Thursday, September 21, 2017

When Old Pete Ruled The House-With Banjo Man Pete Seeger In Mind

When Old Pete Ruled The House-With Banjo Man Pete Seeger In Mind  

CD Review

By Zack James

Pete Seeger: headlines, footnotes and-a collection of topical songs, Pete Seeger, Smithsonian/Folkways, 1999
“You know you are wrong Seth about that first time we heard folk music, Woody Guthrie folk music in Mr. Lawrence’s music class back in seventh grade at old Jeramiah Holton Junior High,” Phil Larkin told one Seth Garth former old time music critic for the now long gone The Eye. Paid music critic a not unimportant point back in the day when alternative newspapers like The Eye survived and flopped on the sweat of unpaid unrequited volunteer labor and today too when the social media are flooded with citizen critics by the barrelful and everybody claims some expertise. Paid or not though Seth had called up Phil to verify what his fellow folk aficionado Jack Callahan and more recently drinking partner at the Erie Grille had told him when he had called upon Jack to refresh his memory about the first time he/they had heard a Woody Guthrie song. Jack had told Seth about the time that Mr. Lawrence had tried to unsuccessfully ween the class away from their undying devotion to the jail-break rock and roll music that was sweeping up youth nation just then. Then being the late 1950s. Seth had accepted what Jack said because he was after all a fellow aficionado, even if Seth had had to shoehorn him into the genre at the beginning and because he knew that Jack would not spread word around that Seth was not totally on top of every bit of arcane folk music lore around.  

So it was a reputation thing Seth was worried about even these many years later. He had mentioned Jack and his conversation at the Eire to Phil in passing one afternoon and Phil had said he would think about any possible earlier listening. This was important since Seth had become very cautious about using any information not fully verified ever since early on in his journalistic career he had made the cardinal error of not checking out hearsay and rumor fully. He was berated by his tough editor for that mishap. Never again. So he was using his double check method on this question since he had been asked to write an unpaid article about the old folk days for the prestigious American Folk Song Review.    

Phil continued the conversation by telling Seth, “Tell that jackass Jack Callahan didn’t he remember that in fourth grade Miss (now Ms.) Winot had played This Land Is Your Land  on that old cranky record player of hers in order to teach us some kind of  civics lesson, taught us that we were part of a great continental experiment. Remember that she had played the Weavers’ cover of that song with Pete Seeger doing that big bass voice thing and some other guy whose name I don’t remember was booming out the baritone and Ronnie Gilbert who just passed away was doing a big time soprano thing.” Jesus, Seth thought to himself Phil was right, right as rain. The two spoke of a few other non-music issues and then they both hung up.           

That was not the end of it for Seth though, not for his article anyway. See Phil’s mentioning of the name Pete Seeger had sent a chill down his spine. Pete Seeger, and only Pete Seeger had been the reason that he had been ever cautious about sources. Back in 1965 he (and Jack and Jack’s then girlfriend now wife, Kathy, and he thought Mary Shea was his date) had attended the Newport Folk Festival that summer. That was the summer that Bob Dylan exploded the traditional folk universe by introducing the electric guitar into some of his songs. Did so on the stage the final night of the festival to boos and applause. Seth had been working his very first job as a free-lancer for the East Coast Other, another of the million small publications starting up and falling trying to find a niche in the print universe (free-lancer by the way since the usually cash-stripped publication had nobody else going to the concert so Seth got the assignment).   

Here is where Seth had gotten into trouble though. He had a friend, a sound man friend who worked at the Club 47 in Cambridge who was doing duty at that job for the festival. A couple of days later he had run into the guy in Harvard Square and had asked Seth if he knew what had happened on the stage the night Dylan went electric. The guy swore that Pete Seeger had at some point pulled the plug on Dylan in disgust at taking folk music out into the common trough of rock and roll. Seth could hardly believe his ears-this was the hook that he would run his story on. In the event he put this hearsay into his article. No big deal, right. Just something to spice up the piece. The article was published with that information in it. No problem for a while. About a month later he was called into Larry Jeffers office, the editor of the East Coast Other then and shown a personal letter to the publication from Pete Seeger disclaiming the whole story about pulling the plug on Dylan and was looking for a retraction. Seth immediately went to the Club 47 to check with the sound man. It turned out that the sound man had not actually seen Pete pull the plug but had heard about the story from one of Dylan’s sidemen. The newspaper issued a retraction and Seth had egg all over his face.          

The whole story of whether Pete Seeger pulled the plug or not on Dylan became part of the urban legend of the folk scene and still has devotees on both sides of the dispute long after Pete is dead and Dylan in out on another leg of his never-ending tour. But you can bet six two and even that one Seth Garth will be checking sources to see if Miss (now Ms.) Winot was the original proponent of Woody Guthrie’s music. Enough said.     
When Mister Beethoven Got Rolled Over-With The Music Of Mister Chuck Berry In Mind

CD Review

By Zack James

Chuck Berry: The Definitive Collection, Chuck Berry, Chess Records, 2006 

You never know when two or more old guys, two or more mature forget the old unless you seek peril gals too but this one is about guys, will gather down memory lane or what will trigger that big cloudburst. Seth Garth and Jack Callahan two old time friends from high school in Riverdale had an abiding interest in music successively rock and roll, the blues and folk music (never losing interest in any in the process just that one would wax and wane at any given time). Seth had eventually become as an early part of his journalistic career a music critic for the now long defunct The Eye, an alternative newspaper out in the Bay Area in the days when he, Jack and a few other guys like Phil Larkin headed out there to see what everything was all about in the intriguing Summer of Love, 1967.

Recently though Seth and Jack, and occasionally Phil would get together and talk music shop at the Erie Grille where they would down a few scotches to level out (their expression). One night they had been at Seth request discussing the first time they had heard the legendary Woody Guthrie sing his songs, or one of them anyway. As it turned out Seth had drawn a blank on when that might have occurred and he begged Jack to think the matter through since he was preparing an article, an unpaid article, for the American Folk Music Review and needed a frame of reference. Jack had come up with the answer-in Mr. Lawrence’s seventh grade music class when he put on Woody and a bunch of other stuff to try to ween them off rock and roll which the man hated (and which they loved, loved to perdition). Seth had accepted that answer (although later he contacted Phil again about the matter and Phil reminded him about the song This Land Is Your Land covered by the Weavers with Pete Seeger in Miss Winot’s fourth grade class on her cranky old record player and he would use that source in the article).     

