Michael Hendrick on The Clash – “I Made Joe Strummer Avoid Drugs!”

clashWorldly Readers,
We miss Joe Strummer. Today we listened to The Clash Live At Shea Stadium and it brought back all those years to the Punk Rock days. Joe’s star still shines bright. He will always be missed by many. He was a good man.
In 1980, the start of the Reagan Era, we bundled up and went to the Sears Store at the mall and stood in line to buy our tickets. That is what you did back then. If you got there early, you got a better seat – it was that simple. We ended up with seats around the seventh row or so…good seats but we must have arrived late since we cannot remember who opened the show.
In the early days of punk, band members made a habit of spitting on the crowd while playing live and the pogoing crowds reciprocated moistly.
Like standing in line, it’s just what you did.
With this in mind and the spirit in our hearts, we set out in the cold last days of February (a crueler month than April, really)to get some drugs for the show. Two things daunted us…Reaganomics and a dry spell, translated ‘no money, no drugs’. As oft happened, we ended up at the door of Crazy Timmy. Crazy Timmy is actually the only person so crazy that we don’t have to change his name here…like Ferd. Timmy had been tossed by the Armed Forces after some schizoid incident involving a stolen tank and a German village.
His Section Eight got him plenty of pills – all the wrong kind. Psyche meds were more primitive in the seventies and eighties. They made you fat and sleepy and depressed. Today we have much-improved meds which give wack-jobs the gumption to initiate a school shooting.
Timmy dispensed a variety of pills that we never saw before. Even Timmy didn’t take them but he had to get the prescriptions filled so he could keep claiming his full GI benefits for being nutzed. So we pocketed the crappy tablets. We went there to see if we could get some pot to smoke before the show, actually, but even Timmy had no reef. He bought an ounce a month with his VA check and then cut it up into thirty bags or thirty one, for each day of the month; then he would smoke his way through them in the first week.
The pills were an afterthought because we thought he may have something abuse-ably fun.
The main thing we recall is the solid front they put up; Strummer out front, writhing around the mic-stand as he sang, Paul Simonon laying down the bass with legs spread in shooting stance, Topper Headon banging away on the skins and Mick Jones up there with Strummer, playing off him.
They launched into the London Calling Tour and they rocked the Casbah. Michael Hendrick, who drove us to the show, launched a handful of lithium, depakote and other odd dopamine blockers directly at Strummer’s head. Strummer clocked them coming from his spot at the edge of the stage. He ducked to stage left without missing a note. Hendrick volleyed a second, smaller batch of meds at Joe, who avoided them by ducking to stage right.
Yes, Dear Friends, he avoided the drugs.
We were there and saw it happen.
A great show!
God Bless Joe Strummer. We are not sure about Michael Hendrick.

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The Thing About Hank3

fiendish

Sideways-Swervers, Open-Nervers and Over-turners,

This one is for those of you who think ahead of the game. What we witnessed in the past few decades as american pop music sunk into a stinking slug-hole of stale stars singing shittilly. Hank3 made that same point as regards the country/western genre of american roots music. It was bad enough getting stuck with Achey-Breaky Heart being even described as country music…but to have to put up with the second generation spawn of talentless twits, the likes of Miley Ray Cyrus, is one indignity we prefer not to suffer. Billy Ray named her Destiny Hope Cyrus. We reckon ‘Miley Ray’ sounded a lot homier.

Just like those other blase’ “celebrities” before her who came through the Disney Mind Control Camp, TV-minded youths adore this young lady. Like the rest, she will likely be more well-known for being hospitalized than for any one song she…kaf, kaf…sang…?

On the other side of the coin ,you have somebody like Hank3 who remains largely unpromoted by the mass media and thrives by playing music and being a hands-on traveling man. He gets ignored by mainstream due to, as they said about Hank Williams, his attitude. Like he says, he doesn’t “do lunch.” Somehow, though, you can’t keep a good man down and a recent experience proved that.

Going for a walk yesterday morning, we saw a van in our parking lot with a “Hank3″ sticker plastered prominently on the rear window. When we say the driver approach the van, we asked about the sticker and immediately made friends with ‘Will,’ who we are sure to see at west coast Hank3 concerts when his next record comes out. Will said he wished he could see Hank in the east, where he plays in bars and smaller clubs frequently. That is the only atmosphere we have seen him in, ourselves.

As we talked, Will mentioned Hank’s 2013 record Brothers of the 4X4. We expressed enthusiasm and then he told us about how he has a son, four years old, and when Will drives him someplace in the van, his son always makes him play Lookey Yonder Commin’, a rollicking, happy coon-treeing song and real slice of Americana. Think about that! Hank3 is known for his songs about drugging and boozing, women gone wrong, men gone worse, pills, thrills and his friends who have chilled…permanently. Here we have a four year old child influenced by this happy, tumbling song – which actually contains a lyric in which Hank cuts out the four letters of ‘fuck’ in the name ‘Bumfuck, Idaho!’ He sings, ‘Bum-BEEP, Idaho!’ We asked Will if he saw Hank do the song live and he affirmed to the positive so we asked if the audience yelled ‘fuck’ when Hank sang ‘BEEP’ in that song. 

Will said, “No, but from now on, I am going to!”

And so are we! What we wonder, and is very likely, is if children all over the country are listening to Lookey Yonder Commin’? Maybe sharing it at school during music class sing-a-longs or while playing on the recess yard. Will they forget about it and rediscover it twenty years from now?

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Free Book by Michael Hendrick, “Last Notes From a Tumbleweed Bastard: East to West” – Crazed Author Gives It Away!!!

widmark

Literate Readers,

Our excuse for being away this time is that we have been busy…as usual for the past year or so…

To keep it to the short blog form, we are pleased to announce that a member of our LNTB blog staff is releasing his first of three books in October just before Samhain.  It shall be printed by the Sheradin Press, prestigious publisher of the Paris Review, Cornell University Press and many other upscale publications.

