May you be on the side of history that doesn’t embarrass your grand-kids…

September 17, 2020 Leave a comment

It’s been about half a year now we’ve been dealing with this virus. We’ve certainly bounced around some, from disbelief to terror to resignation and then back again….depending on anything from how hung over we are to how moronic our facebook feed became overnight. For those of us who are not assholes, masks have become almost second nature……as important as car keys when leaving the house. The media hysteria has mostly died down. Our nation seems content with a weekly death toll of three 9/11s. As our President said, and I quote…”it is what it is.” It really is amazing what people can get used to.

Six months. Whipsawed back and forth. Don’t do this do this. No don’t do that do the other thing. There finally seems consensus. And it’s dead simple. Wear a mask. Wear it properly (it’s not used to hold up your fucking nose). Do your best to not get into anybody’s face. Suck it up….a vaccine is coming. Hang together, or hang separately. To which the rest of the world responded, “sounds reasonable enough”. To which Americans responded, “fuck off, myyyy rahhhts!” Which is why last Friday 0 people died from coronavirus in Canada and an anti-mask flash mob invaded a Florida Target Store today chanting “take off your mask!” . The virus doesn’t know a Canadian from an American. It does, however, seek out morons.

These are the times that try men’s souls. They are also the times that try our patience….which I suspect is what Paine was saying all along. It seems silly to rail against social media on social media, but here we are. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em….but try to stay on the side of history that won’t lead to you being grilled by your grandkids…….”Grandpa…..you didn’t actually VOTE for him, did you?” (Cue Grandpa desperately trying to delete his 30 year old Facebook profile before Jr fires it up and finds the bald eagle and flag pics with the pictures of Trump flanked by Jesus…)

Remember. What happens online is the opposite of Vegas.

And so it goes.

I’ve tried to stay busy. Every day I have to walk (at least 4 miles), and I have to write. If I don’t do both, I have a hard time sleeping that night. I’ve been fortunate. I have been able to work from home. I haven’t missed a workday since the pandemic shut things down. I’ve been luckier than most. And that’s all it is. Dumb luck. I don’t deserve good fortune more than others. A lot of friends are frustrated….struggling. On a razor’s edge. Tomorrow everything could change and it could be me. Sometimes you’re the windshield, and sometimes you’re the bug. I like to think I don’t take anything for granted….and that I can feel the lash when its applied to the back of another. That doesn’t make me special. It just makes me not an asshole.

I have a little home office, and it’s filled with the cures. Music. Books. Guitars. Recording gear. Framed pictures of Abraham Lincoln and Who posters and a large Bob Marley tapestry. ‘You can run, but you can’t hide’ is what they say. But at the very least you deserve a place to try the hiding part out in. To my right is an Amazon Echo I borrowed from my daughter (and “forgot” to return) blasting Bob Mould’s “Patch the Sky”, and to my right is vol 1 of the collected plays of Neil Simon sitting on top of Peter Guralnick’s 2 part bio of Elvis Presley. I wish you all had both of these things at your fingertips during a pandemic. It would help.

In less than 2 months, we’ll have a new road map. We get to vote. All the hate. All the division. All the lies. All the ignorance. It’s like a large dog shit on the floor. We can start the clean-up process, or let it fester.

Cynicism has split me in half. The better angels of my nature sometimes take a night off, and I’m convinced that fascism is what the majority of this nation wants. They seem to revel in the fact that the President hates the same people they do. So they don’t ask “is my life better than it was 4 years ago?” Instead, it’s “are their lives worse than they were?” And then they smirk in the affirmative….don the red hat as this generation’s white hood, and march. Backwards.

And then sometimes the angels return. And I realize that most of the people around me are appalled at what’s happening to us, and aren’t gonna give in to a pack of fucking soulless gangsters.

May you be on the side of history that doesn’t embarrass your grand-kids.

