Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day Thoughts-A Speech Given A Smedley Butler Veterans For Peace Member At The Annual Memorial Day For Peace Commemoration In Boston May 30, 2016 


Those of you who know me and who have attended the Midnight Voices program that Veterans for Peace supports along with other organizations know that I periodically read some pieces about guys, mostly Vietnam veterans, guys from my generation who had a hard time coming back to the “real” world after “Nam.” Especially guys that I met when I was out in California after my own checkered military service. Guys whom Bruce Springsteen addressed in his powerful song-Brothers Under the Bridge. Most of the guys once they came to trust me, trust me as far as any guys could in that very here today, gone tomorrow world out under the bridges and along the railroad tracks of Southern California would want to talk about something, get something off their chests. Maybe it was about the war, maybe about some girl who sent them a Dear John letter which tore them up, and still did, maybe about the old neighborhood, especially if they were from the East and I might know about their town, maybe about buddies who got left behind in “Nam, whose names are now eternally etched in black marble down in Washington.

When I volunteered at our last VFP monthly meeting to be on the program today I knew I was going to be talking about one of those guys, talking about Phil Larkin, a guy from Carver down in cranberry bog country, down where the bogs provided work for generations of Larkins. Talk about him because the story he told me one night out in the Westminster railroad “jungle” while we were drinking cheap wine, cheap wine was all we had dough for fits in very nicely with what we are about here today. Phil, unlike a lot of veterans I met out West had had qualms about going into the service, had thought about jail, going to Canada, going underground you know the stuff a lot of guys from our time had to think through as we can under the threat of induction. He went in, went in when drafted and not before which he was very proud of, did the 11 Bravo route since cannon fodder was all they were looking for in late 1967, early 1968-later too. Took his physical beating, two purple hearts if I recall correctly, took his psychological beating which explained why he was drinking cheap wine with me out in some desolate railroad patch but that night he didn’t want to talk about himself but an uncle, no grand uncle, Frank O’Brian, whom when he said his name said it with a sneer. This guy, this grand uncle is why he wound up going into the service against his better instincts.                  

See Frank O’Brian had served in World War I, had died shortly after the war from some wounds he received during the war. Because of that, and because he was one of the few guys from Carver who had died in that war he had a square up by the town hall named after him, had a plaque stating as much. You know the corners and squares of most cities and towns in most countries of the world have such memorials to their war dead, needless to say far too many.  Probably you I and pass five, ten every day without even recognizing them as such, except maybe today or on Armistice Day when some organization puts a flag or something to acknowledge those deaths.

But see that damn plaque was the final straw that got Phil into his olive drabs. Frank O’Brian was his Grandma Riley’s brother and when Phil tried to get counsel from that august, his word, old lady whom he loved dearly she tore into him said what would people think, what would her dead brother think if a Larkin/Riley/O’Brian son, a son of Carver did not do his duty. That ended any thought of Phil’s not going into the service. But you can see why he had that sneer on his face that night when he mentioned that uncle’s name. Maybe we should start naming the squares and corners of the world after those who would not serve in the military, the brave resisters who have languished in the prisons and stockades.  
Scenes From An Ordinary 1950s Life- Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow- Billie’s, Billie The Pope Of “The Projects” Night, View


A YouTube film clip of The Shirelles performing the classic Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?.


By Bart Webber:

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?
Hey all, this is Bart Webber from the old neighborhood, the old cranberry bogs neighborhood of Carver down in Southeastern, Massachusetts, the world capital of that berry in the old days , the Acre neighborhood to be exact when all the “boggers” lived from time immemorial as they say. This is another one of those tongue-in-cheek commentaries that I have been running around thinking about lately as retirement looms directly ahead, retirement from the printing business that I started back in the 1960s and which I am now getting ready to turn over to my youngest son (the other two older boys are both computer whizzes and could give a tinker’s damn about the soon to be dinosaur extinct old-time Guttenberg press print according to them), the back story if you like, in the occasional sketches I have been producing of late going back to the primordial youth time of the mid to late 1950s with its bags full of classic, now classic then just rock and roll, rock songs for the ages.
Of course, any such efforts on my part to see how the cultural jail-break took root  down in the Acre have to include the views of one Billie Bradley, William James Bradley, the schoolboy mad-hatter of the 1950s rock jailbreak out in our “the projects” Acre neighborhood. Yah, in those days, unlike during his later fateful wrong turn trajectory days when after searing failures to be the next best thing after Elvis (really after Bo Diddley but in hard white enclave and consciously Northern-style racist bog country that would turn out to be a non-starter, no, would turn out to be hazardous to one’s health never mind one’s future) and the next dance-master general of the new rock dispensation he turned to the life of petty and subsequently hard crime, every kid, including his best friend, a guy named Peter Paul Markin, whom we all called just Markin back then but who would later be called the “Scribe” for obvious reasons, 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. Yeah those were the days when like a poet I read once in high school, and English or is it British poet, said to be “young was very heaven.” (He, oh yeah, now I remember, Wordsworth, the Lakes poet, who was referring to his view of the French Revolution in the days before it got serious and blood was being let on all sides)     
Billie and Markin (an on occasion me when they were having a dispute like whether Elvis’ sneer was fake, stuff like that) personally 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 ( a euphemism for the five finger discount, you know the “clip” that every guy, and some saucy girls, took at the rite of passage in the Acre when they had their “wanting habits” on and no dough to pay for the stuff), and neatly folded piles of clothing, also gathered by that same hook or by crook (“clipping” clothes a whole separate art form in itself and rated higher than merely grabbing some foolish cheapjack overpriced anyway rings to give away to some girl who could have given a fuck about some such trinket), 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. (What we didn’t know, even Billie, about the whole sex thing could fill volumes but we like our older brothers, and sisters too, learned what little we did know, and a lot of that was wrong we learned on the streets like everybody else. It certainly wasn’t from prudish parents or heaven forbid the priests at Sacred Heart, the main church servicing the Acre.)   
Although in early 1959 Markin’s family was beginning to start the process of moving out of the projects to a run-down shack of a house in Muddy Bottom even lower on the neighborhood scale that the Acre if you could believe that the only virtue, a small one being that they would “own,” along with the bank, their own house. More importantly, Markin had begun to move away from Billie’s orbit, his new found orbit as king hell gangster wannabe, after figuring out that the life of petty crime was much harder to deal with that reading books to find out two million facts which he had settled into one summer after a few run-ins with the law over a couple of “clips,” he would still wander back to the old neighborhood until mid-1960 just to hear Billie’s take on whatever music was interesting him at the time.
These commentaries, these Billie commentaries, are Markin’s recollections of his and Billie’s conversations on the song lyrics in this series. But Markin was not relying on memory alone. During this period he would use his 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 their conversations of those song meanings that we fretted about for hours.
About twenty years ago long after Markin had gone face down in his own hail of bullets down in Mexico after a dope deal he was either trying to broker with some mal hombres from some budding cartel or, more likely, giving the residual “wanting habits” that haunted us all for many years whether we liked books or not stealing the “product” I was helping his late mother clear out the attic of that shack of a house over on Muddy Bottom in order to sell it  after Mr. Markin had passed away I found those tapes among the possessions Markin had left behind. Mrs. Markin having no earthly use for them passed them on to me as tanks for my help in cleaning the place up. I, painstakingly, have had those reels transcribed so that many of these commentaries will be the actual words (somewhat edited, of course) that appear in these sketches. 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, in jail or in jail-break I’m still pulling for you. Got it.
Here’s what Billie had to say about the lyrics to the classic girl sex dilemma song Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow that we all went wild over but which baffled a bunch of twelve and thirteen year old boys who were trying to figure out what that girl was worried about. Yeah, that’s the way it was:
Billie back again, William James Bradley, if you didn’t know. Markin’s pal, Peter Paul Markin’s pal, from over the Myles Standish Elementary School and the pope of rock lyrics down here in “the projects, ” the Acre projects where I was born, my father was born and my grandfather came to when he was a young man. The Carver projects, the place where all the boggers live, the people who keep cranberries on the Thanksgiving plates every year if you don’t know. Markin, who I hadn’t seen for a while since he moved “uptown” to the Muddy Bottom a place even lower on the human living scene that the Acre according to my parents, came by the other day. Even we guys from the Acre wouldn’t be caught dead in Muddy Bottom, wouldn’t let a guy from there into our circle at school, well, except Markin because he had to go there or live on the streets, something he was willing to do for a while rather moving from the Acre. So he 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.
I’ll let you know how I found out, found out true later. 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,” I will give Markin that much, 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 without a minute’s hesitation, had been saying rosaries and novenas that Mister Chevy would stop her in her tracks before she went over to his place and made a fool of herself, now she's the queen bee of the high school Adventure Car-Hop night. Sitting in that front seat just the right distance away to show everybody, every walking girl in town what she had, and how easy it was that she had it. 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 the “tonight” of the song was paying back time, car- hop queen bee paying back time, time to make Mr. Chevy glad he stopped behind her that day a week before. No turning back.
I hope, I really hope, they “did the deed” down by the seashore, over by whatever local version of secluded “no married adults need enter” Plymouth Cove, 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 if you lived with Dorothy in Kansas 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 even if Chevy guy’s 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 we go to school and church with, 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 song girl, number one, is that she likes it, she liked doing it with the 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. About getting 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 her 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. [The blessed Pill, hail science-Bart.]  This “rubbers” stuff from a guy was practically missed the first time he kissed a girl. That take a pill and everything is alright is just because the goof reads Newsweek and Time and not because he actually knows what makes a girl tick and why. 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.

