Out In The Be-Bop 2000s Night- Desperately Seeking... An Idea
By Sam Lowell
One night in the Spring of 2015 Josh Breslin mentioned to an old friend of his, Bart Webber, met out on the West Coast during the gold rush days of the summer of love in 1967 where a lot of the old social conventions were breaking loose and where they had met under the auspices of Pete Markin, that he had lost the beat, lost the music of writing that had carried him through most of his life. Josh, from down in North Adamsville in Massachusetts, had met and become fast friends with Markin, from Olde Saco up in Maine(everybody in those days who ran into Markin called him “the Scribe,” but for simplicity’s sake the surname Markin will be adequate here), partially because they had both sensed by very different means that something new was in the air and they had both been deeply influenced by the beat in their respective heads culled from grabbing onto the late 1950s “beat” beat that was fading somewhat even then but which drove their thoughts. Although Markin wound up fated to a very bad end down in Mexico in a dusty back alley in Sonora after a busted drug deal went awry he, and Josh also, were crazy to write, write based on that beat in their heads that provided the fuel to push out drivel, a lot of it embarrassingly done under the influence of heavy drugs, as well as star-quality material.
That lost beat is what Josh was referring to when he mentioned his dilemma to Bart. It had been the loss of that beat, the rhythm that had finally made him retire from writing for the various journals and small press publications that had sustained him over the decades. Paid the bills too. He had actually begun to notice the fall-off in the latter part of the first decade of this century when he found himself repeatedly retailing the same story lines that had animated him early in his career. Found himself writing, almost automatic writing like he was in a bell jar. Worse, worst of all was that he would take assignments just for the dough, just to pay into some college tuition fee from one or more of his brood of children from his three failed marriages. Never a good sign however worthy the kids were of his largesse. The situation got so bad by about 2009, 2010 that, thanks to the Internet, thanks to a circle of bloggers whom he broke bread with on-line, he actually had placed an ad in many social media outlets seeking, desperately seeking, some new ideas, almost any new ideas to write about. A few of those ideas thrown at him in responses which pulled him through for a while need not detain us here. Unfortunately more recently in his post-working life splendor he has run into the same worthless abyss. He is now preparing a new plea to all-comers for help, desperate help. He thought though that he would share with Bart what he had written previously and of course Bart felt it incumbent to show the world what happens when a guy, a guy who in his time had a million ideas, runs dry.
From The Pen Of Josh Breslin (Why he adheres to that designation, that “from the pen” designation in the age of the word processor and computer when nobody, no serious writer, can write with a pen under penalty of extinction nobody knows-S.L.)
Yah, I know I switched up on you. Usually when I write about the be-bop night, at least the times of my schoolboy “high-tide” feverish, mad monk-driven be-bop nights it is either the mid to late 1950s when I first got the itch, the wandering idea itch, or the early 1960s when I shared those be-bop nights with Frankie, Frankie, king of the be-bop schoolboy night in our old beat-down, beat-up, beat seven ways to Sunday, beatified, North Adamsville working class neighborhood. Certainly be-bop times don’t extend later than the late 1960s and the hitchhike highway road, a separate highway story road, but on this one I have to extend forward to the new millennium to make my pitch. So hear me out, will you.
an idea. I will keep this short and sweet. I have to admit to failure, abject failure, utter failure, despairing failure, and twelve other forms of it, in my efforts to keep up a steady drumbeat of commentaries about the old days at North Adamsville High School (many of which, mercifully, have been relegated to the recycle bin, trash barrel, deep freeze space or other designated welcoming cyberspace disposal sites). Failure, do you hear me? Why? I foolishly, again, again meaning here when one of my projects does not turn out right that is the characterization they deserve, believed that my commentaries would act as a catalyst and draw Class of 1967 classmates, other former students at North Adamsville and an odd denizen from the deep, out. Hell, even an off-hand straggler from fiendish cross-town arch rival blue and white Adamsville would be given a hero’s welcome.