Last Notes From a Tumbleweed Bastard: East to West by Michael Hendrick will be released in Ebook format but a number of hard copies of the journal-sized book will be free for the asking…depending on who asks, and how nicely! If you would like a copy, you can send a request here.

If you want to send Mr. Hendrick a couple bucks for postage, we are sure he will appreciate it.

The volume is a mix of flash fiction and poetry. Half was written along the Eastern Seaboard of the USA and the other half, entirely in the State of Washington during the past year, Hendrick’s first year there. There will be more to come. We asked about the subject and the author was characteristically obstreperous.

“What’s in it?” he laughed, wiping cider from his chin, “I’ll tell you what’s in it. I paid a buck a book for the fucking saddle stitch binding, damn it! I hope they appreciate it when their ‘print on demand’ books start coming unglued in ten years, the ungrateful bastards!…and for free, what in fuck am I thinking? Hell, it’s easier for them to let you push them downstairs in a wheelchair than it is to get them to read a book. Maybe if it’s free, they will read it!”

Don’t be put off by the churlish reply since he does refer to himself as a ‘bastard,’ too…but he has a point, which is that we all need to encourage reading more in ourselves and others. How can you know what is really going on if you do not read?

If you want a copy, get your name in. We will have an email address as well as snail mail address for you to send your requests.

We hope you take advantage of this offer…and do tell your local librarian!!!

liberrian

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The Law, Automatic Weapons and Dead Children at Schools

P1000909Gentle Readers,

We do not want to muddle the message this time so, simply…

If it were not for police and law enforcement agencies in the USA, there would be no legitimate reason for automatic weapons to appear anywhere except military training installations and at war.
Why do police need automatic weapons? Perhaps to kill more tax-payers more quickly. Do police departments possessing automatic weapons ever engage in fire with criminals, using these weapons? In all towns and cities? Really?

If they were not available here to buy, they could not be used by criminals as justification for the police to own them. Why do we rarely hear automatic weapon fire in news videos of domestic police action? If an officer spends hours a week at a target range, why not shoot a perp with a regular gun? That would takes skill…like the type of skill used to shoot somebody in the leg as opposed to in the back when they run…they DO get paid to train at shooting.

Why do they need automatic weapons…really….(the border police can use hand grenades and landmines…they would be much safer for the nation and we are sure the would enjoy watching the videos).

A grim thought for the weekend and sorry for that…but we thought about this before and lately have been reminded…

All Best, Bloggerinos!

this is a free blog so typos are often found within…

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Storage Whores ~ How ‘Sell’-ebrities Devalue Our Treasures

Storage-WarsGentle Readers,
While we enjoy ‘reality tv’s’ foray into the collectibles business, we can’t ignore how they are stealing money from us while we watch them. Reality is now defined by scripted episodes, sort of like professional wrestling only with antiques.
Antiques Roadshow, the premier PBS series on collectibles, presents real opinions by real auction experts who tell real prices on items that any of us may own. We find this to be very interesting and helpful. The once-respectable A&E Network gives us Storage Wars, the once-believable History Channel doles out Pawn Stars (and obviously does not ‘fact check’ stories Rick Harrison tells suckers, er, customers about their soon to be lost valuables) and TruTV, among the most audacious channels, shows Hard Core Pawn.
The premise is the same for all three – somebody makes a mint while somebody else gets screwed. Yes, it sounds like Washington, DC.
Nonetheless, in efforts to lowball the poor stiffs who feed them, items which once held value to us are picked apart, scoffed at, niggled over and usually sold at a huge loss to the poor nitwit who sells it. The other two take place in pawn shops while Storage Wars follows collectors who buy storage bins and sell the priciest items within. If you have watched these shows for a few seasons, you may have noticed that prices are going lower on all the items. Even when figuring out how much an item from storage is worth, a leather jacket will be said to be worth ten dollars. We know damn well they cost more than ten dollars, even used…unless you are very slick and crafty at getting bargains.
On a recent episode (recent to us, anyway) of Pawn Stars, Harrison talked a customer out of a vintage cap gun/holster collection. The seller wanted $250 and ended up taking $65 for the collection of guns and holsters. Last year, we found some old cap gun holsters in out stuff while moving and put them on Ebay, not expecting much. We had three holsters with no guns. One holster had the buckle ripped off and another was missing the gun sheath. We sold them for $350, all together. That was OUR reality!

Do you get the idea?
Our Superman lunchbox with thermos from the sixties used to sell for over $800 to collectors. Thanks to Ebay, the set has fallen to under $500. If anybody finds one on a ‘reality show,’ the reality will be that the price goes down.
Remember…all those idiots on Duck Dynasty grew those beards just for the show!

this is a free blog. as such, expect some typos….
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Who Sent the Private Investigator To Check Us Out???

Originally posted on Last Notes From a Tumbleweed Bastard:

Gentle Readers,

This message is not really for you.