Monday, May 30, 2016

A Slice Of The 21st Century Workplace Life-Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro’s The Intern     

DVD Review

By Sam Lowell

The Intern, Anne Hathaway, Robert De Niro, 2015  


A while back I mentioned in reviewing a lesser Barbara Stanwyck film vehicle My Reputation which addressed the issue of the social strictures surrounding the romantic life of a high society widowed matron that such subject matter would seem strange, weird in today’s more liberated social milieu. Probably, aside from the problem of the film being too melodramatic for today’s audiences, the film couldn’t have been produced today in the same format. Not true with the film under review, The Intern, a semi-comic look at the “life” of an Internet start-up and of its prime mover and shaker, Jules, played by fetching Anne Hathaway who started the thing from scratch like a lot of such operations these days, going either to billionaire-hood or flat broke.        

Here is how the demographics and social commentary played out in this one, how we get a look at the old style work culture and the new buzz buzz fly away office culture getting formed and settled in the 21st century new age of globalization, part two. Jules, who started her e-commerce fashion apparel business on the fly, went from her kitchen to a renovated brick and mortar building in Brooklyn (of course Brooklyn that is the new wave place in New Jack City now that the serious billionaires have priced everybody else out of Manhattan) “agreed” to a good publicity hiring of senior citizen interns to bridge some gaps between the generations. (That idea of interns of any kind fairly new in the business world and a source of plenty of cheap mostly unpaid labor.)      

Up steps personable Ben, played by Robert De Niro, a veteran of the old style business world made graphically clear by his former profession as an executive in a firm that printed phonebooks which even a generation of ‘68 guy like me gave up years ago and seem to have been relegated to the junk-heap along with, well, telephone booths even if once in a while when the old cellphone dies such a refuge booth could be very helpful. He is assigned to workaholic, speak fast or get off the track, no time for (1) interns, (2) old guys, (3) and the hired help in general Jules, of course. Naturally as well he was/is an old organizational man, a gofer if need be but he brings lots of wisdom to Jules once he breaks the ice, makes himself, old commerce or e-commerce invaluable as an advisor to her.     

Get this though despite the “no glass ceiling can keep me down” shoulder to the wheel, push forward Jules persona she is married and a mother of a sweet young girl who is being cared for by a stay-at home father. (Who ever heard of such a category- stay-at-home father in my father’s generation-or mine, usually if he was stay at home he was a bum or a drifter not a fit father.) Naturally there are going to be problems there to be resolved. The biggest problem though, the one that really drove the second half of the film is the news that start from scratch up until all hours fretting over every detail Jules was going to be taken out of her CEO position by the venture capitalist investors who see her as stretched too thin (and not eating being too thin although I don’t they gave a damn about that but certainly Ben did).     

So along the way in this one (aside from the inevitable Hollywood throw in of a marriage crisis with stay at home dad “cheating” on Jules with one of the traditional stay-at home Moms, go figure) we get a very good look at the new open space office culture (hustle hard in front of those Apple computers and get massage by a fetching masseuse), the whims of venture capitalists, the tough life of a working executive Mom, and the residue of the old office culture which somehow didn’t seem so old. Here’s what I was wondering after viewing this one though. In let’s say 2066 will somebody looking at this film think that same thing about 2016 high tech office culture I thought about the weird social mores shown in Barbara Stanwyck’s My Reputation mentioned above.  

