The Mormon Right Of Way

The Paiutes traditional hunting grounds in Southern Nevada were usurped by Mormom colonists in the 1870s. The well-watered land along the Colorado was especially appealing to the polygamous sects and Edward Bunker, who is no relation to Archie Bunker, founded Bunkerville in 1877 to establish a commune based on shared labor. It lasted four years and the remote town settled into a ranching community with a present population of over one thousand inhabitants. I have driven past Bunkerville several times coming from Las Vegas or returning from Utah. It is far enough off Interstate 15 to not notice the small town in the desolate Virgin Valley.

Water comprises on 1% of the Clark County’s territory and few travelers bother to detour off the highway to drive along 170, since like all polygamous Mormon enclaves Bunkerville has no restaurants or gas stations or any appeal to passing motorists, since the clannish polygamists prefer that ‘non-members; to keep on trucking to Las Vegas or Zion Canyon. They like their towns tight, however this weekend Bunkerville hit the national headlines.

The Bureau of Land Management had been confiscating a rancher’s cattle free-grazing on federal lands. Cliven Bundy refused to recognize the government’s ownership and claimed his family were the rightful owners with deeds dating back to their seizure from the Paiutes in the 1870s. Courts had levied the 67 year-old rancher with over $1 million in fines for trespassing without Bundy ever paying a dime for grazing rights on the expansive desertlands.

Bundy’s plight gained sympathy from like-thinkers and soon hundreds of armed protestors confronted federal officials near the Bundy’s compound.

The White House decided to defuse the situation and the confiscated cattle was restored to the Bundys in order to avoid a repeat of federal violence at Ruby Ridge, Idaho or Waco, Texas.

CNN was busy covering the missing Malaysian flight, leaving Fox News to tell its side of the story.

“Our mission here is to protect the protestors and the American citizens from the violence that the federal government is dishing out,” Jim Landy, a member of the West Mountain Rangers, who made the journey from Montana to Nevada, told Fox News Channel. “People here are scared.”

And the Feds can be scary, but the long dispute with the Bundy family is another example of White America protecting the rights of agricultural moochers. These lands were allocated for 150 head. The Bundys let hundreds more onto the reserve. They grazed the grass to the dirt. He lost a court case in 2012, but decided the law didn’t apply to him or any free-rangers.

Bundy argued that the rules were changed in 1993 to protect the desert tortoise.

Free-rangers hated anything other than stupid bovine herds, since that’s the only living animal to which they can relate, until they kill it for a Mickie D hamburger.

Rightwingers claimed a victory for the West and I am glad that the tense situation ended without bloodshed, although one of Bundy’s grandsons had been tasered by a federal officer, but it’s all part of the welfare state of the right.

Gun, cows, and SUVs.

Fuck them all.

I prefer GTOs, blondes, and sushi.

This afternoon a friend asked how I knew that Bunkerville was Mormon.

“My great-greast-great-great-granduncle once removed was Joseph Smith. I know a polygamists when I see one.”

And that’s the truth.

To read about the Bundy Standoff on Wikipedia, please go to the following URL

A view of Bunkerville.

A nice place to be.

No Dairy Queens or Taco stands.

A road and big houses off the road.

Big houses mean one thing.

Big families.

‘Choose the right’.

It’s the Mormon way to be.

You Bet I Would / Redhead and Boots

Jesse Winchester RIP

Back in 1970 I found an LP by a folksinger named Jesse Winchester. I loved this LP, especially the songs YANKEE LADY, SNOW, and THE BRAND NEW TENNESSEE WALTZ. Jesse Winchester never played in Boston or Cambridge or anyplace in the USA, since he had fled the USA to avoid the Draft in 1967 after graduating from Williams College. Upon his pardon in 1976 by Jimmy Carter the singer returned to this country and was called by Rolling Stone “the Greatest Voice of the Decade”.

I never saw him live and was saddened this weekend to read in the newspaper that Jesse Winchester had passed away in Charlottesville, Virginia.

He shall be missed, but his music lives on.

To hear YANKEE LADY, please go to this URL

To hear THE BRAND NEW TENNESSEE WALTZ, please go to this URL

To hear SNOW, please go to this URL


When Cecil B. DeMille’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS was released in 1956 and its box office success earned the cinematic retelling of Exodus over $180 million dollars. In 1962 Paramount Pictures re-released the film for screenings at drive-ins across the nation and my father loaded my brothers and sisters into our Ford station wagon to view the epic with a cast of thousands at the South Shore Drive-In.

