My Commonplace Book: A Catalogue of Thoughts and Things 1954-1961 by Ron Steinman

All five parts of “My Commonplace Book” and all fifty-six pages are now available as a Kindle eBook on Amazon. You can download it for a very small price from my page at Amazon. The original appeared on WordPress in 5 parts and on Linkedin and on Facebook. Now this engaging, sometimes eccentric work filled with electric, unique content as I present it, a sort of trip down memory lane, is in one place. Soon there will be a paperback and soon I will also have a cover, something the currently does not have. Please take advantage of this offer and as always, enjoy.

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My Commonplace Book, Part 5 by Ron Steinman

 

My Commonplace Book, Part 5

by

Ron Steinman

Note: This is the final installment of My Commonplace Book. Look for the complete work soon on Amazon.

                                                           

                                                            1958

March 30, 1958. Allen Ginsberg published, “Howl” in 1956 when he was thirty. I still have time.

“I could lie there as long as I wanted, and let all the pictures of things a man might want run through my head, coffee, a girl, money, a drink, white sand and blue water . . .” The right-hand man of Willie Stark in “All The Kings Men” by Robert Penn Warren.

Willie Stark’s aide says this about sleep. “You stop going to sleep in order that you may be able to get up, but get up in order that you may be able to go back to sleep.”

It is what he calls The Big Sleep, The Deep Sleep.

Read “Point Counter Point” by Aldus Huxley. Interestingly stuffy.

“Waiting For Godot” by Samuel Beckett is moving, powerful, fascinating. Beckett muses on the condition of modern man lost in bleak society. His characters speak the language of lost and beaten men. It’s one long wail of despair. Everyone should see the play repeatedly, if only to confuse anyone who is stuffy and craves virtue and immediate satisfaction. The play, the wail, the lament, the despair. Beckett’s blast at a world that has lost its values and has succumbed to nothingness, lost and wandering with no hope, a tale of woe. It is the story of the 20th Century.

Reading “The Short Reign of Pippin IV” by John Steinbeck, deft fun but weak.

“The Sacrilege of Alan Kent” by Erskine Caldwell is pure Caldwell but filled with passion.

“The Assistant” by Bernard Malamud is dense and so brilliant.

I keep reading “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett in the hope all its meaning will take hold. I am also reading “Say Darling”, “Anchor Review No. 2” containing Nabokov’s “Lolita” which is fun, and causing a storm with the Puritans and conservatives. I am also reading “Evergreen Review “1,2,3 and 4. All have new fiction and exciting poets.  I saw three movies in a row with a jug in my lap. Bergman’s “Smiles of a Summer Night,” about fun and sex in Sweden, a film into which critics read miles of unnecessary meaning. “Raintree Country” is an example of a film that, without a jug, would have made me ill. “The Brother’s Karamazov,” not bad for what it is, and surprisingly earthy, despite the overacting and poor direction.

I saw three movies in a row with a jug in my lap. Bergman’s “Smiles of a Summer Night,” about fun and sex in Sweden, a film into which critics read miles of unnecessary meaning. “Raintree Country” is an example of a film that, without a jug, would have made me ill. “The Brother’s Karamazov,” not bad for what it is, and surprisingly earthy, despite the overacting and poor direction.

The earthy, funky, primitive sound of Charles Mingus. He has more ideas than a street corner hustler.The greatest sound that completely captivates me is the harpsichord, especially when Wanda Landowska plays Bach. Tonight I listened to her play Bach fugues for two hours.

The greatest sound that completely captivates me is the harpsichord, especially when Wanda Landowska plays Bach. Tonight I listened to her play Bach fugues for two hours.

Karl Menninger says the problem is suicide. Paul Tillich says it’s the courage to be. Albert Camus says it’s the fight to defeat the Absurd, for him man’s acceptance of the way he lives. All say death comes without a fight. All three are correct. Then we have Jung who says the key is in myth, in man’s past and if we uncover it, we can truly know ourselves. There is much more in Jung. I’m reading him to discover all he has to offer.

Reading “The Birth of Tragedy” and the “Genealogy of Morals” by Frederich Nietzsche. Was he mad?

I am no fan of J.D. Salinger and his world. His world is too small for me. I am interested in more than his intimate, boxcar effect.

Reading Albert Camus’ “The Plague.” Remarkable.

“Noa Noa” by Paul Gauguin is the portrait of an artist trying to stay sane in Tahiti. Of a woman, the Tahitians say, she does not exist. The dream fades. The man dies, never to rise again.

 

Reading, Proust’s “Pleasure’s and Days” and “Marquis De Sade,” with an introduction by Simone De Beauvoir. Samuel Beckett’s Proust and “The Wasteland and Other Poems” by T.S. Elliot are open on my desk. I am also reading William Faulkner’s “Knight’s Gambit” and “The Question” by Alleg about the French war in Algeria. And I am reading, Albert Camus’ “The Plague” and “The Sky is Red” by Berto and the Chicago Review, Joseph Krutch’s “The Measure of Man,” Albert Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus,” “New World Writing # 9,” Albert Camus’ “Exile and Kingdom” and Erskine Caldwell’s “God’s Little Acre.”

 

Finished reading “Some Came Running” by James Jones, “Tropic Moon” by Georges Simenon and “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy.

 

Sing the following verse to the tune of the popular song. Getting to know me. Getting to know nothing about me.

 

Read the following as if it were the title of the popular book. Where did you go? Out? What did you do? Got drunk.

 

Finally finished reading “Swann’s Way.” I tired of reading of the consummate “I,” Marcel bemoaning himself and feeling the pity of self. It is too sickening. I must read all of Dostoevsky by the end of the year. Read all of Kafka this year.

I am reading “The True Believer.” It’s about mass movements and why men take to causes. It seems the best move is to not join but to create the group. Make others join you, instead of you joining them. Then you can get out if the organization flops. You will remain a rebel until the end. I bought and reread Camus’ “The Fall” and I still find it an enigma. I keep reading Proust and find him fatuous, annoying, filled with self-pity. I’ll never finish the remaining six volumes. Read Wright Morris’s “Love Among The Cannibals” and found it funny and well written. I’m reading detective novels by Ed McBain. He writes more serious stuff under Evan Hunter, his real name. Just finished “Killer’s Choice” with this great line. “Shards of glass covered the floor like broken chords from a bop chorus.”

 

I am also reading Stendhal: “On Love,” “Existentialism, An Anthology,” Camus’ “The Rebel,” which is remarkable, and “The New Men” by C.P. Snow, an English writer who is damn good. He doesn’t have much style, but what he says is perceptive.

“I rebel—therefore we exist.” Albert Camus.

