Archive for January, 2020

Democracy had a nice run at least…

January 30, 2020 Leave a comment

 If a president did something that he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.

–Alan Dershowitz 

statueI just want to write all of this down so I can remember what I was thinking when democracy was strangled to death. On live television. It’s been said that “democracy dies in darkness”. Well, that may be true. But it’s gasping for breath with all the lights on as well.

This is where we’re at. The initial argument was that the President did nothing wrong. That democrats made up impeachment charges and that there was no quid pro quo in Ukraine. All that’s gone now. John Bolton’s upcoming book destroyed that narrative.

So once there was no quid pro quo. It was a “perfect phone call”.

And now? Well….not so much.

“Quid pro quo doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if there was a quid pro quo or not.”

-Senator Ted Cruz

“Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office.”

–Senator Marco Rubio

You could make this stuff up I suppose. But you no longer have to.

So they’ve got one more card.

“For the sake of argument, one could assume everything attributable to John Bolton is accurate and still the House case would fall well below the standards to remove a president from office,”

-South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham

So there you go.

Using this logic, a President could order the arrest (or assassination) of a political opponent, which would obviously assist in his getting re-elected, and quite legally argue that he did so for our own good. Because it is what he thinks is “best for the country”. Or he could decide that keeping blacks and Hispanics from voting would vastly help his re-election, and thus legally restrain them from casting a ballot.

This all sounds like really bad third-rate Orwell……but it’s happening. The President’s lawyer is standing up on the floor of the US Senate arguing for a dictatorship. And nobody seems to have the balls to stop it. The media seems paralyzed….cowed. Like not wanting to admit that somebody farted in the waiting room.

Look, I get it. This was maybe even fun a while. It was like a classroom erupting into chaos when the teacher left the room. Throwing spitballs and erasers at each other. Peeking at the grade book. Setting up the whoopee cushion. Fucking around with the status quo and all that. “Draining the swamp” even though….well….you know.

But this is what happens when the teacher who left the room falls down the stairs and breaks her leg.

It’s not funny anymore.

With this argument, the President comes out of this even more powerful. He has, essentially, unchecked powers. He has the mother of all excuses. For the upcoming 2020 election, the tiny-fingered gloves will come off. There’s nothing off the table now. Who’s to say that even if he loses the election, he doesn’t simply reject the outcome as not in the public’s best interest? Who’s gonna stop him? We’ve had various “adults in the room”. Even from the military. Each one has been ritually debased. House and Senate republicans don’t just drink his kool-aid….they bathe in the stuff. The ones who do speak out do so only after announcing they’re not gonna run for office anymore. Democrats just keep getting rolled. They’ve been unable to even slow him down. And through it all his poll numbers have remained consistent. Adoring crowds lap up his bile. He hasn’t lost a single supporter that I’m aware of. Call it a cult of personality. Whatever. Maybe he’s got Hoover-like files on everybody….and dangles this over their heads like Putin’s piss-tape hangs over his own. It has become the great political question of our time. How has such an casually cruel, wholly ignorant, corrupt, repugnant, friendless piece of human garbage risen this high and this unchecked for this long?

Are we just fucking a nation of imbeciles?

Whatever happened to the constitution?

At this point I expect at least 4 more years regardless of the election results. That’s where we are at boys and girls. Ironically, quite Putin-esque. Which was perhaps the goal all along.

Make no mistake. The damage has already been done. The shit is cake-dried to the walls, and even when he goes away, the stench will remain. History will not be kind to him, nor to those who enabled him. We’ll be left with a minefield of lies and brazen corruption that generations will have to navigate.

There will be attempts to re-write history as well. But the window is closing. It’s the last gasp of the old rich white men using fear and propaganda like a cudgel…..and even though they ain’t going quietly, they’ll soon be outnumbered.

Let’s hope what replaces them smells better.

In a bit..



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Bret Alexander

January 26, 2020 Leave a comment

It’s hard to write about friendship.

Sometimes it’s taken for granted while we’re in the midst of it.

Maybe it’s a guy thing. Dudes are notoriously reticent about stuff like this.

As we get older our circle of friends gets smaller. And then it tends to solidify. These are the ones we can rely on. The ones who will answer that call at 2am. The ones who talk you off the ledge. Or the ones who will join you on the ledge and say (to use the words of a certain songwriter I admire), “I don’t know how we’re gonna get through this one…but we will.”

For those of us who play music, these bonds mean everything. Music is a communal experience. We get by with a little help from our friends.


Bret Alexander is my friend. I’m a better person for that. He needs a little help.