After paying for our entry my father cruised the left-handed lane looking for a good vantage spot. He was an ace at parking. My mother spotted an open slot, but before my father could turn a rock hit our car.

My father’s head spun to the left and he spotted a teenager scrambling up the grassy slope. My father jammed the column shift into P and jumped out of the car. He had played football in college and caught the young man within seconds. It was too dark to tell if he had punched the stone-thrower, although he returned to the station wagon rubbing his knuckles.

“Damned kids today.”

“That language.” My mother never used a bad word in her life. She thought that swearing was a sign of mental depravity.

“Sorry.” My father loved my mother almost as much as he loved his six children.

After finding the perfect spot, he gave my older brother and me money to get popcorn from the concession stand. Frunk was eleven and I was ten. This was the first time that we didn’t have to wear pajamas to the drive-in and we walked over to the refreshment stand. Teens loitered under the neon lights. They looked so cool.

Returning to the station wagon my older brother and I handed the popcorn and soft drinks to our parents. We set up lawn chair before the family car and watched the movie in the warm summer air.

It was a great film.

Charlton Heston was awed by the burning bush under the starry skies of the South Shore. His voice was echoed by hundreds of tiny speakers across the drive-in. The cruelty of the Egyptians was monstrous. Moses heroically faced down the pharoah’s magicians, yet the Pharaoh played by the bald Yul Brenner refused to let the Hebrews leave his land.

Moses warned of plagues.

His childhood friend laughed in his face, then the Nile turned into blood, frogs overran the land, gnats infested the dead frogs, wild beasts were driven crazy by the gnats, livestock died from the diseased wild beasts, a pestilence of boils spread on the skin of the Egyptians, a hailstorm destroyed the remaining crops and locust clouded the sky.

The worst was saved for last.

A darkness fell over Egypt and the first-born of every Egyptian died with the passage of the angel of death.

“Why would God kill innocent babies?” I had been a non-believer since the age of 6 and this depiction of God’s ruthlessness rehardened my heart against the faith of America.

“God acts in strange ways.” My older brother had possession of the popcorn. This wasn’t the place for an argument about God and at the end of the movie the Hebrews reach the Promised Land, although without Moses who doubted God’s promise.

“God doesn’t act in strange ways. He acts like a creep.” My best friend Chaney had drowned in Lake Sebago and he had been a first born.

“Sssh, you want Mom to hear you?”

I shut up, since my youthful atheism would have deeply hurt my mother, but over the following years I would question my Jewsih friends about celebrating Passover as a commemoration of the ancient decimation of the Egyptian young.

Passaich was late this year and this April afternoon I wandered to 47th Street to pick up a diamond before everyone went home for the high holiday.

Richie Boy greeted me with a shrug.

“When are you leaving?”

Everyone else in the exchange was closing shop.

“Ask the old man.” Richie Boy pointed to my former boss. Manny was staying to the bitter end of the day.

“Manny, it’s Passover.”

“And what’s that to you? You’re a goy.” Manny shared my anti-religious beliefs. “When you pay my rent, then you can tell me what time I close my business.”

Manny’s desk was cluttered with the usual piles of paperwork. In all the years I had worked for their firm, the pyramid of papers rose and fell without ever disappearing in entirety.

“Close now and I’ll buy you a martini.”

“I’m busy.” This office was the octogenarian’s home away from home.

“Manny thinks he might make a sale.” Hlove commented under his breath. He had replaced me when I left for thailand two years ago.

“No one is buying nothing today.”His son shook his head and signaled his two employee to pack up the merchandise. Hlove and Deisy didn’t have to be told twice.

”That’s it. We’re going home.”

This decision started a fight between father and son.

I went outside to wait for Richie Boy.

“Damien, you have something to give for Passiach?” Lenny the Mum shambled up to the window. His BLAOTED face was shiny with sweat and strands of hair were plastered across his balding skull. He was dressed in his usual attire of a tee shirt and shabby trousers.

“For you, I always have something.” I dug into my pocket for a dollar. “Where are you celebrating Passaich?”

“I’m working the street.” Lenny was a workaholic like Manny. “I have to earn money to take care of my sister.”

