The Freelance Mentalists.
Friday, October 22, 2004
 
"On the topic of politics and music."


"And think of all the hate, there is in Red China, then take a look around, TO SELMA ALA-BAMMA."
"Bam" said like "damn." I used to laugh at this.
"Ahh you may leave heah, fo fo days in space, but when ya return, it's the same old place."
Barry McGuire's "The Eve Of Destruction" gnarls on, and clippings loom like "Next stop, the Twilight Zone.'" But really it's still just the Sixties. Here's the one about the woman shot dead the night after the Selma-to-Montgomery March, or was it Mongomery-to-Selma. You can look that up, of course; she's strewn all over the googleverse, like everything else.
Still on "The Eve," McGuire's voice rasps and bleeds color down through the grain what grain this is all too concise and too clear, this thing we're trying to stab and scoop out with spoons and keys, this era, chunk of change, we being audience and film maker without money or time enough, we also being me gesturing at them in the footage rising up again, clear percentages of gray to gloss once more: men and women, black and white, still crossing the bridge. Leaving this headline I once blocked, still next to the one about Vietnam. That's the one I didn't realize I'd also need to forget, in order to ditch something that stopped being a question, a long time ago. Who did this, it could have been my friend's daddy, uncle, big brother next door. You never know. Like the Viet Cong. It was necessary to destroy the village in order to save it. He that give his life shall have it. "It was a war, and innocent folks get killed in a war," explains an old fellow in Mississippi, re Schwerner Cheney & Goodman's Greatest Hit. Oops wrong doc. This one is HOME OF THE BRAVE, about Viola Liuzzo.
Two of my best friends, boy and girl, brother and sister, their house was like Alice's Restaurant, the hip place, of sitting on the rug, strumming guitars, singing songs old and new, gazing across these at each other, while cars outside the screen door slipped up and down the highway, like fingers on a neck. "Highway Fiffty-onnne, goes right by my baby's door, Highway Fiffty-one, don't go there no more." The Selma Highway. Too close. Not the one she was killed on, though. Often called by the same name, but it's further south, parallel to mine. Why did she go that way, they told her not to (according to africaonline). A white woman transporting a black man, driving fast, stopping at "white-owned gas stations."(Were there black-owned gas stations? Where?) Attracting a lot of attention, including a karload of klansmen, out of Bessemer (hometown of my father, and of Sun Ra). Four guys, daddies many times over. Starring Gary Thomas Rowe, with a long and winding road of tales, told by him and his companions and many others, of his life in the Klan and the FBI. "Made Galileo look lak uh Boy Scout. Too much man, let it all hang out."
But also "Pick Up The Pieces" like the Average White Band, find a plot twist, watch that Tootsy Roll bassline take it to the bridge again, and here's Gary and his buddies back in court in the mid-70s. (Helicopter takes off from Saigon Embassy, little brown folk like ornaments.) Here come old twolane blacktop post-Watergate spew of documents: Viola,vwoy-la! "Transporting Negro Buck" memos for J.Edgar's delectation, skinny legs and all.
But Viola's kids lost their civil suit, despite all the amputations of alibis, because Gary was doing the Government's work. And the Government, well, it was doing the Government's work too. "Sometimes you have to sacrifice the little ones to get to the big ones," explains Nicholas Katzenbach, former Attorney General. Who was the big one gotten? he doesn't say. It's a war, classified.
"All my feelings about her were sealed away." Mary, Viola's daughter, drives back down that road. The gently rolling hills of the familiar landscape seem bilious, the spacious seems empty, the trees crowd the twolane. She gets out and looks across the road, where it happened, where the body was found, anyway. A stone among a few others, behind iron pickets. Protective custody, like those Vietnamese villages. "It's like she's in jail," Mary says.
She stands at the civil rights workers' memorial in downtown Montgomery. This one was designed by the same woman who designed the Vietnam veterans memorial in D.C. ("It's that Vietnamese woman's revenge," said Pat Buchanan.) They're both black, reflecting everything within range, the names of all those soldiers in place, ten-shun. Here in Montgomery, there's also a fountain. Mary touches her mother's name, where the water runs over it, shining over the black shine. Link Wray's "Fallen Rain" plays somewhere in here. (Most of these songs are on the actual soundtrack, I think. They were all playing loud enough to be.)
 
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