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Snoop Scooped-Woody Allen’s Snoop- A Film Review

DVD Review

By Sam Lowell

Scoop, Woody Allen, Scarlett Johannsson, Hugh Jackman, 2006, written and directed of course by Woody Allen, 2006


Is there nothing, no subject matter Woody Allen will not sent up in the interest of telling a cinematic tale. We have seen him give us sent-ups of film noir in films like Play It Again, Sam, gangster mystique in Take the Money and Run, fuming Manhattan matrons and fussy debutantes in, well Manhattan, the cultural wars between New York City and La La Land in Annie Hall, unrequited love in about sixteen films, and pure old fashion Keystone Kop goofiness is as many others. Now via the cinematic genre of the parlor detective story we have in the 2006 version of Woody-ism, Scoop, a sent up of the British class system and its foibles. Well, that sent-up, a goof on the seamy side of death, and Woody’s usual three thousand lines of off-beat social commentary about subjects as varied as London wrong side of the road driving, the pssh of London upper-crust society and much else. But mostly in this lesser Allen vehicle we have a twice-told, hell, many-times told spoof of who-done-its.       

Of course when Woody gets in front of the camera you are going to see the traditional almost Alfred E. Newman Mad magazine nerdy guy with about six million neuroses, and seven million off-hand biting social comment in the service, perhaps, of advancing the plot. Here Woody plays handmaiden, oops hand-man to a budding (and fetching by the way) student journalist, Sandra, played by Scarlett Johansson, who has been forewarned onto a big scoop by a recently deceased newspaper journalist (that’s the spoof of death, spoof of the inevitable grim reaper as the captain of the hereafter death ship). The scoop. Well our Johnny on the spot news hound had it on good authority from a fellow death ship passenger who believed that she had been poisoned by her employer that young up and coming aristocrat Peter Lyman, played by beautiful Hugh Jackman, was none other than the Tarot Card serial killer who had been on a rampage killing short-haired brunette hookers.        

Naturally Sandra and Woody (going under the alias of Sid Waterman, a goof second-hand magician, this time but Woody suits this one just like the thousand and one other films he has appeared just fine) are in momentarily disbelief since why would a beautiful son and scion of the English aristocracy stoop to off-hand murder when his future looked so rosy. Apparently neither had read their Shakespeare or better Holinshed’s Chronicles to know that murder most foul, high or low, is something of a blood sport, something in the DNA for this inbreed crowd. But the clues, the circumstantial evidence keeps piling up once Sandra gets cozy, very cozy with young Lyman under the sheets. Sandra had thereafter in the process of getting under those satin sheets many qualms about her new beau’s guilt but as hers disappeared Woody’s increased until that final moment when Sandra having let her guard down tells her lover about the ruse she and Woody had been playing on him to get the “skinny” on the Tarot Card murderer theory. The theory ha-ha that he was the villain. Young Lyman flipped out, had to take matters in his own hands and attempt to drown her under the mistaken assumption that she could not swim. So long young Lyman and we all hope they do not flog you for your transgressions. Oh yeah, RIP, Woody as Sid, you were a funny guy in this one but we have seen you funnier, wittier in your earlier films. This one is just okay, okay.   

Friday, May 27, 2016

Scenes From An Ordinary Be-Bop, Be-Bop 1960s Life - The Great San Francisco Summer Of Love Explosion

A YouTube film clip of Jim Morrison and The Doors performing their signature “acid” rock classic, The End to set the mood for this piece.


The Great San Francisco Summer Of Love Explosion

From The Pen Of [The Late] Peter Paul Markin

[For those not in the know Phil Larkin was one of a number of guys, some say wise guys but we will let that pass who hung around successively Harry’s Variety Store over on Sagamore Street, Doc’s Drugstore complete with soda fountain and more importantly his bad ass jukebox complete with all the latest rock and roll hits as they came off the turntable and Salducci’s Pizza “up the Downs,” don’t worry nobody in the town could figure that designation out either, as their respective corners as the older guys in their turn moved up and eventually out of corner boy life.

More importantly Phil was one of the guys who followed in “pioneer” Markin’s wake when he headed west in 1966 after he had finished up his sophomore year in college and made a fateful decision to drop out of school in order to “find himself.” Fateful in that without a student deferment it would eventually lead him to induction into the U.S. Army at the height of the Vietnam War, an experience which he never really recovered from for a lot of reasons that had nothing to do directly with that war but which honed his “wanting habits” for a different life than he had projected when he naively dropped out of college to see “what was happening” out in the West. Phil, Sam Lowell, Frankie Riley, Jimmy Jenkins and me all headed out after him. Phil though was the one who was most dramatically changed by the experience-for the better. And although Markin met a tragic end murdered down in Mexico several years later over a still not well understood broken drug deal with some small cartel down there he can take full credit for Phil’s transformation-Bart Webber]      


Phil Larkin, just then road-weary “Far-Out” Phil Larkin, for those who want to trace his evolution from North Adamsville early 1960s be-bop night “Foul-Mouth” Phil, and at that time the vocal terror of every mother’s daughter from six to sixty now morphed into full-fledged merry prankster, sat on a June such-and-such 1967 be-bop night on a nameless San Francisco hill.

[Markin: Phil, despite his excessive lewd language in his school days fully worthy of that “foul-mouth” moniker, was nevertheless, occasionally, a secret delight of some girls, had been the secret delight of one Minnie Callahan for one, damn him since she had been my girl after all, for just one example of such girl classmates. She proper Catholic novena and rosary beads in public and in Sunday chapel pew and me late for the service as usual a couple of rows behind her so I could watch her ass without drawing attention as it turned out had been endowed as well with a little venal sin heart which responded to Phil’s utterances with a titter at first and then got more interested, went out with him and to the senior prom as well, and here I was treating her like the second coming of a convent nun back then (except that ass-watching but that only a venal sin when you think about all the real madness in this wicked old world in that North Adamsville night. Besides through her best friend Helen Curley I found out that she was well aware that I had been watching her ass during Sunday Mass and during school while she was walking down the corridors between classes and Helen eventually told me she tittered at that too only wondering why I hadn’t “hit” on her before Phil swept her away. Damn, damn.]

Alongside newly transformed “Far-Out” Phil sat new conquest, not conquered with his old time wicked corner boy devil-inspired charm like with Minnie Callahan who he claimed he took under the satin sheets but everybody, all his corner boys including Markin but he was so disappointed in Minnie’s rejection of him that he half-hoped that it was true, assumed Phil was lying as we all did about girls and our prowess to bed them, sometimes true but usually teenage boy fantasy,   in those days but with mere patter (and dope, dope the new magic elixir to pave the way to sexual conquests or just jumping to bed for the sake of the song), new flame Butterfly Swirl met on a La Jolla beach a month or so back, not entirely by accident.

