Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love- Botticelli’s 115th Dream-With Botticelli’s “Venus” In Mind

By Special Guest Alex James

[Frankly my oldest brother Alex, who after all is over ten years older than I am, and I have never been all that close. Maybe that is natural due our age differences and of his decided and vocally not wanting to have an unruly younger brother tagging along while he and his vaunted corner boys did their thing. Later the gap widened as his lawyerly pursues were far removed as a rule from my own social and cultural concerns. A few weeks ago though, knowing that I write for a number of blogs, including here at American Left History, and in various smaller print journals he approached me on behalf of he and his “corner boys,” at least the ones still standing some fifty years later, to help organize and write a small tribute booklet in honor of their fallen comrade and fellow corner boy, Peter Paul Markin, who led them west in the great Summer of Love, San Francisco, 1967 explosion. I took on the tasks after Alex explained to me that he had been smitten with a nostalgia bug when he had gone to a legal conference out there by an exhibit at the deYoung Museum out in Frisco town, The Summer of Love Experience, being presented to honor the 50th anniversary of the events of that summer.

Fair enough. I was glad to help out since I only knew the events second-hand and have always been interested in writing about and have written extensively about that period. As a result I had thought that the experience of putting out a small publication where we had to maybe for the first time in our lives work closely together “bonded” Alex and me somewhat. Fair enough again. Now though the guy is all hopped up, maybe showing signs of senility for all I know, about an exhibition he had seen at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts where they have Botticelli’s Venus on display. As far as I know Alex could have given a rat’s ass about art, about the Renaissance back in the day or anything since not connected with his law practice. But the other day he asked me for some space here to talk about how that Botticelli painting at the exhibition reminded him about some love interest he had had during that summer of love period. What can I say. He is after all my brother.  Zack James]       
[I had written the basics of the small piece I wished to present here about a young girl that I had met out in San Francisco, Jewel Night Star, when I was out there after the Scribe [Peter Paul Markin] got a bunch of us to head out west in late summer 1967. (I will explain that whole moniker business, that serious need to “reinvent” ourselves below but just know now that I was always known out there as Cowboy, or Cowboy Angel, depending on my mood, the day, hell maybe the drug intake) That was before I read my youngest brother Zack’s introduction. I felt compelled to add a note here to announce to what he always likes to call a “candid world” that I am neither senile nor have I been in the past, a past Zack, tied up with his various writing projects about times that he has only lived through vicariously totally oblivious to the call of culture, to the call of art and artifact. What more can I say though as he is my host here. Oh, yes, he is also after all my brother. Alex James.]

I would be the last person in the world to deny that memories, good and bad, creep up on a person sometimes in unusual ways. (Of course in my law practice I have had to pay short shrift in general to anything to do with memory on behalf of my clients but that is out of professional necessity to keep the buggers from huge jail time or cash outlays.) Recently this came home to me in a very odd way. I had been out in San Francisco to attend a law conference which I do periodically to confer with other lawyers in my special areas of concern when as I was entering the BART transit station on Powell Street I noticed on a passing bus an advertisement for an exhibition called The Summer of Love Experience being put on at the deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that wild west experiment. That set off the first series of memory bells which forced me to take some time out to go see what they had produced about those long ago times.                    

See, strange as it may seem given my subsequent total emergence into my law practice (at times just to keep afloat with three unhappy ex-wives and a parcel of kids, some happy some not, to support which almost killed me about ten years ago with a crush of college tuitions) I had been one of those tens of thousands of young people who drifted west to see what the whole thing was all about in San Francisco in the summer of love, 1967. Zack has probably told you that when I came back from this recent Frisco trip I gathered those of my old hometown corner boys from the Acre section of North Adamsville who as Zack stated were “still standing” to put together a small tribute book in honor of the event dedicated to the memory of the late Peter Paul Markin, the guiding spirit who led us out West like some latter day prophet.  

Mad monk Markin (and he really was we all called him the Scribe after our leader Frankie Riley gave him that moniker  in junior high school after Markin once had written some total bullshit homage to him and it hit the school newspaper and ever after the Scribe was his “flak” writing some stuff that was totally unbelievable about the real Frankie Riley whom we knew was seven kinds of a bastard even then) had gone out in the spring of 1967 after dropping out of Boston University in his sophomore year and had come back in late summer telling us the “newer world” he was always yakking about (and which we previously had given a rat’s ass about) was “happening” out there. He conned, connived, and begged but six of us beside him (and ever after also including Josh Breslin from up in Olde Sacco, Maine whom the Scribe met out in Frisco who was not a North Adamsville corner boy but whom we made one since he was clearly a kindred spirit)   went out and stayed for various lengths of time. I had gone back out with Markin after his “conversion” plea and stayed for about a year, mostly, as with all of us one way or another riding Captain Crunch’s “merry prankster” converted yellow brick road bus (the latter Markin’s term).     