All this talk of that fateful seventh grade music class, and Mr. Lawrence, is probably what solidified everybody in the class in their devotion to rock and roll. But that was a hard fought and paid for devotion. A few days after the night with Jack at the Erie Grille Seth woke up from a nap thinking about the time in Mister Lawrence’s class when he was being crazy about Beethoven, wanted the class to appreciate classical music.  Seth, Jack and Phil had had enough and started in one class singing Chuck Berry’s throwing down the gauntlet Roll Over Beethoven and the class cheered them on. Of course in this penalty-ridden world Mr. Lawrence took his revenge and the trio spent several afternoons after school since they refused to apologize for their outbursts. Seth smiled to himself-Yeah, rock and roll will never die. To prove that assumption just listen to Mister Chuck Berry’s gold star compilation here. And be prepared to do something rash.     
The 50th Anniversary Of The Anti-Vietnam War March On The Pentagon (1967)-With Norman Mailer’s “Armies Of The Night” In Mind (1968)  

By Political Commentator Frank Jackman  
Earlier this year driven by my old corner boys, Alex James and Sam Lowell, I had begun to write some pieces in this space about things that happened in a key 1960s year, 1967. The genesis of this work has been based on of all things a business trip that Alex took to San Francisco early this spring. While there he noted on one of the ubiquitous mass transit buses that crisscross the city an advertisement for an exhibition at the de Young Art Museum located in Golden Gate Park. That exhibition The Summer of Love, 1967 had him cutting short a meeting one afternoon in order to see what it was all about. See if he was just having a “flashback” (not uncommon back the day for those who did not take their Kool-Aid straight but laced with mysterious chemical imbalances). What it was all about aside the nostalgia effect for members of the now ragtag Generation of ‘68 (an AARP-worthy generation but I prefer the less commercial Generation of ’68 to tag that crowd, my crowd) an entire floor’s worth of concert poster art, hippy fashion, music and photographs of that noteworthy year in the lives of some of those who came of age in the turbulent 1960s. The reason for Alex playing hooky from his important business meeting was that he had actually been out there that year, had been out in Haight-Ashbury-etched 1967) and had stayed and imbibed deeply of the counter-culture for a couple of years after that. (Imbibed not in running out of steam fast Frisco but on a magical mystery tour yellow brick road former school bus courtesy of Captain Crunch which went up and down the West Coast searching, hell, just searching.)

Alex had not been the only one who had been smitten by the Summer of Love revival bug because when he returned to Riverdale outside of Boston where he now lives he gathered up all of the corner boys from growing up North Adamsville still standing to talk about, and do something about, commemorating the event. His first contact was with Sam Lowell the old film critic who also happened to have gone out there and spent I think about a year, maybe a little more. As had most of the old corner boys for various lengths of time usually a few months. Except me which I will explain in a minute. Alex’s idea when he gathered all of us together was to put up a small commemoration book in honor of the late Peter Paul Markin with memory pieces by each of us. See Markin, always known as “Scribe” after he was dubbed that by our leader Frankie Riley (now a big time lawyer with a swanky office in downtown Boston but then poor as a church mouse and nothing but a serious con artist), was the first guy to go out there when he sensed that the winds of change he kept yakking about around the corner on desolate Friday and Saturday nights when we had no dough, no girls, no cars and no chance of getting any of those quickly were coming west to east.

Once everybody agreed to do the book Alex contacted his youngest brother Zack, the fairly well known writer, to edit and organize the project. I had agreed to help as well. The reason I had refused to go to San Francisco then had been that I was in the throes of trying to put together a career as a political operative by attempting to get Robert Kennedy to run against that naked sneak thief of a sitting President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, who had us neck deep in the big muddy of Vietnam and so I had no truck with hippies, druggies or “music is the revolution” types like those who filled the desperate streets around Haight-Ashbury. Then.  Zack did a very good job and we are proud of tribute to the not forgotten still lamented late Scribe who really was a mad man character and maybe if he had not got caught up in the Army, in being drafted, in being sent to Vietnam which threw him off kilter when he got back to the real world he might still be around to tell us what the next big trend will be.              

[I should mention here for the young or clueless something about corner boy culture since you no longer see guys hanging around corners at variety stores, pizza parlors, bowling alleys and the like as that scene has successively been replaced by mall “rat-dom” and now “don’t look up from the fucking phone” social media. (Don’t see gals either for the same reasons although back in the day the gals hanging around corners were with guys, glued to guys, otherwise they generally were inside say Doc’s Drugstore soda fountain or the pizza parlor spending their who knows where they got it discretionary money throwing dimes and quarters into the jukebox to play the latest heartthrob tunes). Corner boy-dom was a rite of passage in working class neighborhoods like the Acre section of North Adamsville where we grew up having certain corners passed on to you as you grew older like our progression from Harry’s Variety in elementary school to Doc’s Drugstore in junior high to Tonio Pizza Parlor in high school and beyond.

You, we, I hung on the corner for a very simple reason in those days- no dough. No serious dough although everybody had some scam from roughing up younger siblings for coin or a back door sneak at mother’s pocketbook to the midnight creep which best be left at that since who knows if the statute of limitations has run out on those high crimes and misdemeanors. No dough meant no car, meant nowhere in golden age of the automobile America where any guy with a car, handsome or ugly, had some young thing sitting very close in the front seat of his Chevy something. Meant even if you could find a girl who didn’t mind taking the bus or walking you had no money for dates even for a cheapjack movie date much less say hitting a drive-n restaurant. And no dates meant no girls hovering around which meant the corner with that cohort of guys in the same condition as you. Meant having a bunch of sullen surly guys with time on their hands, lust and larceny in their hearts, and an overweening desire to fall outside the law. That most of us survived is amazing but it was a close thing, very close.]

That initial impetus to think about 1967 at a time when I was in love with Robert Kennedy and that kind of grass-roots progressive politics of which we see very little now led me to do a piece about the first Monterrey International Pops Festival held at the beginning of that summer and where revered names for the Generation of ’68 like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Ravi Shankar (he, additionally the papa of today’s Norah Jones) had made their first big splashes. I always loved the music, always loved to go to concerts, generally free or cheap concerts if you can believe that in these days of nostalgia high-priced tickets for groups and singles well beyond their primes on Boston Common and elsewhere and hear what was what. Those were the days when I heard the first stirrings, and maybe half wanted to believe it was true, that “the music was the revolution.” That somehow new sounds and the emerging lifestyle, the hippie lifestyle of communal sharing, good vibes and easy going would be the impetus for a new ethos. That some idea of “dropping out” of bourgeois society (not a term I would have used then but which now kind of fits what I am getting at) would bring the new utopia onto our doorsteps. The Scribe and the others at the time having been through the initial stages of the Summer of Love out in the West were filled with such ideas to the extent that they could articulate such a vision. (The Scribe was able to and did at the time and carried the others with him.) I was having none of it, or very little, since at that time I neither believed in any kind of revolution nor did I think that society needed anything more than tweaking (with me helping the throw the tweak switch.) I argued against and I believe, unfortunately, that those who professed the “music is the revolution” idea have been shown to have been totally over their heads and left no serious mark on the social fabric.                        