September 13, 1958. Saw the “Bespoke Overcoat,” a short British film. It was damn near perfect. Reading Mailer’s The White Negro and I find it insulting. It’s as if Mailer has lost it in his attempt to be ultra hip. He’s become a parody of himself. Norman Mailer’s “The Man Who Studied Yoga” makes for very good reading. It shows Mailer writing nearly at his best. It surpasses his recent nonfiction. James Jones’ “Some Came Running” is his attempt to write a huge novel and it doesn’t always work. He’s more turgid than fluid but he still tells a good story.

 

I went to see Lenny Tristano the other night. He’s a genius. Ten years ago some critics and the public thought he was a freak. Today the same folk think he is genius—fucking, fickle, ignorant, square critics and public.

Listening to John Coltrane play, “Blue Train” hell is loose in my soul. Very blue. Very outside. I am outside. I am of but not in, when I want to be, in but not of, when I want to be.

Listening to Brahms, Art Blakey and John Coltrane.

“There are chicken feathers, and duck feathers, and quail feathers, and goose feathers, and flamingo feathers, and horse feathers, and even Leonard Feathers.” From “The Pusher”, by Ed McBain. He is easily the best writer of procedural detective fiction in America.

I finished Jack Kerouac’s “The Dharma Bums” and it’s calm compared to “On The Road.” I feel that was a better book, though this is more reflective. It lacks much of the fire and spontaneous passion found in Road. It has too much Zen for me. The book doesn’t move me but I like lines such as, “I used to live on Skid Row . . . ”

 

Romain Gary’s “The Roots of Heaven” is first rate.

November 2, 1958. It is 3:45 a.m. I came in high tonight and that was a big mistake. I went to Birdland where Machito, the Afro-Cuban jazz artist, played a set. It sounds too much like dance music. It was a hell of a lot of noise. Heavy brass, big trumpets, some good bongos and a wild singing group that reminded me of the Four Freshmen but they had two guys and a chick. The chick was mad, an animal, wild and flipping. They were good listening. Buddy Rich did a set, almost gentle, a shadow of his former self. Herbie Mann, also there, crisp and understandable, his flute dancing with the melody. Nothing subtle about his music, but it was easy to hear. Finally, a cat named Curtis Fuller came on and he was sensational. He’s part of the Coltrane album I have and he was terrific to hear and see in person. He blew everyone else away. Most of the people cheered and applauded, even yelled in unison. It wasn’t even prom night but the squares had invaded my sanctuary.

 

1959

 

I am reading “Room at the Top” by John Braine, one of England’s angry young men. I’ve also started “The Jazz Maker’s.” And I spent eight-five cents for a Pelican book called “Recorded Jazz” by Rex Harris. I am reading Alexander King’s “Mine Enemy Grows Older.” King has become a cult figure and frequent guest on Jack Paar’s late-night television show.

 

I am reading at a gallop. “Irrational Man” by William Barrett. “America’s Coming of Age” by Van Wicks Brooks. “The Statesman” by Henry Taylor. “The Story of Jazz” by Stearns. “New World Writing 14.” “Ulysses in Nighttown” is a play adapted by Colum that just ran off-Broadway with Zero Mostel. “A Student’s Diary” by Laszlo Beke, is a book about the Hungarian uprising of a few years ago. “Schools Without Scholars” by John Keats. “The Story of An American Communist” by John Gates. “Journeyman” by Erskine Caldwell is about a traveling preacher. I like Caldwell. “Lie Down in Darkness” by William Styron. “The Old Copper Collar” by Cushman. “Antic Hay” is early Aldus Huxley drivel. “The Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison. “Sister Carrie” by Theodore Dreiser. “Seize the Day” by Saul Bellow is so damn good. “The Wapshot Chronicle” by John Cheever is funny and observant.

 

I listen to the blues. Leadbelly. Blind Lemon Jackson.

 

Reading “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk and E.B. White. Reading “The Wall” by John Hersey. It’s quite a book.

 

August 5, 1959. Late at night, I listen to Harlem radio stations as I did when I was a kid. The music is great and pure, everything infant rock and roll is trying to be. Fats Domino. Ray Charles. Big Maybelle. Ruth Brown. Mahalia Jackson. I even hear Cootie Williams, Duke Ellington’s former trumpet man, blowing a combination of pure blues, rhythm and blues and gutty jazz. Maybe rock and rock will succeed. Now it seems nothing more than a pale imitation of the roots of blues and jazz.

 

He Who Must Die” is terrific film noir from Jules Dassin. It’s worthwhile.

 

“Doctor Sax” is possibly Kerouac’s worst novel. His “Maggie Cassidy” is sweet.

 

I listen to Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Horace Silver, Max Roach, Lee Morgan and Thelonious Monk and hear them repeating themselves. I believe they all are looking to breakout out of the similar mold they find themselves. They sound the same, from side to side, club date to club date. But I love listening to everything they do, in spite of their momentary similarities.

 

September 11, 1959. I never have trouble with Joyce, Faulkner and, Kafka. The Beat poets are growing in numbers. Lawrence Ferlinghetti is probably the best. Kenneth Patchen has been around too long to belong to any movement. Henry Miller is very much the unrecognized father to the Beat generation. Ginsberg is a poet if he would only take time to concentrate on his writing instead of his chanting. Gregory Corso is finding himself on a mountaintop somewhere. William Carlos Williams is confused and has been an old man from the day he was born. William Boroughs is so self-pitying that he is funny, especially in Naked Lunch. Brother Antonius is trying to be Rabelais without getting laid. Give me Homer, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spenser, Boccaccio, Petrarch, Milton, Dante, Byron, Whitman, Coleridge, Shelley and, Keats.

I recently read the following: “Borstal Boy” by Brendan Behan, “Mass Leisure,” Vance Packard’s “The Status Seekers” and the really important one, “The Restlessness of Shanti Andia” by Pio Baroja, a Basque writer and said to be an influence on Hemingway.

Norman Mailer’s “Advertisements for Myself” knocks me out. More than anything I’ve lately read, this book makes me want to write. I know my troubles with Beth divert my attention from the typewriter. Now that our life is quiet, I hope to get started. I realize that my heavy reading schedule doesn’t allow me much time to write. I use reading as an excuse, a crutch not to write by saying I don’t have any time left to compose.

 

I’m currently reading a retelling of the “Greek Myths” by Robert Graves, a new translation of “The Iliad” by Richard Lattimore and “The Golden Bough “by James Frazer. I’m having a ball reading the three as if they were one. They set things right for me about the way the world was once. Next up will be Robert Graves’, “The White Goddess.”

 

Books for 1960 will include, “Between Man and Man” by Martin Buber, “The Natural History of Love” by Morton Hunt, “A Handbook of Greek Mythology” by H.J. Rose, “Existence and the Existential Image” by Martain, “Four Existential Theologians” by Herberg.