On Friday, a private investigator named Kellie showed up at our Motel. She checked in with no luggage or purse, wearing a short-ish white dress and stylish hair and nails.
She came out of the front desk office and wandered the parkinglot aimlessly for an hour and then went to her room, near mine, when we came out on the balcony to see which room the possible hooker was going to visit.
As it turns, she kept obviously spying on us looking through the open spaces of a luggage rack on a car parked between us.
So, we decided to STARE at her to let her know she was not un-noticed. This prompted her to come over and up the steps to the balcony, where we sat drinking and chatting…about me…all about me…she said she would be gone in the morning…

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Brother-Souls: John Clellon Holmes, Jack Kerouac, and the Beat Generation

Gentle Readers,

This is a free blog. Do not pay for it elsewhere…

We recently passed a watershed moment in modern American literature, as November, 2012, marked sixty years since John Clellon Holmes introduced the term “Beat Generation” in the New York Times Magazine.
To many, this is the sum of all Holmes is known for.
His seminal Beat novel Go, also published sixty years ago (five years ahead of Jack Kerouac‘s On the Road), still remains in the shadow of Kerouac’s first book about those times. As evidenced by one of the most popular social networking websites, the cult of celebrity embraces Kerouac. The various tribute pages devoted to Kerouac see traffic from over a quarter of a million people, while the single page dedicated to Holmes draws slightly more than three hundred followers.
Even people who knew him personally seem oblivious to the facts of his life.
In our last issue, Al Hinkle – who is portrayed as a character in both books – noted that Holmes’ version of the period “is probably the more accurate.” However, Hinkle goes on to speak of Holmes’ first wife, “Marian was the love of John’s life – he never remarried.” The fact is that after divorcing Marian, Holmes married Shirley Radulovich in September, 1953, and the couple remained together until 1988, dying within weeks of each other. Both were victims of cancers attributed to their heavy use of tobacco. These facts are found in the richly informative book Brother-Souls: John Clellon Holmes, Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation by Ann Charters and Samuel Charters, published in 2010 by the University Press of Mississippi.
Brother-Souls gives us a painstakingly accurate account of the intertwined lives of the two men. In so doing, it also unveils a myriad of previously-unknown facts about peripheral personalities like Hinkle, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, Herbert Huncke, Gregory Corso, and many others.
If not for the frequently-noted dates and fastidious footnotes, this work of non-fiction would read like a novel – a novel deserving space on the same shelf between Go and On the Road. While On the Road has its hero in the central figure of Cassady as Dean Moriarty, Go looks at the same period with its focus on Ginsberg as David Stofsky. It is at Ginsberg’s party at his apartment in Spanish Harlem where he, Holmes, and Kerouac initially met in July 1948.
Also in our last issue, Ann Charters mentioned that she and husband Samuel worked on Brother-Souls to “redress that wrong” done to Holmes by Kerouac, when he portrayed the former as “a wimpy rival.” She told us that “It was a difficult book to write but one of its pleasures was the opportunity to give back Holmes his voice as a writer who was an enormous influence on Kerouac.”
It can be argued that the first piece of what would become known as Beat Literature appeared in early 1948 when Holmes published his jazz/slang-infused short story, “Tea for Two,” in Jay Landesman’s magazine, Neurotica. The little magazine founded by St. Louis, Missouri, native Landesman, Neurotica became, in style and spirit, the first Beat-themed literary journal even before the term “Beat” was coined.
A few months earlier, at age twenty-two, he broke into the publishing world with a book review printed in the March, 1948, issue of Poetry magazine. The following year, he sent the first chapters of his novel to Landesman. about the colorful characters in burgeoning Bohemian scene, which flourished around him in New York’s Greenwich Village.
At roughly the same time, he heard stories about another young writer he referred to as “Karawak” in his journal, who had written a novel, The Town and The City. As yet unpublished, the only copy was the fat manuscript typed by Kerouac, which was being passed around and talked about in the literary circles of New York City’s young intellectuals, to which Holmes was privy. Both men met at the party and, after sizing each other up in their perspective journals, soon became fast friends and confidants.
Before reaching this point in the book, the Charters’ not only detail the childhoods of both men but trace their family trees, as well – on one side back to the 1736 death of Maurice-Louis Alexandre Le Bris de Kerouack, and on the other back to 1594, when George Holmes was born in England. Interestingly, Holmes’ family tree included not only one-time presidential candidate John McClellan Holmes, Sr., the celebrated Union general of the Civil War, and the renowned essayist and poet Oliver Wendell Holmes, but also a male ancestor who married a woman from the family in which Ralph Waldo Emerson was born.
Ironies and similarities such as their same birthdate of March 12, (Kerouac was five years older) are recounted, as are vivid shared memories of the Flood of 1936, which Kerouac witnessed from the banks of the Merrimack River in Lowell, Massachusetts. Eighty miles upstream, Holmes watched from the side of the Pemagawassett River, in Plymouth, New Hampshire, as it rose and flowed into the Merrimack, carrying the same waters and debris which neither of them would ever forget.
One early question left open is why they both decided to become writers. The closest thing to an answer may be the “On Spontaneous Prose” section of The Portable Jack Kerouac, edited by Ann Charters and published by Viking Penguin in 1995. Significantly, in that volume, she conceived the idea of tracing Kerouac’s life through a collection of his writings. When she mentioned the project to Holmes, he told her that he had the same idea in 1965. Not long before his death, Holmes suggested that he and Charters collaborate on it but as his health deteriorated, he passed it back to her with his blessings and an offer of help if she needed it.