In a bit…

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Where Do We Go From Here? (new song with Bret Alexander)

September 12, 2020 Leave a comment

download mp3

Where Do We Go From Here

written by Tom Flannery and Bret Alexander

Bret Alexander – vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo, harmonica, piano
Tom Flannery – vocals

Scratch it off or mark it down for all that it is worth
A footprint or a whispered smile to spread around the earth
Scream en masse or breathe it in or clink a virtual beer
The question that remains is where do we go from here
where do we go from here…where do we go from here

Like thieves we come out at night and frighten without sound
And then send up a drone to watch the chaos on the ground
A dab of sanitizer or a wash in memory’s tears
If we keep it all at bay where do we go from here
where do we go from here…where do we go from here

If you can sing an old song and make it sound brand new
And the words come around the bend like the chosen few
That means the world is silent when the coast is clear
And with no sense of direction where do we go from here
where do we go from here…where do we go from here

Boots and hearts on the ground like the laughter of a child
That breaks away from fear like a river running wild
And all that we hold sacred and all that we hold dear
Are looking for a clue where we go from here
where do we go from here…where do we go from here

All boats rise with the tide to reach the summer moon
That lights the way for those of us who might have spoke too soon
Nothing seen or unseen can spread quite like the fear
Of a delayed new morning….where do we go from here..
where do we go from here…where do we go from here

Categories: Uncategorized

Memories of that day…

September 11, 2020 Leave a comment

9/11 memories.

I’ve written about these before.

It’s somehow both crystal clear, and vague. I remember, and then I doubt myself.

We all remember that it was a beautiful day. The kind of blue sky that makes you squint looking at it. As close to a perfect early fall day as there ever was. Colors everywhere. The end of a long hot summer.

As it turned out, an awful juxtaposition. It gave them a glorious stage for their rage.

At the time I was working in a small office in Clarks Summit for a company based in Kentucky. We were riding on the fumes of the Y2K hysteria, and were able to resist their calls that we needed to move there. There were 3 of us in the office, then there were 2. And then once the company downsizing got vicious….well……I had the little suite all to myself. It was a pretty bizarre time. But if they wanted to pay rent to have a guy and his dog sit alone in a large office, that was fine with me. I tried to make the best of it. I brought a boom box into the office for music, and would sometimes bring my dog to keep me company. The suite next door was a doctor’s office, and I’d see the girl at the front desk coming in and out sometimes. We’d exchange good mornings and such. She was a good neighbor.

It was my sister who called me that morning. She was home and had her TV on. I think this was after the first plane hit. She tried to describe what was happening. I assumed it was a small plane. Some sort of pilot error. It surely wasn’t normal, but I don’t recall being concerned enough to stop working. I did take a minute to check the CNN website but I couldn’t load it. That wasn’t terribly unusual. The internet connectivity in the office wasn’t much faster than dial-up.

My mother was getting her hair done that morning, and while she was sitting in the chair the second plane hit. I can’t remember if she called me, or if my sister relayed the message. I still couldn’t pull up the CNN website, or any other. Everything was overloaded. I went to the doctor’s office next door to see if maybe they had a TV in there. They didn’t, but the girl had the radio on. She told me what she knew. It was 2 planes. It wasn’t any accident. We were under attack. Something about the Pentagon. And another plane, unaccounted for. Pennsylvania. Still, the words didn’t really register. There were no images to go with them. It was only later they would come. The ones that are still with us whenever we close our eyes and think of that day.

I went back to my office…..and it dawned on me that I had a boom box the entire time. I flicked the dial to NPR. There was some sort of commotion. I don’t remember the exact words, but the reporter was telling us that the south tower just collapsed. I heard the words but I assumed it was hyperbole. “Collapsed”? What does that mean? And then he told me that they were both gone. He was there, and watched it happen. Both towers were gone. This was lunacy. It was like a 21st century War of the Worlds. I kept waiting for the ghost of Orson Welles to break into the broadcast and tell me this was some sort of benign radio play.

