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Quarantine Diaries – Day 56 (back to school)

May 11, 2020 Leave a comment

We needed to get out. Me and my wife and our girls.

Nearly 2 months of the same walls and the same window views. It was Mother’s day. And at least it stopped snowing. Temps promised to creep near 60. It almost seemed like a mis-print on the weather app. Felt like we needed to hurry before it changed its mind.

We were all a bit grumpy. So. Yea, we needed to get out.

Both our girls are missing their graduations. Kiera from Scranton Prep, and Alyssa from Moravian College. As a matter of fact, Alyssa’s graduation was scheduled to be the day before. May 9th. We had all sorts of plans. An overnight. A dinner. A party.

That was before the world changed.

It suddenly seemed like we’d been living this way forever. Time doesn’t make any sense anymore.

They both worked so hard. Alyssa got accepted into law school, and Kiera will continue her education at Lafayette College.

If the schools open up in the fall that is. But that’s to ponder another day.

So we cooked up a plan.

AlyssaMy wife found her own old graduation cap and gown in a box in the basement. Alyssa donned her graduation dress and grabbed her diploma (she graduated a semester early so had it already) and her tassels. We piled into the car for a road trip. Our own graduation ceremony. And with Kiera’s college choice being about 10 miles from Moravian, we’d kiss one special place goodbye, and give the other a hello smooch. I didn’t expect I’d cry. But, spoiler alert. I cried.

Alyssa thrived at Moravian. It’s a special place….filled with special people. A small but absolutely gorgeous campus in a pretty safe area. A welcoming, nurturing, diverse, dynamic learning environment. It’s what the brochures promise you college is going to be like. And she grew there. She gained confidence. She traveled to Europe. She got involved in the local community. She volunteered. She made lifelong friends, both students and professors. Again, everything you hoped your child would get out of a college experience, Alyssa got from being a greyhound. And it was just sorta hitting me as I made the drive I’d made so many times over the last 4 years…..it was over. I was gonna miss it as much as she was.

AlyssamaskSo we arrived at the campus entrance….that sign I remember seeing for the first time on our first 2016 visit. I pulled over and we took maybe 100 pictures. In front of it, and in front of venerable old Comenius Hall. All the while cars were driving by, honking their support. Knowing that the class of 2020 are being forced to improvise….and thus supporting our little photo shoot. Every horn received a raised-fist victory salute from me. It was just more confirmation that we made the right choice 4 years ago. And when we were winding down and I turned and started drifting back towards the car, my youngest looked at me and said, “Oh my god, are you crying?”

I scoffed and told her I had something in my eye. Which was technically true. It just wasn’t specific enough.

The pride you have in your kids is the kind that breaks down dams and floods valleys. It can’t be contained. And if you try too hard, what you’re left with is streaming tears that you end up trying to blame on non-existent pollen. I really wish all of you moments like this. Just try not to get caught as red-handed as I did.

So the plan now was to drive to Lafayette College in nearby Easton. One thing you forget about during pandemic road trips is not having anyplace to pee. The college was closed…..the student center (and the dorms) where we’d usually go locked up tight. So Alyssa led us to a nearby Wawa. We made sure to buy some token snacks so they didn’t think we were doing a pee-only-drive-by. Important for peace of mind. Then a take-away Mother’s day lunch from an Arby’s drive-thru (you adapt, believe me), and we jumped on route 22 for the short trip.

It was our 3rd visit to Lafayette….so I still needed the GPS to guide me. I think I got it now though. Turning up that lane towards the visitor parking lot….the gorgeous architecture framed against a painfully blue sky…..it gave me the same feeling Moravian had given me 4 years earlier. It just felt like the right place at the right time for the right child.

IMG_2928We had no plan other than to wander. All the visits for accepted students had of course been cancelled….so we just wanted to get the lay of the land again on our own. It’s a wonderfully self-contained campus, neither too big nor too small. Set up on a graceful hill overlooking the town and the Delaware river. With a large village green in its center……perfect for social distancing even before that was a thing. We had the entire campus pretty much to ourselves. A few other parents with incoming freshman looked to be visiting on their own as well, along with some random locals riding bikes…..but that was about it. We spoke quietly as we walked, which is what you usually do when surrounded by silence. Kiera led the way…..if she turned left we kinda hung back and turned left too. This is gonna be her home for the next 4 years, and she already seemed to be gaining confidence with each step. There were a few specific buildings she wanted to see. The new science center was one. She found it. She’d done her research.

Kiera is sweetness itself. Kind. Loving. Forgiving. She’s a much better human being than I can ever hope to be. Nobody deserves the good that life can offer more. Lafayette is lucky to have her.