In Brother-Souls, we have two scribes writing about two other writers. This unique circumstance makes for more than just a diligent study of two convergent writers; it gives insight into their individual writing processes and an insider’s look at the business of writing and publishing in America at that time.
Aside from the usual suspects, we meet Landesman and Gershon Legman. Legman would become editor of Neurotica and his influence on Holmes is noted. Ginsberg had his first “professional” poem published in the sixth issue of Neurotica in 1950. A collaboration written with Kerouac, who took no credit, “Song: Fie My Fum” was met with derision by Legman, who voiced his first impression of the poem by asking, “Did it take two of them to write that piece of shit?” Ginsberg rankled at the fact that Landesman required him to get down on his knees before accepting one of his poems. The poem was four stanzas culled from the poem “Pull My Daisy,” to which some accounts credit shared authorship to Cassady, as well.
Carl Solomon, recently released from New York State Psychiatric Institute where he met Ginsberg, had rented an apartment, and as suggested by former institute-roomie Ginsberg, threw a New Year’s party to usher in 1950. Landesman showed up with Holmes and was initially attracted by Solomon’s “certifiable” state of insanity and his experience with electroshock treatments but, when approached, Solomon steered him towards Ginsberg and Kerouac as being better choices for writers. Just before this scene, we are treated to a look at the meeting of Ginsberg and Solomon, for whom “Howl” was dedicated.
The Charters’ follow Ginsberg to his meeting with William Carlos Williams who advises him to, drop rhyming metric poetry, in favor of the “variable breath-stop length for metric measurement” as well as looking to his own experiences for the subject matter in his poems.
We see Holmes quickly establish himself as an “accepted” poet by 1950, with submissions published in Partisan Review and Harper’s magazines. However, in order to satisfy himself as being a real writer, he felt the novel was the form that he needed to master. To this end, he kept copious journals of the events of his life and of those around him. These were the source material for the chapters of Go which he sent to Landesman in 1949. Always generous with his friends, Holmes tried to help Ginsberg by sending his poems to his editor at Partisan Review. He also spent his time offering encouragement to Kerouac, who was also trying to find his voice in his “road novel” while trying to find a publisher for The Town and the City. During 1950-51, while Holmes wrote Go, Kerouac visited his apartment daily, to drink, talk, and – most importantly – read the novel page by page as it issued from Holmes’ typewriter. It is very likely, On the Road, given these circumstances, may never have found a form were it not for the encouragement and example given by the younger Holmes.
While this review/essay is not written to “kneecap” Kerouac, we have to wonder if (after all the ballyhoo, Gap adverts, Facebook pages, and movie treatments) the progression and continued adulation of the Beat Generation as we know it would even have been possible without Holmes. While Ginsberg is typically seen as the gadfly of the collected group of writers, throwing parties and initiating meetings, it was Holmes who opened the doors to Neurotica for them. Any writer knows the magnitude of the importance of publishing their first piece of work outside of school, and in a professional publication. Few things are more encouraging than seeing your own name in print for the first time.
To a group of writers who unashamedly pushed the limits of sanity, to whom mental instability actually became a badge of honor, the steep precipice of self-doubt reached by the constant rejection of one’s work could be the hardest hurdle to clear. By coincidentally meeting Landesman, Legman, Kerouac, and Ginsberg all in that same July weekend, could Holmes have been the spark that was necessary to set off the Beat firecracker? Perhaps the truest irony of his depiction as “wimpy” is that he is the most obvious catalyst which brought them all exposure.
Neal Cassady is most often seen as the touchstone at the center of the group, although it has been said that they all would have followed Burroughs anywhere he went. The more we unravel Cassady, the less grand of a person he becomes. Holmes mentions the black and blue marks left by Cassady, on LuAnne Henderson. His capacity for mental cruelty and abandoning wives and friends at crucial times most likely stems from his own abandonment by his father in Denver, Colorado. Holmes stayed steady in his support of Kerouac’s work, even as the latter heralded Cassady as the superior writer in the group and referred to him in a letter as his “only true friend.” Cassady responded in kind, in his usual manner, by abandoning him in Mexico City, sick with fever and dysentery.
In his moodiness, Kerouac’s misanthropy also got the best of him. Shouting matches between he and Holmes kept to an intellectual level. In barrooms, he was severely beaten more than once, thanks to his mouth and temper but especially as his alcoholic deterioration worsened. Holmes became hesitant to tell him about advances he got from publishers, for fear of setting him off. One point that Kerouac dwelt on during his struggles with On the Road was that Holmes “had no right to write a book about everyone’s private lives.” Both men were doing the same thing, writing about the same people and situations from different angles. Reading Go as it was written page by page kept him from duplicating scenes already covered by Holmes – but working around another serious writer could be enervating for anyone.
In all fairness to Kerouac, artists who show genius, often do so to express what they cannot in normal life and interpersonal relationships. As artists, writers may plumb themselves to reach those recesses and depths of feeling which are too painful or impossible to relate in any other way. In his essay “Are Writers Born or Made?” he distinguished between talent and genius, observing that many may show “talent” but genius is the rarity. “Geniuses can be scintillating and geniuses can be somber,” he noted, “but it’s that inescapable sorrowful depth that shines through – originality.”
While we appreciate the work they leave behind, the inner torment they endure is not a pretty thing – consider Van Gogh disfiguring himself, Rimbaud cultivating head lice “to throw on passing clergymen,” or Artaud’s claim to having been “suicided by society.” Holmes may have sealed his own fate by being too well-mannered. After all, we learn that Holmes was the only one of Kerouac’s friends that his mother Memère did not dislike.