But still. It was just words. I didn’t have the capacity to turn them into images. We didn’t have a Pearl Harbor. We’d known no war.

It was a terror attack. The name Osama Bin Laden meant nothing to me at the time. I’d never heard it before. Even on that day I noticed that nobody was clear how to pronounce, or indeed even spell, his name. His transformation into the boogeyman would come later.

And then I got home. Went to the TV. And there it was. Over and over. First one. Then the other. Slicing into the buildings at devastating angles…..like scythes. People hanging from windows. Fires glowing. Smoke billowing. And then recoiling in horror when you realized they had no options. They were jumping. Cut to other images. The Pentagon. Washington DC in a panic. (My sister worked for the FBI. Where was she?) The President reading to school kids, until somebody leaned in and whispered something into his ear.

And then I saw it for the first time. Like a demolition. First one tower. And then the next. Straight down on themselves. Like they were trying to be dainty. How many were in there? We had no idea. Whatever the number was would be unendurable. It still is. All these years later.

I stood in front of the TV in our bedroom. For hours. Didn’t sit down. Sleep came eventually….after I hugged my daughter about 17 times. Checking on her. Over and over. She was 3 at the time. In the morning, things would be different.

We all came together. And that sense of brother and sisterhood held. For a while anyway.

We’ve got short memories.

It’s long gone now. Some 3000 Americans deserved better than this. Once-a-year facebook memes and flag and firefighter pics and remembrances like this aren’t gonna cure what ails us.

Right now we’re not honoring anybody’s memory.

What’s it gonna take?

We all know the answer. You willing to go there?

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

It Never Feels Like She Cares All That Much (new song with Bret Alexander)

September 1, 2020 Leave a comment


It Never Feels Like She Cares All That Much

written by Tom Flannery and Bret Alexander
download mp3

Tom Flannery – vocals, guitar
Bret Alexander – vocals, guitar

All I want is to make her day
for that I’d walk a million miles
all I want are the words to say
just so I can see her smile
sometimes she don’t fight fair
sometimes she’s cold to the touch
just another vacant stare
it never feels like she cares all that much
all that much
See thru corners of my eye
I hear the whispering late at night
I never caught her in a lie
but something still just don’t feel right
they say you should never go to bed pissed
and that’s good advice as such
but I ain’t slept since last we kissed
it never feels like she cares all that much
all that much
how do you get to happy
with nothing left to say
I put my heart on the line for you
by not turning away…

they say you should never go to bed pissed
and that’s good advice as such
but I ain’t slept since last we kissed
it never feels like she cares all that much
all that much

All I want is to make her day
for that I’d walk a million miles
all I want are the words to say
just so I can see her smile
sometimes she don’t fight fair
sometimes she’s cold to the touch
just another vacant stare
it never feels like she cares all that much
all that much
all that much
all that much

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Books and where to put them….

September 1, 2020 Leave a comment

booksI love books. I love them so much I’m running out of room in my basement office to hold them. So I started stacking them from the ground up against the walls, each stack maybe 5 feet high. They’re piled on every corner of my desk. On every available shelf. For years they’ve resisted my attempts to categorize them, so they are in no order whatsoever. If I’m looking for a specific title it can take me anywhere from 5 minutes to 3 hours to find it. I have to scan every single book, from the ground up. And I’ll never find it on a first pass. (In the past I’ve offered my kids $5 bounties to find what I’m looking for) Inevitably, it’s on the bottom of the stack, so I’ll have to try to pull it out without the entire pile falling in on me. Sometimes I’m able to do this. Sometimes. A few times I’ve searched in vain, and re-bought the book. Of course then the original copy presents itself. Right now I suspect I’ve doubled up at least 25 titles.

It feel like 100 years ago, but when the Kindle from Amazon came out, I was intrigued. Whenever I traveled somewhere….business, vacation, whatever…..I would bring at least 3 books, invariably large, heavy ones. And wherever I was, I’d buy more. Eventually they’d weigh more than the rest of my bag. It was getting a bit cumbersome. But this device would put an end to that. Hundreds of books, in the palm of my hand. Just click a few buttons, spend a few dollars, and the gratification was instantaneous.