“You’re a good brother, Lenny.”

“Plus I don’t really celebrate Passaich.” Lenny didn’t look healthy, but he had disproven many rumors of his demise.

“Why not?” Lenny was no atheist.

“What does Passaich celebrate?” Lenny leaned over to whisper what he had to say, as if it were a secret.

“Passover commemorates the Angel of God passing over the Jewish houses in Egypt, but I agree with you. How can anyone in their right mind celebrate the death of innocents?”

“Damian, I didn’t kill any Egyptians and I didn’t kill Jesus either. I’m just a harmless Jews,” Lenny whined with a shrug. “But the Pharaoh was a bad man.”

“Or so the Bible says.”

“Please.” Lenny lifted both his hands in defense. He was a religious bum. His head was always covered by a yarmulke. “Don’t think bad of us. We have had a hard time over the centuries. You know that there was no angel of death. The young probably died from infected food, since the first-born always got the food first. Who knows, but it was a sad scene when Yul Brenner carried his dead son in his palace.”

“Yes, it was.” I bid Lenny a good Passaich.

His god and the god of my rejected religion was a cruel god. He let his son die on a cross. As a father I could never sacrifice my son, but then I’m human and gods are divine. They can get away with everything.

“You know I saw THE TEN COMMANDMENTS at the South Shore Drive-In. A drunk teenager threw a rock at our station wagon. My father chased him into the brush. He came back red in the face.”

“It was a good movie, but Charlton Heston was no Jew.” Lenny rocked back and forth on the heels of his busted shoes. “Plus there was nothing good about the Ten Plagues. Especially the death of the first-born of all Egyptian humans and animals. Yahweh instructed the Hebrews to sprinkle lamb’s blood on this doors, so his spirit would skip their houses in his search for the first-born males of the Egyptians.”

“I was taught that god was all-knowing and all-seeing, so why couldn’t he see which houses were Jewish?”

“Damien, Yahweh moves in strange ways.” Lenny accepted some profane thought, but he glared at my apostasy.

“Most people think the killer of the male first-borns was an angel, but it was actually Yahweh blundering through the night killing young boys. Do you think there was any collateral damage like how our smart bombs hit schools in Afghanistan?”

“How should I know? I wasn’t there, but enough of this narishkait, because Passaich is a celebration of death. Death of the guilty, but also the innocent. This I can not celebrate. Freedom, yes. Extermination,no.”

Several people had gathered around our discussion and a religious diamond dealer angrily demanded of Lenny, “You really think Yahweh was a murderer?”

“It wasn’t the first time.” Lenny depended on the kindness of this street to support his sister and didn’t need this attention.

“Actually I think that the second-sons of Egypt plotted to kill all the first-borns to destroy the rules of primogeniture and then blamed the Hebrews.” I was talking nonsense to deflect the flak aimed at Lenny.

“Primogeniture?” The diamond dealer had a yeshiva education.

“Primogeniture is where the first born inherits everything from the father. Like Cain and Abel.”

“Cain killed Abel.” Lenny nodded in agreement.

“The second son plot. Maybe all the second sons killed the first sons in Egypt.”

“Es iz nit geshtoygen un nit gefloygen.” The diamond dealer muttered in Yiddish.

“What’s that mean?”

“It never rose and it never flew.” Lenny smiled with the pleasure of hearing Yiddish, whihc had been abandoned by the Hassidim in favor of Hebrew. “In plain speaking ‘bullshit’.”

“It’s not foolishness,” I protested with the fervor of a devotee to the untruth. “Worshipping murder is an abomination.”

“God does not murder. He takes revenge.” The diamond dealer spoke with words with conviction. “And in this case it was his killing angel doing the killing.”

“Isn’t that the same name used by Josef Mengele?”

“Feh.” The diamond dealer was feed up with us and headed to the subway.

“That fucking Nazi was called the Angel of Death.” Lenny soured on the mention of his name. He had lost family in the camps. “Passaich was over 3000 years ago. Who knows what it was? I can barely remember what I had to eat for lunch.

“Me neither.” I suspected Lenny’s lunch was a pint of brandy. He was more than a little shitkah and I gave him a dollar.

“I love you Damian and pray you see your children soon.”

“And a Happy Bunny Day to you, Lenny.