(And it what I thought was a low-key wonderful gesture, the school had set up a few porta-potty’s around campus for these impromptu visits, stuffed with hand sanitizer. Sometimes it ain’t always the big things boys and girls.)

The day before our visit it snowed. The day after (today), it’s been schizophrenically alternating between sunshine and sudden bursts of near freezing rain. So our timing was perfect. Our drive home into a dozing sun was quiet and easy. It was a long but wonderful day. We were surrounded, all of us, with nothing but love and good memories past and future.

We realized that this was really the first time we’d left our dog completely alone in 55 days. When we drove away in the morning, there he was, staring at us through the bottom of the front door window. And now, turning the corner and pulling into the drive some 7 hours later, he was still there. Staring. He caught a glimpse of us returning, something he probably convinced himself we’d never do, and promptly lost his mind. Perfect end to the trip.

We were soon all in the midst of a 4 way socially distant nap. I don’t remember dreaming. But you always do.

I hope I dreamed that this thing would end, and the world would be safe again. And we’d be able to gather and hug and work and play again. And have more choices than Wawa restrooms and Arby’s drive thru’s. But you know what?

It could be a lot worse.

We could not have each other.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Quarantine Diaries – Day 53 (Mom and Dad)

May 8, 2020 Leave a comment

We’ve all had lots of time to think. To ponder. To pontificate inside our own heads.

We’re hurting. Scared. Lonely. Furious. Punchy. Confused. We’re like that poor old tree that keeps getting hit by lightning.

IMG_0301I’m thinking that I’m glad my parents are not still here to deal with all of this, and instantly feel like a shit. But it doesn’t change my mind. They were everything good, and didn’t deserve much of what life threw at them, especially towards the end. I cannot imagine their incomprehension of what we’ve become and where we are. All of us, not able to reach out and touch the other, covered up like soldiers in the midst of a gas attack. Our nation morally leaderless. Both of them are gone, and I’m glad of it.

My Dad never kissed another girl. He bragged about it, immensely proud of his perfect batting average. My Mom played hard to get just because she knew she could, but soon succumbed to his charms, and they merged into one. They were around the same age my kids are now.

All innocence. Movies and milk-shakes. My Mom’s grandfather was the oldest surviving veteran of the Civil War in Jessup. “Yankee” Loftus was his name, as he was apparently quite the soldier. He carried a cane and would use it to whack those who displeased him, so my Dad always made it a point to “social distance” even then, lest “Yankee” get a whiff of any devious intentions when he was courting my Mom in a room full of her family members. It wasn’t easy being in love in them days. You had to work for it.

Both were small children during the great depression…..never knowing that things were ever different than this. So when my Dad went out with a burlap sac to round up any excess coal that tipped off the trains going too fast around curves, he just assumed this was how everybody heated their homes. And when my Mom’s older sister Anna was shipped off to Philadelphia to be a maid for a wealthy Main Line family, well that was the price everybody paid, wasn’t it?

Anna took sick in Philadelphia. She was put on a train home. There was nothing the doctors could do. My Mom watched as they carried her down the steps. She was wrapped in a white sheet. The night she was waked my Mom spiked a fever…..and dreamt that Anna was still there, at the foot of the bed. Comforting her. Saying it was going to be alright.

There was nothing to compare any of this to. Again, it was just the price you paid. Wasn’t it? Mom never told me about Anna. Ever. I found out when I saw her grave stone. “Who’s Anna?” “She was my sister”. “What??”

And then the depression eased, because of the war. There was always a price to pay.

The Flannery and Loftus families served with great distinction. Soldiers. Pilots. Nurses. War correspondents. One was captured and tortured….and survived because he was too stubborn not to. None of them considered themselves special. They were called and they served. And when it was over they didn’t want to talk about it. Because they assumed that anybody called would do the same, so what was the point? They were the “greatest generation” because they were never crippled by the peripheral stuff. They lasered in on the job at hand, and that was that. They were oblivious to the forks in the road.

My parents had 6 of us. No one quite like the other. Our assorted complexes had complexes. But we never doubted that either of them would take a bullet for any of us. The more we learned of their lives, the more our mini-rebellions softened. Considering what they’d been through, them looking at us like were were an assortment of aliens was making more and more sense. We didn’t have to find our own fuel to heat the house. We weren’t shipped off into indentured servitude, or asked to defeat Nazis and then immediately turn towards the Pacific and take out the fanatical Japanese. We were griping about curfews and having to attend Sunday mass.

They were filled with optimism. If our leaders made mistakes, they assumed the intention was noble. They were liberal Rooseveltians after all. It was he who said “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

My Dad passed first. Mom largely went with him, but her body would not cooperate. She died confused, with a broken heart, wondering why when she woke scared in the middle of the night he wasn’t there to calm her anymore.

