Saturday, September 28, 2013


Then Came Bronson was a short-lived  American TV series about an existential biker traveling the country in search of... well... adventure? himself?  meaning? ... that whole sixties quest thing.

It starred Michael Parks, a good actor who also sang the theme song, and ran for just the one 1969-1970 season in a pack of 26 epsiodes.  The run began with a special pilot movie that aired before the official fall season on Monday, March 24, 1969. Unfortunately this excellent pilot film-- at this writing-- is still the only episode available on DVD.

Although I was born in 1964, I actually have distinct memories of this series.  I remember watching the cool closing with Parks riding his Harley Sportster to the tune of the theme song "Long Lonesome Highway" [an actual Top 20 hit that somehow never gets played on oldies stations today.]

My other 2 memories are odd ones.  I remember my older brother Joe was a big fan who even named a kitten of ours "Bronson" in honor of this show; and I remember that our Dad, a WW2 vet and hard-rock copper miner with no time for "hippies",  also loved it... mainly, I think, because he always seemed to love shows with a wandering, traveling theme.

Later, in the mid-80s in Tucson AZ, my apartment roommates and I would watch re-runs of this show on Sunday nights on TV-18, a UHF channel that also showed stuff like Gidget and The Rifleman.  I remember we were always impressed by 2 things:  the off-beat stories and the distinctive music--  As the clip below indicates, hymns and folk music often set the strange mood. [Once the soundtrack even included "Piney Wood Hills" being sung by lovely guest star/folkie Buffy Ste. Marie.]

Now, comin' up on 30 years later... I have never seen it run on regular TV since then, which is puzzling to me since it is always referred to as a "cult classic."

Viewed today, this pilot episode holds up amazingly well. In fact, I actually like it much better than the similarly themed but heavy-handed and sloppily directed "classic" EASY RIDER.  Sometimes you will hear this show called a "rip off" of the Fonda/Hopper film, but the actual fact is that BRONSON was both filmed and released earlier than RIDER.  Also, to me at least, the script for BRONSON is quieter and more intelligent... really much more descendant of Melville, Wolfe and Kerouac than the typical "drop-out" fare of the late sixties. 

Sometimes people even dis the show because Bronson-- who  rode a lightweight bike and sported  no leathers at all-- doesn't live up to the label "Biker." I guess that subtracts from "street cred" or something, but it's one of my favorite  aspects of the show.  Bronson-- in his wool beanie and brown jeans and t-shirt-- is no Hell's Angel or Son Of Anarchy by any means...  in fact, he's something you'd never expect form Hollywood: a beatnik pacifist vagabond with literally no agenda at all.

It's just plain cool, man.

The story is pretty simple. in flashback we learn that  Jim Bronson is a journalist who has become disillusioned after the suicide of his friend Nick, played by a young Martin Sheen.  He decides to buy back the Sportster he sold Nick from Nick's widow, quit his job, and just ride around seeing the country.

Although the original pilot sort of leans toward a "self discovery" theme, the show that developed was even better.  The difference was, as I recall, that the regular episodes sort of lost even this original threadbare concept and instead  became nothing short of a weird,  Zen experiment in TV drama; as Bronson would just happen into situations and then refrain from judging or advising at all.  But still, even this pilot is compelling because of the way it juxtaposes Bronson against the conformist world around him as demonstrated by the dialog below -- which can be seen in the Youtube clip I have attatched-- where Parks first utters his catch-phrase "hang in there" to car-bound suburbanite at a stop light:

Driver: "Taking a trip?"
Bronson: "What's that?"
Driver: "Taking a trip?"
Bronson: "Yeah."
Driver: "Where to?"
Bronson: "Oh, I don't know. Wherever I end up, I guess."
Driver: "Man, I wish I was you."
Bronson: "Really?"
Driver: "Yeah."
Bronson: "Well, hang in there."

Well anyway back to the story.  Jim meets a girl on the beach named Temple [played well by the fine actress Bonnie Bedelia] who is a recent "runaway bride."  She decides to join him in his travels for a couple weeks, all the way to New Orleans. [Perhaps another reason for the common EASY RIDER comparisons. ]

Oddly, we do not get the love story we have been conditioned to expect in a situation like this.  In fact, the whole point seems to be that Jim and Temple are kindred souls whose paths cannot truly intertwine for reasons far beyond them... sounds weird I know, but that's the best way I can describe it. The banter is great too:

              TEMPLE: Jim, I want to be your friend.
              BRONSON: Ya know, when you take on a friend, you take on a lot.