While out there I had many good sexual and social experiences but the best was with a young gal whom I stuck with most of the time who went by the name Jewel Night Star as I went by the names Cowboy or Cowboy Angel depending on my mood. I make no pretense to know all of the psychological and sociological reasons at the time or thereafter but these monikers we hung on ourselves were an attempt to “reinvent” ourselves. Break out of the then conventional nine to five, beat the commies, and buy lots of stuff world our parents tried to drive a nail in our hearts about. Some people changed their monikers, their personas every other week but I stuck with my based on the simple love that I had had for Westerns growing up and since we were in the West it seemed right. Markin’s Be-Bop Kid was an overlay from his hearty interest in the “beats” who by 1967 were passe, who were being superseded by what was beginning to be called the “hippies.” Such were the times. The Jewel Night Star moniker when she told me about it one night was based on her eyes which in a certain light looked like diamonds, like twinkling stars. As long as I knew her she stuck with that moniker as well.            

Funny when I was out in Frisco for the conference and went to the museum I didn’t think anything about her. Had been through a small succession of women after she left the bus and as I have mentioned have had a whole raft of women since then, married and unmarried. I just mainly “dug” the scene at the museum and thought about the great music we heard (when they played White Bird by It’s a Beautiful Day I freaked out since I had not heard that song in ages), about the plentiful and mostly safe dope we did (we had an unwritten pact among the North Adamsville corner boys not to do LSD, “acid” after Markin explained his “bad trip” on the substance and after we had seen more than a few people going crazy at concerts and need medical attention), and about how we could “outrage” bourgeois society by our dress, our free spirits and, well, our goofiness if it came right down to it. (Tweaking those who were trying to drive those nails into our hearts.)

Then last week, or the week before, I got this postcard advertisement from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston asking me to join their membership. (I assume somehow that having paid my admission to the deYoung on-line I had become a prime target for every museum from Portland East to Portland West). The ‘hook” on the other side of the postcard was that with a paid up membership I could see Botticelli’s Venus up close and personal. A view of that image on that postcard lead me directly, I say straight line directly, to my first memories of Jewel Night Star in maybe the fifty years since that summer of 1967 time.         

In the early fall of 1967 Markin and I had hitchhiked out across the whole country to Frisco. (I can see every mother grimace at that idea now, or then for that matter.) I won’t go into the details about how we got out there which I have written about in that tribute book the guys and I put together and Zack edited. Besides this is about Jewel not about some Jack Kerouac On The Road -influenced fling on our parts. Markin had had some contact with this guy, this wild man, Captain Crunch, who had somehow, most people who knew anything about it agreed that it was through a dope deal, gotten a yellow brick road converted school bus which he was travelling on up and down the West Coast picking up kindred spirits and letting them stay in and around the bus. (The attrition rate was pretty high most people staying a few weeks and then getting off or told to find another way to travel by Mustang Sally, the Captain’s sort of girlfriend, I never did figure out their actual relationship in all the time I was on the bus, if they stole stuff, didn’t keep fairly decent personal hygiene or let the drugs make them too weird and in need of some medical help.) When we got out West the Captain’s bus was stationed in Golden Gate Park and after the Scribe (then going under the moniker the Be-Bop kid-no more Scribe okay) introduced us and the Captain thought I was cool (and I thought he was as well) I was “on the bus.”              

A couple of weeks later the Captain was talking about taking a slow trip south to a place in La Jolla for the winter where he had a friend. The idea was that we would “house-sit” what turned out to be a mansion since that friend was one of the first serious high distribution drug dealers getting his product directly from south of the border only thirty or forty miles away in Tijuana.  We were all for it (me since every place was a new place for me in California and I was curious). It was on that trip as we headed toward Big Sur down the Pacific Coast Highway, a place called Todo el Mundo that I met Gail Harrington, Jewel Night Star.

We had stopped at a campsite where there was a party that was still going after about the six days before we got there so everybody was, using a term of art from those days “wasted.” I was grabbing a joint from somebody when this young woman came up to me and asked for a hit, for a “toke” for some grass. Her look. Well just check out the Botticelli Venus above that accompanies this piece and you get an idea. Tall, thin, hair braided, as was the style when a lot of young woman were on the road and didn’t want to, or couldn’t hassle with that daily chore to look beautiful stuff. Just as we guys grew our hair long and grew beards to avoid having the hassle of shaving. She had on a diaphanous kind of granny dress that showed her shape in detail. Nice. The granny dresses also a question of convenience and an expression that a woman’s shape was not as important as whether she was “cool” or not. But the best thing about her beyond being a Botticelli vision, a dream, what did I call it in the title to this piece. Yes, his 115th dream, was that she was very friendly, and a little flirty, in a nice way unlike all the girls from North Adamsville that I knew who might be nice but who thought sex was a mortal sin before marriage, maybe ever.

At first I was a little disoriented when we hit Frisco and joined up with the bus since the girls were really without much guile friendly in a way that it was easier talking to them than the Bible between the knees girls I was used to. By the time we got to Todo el Mundo I had had a few dalliances, a few what we called back in the neighborhood, “one night stands” which didn’t go anywhere and nobody worried about it but I was still unsure about what to expect from the young women who were travelling that same “road” we were travelling. So I was kind of shy a little around Jewel at first since she struck me as something out of the Renaissance, something out a painting by Botticelli who before he “got religion” later in his life under the influence of Savonarola which I had seen in an art book when I was taking an art course in high school (and have been unable to find in recent Internet searches looking for that exact painting). They were mostly young countesses and merchants’ daughters who had time on their hands and whom Botticelli was interested in painting for profit and for a different look than the inevitable Holy Family, Jesus, religious paintings that were becoming overdone and passe. (I thought it was funny how many of his young women looked like Northern European women since I had a fixed idea of dark-eyed, dark haired, dark complexion Italian women who I saw at school or in the Little Italy neighborhood that started about ten blocks from the Irish-dominated Acre.)              