I’m not sure they could have comprehended a man like Donald Trump sharing the same office as Franklin Roosevelt.

The bile. The verbal spittle spewed on Twitter. Just the smallness of the man himself, brandishing hate like “Yankee” wielding his cane. And when he stops to cup his ear, the cheering of his loyal faithful saying, “yes, give us more of that, because this is what makes America great.”

And Roosevelt. A flawed giant…..but a historical colossus nonetheless.

Always always always…..trying something. To make us better.

I’m thinking of my parents today. What they’ve been through. What they sacrificed. What they fought for. They were the better angels.

And I’m glad they are not here to see this.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Quarantine Diaries – Day 52 (a dog stroller)

May 7, 2020 Leave a comment

Ok…..this is getting ridiculous now.

A record setting winter storm is heading our way. It’s mid-May.

If there’s a silver lining, maybe the freezing cold and snow will kill all the Murder Hornets?

Not sure what could be next? A plague of frogs? Lava running down route 81? The return of Godzilla?

strollerWe’re all starting to get a little stir-crazy. We just purchased a dog stroller…..the type of yuppie device that we’ve rolled our eyes over for years. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Do I care about your eye-rolls?

I do not.

Max is our dog…..and he’s a good boy. But he’s a tad lazy. His routine on current walks goes this way…

Gets all excited when we put his harness on.

Desperate to get out of the car and start the process.

Goes about 20 yards, and immediately takes a crap. In the same exact place. Every. Single Time.

Waits for us to clean it up.

Thinks his day is done, and immediately wants to go home.

His limit is about a mile…..and then he just sits down. Literally. He sits down and refuses to go any further. So one of us needs to carry him the rest of the way. Or the walk becomes a “drag”.

So now, all that ends. He will be carted around like royalty, and I will ignore your sniggers and silent jeering because I have been quarantined for 2 months and no longer give a fiddler’s fart what anybody thinks about anything. My world has been reduced to my walls and my family and Max and his stroller and our own cache of customized face masks. The rest of it can bite me.

My wife woke up this morning and asked me what day it was, and I did not know. We had to check our phones. That’s where we’re at mentally right now, which is where you need to be in order to press the “order now” button for a dog stroller.

I caught a glimpse of my decidedly un-groomed self this morning in the mirror, and hovered just long enough to get scared. My scheduled hair-cut was Covid-ed away last month. The fact that I didn’t see fit to immediately arm myself with guns and confederate flags and march on the state capital steps to protest this gross injustice doesn’t mean that I don’t still look a tad rustic. It just means that I’m….you know, a functioning grown-up with priorities and an IQ above 75.

But I digress…

My unkempt beard is giving me a sort of manic look…..the type that you avoid at parties. When rising in the morning, before I even brush my teeth, I jam a hat on my head, otherwise I would not be able to fit the wild strands pointing in every direction through the bathroom door.

My wardrobe has been vastly simplified. Sweat pants bearing the name of my eldest daughter’s college, topped off with a hoodie from my youngest girl’s choice. I play it fair right down the middle. Every few days when the gear starts to get rank and covered in cat hair I wash ’em and I’m good for another 3000 miles.

My shower schedule has fluctuated wildly. No longer is it a daily thing, but rather on an “as-needed” basis. Again, sense of smell is important here. Mine and my family’s. Since I walk 5 miles a day, outdoors weather permitting, and on a treadmill when NEPA turns into Kansas or Iceland, daily showers are probably a good idea. But it’s amazing what you can get used to when your brain has been atrophied by the stupids on your facebook feed. Thus far my no-shower record has been 4 days. I’m trying to do better. This evening I have one tentatively penciled in. But lots can happen between now and then…..

I’m not sure how all this is going to end. I’m not sure when it’s going to end. If it continues much longer I might completely lose it and sign up for an online ballroom dancing class or something.

I hope you’re doing well out there. I hope you’re safe and improvising and learning to not give a fiddler’s fart for what others think. Because it’s your 4 walls. Your family. Your own mental health. When we come together again, we can compare notes.

We’re all gonna have that “dog stroller” moment.

We’ve been away too long to judge anybody.

In a bit…

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Quarantine Diaries – Day 50 (Killer hornets and “Waterfall”)

May 4, 2020 Leave a comment

Day 50.

killerhornetsIn which we learned that “Killer Hornets” have now reached the US, which should calm plenty of frazzled nerves, eh? As a child I once tripped over a hollowed-out tree trunk, and was swarmed by thousands of regular old hornets, a kind that sure seemed murderous enough to me at the time. I ended up being stung all over my body….hundreds of times. And I mean ALL OVER my body. They were flying out of my pants and underwear. I’ve despised these things ever since…..and now I’m just learning of the Stephen King variety, which is just great. I’m sure I’ll sleep well this evening.