An especially interesting sequence finds them stopping at the desert home of Jim's mentor and father figure, the enigmatic Papa Bear [played by vet character actor Akim Tamiroff in what is said to be his final role.] This guy is a boisterous old artist who live and works with a brood of lively children, and eagerly welcomes Jim's visit. He senses, however, that something is troubling his young friend, and he approaches Jim as a  traveler on a road he himself has trod. The quiet dialogue between the two is touching and wise.

Well.. for those who haven't seen the film yet-- and it is available-- I won't say anything more about the plot. It's not so much a matter of "spoilers" either-- I just think you need to experience it yourself with no pre-conceptions.

In short, the pilot of TCB is some classic television. Not just a really great time-piece for looking back at the 1960s, but a film that still offers some quiet wisdom in a unique way.

5 stars out of 5.
Here's the YOUTUBE clip:



Albie's Note:  In 1980, when I was a junior in high school, 2 of my all-time favorite performers -- both of them great singers with definite Rockabilly tendencies [Praise God!]-- teamed up for this unlikely duet that peaked on the American country charts at a measly #79 [although I have read it was a much bigger hit in England.]  The song itself was a neo-cowboy song that had floated around Nashville in various slower versions until Carter [bleach-blonde descendent of country's founding family] and Edmunds [Welsh guitar hero and best friend of Carter's then-husband Nick Lowe] decided to speed it up into this quirky classic.  I have always thought the poem of the song was kind of a redneck parody version of "If I Were A Carpenter." I like to imagine that Carlene-- daughter of June Carter Cash herself-- thought so, too. In any case I always liked the playfulness of the whole production.

If I drove a truck
And I were waitress
And I ordered coffee
And I poured you some

Then you'd stop by on your way sometime later
And if we arm-wrestled
I'd say that you won

Ai-eeee my baby, ride easy
Ride high in the saddle all day
If your lovin' is good
And your cookin' ain't greasy
HITCH UP the chuck wagon
And we'll ride away

If I were a winsome, hale senorita
And I a bull-fighter, down in the sand
While the band kept on playing that "Old Paso Doble"
I'd throw you a flower
Would you take my hand?

If I ran the country
Yeah I'd be your first lady
And fix up the white house
While you were away
Waitin' while I'm passing time with world leaders
And later together alone we might lay

Repeat Chorus twice

HITCH UP the chuck wagon and we'll ride away
HITCH UP the chuck wagon and we'll ride away
HITCH UP the chuck wagon
HITCH UP the chuck wagon
HITCH UP the chuck wagon
HITCH UP the chuck wagon and we'll ride away


Friday, September 27, 2013


Albie's Note: Listen, friends. 

When my blog header says I am both a Beatnik and a Bible Believer, you can rest assured that both are-- somehow-- totally true!  I will be 50 next year... and I still love Kerouac, Snyder, Lew Welch, and Bob Dylan... and also D.L. Moody, Spurgeon, Billys-- Graham and Sunday,  and Larry Norman.

Can I explain all of that? 

No, not really.  Life is a journey... and the signposts pop up sometimes before you have a chance to investigate them. But they are all a part of your strange, individual voyage... and it is best to embrace them and be thankful for them.  [I Thes. 5:18]

Who was NEAL CASSADY? Well, he was the hard-living, fast-driving, pill-popping womaniser who was immortalised in Jack Kerouac's On the Road.  And young Albie read this-- as well as Ken Kesey and John Clellon Holmes and Tom Wolfe and innumerable related  non-fiction tomes-- at a very impressionable time in his crazy life.

So... why is Neal remembered?  Because this unlikely drop-out anti-hero in many ways was responsible for an entire literary and social movement, the repercussions of which are still being felt today... for better or for worse.

And this song?  Well... all I can tell you is I used to play it over and over years ago after I first bought it on a brand new vinyl record... and literally weep as I did so.

And even today.. it does something to me.  I think it's because it's not just a tribute song.  It makes an uncomfortable comment. 

Life is fleeting, my friends.

And the Beat goes on.

"Did You Hear Neal Cassady Died?" -- The Washington Squares

Did you hear Neal Cassady died?
Lying on the tracks down in Mexico
Did you hear Neal Cassady died, last night?

Can you see Neal Cassady drive?
An old car and a girl in heaven alive
Can you see Neal Cassady drive? That's right!