Except it wasn’t, because it never felt like I was reading a book. I was cheating. If you want to read Normal Mailer’s “The Executioner’s Song”, you held its 1000+ pages in your two hands. You frayed the edges and left beverage rings on its cover and noticed the slight yellowing of the pages. You scribbled in it and highlighted passages and folded the pages in on themselves when a bookmark wasn’t available. You dragged it down to the beach or in your carry-on. You worked. You didn’t let technology do any of the lifting for you. My kindle currently sits in the same drawer with all the cables that don’t fit any devices anymore. A relic. I reminder that sometimes bigger is better.

I don’t know how many I have. I never counted. At least 1000. I do know that when we moved to this house, my books are what pissed off the moving company dudes most of all. They whined incessantly, over and over whispering to themselves (but making sure I might be able to hear as well)….”no way he reads all of these” as they dragged another 100 pound box up and down the steps. Of course this is what people who don’t love books always say. Poor sods. Not only have I read them, but many of them I’ve read multiple times. Which is why my collection only grows. And why I’m running out of room..

Once I did break them into subject matter. It took days. Sports. Music. History. Memoir. Novels. And then what sport, what artist, what period etc….and on and on it went until I had piles of sub-categories with post-it notes on them saying things like “Civil War – Union – Grant – Bruce Catton” and “Novel – Irish – Troubles – Belfast“. Everything was perfect…..until I started pulling books out, one by one. Since they’re stacked on top of each other, after a while I couldn’t be arsed to put them back where they were, and they’d just sit on top of a an unrelated pile. And within a month all my work was blown to bits and books by Bruce Catton were somehow mixed in with out of print Robert McLiam Wilson novels, and I decided I kinda liked it better this way, because I’d go searching for Civil War stuff and get distracted by a long forgotten Irish novel. Or the other way around. It’s a great way to avoid Netflix binges, believe me. (This exact scenario is how I recently went searching for a Mickey Mantle bio that I picked up in an airport gift shop and ended up reading a memoir on the wars in Congo.)

I just need to stack them higher I guess. Gloriously higher. In years to come I hope to scrape the ceiling. And if the piles fall over, I’ll set them back up, with the titles even more un-arranged. Like shuffling a deck of cards.

Pick a card. Any card.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Music triggers memory, and the other way around…

August 28, 2020 Leave a comment

memoriesI was recently talking to a musician friend of mine about how songs frame our memories. There always seems to be a soundtrack. And from that moment on, that song, or that band, or that concert, always conjures up those memories.

It doesn’t need to make sense either. Sometimes it’s simple timing.

When my Mom passed away a few years back me and my sister’s met at the funeral home to go over arrangements. From there, we piled in my car and drove to the casket company to pick one out. Maybe a 15 minute drive to Scranton. On the way, the Oasis song “Champagne Supernova” came on the radio. I’m sure other songs came on during the drive as well, but for some reason this song stuck with me. And forever after it reminds me of my Mom. Both losing her, and being lucky enough to have her.

Wake up the dawn and ask her why
A dreamer dreams she never dies
Wipe that tear away now from your eye

Who knows. Maybe Noel’s goofy lyrics finally hit somebody’s nerve. (But still. Don’t ask me why he thinks a cannon ball is fast. Cocaine is a powerful drug methinks….)

This got me thinking about my Dad. He’s gone 10 years and I still laugh at the absurd memory of us driving to his brother Matt’s apartment that one early morning. The police had just just called and informed us that Matt had had a fatal heart attack. The paperboy noticed paper’s piling up on the porch and peered through the window and saw him on the floor. Cops saw nothing suspicious and wanted to be relieved from guard duty. We should get there to attend to things. Call the funeral home. The sort of family duty you generally don’t think about.

