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The Head of Karl Marx| Plastics Comrade?|
End of the Sixties

The Head of Karl Marx

by Arnold Levine...
There was that sudden, reluctant awakening in the dead of night, knowing that something in the outside world had intruded into my dreams and was jolting me from the deep sleep of youth. I shifted in my bed. Blurry explanations began their sluggish way into my rousing consciousness and were sorted for consideration.

What was it this time? Another fiery car crash at the bottom of Highgate West Hill?
The dangerously steep, narrow and curvy main road leveled out abruptly next to Cavours Hardware Shop where it intersected with Swains Lane, before it continued on south as the sedate Highgate Road. My view from the second floor window of our family's maisonette strategically overlooked a bus terminus and that perilous intersection beyond, which had periodically claimed so many lives. 

Perhaps it was the thundering hooves of one hundred horses of the Queen's Horse Guards'? With a uniformed cavalry rider on one horse and running a second horse alongside by its reins, the sinuous pairings regularly galloped by my window. Two
abreast they would surge forward on their regular, rain-or-shine, pre-dawn exercise
through the deserted North London streets. Clattering past, they would continue to the north, audibly slowing up heart-straining Highgate West Hill. The staccato sounds would gradually fade away into utter silence. I always wondered if they watched for out-of-control cars coming down the other way.

Or was it Karl Marx again?

Out of long habit, I got out of bed, staggered in the dark to the window and pulled aside first the heavy streetlight-blocking curtain and then the diaphanous nylon lace curtain. In my sleep-groggy state I stared out at the surprisingly empty street quietly illuminated at regular intervals by blotchy yellow sodium light. I saw no finely trained Arab steeds, their coats glistening with sweat, streaming by my window. Nor did the image of a mangled automobile engulfed in flames painfully strike my nighttime eyes.

So it had to be Karl. >read more> pdf version>>


Plastics Comrade?


by Arnold Levine...
The recent bizarre poisonings of Putin-dissenters brought to mind my life in London in the early 1960's and my brush with Soviet spies. I lived near Highgate cemetery where the main polonium-laced dissenter was interred, just a Molotov-cocktail's throw from the imposing grave of Karl Marx.

At the age of eleven, I knew little of global matters, but one day they came right by my front door. Playing with friends in our maisonette's front yard, I was startled by the dramatic appearance of many large, black, soviet Zil limousines turning onto our street. All of their bulbous front fenders were sporting a small fluttering red flag bearing a yellow hammer-and-sickle motif. A flatulent posse of police motorbikes caught up with my ears. With closed black windows, the cars sped smoothly past my gaping mouth.

Having recently moved into the flats I didn't know what was happening. William, my next door neighbor, apparently a veteran of this ominous spectacle, leapt into action and shouted "Let's go!" He and three other boys raced out of the yard and into the street following the cars. I ran after them, not knowing why or what our fate would be at the end of our adventure.

The narrow road and the amount of traffic caused the caravan to slow, so we gained some ground. Between gulps of air, as we raced up the hill I asked what was happening.
William snorted "It's bound to be sum big Russki commie leader."
"Why are they coming here?" I panted.
"coz Karl Marx is buried ´ere, aint ´e!" he wheezed back.
"Who's Karl Marx?"
"'e's the bloke who invented communism aint 'e!" he said derisively from the height of his eighteen-month age advantage.

Up ahead the police had cordoned off the road, so we bunked each other over a brick-and-cast-iron spiked wall and descended into the ghostly dense underbrush of an old cemetery. Lost, I followed the other boys on the narrow dark paths, hoping they knew where they were going. Old tombstones creaked at all angles as fanciful souvenirs covered with moss and ivy watched my passage. Crashing through a hedge we emerged onto a sunnier, wider, gravel path.

Read more>> pdf


End of the Sixties


by Arnold Levine...
For me, the end began one early evening in London in August 1970. On the way from my flat above the notorious Mangrove Cafe in Ladbroke Grove, I emerged from Kings Cross Station to catch a bus to my parent's house at Parliament Hill Fields. I was preparing to go on a summer car trip to Europe with my old school friend and flatmate Jeffrey. At the corner of Kings Cross Road and Euston Road was a makeshift newspaper kiosk huddled against the entry steps and the fluted columns of the superb Victorian folly of St. Pancras Railway Station. In front of the kiosk I saw large black headlines on the white Evening Standard teaser board with its thin, transient paper edges flapping in the gentle breeze through the wire holding frame. "Famous Woman Rock Singer Dies". Oh dear, who was it now? So many had crashed and burned since the onset of the Beatle-led cultural revolution started in 1962. I reluctantly walked over to the kiosk and looked down at the tabloid-size newspapers piled neatly on the counter.

 My heart sank down to my plimsolls  "Not her! No! Not Janis!" The bored newspaper seller ignored my outburst. I gave him the sixpence. The bad/great girl of rock, the singer whom many of us guys secretly wanted to take in our arms and protect from the world that was eating her up; was dead. Janis was just another rock-star cliché in the end. Her immense talent and future wasted, the potential barely tapped, just like the youth movement she helped define and inspire. Even uber-smashed Lady Day had left a substantial catalogue for us to cry over. Watching Janis Joplin cry, laugh, emote and live through each song she sang, had always given me a spine-tingling experience like no other. Her voice seemed to split into a chorus of separate, different voices when she screamed with pain and then softly sighed with love for us all. I never saw her perform live, I saw her on the Monterey Pop film, the recent Festival Express, and some other contemporary TV shows she appeared in, she certainly was not a typical beauty; she had bad skin, she drank too much, but her inner vulnerability gave her a powerful outward glamour. I played her vinyl albums hard to their scratchy end, just like Janis herself.  

I had just turned twenty, and it was getting hard to hold onto the idealistic dreams of the late sixties with our heroes dying or being imprisoned almost daily.  Governments feared the growing youth movement they, the Churches or parents had no control over. Their old-system of "keep quiet" conformity was not working anymore with us. The awaking information age now showed us all we needed to know about how the world was really being run and by whom. The lurid moral turpitude and revolutionary spirit seen by the powers-that-be branching out from this growing awareness, had shocked the establishment to its calcified roots and they reared back with harsher laws, brutality and fewer civil liberties.
Read more >>  pdf



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