in some back alley ambush (got jack-rolled in the inelegant term of the time), or had your personal household possessions ransacked or stolen by some midnight shifter looking to find esy street the easy way your perspective might not be so romantic. The “corner boys,” Irish and Italian mainly, of 1930s Great Depression Chicago though, as portrayed in the film under review, The Road to Perdition, make all that other stuff seem “punk” by comparison.

Of course the motives to join a gang of lumpenproletarians in all cases were the same then, and today. That is “where the money was” to paraphrase the old-time famous bank robber, Willy Sutton. No question all those guys in the 1930s and later were (and are) from hunger, from hunger meaning they had big wanting habits at all times and under all conditions. But they were also looking for the quick dollar and the “no heavy lifting” life not associated with steady working- class factory every day values. Equally true is the fact that there are always more “hungry” guys looking ot cash in on easy street than the market can bear which leads to two things-external “turf wars” between gangs and internal turf wars over who controls what within gangs. And that is the heart of this story.

The problem for Tom Hanks, a trusted, very trusted, enforcer (read: “hit man”) for Irish mob boss Paul Newman (he of many such corner boy roles going back to Cool Hand Luke, The Hustler and before) is that Newman's psychotic son wants his share of the goodies as befits a son and heir apparent. Needless to say that things get dicey, very dicey as they maneuver to the top, including the gangland-style execution of Hanks’ family that was suppose to include a son, the narrator of the film, who is forced to help Hanks’ seek the inevitable revenge required by the situation. In the end though Tom Waits is right in the opening line from Jersey Girl- “Ain’t got no time for the corner boys, down in the streets making all that noise.” A nice cinematically-pleasing 1930s period piece and what turned out to be a great farewell performance by the late Paul Newman.