And next to Butterfly his old flame, old in that quickly met moment when old was measured in days, weeks, months and year or years were hardly comprehensible, this merry prankster bus flame met in Ames, Iowa late the previous year, accidentally except to those cosmically inclined and Phil was not one of them not one bit, Luscious Lois. Lois, however, now transformed into Lilly Rose, transformed at the flip of a switch, as was her way when some whim, or some word in the air, hit her dead center. Along the road west, again by whimsy she had been variously, Lupe Matin, Loretta Nova, Lance Opal (figure that one since as every guy on the bus and lots of guys off bus  knew she was a flaming hetero, certainly no dyke excuse the term but that was familiar corner boy usage then and Phil had no other term to use since was unaware of the Isle of Lesbos or of Sappho’s daughters then and if they didn’t know she would make it clear, clear as day despite her tease), and so on. Phil just gave up and started calling her honey, or sweet pea, and left it at that.      

[Markin: Sometime, but not now, remind me to give you my take on this name-changing epidemic. Not only were we re-inventing ourselves physically and spiritually but in our public personas shedding our “slave names” much as some blacks were doing for more serious reasons than we had at the time. Hell, I got caught up in moniker stuff myself, and was for a time, Blackie Saint James. Yes, remind me to flesh this whole thing out.]

It had been one long roller-coaster year for Foul-Mouth as he drifted with the new age winds. [Markin: Alright, let’s split the difference on his moniker and just call him Phil from here on in since I knew him way back when in that weird early 1960s corner boy night when he didn’t know from nothing about which way the winds were blowin’, could have cared less which way they were blowin’, or if they were,  and made fun of me, as did Frankie Riley, and a couple of others, although not Sammy Russo, when I said some big changes were coming that would throw off our old school, work, green lawn little white house with picket fence, two point four children, mongrel dog futures notions. Foul-mouthed or far out Phil was some hell-bound character.]

After high school, no college Joe he, from the bowels of despair rank no serious future retail clerk hustling mens’ apparel  up at Raymond’s Department Store in slowly dying (dying from suburban mall-itis, then all the rage) Adamsville Center, harassed beyond endurance at home for lacking some unfathomable ambition from dear mother, with an occasional assist from dad to further infuriate him (that ambition entailing pursuing some low-rent, GS-10, government job with security unto the grave, egad), and a late sniffing of that wind that fellow corner boy Markin had predicted was coming although he was vague on the contours of that change Phil broke out one night.

Literally late one night, one May 1966 night.  Around two in the morning, with his all his earthly belongings on his back in an old time World War II army knapsack picked up at Bill’s Army& Navy Store Phil lit out like Walt Whitman way back when to places unknown and Jack Kerouac and his gang just a few years before for the coast, although if you had mentioned those names to him then he would have stared blankly back at you. Maybe now too. But here, let’s let Phil tell the story for a while about how he got to ‘Frisco and then we’ll see what is up with him and his “family” (okay, okay, Butterfly Swirl and Lilly Rose, if that is her name by the time we get back) on that nameless 1967 San Francisco hill:

“Hey, I am no slave to convention, whatever the conventions are, but in those days I looked like a lot of young guys. Longish hair, a beard, a light beard at the time, blue jeans, an army jacket, sunglasses, a knapsack over my shoulder, and work boots on my feet. Sandals would not come until later when I got off the road and was settled in a “pad” [Markin: house, rented or maybe abandoned, apartment, hovel, back of a “free” church, back of a store, whatever, a place to rest those weary bones, or “crash”] in La Jolla and were, in any case,  not the kind of footwear that would carry you through on those back road places you might find yourself in, places like Deadwood, Nevada at three in the morning with a ten mile walk to the nearest real town in front of you. I mention all this because that “look” gave me the cache to make it on the road when I headed out of the house that Spring 1966 be-bop night after one final argument with dear mother about where I was going, what was I going to do when I got there, and what was I going to do for money. Standard mother fare then, and now I suppose.  

So short on dough, and long on nerve and fearlessness then I started to hitchhike with the idea of heading west to California like about eight million other people, for about that same number of reasons, have been heading there since the Spanish, or one of those old time traveling by boat nations, heard about the place.  Of course, nowadays I would not think to do such a thing in such a dangerous world, unless I was armed to the teeth and that would take a little edge off that “seeking the newer world” Markin has been blabbing about since about 1960. But then, hard to believe that it was only a few years ago, problem, let’s get going. Especially no problem when just a  few miles into my journey a Volkswagen mini-bus (or van, neither in the same league as the yellow brick road school bus, no way, that I will tell you about later but okay for a long ride, and definitely okay when you are in some nowhere, nowhere Nebraska maybe,  back road, hostile territory dominate by squares, squares with guns and other evil implements and they, the VW-ites, stoned, stoned to the heavens stop to ask you directions because they are “lost” and invite you on board) stops on Route 128, backs up, and a guy who looks a lot like me, along with two pretty young girls says, “where are you heading?” (Okay, okay, Markin, young women, alright.)  West, just west. And then the beatified words, “Hop in.” 


Most of the road until the Midwest, Iowa is the Midwest right, was filled with short little adventures like that. A mini-bus frolic for a few hours, or a few days. Maybe a few short twenty miles non-descript square Chevy rides in between but heading west by hook or by crook. Did I like it? Sure I did although I was pretty much an up-tight working-class guy (that was what one of those pretty girls I just mentioned on that first hitchhike ride out called me when I “passed” on smoking a joint and, hell, she was from next door Clintondale for chrissakes) who liked his booze, a little sex [Markin: Phil, come on now, a little?], and just hanging around the old town waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I could see, after a few drug experiences, no, not LSD, that I was starting to dig the scene. And I felt every day that I was out of North Adamsville that I was finally shaking off the layers of dust that I had acquired from that place.

Then one night, sitting in the front seat of a big old Pontiac (not everybody, not every “hip” everybody had the mini-bus, van, or school bus handy for their “search” for the great American night), Big Bang Jane between us, the Flip-Flop Kid driving like god’s own mad driver, smoking a joint, laughing with the couple in back, Bopper Billy and Sweet Pea, we headed into a pay-as- you go roadside camp near Ames, the college town, out in Iowa. And at that campsite parked maybe five or six places over from where we planted ourselves was god’s own copy of that day-glo merry prankster bus I mentioned before. I flipped out because while I had hear about, and seen from a distance, such contraptions I hadn’t been up close to one before. Wow!      