Also, it was near 80 degrees yesterday, a temperature which has been cut in half today, because of course it has. Combined yet again with the now normal NEPA Oz-like winds, and the type of dark clouds that seem to follow you the way that helicopter followed Ray Liotta in the scene from Goodfellas, and you had the combination for a shit day. When part of the daily entertainment is looking out the window to catch the exact moment the neighbor’s tree might fall on your house (not yet…..), it’s time to start drinking. So I went to buy beer and had to get a warm case because the distributor’s cooler had broken down. Because of course it had.

Also, there’s a recall on my car because of a faulty fuel pump that could cause a “sudden stall or hesitation at high speed”, which is the vehicular equivalent of murder hornets.

So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.

Last night I drove past an ice cream shop, and there must have been 50 people in line. Maybe 10 of them had masks on. The rest were lined up in each other’s pockets, social distancing be damned…each of them apparently quite willing to die and/or kill for a large swirl with sprinkles. Combine this with lines of non-essentials yesterday at Lowe’s that looked like 80s era ticketmaster queues for Springteen tickets, and I didn’t exactly get a warm and fuzzy that this thing is gonna fade away when the state re-opens. If a pandemic is a long single lane tunnel, the light at the end of it is only reachable when the dumbest of us gets there. The rest are stuck behind, with nothing but Martha and the Vandellas on the radio for company. Nowhere to run to baby…nowhere to hide.

And I’m telling you….if this thing spikes again…..and they order us back indoors, the sort of whiny “Wolf is a nazi blah blah blah MAGA” facebook posts are gonna turn into mass disobedience. People have gone from scared to pissed-off…..and phase II will be damned. Once quarantine is lifted, we gotta live with the consequences.

Next Saturday it may snow, so at least the lines for the ice cream place will be smaller. Sometimes you gotta find your own good news. Buckle-up buttercup, ’cause we’re about to see the “we must hang together or we will surely hang separately” maxim played out in real time.

Musically I spent the day with the Stone Roses, and realized that as great as Noel Gallagher was (and is), he’s never been as great as “Waterfall”. And it must have driven him crazy that he knew he never would be, because “Waterfall” is one of the great pop songs of my lifetime…..with a guitar hook that I would gladly submit myself to another batch of raging hornets to have come up with, or even be able to play. The Stone Roses are one of those legendary rock and roll bands that take over the world (or at least Britain) and excess themselves to death almost simultaneously. A near flawless first record followed by a spotty second, and then drugs and acrimony and lawsuits and not being able to be in the same room together without punching each other in the face. A few one-off “reunion” shows when the bill collectors got too close, but that’s about it. As the years go by the legend grows and “Waterfall” becomes even more epic. It’s one of the only songs I know of that was released in the 1980s…….and sounds like it was released in the 1980s, but doesn’t sound dated. Which makes no sense whatsoever but then again writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

I think Abraham Lincoln said that.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Quarantine Diaries – Day 45 (immediacy)

April 29, 2020 Leave a comment

It’s been 45 days now….on lock down. Only stepping foot outside for exercise or yard work, and the gathering of supplies. Masking up. Then washing down. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s Tuesday. No, it’s Thursday. No…..it’s…..

What time is it anyway? How many episodes did I watch tonight?

Your world shrinks. It’s no longer here to there or highway to exit to parking lot. It’s room to room. Book to book. Binge to binge. Refrigerator to couch. It’s everything it was before, in less space. It’s the Reader’s Digest version.

The occasional beautiful spring weather can still lift the spirits, even if you’re mostly looking at it through a window. And the bi-polarity of a spring NEPA snow-over can move the covers back over your head. It’s the same. Yet everything is different.

It may or may not end soon. We may creep back outside and get hit with a new wave and run back into our bunkers like we’re being swarmed by bees. Nobody knows for sure. But things are inching towards doors opening again. The folks who are taking it seriously will continue to do so. The ones who aren’t, won’t. It’s the way the world works. What’s certain is that the world we’ll be tip-toeing back into is gonna look very different. Normal is out the proverbial window. We’re all gonna have to learn to walk all over again.

IMG_0167And we’re gonna have to explain to our dogs why we’re not home as much. Right now my dog gives me the guilts when I take out the garbage. He peers through the bottom window of the front door with a decided lack of patience. His possibilities are endless. I’m in the basement during the day working. My wife has set up shop at the dining room table. Our girls are camped in their rooms. So he crashes Zoom meetings and conference calls and online english classes and screeches at the mail carrier and anybody else he catches walking past the house….and is generally having the time of his young life. People here line-up to take him for walks….and to let him sleep by their side. He can play one off against the other, and get the best deal. He knows the soft touches at the dinner table….and where to not waste his begging skills. He even started his own instagram account, and has hundreds of new 4-legged friends fawning over his musings. Max is becoming insufferable. But he’s very handsome and regal and thus gets away with it.