I started out a fan. I remember running out on my lunch hour at my job to get to Gallery of Sound to buy my copy of River Songs. We’re pretty tribal here in NEPA, and it just lifted me up knowing that these guys belonged to us. Before this, great rock and roll bands always seemed to come from somewhere else. But these guys had elbowed their way up to the bar, and they were setting up the entire house.

And years later….”Love and Rain” showed up. Those songs. My god. We Will was worthy enough for Marvin Gaye. Why wasn’t this band huge?

I won’t attempt to explain the vagaries of the music business.

Fast forward some years…..and I got to play a show with Bret. First time we’d met in person. It was a songwriter in-the-round gig. His solo mandolin version of “Fear of Falling” brought the house down. Trying to follow his songs, I felt like a dog thrown into a pool. I was dog-paddlin’.

But he was so generous. He listened. He exuded nothing but positive energy. I worked up the courage to suggest that we might collaborate someday. He could have very easily deflected….but he didn’t. He looked right at me and said….”man, I’d love that. Let’s do it. Soon. Call me. Here’s my number.”

I wasn’t expecting that.

Now what the fuck was I gonna do?

One thing you do when you work with Bret. You bring your A game. At the time I felt like a B student. So I woodsheded.

And when I felt ready I called. I went to his place. That legendary Dupont bunker, as well lit as a coal mine during a power outage. Space heater at my ankle. Apple whiskey in the corner just in case. Before we played a note of music, we sat and talked. And talked. And talked some more. About music (a shared affinity for Levon and Tragically Hip). About our families. Our fathers. Our mutual friends. We discovered we each had 2 daughters roughly the same age. We shared some parental…er…tales. It wasn’t just random common ground. This was “brother from another mother” stuff. Eventually we ran down a song. And then another. We talked about so much, but the music was something that didn’t require lots of words. It was more subtle. A gesture. A smile. A foot tapping on the concrete floor. I liked to work fast. He never tried to slow me down.

And when the take was done I’d wait for his verdict…..he’s stroke his beard and say…”I’d leave it alone”. And we would. We probably make our first record in less than 8 hours. Mostly live. Us sitting knee to knee. Like the stuff you’d hear on back porches. And we both knew when it was over that we were gonna make another one. And we did. And it was even better the second time around. Music flows out of him like a river. Sometimes I felt like I was being baptized.

I don’t think he realizes how much I’ve learned from him. How much I’ve nicked from him. How much I’ve absorbed. Just the way he carries himself. His impenetrable coolness. And how that coolness never, ever, made him unapproachable.

Try that sometimes and see if you can do it. You can’t. Because you’re not that fucking cool.

I’m not sure he realizes how much so many love him. How much I love him.

The special ones are the ones that make you feel special. The ones that lift you up. That’s Bret Alexander.

The one who wrote stunning lines like this…

that driver / he always calls me brother / but he don’t look like me
give me love give me love give me peace on earth / give me more than my money’s worth

Bret has a genetic kidney condition that requires a transplant. He never mentioned it to me during all the time we spent together. Because that’s just not his way.

He’s gonna get it in a few weeks, and he’s gonna be laid up for a while. And as he’s the hardest working man in show business (250+ shows a year), his friends are banding together to keep the meter filled while he gets stronger. He’d be the first in line to help any of us. I know this all makes him uncomfortable. But he deserves it. And that’s that.

And when he comes back……I’m heading down to that bunker again.

If you want to help come to the show in April, or feed the meter through the GoFundMe campaign here.

I wish you friends like mine.

In a bit..


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Invisible in the hallway…

January 22, 2020 1 comment

I can still remember. Those days.

Being a teen. Lost in crowds and hallways and only feeling safe in my room, or after a quickly slammed 6 pack paid for with money my Mom thought was for a post-game burger and fries.

Most of us had no confidants. We were on our own…….navigating the ups and downs and further-downs of adolescence, with only our acne and insecurity for company. Sleep was a refuge, the only time when we didn’t have to make up our own dreams. During sleep they came on their own….like the previews you aren’t expecting before the movie. So…..on the weekends we’d push on until mid-day. Pleasantly oblivious.

stressSchool was a 6+ hour battle royal intended to jump-start every neurosis we’d managed to keep in check during off hours. Filled with bullies and stoners and freaks and mindless jocks and girls who, if you caught their eye at all, would only giggle. Classes were a hodge-podge of things you didn’t care about mixed with things you could not retain despite constant attempts at rote memorization. If you had any type of gift at all that didn’t involve a ball of some kind, you felt like a freak and kept it to yourself. Even the teachers seemed bored, falling through the doors at the end of the day with the same 1000 yard stare you had. School was an endurance test.