There was another trend, another 50th anniversary trend which I would argue was counter-posed to the above mentioned theory. This event is the 50th anniversary of the famous, or infamous, March on the Pentagon in October of that year. The one that the late writer Norman Mailer wrote about in his well-received and highly honored The Armies Of The Night a review of which I have reposted elsewhere on this blog. That event was not the first massive Washington anti-Vietnam War demonstration (the first had been in New York in 1965) nor the first to feature acts of civil disobedience but it was the first threshing out, the first understanding that something big was going to be needed to stop the fucking war. That the government was not going to stop the madness on its own hook. Moreover that despite whatever residue remained from the intoxicating Summer of Love “dropping out” under the rubric of the “music is the revolution” mantra was not going to create the “newer world” in the words of the English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson those of us from supporters of Robert Kennedy to the left were seeking.         

Of course as described in detail including an overabundance of detail about his own part, his own arrest in the melee by Mailer this effort was very much a helter-skelter thing with mixed results. The key idea to be taken by any serious anti-war militants that the government (run by either major party as it later turned) was going to viciously thwart any such people’s efforts to bring an end to the damn thing. There would be a parting of the ways essentially not only between “drop out” and “confrontation” partisans but within the confrontationists camp a split over peaceful mass marches and more vigorous actions. The March on the Pentagon was the laboratory for all those ideas from “levitating” the place to a guerilla warfare-type actions to shut the place down.    

Of course today I am commemorating an event, not for the first time, that at the time I was adamantly opposed to, saw as very disruptive to the attempts by first Senator Eugene McCarthy and his insurgent run at Lyndon Baines Johnson and later after Johnson’s withdrawal from candidacy by Robert Kennedy to solve this problem through parliamentary means. In short while I was vaguely anti-war, or thought I was only at that level, I did not participate in or honor such efforts. The turning point would be later, the next year as it turned out, when I was drafted by my “friends and neighbors” at the Draft Board in North Adamsville (that greeting was how the letter of induction actually started) and accepted induction even if half-heartedly in the U.S. Army. I have written, and others have written as well, about my complete turnaround once I was inducted and of my two year struggle including serious stockade time for refusing to go to Vietnam. One of the books I read during that time was Mailer’s The Armies Of The Night taking to heart some of the lessons from that experience (although still a bit put off by the centrality of Mailer’s ego in the whole process).

Here is the payoff though. In the spring of 1971 shortly after I had been released from the Army I started hanging around with a bunch of Cambridge radicals. The big idea at the time was to have a massive May Day civil disobedience action in Washington around the theme-“if the government does not shut down the war, we will shut down the government.” I did not even think twice about not going, of not getting arrested and of thinking that such as action was desperately necessary. Although I drew some other conclusions about how to end war from that aborted experience I saw it as a continuation of that struggle at the Pentagon in 1967. And whatever else I never regretted my actions in 1971 and I hope those who were at the Pentagon in 1967 have not either, not in these desperate times.       

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Once Again-The Summer Of Love,1967-Postcards From A Lost Planet

By Jeffrey Thorne

The Scribe said it best one night, one cold San Francisco night, a summer night when the Japan currents went awry and reminded one of old Mark Twain’s witty sayings about the coldest winter he had ever spent-August in the city of sweet brethren Saint Francis, when he declared (so like that mad man to use the seventh person imperative for such small letter events), that the breeze coming through the land would shake society to its foundations. Would make nine to five a bore, make that long suburban tract complete with dishwasher and sanitary garbage disposal obsolete before the last mortgage payment hit the dirt, would make those three point two kids and that one dog a victim of old-fashioned thinking. Said, get this for a guy who became a non-believer, a non-believer in risen Christ if you can believe that very early in his teens (and went to church, side door church just to sit a few rows behind some lovely he was pining over just to watch her ass so yes a non-believer) that the new dispensation was at hand-if we could keep it, keep the bastards, and you know who the bastards were then-the night-takers and guys who conned you into nine to five dreams, suburban flats and, what was it three point two kids (we will pass on the not mandatory dog) from barking at the door.   

That was the rub, that little counter attack from out of the blue when we thought the world had stopped turning on itself
and had gone upside down that eventually would do in even the Scribe, would turn his mouth to ashes, would turn a sainted brethren (not many knew his given name was Francis in those days when everybody was “reinventing” themselves including clustering up new monikers to get washed clean (also a Scribe expression) down the gutter road, float him out to the Japan seas long before he ever heard the Duke blast that high white note. Yeah, blast the times, blast the whole fucking world for taking down a brethren as pure as snow.    

Monday, September 18, 2017

She Came Out Of The Karoo-The Music Of Tony Bird-A Review

CD Review

By Zack James

Sorry Africa, Tony Bird, 1986

During the 1980s Seth Garth had been taking on more and more purely political assignments for the New Times Gazette, a successor newspaper to the old alternative The Eye for which he had gotten his first jumps in journalism as the film and music critic. It wasn’t that he had lost interest in covering the happenings in the world of independent cinema and the edges of popular music but that in that period there were political trends around the struggles for liberation in Central and South America and Southern Africa that for the first time since the slowdown of the Vietnam War back in the early 1970s required attention. And so Benny Gold, his editor from back in The Eye days who had moved on with the Gazette assigned him more and more of those political assignments with the idea that he would weave those in with some off-beat cultural pieces.    

One night he had been in the Open Space, a new music club in the Village [Greenwich Village]that had previous been a coffeehouse, a popular one, the Unicorn, to hear a new guy out of Africa who Seth was told had an interesting beat, had combined the sounds of Mother Africa with more popular Western music. This was the kind of off-beat combination that he was sure Benny Gold would go for. As the MC for the evening announced the performer, Tony Bird, he was surprised that out came on the stage a young white man backed up by an all black group of sidemen. Seth had known that there were some, not enough, white youth who were supporting the various black liberation struggles in Southern Africa, particularly in South Africa but he was not prepared for a white musician to surface who supported those struggles although he should have known that fact going in.    

Tony Bird let everybody in the place know where he was coming from when he started singing a very heartfelt and upbeat song, Sorry Africa, taking on the burden on his shoulders of expressing sorrow at the way the white man, the way his people had treated the ones they had conquered one way or another. Very moving. 