In short, he’s a good boy.

When the world re-opens for business, I shudder at his response. But he too must learn to adapt.

Music seems so immediate now. We’re all spending so much time in our own heads. So what we listen to is less background noise than essential oxygen. I appreciate the good stuff so much more, and turn off the bad stuff so much quicker. I can easily spend hours with a single record now, playing it over and over. Like I haven’t done since I was spinning vinyl as a teenager. I’ve taken deeper dives into different genres over the last 2 months than I ever have. I’m trying to soak it all in…..and hoping I never dry.

And our friends. We realize what they’ve always meant, and what we’ve always taken for granted. And when this shit ends the party is gonna be epic. Even if we have to drink with each other from 6 feet away and give out virtual bro-hugs.

If you can give back, you should give back. If you need help, you should reach out. Because angels are everywhere. Folks are dropping money into virtual baskets all over town. Feeding those that need to be fed. Carrying those that need to be carried. Social distancing still permits you to give others a hand. You can do that from 6 feet away.

Make no mistake. We are NOT all in this together, because some of us are still able to work…..and pay the bills….and aren’t sick, and don’t need others to care for us. This thing might not discriminate, but it sure seems to pick on the less fortunate.

Nothing should go to waste from here on in. If you can’t use it, maybe somebody else can. If you’ve got extra, there’s probably somewhere within walking distance filled with folks who don’t have enough. We’re gonna need to come up with a whole new way of doing things. It should probably start with what we’re willing to give.

In a bit..

–tf

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Quarantine Diaries – Day 43 (Sam’s Club)

April 27, 2020 Leave a comment

samsclubWe had to stock up. So a trip to Sam’s Club was required. Sometimes during a dance marathon you gotta waltz with the devil.

So we loaded up. Masks. Check. Bottle of hand sanitizer? Check. Disposable wipes? Check. Sanity? Well…

It was around noon. On a Saturday. Things could get ugly under normal circumstances at a Sam’s Club at noon on a Saturday. These were not normal circumstances. I’m sure you’ve heard.

Also, we actually needed the gold, frankincense, and myrrh of pandemic life.

Yes. Toilet paper. Paper towels. And hand sanitizer. This could be bad. I felt like a soldier heading into battle.

(You need to understand that I despise Sam’s Club. I despise Wal-Mart. I hate crowds and the Walton family with equal intensity. I always feel like I’m exploiting about 298 groups of people when I’m there. I always shop local. But we needed the bulk stuff, and our local store was out of it. And things are just really weird right now. So….judge not lest ye be judged and all that.)

We arrived and gently navigated the bumper-cars that is the parking lot. Chaos. But pretty general Sam’s Club chaos. There was no waiting line to enter, as I was expecting. People seemed to be filing in and out. Pretty normal stuff. We found a cart, waved our card at the membership-card guy, and entered the belly of the beast. I expected…..I don’t know. Something bad. Something apocalyptic. Mass panic or brawling over soap. I expected to write about it. I didn’t expect I’d be writing this.

What I found was as close to normalcy as you could ask for. The place was packed (probably over-packed, legally speaking, but I have no idea how you determine this on some sort of ad-hoc basis), but folks did their best to socially distance. For the most part it was impossible, but we tried, almost comically clinging to one side of the aisle as somebody did the same coming in the other direction. And I only saw one person not wearing a mask. Just one. She was a miserable looking boomer all by herself, scowling as if daring somebody to call her on this breach of covid-etiquette, and the law itself. I quickly lost track of her. Probably a good thing. I wonder who she’s voting for?

All variety of masks too. Bandanas. Scarves. Stretched socks. And the professional, official looking ones I’m still not sure where to find. Nobody was being whiny about it. It’s amazing what you can get used to, isn’t it?

Nobody was bothering anybody else. Everybody minding their own business. Nobody acting like a tool. The employees were very helpful. The place was reasonably stocked (except for hand sanitizer….not a drop remained). Toilet paper and paper towels were in abundance. Nobody was hoard buying or anything dickish like that. So there seemed enough for everybody.

Our cart was piled so high with Sam-sized stuff it was hard to navigate. We eventually managed to make our way to the check-out area, where more employees were stationed to direct traffic. Self check-out? Stand over here. Regular check-out? This or that line. Tape was on the floor, measuring out the 6 feet boundaries. When it was your turn they unloaded your cart while you stood back. While waiting you could wash your hands at the portable sink they had set up. It was like a finely tuned military operation. The commander stood behind us, a roving eye out for any delay at any register. If she spotted one, she was quick to call in re-enforcements. Things kept moving. I suddenly wished her in the White House.