We took my car. It was a quiet, sad ride, for obvious reasons…..so I reached and flicked on the radio. There was a CD already in the player. Tom Lehrer. “The Vatican Rag” started blasting over the speakers. I was appalled…..as my Dad was a strict by-the-book Catholic and would surely be offended……and then I heard him laughing. Guffawing. And then…

Get in line in that processional,
Step into that small confessional.
There the guy who’s got religion’ll
Tell you if your sin’s original.
If it is, try playin’ it safer,
Drink the wine and chew the wafer,
Two, four, six, eight,
Time to transubstantiate!

…and the both of us roaring. And then he said, “don’t tell your Mother” and I promised I wouldn’t and never did. My Pops was a cool cat. The first time back to the house after he died I noticed a record on the turntable in the dining room. Paul Simon’s “Graceland”.

I miss them both. Many things trigger memories of them. I’m glad music is among them.

And then there was unrequited love. I was a Junior in high school. This girl could crush me with a quick avoiding turn of her head in the hallway……and then bring me back to life with a flirtatious smile after the next bell rang. I was beyond pathetic. The radio was overwhelmed with the shmaltzy Bryan Adams song “Heaven”, which reminded me of this girl because, as I mentioned, I was pathetic and songs like this were written for dolts like me. I had an after school job unloading trucks, and the same radio station would be on…playing the “top 5 at 5”, and this fucking song was number one for what felt like the entire year. So every day, with literal clockwork precision, my heart was ripped out of my chest anew. And to this day, that song reminds me of what it feels like to care about somebody waaaay more than they care about you. Which is a pretty shitty feeling. So fuck that song.

Being this sad made me a natural for picking up the guitar. At least I could spend my weekends not being popular trying to rectify that very thing. So I struggled and quit and tried again and eventually made progress. I could play a few chords. Then a few more. Learned the magic of the capo. Could never play lead guitar, but a man’s got to know his limitations. It seemed to me that after a while I could play just about as good as Bob Dylan (if he didn’t play lead, why should I?). That ain’t bad, right? Because the songs. The SONGS.

I wanted to do that too. Be able to do with words what he was doing. And it was “Girl From the North Country” that started it all. Maybe the first song I learned to play start to finish. And I felt like….if I could play it…..maybe that meant I could…

Well…no. I couldn’t. Not then and not now.

But it gave me the push I needed to try. And that’s all I needed. Once I started, I never stopped. That was over 30 years ago.

It’s the song I heard that made me say….”I want to do that too”.

What a memory that is.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

If Newtown wasn’t enough, don’t expect Kenosha to be…

August 26, 2020 Leave a comment

Stay busy. Stay engaged. Keep the mind and body active. Notice the nice things you never noticed before. There’s enough bad stuff, so don’t add to that pile. This means don’t engage stupid people on social media comment sections. Especially when you’ve been drinking. Go for long walks. Get sun on your face. Stop to see the ducks in the river. Take pictures of the sky at sunset. Hug your kids even when they think they are too old to be hugged. Discover new music. Re-discover old music. Netflix in moderation. Try not to binge nightly, as it will put your brain on auto-pilot and take you away with what you should be doing, which is reading a good book. If praying is your thing, ask your deity of choice to heal our nation’s original sin. Racism is like a scythe, and it’s chopping us down. Speak out. Silence is assent. Vote by any means necessary. Put down the damn phone.

Pandemic 101.

There was no brochure on this stuff so I’m creating one now.