What had gotten to Seth that night though and he was as surprised at this as he was that Tony Bird was a white African man was a song that he finished up with, She Came From The Karoo. The Karoo being the outback in the country he came from. What was strange about the song was that except that the locale was Africa it could have been a song of love and lost in America. More to the point was the vision that Seth had of the woman Tony was speaking of, a woman who came out of the mist with a red sundress on and effected all around her with her bright Botticelli smile and demeanor. Seth thought that little idea, the idea that a woman could spark such imagination out in the bush was the hook that he would use in his article. That and that Tony Bird, a black liberation  struggle fighter in his own right had no apology to give to Africa.     
Riding With The King-The Music Of B.B. King

CD Review

By Zack James

Riding With The King, B.B. King, Eric Clapton

“You never know where music, the muse of music if that is the right way to say it, if it is not redundant” Seth Garth said to his old friend Bartlett Webber one night when they were discussing various musical trends and commitments over a few drinks at Friday’s in downtown Boston. Seth had just been commenting on the hard fact that the guys and gals who were holding up the blues traditions of that quintessentially black musical form were mostly then younger whites who had gotten their baptisms of fire back in the early 1960s maybe the 1970s when as part of the British invasion of rock groups (the Beatles and Stones mostly) who worshiped at the feet of the old bluesmen and as part of the folk revival of the early 1960s when the young were looking for roots music and hit upon some old time country blues singers they got hooked on this genre.(That worship at the feet was no mere expression since as august a group as the Rolling Stones made their way to Chicago, made their way to legendary blues label Chess Records, made their way to meet Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.) 

Seth went on, “You know with very few exceptions, maybe in the old days guys like Taj Majal and more recently Keb ‘Mo young blacks were running away from their “blues is dues” contributions, except the hip-hop artists who were savoring those blues as backdrop to their new language experiences.” Bart nodded his head not so much because he was as knowledgeable as Seth about musical trends, he wasn’t, but because ever since Seth had turned him on to various non-rock and roll forms of music such as these blues and folk music he had deferred to him on such subjects.        

That deference to Seth had not been happenstance since for early in his journalistic career starting with the American Folk Gazette when he was still in college he had been a music critic most frequently and profitably before it folded long ago when the ebb tide of the 1960s faded the prestigious The Eye. Moreover although Bart was a true aficionado Seth would be the one to lead the way forward musically ever since the old days back in Riverdale when Seth had been the guy who turned the crowd they hung around with to that folk music that was coming over the horizon. He would take the lead here as well ever since both men had attended a concert at the Garden by Big Bill Bloom, the legendary folksinger from the 1960s. Both men had agreed to walk out of the performance before the encore as a protest to the hard fact that Big Bill could no longer sing, was practically talking the lyrics through. That experience got Seth onto the trail of an idea. He wanted to check out all the singers still standing from back in the day who were still performing and rate them on the question of whether they still had “it.”  As it turned out some did like David Bromberg and his band who burned up the joint one night downtown. The late Etta James didn’t, didn’t have it. And so the quest.      

That quest was now centered more particularly on the fading fast few blues masters still around. That is where Seth began to see that break in the black blues tradition as two generations or more removed from Southern country life or hard inner city industrial madness which had brought a couple of generations north in search of a better life and the music needed to pick up the pace as well bringing forth the whole electric blues scene that hummed cities like Chicago and Detroit in the early 1950s. That brought them to this-B.B. King and Eric Clapton CD. Clapton, one of those British invasion guys who was crazy for the blues (and classic rock, now classic rock, with the likes of Chuck Berry who Clapton to this day swears he does not know how Berry did what he did with a guitar as hard as he looked to find out what the master was doing) and the King were going to perform together at the Garden in a week or so.

At the concert Seth and Bart had been apprehensive when they saw ancient B.B. and his latest version of Lucille being escorted to a seat on center stage with Eric Clapton to the side. Not to worry though the work they did was a great success. Seth mentioned to Bart though that he was not sure where the new generation would get their blues from since they would never go away, the blues, the causes for the blues, whiskey. Women, work, and a wad of dough just like rock and roll once guys like Eric passed away. This CD was their work to insure the future whatever may come-okay.        
Films To While The Class Struggle By- With Serge Eisenstein’s "Strike" (1925) In Mind

DVD Review  

By Frank Jackman

Strike, starring a cast of hundreds of working people and others, directed by Serge Eisenstein, 1925

No question, no question at all that some political films whether they were intended as propaganda for a certain viewpoint as with the film under review, Russian mad man filmmaker Serge Eisenstein’s 1925 Strike, or because as the story line developed everybody was compelled to think through the implications of the cover-up and preclude to figure out the coup in a film like Costa-Garvas’ Z. Here is the beauty of Eisenstein’s work whether with Strike or an effort like Potemkin, the one with the famous baby carriage scene on the Odessa Steps. The medium is the message to steal a phrase from an old-time social media commentator (okay, okay I will give the attribution-Marshall McLuhan).   The whole thing is done, powerfully done, with nothing but absolutely stunning cinematography, a few signboards (in Russian with English subtitles), and some very interesting and varied mood music which if I am not mistaken included some jazz theme stuff from Duke Ellington, and if not him then definitely some jazz riffs along with that inevitable classic music that one would have expected from a Russian filmmaker who grabbed what he could from the Russian Five.        

Now the question of who a film is directed at is usually pretty much just to lure in general audiences, maybe if it is cartoonish then kids but usually general audiences. Eisenstein in this film though is directing his efforts to working people in order for them to draw some important lessons about the class struggle. Of course Eisenstein was working shortly after the October Revolution of 1917 in his own country and so he probably was more or less committed to this type of film in the interests of the Soviet government and of the world revolution that was still formally what the Bolsheviks and their international allies, through the Communist International, were all about. (I might add though that a later film about Ivan the Terrible had the same fine cinematic qualities and that was not particularly directed at the world’s working classes but to ancient Russian patriotic fervor.) That drawing of lessons about what happened during the strike is what drives the force of the film.

Here is how this one played out in all its glory and infamy. The workers at a Russian factory of unknown location and for that matter of unknown production had been beaten down by the greedy capitalists and stockholders, had had no say in what they made and how much dough they made. (The scenes with the greedy capitalists are a treasure, something out of any leftist’s caricature of the old time robber barons complete with fat bellies, cigars and top hats). Like any situation where tensions are strung out to the limit it did not take a lot to produce a reason for a strike for a better shake in this wicked old world. Here it was an honest workman’s being accused of a theft which he couldn’t defend himself against and so in shame he committed suicide. After have previously spent several weeks talking about taking an action to better their conditions the leaders of the underground “strike committee” decided to have everybody “down tools.” (The scene of this action with a rolling shutdown as section after section left their benches was breathtaking.)      

Of course in turn of the century (20th century) Russia (and elsewhere) the capitalists were as vicious as one would expect of a new class of exploiters dealing here with people, men and women, just off the farm and so in no mood to grant such things as an eight-hour day (a struggle that we in America are very familiar with from the Haymarket Martyrs whose chief demand a few decades before the time of this film was for that same eight hour day) and a big wage increase. So the committee of capitalists and their hangers-on gave a blanket “no.” Said the hell with you to the strikers.