People get all pissy and stop cooperating when they detect that there’s no plan in place. When they feel like they’re left to fend for themselves.

But today….everybody sensed that wasn’t the case. We all did what we were told, because we could see that what they had in place was working. It was working for the staff. And it was working for the customers.

And the folks in charge? Probably making what….$12 an hour? This was heroic stuff. I was watching the doors. A steady stream of people leaving….and entering at the same time. Somehow they made it all work. It was, dare I say it, inspirational to see. It made me think that maybe….just maybe….we can pull together when all this is over and find some common ground.

To the staff of the Dickson City Sam’s Club, thank you.

I’m sure you don’t hear that enough.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Quarantine Diaries – Day 38 (binge-listening)

April 22, 2020 Leave a comment

Music. Thank your favorite deity for music.

It’s what makes this bearable for me. I mean…I’ll Netflix as much as the next guy, but sometimes I miss not having to conjure up images in my own head. I don’t always want the work done for me.

bingeSince being locked down, I’ve binged-listened to everybody from Blaze Foley to the Damnwells to Marah to Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers to Uncle Tupelo to the Jayhawks…..NRBQ to Danny Gatton…….new Pearl Jam and old Woody Guthrie and the last 2 great records from my friend Kris Kehr. I’ve cried to John Prine and laughed with the Gourds. I’ve revisited Toad the Wet Sprocket records and fell in love with the Drive-By Truckers all over again and listened to my departed friend Neal Casal and pulled up numerous versions of “Ave Maria” and decided that Van Morrison’s version of “Comfortably Numb” is the best one and spent an afternoon with Mozart and that evening with the Band’s first 2 records and would have to flip a coin to tell you which was more thrilling and has had more influence on the human race. And that was probably all in the first week.

I have a new favorite song in the world about 7 times a day.

As much as I despise Spotify because it screws me over as an artist….I ADORE having the entire music world at my fingertips. Which makes me a complete tool. But we’re in the midst of a global pandemic sooooo….gimme some slack, hypocritically speaking.

Anything that pops into my head…..it’s a few clicks away. It’s magical. It’s the best medicine. And there are no side-effects other than getting yelled at by my kids when they are trying to sleep and I’m listening to “Live at Leeds” while reading.

(I can’t listen to music or TV with headphones….because as soon as I put them on I become totally paranoid that something bad is happening that I cannot hear.)

I’m not much of a car person. Can’t drive anything larger than a mid-size. It once took me over an hour to figure out how to pop a hood. I sometimes get lost in the town I live in, and 3 times in a calendar year I sat down in somebody else’s car thinking it was mine because they were the same color. That’s what we’re dealing with automotive-wise. But I miss the music in the car…..way up loud. With me singing along like nobody is watching (or listening) because nobody is. Wobbling to stay on-key….and not always succeeding. I miss that great song that comes on that I replay over and over because it makes me feel more connected to the human race. I miss driving to nowhere just to clear my head and to re-fill it with new ideas. I miss chasing the sunset on 380 on my way home from my daughter’s college on a Sunday……with a carefully prepared soundtrack for company. I hate this virus for a lot of things. Taking these things away from me is one of them.

I’m not sure why….but since this all started my nightly walks have not included musical accompaniment. I’m usually out there at dusk….and it’s pretty quiet. I’ve been feeling like I need to savor the music that gets made by birds and the breezes and my own breathing and the klip-klop of my boots on the ground. I stroll through neighborhoods, and rarely do I see another person. It’s a bit eerie, like a black and white Twilight Zone episode. But the sounds are always there…..and it can be very melodic if you’re open to them.

The more I read, the more I write.

The more I listen, the more I write.

I’ve got new songs all over the place. Lyrics in this tablet and scrawled on that legal pad and verses scribbled on the back of those encyclopedic-sized CVS receipts. Sample verse-chorus-bridge snippets recorded on my phone so I don’t lose the melodies to the cosmos. Ballads and rockers and whatever fits in between. Some are abominable and some might be saved with beer and an intervention and some will surely see the light of day….someday and in some form with a feast of friends.

Stay safe friends. Stay home. Don’t be a dick. We’re gonna get through this.

Give a good listen.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Dumb as dirt…

April 20, 2020 1 comment

57c8ec56-e513-4622-b074-8fbd2600c3aa-YDR-PMK-042020-harrisburg_protest-13As I type these words, thousands of Trump supporters have gathered on the streets of Harrisburg, protesting for their right to die for the Dear Leader, even if it means they’ll take many of us who do not share their same…er…devotion…..with them.