 

Get tickets for Little Mary Sunshine at the Orpheum Theater. Also get tickets at The Golden Theater for Flanders and Swann, “At the Drop of a Hat.”

 

1960

January 26, 1960. Saw Monika, the latest Ingmar Bergman black and white film with beautifully composed, well-edited shots. It was a harsh story, nasty and real, not very pretty with stark shots of nature.

 

I saw the Camus play, “Caligula.” It got panned, except the performance by Kenneth Haigh who played Caligula. Camus was in full flight with his theory of the absurd.

 

The other night in New Jersey I saw a new French film, “Lovers” Made in France by the new wave, led by former critics who tired of the Bridget Bardot drivel and decided to make their own films.

 

“The Objective Society” by Everette Knight is a winner for the existentialists. Ernest Jones’ first volume of his life of Freud is excellent. Robert Grave’s book, “They Hanged My Saintly Billy” is not worth the effort. Associated Press reporter Jack Bell’s, “The Splendid Misery” is very good on power politics and the presidency. Joseph Alsop’s “The Reporter’s Trade” is entertaining. After reading it I want more than ever to get on with my new career. I continue my effort to read “The Golden Bough” and it goes slowly, slowly.

 

I saw the film Pull My Daisy, written and narrated by Jack Kerouac, staring Alan Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. It runs maybe thirty minutes, is in foggy black and white and, though the images are unclear, the story, in its way, is clear. It’s about a day in the life of famous beats. I still laugh when I use the word beatnik. It sounds too Yiddish. Too funny. Kerouac wrote the sneering, searing, growling, almost howling, mocking, crying, laughing, at times and Lewis Carroll voice-over mimicking commentary. Sometimes his voice acts the other voices. It is badly shot, badly edited, but provocative, different, unusual, and, ultimately, good fun.

 

I’m writing in a dark movie house because I’m watching a motion picture called “Blood of the Poet” by Jean Cocteau. It’s supposed to be a masterpiece. Rarely have I seen an experimental film so excruciatingly bad. Surrealism, yes, but what I see proves the worthlessness of the genre. I know he was an opium eater. This movie is the proof.

 

I’m reading “Finnegan’s Wake” and it is amazing. I hardly understand a word of it. The cumulative effect on my ears as I read Joyce aloud and his new language on the page as I see it blur before my eyes are what count. I think. How much of what he wrote can I dismiss as pure nonsense? Is it a big joke? I can feel him caught in the labyrinth of his rhythms struggling his way to his next thought.

Note: At least, I was honest about understanding Joyce. I still don’t understand this so-called masterwork.

The new Nat Adderly and Wes Montgomery recording called Work Songs on Riverside swings.

I must buy the latest Miles Davis-Gil Evans recording called “Spanish Concerto.”

Read “Zorba the Greek” and I found it fun and stimulating, alive and passionate. “The Hamlet” by William Faulkner is magnificent.

July 9, 1960. Blues For Night People is a new, sweet sounding album by guitarist Charlie Byrd.

 

August 1, 1960. I am reading “Film Technique and Film Acting” by Pudovkin in an Evergreen paperback.

December 21, 1960. I’m reading “The Sacred and the Profane” by Mircea Eliade, “Gallipoli” by Alan Moorehead, “The Great Chicago Fire” by Cronin, “Heyday for Assassin”s by John Williams, and “Gates of Fear” by Conrad.

“Existence” edited by Rollo May et al, “The Armada,” the life of Darrow.

 

1961

Listening to Thelonious Monk, Gustav Mahler, Igor Stravinsky and reading T.S. Eliot.

***

So ends these specific notes from “Notebooks,” my memoir, my youthful reportage, my meditations and, musings.

 

 

With NBC News for 35 years, I was a writer and field producer on the Huntley-Brinkley show before going to Saigon as bureau chief in 1966. He served as South East Asia bureau chief based in Hong Kong and then London bureau chief during the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland. He was Washington producer for Today and senior producer on Early Today and in the news division. He is a partner, producer and writer at Douglas/Steinman Productions where he directed the documentaries, “Luboml: My Heart Remembers,” “My Grandfather’s House,” and “the Dance Goodbye.” He is the author of “The Soldiers’ Story,” “The Soldiers’ Story: An Illustrated Edition,” “Women in Vietnam,” “Inside Television’s First War,” and the novel, “Death in Saigon, all on Amazon. An audiobook of “The Soldiers’ Story,” is available on Audible, Audiobooks.com and from Penguin Random House Books. “Notebooks,” a memoir, and “Survival Manual,” a memoir are on other major sites are on Barnes&Noble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Commonplace Book, Part 4 by Ron Steinman

                         My Commonplace Book, Part 4

                                             by

                                    Ron Steinman   

                                                 1957

July 8-19, 1957. Manhattan. Read Harrison Salisbury in the New York Times called “Theater Regains Its Vigor.”

A story by Sean O’Casey, “I Wanna A Woman.”

I finished reading “Dead Yellow Women” and the “Glass Key” by Dashiell Hammet– marvelous—and “Love Among the Haystacks” by D.H. Lawrence. Sam Spade is much more fun and invigorating than old D.H.

Next week I’m looking forward to Jazz Under the Stars in Central Park with Lady Day, Errol Garner, Gerry Mulligan, Bob Brookmeyer, Lester Young, Miles Davis and Jo Jones.

Read D.H. Lawrence’s “Aaron’s Rod.” The intensity and passion are sometimes overwhelming. His style drives me up the wall, but he is overpowering.

I’m reading Sigmund Freud’s “A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis,” something I need and that’s fitting.

Also reading the fascinating “Greek Civilization and Character” by Arnold Toynbee.

James Joyce would adore the following carnival terms.

The Fair. The park or the lot or the grounds.

Grandstand, grandstand attraction, general exhibit building, shooting gallery, rocket ride, Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, fun house, fireworks, roller coaster.

Proven profit makers.

Seasonal operator.

Side wall, for a tent or lean-to. Show tents, concession tops, banners, ride canvas.

Cook house tops, aluminum tent frame.

Shows’ stand—time spent in an area for a show.

Two week stretch—period spent in an area.

Concession standing down while the public increases the money it spends on legitimate rides and food. The people at the fair are not gambling.

Barker or talker. Talker is the better term because it is the more legit carny term.

Sign: No Drunks. No loafers.

Girlie and Posing show. Posing shows will have costumes. Girlie shows are open for whatever comes off.

Games: Bear pitch. Two-cat. Glass pitch. Hanky-pank. Alibi and slum store. Bucket store-agent—an operator who runs a concession with three or more girls. Grind show has girls doing . . . the grind. One ball. Scale (weight) and age. Tip over. Grab. Ring Coke. Cork gun. Pin stores—illegal games where the mark never wins because nothing fits or the darts are dull. Flats and flat stores.