Nonetheless, about three weeks after Holmes finished the last pages of Go, Kerouac became inspired by a letter from Cassady which turned into a rabid series of letters between them. The excitement of these exchanges prompted him to pull all of his notes together and unleash the torrent within upon the now-famous scroll he fed through his typewriter. It seems safe to say that while Cassady sparked him to action, Holmes laid the foundation during those daily visits. The resulting three-week period of speed, coffee, and typing which resulted in On the Road has since snowballed into an oft-told tale, but Brother-Souls reminds the reader that this was not all spontaneous prose. Kerouac’s fastidious habit of keeping notebooks provided for a vast amount of his material.
Between the five years, from the writing to its publication in 1957, the details and struggles of both men’s lives and work come to life in print. Meanwhile, other key events fall into place: Ginsberg meets his life-long companion, Peter Orlovsky; there is the first reading of Ginsberg’s poem “Howl for Carl Solomon” at 6 Gallery; Kerouac writes and details the remaining six books of the “Legend of Duluoz” along with three other volumes; the first complete reading of “Howl” takes place (and is attended by Samuel Charters); and the Beat Movement goes mainstream. While most of the key players became victims of the fame, Ginsberg used it to his advantage.
When City Lights got charged with obscenity for distributing Howl and Other Poems, more fuel was added to the fire – especially when presiding Judge Clayton W. Horn ruled it to be not obscene. Curiously, Ginsberg slighted Holmes with the omission of his name from the dedication page. Kerouac, Burroughs, and Cassady got a nod from the poet, placing them forever in the highest order of Beats. Holmes had gone out of his way to get Ginsberg published, sending his work to New Directions after his editor at Partisan Review passed on it, as well as paying the grand compliment of making him the central character in Go. The depiction of Ginsberg in the book posits a good theory as to why he was snubbed. Kerouac had called Holmes “savage” in his treatment of the people he wrote about. Ginsberg for his part, had been disappointed in the account of his Blakean vision but, at the same time admitted to the veracity of the portrayal of himself.
“You really haven’t caught the way it felt,” he told Holmes, “but you’ve caught something else. You’ve caught the solemn funny little kid I guess I must have been in those days.” It seems that no amount of speculation will ever get to the heart of it but the glaring fact of Holmes’ exclusion from the dedication and the hurtfulness of the action cannot be overlooked. The Charters’ attribute some of it to Holmes distancing himself by leaving New York to live in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, but Cassady and Burroughs were both much further removed geographically.
Six months after the appearance of On the Road, Kerouac published The Subterraneans (to be followed in another six months by The Dharma Bums), heightening his fame but not his luck. With money in his pocket for a change, he traveled out of the United States. As usual, he quickly returned to New York to stay close to his mother. One night, while trying to reach the proper degree of stupor in a local bar, he sustained a broken nose and arm from a beating by a homosexual professional boxer, who claimed he had slurred an insult at him. Later, the depiction of Cassady as pothead led to his arrest and imprisonment.
The whole Beat scene, which thrived in the underground, exploded across the media in 1958, meeting curiosity, admiration, and derision. The term “Beatnik” popped up – a poke in the eye, as it was spawned from the name “Sputnik,” the space craft launched by Russia. Nothing linked to Russia could be good in those days. To word irked both men, as they saw it as a symbol of the manipulation, commercialization, and degradation of their once-pure vision. Every critic, pundit, journalist, and magazine writer had something to say about the phenomenon, ranging from suspicions of dangerous revolutions and proliferation of juvenile delinquents to dismissals of idle young hipsters with nothing important to do in life. Holmes had left the United States with Shirley on December 12, 1957, to realize his dream of traveling in Europe for two months, funded by an advance he received for his “jazz” book, The Horn.
While working on Perfect Fools, his follow-up novel to Go, he published a short story which would become The Horn‘s first chapter in the August, 1953, issue of Discovery magazine. The second chapter appeared in Nugget, in October 1956. With the rejection Perfect Fools by Scribners’, his spirits sank. He put his energy into writing the “jazz novel,” writing the remainder between spring, 1956, and fall of 1957. Although relations between he and Kerouac were deteriorating, Kerouac kept a promise and wrote a letter praising the novel to Hiram Hayden at Random House two months after the release of On the Road.John Holmes 1947
Accepted immediately and published in July 1958, it sported a recommendation from Kerouac on the cover. Despite the ongoing “Beat frenzy,” sales were moderate, likely due to July traditionally being a slow month for sales or perhaps getting lost among the wave of second-rate, imitation Beat-themed books which flooded the market – potboilers written to cash in on the trend. Selling well enough to require a second printing, mainstream reviews failed to reach the depth of it but it was warmly embraced by the cognoscente, including Studs Terkel and Ralph Gleason. Landesman read it on radio in St. Louis for half an hour, showing how taken he was with it.
Perhaps the most ambitious and meticulously-constructed of all the Beat novels, The Horn fascinates, not just by intricacy, but in the marvel of a writer dreaming up such a concept. As for structure, it is the only “true novel” that either he or Kerouac ever produced, not being based on their real-life experiences. In fact, it cannot really be classified as “Beat.” As Holmes wrote, regarding the reviews, “The Beat Generation tag has been either ignored (it having nothing to do with the book), or mentioned only in passing, for which I am grateful.” Even attempting to describe it presents a daunting task, so here we rely on excerpts from Brother-Souls, first with this section from Holmes’ journals…