Markin had it just about right when he described that old bus after I told him about it:

“A rickety, ticky-tack, bounce over every bump in the road to high heaven, gear-shrieking school bus. But not just any yellow brick road school bus that you rode to various educationally good for you locations like movie houses, half yawn, science museums, yawn, art museums, yawn, yawn, or wind-swept picnic areas for  some fool weenie roast, two yawns there too, when you were a school kid. And certainly not your hour to get home daily grind school bus, complete with surly driver (male or female, although truth to tell the females were worst since they acted just like your mother, and maybe were acting on orders from her) that got you through K-12 in one piece, and you even got to not notice the bounces to high heaven over every bump of burp in the road. No, my friends, my comrades, my brethren this is god’s own bus commandeered to navigate the highways and by-ways of the 1960s come flame or flash-out. Yes, it is rickety, and all those other descriptive words mentioned above in regard to school day buses. That is the nature of such ill-meant mechanical contraptions after all. But this one is custom-ordered, no, maybe that is the wrong way to put it, this is “karma”-ordered to take a motley crew of free-spirits on the roads to seek a “newer world,” to seek the meaning of what one persistent writer on the subject has described as the search for the great blue-pink American Western night.”       

“Naturally to keep its first purpose intact this heaven-bound vehicle is left its mustard yellow body surface underneath but over that primer the surface has been transformed by generations (generations here signifying not twenty-year cycles but trips west, and east) of, well, folk art, said folk art being heavily weighted toward graffiti, toward the psychedelic day-glo splashes and zodiacally meaningful symbols.  And the interior. Most of those hardback seats that captured every bounce of childhood have been ripped out and discarded who knows where and replaced by mattresses, many layers of mattresses for this bus is not merely for travel but for home. To complete the “homey” effect there are stored, helter-skelter, in the back coolers, assorted pots and pans, mismatched dishware and nobody’s idea of the family heirloom china, boxes of dried foods and condiments, duffle bags full of clothes, clean and unclean, blankets, sheets, and pillows, again clean and unclean.

Let’s put it this way, if someone wants to make a family hell-broth stew or a made up bed there is nothing in the way to stop them. But also know this, and know it now, as we start to focus on this journey that food, the preparation of food, and the desire, except in the wee hours when the body craves something inside, is a very distant concern for these “campers.” If food was what you desired in the foreboding 1960s be-bop traveling night you took  a cruise ship to nowhere or a train (if you could find one), some southern pacific, great northern, union pacific, and worked out your dilemma in the dining car. Of course, no heaven-send, merry prankster-ish yellow brick road school bus would be complete without a high- grade stereo system to blast the now obligatory “acid rock” coming through the radiator practically.”

Thanks Markin. After we settled in at our campsite, the Flip-Flop Kid (and the guy really could never make up his mind about anything, anything except don’t go too close to Big Bang Jane, no kidding around on that), Bopper Billy (who really thought he was king of the be-bop night, but, hell in the North Adamsville corner boy night Frankie Riley, hell, maybe even Markin, would have out be-bopped him for lunch and had time for a nap), Big Bang Jane (guess what that referred to, and she gave herself that nickname, but I never tried to make a move on her because she was just a little too wild, a little too “I would have to keeping looking over my shoulder for” me then, probably later too when things got even looser.

And then there was the Flip-Flop Kid’s warning ), and Sweet Pea (and she was a sweet pea, if Bopper Billy, wasn’t around, well we both agreed there was something there but in those 1966 days we were still half tied up with the old conventions of not breaking in between a guy and his girl, well that was the convention anyway and whether it was generally honored or not, I did) we headed over once we heard the vibes from the sound system churning out some weird sounds, something like we had never heard before. (Weird then, little did we know that this was the wave of the future, the “acid rock” that got us through the bleary night unto dawn, for a few years anyway). 

Naturally, well naturally after the fact, once we learned what the inhabitants of the bus were about, they invited us for supper, or really to have some stew from a big old pot cooking on a fireplace that came with the place. And if you didn’t want the hell-broth stew then you could partake of some rarified dope. No, again, no on the LSD thing. It was around, it was around on the bus too, among its various denizens, but mainly it was a rumor, and more of a West Coast thing. In the self-proclaimed, tribal self-proclaimed Summer of Love and after that is when the acid hit, and when I tried it, but not on this trip. This trip was strictly weed, hemp, joint, mary jane, marijuana, herb, whatever you wanted to called that stuff that got you high, got you out of yourself, and got you away from what you were in North Adamsville, Mechanicsville or whatever ville you were from, for a while.             

So that night was the introduction to the large economy size search for the freedom we all, as it turned out, were looking for. I remember saying to Sweet Pea as we went back to our campsite (and wishing I wasn’t so square about messing with another guy’s girl, and maybe she was too, maybe wishing I wasn’t so square about it) that we had turned a corner that night and that we had best play it out right then for the chance might not come again. 

The next day, no, the next night because I had spent the day working up to it, I became “Far-Out” Phil, or the start of that Phil. Frankly, to not bore you with a pipe by pipe description of the quantity of dope that I smoked (herb, hashish, a little cocaine, more exotic and hard to get then than it became later which guys going on dope runs to Mexico would bring back as a “snack”) or ingested (a tab of mescaline) that day, I was “wasted.”  Hell I am getting “high” now just thinking about how high I was that day. By nightfall I was ready for almost anything as that weird music that crept up your spine got hold of me. I just, as somebody put a match to the wood to start the cooking of a tonight pot of stew to keep us from malnutrition, started dancing by myself. Phil Larkin, formerly foul-mouthed Phil, a cagy, edgy guy from deep in corner boy, wise guy, hang-out guy, never ask a girl to dance but just kind of mosey up world started dancing by myself. But not for long because then he, me, took that dance to some other level, some level that I can only explain by example. Have you heard The Doors album, the one that traces the max-daddy rocker of the late 1960s night, Jim Morrison’s career from garage band leader to guru? And has photographs of the band in concert. One of the scenes pictured at one of the outdoor concerts, in a canyon somewhere I think, had him, head full of dope, practically transformed into a shaman. Yeah, one of those Indian (Markin: Native American, Phil] religious leaders who did a trance-dance. That was me in late May of 1966, if you can believe that.     

And see, although I wasn’t conscious of it first I was being joined by one of the women on the bus, Luscious Lois, whom I had met, in passing, the night before. This Lois, not her real name, as you can tell not only were we re-inventing ourselves physically and spiritually but in our public personas shedding our “slave names” much as some blacks were doing for more serious reasons than we had at the time. [Markin: Nice point, Phil, although I already ‘stole’ that point from you before.]  Her real name was Sandra Sharp, a college girl from Vassar who, taking some time off from school, was “on the bus” trying to find herself. She was like some delicate flower, a dahlia maybe, like I had never encountered before.