Well Jewel was not from Renaissance Italy but from Grand Rapids in Michigan. Had come west when she finished her first year at Michigan after she had heard one night on a date what the folk singer at the club she was attending talked about the music explosion going on out there. She had been out for several months and had headed south to Todo el Mundo when she thought things had gotten too weird in San Francisco. She had hitchhiked down with a guy who was heading further south to Los Angles but she was just then content to stay along the rugged rural coast for a while. Which she would have done for longer she said except when I asked to travel south on the bus she agreed. But that was a few weeks later.           

I suppose I have been somewhat beaten down in the women department because I had forgotten how easy to be with. Jewel was, I guess, thinking back she was one of those “flower children” that we kept hearing about. Meaning nothing more than she was whimsical, was relatively hassle-free and liked nothing better than to roam the hills around Todo el Mundo and the hardscrabble beaches in the area. With me in tow.  All of this may sound kind of simple-minded, kind of what is the big deal about his woman. But look at the look of Venus above, look at that faraway look and that twisting of her braids and you will get an idea of what Jewel was like. Look at Botticelli’s Venus eyes and you will see the same night star that I finally saw in Jewel’s.     

Like I said we stayed together more or less for most of that year I was out there until in the spring of 1968 Jewel said she was getting tired of the road and wanted to either settle down out in the desert, out in Joshua Tree where several communal groups were being formed or head back home to school. I didn’t like either idea although a few months later I would head back east to finish college. We agreed that our paths were going in different directions and one day she told me that she had purchased a bus ticket to Joshua Tree (actually when I went out there many years later Twenty-nine Palms the nearest bus stop then). The next day was the last day I saw her. Although we had agreed to keep in touch that like a lot of things in those days it never happened.  I wonder if she is still alive wherever she is if those eyes of hers still sparkle in a certain angle like a night star. I hope so.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Perfect Crime Busted-With Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M For Murder In Mind

By Lionel Adderley

Ray Milland, the great English tennis star from the 1940s and 1950s not the famed Oscar-winning actor with the commanding voice and dapper manners, played his projected crime, his murder of his wife too cute. Did what every amateur criminal has done and had a plan, not a bad plan by any means, but a plan that just had too many moving parts. The kiss of death for any such venture. And the man who spoke those words Reginald Marsh, “Reggie” was a man who should know since he had spent almost half his life as a professional “hit man” for whoever had the dough and wherewithal to hire his services. Reggie used to laugh anytime he read a crime detection book where the perfect crime got snagged up in some not thought out item like forgetting to close a door which did the felon in. Did the same anytime he saw a movie where the suspect would build up and build up until that decisive climax where the villain of the piece would be nabbed for having his or her underwear on the wrong way or something.

Had had to laugh as well in contrast about his own experiences where he flitted in and out of airports (this before such events as 9/11 made getting through security more onerous if not impossible). He had gotten through a couple of times with a weapon so disassembled that even when the courteous airport security agents asked him what it was he was able to say it was a new invention he was going to a convention in hopes of getting venture capital to mass produce the item. Had passed through bus stations, and train depots without much trouble at all. Had had no problem keeping his freedom for so long by observing that one simple notion-keep it simple.
So one night when he mentioned to the guy sitting beside him, a guy he knew slightly, that the great English tennis star of yesteryear, of the war years and the early 1950s, Ray Milland had just been picked up for murder he figured that once again the plan was way over the top for what Ray was trying to accomplish. Simply in the end murder his wife through the legal process. The guy sitting next to Reggie, a mild-mannered sort, Henry Higgins, responded to Reggie’s comment by asking him about the known details of the Milland murder. That was all Reggie needed to hear as he went almost apoplectic to once again show how his “perfect crime” theory gone wrong by over-planning had been verified.    

Of course a guy like Ray Milland had certain expenses, had developed certain expensive habits while cavorting with the Mayfair swells who supported tennis in those days. And among the ladies provided the money and sexual favors that allowed Ray to prosper once his serious professional tour playing days were over. That was the bitch though. A guy like Ray, brought up on the British public school tradition and its finale, Cambridge or Oxford just couldn’t get used to living on high society hand-outs. That was when the no question handsome and surface debonair Ray took dead aim at Margo Kelly, yes the Margo Kelly whose father had all the dough in Philadelphia locked up in his vaults, and after some serious wooing took her hand.                      

The marriage might not have been made in heaven but for a few years Ray held off his temptation to bed every female Mayfair swell that crossed his path in the interest of keeping the money spigot running. Besides Margo was nothing to throw out of bed, at least at first before her (and his) ardor wore off. Then one day Ray found a letter from Margo to a guy in America, some kind of writer whom she had known back in the states, Robert Cummings. The letter contained explicit suggestions that this secret love affair was going to explode in his face as soon as this Cummings bastard hit the cliffs of Dover. The thought that after all the years of surface faithfulness he had been cuckolded by his wife and more importantly to place his financial future in doubt got him to the drawing board. Didn’t think twice, or for two minutes, about not doing the deed. Maybe it was depending too much on his Cambridge heritage, maybe it was his anger at Margo but he immediately went into overdrive in planning the caper. Made mistake number one right away by putting together an elaborate scheme based on anonymously blackmailing Margo over the love letter. Went way over the top there was no other way to explain it. Had stolen a Margo pocketbook some time before which contained a love letter and had been blackmailing her on that basis figuring she would come across with the dough rather than be exposed as an adulteress. Reggie speculated that Ray should have killed her, or better, had her killed by a professional like him outright then. Could have claimed some bogus over-heated blood-boiling bullshit that a friendly court might buy into.         