The real origin of the book…lay in my feeling that the jazz artist was the quintessential American artist – that is, that his work hang-ups, his personal neglect by his country, his continual struggle for money, the debasement of his vision by the mean streets, his oft times descent into drugs, liquor, and self-destructiveness – all this seemed to me to typify the experience of our great 19th Century American writers: Poe’s loneliness, drunkenness and obscurity; Melville’s half-of-life anonymity; Hawthorne’s hermit years; Emily Dickinson’s spinster-bedroom full of immortal poems; Mark Twain’s wastage of so much of his talent on get-rich-quick schemes; Whitman’s decision to stay with the trolley drivers and whores and good old boys from whom his work took so much sustenance. The novel as it evolved, then, was to be about the American-as-artist.

A month earlier, he explained in a letter:

“I was working on three levels at the same time. I wanted each of these characters to represent an American writer, which is the only reason why I put those two little epigraphs in front of each chapter. But I also wanted him to represent a particular kind of jazz musician, and I had to create a fictional character doing these things, so that Edgar Pool, for instance, is Edgar Allen Poe.”

Now we give part of the synopsis by Charters/Charters – but note that these are just mere snatches taken from the in-depth explanation they provide, much of what was missed by many initial reviews.

Holmes structured it:
As a kind of dual narrative, each of the narrative streams illustrating and complementing the other. Each of the major characters was introduced in chapters titled “Chorus,” and the choruses alternated with chapters titled “Riff,” which told the novel’s story…Holmes preceded each Chorus with a quotation from one of the nineteenth-century American writers who had given him the novel’s theme. With the quotations he was suggesting an identification in each chapter between the jazz musician and the individual writer, and he tied the substance of the quotation as closely as he could to the chapter itself…
The quotation for the first Chorus is from Thoreau, and the name of the musician is Walden Blue. “Walden” is an obvious allusion to Thoreau’s Walden and “Blue” as clearly identifies him as a musician…
The second Chorus introduces an alto saxophonist named Eddie Wingfield“Wings” Redburn. The quotation is taken from Melville, whose fourth novel was titled Redburn…
A quotation from Hawthorne introduces the Chorus representing the pianist Junious Priest…the musician who was the model for Junius was the avant-garde jazz pianist Thelonious Monk…
The central woman figure…is a singer named “Geordie Dickson,” who is locked in a despairing, unending relationship with the novel’s main protagonist, the tenor saxophonist Edgar Pool…a combination of singer Billie Holiday and Emily Dickinson…
The name of the trumpeter Curny Finnley is derived from the archetypal figure “Huckelberry Finn,” and the Chorus introducing him opens with a quotation from Finn’s creator, Mark Twain…Curny Finnley…was in part modeled on trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie…
The Chorus introducing the tenor saxophonist Metro Myland opens with a quotation from Walt Whitman…”Myland” is an allusion to Whitman’s personal sense of his Americanism, of the nation as “My land”…Metro, for Holmes, was “just any great big yawping tenor sax player, but he’s also Walt Whitman”…
The final two Choruses portray Pool’s last hours…from the doomed, desperate Edgar Allen Poe. Holmes’ comment on the character of Pool was that his novelistic character was, of course, Lester Young, but also Poe…
As an aid to himself in clarifying the book’s structure, Holmes wrote the Choruses first, which described his principal figures. He then wrote the Riffs sections, creating the narrative around his fictitious characters…