Semi-flat—illegal. Semi-flat with hanky pank. Pitch games. Short range. Milk bottles. Clean sideshows. Six-cats. Swinger—bowling ball and ninepins. Hankies. Hankies with alibis. Count stores. Concession op—operator. Alley. Annex. Direct sales or direct seller. Pitchman. Demonstrators. Wheel operator. Bingo callers. Bingo countermen. Shows with their own frame-up—independently built.

Candy apples. Snowballs. French fries. Roast chicken. Popcorn. Candy floss.

Novelty peddler.

Sign: Positively No Lushes.

Counterman in a cook house. A Gypsy is a wanderer, an unreliable person. No chasers. A chaser is one who goes after anything in skirts connected or not to the show. Lot man is a roughie or ruffie. Billboard Magazine spells it ruffie. Make a jump. Bears. Poodles. Slum is the name for all the paper prizes, cheap whistles, tie clips, plaster of Paris dogs, other than poodles. Poodles are more expensive prizes. There are ashtrays, plaster slum, and costume jewelry. There are silver-plated, tinny, jeweled, crude and cheap crucifixes and crosses. They make the mark feel religious. He wants to spend more money than he has to win because he believes it would be good to win something religious. Thus the cross or Jesus hung and dying but not yet dead. Someone engraved The Lord’s Prayer on tin and made it look expensive for only fifty cents.

And: Picking up coin. Working as a shill or as shills. Working in a joint.

Yes.

Reading “Winesburg, Ohio “by Sherwood Anderson and I find it what I want to read and what I would like to write. I’m also reading “Ten North Frederick” by John O’Hara and it isn’t in the same league.

I finished reading Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer” and “The Heart of Darkness.” Wow.

Balzac once said, “Every time I have an affair with a woman it is one less book that I will write.”

Note that I’ve read twenty-six books in the last two months. Noted.

“Drop dead

Turn Blue.

Woman, I am through!”

Roll ‘em Pete , by Joe Williams singing with the Count Basie band.

Reading: T.E. Lawrence’s “Revolt in The Desert,” James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and Malinowski’s “Magic, Science and Religion.”

Dylan Thomas wrote a book, “The Portrait of The Young Artist As A Dog.” Beautiful, funny book, as only Dylan could write.

Brubeck, Desmond and Morell swing so lovingly on Balcony Rock.

James Joyce’s “Ulysses” reminds me of the Medusa head in Spenser living in that cave and spewing out thousands of tiny worms from a well-worn mouth.

Finished Dylan Thomas’ “Adventures in The Skin Trade” a very weird, strange book.

Read Philip Wylie’s “The Innocent Ambassadors” in pocketbook.

I am reading my usual mess of books. Having finished Mentor’s New World Writing 1, I’m now reading New World Writing 2. I’m reading a book of short stories called “Juvenile Jungle.” Finished “Field of Vision” by Wright Morris. Excellent. Finished Mailer’s “The Man Who Studied Yoga,” only fair to good. Finished reading Moravia’s disappointing “The Conformist.” I started “My Life in Art.” It’s everything it’s supposed to be.

I watch Jonathon Winters on television. Great, absolutely great. I’ll bet he knows the edge of madness.

The dichotomy. The ambivalence.

The verbosity of deceit is cunning. Who said that? I wish I did.

The Tiptop bread commercials on TV are very well done and that is not a pun.

In Edith Hamilton’s “Mythology, (Part Seven, The Mythology of the Norseman)” she says, “The power of good is shown not by triumphantly conquering evil but by continuing to resist evil while facing certain defeat.” Isn’t this existentialism as expressed by the early Sartre and always Camus and then picked up by Europe steeped in despair after World War II?

Just finished reading Baudelaire’s “Flowers of Evil” in New Directions Paperback for $1.25, a bargain. He made remarkable poetry. I wept. The man knew so much. He saw deeply, yet failed in every attempt with women. He died of syphilis at 42.

One cannot sing holy songs at the grave.

Only the blues will do.

Earthy and wrenched from the gut.

Horror-filled.

The blues.

From here.

A strung heart.

Gaunt: Face, body, mind.

So sing the blues and feel the blues and know the blues can answer our trouble, man, because the blues are born in trouble and can’t die. The soul only knows the blues.

We are born with the blues and it’s our fate to die with the blues.

I just read “The Stranger” by Albert Camus and it was wondrous and moving. I am also reading “Moby Dick” for the first time. Turgid and powerful but I don’t know which comes first. I’m partly through New World Writing 4, always a treat.

 

My current reading list. “Green Hills of Africa,” Hemingway. “Comfort Me With Apples,” by Peter DeVries. “Two Adolescents” by Alberto Moravia. Jack Kerouac’s “The Subterranean’s “ which took me half a day to find wandering through the far reaches of Greenwich Village. And I read through all of the Introduction to Jung’s Psychology.

Camus’ “The Growing Stone” is a very disturbing story. I wonder what I would do in a similar situation. The central characters move me. The black girl is beautiful. Camus’ natural man with his desire for her, to get her, to have her, to have her notice him as a man and not as an outsider is always a part of Camus. Will that man remain as an outsider forever? Will I?

I look around my room. The room grows smaller the longer I live in it. I see piles of books mostly resting on each other. I have one small bookcase. I can’t afford money or space for another. I recently read “Go!” by John Clellon Holmes. I finished “Amerika” by Franz Kafka, and it was remarkable. I read “Houseparty” by Virginia Rowens and it was less than memorable. “The Sheltering Sky” by Paul Bowles is unforgettable, an exciting, beautiful, powerful book.

***

With NBC News for 35 years, I was a writer and field producer on the Huntley-Brinkley show before going to Saigon as bureau chief in 1966got more than three years, He served as South East Asia bureau chief based in Hong Kong and then London bureau chief during the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland. He was Washington producer for Today and senior producer on Early Today and in the news division. He is a partner, producer and writer at Douglas/Steinman Productions where he directed the documentaries, “Luboml: My Heart Remembers,” “My Grandfather’s House,” and “the Dance Goodbye.” He is the author of “The Soldiers’ Story,” “The Soldiers’ Story: An Illustrated Edition,” “Women in Vietnam,” “Notebooks,” a memoir, and “Survival Manual,” a memoir. All the books are available on Amazon and other major sites.

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My Commonplace Book, Part 3 by Ron Steinman

                                   

                  Here is Part 3 of My Common Place Book

            My Commonplace Book, Part 3 by Ron Steinman

                                     1955

 

More for my growing list of words that someday I’ll find useful, or not: Annotated. Anchorites. Marmots. Effete. Effulgence. Effeminate. Antinomians. Requital. Mendacious. Someone said, “My friend, never indulge in any follies except those that will bring you great pleasure.”