No, Ray let the whole thing fester until what he thought was an opportune moment when he made his worst mistake. Brought an amateur into the operation. Or if not an amateur not a professional killer. Seems Ray had been in his overheated condition looking for a “fall guy” to take the rap if necessary. Had been “channeling” an old rummy of a college acquaintance who had taken up small-time con jobs and midnight creeps, a guy who went under about six aliases but Reggie said he would just call him Smythe-Jones and that would do. Never ask a rummy to do anything, period. Ray’s idea was to blackmail this Smythe-Jones into murdering Margo in order not to be turned in by Ray to the peelers. Of course a rummy thinking about stir and having to dry out will fall to any scheme especially if there is some cash involved. And as Ray laid out the plan to Smythe-Jones he became all ears. Figured a big time guy like Ray would not leave him in the lurch.     

The whole fucking plan hinged on a key. See the idea was that Smythe-Jones was to strangle Margo in what was to look like a rummy doing a midnight creep burglary. But you can’t leave being able to jimmy open a window or a door to chance so Ray placed a key above the door to the flat for Smythe-Jones to use to enter, open a window from the garden to make the burglary idea plausible and hide behind a curtain in the study where the telephone was located when Ray made a call to the flat awakening Margo late at night. Then our rummy would pounce. One less beautiful Mayfair swell in the world. End of story.

No way, no fucking way. The whole thing went south. First Ray called late then, then half-drunk rum brave Smythe-Jones couldn’t subdue Margo and she killed him with a blow to his soft-boiled head. Christ what a mess. Ray was on the line while all this fiasco was going as Margo asked for bloody help. That is when Ray went into Plan B (Higgins mentioned to an associate after Reggie was long gone that he had never seem such a look of contempt on a man’s face when he uttered the words “Plan B” like there was no more heinous activity that a man could promote). He would set Margo up for the “murder” of Smythe-Jones using his, Ray’s, blackmail of his wife the past several months as the reason that Margo had had to kill the rummy. It worked, worked so well that Margo got railroaded right up to the hang-man’s noose.

See Ray worked some great moves to push Margo toward the gallows. Told Margo not to call the police until he got home.  Got home to do some nifty work like disappearing that guilty key from Smythe-Jones’s pocket into her handbag, putting that dastardly love letter that had burned a hole in his brain into the rummy’s pocket and best of all, an inspired move, getting rid of that so-called murder scarf  Smythe-Jones  was to use and replacing it with one of her stockings like she was sick unto to death of paying the bloody beast blackmail and was to finish it the only way possible with the sullen death of the blackmailer.

Some beautiful stuff, stuff guys will study for years trying to perfect. But the whole sorry thing unraveled in the end. That fucking key bothered the peelers and bothered this Cummings lover guy who fancied himself something of an amateur sleuth. So the day before Margo was to swing, the freaking day before Ray would have had it made, could have lived in splendor with every woman he could get his hands this Cummings decided to test the key theory. Found out that no way could Margo have had the key that Smythe-Jones was supposed to use to get into the flat to kill her. The coppers came into play too since one of their officers was not fully convinced that Margo had done the murder. Had been bothered by the key angle and Margo’s seeming inability to explain it away. So between the two forces opposed to him Ray had to cry “uncle.” That was all that Reggie knew about the case after what had come out after they picked Ray up in that high-end flat. Reggie told Higgins before he left a few weeks later that Ray would have been better off just slitting Margo’s throat after finding her and that American in bed together. He probably would not have swung for it in the heat of passion.              

That “left a few weeks later” should be explained. Reggie had been telling Higgins his simple art of murder theories while they were “bunk-mates” at Reading Gaol where the pair were awaiting execution. Reggie’s number had come up first. See, Reggie did not follow his own advice in the end and had only been enthralled by the Milland case out of a latent professional interest. Reggie had found his own wife in the arms of another man and like Ray had been outraged that he had been cuckolded. So he had hired a “hit man” to waste his wife and her lover. Except, acting in rage and not good sense he wanted to watch as the deed was done. Had planned it so that he would surprise the entangled couple in bed (in his own damn house which further enraged him) feign outrage, real enough as it was, then have the “hit man” come in and waste the guy, then her. While the “hit man” got away Reggie was spotted by a neighbor coming out of his own apartment right after the murders. He took the fall. Took the big-step off.  Jesus. Keep it simple.          

