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Chapter #369: Edward Abbey & Friends at UNM Ch. 2 - September 21, 2019


Jim (Jimbo) Forrest with Edward Abbey in Ed's apartment at the University of New Mexico 1954 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Edward Abbey & Friends, University of New Mexico (1955-1956) Ch. 2

“Long live literature and reading!” – Jimbo Forrest
“I’m not afraid to die!” – Ralph Newcomb
“Sure a lot of noise here!” – Edward Abbey


Jimbo Forrest –
“It has been many years since I last saw and spoke briefly with Ed Abbey. That was around 1957-8. It really is another world now. I’m glad I’ve been able to hang-on this long, maybe because I never drank as much beer as Jack Loeffler describes in his book, “adventures with ED, (a portrait of Abbey)”. I’d been a bit of a rebel since my teens, but nowhere to Ed’s extent. Reading now about Ed and Jack Loeffler is an adventure; what they did, and how they discussed things… and how Ed virtually abandoned one wife after another (and his children).

Jerry (Julian) Palley, Dr. Alfredo Roggiano, Edward Abbey at the UNM Campus, January 1955 - Photo Credit Jimbo Forrest - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In that photo I took on the campus at UNM, you’ll see the late Julian (Jerry) Palley. When I was twenty-two, Jerry taught me a lot about Mexican music, food, drink, women, customs, etc. A few years later, Jerry told me that he had given up on Ed, after reading Ed’s words: … and then the Mexicans came. At that time, I didn’t really comprehend what Jerry was saying, nor why. Now, however, reading Loeffler’s accounts about their camping, exploring, horsing around, discussions, etc. I can sympathize with Jerry’s outrage.

With his multitude of published works, Ed influenced many people. I suppose an artist can't be criticized for forgetting about human relationships, since he or she is doing what we peons can only imagine, while providing us with a touch of something supra human, the ineffable. Writing about saving the masses from civilization’s crushing of the spirit, while ignoring intimate, dependent relationships mitigates the value of the so-called art.

Sorry for the above, I just was caught up in the ambiance of Ed’s adventures, anarchism and “monkey wrench esoterica”.

Abbey was studying with
Dr. Archie Bahm (1907-1996) of the University of New Mexico philosophy department. It was Ed’s intention to write a master’s thesis titled “An Inquiry into the General Theory of Anarchism”. He got along with his professor very well, at least at the outset, and regarded him as an intelligent thinker and a master of dialectic. The following words are from pages 53-54 in Loeffler’s book, “adventures with ED (a portrait of Abbey)”. When I went to UNM in September 1954, I went to the philosophy department and introduced myself to Dr. Bahm.

Edward Abbey was a good sketch artist, often portraying himself as a turkey vulture - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Of Dr. Baum, Ed wrote,
As a man he’s quite appealing: generous, liberal, helpful, friendly to all. Kind, gentle, considerate in every way, optimistic, tolerant, truly interested in others, quite unselfish... As to my first impression of the professor (and even now, almost 65 years later), I would use the same adjectives as Ed’s words, above. I can see Dr. Bahm in my mind at this moment, in the room where we first met.

In 1954, I was an enthusiastic student of philosophy, having been intellectually stimulated by
Dr. Arturo Fallico at San Jose State College. From Italy, Fallico was a romantic, sculptor, orator, and supreme commander of the English language. With Fallico, I felt excited about discussing ideas regarding where we came from, what we are doing now, and what we will be able to do in the future. We discussed politics, art, social relationships, and improving communication between all of humanity.

At the age of twenty-two, one can still dream outside the limits of practicality. I then decided what I wanted to do with my future life. I was looking forward to getting a master’s degree in philosophy from UNM, then going elsewhere for a Ph.D., after which I’d spend my future life teaching philosophy in some community college or state university. It was not to be. Dr. Bahm, for all his good qualities and sincerity, did not speak the same language with me that Dr. Fallico had used to inspire me to study, talk about, and teach philosophy.

New Mexico is known as 'The Land of Enchantment', as seen its clear air and beautiful sky - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Now, let me go back to my first meeting with Dr. Archie Bahm. We were in his office, and he introduced me to Ed Abbey, of whom I had no previous knowledge. I started talking to Dr. Bahm about existentialism and other philosophical matters. Ed, as was often the case, stood by quietly, listening, and showing interest, but not speaking. I see in his bio that Ed wrote twenty-one books. He was definitely an introvert.