Here, it is significant to note that tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Lester Young inspired Ginsberg’s creation of “Howl” when the poet wrote several verses in a vocal imitation of Young’s chorus-on-chorus jazz progression, the succession of verses building upon each other and raising the rhythmic energy to an ecstatic level. In a 1968 interview with Michael Aldrich, Ginsberg refers to one of the jazz man’s signature songs, “Lester Young was what I was thinking about… ‘Howl’ is all ‘Lester Leaps In.’”
The “jazz book” idea provided fodder for many of the vociferous conversations between Holmes and Kerouac. The recognition of its brilliance only grows with time, as will the brilliance of Brother-Souls.
In 1958, while Kerouac felt his first anxiety over waiting for royalties from the movie version of On the Road (a state of anxiety similarly affected Kerouac fans that waited impatiently until 2012 for its release), Holmes grew increasingly frustrated with the media attention and his realization that the movement they had created ultimately distanced the once close-knit pair. He also bristled at being used as a substitute spokesman for The Beat Generation and the perception of himself as a replacement for Kerouac when the latter could not be found. In spite of this they still kept in touch via letters, proving the true durability of their friendship.
Holmes The HornHolmes would face his own problems later that year, in the bleak state of his finances and the emotional turmoil that engulfed him when his father suffered a heart attack in October, forcing an end to years of estrangement. At their home in Old Saybrook, he and Shirley were just about to run out of firewood as the toughest part of the cruel New England winter fell upon them. Luckily, relief came when friends going on vacation asked them to sit their house.
In early February, Landesman sent a hundred dollars in a letter after hearing about their difficulties. These acts of kindness helped them through the winter, and in May, they were able to return to visit New York when Landesman staged the first and only Beat musical, The Nervous Set, and all performances sold-out. Kerouac showed up at the theater drunk and promptly fell asleep in his seat, vanishing during the intermission. The trip gave them some respite but in July a rush-hour accident on the New Jersey Turnpike put his father back in the hospital in Camden and one of his hands had to be amputated as a result. In the days that followed, a stroke paralyzed half of his father’s body.
Weeks spent keeping vigil at the bedside, trying to help nurse his father back to health led to exhaustion and near the end of August, John McClellan Holmes Sr., after weeks of suffering and staring at the stump of his hand, lost the will to live and passed away.
Although their relationship was frequently antagonistic, the event haunted the junior Holmes (who had taken “Clellon” as a pen-name to allay confusion with the well-known poet, John Holmes) for years. He wrote about the experience in the poem “Too-Late Words for My Father,” which he completed years later, in 1973. Old friend Alan Harrington, novelist and On the Road character, helped him with the hospital expenses. The chronic emotional devastation left him unable to write much outside of his journals and he slipped into one of the most unproductive periods of his life. Days spent drinking and arguing with Shirley exacerbated the situation. An unpaid electric bill for eight dollars forced him to hide upstairs when the electric company worker came to shut off his power in September of 1961 and the following month he was arrested for shoplifting a few dollars worth of groceries at a local market. The local press used the story to lampoon him with an embarrassing, supposedly-funny headline.
At this point something snapped inside him. A lesser man may have acted out against himself but in Holmes’ case, the situation forced him to pull himself together, deal with his creative block and begin writing again. As is often the case, a great man finds his true measure at the worst of times, not the best. It is also worth noting that through it all, Shirley stayed with him, working where she could to support them both. Holmes appears to have been one of the few of his peers to maintain a traditional “’til death do we part” relationship.
His turn back to the positive side spurred an equally positive reaction from magazines he submitted his work to, after braving it through a short period of rejected stories. Around the time he came to terms with the fact that his novels would never bring him as much fame as his poetry and non-fiction, he won Playboy magazine’s Best Non-Fiction award for 1964, with the essay, “Revolution Below the Belt.” This shows how deeply Legman had influenced him with his fixation on all things sexual years earlier.
His sister Liz, also a writer, made the acquaintance of Nelson Algren, author of the groundbreaking novels, A Walk on the Wild Side and The Man with the Golden Arm. During this period of regeneration, she introduced the pair. Once again, he enjoyed the luxury of intellectual stimulation that is peculiar to like-minded writers. For his part, Algren equally valued conversation with a mind sharp enough to write a book like The Horn.
Although he appeared the stronger of the two “brothers,” Kerouac never found his feet once he started balancing them on bottles. The sad facts of his self-immolation fill pages and support a variation on one of Legman’s favorite themes – that violence in modern society results directly from the repression of our sexuality. In his case, the violence turned inward and bespeaks the result of not being able to fully love a woman in a true manner. Sex is more than just a function of the genitalia. It is an outward expression of love and tenderness. He loved his mother, there is no doubting that, but his inability to correlate love and sex (the Cassadian logic of all people being apples and we just need to pick them and eat them as we will) may have been his undoing. This is not something Ann and Samuel Charters broach in the book but this writer’s attempt at explaining his trip from top of the heap to bottom of the glass.
Although we suggest that Holmes sparked the kindling that ignited the Beat fire, it is commonly accepted that Kerouac is responsible for the Beat Movement gaining the momentum to be a worldwide cultural revolution, these sixty years later. He is the primary visual symbol. He is the face of it today, not the angelic hipster Cassady, whose death from exposure in the Mexican night froze “blood on the tracks” after he bridged the generation gap between Beat and Hippie; not even Ginsberg who may have been the most prolific producer of the lot. His radicalism and homosexuality may have been off-putting to a straight society.
Kerouac – the older brother who died as the younger, the televised, the Adonis – he is the symbol who put a face on the new culture at the piano with Steve Allen speaking cool and hip and mellifluous.
The triumph of Holmes’ later years overshadows the misery of those when he was beaten-down Beat, in the truest sense of the word. The world of academia sought him out and he accepted residencies at several fine schools. Never giving up on the novel, he produced two more, Get Home Free in 1964 and Nothing More to Declare in 1967. More books appeared posthumously. He enjoyed the company of his old cronies when Ginsberg brought them together at Naropa Institute, for a celebration of Kerouac’s work on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication, of On the Road in 1982. His dedication to his craft supplied him with purpose and a way to communicate while fighting a recurrent cancer when it robbed his frantic gift of speech.
He survived nineteen years after Kerouac and twenty after Cassady. In March, 1988, he died at age sixty-two, his beloved wife Shirley with him as ever. In death, as in life, she followed him just two weeks later, a common fate of couples who share a true love. Earlier in the year, he learned that three of his novels would soon be reprinted on Thunder Mouth Press. So with his once-greatest fear of vanishing “without leaving some trace,” this surely gave him strength even as mortality fleeted.
To paraphrase Kerouac’s paraphrasing in “Are Writers Born or Made?” – It ain’t whatcha live, it’s the way atcha live it.
This reviewer hopes the reader bears in mind that this piece may seem full of facts but it is only a fraction, less than even a fiftieth, of pages presented in Brother-Souls. In the entire canon of Beat books, it is arguably the single, most comprehensive view of the scene as it unfolded – and absolutely the most authoritative work on Holmes and Kerouac. It is the only book which comes to mind where the footnote pages themselves are a treat to read.
We come away from reading it with the feeling of just completing a course in history, absorbing enough to get an A+ on the subject. If some obvious facts are missing here, it is simply because we chose to focus primarily on Holmes, then Kerouac and the others.
We first became aware of Ann Charters in 1973, when her biography on Kerouac (with Samuel Charters) became widely celebrated and instantly considered as the definitive book on him. While relishing the blues of Lightnin’ Hopkins since the 1970s and growing up with the music of Country Joe and the Fish even earlier on life’s soundtrack, we only recently discovered our ignorance of the fact that Samuel Charters had a hand in delivering these important sounds. A Grammy award winner, he produced five of the six Country Joe LPs. In 1959, with Ann in tow, he found Hopkins in Houston, Texas, and did field recordings of him. These were released on the Folkways label and led to a rediscovery by an appreciative new audience
At last count, eighteen books credit him as author. This is aside from collaborations listed in the thirty-book bibliography of Ann Charters, printed in our last issue. The count does not include Portents, the self-published small-press they ran in the 1960s. In literature and music the couple are a national treasure, both gifted individually and as a team. She is also an accomplished, recorded ragtime pianist. A recently-posted Youtube video (you can find it on http://www.beatdom.com) shows them working together, reading poetry at a Beat event in England earlier this year.
Ann Charters and Samuel Charters did more than write a large part of Brother-Souls, they lived it and witnessed it first-hand.
Buy it! The book, not a blog! All rights reserved by Michael Hendrick.

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Who Sent the Private Investigator To Check Us Out??? Where Is Old Snarly?

Gentle Readers,

This message is not really for you.

We are dropping the editorial ‘us’ in parts to make it less confusing. We think Cynthia Oldsnarly may have sent them.