Friday, May 26, 2017

On The Occasion Of The Centennial Of John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s Birthday-Frank Jackman’s Journey-Take Two  

By Political Commentator Frank Jackman

[Recently in what I had assumed would be a one-time short reminiscence on the centennial of John Fitzgerald Kennedys’ birth here in Massachusetts about the effect that the election of the first Irish Catholic President back in 1960 had on the bedraggled psyches of a bunch of Irish Catholic working class (hell working poor and lower if the truth be known) kids, corner boys, whom I hung around with and came of age with in that Camelot time. Apparently in this age of instant social media feedback and quick communications my simple plan has now turned into yet another screed.
The reason? These days there can only be one reason in my universe. One Francis Xavier Riley, the acknowledged leader of the corner boys of our times back in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the Acre section of North Adamsville. Once again like in the old days Frankie has seen to it that I, or anybody else who might venture some idea not cooked up by and authorized by him, that proper homage be paid to the Scribe, to the late fallen comrade Peter Paul Markin, who was our “intellectual” leader. Funny when Frankie was running the show back then he treated the Scribe like a dog-except on those occasions when he wanted the Scribe to write something up about him, to be his “flak.” That was how Makin got his moniker in the first place after he had in order to ingratiate himself with Frankie when he came from across town to live in the Acre  written some bullshit about how Frankie was the “second coming,” something like for the school newspaper and everybody bowed down to Frankie thereafter.                   
Now the bone that Frankie had to pick with me was that in that rather simple remembrance about Jack Kennedy’s hold on us, one of our own running the whole show, I didn’t emphasize enough how Markin, how the Scribe got us off our collective girl hunger asses and out on the stump for Jack around town. Didn’t speak enough of the Scribe’s “vision” that a new day was coming, a “new breeze across the land” as Markin called it which drove a lot of his thoughts then and for several years after before the ebb tide blew him away. Funny again that if I recall correctly Frankie could not have given a rat’s ass about all of that at the time. All he cared about was “doing the do” with Minnie Murphy. But Frankie was not the acknowledged leader of the Acre corner boys of our time for nothing because he was able to twist my tail about how Markin had given us all a grand purpose and why soil his potter’s grave down in dreaded Sonora, Mexico when a few kind words would be as welcome as the morning breeze. So I had to re-write the whole freaking thing over. Jesus, Mary and Joseph why did I ever start this small JFK tribute in the first place. Below is the revised, final sketch. Scribe wherever you are I hope you are satisfied with my few words. I am sure Frankie won’t be. Frank Jackman]          

Sure now, today, as anybody who is familiar with the American Left History on-line site and The Progressive Journal print site that I write for these days knows, or should be expected to know, I along with many of my political kindred have long raked many of the policies and projects that John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States 1961-1963, initiated over the coals. Most notable of those  nefarious exploits for those of us who were inspired, maybe inflamed is a better word once we were actual witnesses on television as the rebels entered Havana by the exploits of the revolutionaries (without being revolutionaries ourselves but proper liberals and social democrats) in Cuba who overthrew the Batista regime was the fumbled Bay of Pigs invasion in the spring of 1961 which was our first point of serious differences with a generally positive attitude toward Camelot. 

More troublesome was the deep state escalation of American involvement in Vietnam which led to the slippery slope that tore this society asunder as we can as near to a cold civil war as we had in this country until very recently. (Of course in the “revisionist” histories since JFK has come off as something of a pacifist who would have hightailed it out of Vietnam the minute things got out of hand and let the commies overrun the land. This from a guy deeply enamored of counter-guerilla warfare, in love with Special Forces and of manliness in person and politics). There were other generic differences that came to the fore later when we were seeking, desperately seeking, for what gangster saint brother Robert Kennedy called, “stealing” a page from Alfred Lord Tennyson, “ a newer world.” Looking for more socialist-oriented solutions to what ailed society.        

All that however was later. Today I want to speak of the promise that the election of JFK meant to a bunch of Irish Catholic corner boys from the poverty-stricken Acre section of North Adamsville back in the fall of 1960 when we felt that first fresh breeze coming over the land from the icy depths of the red scare Cold War night that we had come of political age in. That “fresh breeze,” as I have noted many, many times elsewhere an expression that fellow corner boy and our house “intellectual” the late Peter Paul Markin, the Scribe, (the actual Markin, not the moderator of the ALH blog site who uses that moniker in honor of our fallen brother long departed) would endlessly bore us with in those days when all we gave a rat’s ass about (also an expression I have used many, many times concerning our reaction to Markin’s “fresh breeze” statement) was girls, getting dough to deal with girls and cars, “boss” cars not necessarily in that order. (To be fair to Markin he was the king hell king of the midnight creep when we needed dough at the times when his seamier side got ahead of the “better angel of his nature”). 

None of us, me, Jack Callahan, the legendary football player who for some reason liked hanging with the bad boys when he was not being forlornly chased by defensive players or girls after Chrissie McNamara made her feelings known to him, Frankie Riley, our esteemed corner boy leader and a genius organizer, Phil Larkin, Jimmy Murphy, Ralph Kiley, Ricky Russo, Allan Stein, the corner boys although the latter two were not full Irish, but only half Irish got as carried away with Markin’s fresh breeze coming  as he did. Back then when before he “taught” us what it was like to on the cutting edge of the new day we could have, ignorantly to be sure, could have given a rat’s ass about breezes or elections. The routine, the bare necessity routine was girls, cars, and dough and how to get all three or any combination thereof. Markin would continue to spout forth on that subject for another half decade before it did come in the form of the many threads that led up to the Summer of Love, San Francisco, 1967 which Alex James and others have written about in this the 50th anniversary year of that “youth nation” explosion.  By then though we had all been “converted” to the wisdom of Markin’s ideas after he came back to fetch us in the late summer of 1967. 