Dr. Bahm was listening, but appeared nervous. Suddenly, he excused himself, sat down at his typewriter, and furiously pounded away. He almost ripped the paper out from the manual typewriter, handed it to me, and stated that he could think better on paper. I should have known at that first meeting that I was no longer in the presence of Dr. Arturo Fallico.

Later, Ed said to me,
You sure know a lot of philosophy!

Ralph Newcomb, who was the inspiration for the character 'Jack Burns" in Edward Abbey's novel, 'The Brave Cowboy' - Photo Credit Jimbo Forrest - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Ed got his M.A. in philosophy; I did not. However, I did get an M.A., almost seventeen years later, from the California Institute of Arts, in classical guitar performance. What? Ed’s (crazy) friend, Ralph Newcomb, inadvertently opened that musical door. I also became fluent in Spanish, but that involved two other graduate students at UNM, Jerry Palley and Karl Reinhardt.

Here, in my mind, is Ralph Newcomb, Ed’s friend, whom he met in an Albuquerque jail, and who was the stimulus for Ed to write “
The Brave Cowboy”, all based on Ralph’s personality and behavior. At that time, I had NO idea how the jigsaw puzzle involving Ed, Ralph, and me would eventually fit together. Really, only now am I putting all the pieces together.”


(Jim Forrest’s Memories of Ralph Newcomb) –
Dust jacket of the original hardcover edition of Edward Abbey's novel, 'The Brave Cowboy' - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)“Jail with Ed Abbey, classical guitar playing at a nocturnal desert party, him living on the Albuquerque Zoo property (!), midnight party (+ clandestine sex in the Sandia Mountains), contracting polio, slashing his forearm with buck knife, breaking a window with back of his head…

I have several photos of Ralph Newcomb. As you know, Ralph became the inspiration for Ed’s novel, “The Brave Cowboy”. Jack Loeffler’s book is the first book that I have read by or about Ed since I read “The Brave Cowboy”, prior to its becoming the 1962 movie, “Lonely Are The Brave”.”


Author’s Note –
The 1956 Edward Abbey novel, “The Brave Cowboy” and the resulting screenplay for the 1962 movie, “Lonely Are The Brave” have an interesting and intertwined history. Beginning in 1947, Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) had languished in prison for nearly one year. That was his punishment for not answering “correctly” about communism before the House Un-American Activities Committee. During his incarceration, there was a complete capitulation of the movie industry to the post World War II “Red Scare”.

Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and Producer Edward Lewis celebrate the breaking of the 'Hollywood Ten' blacklist and Trumbo's return to writing under his own name - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)From 1947 until 1960, the Hollywood movie “industry” blacklisted Dalton Trumbo and nine others. For thirteen years, Trumbo wrote screenplays under the pseudonym “Sam Jackson”. According to Trumbo’s daughter, Mitzi Trumbo, during one eighteen month period, Dalton Trumbo wrote ten Hollywood movie scripts, with an average fee of only $1,750.

Edward Lewis (1919-2019) produced the movie “Spartacus” (1960). Lewis had attempted to write the screenplay for Spartacus himself, but soon hired Dalton Trumbo to complete the task. In the late 1950s, with overt fear of communism on the wane, Lewis gave Trumbo sole credit for the script. By publicly acknowledging Trumbo on “Spartacus”, Lewis (and Kirk Douglas) broke the blacklist of the Hollywood Ten.

For the 1962 movie, “Lonely Are The Brave”, Lewis and Douglas again tapped Trumbo. This time, he wrote the dialog for “Jack Burns”, AKA “The Brave Cowboy”. After a long and illustrious career, Edward Lewis died in July 2019, at the age of 99. Soon after his death, the Los Angeles Times published an obituary for Lewis. Included in that obituary is an old newspaper photo of Lewis and Trumbo together.