 He was a-lying on the tracks down in Mexico
What a sad, sad, lonely way to go
for the king of the hipster daddy-0's

Who balled the jack in ON THE ROAD ...

FROM Wikipedia:
On February 3, 1968, Cassady attended a wedding party in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. After the party he went walking along a railroad track to reach the next town, but passed out in the cold and rainy night wearing nothing but a T-shirt and jeans. In the morning, he was found in a coma by the track, reportedly by Dr. Anton Black, later a professor at El Paso Community College, who carried Cassady over his shoulders to the local post office building. Cassady was then transported to the closest hospital, where he died a few hours later on February 4, four days short of his forty-second birthday.
The exact cause of Cassady's death remains uncertain. Those who attended the wedding party confirm that he took an unknown quantity of Secobarbital, a powerful barbiturate sold under the brand name of Seconal. The physician who performed the autopsy wrote simply "general congestion in all systems". When interviewed later, the physician stated that he was unable to give an accurate report, because Cassady was a foreigner and there were drugs involved. 'Exposure' is commonly cited as his cause of death, although his widow believes he may have died of renal failure.
"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." -- I Thessalonians 5:18

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

POETRY BREAK #16: "Lamentation for Hank Williams" by DAVID MELTZER

Albie's Note: I first encountered this poem on an album I bought on vinyl back about '87 or so called POET/SONG, recorded for the Vanguard label  by San Francisco Beat Poet David Meltzer and his wife Tina in the Year of Our Lord 1968.  I thought it was a great score at the time because I actually knew who Meltzer was-- he had featured prominently in a book of interviews with poets already in my possession. I have always  liked the following poetic tribute to old Hank Sr,  and was hoping there would be a YouTube clip of the audio cut but there was not.  [You might be able to hear the audio clip at the poet's actual site by clicking HERE, but I make no guarantees.] 
In any case I still believe it's a truly great poem about a tragic, yet quintessentially American Figure.

"Lamentation for Hank Williams"

A Poem by David Meltzer
[Born February 17, 1937]

--"If I can't finish writing a song in ten minutes then it ain't worth the finishing," said Hank to a reporter.
A camera was busy taking pictures for LIFE Magazine.

--"I'll never get out of this world alive," wrote Hank in a song

sung for millions at The Grand Ole Opry

published by Acuff-Rose Sales Inc.

recorded by MGM Records

Flat-picking his D-28

backed up by The Drifting Cowboys

night after night and during the days

playing at picnics, rallies

supermarket gala openings

--"There's no dreams but bad ones,"  Hank told his wife Audrey

who told her lover

who told the doctor

who could not heal him...

Places no longer places

velocity of faces...

and he burned down, died at 29 of an overdose

kindly rocked to sleep in the back seat of his Cadillac

being driven to a concert

New Year's Day, 1953

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Albie's Note: Here's another from one of my all-time favorite poets, Vachel Lindsay  (November 10, 1879 – December 5, 1931) first published in his book THE GOLDEN WHALES OF CALIFORNIA AND OTHER RHYMES IN THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE back in 1920.  I like this little simple poem because it is both realistic and dreamily visionary all at once... kind of like its author.

And... I still think Peace is a great thing to pray for. 



I saw St. Francis by a stream
Washing his wounds that bled.
The aspens quivered overhead.
The silver doves flew round.

Weeping and sore dismayed
"Peace, peace," St. Francis prayed.

But the soft doves quickly fled.
Carrion crows flew round.
An earthquake rocked the ground.

"War, war," the west wind said.


Saturday, September 7, 2013


Albie's Note: Chuck Smith (born June 25, 1927), is a hero of mine.  known mainly as the founder of the Calvary Chapel  movement, Smith was greatly used of God to host a remarkable revival among "hippies" and street people that began in a tiny 25 member church in Costa Mesa, Cal. starting about 1968.  Although he has been criticized on many levels, the plain facts are that Smith presented the Old Gospel-- without compromise and with no prejudice-- to anyone who would hear it-- and now that movement is world-wide with adherents probably numbering in the millions.  Here is a great sermon outline which uses as its text one of my favorite verses:

"And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits!" 
--Daniel 11:32

This scripture is a prophecy and was fulfilled in the time of Judas Maccabeus. Who with a small band of men, dedicated fully to God, attacked and defeated the superior forces of Antiocus Epiphanies over and over again. Before each battle he would encourage his men to be willing to give their lives for God. The exploits of these men became legendary. There is a truth here that goes beyond the prophetic fulfillment by the Maccabees!
A. In John 17:3 Jesus said, "And this is life eternal, that they may know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
1. There is a vast difference between knowing God, and knowing about God.