It feels like we’re approaching a sharp curve, and nobody knows what up ahead. The virus death toll mounts steadily. It’s a ghastly thing really….but we’ve been sandblasted from all sides by it all, so it barely registers anymore. One thousand lives a day. As long as it’s not us, it gets put away. As we shove our kids onto school buses and into dorm rooms, we hold our collective breath. The longer it goes on, the more normal it seems. And as it begins to feel like business as usual, that’s when the masks start not covering the nose. Then not covering the mouth. Then left in the car. Nobody wants to argue about it anymore. Where we’re at is acceptable. It only becomes unacceptable when the statistic lives in our house.

kenoshaAnd even the unrest. Black men being shot by police. There’s a sad inevitability to it. Like how our nation deals with school shootings. Every few months, another one. And we’d rise in collective condemnation and say “do something!” and then 48 hours later all the cameras are gone and it’s just another Wikipedia entry. Even dead children were not enough to spur change. I doubt the roll call of blacks shot dead by police is gonna change hearts and minds. Even with the entire world watching….and with the George Floyd wound still gaping, a cop STILL shot an unarmed black man 7 times in the back. In broad daylight. In front of numerous witnesses and cell phone cameras. While his kids watched. And even this wasn’t enough, as arm-chair warriors rose in collective fury on social media and embraced the immediate death penalty for walking away from a terrified cop who is screaming at you as you want nothing else but to get back to your unattended children.

I watched the video. Many times. The body language of Jacob Blake. He seemed tired. Over it. He’d seen this sort of thing too many times, and wasn’t gonna be splayed on the pavement for all to see….for his 3 sons to see. He was gonna get his kids and get away. Anyplace but here. I don’t know what he’d done, if anything. I still don’t. According to some, he was trying to break up a fight between 2 women. Police arrived and went for him. He resisted for sure. They had him down, and he broke free and started to walk around to the driver’s side. It was chaotic. In seconds, it all exploded. Seven shots. Three of them missed. Any of them could have struck his children.

What then? Is that what this is gonna take?

And then everybody entrenched. Went back to their respective corners. The bell rang.

On one side….”why did he resist?”

On the other….”why was an unarmed man shot 7 times in the back?”

I suspect both sides know the answer to both questions.

It’s a cancer….and there’s no cure yet.

The pandemic has put the pause button on school shootings, but it’s only a matter of time. Currently teacher friends of mine are explaining how active shooter drills now include social distancing protocols. We haven’t just lost our humanity, we’ve apparently lost our minds as well.

If Newtown wasn’t enough, don’t expect Kenosha to be.

If you have empathy, these things can overwhelm you.

Which is why I need to be constantly reminded of my new brochure.

Help me add to it, would you?

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Last Half Bottle of Wine (new song with Bret Alexander)

August 23, 2020 Leave a comment

Last Half Bottle of Wine

written by Tom Flannery and Bret Alexander
download mp3

Bret Alexander – vocals, guitar, keyboards

For the first time in my life
I don’t want to go home
maybe tomorrow for the reuniting
tonight I want to be alone
the water is receding
you can see the stains on the wall
thank god the summer’s over
beaten back by the fall
Some are filling up the churches
others filling up the bars
some escaping on greyhound buses
others in rental cars
to Phoenix Arizona
or Philadelphia PA
man they can’t wait to get there
but they won’t want to stay
chorus:
so batten down the hatches
the world has gone away
and all that you got left
are bills that you can’t pay
and waterlogged photographs
some still clinging to that twine
tomorrow you’re welcome to share
my last half bottle of wine
A smile turns to a grimace
when a welcome is worn down
just how much room is there
in these quiet little towns?
with the white picket fences
and zoned to ease the mind
of those who hide behind the wall
that others left behind
chorus
the label got washed away
so I’m not sure of the year
when you can’t drink the water
you better not drink the beer
What happens when you’ve lost things
you never knew you had
and you come home to a front yard
filled with graveyard slabs
Aaron sings what Randy wrote
clear down to Plaquemine
down to 6 feet of water
and my last half bottle of wine
chorus
Categories: Uncategorized

Quarantine Diaries – Day 156 (Summer…or the lack thereof)

August 19, 2020 Leave a comment

It’s been a weird summer. Mostly because it doesn’t really feel like summer at all.