On Friday, a private investigator named Kellie showed up at our Motel. She checked in with no luggage or purse, wearing a short-ish white dress and stylish hair and nails.
She came out of the front desk office and wandered the parkinglot aimlessly for an hour and then went to her room, near mine, when I came out on the balcony to see which room the possible hooker was going to visit.
As it turns she kept obviously spying on me, looking through the open spaces of a luggage rack on a car parked between us.
So, I decided to STARE at her to let her know she was not un-noticed. This prompted her to come over and up the steps to the balcony, where we sat drinking and chatting…about me…all about me…she said she would be gone in the morning and i watched her leave on foot, no luggage or purse, just a copy of Beatdom we gave her to read…

She kept me up talking about myself until 3am. We did not talk adult topics or any such shit…so why do people spy? why do they lie? why do they not be real in 2014????

funny thing is…we hide nothing, as all you kind readers know…and any import given to us is undeserved, since we are morons.

best from the staff!

*tis is a free blog…if you see typos, live with it or contact us about our exclusive paid blog!!!!!

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For ‘Lit Undressed: Fashion In Literature’…My Favorite Bellbottoms

Gentle Readers and Friends of Flesh and Republished Blogs,

We have been tied up in many projects of late and the Fall performance by the Lit Undressed group of Omaha, NE, looms large in our headlights. The Omaha Lit Fest, a wonderful event and one of the many cultural offerings to be found in the ‘NoDo’ (Northern Downtown) area of Omaha, is partly funded by the Nebraska Council for the Arts, as well as many other community-minded organizations. Omaha seems like a great place to live. The more we hear about it, the more we find to like.

The event takes place October 13-15 and rehearsals started this week. Here is a brief summary of the event, this go-round:

The focus of this year’s (downtown) Omaha lit fest is Silk & Sawdust, the heart and mechanics and literature. Authors will participate in panels, readings and discussions to lift the corner of the curtain on their methods and processes, and look at the literal tools of production—including book-making and design, and our curious nostalgia for the typewriter.

Included in this theme are fashions of famous literary characters—from the Tin Woodman’s heart of silk and sawdust in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, to Jay Gatsby’s pink rag of a suit in The Great Gatsby, to Jane Eyre’s grey and black gowns and Virginia Woolf’s explanation of fashion in Orlando, fashion plays a major role in many characters’ roles and sometimes the storyline.

When presented with ‘fashion’ as a subject, we immediately blogged about old shoes…a more recent blog which can be found by searching on this page. This time, we decided to write about…well, you can read the title….

My Favorite Bellbottoms

Getting my money’s worth out of the Nehru shirt I purchased was no easy feat. It could not be worn to catholic school because it would not work with a tie. Too nice to wear while out playing in the fields, there was no way my parents would let it see the inside of a church. If the flag of rebellious dress was to be foisted, the bellbottom jeans became the banner to wear.
There were many styles to choose from. Colored denim, red with black patch pockets, for example, were becoming passe’ as the low-riding, button fly, hip-hugger style with the slit pockets and wide flare took top wrung on the fashion ladder. I stuck with the zipping fly, being more practical than trendy. ‘Landlubbers’ was the brand of choice for the hip. Headshops and other counterculture stores sold them, while you could buy Wrangler, Lee and other popular brands, not near as cool, at Sears and other ‘straight’ stores.

Landlubber Jeans also advertised in Rolling Stone, so they had to be good. Dylan, Robert Plant, the Allman Brothers, the Rolling Stones…they all wore Landlubbers.
Eventually, the company expanded from jeans to corduroy offerings.
Worn correctly, they had to be long enough…preferrably, slightly too long. The ideal pair had the heels worn away at the back bottom seam from being tread under bare feet, platform shoes or a pair of Dingo boots with a metal ring on the side, as advertised in Rolling Stone!
Being well over six feet tall, I preferred Dingos and often enjoyed the sight of a friend caught in mud in the middle of a cornfield, trapped by thick sole and heels which had settled into plowed Earth as we stood in a circle and puffed. Enough said about The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys!
At first, bells were available in denim only, which presented a quandry in that denim jeans were ‘play clothes’. For school wear, we had the loud plaid pants with the wide cuffs which fell across the top of our platform shoes. Play clothes stuck around until replaced when worn out. School clothes needed to be new each year. This led many to cut straight-legged jeans up the inseam to the knee and insert a triangle of fabric to make the leg ‘flare’ into a ‘bell’. My mom was not going in for this. It was by skipping lunch and saving bus money by hitch-hiking to school that cash to get a store-bought pair became available.
At the headshop, stacked in neat piles between the vintage WWII gear, which was also en vogue, the slacks beaconed. The wide-wale corduroy, low-rise, slit-pocket with the little flowers, known as ‘Keith Richards pants’ due to a popular photo of him wearing them, proved the perfect ticket to trendiness. Not denim, the nuns could not say a word about them being jeans, just like they could not argue that the black ‘tails’ I kept hanging in my locker for daily wear was not a ‘jacket’. In retrospect, certainly I looked like an ass. This was done purposely to rile the ‘squares’ and the nuns, especially. They had dominated what we wore for all of grammar school and now, in high school, we could fight back. Brandishing the only tattoo on a student – a homemade starfish on my left hand – I had already trumped authority at 16 years of age. With hair to my shoulders, they didn’t even notice the earring. This was 1973.
The Nehru sold at a garage sale but those cords wore down to a frazzle. They attracted attention. Every non-polite epithet for ‘homosexual’ was hurled at me while hitch-hiking in such style…but when you are young, you like the attention! Now, everybody has tattoos and earrings. The starfish was surgically removed around 1990 and the earring came out long before. Both became too popular among the same group they used to annoy. Too old to wear three pairs of boxer shorts, and the tops of my jeans at mid-thigh to reveal them, soon I begin my 55th year…that may sound old to some but I would not be young again, if given the chance…I would miss growing up in the 1960s… things were much more fun.

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Cancer On My Sole

cancersole

We have started another blog to deal with a more specific topic.

We will still post here but invite you to read Cancer On My Sole, http://www.cancersole.wordpress.com, if you are interested in cancer and surviving it.

Thanks!!!

 

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