But long before that breeze came to fruition Markin made us thrill beyond words to be able to say “one of own,” an Irish Catholic had done what Al Smith could not do a few decades before and get elected president in a low-slung Protestant-controlled country. (My grandfather never got over the dirty campaign waged by the “refined” WASPs, the Brahmins, you know the people with the three-name monikers like Wesley Stuart Gardner, names like that who used every Papal Plot lie in the book to down the beleaguered Smith against the heathen Hebert Hoover of Hooverville fame.) Markin made us see that it did not matter that JFK was the scion of “chandelier” Irish unlike our own “shanty” Irish digs. He was ours in all its glory.            
Markin, like in many other such endeavors was the bell-weather for our take on JFK. For getting enthusiastic about the guy, about getting out the vote in our town for our man. I have mentioned above (in the brackets) my belief that even Frankie Riley our leader could have given a rat’s ass about the elections until Markin pulled the plug of our indifference. But once Markin convinced him that the election was important then Frankie got all worked about it. Got things organized. The Scribe was not the guy who would organize the stuff though. Jesus no. He could not organize himself out of a paper bag much less run a political campaign in a large neighborhood. The one time the Scribe did try to organize one of our midnight creeps to get dough when Frankie was out of town was almost a disaster. His plan was great (in fact Frankie would later execute it to perfection) but he “forgot” you needed a few look-outs for the cops when pulling a midnight creep and we almost wound up with a show-down with the cops who were cruising the neighborhood at that hour. So once the Scribe won Frankie over he organized the whole caper.

(By the way many local Acre urban legends have grown up around how the Scribe got his moniker. Here’s the skinny. When he came across town in junior high school to live in the Acre with his family, his mother had grown up in the Acre, he latched onto Frankie the first day somehow. To seal the deal though he wrote something for the school newspaper about a speech that Frankie had given about President Eisenhower in some assembly after he beat Adlai Stevenson the second time. Everybody, teachers especially, agreed that the Scribe’s article was A-one. When I read the article I thought it sounded like Frankie, thieving, scheming, conniving Frankie Riley, had just given the Gettysburg Address or something. Here’s the real reason that Markin got the moniker from that time forward from Frankie (all the way to San Francisco, 1967 when he subsequently “became” the Be-Bop Kid). Markin had written the whole thing. Had written the speech and written the write-up. Pure Frankie conniving).            

Frankie won’t like this but that election of 1960 was also a prime example of the contradictions that would a little over decade later do Markin in and which for many of the rest of us was a close thing between freedom and a dark dungeon. See Markin among his million other thoughts like the fresh breeze and the like was all hopped up about getting rid of nuclear weapons, was all hopped up for the United States to get rid of them unilaterally if necessary. The rest of us, especially Frankie Riley, our esteemed acknowledged leader, thought he was crazy, crazy with the Russian armed to the teeth with similar such weapons. Frankie almost hit the Scribe in Civics class from what I heard when he tried to present the idea in a class discussion. Don’t forget though that we were still seriously hung up on the Cold War stuff we read about and were taught was the real deal in school.

One thing about Markin though was he put his money where his mouth was most of the time. He had heard about a rally, stand-out, vigil or something in Boston, at the Boston Common near the Park Street subway station against nuclear weapons in October of 1960 a few weeks before the election sponsored by a group called SANE, Doctor Spock’s group, some Quakers and other odd-balls. He was determined to go although he expressed some fears that he might be harmed by pro-nuclear weapons people who would see red over the issue. But he did go saying later to us that he had found some kindred spirits who were not afraid unlike a fearful fourteen year old boy and that got him through.

(This is not the place to digress too much about side stuff but Markin’s fear was the subject of a bet between him and Frankie Riley that he would not go. Markin was very proud of winning that bet and would bring it up periodically long after we could have given a rat’s ass about the wager since we were always betting on almost any propositions that struck our fancies. The most infamous bet, a rigged job by Frankie, was when he needed “date” money in high school and he bet the Scribe on how high Tonio at the pizza place we hung out at would fling the pizza after having worked it out with Tonio to fling low. Markin never knew what hit him except he was out about six dollars and Frankie was out with Minnie Murphy doing whatever that night.)

Here’s where the Markin contradiction came in, maybe the human condition contradiction when all is said and done after my own fifty plus years of having gone through my own sets of contradictions. During the television debates between JFK and his Republican opponent, then Vice President Nixon who was later a president in his own right and a common criminal as well Kennedy made a great deal out of some supposed “missile gap” between the United States and Russia that had developed under the Eisenhower-Nixon regime. To our disadvantage. That “gap” was among others things in the number and effectiveness of the American nuclear arsenal. Kennedy’s solution: build more and better such weapons. Totally against what the Scribe had tried do in Boston. Nevertheless the very next weekend after that Boston anti-nuclear weapons rally Markin rounded us up to go up to the North Adamsville Kennedy for President headquarters located in a small shed-like building on the property of the Knights of Columbus and grab a bunch of leaflets to go door to door putting them in mail slots. Of course before the Scribe could take step one Frankie intervened and told the guys to go to the supermarkets, the post office, a couple of banks opened on Saturday in those days before ATMs, the bowling alley and the football fields. That is where they could hand out eye to eye with the receivers their materials. Frankie laughed at Markin and his hokey idea of stuffing leaflets in mail boxes.       