I remember watching the movie “The Exorcist” in this kids’ basement when we were maybe 14…..and then walking home with this other guy, and neither of us able to admit to the other that we were terrified. Then we reached a long dark alley that we had to walk down, and at the same exact time we both took off on a dead sprint until we reached the lighted main road. We just started walking again and didn’t mention a thing. In retrospect this sorta summed up being a teenager for me. If you don’t talk about it, it never happened.

There was no how-to book. If you messed up being 13, you didn’t get a do-over. And if the girl you loved didn’t love you back, chances are that shit wasn’t gonna change when you were 14. Everything was life and death…..and there was no sense of time other than “forever”. You would be this awkward forever. Stuck with the big nose of jug ears forever. Afraid of that guy forever. A stuttering mess in front of that girl forever. Terrified of the devil and Max Von Sydow forever. And you would never, ever get laid.

You were taught, always, to conform. To respect authority even if you knew they were full of shit. If you disagreed, you were never right. Even if you found an alternate, more scenic route that still got you were they wanted you to go, you weren’t allowed to take it. The finish line was not the only thing provided to you.

You searched for ways to not feel this way. The drink or the joints or the pills that made it all go away for that hour or that weekend. The music that allowed you to get lost in a different part of your head, the part that screamed rebellion. That part that wasn’t scared of its own shadow. You found the books that would shape you….or the films that would inspire you. Or maybe the musical instrument that would help you tear down the wall.

It was a constant tug of war. Between wanting desperately to fit in, and being so tempted to finally say “fuck it” and break free. Being in that straitjacket, but secretly knowing how Houdini always managed to get out of it. What would happen if you finally stuck your head above the parapet? Somebody is gonna shoot, that’s what.

But that’s what it’s all about, and it takes the teen years to bring this into focus. Some never get past the crushing conformity, and the rules that aren’t written down anywhere but everybody is expected to know. They go off into the world with their conference championship trophies and their squeaky cheerleader voices and sing “Glory Days” when it plays on the jukebox at the same bar that winked at their first fake ID.

And some run for the hills and dodge the bullets and never look back, and have been causing the right kind of trouble ever sense.

I can’t imagine being my teen self now. With what’s out there. The haves and the have-nots and the trolls around every online corner, and the 100k a year debt for a degree that promises only that your resume will probably get read at least before they throw it away. Forty years ago you got the sense that the game wasn’t totally fair, but not that it was rigged.

I remember. The good parts and the bad parts. And the floating between that 2 that make up most of those years. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. You’re still invisible in the hallways.

Even with the passage of time, some of those same fears appear, like weeds in the cracks of a sidewalk.

In a bit..


Categories: Uncategorized

Off to the library

January 16, 2020 Leave a comment

Like lots of other folks, I’ve become, gradually and almost imperceptibly, a degenerate Netflix/whateverelseyoustream junkie. I can easily blow a six hour hole in my day, slumped in sweat pants and surrounded by carbs, binge watching the latest can’t-miss offering. I’m also one of those pains in the ass always asking for recommendations….and giving mine even when it’s not really asked for (British cop shows……in case you’re wondering. Broadchurch and Happy Valley).

netflixwatchingstillBut you know what happens. One episode turns into two and then you start the “well….just one more” phase of the evening, and before you know it you’re asking yourself (and Netflix is pathetically asking you..) if you should start the next season or just call it a night and before the sun rises. It’s slothful and an intellectually lazy way to stimulate what’s left of our brains, but it’s become the new normal. And it’s kinda weird how all of us are so incredibly busy and can’t find the time to do so many things (like exercise or get to the store or the bank etc…)….but can easily block off the time to watch both seasons of that creepy show You in a single marathon.

(that stupid creepy show is the new “Who’s on First”…..I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this….

“I’m watching you”

“Um…ok but why?”

“It’s a good show.”

“Oh, I thought you meant you were watching me.”

“No, I’m watching you. Why would I be watching you?”


I’m reminded of this because I have always been an inveterate reader. Over the years I’ve accumulated my own library of over 1000 titles. At the height of my powers, I was plowing through two or more books a week. I’d read nightly for a few hours before bed. I’d read during my lunch hour at work. I’d read in the car while waiting for my kids to get out of school. I’d have different books started in different rooms. Novels and memoirs and history tomes. When traveling my bag was always the heaviest because of the books crammed inside it. And when coming home it was even heavier because I could never go anywhere without buying more.