The original movie poster from the 1962 move, 'Lonely Are The Brave', staring Kirk Douglas as 'Jack Burns' - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In 2018, a little known YouTube channel published a video titled “Lonely Are The Brave A Tribute”. In less than twenty minutes, Kirk Douglas narrates selected action and his sentiments regarding the David Miller (1909-1992) directed movie. The movie has the distinction of being the last major studio western filmed in black & white. During filming in Santa Fe, New Mexico, author “Edward Albey” (as Kirk Douglas erroneously identifies Abbey) consulted, standing silently by, off camera. No one knows whether Dalton Trumbo ever visited the movie set or met “Edward Albey”.

In the above-mentioned “Tribute”, Kirk Douglas identifies “Jack Burns” as his favorite movie role. Also interviewed, director Steven Spielberg found “Lonely Are The Brave” to be “one of his favorites”. Michael Kane (1922-2007) played Paul Bondi "AKA Ralph Newcomb” in the Albuquerque jail scene. Costar Gena Rowlands and son Michael Douglas joined in the video homage to a great, if unsung character and movie. Walter Matthau (1920-2000) costarred as the laconic sheriff, who was tracking down “Jack Burns”. Carroll O’Connor (1924-2001) and George Kennedy (1925-2016) had featured roles. At 102 years of age, Kirk Douglas is alive and well.

Jimbo Forrest–
Dr. John P. Anton (1920-2014), a visiting professor of philosophy at UNM, with Edward Abbey in 1955 - Photo Credit Jimbo Forrest - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)“Ed & I were the only two graduate school philosophy majors that year at UNM. He wrote a lot, I talked a lot. He finished his M.A. in Philosophy. I did not. I passed all the course work and more, but I could not even get started writing a thesis. After graduate school, I spent twelve years as a radio announcer in New Mexico and Arizona.

Dr. John P. Anton (1920-2014), a visiting professor of philosophy at UNM invited Ed and me to come speak to an adult evening class in philosophy. We did. Then, following the class, one student invited us and other members of the class to his house to continue discussing philosophy. We all sat in a big circle. I don't remember if we ever discussed philosophy or not. I just remembered; one of the adult students there was Evelyn. She and I became friends, even though I was twenty-two and she was a VERY OLD thirty-one.

Continuing the story of that evening, I just happened to have with me a GALLON jug of Italian red wine. Someone brought some glasses in which to pour the vino, but soon after, Ed and I dispensed with the glasses, and passed the jug around. I remember Ed holding it on one shoulder with his index finger
Rita Deanin Abbey, artist, sculptor and second wife of Edward Abbey, at the University of New Mexico ca. 1955 - Photo Credit Jimbo Forrest - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)in the circular glass handle. I don't remember if we let the students have any, or not. I'm sure they admired the high level of academic philosophy we were capable of sharing. Poor Dr. Anton; he had hoped to highlight Ed and me!

When we departed, Ed asked if he could stay at my place. I said sure, but asked why. He said his wife;
Rita Deanin Abbey would kill him if he came home drunk again. (He never told me what she did or said when he did not come home until the next day.) Ed slept on one side of my pullout sofa, and I slept on the other. We both had a class in American Philosophy the next morning. When I awoke, I tried to focus, asking Ed if he was ready to go. He wasn't. I asked him to close the door whenever he left. I rode my bike up the hill to the campus, and went to the class.

I can now say that I slept with Ed Abbey; probably the only male among scores of females. In addition, I remained a virgin! Here is a picture of the sofa that pulled out to be sort of a double bed. In the picture, the man with the guitar is Ralph Newcomb. His wife, Scotty is next to him. On the left side, with the cigarette, is Karl Reinhardt (1931-2018). He was a graduate student
From left, Karl Reinhardt, Eileen 'Scotty' Newcomb, Ralph Newcomb, Edward Abbey, ca.1955 - Photo Credit Jimbo Forrest - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)of Spanish, and helped me learn the Spanish language. On the right, is Edward Abbey.

In the winter of 1957, my first wife, Lucy and I had lived in a basement apartment in Albuquerque for a few months. We then found a nice house for rent for $40/month. Our former property owner had pulled up a light gray shag (remember shag?) carpet to leave for trash. I took it, cut it, and carefully laid it in the living room and bedroom, quite proud of my young-husband-father-to-be-twenty-four-and-a-half-year-old young-self. Then, this guy (Ralph Newcomb) chooses to visit us, cut his forearm, and bleed on our first house, first carpet!”


End Part Two - To read Part Three, Click HERE. To return to Part One, click HERE.

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