Someone said, “My friend, never indulge in any follies except those that will bring you great pleasure.”

“Virtue is synonymous with enthusiasm.” Who said that? Was it Galiani or Nietzsche?

How is this for a jawbreaker of a thought. “The earlier 14th century Slavic nationalism of the Pole, Lithuanian and Czech directed against the first onward march of the Germans must be kept in mind when considering the recrudescence of the Slavic nationalism in the 19th and 20th Century.

“Martyrdom is the only way for a man to become famous without ability.” George Bernard Shaw, again directed in large part against the Germans.”

Song, “Getting to be a Habit With Me.” Momentarily reminds me of Carole. It is wonderful how I can look at her“

The mood and surroundings are air-conditioned Jean Paul Sarte.” Now, who said that and in what context? Can’t seem to remember almost objectively. It’s a good feeling.

“A man is nothing but the ensemble of his acts.” Sartre and his obvious emphasis on action.

 

Love is a sudden sting, the bite of a bumblebee. Love is missing a step going downstairs and falling flat on your puff-eyed, sleepless face. Erotic pleasure is having it all. Eroticism is the fusion of two soldering irons. Love is agony and reverence. (Something I wrote.)

 

“Where there is neither love nor hatred in the game, woman’s play is mediocre.” Nietzsche, again.

And, “In revenge and in love, woman is more barbarous than man.”

“To vigorous men intimacy is a matter of shame—and something precious.” This, more than many other things that Nietzsche says, requires an explanation. Why? What does he mean by vigorous, intimacy, shame? Add two more to the list. Abnegation and unctuous. And a third, emoluments.

Add two more to the list. Abnegation and unctuous. And a third, emoluments.

Just listening to a new rendition of “Black Magic.” He talks it, whoever he is. Really crazy. Different. It sounds strange to my weary ears. It is. The song has achieved its effect.

More for my growing list of words that someday I’ll find useful, or not: Annotated. Anchorites. Marmots. Effete. Effulgence. Effeminate. Antinomians. Requital. Mendacious.

Someone said, “My friend, never indulge in any follies except those that will bring you great pleasure.”

“Virtue is synonymous with enthusiasm.” Who said that? Was it Galiani or Nietzsche?

Song, “Getting to be a Habit With Me.” Momentarily reminds me of Carole. It is wonderful how I can look at her almost objectively. It’s a good feeling.

“The mood and surroundings are air-conditioned Jean Paul Sartre.” Now, who said that and in what context?

“A man is nothing but the ensemble of his acts.” Sartre and his obvious emphasis on action.

Love is a sudden sting, the bite of a bumblebee. Love is missing a step going downstairs and falling flat on your puff-eyed, sleepless face. Erotic pleasure is having it all. Eroticism is the fusion of two soldering irons. Love is agony and reverence. (I wrote this.)

Pickup “Russia” by Pares and Tawney, both in the Mentor series.

Buy “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck.

Back in New York, I’m on the subway reading the racing results on page 32 of the World Telegram & Sun, the finals from Belmont, the sixth from Saratoga. I don’t know why I’m reading the results. I never bet, have no interest in horse racing.

“The Hunting of the Snark” by Lewis J Carroll.

Read the “Renaissance Reader” and soon.

Add xenophobia.Charismatic.

Charismatic.  Finished reading James Jones, “From Here to Eternity.” I can’t call it a great book. Very little is great, really, and that’s my critique for the day, especially over a glass of beer. Parts of it moved me but the total impact was tough and compelling.

Finished reading James Jones, “From Here to Eternity.” I can’t call it a great book. Very little is great, really, and that’s my critique for the day, especially over a glass of beer. Parts of it moved me but the total impact was tough and compelling Idea. A car starts. End of

Idea. A car starts. End of idea.Words: pleonasms, auric, propitious, contiguous, tired (how did this get in here?), attrition, palimpsest, said (huh!), declared, stated, jejune, valetudinarian, exacerbated. Words, words, words.

Words: pleonasms, auric, propitious, contiguous, tired (how did this get in here?), attrition, palimpsest, said (huh!), declared, stated, jejune, valetudinarian, exacerbated. Words, words, words.

“The Company She Keeps.” Mary McCarthy. Should shake them up a bit on campus.

History, said Aristotle, represents things as they are, fiction as they ought to be.

Middle class money.

Middle class ethics.

Jewish home.

Jewish family.

Anti-Semitism.

Conservative home thus begets conservative parents.

Sports. Street sports. Roller hockey. Stick ball.

Brooklyn—When growing up—the neighborhood, the streets.

Brooklyn—The kids.

Brooklyn—The Bigger Kids. The block bully.

Trial. Error.

Drink. Confusion.

A whore.

“A man’s rhythm must be interpretive. It will be, therefore in the end, his own, uncounterfeiting, uncounterfeitable.” Ezra Pound.

Someone else said “Each line of a poem, however many or few its stresses, represents a single breath, and therefore a single perception.”

And “The poet must forge his rhythm according to the impulse of the creative emotion working through him.”Some outside reading:

Some outside reading:

“Rats Lice and History,” Dr. Hans Zinsser

“Post Mortems,” and “Mere Mortals,” Dr. C. MacLaurin.

“Anthropology and Primitive Culture,” Sir Edward Taylor

“Mind of Primitive Man,” and “Anthropology and Modern Life,” Franz Boas

“Early Civilization,” A.A. Goldenweiser

“Racial Basis for Civilization,” F.H. Hankins

“Wandering of People,” A.C. Haddon.

“To melt and be like a running brook that

sings its melody to the night.

To know the pain of too much tenderness

To be wounded by my own understanding of love

and to bleed willingly and joyfully

To wake at dawn with winged heart Idea. Idea. Idea. Idea. Idea. Idea.          Damn it, none. Pray it through.

Damn it, none. Pray it through.

So near and yet so far.

Finders, keepers, losers, weepers.

Political nature abhors a political vacuum.

“Cynic: A snarler, a misanthrope. One who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest.

Cynical: Given to contemptuous disbelief in man’s sincerity of motives or rectitude of conduct. Characterized by the conviction that human conduct is suggested or directed by self-interest or self-indulgence.”

Read more of the following and in a hurry.

Emily Dickinson

Sidney Lanier

William Dean Howells

Edward Rowland Sill

Stephen Crane

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Robert Frost

Ezra Pound

Amy Lowell

Wallace Stephens

Robinson Jeffers

Gertrude Stein

T.S. Eliot

Hart Crane

William Faulkner  “To melt and be like a running brook that

“To melt and be like a running brook that

sings its melody to the night.

To know the pain of too much tenderness

To be wounded by my own understanding of love

and to bleed willingly and joyfully

To wake at dawn with winged heart

and give thanks for another day of loving;

To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;

To return home as eventide with gratitude:

and then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved

in my heart and a song of praise upon my lips.”

The Prophet, Gibran

 

Man-environment; Environment-man. “Modern Man In Search of a Soul,” Carl Jung.

“Modern Man In Search of a Soul,” Carl Jung.

“The Rebel,” Albert Camus.

Old Testament.” Numbers R, XIV, 10.

 

“Why is there any being at all and not rather nothing?” Martin Heidegger.

“Every life is many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves.” Ulysses, James Joyce.

“No one need make a spiritual detour to ascertain that he exists.”

The Tale of The Wig, Pio Baroja.

“Brutishness,” I suggested.

“Yes . . . All my brutishness, but he can scarcely read or write.”

“And he has never philosophized on life,” I added.

“No,” Wolf Larsen answered, with an indescribable air of sadness.

“And he is all the happier for leaving life alone. He is too busy living it to think about it. My mistake was in ever opening the books.” The Sea Wolf, Jack London.

“The warbler, swinging

his body upside down

does his first singing.”

A haiku attributed to Kikaku (1661-1707)

Equivocal: Ambiguous. Of doubtful meaning. Capable of double interpretation.

Ambivalence: Simultaneous attraction toward and repulsion from an object, person or action.

Hiatus.

Anachronism.

Megalomania

Carlyle once said, “A well-written life is almost as rare as a well spent one.”

“There is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.” William Shakespeare. “Macbeth.”

“We are anthropoid apes trying to live like termites while lacking most of the termite equipment.” Cultural Background of Personality, Ralph Linton.

“And thus anyone was saying as he looked at his neighbor.”

“The Illiad,” Homer.

“Custom, as Pinder said, is king over all mortals and immortals, and customs prescribed obedience.” James Bryce.

“Personality is the organized aggregate of psychological processes and states pertaining to the individual.” Ralph Linton, again.

***

Apathy.

Nuance.

“We know the answers, all the answers. It is the question that we do not know.” Archibald MacLeish, 1928.

“Underneath all, individuals, I swear nothing is good to me now that ignores individuals. The American compact is altogether with individuals. The only government is that which makes minute with individuals . . .” “By Blue Ontario’s Shore,” Walt Whitman.

There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.” Goethe.

 

1956

Read: “The College Handbook of Composition.”

Read: “American Rhetoric” by W.W. Watt.

Read “1976” by Morris Ernst. Is this the book in which he discusses the positive consequences of our material society?

Call the Board of Education to see if they need substitute teachers?

Pizza.

Restaurant on East 58th Street called East of Suez.

Call the Capitol Theater at Broadway and 51st Street for tickets to “Guys and Dolls.”

I keep on reading everything in sight. “Ten North Frederick” by John O’Hara. “The Naked and The Dead” by Norman Mailer. “Neon Wilderness” by Nelson Algren. “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway.

Bring with me T.H. Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom.”

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My Commonplace Book, Part 2

As promised is here is part 2 of my Commonplace Book.  

                 My Commonplace Book by Ron Steinman                                       

                                           1954 Part 2

Listening to the radio and a show called, “Jazz Corner.” It’s filled with the sounds of Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan, Oscar Petersen and others. Listening to them with a glass of cheap red wine helps make my day.

“The Moldau,” a symphonic poem. Powerful and moving. It is the theme for Hatikvah.

World War I. The French are at Verdun February 21, 1916 through December 1916. The French and Germans are in a long, brutal, bloody battle. One million are killed. 1,000,000 killed! How long, under normal circumstances would it take for one million people, mostly men, to die? Petain was the commanding general for the French. The French were “sustained” (sustained!) by the famous battle cry, “Ills ne passerant pas!” They shall not pass!

“Pain is necessary for nobility.” Nietzsche.

“Man is nothing but the ensemble of his acts.” Sartre. In other words, emphasis on action.

Charles Erskine Scott Wood’s “Heavenly Discourse” is very funny.

“You Better Go Now,” by Jeri Southern

Song: “This is You.”Robin’s Nest is a good disk jockey show.

Robin’s Nest is a good disk jockey show.

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” Carpe diem. A wonderful practice. I am trying very hard, although it is frustrating but so are many things.

Numerals are written as numbers (1,2,3,4,5) and not as words composed of letters.

Memorize: CH2-CH3–OH. Repeat. CH2-CH3–OH.

“No man is an island unto himself.”

“La Ronde” is a satirical French film about sex. Different and well done, it is something that could never be made in America.

Mickey Mouse. Minnie Mouse. John Paul Jones.

Nothing.

The exorbitant cost of psychiatrists, and psychologists, too.

Mike Todd is dead. One minute of silence is in order.

Finished reading “The Delicate Prey and Other Stories” by Paul Bowles. Also completed “Point Counter Point” by that fraud Aldus Huxley. Bowles is a wonderfully slight stylist and Huxley is a writer with too much fat in his brain.

The time is five seventeen in the afternoon on November 16, 1954. The day is dreary and it smells of coming snow. I close this, the first notebook with some sorrow, for it has been my most intimate associate.

Calderon says, “ The greatest of man’s sins/ Is that he was ever born.”

Othello to Iago, “I’d have thee live/ For, in my sense,/ ‘tis happiness to die.”

Palmira to Mohammed in Voltaire’s tragedy: “The world is made for tyrants; live and reign!”

Schopenhauer says that egoism is the form of the will to live.“Neither good nor bad can men be deemed. As they can, they live one day at a time.” Strindberg and his brilliant pessimism.

At Basin Street. Duke Ellington and Don Shirley. Duke is sensational. Shirley is light, refreshing, delicate. When I get the money to finally start collecting records I must get some of both. The music is fine, the beer is good, the place is half empty. I need a good laugh.

Play on Channel 4. TV Playhouse. “Class of 58.” Point: little or no hazing in colleges any longer. Point: atypical character. Too strong. Point: too much J.D. Salinger. Point: arrogance is too personified. Point: they don’t call teachers by their first names where I go to school. Point: maybe I’m reminded of college.

December 22, 1954. Brooklyn. I finished reading James Hilton’s “Lost Horizon.” I stayed in the perfect mood for its extreme romanticism so for the moment an excellent story for me. But not forever. December 23, 1954. Words heard in clubs, heard on the radio, heard on bar stools.

December 23, 1954. Words heard in clubs, heard on the radio, heard on bar stools.

Land of Oobladee.

Feeling the worst.

Real wild basket of ribs and a bottle of juice.

Joint. Three meanings with each in hand.

Lay it on her.

Skin, as in, gimmee some.

Pops.

She’s feeling kind of beat.

Wild.

Fall in.

Fall by.

Crazy.

Pad.

The same old jazz.

It’s a gasser.

The most to say the least.

How do you come on?

The greatest.

Somebody goofed.

The swingingest.

Cut out.

Don’t hand me that jazz.

Your timing was like the end.

Are the lowest, like in you are the lowest.

Broad.

Crack. A sexy broad.

Forgive me for coming on so square.

You are out of your skull.

Weirdsville.

The whole thing is real nervous.

Let’s fall upstairs and find out the skam.

Somebody has been making it.

There’s been a scuffle in my pad . . . Too. The three bears in 4/4 time.

Take it from the top.

Jack, don’t bug me. I’m beat. Bought a paperback book of short stories by Damon Runyon for 30 cents.

Bought a paperback book of short stories by Damon Runyon for 30 cents.

Reading “The Moon and Sixpence” by Somerset Maugham. Finished reading “God or Caesar” by Vardis Fisher.

Finished reading “God or Caesar” by Vardis Fisher“The Short Story in America” and “The Literary Situation “ by Malcolm Cowley.

“The Short Story in America” and “The Literary Situation “ by Malcolm Cowley.

 

From “Beyond Good and Evil” by Friedrich Nietzsche: Intransigence. Tartuffery. Pariahs. Rococo-taste. Nuances. Minotaur. Exoteric. Esoteric.

Lassitude. Insidiously. Debilitates. Attenuated. My education continues with these words. Where and how can they be used to best advantage, if at all?

My education continues with these words. Where and how can they be used to best advantage, if at all?

There is so very much I want to learn. Where to begin? Where is the time? I’m not a scholar, yet something drives me on to read all and everything. Why? Perhaps I shouldn’t care.

Two more for the list: Epistemological and iridescent

Two more: Ambergris and accouter.

It is either Nietzsche or he has one hell of a translation  “Where there is neither love nor hatred in the game, woman’s play is mediocre.” Nietzsche, again.

And, “In revenge and in love, woman is more barbarous than man.”

“To vigorous men intimacy is a matter of shame—and something precious.” This, more than many other things that Nietzsche says, requires an explanation. Why? What does he mean by vigorous, intimacy, shame?

“As the arts proliferate with prodigious fecundity, his lot is an increasingly hard one.” Learned Hand.

Calderon says, “ The greatest of man’s sins/ Is that he was ever born.”

Othello to Iago, “I’d have thee live/ For, in my sense,/ ‘tis happiness to die.”

Palmira to Mohammed in Voltaire’s tragedy: “The world is made for tyrants; live and reign!”

Schopenhauer says that egoism is the form of the will to live.

It’s late, dark and wet. At two in the morning, with the sparse light, shadows and gentle noise, it is a wonderful atmosphere.

“Neither good nor bad can men be deemed. As they can, they live one day at a time.” Strindberg and his brilliant pessimism.

Note: Part 3 will follow in one week.

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A Commonplace Book (My book of Things) by Ron Steinman

A Commonplace Book (My Book of Things) by Ron Steinman

What exactly is a commonplace book? The following should answer the question. It is my collection, as it would be by any other person, of just about anything and everything that entered my mind which I recorded mainly from 1954 through 1961 when I was a junior and senior at Lafayette College and then working at my first jobs after college while living in Brooklyn. Much of what follows is from a long-ago​ era. The books, the thoughts, even the ideas do not necessarily make sense today. Some ideas came from classes I attended, others came to me over cheap red wine or when drinking endless bottles of beer and ale. I include sayings and poems by other people. Some are aphorisms. Some are from essays. Some come from newspapers. Here for your reading pleasure and, I hope, to satisfy your curiosity are my collected thoughts, words, quotes, ideas, and observation about everything. Some are even in my words. There is poetry. There are musical notes, and notes about music and by musicians. There is everything and anything that caught my attention written down in small notebooks that I carried with me everywhere I went. I lay them down now just as I recorded them then: as I experienced them, without form or formula, in no order. Form was not important. When I first entered these ideas and “things” in my many small notebooks I did it so that I would not forget what I had read or observed. I wanted to remember some of what influenced me in my disorderly formative years. Order was not important then. It still is not important. But function is important and by that, I mean how each thing I recorded meant something to me at that time. I would like the reader to dip in and out, read what he or she wants or not. In the process getting to understand me as I came of age is key to who I am. Looking back on many of the oddball notes, the reading lists, the words, most of which I never used but I thought were important, are still relevant to me today more than fifty years later. However, many of the books and notes about them are no longer relevant. Some of the books fell into justifiable obscurity. Some, though best sellers and thought important in their day, also disappeared without a trace. Writers once revered, no longer matter. Styles and methods change. Writing evolves with the times. That aside, keeping the record was vital in what has now become my “Commonplace Book, a Catalogue of Thoughts and Things, 1954-1961.” It is a time machine of my world over those seven years unique to my ever-widening range of interests. Think of it as I do — my life more than fifty years in the past. Except for no internet, nothing digital, no email, no Twitter, no social media and anything else considered modern, little has really changed on how a person copes with the difficult job of understanding who he or she is, where he has been and where he might be going. I will be posting it on my WordPress blogs, on Facebook and Linkedin. Read it free or not. It is up to you. Ultimately I will publish it on Amazon.

1954

I wrote many of these notes in and around Easton, Pennsylvania, the home of Lafayette College where I majored in history. In 1954 I was a junior and well beyond my original dream of being a doctor, a surgeon, by the way, because my father thought I had the hands to cut into and cure someone of a horrible disease. After one semester at college I realized that I did not want to be a doctor and, even if I did, being a surgeon was furthest from my mind. I started to delve into literature, into history, into how people thought and I sought answers in those disciplines that applied to my future. I read voraciously. Nothing was too mundane. Everything had validity. I kept notes. My reflections eventually became the book I call “Notebooks,” the parts of my life after college and available from Barnes&Noble.com which I am currently annotating for future publication. My fun then, though fun does not describe my headlong approach to self-education, was in the doing. Now it is in seeing where many of my ideas first came from and knowing how useful they still may be.

Beginnings

Thought: “When you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite.” Winston Churchill.

“Knowledge is power for good or evil. Confusion is created when it is in the hands of the few or the grasp of too many. Education is an important stepping stone but it is only the beginning.” Who said that? I can’t find the attribution. I would love it attributed to me. Fat chance.

Richard Wright’s, “The Outsider.” Painful, searing book.

Bismarck once called the English and their imperialistic wars,
“sporting wars.” Maybe that’s why they couldn’t hold on to their empire.

“Here sit I, forming mankind /In my own image, A race to myself, /
To suffer and to weep, /Rejoice, enjoy, and heed thee not, as I.” Goethe, Prometheus.

“. . . the delighting in man as man in man’s body as well as in his mind.” Boccaccio. Neo-paganism at its best.

“A military triumph is the most obvious form of national success.” Of course. Who owns this line?

“Si vis pacem, para bellum.” If you want peace, prepare for war. And who said this?

Words: Harbinger. Penurious. Eleemosynary. Recalcitrant. Iniquitous. Desiderata. Ebullition(s).

Psychic, psychical, fear, love. personage.

Existentialism. Organized religion. Personification of the self. Isn’t that a tautology?

Heard on the radio: “Fortune In Dreams,” The Marquis.

“Bobbie,” The Marquis.

“If Love is Good to Me,” Nat King Cole.

“Penthouse Serenade,” by anyone, anyone at all.

Chet Baker and his beautiful, liquid trumpet.

Woody Herman’s great recording, “The Story of an Itinerant Musician.” Woody’s gravel voice, “. . . when they first met, they gassed each other.” Have another beer. It’s so great. I want what he’s talking about.

More Woody. “I’m Sorry About The Whole Darn Thing.” Last line, “You goofed baby.” How true, how very true.

“Saturday” by Sarah Vaughn. “Weary as a party girl in last years
clothes. . . “ Terrific line. It implies so much.

Gerry Mulligan’s marvelous baritone sax.

“Take The A Train,” Duke’s great piece played by Dave Brubeck and friends. Great immersion.

The Dave Pell Ochtette, a fine group, chamber in its makeup, almost symphonic with its bell-like horns.

Sauter-Fiunnegan big band sound. Very clever musical arrangements. Who will recall them in ten or twenty years?
Part 2 will follow in one week.

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Anatomy of a Riot by Ron Steinman

Anatomy of a Riot by Ron Steinman

It has been relatively quiet in Northern Ireland for many years. But reading between the lines and hearing from active sources Northern Ireland can blow apart at the slightest provocation. If it does, and opposing sides take to the streets, as is their want, one might expect riots to rise to the top as cream does in milk. If it should happen, for those who do not remember the heavy days of demonstrations, the following is a primer on what happens when riots become the means of expression for many who consider themselves disenfranchised. As we are seeing today, the demonstrations in Iran have easily turned into riots in certain parts of the country. This may help explain what happens when a demo becomes a riot wherever it takes place.

 

Lately I have been recalling events I saw as a journalist. Having covered “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland from their start in the early 1970s, the possibility for future riots in Northern Ireland still exists. There are always the diehards in any society who wait in the wings for their chance to erupt. Northern Ireland is one of those places.

Riots in Northern Ireland were usually preordained. After having finished marching to honor an event that, say, took place 400 years earlier, each side would make ready for battle. After the march, people wandered freely before positioning themselves ready to fight. Lined up on one side of the macadam street were Protestants carrying sticks, rocks, paving stones and petrol bombs. Across from them were their Catholic adversaries armed the same. Between the two groups standing tall, looking ominous and fully armed, plastic see-through shields protecting them, their rifles loaded with rubber bullets, were mostly young khaki-clad, very fit British soldiers assigned to keep the peace, if possible. On the fringes were the R.U.C, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, dressed in dark blue. They nervously held lethal batons in sweaty hands. The R.U.C was the local police in Northern Ireland hated equally by Protestant and Catholic.

Along with the activists, were the spectators, mostly women and young children cheering and egging on their friends. Journalists from many countries with pencils and pads, still cameras and televsion cameras made up the rest of the observers. The anticipation of action was so strong you could smell it while it cooked. It would not be long before fighting overtook procrastination. Pent up emotions would soon break loose with a fury.

Once you are in the middle of a wild street demonstration that degenerates into a riot, it forces you to focus more than usual on what is happening around you. Your mouth goes dry. If you are someone who sweats, perspiration rolls down your cheeks. Your heart beats faster and turns your legs to jelly, as you inadvertently become part of the violence. Though I experienced riots in Guatemala, Hong Kong and Saigon, those in Northern Ireland, in Belfast, and Londonderry, standout as the most memorable. I may add, the least fun, as well. Not that covering a street demo should be fun, but it should not be life threatening, as it often felt it was in Northern Ireland.

As the sides faced each other, there was a moment of quiet. A pause. Perhaps it was no more than a second or two. I could hear the wind blowing. Someone coughed. I heard a sneeze. My camera crew, my correspondent and I tensed. Still early afternoon, daylight prevailed. Life seemed to stand still. Then, whether by a signal or not, someone on the Catholic side tossed a burning bottle of gasoline into the crowd in front of him. It explodes, spewing gasoline and fragments of glass everywhere. The other side retaliates. So the riot begins, a beast of a different sort with its own heart, physicality, and even a bit of soul, especially when you believe you are fighting for your life, its past and present. Emotion rules. Fear dies. Reason vanishes. Anger dominates.

Everyone rushes at each other, shouting, throwing stones and paving blocks, waving sticks and clubs, aiming to hurt whoever dares to stand in front of him. The soldiers hold their ground, immobile, anxious, fighting back, butting heads, firing off rubber bullets, kicking and slashing at the mob in front and back of them. The police get involved in the melee but they are not in the middle of the fray. It is to their advantage to be on the sides and pick at the residue from the milling crowd. More often than not they try to take down the Catholics in the fight paying less attention to their Protestant constituents.

More gas bombs fly through the air and explode in the crowd. One or more people on each side become flaming pyres which their brethren quickly extinguish by rolling the burning bodies on the ground. Clothing is torn and ripped. Faces bleed. There are bruises on everyone’s hands. Torn fingernails are the norm. Heads banged. Bodies broken. For the moment, the noise overwhelms. All you hear are screams, shouts and yelling. Using metal garbage can covers as shields and weapons, each side advances on the other only to fall back or move forward depending on how aggressive one or the other is. The air fills with smoke and the smell of cordite when the army fires its rubber bullets. You can hear the groans from the pain each group inflicts on by the other.

Then, as if someone pulled a plug, the air goes out of the demonstration and just as it began it ends. It is over. The participants fall back to their original positions. The riot did not wind down. It just stopped, as if a subliminal signal ordered everyone to halt in place. The street, littered with debris from the fighting, becomes unnervingly quiet. The army steps back and reforms into its original units. The police move aside and collect themselves before returning to normal duty. The adversaries go their separate ways. Many of the participants head to the pub of their choice. There they would assess the day. Their wounds would start healing. Having a drink to assuage their thirst was a necessary respite from the high-octane fueled action they had just been a part of without any winners or losers.

 

 

 

 

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