The slumpy bum wandered off pestering a passing diamond dealer for a dollar. He was a hard worker.

“What was that all about?” Richie Boy exited from the exchange.

“The origins of Passsaich.”

“Passover?” He looked into the exchange. His father was still at his papers. “You hungry?”

“Yeah.” The shoot was low-budget and cheaped out on lunch.

“Me too. What about getting something to eat at the Oyster Bar?”

Shellfish were very tref.

“Sounds delightful.”

Richie Boy and I headed for Grand Central Terminal, passing Lenny.

“Happy Easter.”

“I only celebrate the bunnies.”

“And chocolate.”

“I love chocolate.”

I gave him another dollar.

“Enjoy.” As a sinner I was willing to forgive almost everyone for everything, since to err is human, but to forgive is a divine trait.

Only forgetting is more human.

Just ask Lenny.

Until then I wish everyone had a good sedah.

Hag kasher vesame`ah.

The only exterminating angels I ever see are the bartenders at the 169 Lounge in Chinatown.

Dakota and Johnny are murder the next day, but I live through their Passover.

“After all I’m a goy.”


I was lucky enough to live through the 1960s as a teenager on the South Shore of Boston.

Home was still home to us.

My friends and I led charmed lives at the Quincy Quarries, Surf Nantasket, and Wollaston Beach

ON THE SOUTH SHORE recounts those lives.

The time was short, but retelling these tales brings back those years, if only for a moment.

They were good ones.

Here’s an excerpt from THE HOLE OF HEAVEN

According to the Old Testament God banished Adam and Eve from Eden for eating apples and this Original Sin condemned future generations to this mortal coil, however humans have defied this divine decree with repeated attempts to recreate Heaven on Earth. Most of these utopias have been short-lived, for nothing irked the true believers more than people enjoying the rewards of a good life in the present and in 1965 the teenagers of Boston’s South Shore celebrated the pursuit of earthly happiness at the infamous Quincy Quarries.

The spring-fed pits offered pleasure without any parental supervision and the passage from boys to men was achieved by a leap off the craggy cliffs into the rock-bound pools. The sun never shined so bright as on the rims of The Hole Of Heaven and Josephine’s, but Brewster’s Quarry was the favorite haunt for the thousands of teenagers devoting their youth to the life of a fallen angel. An anonymous teenager had named the vast abyss the Hole of Heaven back in the 40s, however these summer swimming holes were not natural to the glacier-carved Blue Hills.

Stonecutters had carved granite from steep ledges to build the Bunker Hill monument and the first train in America had hauled these gigantic slabs from the ever-deepening pits. These indestructible blocks had provided the building material for countless courthouses, wharves, and lighthouses on the Eastern Seaboard, but in coming of steel and glass skyscrapers exiled the construction of granite monuments to the history books.

Stone ceased to serve the living and only undertakers could feed their children from the tombs of the dead, so in 1963 the stonecutters turned off the water pumps and the quarries were flooded by the springs running deep under the earth.

The aquifer held generations of pure water. Its color was emerald green and every April teenagers from South Boston, Dorchester, Quincy, and my hometown flocked to the quarries like Celtics fans to the Boston Garden.

In December of 1963 Arnie Ginsburg declared that the Kingsmen’s song was the worst record he had ever spun on his NIGHT TRAIN show. The WMEX DJ was no teenager. LOUIE LOUIE hit #1 in the winter of 1964 and every garage band in Boston covered the A-major standard. The drummer saying ‘fuck’ had nothing to do with its success. America was leaving the 1950s for good.

Boys and girls made out at the Mattapan Oriental Theater during Saturday matinees. Hair crept over ears and shirt collars like uncut lawns. Our parents battled this rebellion with edicts against kissing, drinking beer, rock music, long hair, dancing too close, and certain friendships. Whole towns were declared off-limits and no forbidden destination proved more irresistible to young boys than the Quincy Quarries south of Boston.

These teenage oases were only accessible by foot. LOUIE LOUIE played on transistor radios, while boys and girls basked in the summer sun. The Kingsmen’s song had legs.

Jumping off a cliff worked better to a dirty sax than the Beatles’ saccharine harmonies of I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND. The feuds between towns and gangs were put on hold at the quarries. Teenagers came for fun, a swim, the thrills, and refuge from parents, priests, teachers, and police. The authorities tried their best to shut down this paradise, for unfortunately the quarries were a magnet for accidental drownings and drunken mishaps. Joyriders drove cars into The Hole Of Heaven to imitate James Dean’s chicken run in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. One or two of these daring acts ended in misadventure.