Most are without masks, and are standing in each other’s back pockets. In the midst of a global pandemic that is still raging. Perhaps assuming their ever-present red hats are protection enough? Many of the adults have brought their children along. And their guns. Many of the protesters are blowing their horns from vehicles that do not have PA license plates. Undoubtedly some will get sick because that’s how these things work. They will then spread the virus to others who are not dumb as dirt. The not-dumb-as-dirt people will too become infected, because the virus doesn’t do an IQ check. Of, these, under current projections, 3.5% will die.

Many are waving Trump 2020 flags, along with the always popular in-these-here-parts flag of the long-vanquished confederacy. Homemade signs are everywhere, mostly rife with misspellings (“Faucci is a fascist”…..I was impressed they got “fascist” right at least…it’s a tricky one. “Re-open Pennslvania…We the peaple” and “Wolf is a Dick Tator” were particular favorites). A short drive away sits the most hallowed of American battlefields, where over 23,000 Union men fell fighting the evil the confederate flag represents. But this bunch doesn’t seem much like the self-reflective type.

At a similar Trumpian event yesterday in Colorado, health care workers lined up across the road to block protesters. A wild-eyed lady in a red white and blue t shirt called them “communists”, told them to “go back to China”, and then said…..and no I am not kidding….”you get to go to work why can’t I go to work?” Somebody yelled to her “they are saving lives” and her response was “oh bullshit”.

Trump’s America. He called them “great people”…..of the “very fine” Charlottesville variety one suspects.

Positive cases will increase. Deaths will increase. And our quarantine will need to be extended ever further. It’s like marching into the ocean to protest drowning.

The rest of the world looks on in horror. In between bursts of insane laughter that they can’t control.

There are speakers at the rally…..the sort of right-wing dolts you would expect. Ranting and raving….tossing spittle in the air. Owning the libs. Mostly whacked out fringe politicians and loony conspiracy theorists. The kind of folks you wouldn’t trust as your kid’s crossing guard. All desperate haters latching onto Trump like Rose reaching for that piece of debris from the sunk Titanic. These imbeciles have always been with us, but never have they felt so emboldened. Anti-government zealots taking their cues from the leader of that government….which makes about as much sense as waving the flag of traitors to show how patriotic you are.

At this point our nation is like the addict that has to hit bottom in order to seek treatment. The problem is, every time I think we’re already there, the knuckle-draggers are inspired to go even lower. By a tweet urging civil war. By some fake Doctor on Fox news. By some mad-shared Twitter bot. The idiots haven’t just taken over the asylum, they’ve burned the fucking thing down and are rolling around in the ashes covid-ing each other while listening to mix-tapes of Kid Rock and Ted Nugent. It would seem the constitution, as brilliant a document as it is, simply never imagined so many people being so dumb at the same time. Democracy has simply been overwhelmed by stupidity. And it may never recover.

I’ve thought about this, and wonder if it’s true. It’s been said that in a crisis, your personality is amplified. So if you’re an everyday asshole, during something like a pandemic you’re like an asshole on steroids. And if you are a quiet, calming, empathetic person, you’re even more during times of stress. Something kicks in and brings out either the angel or the devil already on your shoulder. Maybe this argument works with intellect as well. Dumb becomes dumber. Smart becomes smarter. Talk me out of it. If you can.

My kids are here now…..we’re all together and safe. They’re watching all of this in worried fascination. They’re going out into this world again in the fall…on their own. We can’t protect them forever. They ask me questions I cannot answer. They ask why.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Quarantine Diaries – Day 33 (inspiration…or not)

April 17, 2020 Leave a comment

Was talking with my friend Alan Stout earlier today about inspiration. When it hits. How it hits. And why sometimes it doesn’t hit at all.

A lot of us are kinda locked down now, with more time on our hands than ever before. Those of us who write might expect to be churning the stuff out these days. We’ve got time. Solitude. Days are running together. Weekends aren’t a distraction or excuse anymore. There is certainly no lack of things to write about out there. After all, the world has become a fucking Stephen King novel.

So why am I spending so much of my time staring at a blank screen….or a blank piece of paper?

Inspiration has no sense of time or place. It hits in the middle of the night…or during the busiest part of the day. It hits in the car when you can’t write anything down, or in dreams that you can’t recall. It can come in pieces, and you may have no idea how to fit them together. Anything can trigger it. An overheard conversation. A stray phrase. A Wal-Mark check-out line. The wagging of your dog’s tail. Or it can be somebody else’s inspiration. A play. A movie. A book. They can jolt you into becoming more aware, or less lazy. Perhaps more willing to take chances. The saddest story can inspire something joyful, while something light can be laundered into a river of doom. There’s no rules. It’s all about movement. No retreat. No surrender. Keep moving forward. Find the words. And when it starts, don’t stop until the well is stone-dry. DO NOT THINK that you can simply pick up where you left off at another time. You can’t. It’s like throwing a pair of socks in the dryer. You know deep down only one is coming out.