I won’t bore you with the forever have to tell what she looked like thing because that is not what made her, well, intriguing, maddeningly intriguing, like some femme fatale in a crime noir film that Markin, from what I can gather, is always running on about these days when he is not getting us to tell our stories.  She was pretty, no question, maybe even a dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty if it came to a fair description in the light of day but what made her fetching, enchanting, if that is a different way to say it, was the changes in her facial expressions as she danced, and danced provocatively, dance half-nakedly, around my desire. And I danced, shedding my shirt although I do not remember doing so, and also danced half-naked around her desire. Then, faintly like a buzz from some hovering insect, maybe a bee, and then more loudly I kept hearing the on-lookers, half-mad with dope and with desire themselves, yelling far out, far out. And Far-Out Phil was born.

Oh, as for Luscious Lois and her desire, well, you figure it out. I might not have been wise to the ways of the Vassar world in those days when such places were bastions to place the young women of the elite and keep them away from clawing upstarts from the corner boy night as I should have been but the rest of my time on the bus was spend hovering around Lois, and keeping other guys away.  I even worked some plebeian “magic” on her one night when I started using certain swear  words in her ear that had worked for me with every Sunday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Millie Callahan, back in the day. Far-Out Phil got a little something extra that night, proper Vassar girl or not. 

No offense against Iowa, well only a little offense for not being near an ocean, I think. No offense against the university there, well only a little offense for not being Berkeley but after about a week of that campsite and its environs I was ready to move on and it did not matter if it was with Flip-Flop and his crowd or with Captain Crunch (the guy who “led” his merry pranksters, real name, Samuel Jackman, Columbia, Class of 1958 who long ago gave up searching, searching for anything, and just hooked into the idea of taking the ride). Captain Crunch, as befitted his dignity (and since it was “his” bus paid for out of some murky deal, probably a youthful drug deal, from what I heard), was merely the “leader” here.

The driving was left to another, older guy. This driver  was not your  mother-sent, mother-agent, old Mrs. Henderson, who prattled on about keeping in your seats and be quiet while she is driving (maybe that, subconsciously, is why the seats were ripped out long ago on the very first “voyage” west) but a very, very close imitation of the god-like prince-driver of the road, the “on the road” pioneer, Neal Cassady, shifting those gears very gently but also very sure-handedly  so no one noticed those bumps (or else was so stoned, drug or music stoned, that those things passed like so much wind). His name: Cruising Casey (real name, Charles Kendall, Haverford  College Class of ’62, but just this minute, Cruising Casey, mad man searching for the great American be-bop night under the extreme influence of one Ken Kesey, the max-daddy mad man of the great search just then). And Cruising was, being just a little older, and about one hundred years more experienced, also weary, very weary of co-eds, copping dope and, frankly, staying in one place for so long. He also wanted to see his girlfriend or his wife I am not sure which in Denver so I knew that was where we were heading. So off we go, let’s get going.   


And the passengers. Nobody from the Flip-Flop Express (although Flip-Flop, as usual lived up to his name and hemmed and hawed about it), they were heading back east, back into the dark Mechanicsville night. I tried, tried like hell, to get Sweet Pea to come along just in case the thing with Lois fell apart or she took some other whim into her head. See, re-invented or not, I still had some all-the-angles boyhood rust hanging on me. We knew for sure that Casey was driving, and was still driving effortlessly so the harsh realities of his massive drug intake had not hit yet, or maybe he really was superman. Others whose names I remember: Mustang Sally (Susan Stein, Michigan, Class of 1959, ditto on the searching thing), Captain Crunch’s girlfriend, (although not exclusively, not exclusively by her choice, not his, and he was not happy about it for lots of reasons which need not detain us here). Most of the rest of the “passengers” have monikers like Silver City Slim, Penny Pot (guess why), Moon Man, Flash Gordon (from out in space somewhere, literally, as he told it), Denver Dennis (from New York City, go figure), and the like. They also had real names that indicated that they were from somewhere that had nothing to do with public housing projects, ghettos or barrios. And they were also, or almost all were, twentyish, and had some highly-rated college years after their names, graduated or not. And they were all either searching or, like the Captain, were at a stage where they were just hooked into taking the ride.

As for the rest. Well, no one could be exactly sure, by the time the bus approached the outskirts of Denver, as this was strictly a revolving cast of characters depending on who was hitchhiking on that desolate back road State Route 5 in Iowa, or County Road 16 in Wyoming, and desperately needed to be picked up, or face time, and not nice time with a buzz on, in some small town pokey. Or it might depend on who decided to pull up stakes at some outback campsite and get on the bus for a spell, and decide if they were, or were not, on the bus. After all even all-day highs, all-night sex, and 24/7 just hanging around listening to the music is not for everyone. And while we had plenty of adventures on those strange day roads winding up the crest of the Rockies to Denver, thinking back on it now, they all came down to drugs, sex, and rock and roll, with a little food on the side.

Well, except that one time, camping on a primitive clearing, not really a campsite, not a commercial site, no way,  near ranch land in some Wyoming Podunk we got the hell scared out of us by some ranchers, some nasty-looking cowboys. Three or four but that was all it took, if you to want to know the truth, who moseyed (and that is exactly the right word because this was THEIR god’s country and moseying was just exactly the way you moved when that hard fact is involved. No city scratching and scrambling to claim your little corner, not for these boys). We could see they were armed, armed to the teeth, not on the off-hand chance they would run into some merry prankster dangers, but carrying that full array of armament was just their normal work conditions, god’s country or not.

This was one time that Captain Crunch really showed his mettle, and acted as an upfront leader. Most of the time he was in a running battle with Mustang Sally over who she was, or was not, sleeping with or just controlling the action of the bus indirectly. One maneuver was to always, always, slip off to Cruising any questions about where we were headed or could we stop here or there to see some long lost friend, some scenic view or any one of a thousand things that come up on a prankster trip, or as I found out later even a square’s kiddies –laden family trip.

Straight up Captain, who was not skinny guy and was probably pretty well built before he started his prankster gag although there was some sag now, yelled at the top of his lungs, “You, boys hungry?, We’ve got plenty of stew if you are.”  Well, for always lean times, eating from the hip, cowboys the idea of having plenty to eat right there in front of you must have been appealing. But the lead cowboy, Joe Bob Buck, was his name, I swear, said in that slow drawl Sam Shepard way, “Nope, but we heard that you guys had some decent dope. Is that straight?” Well, of course that was straight. And in a flash a big pipe of the Captain’s finest was heading Joe Bob’s way. Hey, I guess this was a dope story after all so, yah, I guess it did all come down to just drugs, sex, and rock and roll. But if you want to know what the sixties were all about then just think about a clan of hippies sharing a pipe of high grade Panama Red with some lonesome cowboys out in Podunk Wyoming and nobody thought nothing of it  and you have got the idea.           