Many of the stories about the bottomless pits were urban legends. The most famous was that of a kid jumping off Shipwreck’s craggy prow and landing on a submerged car. An antenna pierced his arm. This gruesome tale was retold each summer, as if the accident had occurred recently, although its origins were lost in the haze of myths.

Parents vigorously petitioned the Quincy mayor to shut down these threats to their children’s well being and his police and town workers responded with uncharacteristic vigor.

The Quincy garbage men dumped old telephone poles into the water. Teenagers used them for logrolling contests or wired them together for sunning rafts. Police raided the quarries. They were too out of shape to catch young legs.

The town was accused of ignoring its civic duty and in August 1965 a selectman from the shipyard suggested pouring refuse oil from ships into the quarries. Three tankers were parked overnight by the edge of Brewster’s to unleash their foul black liquid into the main pool with the dawn.

That evening I sat on a lawn chair to observe a meteor shower. Bats flapped their wings through the soft summer air and a light wind hushed through the trees. A whooshing boom shattered this suburban calm.
My eyes widened as a flaming mushroom cloud roiled over the woods.

Seconds later two more fireballs scorched the night sky.

I jumped to my feet, fearing that the Russians had nuked Boston, and crouched under the picnic table in anticipation of the shock wave. Several minutes later my mother came out of the house and ordered me inside.

As a 13 year-old boy I obeyed her 99% of the time.

The morning’s newspapers reported vandals had torched the trucks at the quarry. The police had no suspects, although the teenage grapevine introduced a trio of heroes to the South Shore.

Donnie, Lee, and Eddie.

I had never been to the quarries.

Neither had my next-door neighbor. Chuckie was my best friend. We wanted to see the torched trucks and told our parents that we were going to the town pool. Three of our friends joined us and we tramped out of our suburban neighborhood into the Blue Hills. The trek took a good hour. We talked about the divers off the Acapulco cliffs.

None of us planned on diving off Rooftop, Brewster’s most famous leap.

“WHow hard can it be.” Chuckie was a good diver. His family had a swimming pool.

Feet-first sounded safe and we scrabbled through the maze of abandoned stones to the edge of Brewster’s Quarry. Rooftop was a slanted slab of granite fifty feet above the water. The sheer drop looked more like a hundred. We stood with our feet glued to stone. The older teenagers on the ledge clucked out calls of chicken.

“Are you going or what?”

“Leave them alone.” A good-looking teenager in cut-off jeans came over to us. He was about 17, which was a golden age for teenagers. We listened to his every word.

“The best way to jump is feet-first. You put your feet together and hold out your arms to keep your balance. It looks high, but there aren’t any ledges under Rooftop, so you’ll live no matter what.”

The tanned teenager went back to his friends.

Keep on your sneakers. It’s easier climbing out of the quarry with them on.

“Thanks.” Chuckie rubbed his hands together. “There are five of us, right?”

We nodded meekly and he pointed to me.

“I’ll go first, you’re second, then you, you, and you. We yell out ‘Geronimo’. Are you with me?”

“Yes,” We shouted in unison. Our parents had forbidden the act, our teachers had warned of the danger, and the police would arrest us for trespassing on private property. Their collective disapproval was all the encouragement thirteen year-old boys needed to set us free. We stripped off our shirts and stashed them under a bush.

Without warning Chuckie threw himself off the cliff.

His cry of ‘Geronimo’ died with a splash into the water. His head bobbed to the surface and he shouted my name. I ran until air was under my feet and plummeted off-balance to smack into the water on my side. I surfaced with a whoop. I was ready to jump off Rooftop again and the gleam on Chuckie’s face confirmed that he was with me 100%.

With a shriek our friends appeared high overhead suspended in mid-air before falling in arcing trajectories. Jimmy also landed on his side, Sam on his belly, and Ralph cannonballed into the water. They broke surface and we howled for joy.

We had safely survived the plunge and we repeated the jump it again and again throughout that summer and the ones to follow, but by 1967 America wasn’t the same America as in 1965.


Please go to this URL

ON THE SOUTH SHORE costs only $.99

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