(I tried the Kindle……and it worked just fine……but I turned out to be one of those irritating weirdos who needs the feel of an actual book in my hands, and the device now sits in a drawer with all the cords that don’t fit any device anymore. It will never be a.used or b. thrown away. Because…..well… get it. And yes I’ve since bought used copies of many of the books that I downloaded to the Kindle….because I’m so well-read and….er……)

At the close of 2019, I realized that over the past year I hardly read at all. I was busy Netflixing. As a direct result of not reading, I wrote less than I had in years. Writers read. They adore words. When they’re not encased in them, they don’t write. There’s a vast difference between conjuring up the images in your head that the prose is describing, and letting somebody else do that for you on the small screen. That isn’t to say that some of the stuff I’ve seen over the last year hasn’t been pretty powerful, but that the heavy lifting was done for me, which means I didn’t learn all that much.

So all this much change.

It should probably change starting today, since last night I re-watched 3 Sopranos episodes (until 1am) from season two while surrounded by the 3 books I just ordered from Amazon. Clearly a self-pep-talk is in order. But I’ll get there.

My father used to stand over me as a child when I was mindlessly slumped watching TV and announce to the room that “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. I ignored him then but he probably had a point, as only something like demonic possession could explain some of my subsequent choices in my earlier years (He seemed to get smarter as I grew older). Nothing irritated him more than to waste time, and nothing makes time-wasting easier than a television.

In retrospect, I never did anything remotely worthwhile in my life until I started heavy reading. It awoke me from an intellectual slumber, which is another way of saying you can either read or remain stupid forever.

I’m off to the library. Don’t wait up.

In a bit..


Categories: Uncategorized

War drums

January 8, 2020 Leave a comment

There’s talk of war. Not the best way to start off a new year. But yet here we are.

quote-and-when-the-drums-of-war-have-reached-a-fever-pitch-and-the-blood-boils-with-hate-and-julius-caesar-146-56-77War should always be a last resort, if indeed it needs to be a resort at all. But too often in my lifetime it’s been the first option….the result of men (it’s nearly always men) waving their dicks at each other, trying to rile up their respective bases. War is a great diversion, which is why a leader who lacks self-confidence and has managed to get himself into deep shit at home is always the most dangerous on the world stage. And since those who start wars have almost never fought in them, all they know of war is what they’ve read. History. Learning from it. But if they’ve proven themselves to be largely, functionally illiterate, well……you can see where this is going.

Nobody except soldiers see what war is. What it feels like and smells like and tastes like and what killing does to a human soul. The men who start wars don’t do the killing or the dying. That part has never really changed. It’s an awesome burden to carry…..knowing that with one word one can unleash this type of fury. We like to think that word only comes after many long nights of intense soul-searching, huddled with experienced soldiers, drawing up the pros and the cons. If it’s at all worth the blood of the innocents? Once we go in, how do we get out? If we break it, do we have to buy it? I mean….this might be reasonably expected in a world that wasn’t upside down. But now? This crazy fuck might have ordered it because Greta Thunberg was named Time magazine’s person of the year.

To wage war and sacrifice lives to gain political capital, or because you don’t think your ass is getting sufficiently kissed, seems to me the worst type of treason imaginable. But maybe I’m just hopelessly old fashioned.

War sells though. It sells newspapers and magazines and is manna from heaven to cable television. It can even jump-start a stalled economy. It gets packaged like a Hollywood spectacle. Shock and awe and bombs that look like Disney World night after night. The dying is invisible…..done mercifully behind the scenes, and mostly by non-combatants who just get in the way. Once it kicks off dissent is all but crushed. Somehow “supporting the troops” does not include not wanting them put int harms way in the first place.

Over and over….it happens. We blunder into what becomes a disastrous war. We cook the books. We make up the “intelligence”, or even more brazenly we just say there is some and then never divulge it. The press seems skeptical at the beginning, but eventually are carried away in a tide of frenzied nationalism and become de-facto cheerleaders. Coffins are flown home under the cover of darkness, and if we’re not touched personally by a casualty, it’s pretty easy to ignore the entire thing by turning off the TV. When it’s eventually over…..everybody too chickenshit to say “hey….what the fuck are we doing?” at the starting line will write books that ask “what the fuck were we thinking?” once the butcher’s bill has been added up. And we pledge never to do it again, Until the next time.