The aftermath of this refusal is where the real lessons of this film are to drawn. Needless to say the capitalists were willing, more than willing to starve the workers into submission (the scenes of some workers pawning off their worldly possession for food for the kids, for themselves are quite moving).But not only were they willing to starve the mass of workers back to the factory but did everything in their power to break the strike by other means. First and foremost to send spies out to stir up trouble in order to get the class unity broken, then tried to get some weak-links to betray the movement from within, and if that didn’t work then try might and main to round up by any way possible the leaders of the strike in order to behead the movement. In the end though they were not above using their “Pharaohs,” their mounted cops and troops to suppress the whole thing. In the final scene after the cops and troops have done their murderous assaults on unarmed strikers the corpses spread out widely on the massacre field tell anybody who wasn’t sure about the role of the cops and troops all they need to know about the way the strike was defeated. 

From what I could gather from the last signboard (one which mentioned the Lena gold strike which was I believe was suppressed in 1912) the time period of this strike was between the 1905 revolution that went down in flames and the victorious revolution in 1917. The implications of the failure of the strike, of the need to take the state power, were thus through Eisenstein’s big lenses there for all to see. Hey, even if you don’t draw any political conclusions from this film just watch to see what they mean when they say a picture sometimes is worth a thousand words. Eisenstein has a thousand such pictures that will fascinate and repel you.  
The Hour Of The Wolf-With Mad Monk Bluesman Howlin’ Wolf In Mind 

CD Review

By Zack James

Howlin’ Wolf, The Hour Of The Wolf,  

Jack Callahan made his old high school corner boy from in front of Jimmy Jack’s Diner in growing up town Riverdale west of Boston Seth Garth laugh one night when they were tossing down a couple of high shelf scotches, with water chasers after having just seen one James Montgomery, the famous blues harmonica player who had learned his trade at the feet of Little Walter and Junior Dean, perform at the Shell and prove once and for all that he still had “it.” That “it” not just some far-fetched idea that Seth had as an old-time music critic when he had first started out in journalism, started first when he was still in college throwing small pieces into the American Folk Gazette before he got his big break with The Eye in the days when guys like Trick Stearn and Bones Bennett made names for themselves and dragged the newspaper along with them before the big ebb tide of the 1970s washed away the glad tidings of the 1960s that everybody had pinned their hopes on.

No this “it” had some spunk, some substance to its core and Jack had gone along with Seth on this one. See one night Jack and Seth had gone to a Big Bill Bloom concert at the Garden and had come away angry, angry that they had spent their good money on expensive tickets when Big Bill could no longer carry a tune, Back in the day that had not mattered as much because the power of his lyrics carried the day. But that night he was not producing new lyrics, hadn’t done so in ages and was living off old time nostalgia from the AARP-worthy demographic that still followed him essentially uncritically. And the fools had clapped their hands off giving him yet another false life. Jesus. Seth had written a scathing article in the prestigious American Folk Review about the event and had hell rain down on him from the editor. (Old biddy editors he had called them. After that blast Seth resolved to check out as many of the old time folk and blues singers who were still standing to see if they still had “it” and let people know what was what (he did not bother to check out the old time rock and rollers that had started the great jail break-out of the 1950s since all that were left except Jerry Lee were one hit wonders who didn’t make the cut).       

So James Montgomery got his thumbs up. Funny some guys, guys like David Bromberg still had it, Jim Kweskin too but before he passed away Utah Phillips was doddering and the late Etta James was in different planet. Sad.

Now that you know the score, know what the old corner boys were up to we can get back to what Jack said that made Seth laugh. Simple. He just said, “You know as good as James is Howlin’ Wolf would have had him for lunch and had time for a nap.” And of course Seth had to agree. Agree for no other reason that he and Jack had been present in a little side room in Newport, at the big Folk Festival back in 1965 when the Wolf practically blew the walls of Jericho down when he played How Many More Years practically devouring the harmonica. Now the Wolf always claimed that he was not a drinking man (had taken the legendary country blues guys, guys like Son House, his “father,” to task for showing up drunk and giving the race a bad name) and wasn’t a dope fiend (his term one time when Seth interviewed him after he had come back from London after playing on an album with the Stones and Seth had joked that he probably had been stoned all the time and the Wolf looked at him with evil eyes like don’t go there sonny boy). But Seth was convinced that that whiff he smelled was not from some other workshop, the one with the white kids as Howlin’ Wolf put it. (Jim Kweskin and his jug band as it turned out which was entirely possible as well). But no way that a living breathing man, a big burly hunk of a man could put that much energy, that much air, that much bloody sweat (wringing out his handkerchief drawing torrents when he was done) without some “help.”     

So while Seth and Jack would never know for sure whether the Wolf man was high that famous Newport afternoon they knew one thing, one laugh making thing, the Wolf would have had James Montgomery for lunch. And James still had “it.”  So you can bet six two and even the Wolf had it at the end too. If you don’t believe Seth then listen to this CD and weep for your not having been there back in the day when the Wolf mopped up the blues floor, made his bones.   
On The Wild Side Of Life Minute-With Mister Jerry Jeff Walker’s Music In Mind

CD Review

By Zack James   

Great Gonzos, Mister Jerry Jeff Walker,

The 1980s, the early 1980s, were a tough time to try and weather the financial doldrums of the alternative newspaper industry (much like today, in 2017, the whole print press and journal industry is going down with the ship in the digital age). That was the age of Ronald Reagan, a time when the night-takers took their revenge in big gobs, those bastards who almost got kicked in the ass for good back in the 1960s except we forget the first rule of a power struggle whether down on the corner boy block or in order to take state power-if you are going to take on the big guys you had better be ready to go all the way down and dirty or just back off. The blow-back for the past forty some years is graphic testament to that failure, to our defeat.  
As if to put paid to that night-taker “victory” those who would in earlier times have come through and supported such ventures as truth-teller alternative media took a dive, waved the white flag and fell into line (a straight and narrow line that even the latest polls have shown they never have backed away from, have passed on that “keeping their heads down” to their kids, hell, their grandkids, Jesus) the money dried up and the publication that Seth Garth had been the film critic for in good times and bad for over a decade The Eye had put him on short rations, had almost reduced him to the free-lancer status he had started out in the business doing. To alleviate their dilemma, maybe to draw one last breathe would have been a better way to put it Benny Gold the long time editor had begged Seth to take a long swig at the then emerging outlaw country music scene that was starting to bust out of Nashville, started getting up a head of steam in Texas, Austin, really and places like Colorado, Iowa and the like.   
Seth Garth, for those who don’t remember the name from when what he had to say about some song, album (tapes in those days really), or a performer carried weight via the distribution of The Eye on the coasts and with some strongholds in the center of the country too or were too young to know who he was could give, to use and expression from his corner boy days which he had really never given up, a rat’s ass about country music, the Nashville Grand Ole Opry stuff. Held his nose whenever anybody mentioned that George Jones had not shown up at a concert for the millionth time since he was in a drunken stupor out in Wyoming when he was supposed to be right there in Georgia or that Loretta Lynn, a coalminer’s daughter had the vapors or something and was a “no show” at one of her performances. Yeah Seth could give a rat’s ass about this incestuous country scene no question.