Such were the ups and downs of having “one of our own” getting elected to the White House in sunnier days. And one of our own hipping us to the idea.              

Is this good enough, Frankie?          
Poets' Corner- On Memorial Day For Peace-War And Remembrance 

Not all war poetry can stand the test of literary greatness or longevity but it is almost all very poignant and to the point

Memorial Day Thoughts-Phil Larkin’s War     

Dulce et Decorum Est

Related Poem Content Details

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs, 
And towards our distant rest began to trudge. 
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, 
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; 
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots 
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind. 

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

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

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

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 too 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.  

Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Night- Frankie Out In The Adventure Car Hop Night

YouTube film clip of the Dubs performing the classic Could This Be Magic? to set the mood for this piece. 

By Josh Breslin

Frankie Riley, the old corner boy leader of the crowd, our crowd of the class of 1964 guys who made it and graduated, not all did, a couple wound up serving time in various state pens but that is not the story I want to tell today except that those fallen brothers also imbibed Frankie’s wisdom (else why would they listen to him for they were tougher if not smarter than he was) about what was what in rock and roll music in the days when we had our feet firmly planted in front of Tonio’s Pizza Parlor in North Adamsville, had almost a sixth sense about what songs would and would not make it in the early 1960s night. Knew like the late Billy Bradley, my corner boy when my family lived on the other side of town back then, did in the 1950s elementary school night what would stir the girls enough to get them “going.” And if you don’t understand what “going” meant or what “going and rock and roll together in the same sentence meant then perhaps you should move along. Why else would we listen to Frankie, including those penal tough guys, if it wasn’t to get into some girl’s pants. Otherwise guys like Johnny Blade (and you don’t need much imagination to know what kind of guy and what kind of weapon that moniker meant) and Hacksaw Jackson would have cut of his “fucking head’ (their exact expression and that is a direct quote so don’t censor me or give me the “what for”).

But that was then and this is now and old, now old genie Frankie had given up the swami business long ago for the allure of the law profession which he is even now as I write starting to turn over to his younger partners who are begging just like he did in his turn to show their stuff, to herald the new breeze that the austere law offices of one Francis Xavier Riley and Associates desperately needs to keep their clients happy. In that long meantime I have been the man who has kept the flame of the classic days of rock and roll burning. Especially over the past few years when I have through the miracles of the Internet been able between Amazon and YouTube to find a ton of the music, classics and one-shot wonders of our collective youths and comment on it from the distance of fifty or so years.

I have presented some reviews of that material, mostly the commercially compiled stuff that some astute record companies or their successors have put together to feed the nostalgia frenzy of the cash rich (relatively especially if they are not reduced to throwing their money at doctors and medicines which is cutting into a lot of what I am able to do), on the Rock and Roll Will Never Die blog that a guy named Wolfman Joe had put together trying to reassemble the “youth nation” of the 1960s who lived and died for the music that was then a fresh breeze compared to the deathtrap World War II-drenched music our parents were trying to foist on us.         

That work, those short sketch commentaries, became the subject for conversation between Frankie and me when he started to let go of the law practice (now he is “of counsel” whatever that means except he get a nice cut of all the action that goes through the office without the frenzied work for the dollars) and we would meet every few weeks over at Jack’s in Cambridge where he now lives since the divorce from his third wife, Minnie. So below are some thoughts from the resurrection, Frankie’s term, for his putting his spin on “what was what” fifty or so years ago when even Johnny Blade and Hacksaw Jackson had sense enough to listen to his words if they wanted to get into some frill’s pants.

“Okay, you know the routine by now, or at least the drift of these classic rock reviews. [This is the sixth in the series that I had originally commented on but which Frankie feels he has to put his imprimatur on just like in the old days- JB] The part that starts out with a “tip of the hat” to the hard fact that each generation, each teenage generation that is makes its own tribal customs, mores and language. Then the part that is befuddled by today’s teenage-hood. And then I go scampering back to my teenage-hood, the teenage coming of age of the generation of ‘68 that came of age in the early 1960s and start on some cultural “nugget” from that seemingly pre-historic period. Well this review is no different, except, today we decipher the drive-in restaurant, although really it is the car hops (waitresses) that drive this one.

See, this series of reviews is driven, almost subconsciously driven, by the Edward Hopper Nighthawk-like illustrations on the The Rock ‘n’ Roll Era CDs of this mammoth set of compilations (fifteen, count them, fifteen like there were fifteen times twenty or so songs on each compilation or over three hundred classic worth listening to today. Hell, even Frankie would balk at that possibility). 

In this case it is the drive-in restaurant of blessed teenage memory. For the younger set, or those oldsters who “forgot” that was a restaurant idea driven by car culture, especially the car culture from the golden era of teenage car-dom, the 1950s. Put together cars, cars all flash-painted and fully-chromed, “boss” cars we called them in my working class neighborhood, young restless males, food, and a little off-hand sex, or rather the promise or mist of a promise of it, and you have the real backdrop to the drive-in restaurant. If you really thought about it why else would somebody, anybody who was assumed to be functioning, sit in their cars eating food, and at best ugly food at that, off a tray while seated in their cherry, “boss" 1959 Chevy.