The weather, sure. But that’s only a small part of it.

outdoor-fire-pitsIt’s the music too. The way it used to climb out of car radios. The way it provided a soundtrack for gathering after dark, “sipping warm beer in the soft summer rain” as someone sorta famous once said. A certain record, a certain song, it could fill in all the awkward silences. We could sit around a fire with friends and family and everything worrisome receded, like an ocean tide. It’ll return surely, but not while this song is playing. Or this one…..

If the music is right, and the fire doesn’t go out, and the friends don’t go home, it could go on forever. What threads through all of our best memories is that we didn’t want those nights to end. And they all contain a soundtrack.

That’s what summer is supposed to feel like.

Baseball games. Concerts. Church picnics and patios. Nights at the drive-in. A moon bright enough to read by. We slow down long enough to enjoy the things worth slowing down for.

Now we’re largely alone. The music is in our ears only. We can’t share it anymore. Friends are on the other end of a smart phone. We bunker ourselves in and wait it out. Looking forward to, what exactly?

Fall is coming….and for kids it’s already here….as schools are back in session. Many of the classrooms are closing up faster than the students can get their lockers open, as the virus continues to spread. There’s no plan. No nationwide effort to eradicate it. We’re on our own. Kids are on their own. Homework every single night is “read this chapter and try not to get sick and kill grandma..” The only winners seem to be the ones who bought stock in Zoom at the beginning of the year.

Summer was the reward for getting through the other 9 months. You could take some time off. It wasn’t dark on your drive home anymore. You had hours more to go before you had to shut yourself down and plug into the next day.

I have these offbeat memories of summer music. At the Saint Joseph’s picnic in 1984, an older kid from our high school carrying a boom box around, blasting the brand new Springsteen. Something called “Born in the USA”. It sounded gigantic….and everybody already seemed to know all the words.

Another Springsteen memory. Sitting in the back of a pick-up, “The River” playing from start to finish as we illegally drank from a cooler of Rolling Rock, listening hard. And wondering if what we were in for was what Bruce was singing about in these songs, because he didn’t make adult-ing sound that much fun. Stolen Cars and wrecks on the highway and wandering the streets looking for shoes, then waking up early to push baby carriages spawned from unwanted pregnancies. All the prices you had to pay. You can look but you better not touch indeed. I was terrified of growing up because of this record. But at the same time, it taught us that even though it might suck to get old, we could still hit the roadhouse and ramrod all night long….that is if a babysitter was available. Bruce was raging against the dying of the light even then. But he still sounded like he was having fun. Lesson learned.

One more. I think it was the summer of 1983. I had a job with the county housing authority. Painting. It was hot and sticky and full time and I was miserable but it paid well and featured quite the cast of characters. It allowed me to buy my first walkman, which seemed magical at the time. On day one I splattered paint all over it, which made it that much cooler. A friend had taped the Who’s final show of their 1982 show off the radio. A show from Toronto. And he made me a copy and I played that show so much that the tape disintegrated and I had to sheepishly ask him to make me another copy. This truly kick-started my life-long Who/Townshend obsession. That tape. That summer.

I’ve listened to all sorts of music since we’ve been locked down. And it’s gotten me through. And inspired me. All of it. But what I don’t have is the memories that go along with it. The boom-box blaring or the cold Rolling Rocks or the brand new walk-man. And the friends who were alongside me for all of it.

And I miss that. And I miss them.

I want this to end.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

College

August 17, 2020 Leave a comment

Colleges are back. Some have thrown the doors open and some have taken a more moderate approach….half on-line and half “try-not-to-breathe-on-each-other”. Some have thrown in the towel entirely and go full online. It is what it is. Stay safe out there. And if anybody thinks college kids onsite ain’t gonna spread the shit out of this thing in about 6 seconds, you probably didn’t go to college.

Enjoy it now. ‘Cause we’re all gonna be back home soon.

Whatever. I was the class of 1988. Things were a little different back then, and not only because a credit cost $125. Today’s books cost more than yesterday’s class credits.