What I was really thinking though when I put out my plea was, maybe, some long lost comrades of the schoolboy night like hang-around guys in front of Harry’s Variety (where the white-tee-shirt, blue-jeaned, engineer-booted, cigarette-smoking, unfiltered of course, sneering, soda-swilling, Coke, natch, pinball wizards held forth daily and nightly, and let me cadge a few odd games when they had more important business, more important girl business, to attend to)would find their voices. Maybe they could tell, finally tell, the secret swaying of the hips, just so not too much left or right, that got them all those extra games, and the girls, fast girls too. Or the gang around Doc’s Drugstore ( a place where all the neighborhood boys, all the sixteen year old boys, and maybe some girls too, all the plaid-shirted, black-chino-ed, “cool”, max daddies came of drinking age, from Doc's shelves, for medicinal purposes of course). They could tell of magic elixirs from rums and raw whiskey, and confess, yes, confess that that whisky taste was nasty.
Or, even holy of holies, Salducci’s Pizza Parlor up the Downs when Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, was king of night (and a few days too) and I was his lord chamberlain. Maybe tell of some pizza dough secrets, or how to snag a girl with just the right jukebox combination when dough was short and you were lonely. But no, no one came forth to spew their whitewashed stories almost a half a century later. Probably, on some of the stuff, some of the kiddish schoolboy night stuff, they didn’t realize the statute of limitations had run out, and had run out long ago. But that’s not my problem.
At some point I figured out that this was not to be the case that those phantoms had lost their voices or preferred snickered quietude, and I resolved to push on anyway at the whim of whatever demons were driving me on. Fierce demon, raider red bleeding demons, to speak out of gone-by days. I was going along fine until I realized and the readers, or at least a few readers, tipped me to this hard fact of literary life. I was recycling the same basic story just in little different guises. You know teen alienation, teen angst, teen love, teen hate, and teen lost themes. And girl less-ness, or too many girl-ness, or wanna be such. Same, ditto, Xerox. Praise be king trash barrel of the dark, dark just before the dawn night. And quick click fingers.
Now, frankly, and this is the core of my plea, I have run out of ideas. A recent re-reading of some of my commentaries has rubbed my face in that hard fact. Two themes, one mentioned above, in various guises have emerged; no, have jumped from the page at me, from the work- the 'tragic' effects of my growing up poor in the land of plenty in the 1950s be-bop working class night and that usual teenage longing for companionship and romance. Gee, those ideas have never been the subject of literary efforts before, right?
Okay, okay nobody asked me to volunteer to be the unpaid, self-appointed voice of the Class of 1967 to the world, to the candid be-bop world from whence I came, and so I have only myself to blame. I swear I will get into a twelve-step program for the nostalgically-challenged just the minute I get out of the rehab program for political junkies. But in the meantime-help, or else. And what might that or else threat mean? I am desperate enough to steal someone else's thunder from the general North Adamsville High Message Board that I have been peppering with my ravings. Do you really want to hear me on the subject of Squaw Rock or other seamy, steamy tales of the seashore "submarine" night? And name names. Or, how nasty some of our teachers were? Ditto on the names. Yawn. Or the kinky, perverted, long-suppressed dark side of the North Adamsville High School Band and what they did with those seemingly innocent instruments? Or ........have me go into back into that dreaded Recycle Bin and dust off some of those rejects? Think about it. Send an idea-quick.
P.S. Someone has suggested a comparison or contrast between Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis along the lines of Rolling Stones/Beatles (Class of 1967-Stones or Beatles) or Brenda Lee/Patsy Cline (Battle of The Sexes-Round 235) commentaries that I had done earlier this year. This does not count as a new idea though as that goes to the old lonely nights and girl-less days theme that we are trying to move away from just before that twelve step night.
Of course, Jerry Lee was better than Elvis-that's a no-brainer. But it is an idea that would have found its way into these pages on its own. Meanwhile how about some North Adamsville idea? I am ready to start writing about President John Adams, his wife Abigail, his son John Quincy, his grandson, Charles Francis, his great grandson, Henry and unto the nth generation if nothing better comes along. And believe me, Adamsville born and bred, I have all the dirt on those guys and their dolls. You have been forewarned.