2. All but the fool know about God, it is only the fool who has said in his heart, "There is no God." Paul said, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools as they sought to change the glory of the incorruptible God and they began to worship and serve the creation more than the creator.

3. This is a reference to knowing God in a personal intimate way. In such a way as you carry on daily conversations with Him, and seek His advise before making any major decisions. You look to Him daily for comfort, advise, and strength, He is your closest friend and confidant.
B. How do you get to know God in this way?
1. By learning of Him. Jesus said, "Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me."
a. There is only one textbook whereby you may know God in truth, and that is the Bible.

b. A lot of books have been written about man's concepts, and ideas about God, these can be very confusing.

c. The Bible is an autobiography in which God has revealed Himself to man. It shows how He has related to man through history, and how you can relate to Him.
2. Through Jesus Christ.
a. God who in different times and in various ways spoke to man through His prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His own dear Son-- Jesus is the final and perfect revelation of God to man, for He is God.

b. When Philip said to Him, just show us the Father and we will be satisfied, Jesus answered, "Have I been with you all of this time, and have you not seen Me, He that has seen Me has seen the Father."

c. In his latter years John wrote in his 1st epistle, "That which was from the beginning which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of life. For the life was manifested and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us."

d. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh to the Father, but by Me."

e. Again Jesus said, "Neither knoweth any man the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son revealeth Him."

f. Jesus is the true revelation of God for He is God. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God, the same was in the beginning with God, and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.
A. They shall be strong.
1. As we were sharing last week, we are in a spiritual battle in which physical force is ineffective, for we are not wrestling against flesh and blood, but spiritual powers. In the context of this spiritual warfare mentioned in Ephesians Paul said, "Be strong in the Lord, and the power of His might."
a. Our strength is in Him, "Be strong in the Lord."

b. Our power comes from Him. "And the power of His might."
2. When Paul was praying for the Ephesians, he prayed that they might know the exceeding greatness of His power toward those who believe.

3. In his second prayer for them he asked that they might be strengthened by His Spirit in their inner man.

4. When Paul was praying for his own infirmity the Lord spoke to him and declared, "My grace is sufficient for you, My strength will be perfected in your weakness."

5. You can, as Isaac Watts, be a physical wimp, but a spiritual giant. He said as he stretched himself out to his full four foot eleven inch stature,
"Were I so tall to reach the pole,
    Or span the ocean with my hand,
I must be measured by my soul,
    The mind is the standard of a man."
6. You may be a physical giant, and a spiritual wimp.
a. Goliath was a physical giant nine feet tall, but he did not know the God of Israel, and he defied Him.

b. Goliath fell before a stripling of a youth, who knew the God of Israel.
B. They shall do EXPOITS!!
1. I would take you to Hebrews Chapter 11 to show you the exploits of the men and women who knew their God.
a. Gideon with his 300 men routing over 135,000 Midianites.

b. Barak with the help of Deborah, routing the forces of Sisera with his many iron chariots.

c. Sampson with a jawbone of a donkey as his only weapon facing and destroying 1000 Philistines.

d. "Out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
2. The Bible is replete with stories of the great exploits of those men who knew God and trusted in Him.
A. Some people claim that He is unknowable, they claim to be agnostics.
1. This is a claim usually made by those who suppose that they are to intellectually sophisticated to believe in a personal knowable God.
a. It is the problem of starting with an earth base and seeking to reach heaven.

b. The finite, can never reach the infinite.
2. The friend of Job asked, "Who by searching can find out God to perfection?"
B. To know God is the most important thing in life.
1. Jeremiah said, "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches, but he that glorieth let him glory in this that he knows Me, that I am the Lord that exercises lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth."

2. Paul told the Corinthians that God had not chosen many wise, or many mighty or many noble men, for He has chosen to use the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. And the weak ones of this world to confound the mighty, that no flesh should glory in His sight.

a. God wants to do exploits on this earth, but it is difficult to use the wise, for men will then glory in the wisdom of men.
b. It is difficult for the same reason to use the mighty and the strong.
C. There is no excuse not to know God. He has revealed Himself in nature, which should lead you to His word, which will lead you to His Son!
"And this is life eternal, that they may know You the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."