Oh, sure, we also had our share of “casualties” of war and basket cases on that trip. It wasn’t all cowboy peace and rockies vistas. I remember, more than once, we had to leave people behind in various emergency rooms suffering from anything from a “bad trip” to normal medical problems  or make that call home that spelled the end for some half-dazed kid.  Come pick up the wreckage, mom and dad.  The worst was some poor bedraggled girl, who probably should not have been allowed to stay because she was a little wacky coming in, who we picked up near some rural bus stop. Captain had a big heart on this “on the bus” question, and unless you proved to be some kind of thief, or something like that you stayed if you wanted to. Anyway this young woman, hardly more than a girl, just started screaming one day, no drugs involved that we knew of , just started screaming and even Captain and Sally couldn’t stop her.  We left her in Cheyenne but like a lot of things from that transient time I never did find out what happened to her.  Just like some people can’t live in the high altitudes not everybody could survive on the bus. Living out on edge city, and no question we all were, maybe not 24/7 but enough to know that city was our home, is a high wire act and not for the faint of heart.


We, the core of Captain Crunch’s crew anyway, stayed in Denver for a while, for as long as it took Cruising to have his “fill” (his word) of his wife, or girlfriend, or maybe both and was ready to hit the road again. As fall approached the time was the time and we started heading west again, well southwest because Cruising did not want to get catch up in some Rockies whiteout and the rest of us wanted to get the warmth of some desert sun under our skins. Most, including me who had never been west of New York City and then just for a moment, had never seen the desert although we all, children of the television 1950s, had ‘seen’ it on the screen in the Westerns. So we were all pumped for desert stones, desert “stones,” and seeking the ghost of the lost tribes, the lost tribes whose shamanic powers has us in thrall. I, personally, was looking forward to investigating some ghost- dancing that I had heard about in Denver and which, as I became more drug-steady, I was dying to “see” a vision of off some wayward canyon wall before some blazing fire.            

And so Cruising did his merry prankster bus magic (he really was some zen master with that damn bus, especially for a college guy, and especially when we hit some tough spots where the damn thing would give out and he would “breathe” live back into the thing, like, well, like some zen master).  A one-time example will suffice. We were heading to Gallup, New Mexico in the heart of Indian country [Markin; Native American, Phil], maybe fifty miles away and not really close to anything like a full service gas station, when the clutch seized, just seized. Nada, nunca, nada, nothing as we used to say in our corner boy days. Cruising gets out, opens the hood, fools around with this and that and maybe forty-five minutes later we are on the road again. And whatever he did, whatever zen thing he had with that fickle bus lasted all the way until we hit La Jolla and he had the whole thing worked on. Magic. Captain Crunch mapped out our itinerary and the rest of us got the bus travel-ready, travel-ready being a good cleaning, a re-ordering of the mattresses, and a checking out (and chucking off)  of what was necessary and what was not for the trip westward, westward down to New Mexico first.    

The desert was all that it was cracked up to be except, being fall it wasn’t as hot as Cruising said it was when he went through various times in the early or late summer (mid-summer, as I later found out, forget about even in the cooler high desert, low desert, Death Valley desert, forget it), the Grand Canyon magnificent, if overused even then and then the high desert in California. By then I was getting homesick, no not homesick for North Adamsville (that would not come until many, many years later), but for my homeland, the sea. I hadn’t been away from an ocean breeze for that long ever and I missed it. And out in that high desert, high Joshua Tree, Twenty-Nine Palms desert I started to “smell” the ocean. By this time I had some “rank” on the bus, some say in what we did, or didn’t do, and the Captain liked me, or liked the idea that a working- class kid with some brains and some thoughts was traveling alongside him (mostly stuff “cribbed” from what Markin used to talk about in those sometimes long, seemingly boring Jack Slack’s corner boy nights but it went over, if you can believe that). So when I started my “campaign” to head to the ocean, and gained some allies, especially Lois, just then, going under the name Lupe Matin, I think, and Mustang Sally and, most importantly, Cruising didn’t raise an objection  I was home free. Come on, let’s get moving.        

We wound up in La Jolla, after a few weeks of stopping here and there to see people the  Captain (or Sally) wanted to see in Los Angeles ( I never called it LA then just Los Angeles, city of angels) and down in Laguna. Needless to say the Pacific Ocean around La Jolla and places like that made our East Coast puddles look sick. La Jolla- translation, surfers’ paradise, says it all. But the two most important things about La Jolla were that, after months of bus life, we finally were settled in a “pad.” [Markin: house, in this case, or rather something like an ocean view semi-estate owned by some wealthy drug lord known to the Captain, according to the way Phil told it.] Real toilets, real showers, real fireplaces, real everything. Nice, very nice for a poor old working- class boy who a few months earlier was scratching for change to give dear mother some rent for his two by four room. This was to be our winter quarters (and as it turned out spring ones as well) and all we had to do was act as caretakers, not real caretakers like servants but just make sure nobody stole the family silverware, stole the place, or decided to “squat” there.              

This is also where important event number two came in. Walking along the rock-strewn cove in front of downtown La Jolla, is where I met Butterfly Swirl, my blonde-haired, blue-eyed angel who was just sixteen at the time, a high school student from up in Carlsbad who was down in La Jolla trying to “find” herself while tagging along with her boyfriend, some eternally blonde, blue-eyed surfer guy from Del Mar, christ. Just then said surfer boy was out looking for the perfect wave, or something, and so I invited Butterfly Swirl (real name, Kathleen Clarke, Carlsbad High School Class of 1968) over to La Grande (the name of the estate, hell, they all had Spanish names like that) to smoke a little dope. She brightened at that.

Well, of course, I could see where this was heading, if it was heading anywhere what with my one girl-one guy rule (although I admit, admit now not then, now that I think the statute of limitations is probably over on lying to 1967 girlfriends, I went astray a couple of times in Denver and Joshua Tree but those weren’t really girlfriend-worthy trysts). I brought her home, anyway. We had some dope, and had some sex. Simple. And just when I thought I had her safely out the door (literally and figuratively) Lupe stepped into the room. Instead of exploding though, after checking out Butterfly with a bemused look, she said, “Is she staying?” And before I could get word one out Butterfly chirped out, “Yes.” And Lupe said, “Good” in a kind of distracted way. The new age has dawned, praise be. But that was later.  Then I just said out loud to no one in particular, “Damn, women I will never figure them out.”  And I never have.  [Markin: Brother Phil you are preaching to the choir on this one.]  That is why when we headed north for the rumored summer of love in San Francisco a month or so later I had my angel-devil girlfriends, my “family” as Captain Crunch called them, with me.” 