Moreover having just started the process of divorcing his third wife (three wives and a brood of kids, all young fueling up alimony, child support and future earnings college tuitions) he was in a sullen funk about starting all over like some rookie chasing ambulances and cop cars for a fucking story. Was trying, seriously trying, to decide whether he might link up with his old corner boy Johnny Blade who was now out of stir after doing a nickel for his last armed robbery and start pulling a few quick haul bank robberies. That larcenous heart of his that he had held in check for a number of years now was beginning to come to the fore. He after all was the guy back in the day who had perfected the “clip,” had designed the neighborhood midnight creep into Mayfair swell houses that kept the boys in clover through high school.

In the end though, at least for the public prints, Seth decided that he would give the outlaw country scene a quick run through to see if circulation would rise and The Eye would stop bleeding away financially. So he held his nose and headed to Austin (he refused to go to Nashville where some of the guys he was supposed to check out still had connections enough to draw work if the “outlaw” thing was running a little to the lean side). He first ran into a guy named Townes Van Zandt who was a true outlaw, could have given a fuck about Nashville and just wanted to write his lonesome life road lyrics, drown his sorrows in liquor and chase young honeys, the younger the better. But Townes with his downer lyrics, his lusts and his short-handed way of talking when he was not singing was not going to help Seth out of his miseries never mind a left-leaning newspaper in need of a big circulation jump.        

So he pushed on, had a nice interview with Willie Nelson but the guy was almost too big by then, hell, he was playing Northern venues to sell-out crowds, radio stations were ready to switch formats if they could get a hook from him. Same with Kris Kristofferson who was getting acting jobs as well as drinking the state of California dry. Then Big Bill Bloom who had made a career out of big bang folk lyrics that everybody in the 1960s was chewing on (or chewing on partially because while everybody knew maybe three verses of his stuff they could not go the distance on the whole song, half the time Seth couldn’t either and he wrote about the whole scene) called Seth to tell him that he had heard that The Eye was on the ropes (The Eye always gave Big Bill great build-up reviews although a couple of times Seth had nixed his work but Benny had nixed his nix) and that he was working the outlaw country racket. Did Seth know about a guy, Jerry Jeff Walker, who just then was out of jail but who was a great performer, wrote great lyrics and had a pal, a guy named Guy Clark, who wrote stuff for him too?            

Seth told Big Bill that he had never heard of the guy, was moreover worried about that “just out of jail” bit even if he was an outlaw but when Big Bill said he could make the connections Seth in desperation said he would go for it. And strangely enough they connected, connected when Seth was able to see that Jerry Jeff was just another larcenous corner boy except down Texas way and out West they called them good old boys instead of up North in growing up Riverdale. Seth was the guy who gave Jerry Jeff’s first concert out of jail a big play. Got him a connection to a big record producer and even got him his first gig north of the Mason-Dixon line. Got him into Harvard Square for crying out loud. The crowd almost all old folkies and raw college kids with dates went crazy for a real outlaw country singer. For a while, maybe a year, The Eye got by but the Reagan era was in deep throttle by then and once Jerry Jeff became old news everybody went back to keeping their heads down as the newspaper sank into its dreams. And Seth became once again a freaking free-lancer with no place to go but down.      

The Folkie Rank And File-An Interview With 1960s Folkie Loudon Wainwright  

Comment by Josh Breslin

I was somewhat of a late-comer to the folk revival scene of the early 1960s having missed that early segment completely while I was growing up in Olde Saco, Maine away from the big centers of the movement like Harvard Square in Cambridge, The Village in NYC, Old Town in Chicago, and North Beach in Frisco town. I did not pick up the folk habit until 1967, the Summer of Love, when I went out to Frisco town to see what it was all about and met fellow New Englander Peter Paul Markin, always called Scribe by his friends on Russian Hill and he took me in on the Captain Crunch caravan that he was part of. (I suppose it does not matter now but my introduction to the Scribe was going up to this long-haired bearded guy and asking him for a joint. He gave a huge one to me and the rest is history until his untimely early death under mysterious circumstances.)    

The Scribe had been a folkie fan since his early high school days going over to Harvard Square and soaking in whatever there was to soak in. Of course by 1967 the main stream of the revival had run out of steam and so I got most of what I know second-hand. In the case of the folkie that I am creating a link for here of an interview he did on the Terry Gross interview  show Fresh Air of NPR discussing his latest memoir it was really third-hand. The third-hand part is through a discovery of the McGarrigle Sister, Anna and the late Kate, the latter who was married to Wainwright for a time and had two children with him, one the well-known Rufus Wainwright. As usual when I get into something I like to see where it leads (a trait I picked up from the Scribe who really did try to learn every possible fact of any possible use for any possible purpose). Knowing of the McGarrigle-Wainwright connection I checked out his eclectic folk work. I can’t say I was a strong supporter of his work but there were some interesting things he did. Let him tell you via the interview some of the highlights. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

“Strobe Light’s Beams Creates Dreams”-The Summer Of Love, 1967-The Boston Museum Of Fine Arts Take   

By Political Commentator Frank Jackman  
Early this year driven by my old corner boys, Alex James and Sam Lowell, I had begun to write some pieces in this space about things that happened in a key 1960s year, 1967. The genesis of this work is based on of all things a business trip that Alex took to San Francisco earlier this spring. While there he noted on one of the ubiquitous mass transit buses that crisscross the city an advertisement for an exhibition at the de Young Art Museum located in Golden Gate Park. That exhibition The Summer of Love, 1967 had him cutting short a meeting one afternoon in order to see what it was all about. What it was all about aside the nostalgia effect for members of the now ragtag Generation of ‘68 was an entire floor’s worth of concert poster art, hippy fashion, music and photographs of that noteworthy year in the lives of some of those who came of age in the turbulent 1960s. The reason for Alex playing hooky was that he had actually been out there that year and had imbibed deeply of the counter-culture for a couple of years out there after that.
Alex had not been the only one who had been smitten by the Summer of Love bug because when he returned to Riverdale outside of Boston where he now lives he gathered up all of the corner boys from growing up North Adamsville still standing to talk about, and do something about, commemorating the event. His first contact was with Sam Lowell the old film critic who also happened to have gone out there and spent I think about a year there, maybe a little more. As had most of the old corner boys for various lengths of time usually a few months. Except me. Alex’s idea when he gathered all of us together was to put together a small commemoration book in honor of the late Peter Paul Markin. See Markin, always known as “Scribe” after he was dubbed that by our leader Frankie Riley, was the first guy to go out there when he sensed that the winds of change he kept yakking about around the corner on desolate Friday and Saturday nights when we had no dough, no girls, no cars and no chance of getting any of those quickly were coming west to east.