And beside the food, of course, there was the off-hand girl watching (in the other cars with trays hanging off their doors), and the car hop ogling (and propositioning, if you had the nerve, and if your intelligence was good and there was not some 250 pound fullback back-breaker waiting to take her home after work a few cars over with some snarl on his face and daggers in his heart or maybe that poundage pounding you) there was the steady sound of music, rock music, natch, coming from those boomerang speakers in those, need I say it, “boss” automobiles. And that is where all of this gets mixed in.

Of course, just like another time when I was reviewing one of the CDs in this series, and discussing teenage soda fountain life, the mere mention, no, the mere thought of the term “car hop” makes me think of a Frankie story. Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, Frankie from the old hell-fire shipbuilding sunk and gone and it-ain’t-coming-back-again seen better days working class neighborhood where we grew up, or tried to. Frankie who I have already told you I have a thousand stories about, or hope I do. Frankie the most treacherous little bastard that you could ever meet on one day, and the kindest man (better man/child), and not just cheap jack, dime store kindness either, alive the next day. Yeah, that Frankie, my best middle school and high school friend Frankie.

Did I tell you about Joanne, Frankie’s “divine” (his term, without quotation marks) Joanne because she enters, she always in the end enters into these things? Yes, I see that I did back when I was telling you about her little Roy “The Boy” Orbison trick. The one where she kept playing Running Scared endlessly to get Frankie’s dander up. But see while Frankie has really no serious other eyes for the dames except his “divine” Joanne (I insist on putting that divine in quotation marks when telling of Joanne, at least for the first few times I mention her name, even now. Needless to say I questioned, and questioned hard, that designation on more than one occasion to no avail) he is nothing but a high blood-pressured, high-strung shirt-chaser, first class. And the girls liked him, although not for his looks although they were kind of Steve McQueen okay. What they went for him for was his line of patter, first class. Patter, arcane, obscure patter that made me, most of the time, think of fingernails scratching on a blackboard (except when I was hot on his trail trying to imitate him) and his faux “beat” pose (midnight sunglasses, flannel shirt, black chinos, and funky work boots (ditto on the imitation here as well). And not just “beat’ girls liked him, either as you will find out. Certainly Joanne the rose of Tralee was not beat sister (although she was his first wife). 

Well, the long and short of it was that Frankie, late 1963 Frankie, and the...(oh, forget it) Joanne had had their 207th (really that number, or close, since 8th grade) break-up and Frankie was a "free” man. To celebrate this freedom Frankie, Frankie, who was almost as poor as I was but who has a father with a car that he was not too cheap or crazy about to not let Frankie use on occasion, had wheels. Okay, Studebaker wheels but wheels anyway. And he was going to treat me to a drive-in meal as we went cruising the night, the Saturday night, the Saturday be-bop night looking for some frails (read: girls, Frankie had about seven thousand names for them)

Tired (or bored) from cruising the Saturday be-bop night away (meaning girl-less) we hit the local drive-in hot spot, Arnie’s Adventure Car Hop for one last, desperate attempt at happiness (yeah, things were put, Frank and me put anyway, just that melodramatically for every little thing). What I didn’t know was that Frankie, king hell skirt-chaser had his off-hand eye on one of the car hops, Sandy, and as it turned out she was one of those girls who was enamored of his patter (or so I heard later). So he pulled into her station and started to chat her up as we ordered the haute cuisine, And here was the funny thing, now that I saw her up close I could see that she was nothing but a fox (read: “hot” girl).

The not so funny thing was that she was so enamored of Frankie’s patter that he was going to take her home after work. No problem you say. No way, big problem. I was to be left there to catch a ride home while they set sail into that good night. Thanks, Frankie.

Well, I was pretty burned up about it for a while but as always with “charma” Frankie we hooked up again a few days later. And here is where I get a little sweet revenge (although don’t tell him that).

Frankie sat me down at the old town pizza parlor [Tonio’s Pizza Parlor of blessed memory-JB] and told me the whole story and even now, as I recount it, I can’t believe it.

Sandy was a fox, no question, but a married fox, a very married fox, who said she when he first met her that she was about twenty-two and had a kid. Her husband was in the service and she was “lonely” and succumbed to Frankie’s charms. Fair enough, it is a lonely world at times. But wait a minute, I bet you thought that Frankie’s getting mixed up with a married honey with a probably killer husband was the big deal. No way, no way at all. You know, or you can figure out, old Frankie spent the night with Sandy. Again, it's a lonely world sometimes.

The real problem, the real Frankie problem, was once they started to compare biographies and who they knew around town, and didn’t know, it turned out that Sandy, old fox, old married fox with brute husband, old Arnie’s car hop Sandy was some kind of cousin to Joanne, second cousin maybe. And she was no cradle-robber twenty-two (as if you could rob the cradle according to Frankie) but nineteen, almost twenty and was just embarrassed about having a baby in high school and having to go to her "aunt's" to have the child. Moreover, somewhere along the line she and cousin Joanne had had a parting of the ways, a nasty parting of the ways. So sweet as a honey bun Arnie's car hop Sandy, sweet teen-age mother Sandy, was looking for a way to take revenge and Frankie, old king of the night Frankie, was the meat. She had him sized up pretty well, as he admitted to me. And he was sweating this one out like crazy, and swearing everyone within a hundred miles to secrecy. So I’m telling you this is strictest confidence even now fifty years later and long after his divorce from her. Just don’t tell Joanne. Ever.