This may all blow over. It may not. It may escalate. It may smolder. Iran may have intentionally missed US targets in their retaliatory strike, in an attempt to simply save face. Or they may simply be the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Nobody really knows. Talk is big on both sides….nobody is going to admit to the smaller penis. That’s not the way these things work. So we just sit and wait……

Nobody mourns the death of somebody like Qasem Soleimani. He was a bad guy. Blood all over his hands. Yet the world is filled with bad guys with blood on their hands. We don’t have enough weapons to take them all out. And we do seem quite selective in our condemnation. President Trump slobbers all over Putin and Kim Jong Un,  calling them “friends”. I’ll be willing to bet that both of them are responsible for more deaths than a gangster like Qasem Soleimani. How do we measure such things?

I don’t have any answers. Australia is on literal fire….and the Middle East awaits a lightning strike. We’re burning ourselves down.

I don’t know why…but I’m reminded of this quote from a past US President who was a bit more….er….eloquent than the current occupant of the White House..

“For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

We used to use words as something other than a tweeted cudgel. I miss such times…

In a bit..


Categories: Uncategorized

Post-Christmas Blues…

January 3, 2020 Leave a comment

There’s nothing more depressing than taking down the Christmas stuff.

Because that means it’s over. All that holiday cheer is gone, and it’s ok for everybody to start being a dick again. We get about a 6 week reprieve every year…..from pre-Thanksgiving to post-New Year’s, which isn’t bad I guess. But it goes so fast. It feels like the tree just went up…and now the living room looks distinctly un-festive. The dog gets his regular spot back. The chair is back where the tree was and now there’s a big empty space where the chair used to be, which I only really notice now. The cat is staring at the chair wondering why it doesn’t have branches she can climb. And our President is #BeBesting once again, this time by trying to pick a war with Iran via assassination. Expect the entire Persian Gulf region to become destabilized. That always ends well.

Trump tweets Obama IranBut hey……the front pages aren’t talking about impeachment at the moment, so, you know….WAG THE WINNING DOG! American boys are gonna die over this one….and it’s not gonna be the sons of the same rich white talking heads who led us into Iraq doing the dying. And it ain’t gonna be Trump’s sons. (One might expect the recruiting offices to be suddenly packed with adoring red MAGA hats after this latest strike. We shall see, eh?) The poor always do the dying. At the moment, almost in an instant, no American in the region is safe and, as usual with these things, nobody seems to know what the end-game will be.

Just felt like that needed saying.

One thing you can say about America and Americans. We don’t learn history, so it’s all the excuse we need to not learn from it.

Christmas music is gone….and as I write this my Spotify just spit out Tommy Tutone’s “Jenny” followed by “Bus Stop” by the Hollies…..which is probably meaningful in some way but I’m too sad to hash it out right now. It’s gonna be 10 and a half months before I can listen to Elvis sing “Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me” again, and that’s just not fair.

The weather has been pretty civil so far…..but that usually means we’re about to get bombed by some freak storm or a teeth-chattering cold front that’s gonna make my face hurt whenever I go outside. I despise wind. Unlike our big boy President I do understand it, but I just hate the whole wind-chill thing, when they tell you it’s 30 degrees but “feels like -21”. For the next 10 weeks or so I’m gonna be miserable and cold and there won’t be any holiday lights to distract me from the fact that the defroster doesn’t really work in my car. All that we have to look forward to now is the Saint Patrick’s Day parade day hill section brawl videos.

I’ve already blown my New Year’s resolution, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” just came on in my head. One of my all time favorite songs. I never sing it (in public….in private I belt it out like a bitch) because to try to sing like Steve Winwood is complete folly. But it never ceases to provoke a reaction from me. Weariness. Sadness. Resignation. Contemplation. It suddenly seems the perfect song for the post-Christmas blues. For a few weeks at least… seems like we find what we’re looking for. Home takes on a whole new meaning. It’s warmer and safer. It smells lovely. It’s lit up, literally. Our very own beacon on a hill, even if we live in a valley. And then the lights go out and it’s still dark at 5pm and it’s like coming home to a bunker again. If we can find it at all.

And so the new year will march relentlessly on. The “peace on earth and goodwill towards men” has already been swallowed up by the fog of war…..pretty much making a mockery out of what we claim to stand for these few weeks out of the year. The hungry will be hungry again. The sick remain, and often can’t afford to get well. The killing continues.

Our defenses are back up……and that car we waved into the lane will just have to fucking wait now.

“White Rabbit” just came on. An absolutely staggering song. And I’m reminded that it’s now being used in commercials for a cruise line.

We are completely doomed.

Good luck Bubba. We’re all gonna need it. Bring on Thanksgiving 2020.

In a bit..


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