Once everybody agreed to do the book Alex contacted his youngest brother Zack, the fairly well known writer, to edit and organize the project. I had agreed to help as well. The reason I had refused to go to San Francisco had been that I was in the throes of trying to put together a career as a political operative by attempting to get Robert Kennedy to run against that naked sneak thief of a sitting President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, who had us neck deep in the big muddy of Vietnam and had no truck with hippies, druggies or “music is the revolution” types like those who filled the desperate streets around Haight-Ashbury. Then.  Zack did a very good job and we are proud of tribute to the not forgotten still lamented late Scribe who really was a mad man character and maybe if he had not got caught up in the Army, in being drafted, in being sent to Vietnam which threw him off kilter when he got back he might still be around to tell us what the next big trend will be.              

The corner boys from the old Acre neighborhood in North Adamsville are, as the article below demonstrates, not the only ones who are thinking about the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. Not only did the de Young cash in on the celebration which is to be expected since it is right in San Francisco and right in Golden Gate Park where the Be-Ins, and many concerts by Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Doors, etc. played (many times for free if you can believe that in the now age of high priced tickets for the Stones, etc.) but the Museum of Fine Arts in staid old Boston has tipped its hat as well. The exhibit in Boston unlike San Francisco is small and concentrates on the graphic poster art and photographs but is similar in intent to the larger exhibits (also one at the Berkeley Art Museum around the same time as the de Young). Boston had its own smaller Summer of Love experience as well in 1967 but it was a pale refection of the big deal in Frisco town     

Still no question as I have mentioned before around this celebration year 50 years later looking at the art, the posters, photographs and listening to the music makes me once again realize that in that time “to be young was very heaven.”    

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Search For The Great Blue-Pink American Night-Part 32-With Western Artist Ed Ruscha In Mind

By Sam Lowell

Just then Bart Webber was in a California state of mind, was ready to chuck everything and go back on the road, the road to perdition to hear his wife, of thirty plus years, Betty Sullivan, tell it when he went off on his tirade about the old days, and worse, the old guys, guys like Markin who had dragged him out West kicking and screaming. Now to hear him tell it Bart was the guy who propelled the sluggish Markin westward. We will get to the why of Bart’s new found interest in retracing his youthful fling in the bramble-filled West, out there where the states are square and you had better be as well on the way to the edge of the continent and the dreaded Japan sea for failure but first the what.

It seemed that Bart had jumped the gun somewhat because he found himself out in San Francisco, the place where he met up with Markin and some of the other North Adamsville corner boys in that fateful year of 1968 when he rode for a few months with the guys on Captain Crunch’s yellow brick road converted school bus come travelling caravan home, at a printing and media conference, what would be his final conference since he was putting his printing business in the capable hands of his youngest son who truth be told had been handling the day to day operations of the shop anyway and was itchy to run the operation himself. While riding on the BART into the city he noticed on a billboard that the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park was featuring a retrospective by the Western artist Ed Ruscha, an artist that Bart had always admire ever since he had seen his series on gas stations and their role in the great post-World War II golden age of the American automobile, the wide open highways and cheap gas.            

Taking an afternoon off he went over to Golden Gate Park and viewed the exhibit, a show that had well over one hundred paintings, photographs, prints and petro-maps. One set of photographs taken on one of Ruscha’s trips from his native Oklahoma to Los Angeles via the southern desert-etched route drove Bart to distraction as there he saw gas stations in places like Needles, on the California-Arizona border, Kingman, Flagstaff, Gallup, and a few other places he had passed through on one of his hitchhike or car-sharing trips to California. Saw too coyotes, Native American reservations, buffalos roam. Saw a series of prints and paintings of the famous Hollywood sign that told him the first time that he had seen the sign up in the hills that he had arrived in the land of sun and fantasy. Saw a darkly troubling painting all done in dark somber colors of the death of the Joshua trees in the high desert, a place where he had performed under the influence of serious dope inhalation the “ghost” dance with Markin, Jack Callahan, Josh Breslin and Frankie Riley. Saw plenty of photographs and paintings detailing the degradation of that part of California Ruscha had travelled through on those golden age trips. He was, well-known as a man not to show much public emotion, shaken almost to tears at the vistas that he witnessed. Could not get the thoughts of his old “hippie” minute out of his mind. (That “minute” then signifying that he finally came to a realization after a few months that unlike Markin, Josh, or Sam Lowell another late arrival in California from the corner boys who stayed on the road for a few years that he was a stationary person, missed old North Adamsville and missed old ball and chain Betty Sullivan.)            

Here’s how the whole thing played out back then and maybe, just maybe you will begin to understand why Bart was shaken almost to tears for visions of his long lost youth. Despite the urban legend Bart tried to create lately around his role in sending Markin westward Markin, and only Markin was the guy who led the charge west. Had been the guy of all the guys on the corner who predicted, predicted almost weekly from about 1962 on that a big sea-change was coming and they had better be ready to ride the wave. They all, Bart included, blew Markin’s predictions off out of hand because frankly if the subject around Tonio’s Pizza Parlor come Friday night wasn’t about girls, cars, money, getting drunk or any combination of those subjects they didn’t give a rat’s ass as Frankie Riley would say about some seaweed change.       

Things pretty much stayed that way all through high school although that didn’t stop Markin from his predictions especially when the blacks down south got all uppity (signifying that the corner boys except Markin didn’t give a rat’s ass about that subject either and maybe worse) and  folk music, the urban folk revival as Markin called it, took off. All that meant and this was stretching it was cheap dates with girls who might “put out.” Bart was even less interested in the latter since Betty was still stuck in some Bobby Rydell crush and did not like folk music (and still didn’t so Bart only played it when she was out of the house). Stayed that way for a couple of years after high school as they went their separate ways except the Friday night reunions at Tonio’s to, well, kill time. Then the Vietnam War came on strong which they did give a rat’s ass about, wanted to see the commies bite the dust although except for Sal Russo and Jimmy Jenkins who laid down his head over there and whose name now is on black granite down in Washington and in granite in North Adamsville, they did not volunteer. (Those who were called eventually all went including Markin who lost a lot over there, had serious troubles with the “real” world coming back and in the end couldn’t shake whatever it was that took the life out of him.)