I was distinctly unmotivated back then. Not by design….it was just that I tended to live inside my own head. I wasn’t much good at anything. Surrounded myself with books and old movies and Sanford and Son re-runs and never worried about what was going on over the next hill. I’d rush home from wherever, desperate to get re-lost inside whatever memoir or novel or history I had put down. I worked a retail job…..lots of hours but no money. Didn’t have a girl. Never felt like I was missing something more important than what I was doing, even if I wasn’t doing much at all. I figured all this was normal. Today we even have a word for all of this. It’s called “immaturity”. Or at the very least crippling social anxiety. But ain’t nobody got time for that now.

marywoodBut summer was ending, and college was an expectation. I knew I’d go, I just didn’t think about it all that much. Or at all. So with a few weeks left I had to choose, and since I didn’t have a driver’s license at the time and could not afford to go away, I chose a college I could walk to. Not driving distance mind you. WALKING distance.

Don’t try this at home, kids.

So that September I’d wake up way too early and cut through Dunmore high school property, about a mile or so away, find the sliced hole in the fence by the football field, enter a large graveyard, and climb up a hill that brought me to the back of the Marywood College campus (upgraded to University status years later). It was like walking as the crow flies. If I followed the streets it would take three times as long. I’d emerge near the old science building, mindful of the dead nun headstones in the front yard. And I’d be dragging the 20+ poundage business textbooks the entire way. Business was the major you chose if you had no idea what to do with your life. So, it’s the major I would chose now if I had to do things all over again.

This plan was bearable in the fall. In the winter, it become problematic, for obvious reasons. And so it came to pass that I showed up for my freshman Management class mid-term exam, only to be stopped at the door because the teacher didn’t recognize me. It wasn’t my fault he had such a poor memory. But I did get to sleep in a lot.

Eventually I’d get my license, but that was largely irrelevant since I didn’t have a car. These days we simply buy our kids cars. Back then? Not so much. I made $3.70 an hour at the drug store, the kind of salary that kept you walking to school. If I asked my dad for money he’d inevitably pull his wallet out and say “You can have whatever is in there..” and after I while I stopped calling his bluff because I realized he was dead serious.

Without a car I didn’t have many options between classes. I could study in the library or…well….come to think of it….I rarely did this.

So I’d nap on one of the student union couches or shoot pool and listen to the jukebox in the cafeteria. “Pink Cadillac” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart” would pour out of the thing incessantly. Interesting how lots of details fade but the music remains. And when the last class of the day was let out, back through the graveyards I’d go, making my way back home. All in all it was a pretty bizarre college life thinking back on it. I don’t think I came out of there with a single new friend…..skulking around campus with a walkman jammed in my ears, too shy to engage despite the 75-25 female to male student ratio at the time. It felt more like an extension of high school.

Did I mention that my walk to school took my past my favorite bar? When I started taking night classes….this became a problem. It’s pretty easy to whistle past a bar at 8am, but 5:30pm? How much time do I have? Maybe just one……I can still make it. And then….well….predicable really. The fact that I was able to graduate on time and with slightly middle of the road grades is still a constant source of wonder to me. I wasn’t intentionally deviant…..just prone to distraction.

And I regret it all. I should have gone away……or at the very least tried to engage. I should have done all the stupid things that college kids do and made all the same mistakes that college kids make….I should have noticed at the very least how beautiful Marywood’s campus was….and tramped through the place like I owned it instead of like I was stealing something.

And some 30+ years later, it’s more stunning than ever. Expanded. New buildings everywhere. Pretty sure that front yard nun graveyard is gone, wherever it is that nun graveyards go when donors dig deep and need the real estate. Along with that slice in the fence by the high school. No more short cuts. If you’re gonna choose a college, ask more serious questions than I did.

All the best to the class of 2024. The one thing you deserve more than anything else is normalcy, and since you ain’t gonna get that here’s hoping for engaging weirdness. At the very least.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized