Archive for November, 2014

Fear drives tragedy. Fear drives everything. And it sells….

November 25, 2014 Leave a comment

I was watching last night like everybody else.

I was thinking a few things while awaiting the grand jury’s decision.

First and foremost I was thinking how, unless I could somehow cut my age in half (and then some), turn myself black. and move to a depressed inner city, I have absolutely no idea how someone like Michael Brown handled himself each day.

And unless I turn myself into a cop patrolling an inner city….an area that views me with suspicion at best…..I really have no idea what it’s like to be officer Darren Wilson.

3Imagine living in a world where everybody assumes your intentions are bad. You are judged for the clothes you wear. The music you listen to. The girls you date. The cars you drive and the areas you drive your cars thru. You enter a store and all eyes are on you. And your hands. And your pockets. You walk down the street with your friends and the sidewalk becomes a mini version of white-flight. Popular culture endlessly portrays you as a thug. A drug dealer. A gang-banger. Your options are limited. Raising yourself up by the bootstraps…..well that sounds swell, but the boots you have are torn and frayed and have to last the winter. But if you make it through a crumbling cash-strapped high-school….college is likely a financial impossibility. Nobody really gives a shit either. You’re either a statistic, or about to become one.

Imagine getting up every morning and putting on your badge, being willing to lay down your life for the community you’ve given your oath to protect. And imagine knowing that a large part of that community considers you an oppressor. A cold-eyed racist with a license to kill. A state-sponsored goon who gets his kicks out of hassling young men of color. Imagine parents coldly hustling their little children away from you as you attempt to engage them…..or a wall of silence being instantly erected whenever you need their cooperation. Imagine spending your entire working day without a single glint of recognition. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year.

Imaging this dueling scenario…..and then place yourself in front of a Fox News screen…..where all cops are portrayed as white knights waving the American flag and saving kittens on their days off. Or MSNBC, where all young men of color who victimize their own communities (and each other) are portrayed as secret mama’s boys who just need more TLC and larger relief checks.

Somewhere in the middle is where we need to get. But it’s messy as hell in there. So….we close the garage door, grab a 6-pack (and maybe a 6 shooter)….and continue being afraid. On our side of the divide.

Because that’s what this is really about isn’t it?

I don’t think Micheal Brown was a remorseless thug. I don’t think Darren Wilson is a racist neanderthal. Each feared the other for reasons they probably didn’t understand. That fear was taught. Fear drives tragedy.

Fear drives everything.

Fear sells.

Our public debates more and more deal with the boogy man. The wild-eyed Mexican fence jumper coming to take our jobs. Crazed muslim criminals cutting off heads on YouTube. Africans jumping on planes and flying Ebola into our living rooms. The lesbians across the street who want to get married and overwhelm the local school board with copies of “My Two Mommies”. It goes on and on. Election season is particularly ghastly, which opponents dueling each other on how to best convince grandma that’s she’s financially fucked because the other wants to take her social security check and use it to buy hookers. It’s funny….until you realize that it works. The men and women running this country now are, for the most part, the best fear mongers corporations can buy. I’m pretty sure this isn’t what the founding fathers had in mind. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t what Lincoln had in mind as he somehow kept this nation together despite the fact that we were killing each other to the tune of 600,000 fresh graves.

Is this what so many have fought and died for?

This shit?

I sensed this grand jury thing was smoke and mirrors. The prosecutor was handling it like somebody had left a live snake in his bed….so I wasn’t surprised at all with the verdict. I don’t know what happened the night Brown was killed because I wasn’t there. Some witnesses saw things one way. Some witnesses saw things another way. As usual in this country, the accounts were racially divided. Blacks see things one way. Whites see things another.

For a brief moment I thought there would be no violence.

But it all seemed so…..well….scripted. Like waiting 8 hours so they could announce the verdict in prime time. Does that pass the smell test to you?

To not riot…….it seemed almost a dereliction of duty. I know that sounds absurd and that’s exactly how I want it to sound. Read the sentence again if you need to. I’ll wait.


It was all too perfectly laid out. The “Lights”. The “Camera”. All that was needed was the “Action”. And there’s always a few yambags ready, willing, and quite able to exploit any situation. And so it went down. A few lobbed bottles. Cars overturned……broken windows…..some tear gas in response, and then the fires. What looks better on TV than some torched cars? Cue the fucking carnival. “Look Ma! I’m on TV!” I would not be surprised if all the major cable news outlets already had cameras outside that liquor store….just goading folks into action. “Go on son…..grab that Cold-45 so I can take your picture and Hannity can call you an animal.” And the kid with the hoodie and the pants falling off his ass does your bidding. Because he knows that’s what’s expected of him. You’re noticing him. For once. He matters. For a brief moment he really matters.

You want to talk about racism? Shit. The whole broadcast… it went down….just reeked of it.

But that being said….I couldn’t stop thinking to myself…..”look at these assholes walking towards police one minute with their hands raised in mock supplication, and in the next minute ripping their clothes climbing out broken windows with arms full of booze.”

The duality of man and all that.

Our propensity to run around and break storefront windows and steal televisions when things don’t go our way is not something I ever understood….be it due to West Virginia winning a football game (“yes Virginia…..there are white riots too”) or (again) white folks being pissed because the beer runs out.

What happened last night was disgraceful. In any color. Nobody wins. There are no good guys.

And it makes me afraid.

In a bit…


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Music is best when it’s shared…

November 23, 2014 Leave a comment

Music is best when it’s shared. Last night I took my daughter and my niece, both 16, to see Los Lobos at a local casino.

photoThe girls are the best kind of music lovers. They have open ears. If it’s good, they’ll come along for the ride. Read more…

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To those about to rock, I salute you. To those who have been rocking this entire time, thanks for saving my life.

November 17, 2014 2 comments

Sitting downstairs tapping these words out on my phone while listening to an assortment of Marah records on my IPod. (I know you’ve never heard of Marah but really that’s your problem and not mine) My life may suck these days but it ain’t due to a shortage of great rock and roll music (literally) in my leg pocket (cargo pants…what can I say? I feel like Woody Guthrie would wear ’em so….) Music keeps me sane and when it can’t do that it lets me dance all over my blues, excellent cover for a crazy person.

I’m pushing 50. My head is getting grey. My beard is getting grey. I was hoping for that graceful George Clooney look but something is missing I guess. They never warn you about the intangibles. The bastards.

My girls are 16 and 12 now. College is around the corner. I’ve worked full time for almost 30 years. Despite this everything with my name on it is still owned by various banks. We live week to week. If we emptied our savings account I might be able to buy Dylan’s new Basement Tape boxed set on CD. And maybe a case of beer with the change. Lionshead. Cans.

College tuition is 60k a year on average these days. When I ponder this I don’t know whether to laugh or cry so I split the difference and do both. I’d ask others in the same position as me how they do it but I’m not up for bookie/drug dealing/prostitution stories. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I’ve got new music in my head. I’ve got new lyrics in my notebook and new melodies captured on my IPhone. I’ve got a million different ideas on how to present them, the only common thread being that I can’t afford any of them. But I’ve got a guitar and a mic so I’ll get ’em out there. I always do. I hope when I do you’ll give a listen. Someday I’m gonna write the perfect pop song and make Spotify tremble. But for now just pull up my stuff on there and spin it. I wanna complain about the size of the checks. So, you know, first I need to get a check.

I’m tired. I’m always tired. All over tired. The kind of tired that a 12 hour weekend sleep shift can’t touch. When I have to concentrate during the day I drift way more than I used to. I’m a Notre Dame and Pittsburgh Steeler fan, so that might have something to do with it. No rest for the weary. Especially when you keep turning the fucking ball over and losing to the Jets and Northwestern.

Somedays I can make my guitar sing. Some days I make it sound like a cigar box wrapped with rubber bands. Some days I can warble like a bird. Some days my rusty pipes scare our pets. Some days I can still write. Some days I can barely speak a coherent sentence. Some days the melodies are laying (lying?….dammit I always punt on this one and as the son of a writer it sorta pisses me off) on the floor in front of me. Some days they feel like shit on my shoe.

Some days you’re the windshield and some days you’re the birdshit. Something like that anyway.

Youth, a cheerleader’s smile and a cold 12 pack solved all these problems in the past. These days nothing but a great book, a warm blanket, or some serious Netflix binge watching comes close. Throw a few benzodiazepines in the popcorn bowl. Who’s got time for anything graceful these days?

I’m looking over my “people you may know” section on Facebook. All mucho-tattooed half naked women with come hither looks. Of course I don’t know any of them. What kind of perverted algorithm did that Zuckerman cook up anyway? Does this sort of thing just happen to us old, sore Who fanatics or what?

How about some more bands as drop-dead real as Marah? That would be some serious social networking. Rock and roll never let me down. I can’t say the same about half naked women with tattoos.

Today has been horrible. You know what got me through it? Songs like “Poor People” and “Out of Tune”. And ear buds. To those about to rock, I salute you. To those who have been rocking this entire time, thanks for saving my life.

I suspect this is all part of growing up. And growing old. I suspect that the only people who truly understand the power of rock and roll are those who can’t live without it.

In a bit.


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What we can be proud of…

November 2, 2014 Leave a comment

It’s been common water-cooler fodder these last few weeks. What exactly would the PSP do to Eric Frein when they caught him. Everybody had their own take on it. Fists and feet and rifle butts to reorganize facial features. Some suggested dispensing with the cost of a trial altogether. Put a slug between his eyes. Give as good as the PSP got. There would be guffaws all around….and then everybody would disperse, not really understanding what they were just advocating.

Hell,we all did it.

Things aren’t always as black and white as we’d like them to be. The brain recognizes this. And upon reflection, it can be a bit of bother.

eric-frein-mugshot-cbd001e43388bb8eNobody was surprised when Frein’s nose looked like it had taken on a rifle butt and lost. A lot of people seemed aggrieved that he didn’t look worse. The press was simply doing its job when it asked about Frein’s injuries. The State Police said he’d been busted up prior to his arrest. He’d been in the woods for 48 days, so…..maybe we snickered, but that was that. Nobody was really giving a shit about a cop killer’s nasal health.

Alleged cop killer of course, something we tend to forget. Innocent until proven guilty and all that. That being said, if I had money I’d lay it all on Frein as the trigger-man. If he ain’t the killer, this is gonna be a classic TV movie someday.

He’s gonna rot in prison until he dies. All the saber rattling about the death penalty is just small penis talk, magnified by grief and DAs and the fact that it’s an election year. Check the books. Pennsylvania doesn’t carry out death sentences. That’s not pro or anti talk, It’s just fact talk, the kind that is so often lost in the echo chamber.

The US Marshals are the ones who actually collared Frein. Eleven of them. Frein was out in the open, unarmed, and did not resist. That being said, he’s also an alleged cop-killer. And federal cops now had him at their mercy. Turns out that Frein’s lopsided face was created by being driven into the pavement by 11 armed US Marshals. If he dared to resist? Use your imagination.

Can you blame them?

In retrospect I can go all ACLU on anybody. But cops (increasingly ridiculed by social media “experts” as bumbling incompetents, or worse) tramping through the woods for the 48th day in a row aren’t apt to be a retrospective bunch.

Then they took pictures of themselves and told the press, “yea, we did that to his face, what about it?”

And people thought….”well jeez the PSP told us whatever happened to his face happened when he was on the run”. PSP officials may indeed have been telling the truth as they understood it. But you only get one chance to make a first impression when the cameras are turned on.

It was not the truth.

So then the inevitable.

If they lied about this, what else are they lying about?

Lies are what gives birth to conspiracy theories. “It’s the lie that gets you”. Nixon said that. He ought to know.

What law enforcement has done is created a talking point for the defense. A monumental blunder.

But again, when you’re actually in the arena, what would you have done?

American DNA is filled with superiority. We consider ours to be the greatest nation on earth. The way we do things are the way things should be done. Nothing crystallizes this attitude more than how we feel about our own legal system. Innocent until proven guilty. Give the dirty rotten sonofabitch a fair trial and then string his ass up.

This is pie in the sky stuff of course. If you’re a dirty rotten sonofabitch with deep pockets, your odds in front of a judge improve dramatically. Nobody likes to brag about this part, except maybe the people with the deep pockets.

But still, everybody is entitled to their day in court. To legal counsel. To speak up when they need to and shut up when it’s best to. No matter how ghastly the crimes they have been accused of are. It might not be a perfect system, but I constantly recall what Churchill said about democracy….

“…..the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” 

….and think maybe our legal system is the best imperfect people can come up with.

As a nation we do things pretty good.

If I was accused of some evil I’d rather have US Marshals come for me than, say, the Secret Police of Sierra Leone.

And just think. The Secret Police of Sierra Leone are probably sitting around laughing at us for discussing a busted nose in such law and orderly terms. To many, it seems positively absurd.

But you know what? I’m glad it’s worthy of discussion in the United States of America.

In a bit..


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