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What Was Verifiably Great About America: Fragments of a Memoir Set To A Musical Soundtrack

What Was Verifiably Great About America: Fragments of a Memoir Set To A Musical Soundtrack

Phil Rockstroh

The music tells a story, but that doesn't mean it will end well

Heh Phil - or is it ‘Hallo’ !

There is a magic in music - truly.

Back in the days when I was deep into mid-life never never land, I heard a tune - ‘Every Little Thing’, by Carlene Carter.

That broke the ice. I loaded up my half-ton, rolled down the windows, slid open the back of cab window, turned the music to max, and headed out.

Six months later I returned out West, having toured the old stomping grounds of ‘Ville Marie’ (Montreal), and the entire eastern seaboard to Key Largo.

I was - in fact - re-born.

So it’s not surprising to me that music should have affected America’s bard, Phil Rockstroh, so profoundly.

As for inequality -

My opinion - we’re going to have to wait until we are all poor - working class - at least some as yet undefined percentage of us.

With the bridges behind all burnt, if you catch my drift.

The default position, from whence we came.


Comment numero 2:

Hollywood - also a sometimes touchstone of the human heart.

We saw the new Star Wars yesterday - there were virtually no empty seats in the theater.


‘Know’st thou not there is but one theme for ever enduring bards?
And that is the theme of war,
The fortune of battles,
The Making of perfect soldiers.’

  • Walt Whitman


‘Then Arthur learned, as all leaders are astonished to learn, that peace, not war, is the destroyer of men; tranquility rather than danger is the mother of cowardice, and not need but plenty brings apprehension and unease.’

  • from John Steinbeck’s translation of the Arthurian Legend,
    ‘The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights’

Why - indeed why?

Very inspiring essay! I especially liked the anecdote about Woody Guthrie.



Because where once imagination roamed now there is Media which tells you what to think about, when to think about it and where to buy it.

Congratulations, you are the ultimate consumer. You not only bought the product, you are even advertising it…and for free.


Having grown up among the “old Chevrolet set, not the jet set”, to quote John Prine, I have always been disgusted with the lack of empathy demonstrated by urban neoliberals and right wingers alike. Neoliberal hubris is what got us the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the Clintons, Obamas and other corporate stooges who paved the way for Trump into the White House.


This system kills fascists:


Thanks for concisely telling the rich mountain-climbing trust-fund-baby “manysummits” - who I suspect has never had to work for a capitalist boss in his life - exactly what I thought.

Fuck capitalist, commercial, brain-destroying Hollywood!

As for me, on the same night as the opening of fucking “Star Wars” I watched the brilliant 1981 epic movie “Reds” directed and acted by Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton - one of the last movies made in the rapidly dying era when Hollywood actually made inspiring movies. Our local of the International Socialist Organization showed it at a screening room at Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Admission - free.

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Do you really think that the post-Reagan, right-shifting and “triangulating” Democrats paved the way for Trump? Then why did McGovern, Carter (2md term) Dukakis, and Mondale lose?

I remain skeptical that a further-left Democratic party would have done better, in fact, they would likely have done much worse. The Democrats only began to win again when they moved to the right right, starting with Clinton. Believing that the USAn people were or are ready for a politician with a genuinely leftist message has little basis in fact. We on the radical left cannot blame the Democratic Party for our own failure to educate and raise class-consciousness in US society - which is the only thing that would have given genuine leftists a chance in the realm of electoral politics.

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Happens to the best

eneral Beat polymath my father had befriended, I swooned—was, I suspect, transformed—when a guest in the home (where a young Bob Dylan used to crash when in Atlanta—which was, at the time, a rundown, mafia-owned apartment house but where, decades earlier,

I don’t feel so bad anymore

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There is also an insidiously slick institutionalized portal with the infrastructure inverted into pervasive ‘guilty-pleasure’-stimulating void/blind spot/ leaping-off-point/ point of ‘no return’ ______________(add any number of potential magical thinking negations) that once rationalized as A OK, the long slippery slope of sociopathology has its slickering machinery.

How we manage to lay claim to the ‘INSTITUTION’ as our one and only framing of a collective self might provide insight into why we, as a WE, stop short of acknowledging the vast spectrum of intertwining rhizomes that are always functioning in the area where our inner lives, personal lives and social lives blend into what we glibly refer to as ‘society’.

I’m thinking about building a silo costume to wear whenever I go out.

Heck with “no man is an island” - a naturally formed integral part of the planet - it takes the Freudian fragmentation bludgeon isolated as ego to alternately create and profit from shortcomings/negations and twist distortions beyond any recognition.

“i’m mad as hell and i’m not going to take it anymore”

So good to have Mr. Rockstroh back in play. I have missed his metaphysical expertise, his ability to connect us to the psyche and the currents of our times.

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Sadly, folk revival is practically dead now - the surviving ones still performing are in their 70’s or older. I see little chance of it coming back in todays hyper-accelerated capitalist culture. And it has been totally wiped out of the central/southern Appalachian region where it originated. The Wal-Mart-ized homogenization of culture in that region is pretty much complete.

Reasonable people might disagree as to whether Bernie Sanders’ message was “genuinely leftist,” but there can be no doubt that it resonated with a LOT of USAns—at which point the triangulating D leadership, following in the footsteps of those who forced Henry Wallace out in favor of HS Truman, pressed the multigenerational attack on the remains of the New Deal by handing the D nomination to HRC.

re “I remain skeptical that a further-left Democratic party would have done better…”

Every credible poll has Sanders beating Trump by double digits, your skepticism notwithstanding.

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The Democrats eternally believe that every election is a battle against St Ronnie’s Ghost.

As such, they run on the philosophy of limiting expectations, and playing politics on the right wing’s terms, and steering rudderless when it comes to policy of their own. Their last major accomplishment: RomneyCare. What they can’t coalesce around: A living wage, free tuition at public colleges, single payer, ending the wars.

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The polls were taken months before the nomination, much less the election. Sanders lead would have withered fast as soon as the “tax and spend liberal” and “He honeymooned in the Soviet Union” attacks started.

Note that every poll had Hillary beating Trump too - and she did.

My main point remains. We should not expect the Democratic - or any other political party - to do our work for us. As good as he looks compared to Trump,even Sanders ultimately would have disappointed to the left.

Hillary Clinton and some other prominent Dims called for ending The Electoral College after the debacle of the 2000 election. However, Kerry in 2004 lost the popular vote by a large margin but could of been POTUS with an Ohio victory ( even with the strange vote counts, long lines and lost ballots, etc ). This really put the issue on the backburner, politically. The Dims just couldn’t go there, really.
It is very ironic that in 2016 Hillary won almost 3 million more popular votes, Trump got only 46% of the overall total, the last vestiges of domestic political decency was burned down to the ground and the world as we knew it turned to shit almost overnight, in historical terms. Now we know how the German trade unions and Socialists felt in 1933.
So it goes…

Glad to see Mr. Rockstroh mention the band X in his personal musical journal.They’re a hidden jewel of American punk country anarchy. Sun blinded and lost in LowCal in the 1980s and still crazy enough to be called to the down: " just another poor little critter in the road, poor little critter in the road ".
Weren’t, and aren’t we all.