Thanks Phil. Now you are filled in on the “what and the why” of Phil’s being on that nameless San Francisco hill mentioned a while back. A nameless hill, nameless to first time in ‘Frisco Phil, although maybe not to some ancient Native American shaman delighted to see our homeland, the sea, out in the bay working its way to far-off Japans. Or to some Spanish conquistador, full of gold dreams but longing for the hills of Barcelona half a world away. Right then though a tall young man, well taller than Phil, lanky, maybe not as lanky as Phil with his drug stews diet having taken some pounds off, and some desire for pounds as well, dressed in full “hippie” regalia (army jacket, blue jeans, bandana headband to keep his head from exploding, striped flannel shirt against the cold bay winds, against the cold bay winds even in summer, and nighttime colds too, and now that we are on the West Coast, roman sandals) walked up the street that paralleled the hill the entourage was then planted on, cast a glance as that company, nodded slightly, and then turned around and asked to no one in particular but kind of zeroed in on Butterfly, “Got some dope for a hungry brother?” Except for shorter hair, which only meant that this traveler had either not been on the road very long or had just recently caught the “finding himself” bug he could have been Phil’s brother, biological brother.


That line, that single line, could have been echoed a thousand, maybe ten thousand times that day along a thousand hills (well maybe not that many in San Fran), aimed at any small clot of like-minded spirits. And Phil sensing that just that one sentence spoke of kindred said, “Sure, a little Columbia Gold for the head, okay?” And so started the long, well hippie long, 1960s long anyway, relationship between one Phillip Larkin and one Johnny Devlin (a.k.a. Prince Lvov, although don’t hold it against him now if you know or have seen Johnny lately). And the women, of course.                   

And, of course, as well was that sense that Far Out had that he and Prince Love were kindred was based on the way that the Prince posed that first question. His accent spoke, spoke hard of New England, not Boston but further north. And once the pipe had been passed a couple of times and the heat of day started getting everybody a little talkative then Johnny spilled out his story. Yes, he was from Portland, Maine, born and bred, a working class kid whose  family had worked  the town mills for a couple of generations, maybe more, but times were getting hard, real hard in those northern mill towns now that the mill-owners had got the big idea to head south and get some cheaper labor, real cheap. So Johnny, after he graduated from high school a few weeks before had decided, on a whim (not really a whim though), to head west and check out prospects here on the coast. Johnny finished up his story by saying, “And here I am a few weeks later sitting on Russian Hill smoking righteous dope and sitting with some sweet ladies. [Markin: Phil never said what his reaction to that last part was which seemed, the way it was spoken, spoken by Phil in the re-telling,  filled with menace. Girl-taking menace. Well, old corner boy Phil menace, hell Markin menace too would have felt that way but maybe in that hazed-out summer it just passed by like so much air.] 


Everybody else giggled now that they knew the name of this hill that they had been trying to guess the name of for the last half hour when he blurted that Russian Hill name out. Naturally Phil, a road warrior now, whatever his possible misgivings, invited Johnny to stay with them, seeing as they were practically neighbors back home. Johnny was “family” now, and Butterfly seemed gladder than the others of that fact.            

But enough of old-time visions, of old time rites of passage, and of foundling dreams. Phil, and his entourage (nice word, huh, no more girlfriend solo, or as here paired, lovingly paired, to be hung up about, just go with the flow). Phil, Butterfly, hell, even jaded Lilly Rose (formerly known as Luscious Lois in case you forgot, or were not paying attention), and now Prince Love, are a “family,” or rather part of the Captain Crunch extended intentional family of merry pranksters.  [Markin: Small case, so as not to be confused with their namesakes and models legendary mad man writer Ken Kesey and his La Honda Merry Pranksters, okay]  Just yesterday they hit ‘Frisco and have planted their de rigueur day-glo bus in the environs of Golden Gate Park  after many months on the road west, and some sitting down time down south in La Jolla.

Hearing the siren call buzzing all spring they have now advanced north to feast on the self-declared Summer of Love that is guaranteed to mend broken hearts, broken spirits, broken rainbows, broken china, and broken, well broken everything. The glue: drug, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll, although not just any old-timey be-bop fifties rock and roll but what everybody now calls “acid” rock. And acid, for the squares out there, is nothing but the tribal name for LSD that has every parent from the New York island to the Redwood forests, every public official from ‘Frisco to France, and every police officer (I am being nice here and will not use the oink word) from Boston to Bombay and back, well, “freaked out” (and clueless). Yes, our Phil has come a long way from that snarly wise guy corner boy night of that old town he lammed out from (according to his told story) just about a year ago.     

Or had he? Well, sure Phil’s hair was quite a bit longer, his beard less wispy and more manly, his tattered work boots and later Chuck Taylor sneakers transformed into sensible (West Coast ocean sensible) roman sandals and his weight, well, his weight was way down from those weekly bouts with three-day drug escape, and fearful barely eaten four- in-the-morning open hearth stews, and not much else. And as he sat on that Russian Hill looking out into that bay with his brood he could not even look forward, as he originally planned, to the expectation of just trying LSD for the hell of it in ‘Frisco, having licked it (off a blotter), or drank it (the famous, or infamous, kool-aid fix), several times down in La Jolla. In those lazy hazy days watching the surf (and surfers) splashing against the Pacific world with blond-haired, blue-eyed, bouncy Butterfly, and the raven-haired, dark as night-eyed Lilly Rose, or both listening to the music fill the night air. Not square music either (anything pre-1964 except maybe some be-bop wild piano man Jerry Lee Lewis, or some Chicago blues guitar fired by Muddy Waters or microphone-eating Howlin’ Wolf),  but moog, boog, foog-filled music.

Just that Russian Hill minute though, and to be honest, while in the midst of another acid trip (LSD, for the squares just in case you forgot), Phil sensed that something had crested in the approaching blue-pink Pacific night and that just maybe this scene would not evolve into the “newer world” that everybody, especially Captain Crunch, kept expecting any day. Worse now that he knew that  he couldn’t, no way, go back to some department store clerk’s job, some picket-fenced white house with dog, two point three children, and a wife what was to happen to him when Butterfly, Lilly Rose, Joshua, and even Captain Crunch “find” themselves and go back to school, home, academic careers, or whatever. For now though he will just take it all in.