Darling dears, oh how they trouble me
with all this nonsense and effrontery
to every single sensibility
to act as though we’re wedded to a cause
without the mind to question what it was
that brought us to this mess where we’ve arrived
and how it was that ever though we thrived
for times were better once than they are now
and times were worse, though some do not know how
or understand the history of the thing
and so sold the gold to buy the diamond ring
and screaming all the while to eat the rich
I’ve got to go and fill my candy dish
they say we’ve got to care and yet rise up
do they know that would mean we’d break their cup?
How do we undo all the damage that they’ve done?
They’re giving up their freedoms one by one,
wasting time on causes long since won,
they talk of issues that were handed down
they fight their parent’s fights and damn near drown
in politics and issues decades old
seeing not the thin facade that they’ve been sold,
next week they’ll burn their bras, protest the draft
and conjure Gerry G. back from the dead
still saying damn the man, they and piss and moan
while clawing over one another to the throne
on and on and on and on they drone
look at this great-good game that they talk
they’ve argued all the way around the block
and carried just the flags they were allowed
these things are the accepted things to bitch about.
October in the Rail Road Earth
There was a little alley in San Francisco back of the Southern Pacific station at Third and Townsend in redbrick of drowsy lazy afternoons with everybody at work in offices in the air you feel the impending rush of their commuter frenzy as soon they’ll be charging en masse from Market and Sansome buildings on foot and in buses and all well-dressed thru workingman Frisco of Walkup, truck drivers and even the poor grime-bemarked Third Street of lost bums even Negros so hopeless and long left East and meanings of responsibility and try that now all they do is stand there spitting in the broken glass sometimes fifty in one afternoon against one wall at Third and Howard and here’s allthese Millbrae and San Carlos neat-necktied producers and commuters of America and Steel civilization rushing by with San Francisco Chronicles and green Call-Bulletins not even enough time to be disdainful, they’ve got to catch 130, 132, 134, 136 all the way up to 146 till the time of evening supper in homes of the railroad earth when high in the sky the magic stars ride above the following hotshot freight trains–it’s all in California, it’s all a sea, I swim out of it in afternoons of sun hot meditation in my jeans with head on handkerchief on brakeman’s lantern or (if not working) on book, I look up at blue sky of perfect lostpurity and feel the warp of wood of old America beneath me and I have insane conversations with Negroes in second-story windows above and everything is pouring in, the switching moves of boxcars in that little alley which is so much like the alleys of Lowell and I hear far off in the sense of coming night that engine calling our mountains.
But it was that beautiful cut of clouds I could always see above the little S.P. alley, puffs floating by from Oakland or the Gate of Marin to the north or San Jose south, the clarity of Cal to break your heart. It was the fantastic drowse and drum hum of lum mum afternoon nathin’ to do, ole Frisco with end of land sadness–the people–the alley full of trucks and cars of businesses nearabouts and nobody knew or far from cared who I was all my life three thousand five hundred miles from birth-O opened up and at last belonged to me in Great America.
Now it’s night in Third Street the keen little neons and also yellow bulblights of impossible-to-believe flops with dark ruined shadows moving back of tom yellow shades like a degenerate China with no money-the cats in Annie’s Alley, the flop comes on, moans, rolls, the street is loaded with darkness. Blue sky above with stars hanging high over old hotel roofs and blowers of hotels moaning out dusts of interior, the grime inside the word in mouths falling out tooth by tooth, the reading rooms tick tock bigclock with creak chair and slantboards and old faces looking up over rimless spectacles bought in some West Virginia or Florida or Liverpool England pawnshop long before I was born and across rains they’ve come to the end of the land sadness end of the world gladness all you San Franciscos will have to fall eventually and burn again. But I’m walking and one night a bum fell into the hole of the construction job where they’re tearing a sewer by day the husky Pacific & Electric youths in torn jeans who work there often I think of going up to some of ’em like say blond ones with wild hair and tom shirts and say “You oughta apply for the railroad it’s much easier work you don’t stand around the street all day and you get much more pay” but this bum fell in the hole you saw his foot stick out, a British MG also driven by some eccentric once backed into the hole and as I came home from a long Saturday afternoon local to Hollister out of San Jose miles away across verdurous fields of prune and juice joy here’s this British MG backed and legs up wheels up into a pit and bums and cops standing around right outside the coffee shop-it was the way they fenced it but he never had the nerve to do it due to the fact that he had no money and nowhere to go and O his father was dead and O his mother was dead and O his sister was dead and O his whereabout was dead was dead but and then at that time also I lay in my room on long Saturday afternoons listening to Jumpin’ George with my fifth of Tokay no tea and just under the sheets laughed to hear the crazy music “Mama, he treats your daughter mean,”Mama, Papa, and don’t you come in here I’ll kill you etc. getting high by myself in room glooms and all wondrous knowing about the Negro the essential American out there always finding his solace his meaning in the fellaheen street
and not in abstract morality and even when he has a church you see the pastor out front bowing to the ladies on the make you hear his great vibrant voice on the sunny Sunday afternoon sidewalk full of sexual vibratos saying “Why yes Mam but de gospel do say that man was born of woman’s womb-” and no and so by that time I come crawling out of my warmsack and hit the street when I see the railroad ain’t gonna call me till 5 AM Sunday morn probably for a local out of Bay Shore in fact always for a local out of Bay Shore and I go to the wailbar of all the wildbars in the world
the one and only Third-and-Howard and there I go in and drink with the madmen and if I get drunk I git.
The whore who come up to me in there the night I was there with Al Buckle and said to me “You wanta play with me tonight Jim, and?” and I didn’t think I had enough money and later told this to Charley Low and he laughed and said “How do you know she wanted money always take the chance that she might be out just for love or just out for love you know what I mean man don’t be a sucker.” She was a goodlooking doll and said “How would you like to oolyakoo with me mon?” and I stood there like a jerk and in fact bought drink got drink drunk that night and in the 299 Club I was hit by the proprietor the band breaking up the fight before I had a chance to decide to hit him back which I didn’t do and out on the street I tried to rush back in but they had locked the door and were looking at me thru the forbidden glass in the door with faces like undersea––I should have played with her shurrouruuruuruuruuruuruurkdiei.
– Jack Kerouac
Featured image: Rail Town, Tracy, California
In 1957, photographer Richard Avedon had a photoshoot with actress Marilyn Monroe, already one of the most photographed women in history, to take some pictures to help promote the release of her new film with Sir Lawrence Olivier, “The Prince and the Showgirl”, and to some, the results were stunning.
I’ve never seen that film. I would not call myself a “Marilyn Monroe fan” in terms of her films or work. Many years ago, decades, I’m pretty sure I managed to watch the film “The Seven Year Itch” to completion, though I couldn’t tell you how it ends. I’ve seen some of her scenes from the film “Bus Stop”, likewise from her unfinished last picture, “Something’s Got to Give.” Out of something verging on what I guess would be morbid curiosity, I’ve seen the film “The Misfits”, the last film completed by Monroe, as well as being Clark Gable’s last film, and I can only describe it as heart-wrenching. There is a Marilyn Monroe film that I do happen to adore, 1953’s “How to Marry a Millionaire”, co-starring Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, William Powell, Cameron Mitchell, David Wayne, and Rory Calhoun. Marilyn Monroe’s comedic performance in this film is brilliant. To me, this performance said everything about Marilyn Monroe in that it illustrated perfectly that this woman was anything but a “dumb blonde.” No, what has interested me about Marilyn Monroe at all isn’t her films, it is her story, it is knowing that despite seeming to have everything or having everything materially speaking, she felt unloved, she was a lonely heart, a lost soul, one who perhaps never quite got the respect she deserved while she was alive. Some people, iconic figures, interest me in that way. Not to digress, but Katharine Hepburn is another whose story interests me, it is because of her films that we know about her and without that her story wouldn’t be as interesting, however, I can take or leave her films for the most part, but she is an endlessly fascinating character to me as a person, as a figure. So, there, we’ve established that I’m not a huge Marilyn Monroe fan in the usual sense.
“For hours she danced and sang and flirted and did this thing that’s – she did Marilyn Monroe. And then there was the inevitable drop. And when the night was over and the white wine was over and the dancing was over, she sat in the corner like a child, with everything gone. I saw her sitting quietly without expression on her face, and I walked towards her but I wouldn’t photograph her without her knowledge of it. And as I came with the camera, I saw that she was not saying no.” – Richard Avedon regarding the now-famous photoshoot from May 1957
Some of the photographs Avedon took of Monroe that day are not necessarily flattering by some standards. Monroe was not a skinny supermodel type, she was not a waif. She was curvy and fleshy. Monroe possessed the body of a woman, not a girl. Some of the photographs seem taken from odd angles that accentuate the wrong features. The dress seems wrong, like it was wearing her, and in some of the photos, the dress seems to make her look shorter than her already petite five foot five frame.
And some of the photos captured Marilyn in all her Marilyn Monroe glory…
But then there were these…
These images seem haunted. And though Avedon said he would not take photos of Marilyn without her knowledge of it, and from that one could reasonably assume that these photographs could also be Marilyn playing to the camera in some way, Avedon nonetheless managed to give light to the other side of the coin.
In my opinion, the images that made Marilyn Monroe an enduring icon, even while she lived, were not the perfect images of a glamorous movie star, a blonde bombshell, after all there have been plenty of blonde bombshells and pin-up girls with gleaming images and sparkling sex appeal, but were instead the images that showed the other side of the coin, that showed Marilyn to be an intelligent human being who had a life and heart-breaks and dreams and a depth far beyond what any photograph could ever contain.
Some have said that this photo taken by Richard Avedon in May of 1957, is the most honest photo of Marilyn Monroe ever taken. But I wonder if that’s true. I wonder if perhaps the most honest photograph ever taken of Marilyn Monroe wasn’t just some easy moment when she was relaxed and happy and laughing in her everyday life, that’s what I like to think.
Photos used in this post not otherwise notated or credited are photo credit Richard Avedon, presented for topical discussion, no copyright infringment intended.
I’m reading a book about Abraham Lincoln and was reminded once again of this poem by Walt Whitman as Whitman was of that time. I think some weren’t too keen on it when Levi’s used some of this poem to sell jeans, but I thought it was great because it introduced a new audience to this work. As readings and videos of such and the like go, this is one of my favorites that I’ve returned to again and again.
listed as “possibly John Plumbe, Jr.”
I think the best way for those who are new to the work of photographer Sally Mann to learn about her work, is by visiting and exploring her website. Here. Some of her work is definitely not for the faint of heart, or an immature audience.
I learned about the work of Sally Mann from the 2005 documentary, “What Remains.” I was completely blown away by her work, her work ethic, her thinking about the “ordinary” as art. This spoke to me on a deep level because this is what I feel, and think, and believe. Poetry is the art of the people, the commoner. To see the beauty in the simple, the plain, the every day, to see the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary and give that light, that is where I think art begins. – TS
Photographer Bill Cunningham lived his life completely dedicated to his art in a way that very few artists, working in any medium, seem to these days, or seem to be able to. He lived his life in a way many would consider to be sacrificial for the sake of his art, but he didn’t see it that way. He did what he loved, and everything followed. I find that to be inspiring and somewhat fascinating. – TS
When times are dark, I hope we can let it make us stronger. I hope we can let it make us better, not bitter. I hope we can keep from pulling apart and learn to heal to together. I hope we can remember everything we have in common, as human beings, and rise above our differences to find ways to co-exist in peace, because that is how we make it.