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  • Tommy Thompson

4th Movement: "Deck the Halls"

Updated: Mar 12

“Cry ‘havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war.”

-​- William Shakespeare

Numero Tres: "From the Halls of Montezuma"

After the previously a’feared Wednesday afternoon's fireworks in Connor’s office had finally fizzled out, we were released back into the general population. Hence, Friday - and Friday night’s gig - seemed to our reeling minds to arrive pert near ‘bout only 22 minutes after we’d taken our first step outside the Interrogation Room.  I mean, everything moved at a real Benzedrine pace.

We barely had time to catch our collective breath. 

Oh yeah, we were once again the darlin’s of the school. The proverbial “Belles o’ de Ball.” The “Gang of Four” who had been thrown into the lion’s den and had emerged unharmed. And all that other snarky kinda BS. But then it hit me: we had a big upcoming show to play. And how in the hell were we a’gonna top what we’d just spewed out at the assembly gig? 

How d’ya create sumtin’ more spectacular than the now newly-acclaimed and fully-revered: “JEG, JEG, JEG?”

I mean, it had instantly damn near become the school’s new anthem.  No. Really.  Kids now addressed each other in the halls with parts of it. “Down my leg, man.”  “How’s the juice runnin’ t’day?”  “JEG me, baby.” And about a half-dozen other incestuous verbal in-breedings of that lyrical abortion.

But, as I've already mentioned above, it was already Wednesday afternoon. And in about 51 ½ hours we were going to be packin’ up our gear. Drivin’ it down to the venue. And loadin’ it inside the joint to perform.  There just wasn’t any time to rehearse and work up any new material. So I decided we’d just go with what we already had.

“Rock Me Baby,” however, was not in my plans when writing up the new set list.

Lemme justa make that crystal clear for y’all right here from the gate.

The “Venue.”  Ah yes, the venue.

The fraternity boys at school (yes, those same nice young men who got us the student body gig and the newspaper ink, and who had hired us for this particular Friday night gig) went by the moniker: “Sigma Beta Alpha.”  Wasn’t the first time someone in that organization had hired a band I played in. And, even though they were flush with jocks and lite on hippies, still, there were some really nice guys in their fraternity. Truly. 


Apparently one of the frat bro’s with a particularly big mouth got a bee up his ass over the “JEG” thang at the assembly meeting. And decided that he needed to inform the powers-that- be at the venue just what kind of act they were going to be hosting that fine night. 

Oh, and where was this venue?  And who were the powers-that-be in charge? 

Well, well…looks like we’s a’gonna be playin’ for the da ol’ United States Marine Corps Uh-huh…Uh-huh.

“Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.”

 — Walter Lippmann

Marines Hall was a gig we had already played once before in the previous 3-piece version of Cookin’ Mama “JBG” (Just Before Glenda) for the Pat Holden Benefit. It was located in Alameda right across the street from the football field where the Alameda High Varsity took apart all comers.  Man, I was on the AHS swim team - and even though we killed everyone we went up against - still, it t’weren’t nothin’ like what the football guys did to their opponents.  Team won the doggone Northern California HS State Championship in both ’68 and ’69.  Oh yeah, baby. “Monsters of the Midway” they were for real.  These guys were serious ‘bout winnin’. And winnin’ big.

But, I digress…

The Hall was basically a huge storage hanger with a stage.  It lay inside an area of streets n’ blocks called the “USMC Training Center.”  It was a sprawling compound.  Half-tracks n’ Jeeps n’ Tanks n’ Armored Personnel Carriers galore.  And because the backside of the compound jutted right up to the water in the Alameda/Oakland Estuary - I'm guessin' they might've even had a couple Nuclear Submarines stashed away somewhere underwater.. 

Ya gotta remember: This was now still early-1969, and the war over in Vietnam was one which the brass were telling us civvies could still be won, don’tcha know. 


Yeah, right.

As if the ass-kicking we got via the TET Offensive only a year earlier hadn’t already begun to Sound the Death Knell for that li’l excursion.  Sheesh!  

In any case, the entire camp was teeming with gung-ho Marine recruits.  Real “Oo-rahh” guys. And, not exactly the kinda dudes who were big on the whole long-hair hippie, “Peace, Bro' Movement," ya know? 

I mean, are ya beginnin’ to get the picture here?

Gawd. This is one of those times when I wished my memory was better.  I mean, I could just make up a bunch o’ crap ‘bout the gig, and none o’ y’all would be the wiser. But, dat ain’t my style.  So, even though I’m lacking in some details here, lemme just spit out the parts that I do remember.

We were the opening act.  “Cookin’ Mama.”  The headliner was called “The Pink Wedge.”  OK, stop right there.  For those of you who have never ingested anything stronger than Mogen David or Mad-Dog 20/20. Or any of those other swills that some fermented-grape producers try to foist upon any and all unsuspecting non-oenophiles as “wine.”

Then let me tell ya about “Pink Wedge.” 

It’s “acid,” man.  K?  No.  Not, Hydrochloric acid or Sulphuric acid. Freakin' hippie acid, alright already?  And a particularly strong version of what ol’ Owsley had originally introduced to the masses. After the Top Brass US Military had already been testing it on "sub-species.” Such as prison inmates, folks livin’ in insane asylums, and even on their own troops.

For ‘bout near a decade n’ a half.  Look it up, Huffington. 

But, with all of that in mind:

Let’s justa see who ends up bein’ the bad guys here at this li’l soiree…hmm?

“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.”

Duke Ellington

Can’t remember even one song from the night.  Can’t remember if we got over with the crowd or not.  Can’t remember nothin.' Except this one, screwed-up fact. Someone from Sigma Beta Alpha ratted us out to the Corps in re the student body meeting “JEG” thang. And so as a direct result of that, the Marine Corps General in charge of the Training Center

wouldn’t let Glenda get up onto the stage with us.  Not even for one lousy song, man. 

Nope.  That was it.  No way.  No how. 

The reason the good general gave - I kid you not - was that she was dressed “too sexy.”  Good grief!  Get a life, man. 

Or, maybe, he was ‘fraid some o’ his top-shelf troops might just get one look at this beautiful, shapely n’ young example of American womanhood, and start a’figurin' that there was more important things to fight for here back home. Rather than runnin’ over to some frickin' country ya couldn’t even find on a damn map if ya tried. And fightin’ a war for the very locals who shoulda been a’fightin’ for themselves in the first place. Whatever.

 “By your endurance you will gain your lives.”

-- Luke 21:19

We thought about bolting.  Hell, we thought about doing lots o’ stuff that night, believe me.  But, it was Glenda who finally convinced us that “the show must go on.” So we hunkered down and went it 3-piece.  And, as I was playing, and cuz they hadn’t removed her from the building, this is the one thing that I will never forget:

And that is seeing our gal, our “Cookin’ Mama,” our gorgeous Glenda, out in the audience. Right up tight against the very front of the stage. Lookin’ up at us, n’ smilin’ n’ shakin’ her beautiful long blond hair around n’ around n’ around. Hootin’ n’ a’hollerin’ at the top of her lungs during and after every song.

And just rootin’ her boys on to victory.

That was it.  Wish I had more.  But, after that night? For us and Glenda.

For us n’ our Cookin’ Mama. Well, it was just sorta:


Marine's Hall, Alameda - 1969

Tom & Glenda

©2024 Cookin' Mama


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