Then in the spring of 1967 Markin did two things, one, the fateful decision to drop out of Boston University after his sophomore year to go “find himself,” a characteristic of the times, of the generation, of the best part of the generation and the other, the less fateful but still fraught with danger decision to head west, to hitchhike west to California after he had read Jack Kerouac’s On The Road about six times and declared that now was the moment that he had been talking about all those Friday nights in front of Tonio’s. So he headed west with no compulsion, wound up hooking up with a caravan out there. The Captain Crunch yellow brick road caravan that would eventually be composed of at least a half dozen North Adamsville corner boys turned “hippies” for varying lengths of time. Bart was pretty late on that “train” didn’t go out until the summer of 1968 after he found out that due to a childhood injury that left him with a pronounced limp despite a couple of surgeries that he was declared 4-F, unfit for military service by the friends and neighbors at his local draft board. That pretty late also meant that Markin who shortly after he got out to San Francisco received his own draft notice and was an additional reason why Bart left the road early since he knew the ropes.  

Bart, despite whatever happened later, was happy to be heading out and once he decided to go he also decided that he would hitchhike out like all the other guys except Sam Lowell who to placate anxious parents, really an anxious mother, went out by bus. Even Sam after five plus days on a stinking Greyhound bus with the usual screaming kids left to wander the aisles and the inevitable overweight seatmate who snored and despite a couple of pleasant days from New York to Chicago with a chick who caught his eye and whom he flirted like crazy with said later that he would have rather hitched than go through that again (and all his later trips would be done that way). Bart figured that although the road might be slow with the many false starts and being left in some strange places where grabbing a ride was not easy that it would be interesting once he got past the stifling East and the Great Plains to see what was what in the West (that stifling Ruscha could attest to since he was nothing but a child of the Great Plains, hell, an Okie so he knew he had to head west in that big old Chevy Bart had heard he went out to L.A. in that fateful 1956 year when he went to art school there).

Bart thinking about the experience, that first road out, that always served as a hallmark for every guy’s trip out remembered more or less vividly all those dusty side roads he got left on after his own trip through Oklahoma. Although the big Eisenhower-driven national security Interstate highway system made it easier in the mid-1960s to travel the hitchhike road than all the back roads and Route 66 that Bart had read about in Jack Kerouac’s travel the open road book On The Road that Markin made everybody read when they all were in high school even though he wasn’t much of a reader, didn’t think as much of the be-bop beats as Markin did who thought they were the max daddies he was waiting for even though by their time the beat thing was passe, was old news, ancient history it was actually easier to get rides on the smaller roads where people could see you from down or up the road. In any case you were sure to be left off on more than one back road since that was just the way it was, nobody who was say going to Denver was going to let you off in the middle of Interstate 80 when you saw the sign for Cheyanne where you wanted to go just ahead.  

Funny all the strange signs he saw out on the open back roads like  the mere fact of putting a sign up would draw people to your Podunk town , or your Podunk store. He had had to laugh when he saw Ruscha’s photograph of a town out in nowhere which probably had a population of less than one thousand but which had a sign documenting all the about ten church denominations that kept the good people of the town on their feet. He had seen more Jesus Save signs and the like than you could shake a stick at the further west he went until they stopped, stopped  dead the closer you got to coastal California. Saw more signs for cigarettes, beer, whiskey, dry goods (quaint), no trespassing, no loitering, no anything than he ever noticed back home. He wondered if people travelling through North Adamsville had that same feeling about his own Podunk town. He knew for sure that there were not top-heavy signs about all the religious denominations of the town at least not in the Acre where all you saw was a fistful of Catholic churches, Roman Catholic for the unknowing about differences.              

Had seen above all the signs that directed you to the nearest gas stations, almost a ritualistic sign that you were still in the golden age of the automobile, of the superhighway and of cheap gas. Hell even in North Adamsville right across from the high school he remembered the service station owners who had businesses right next to each other would have “gas wars,” would have signs out with prices like 30 cents per gallon versus say 29 cents. Yeah, cheap gas, and plenty of service too. Lots of guys, guys who needed to support their “boss” car habits worked as gas jockeys filling up tanks, checking oil and tires and wiping off windshields. Saw every kind of gas station from the one franchised out by Esso and Texaco to little fly-by-night operations with no name gas, a rundown coke machine that barely worked and bathrooms with stained sinks and broken plumbing and hadn’t been cleaned since Hector was a pup. You had to use your own handkerchief to wipe your hands. Even some of the diners, diners like Jimmy Jack’s back home where all the guys hung out after leaving off their dates if they didn’t get lucky and wind up down at the far end of Squaw Road on Adamsville Beach fogging up some “boss” car into the wee hours of the morning had gas stations or at least pumps out on those long stretch deserted roads so nobody would get stranded in the hot sun (and the owners probably figured that while stopping for gas the little family might as well have something to eat at the high carbohydrate steamed everything counters and booths).

Saw plenty of weird natural formations along the way getting twenty mile rides here from ranchers or farmers going up the road, fifty miles there from high-rollers taking the high side to Vegas, a few miles from high school kids joy-riding to while away the afternoon to avoid the dreaded chores that awaited them at home. Saw every kind dusty dried out tree seeking nourishment from the waterless ground. Saw rock formations hounded by the winds and sheered to perfection. Saw every color of brown, of beige, of grey. Saw too in Joshua Tree of a thousand tears, tears for the creeping civilization that was choking them away and tears one high doped up night when Markin and a few others channeled the shamans of the past in a ghost dance off the flickering canyon walls, hah, walls of brown, of beige, of grey. Bart never got over that experience, never saw what the white man, what his people had done so clearly even if he wasn’t about to do anything about it except load up on peyote buttons and ancient dreams of mock revenge. 
Saw above all as he grabbed that last one hundred, maybe one hundred and fifty mile stretch to Frisco town the refuge of the high speed road, the broken glass, the road kill, the busted fences where some fool had gone off the highway drunk or doped up so he didn’t feel a thing, saw stripped off bare truck tires blocking easy passage on the road ahead. Saw the bramble, the flotsam and jetsam of modern day life. Saw too though as he got closer to Frisco, as he could almost smell the ocean, the land’s end, the Japan seas or back home that the West was very different, that those who had make the trek, maybe were forced to make the trek were very different from the East that he knew. But maybe too they would have to run from a thing which they had built.

Later. after he arrived in San Francisco, met Markin, Josh and Frankie on Russian Hill and then joined them on the journey south for a few months (with a couple of trips back home in between) he would see Ruscha L.A. would see those luscious Hollywood signs, and would like any tourist from Podunk image that he had the wherewithal to make it as a star, or something like that name in lights. Got to know L.A. too well, couldn’t handle the freeway craziness, couldn’t handle the sameness of the endless strip malls, the endless rows of tickey-tack houses, couldn’t handle the sprawl that was turning a small town into a mega-town. Yeah he knew exactly what Ruscha was driving at, was trying to chronicle. But still he missed the opportunity to see if he did have what it took to survive in California, to have drunken in the scenes.     

And you wonder why Bart just then as he approached retirement as he approached his seventh decade was in a frenzy to repeat his past.