However, much like golf, writing is no fun at all when you’re sucking at it. So there’s that too. But still, as much as I suck at golf, I never regretted the day spent on the course. I may have spent 4+ hours in a near murderous rage of incompetence, but it’s still worth the hours in the sun with pals and the 19th hole beers and banter. And so, I’d rather vomit out 1000 words of gibberish than retire with a blank screen in my head. Bad writing just means the words are in the wrong order. You can always fix ’em later.

At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I hear a great song and it makes me want to write a great song. I see a great play and it makes me want to write a great play. I see a wonderful film and it makes me think of digging up the old screenplay one more time.

But still, that stuff might get you to your desk, but it doesn’t always translate into ready-set-go.

The one time inspiration doesn’t hit is when you’re just sitting there waiting for it. It’s like squeezing a tube of toothpaste too hard and having it glop all over. It has no idea we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. It doesn’t realize that we’re all sitting at home, ready to channel whatever falls from the sky. It could give a fiddler’s fart. It has its timetable, and you have to be prepared to upend yours or it’s just gonna disappear into the ether. Or worse, somebody else is gonna grab it. Cue the shuddering.

Today what inspires me are the folks on the front line of this thing. The ones risking their lives to save others (we’re the “others” in case you need to be reminded). They are everywhere. Caring for the sick, delivering supplies, checking you out at the store. They were doing this before this thing hit, and they’ll be doing it when it passes. If you took them for granted before, stand in line for absolution. You’ll have a chance to redeem yourself. By never taking them for granted again.

So keep at it boys and girls. Find a way. Be virtual. Be vigilant. Notebook by the bed. Phone nearby to capture that melody you found in the shower. Guitar in your lap during that netflix binge….ready to be noodled. Don’t give in. Don’t give up.

Stay home. Stay well.

When it’s over, we’ll all have stories to tell.

In a bit..

–tf

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Quarantine Diaries – Day 32

April 16, 2020 Leave a comment

Everyday I wait for news.

And when it comes, it’s never really good. More cases. More dying. More pointless arguments that don’t change either of those things.

Everybody wants this to end. Somehow. People need to get back to work. To earn. They need to pay their rent. Kids need to go back to school. A nation cannot survive with everybody sitting in their homes. It’s nice to get a $1200 check, but for most that’ll cover maybe one month’s rent and a trip to the grocery store. What happens then?

Louise_money-696x464(Our Treasury Secretary is an obscenely rich (worth $300 million) predatory cyborg criminal asshole with the PR skills of a diseased toad. His name is Steven Mnuchin, and he thinks $1200 will last “10 weeks”. Steven Mnuchin is an cruel, evil, fucking monster, which is precisely why he was named Treasury Secretary in the first place. He also married the female version of himself because of course he did. Don’t be like Steven Mnuchin.)

Nothing seems coherent anymore. This state has one set of rules. and that state has another set of rules, and the only thing in common is that residents ignore each with impunity. The federal government is like a punch drunk fighter at this point, lashing out and assigning blame instead of salving wounds and fixing what’s broken. Millions go here and billions go there and in a matter of days it’s all gone and nobody can really explain what the expectations were in the first place. The self-employed have been pretty much ignored. Local businesses have been decimated. You can get this booze but not that booze….and you can get it here but not there. Seventeen million Americans are currently out of work, and that number is rising much faster than positive COVID-19 cases. There’s been a lack of leadership at every level. We’re whipsawed with advice. Don’t wear a mask. Wear a mask. Don’t use gloves. Use gloves. This treatment works. No, it really doesn’t. Only the elderly are affected. Oops….now the young are dying. Facebook is filled with expert epidemiologists who just happened to not go into epidemiology, for whatever reason. But they’re good at sharing memes and calling everybody who doesn’t agree with them derogatory names.

Bodies are piling up. Stacked in hallways. Coffins are being delivered to nursing homes. Everywhere caregivers remain overwhelmed. Underpaid. There’s still not enough tests. There’s not enough supplies. The truth is out there somewhere, wrapped in a bundle of lies.

There’s some sort of plan being readied for opening the nation back up. Somehow. Presumably it will be a place filled with social distancing and masks and people taking your temperature before letting you into buildings. Schools will be forced to cut up large classes…..I’m guessing by some type of staggered schedules. Some kids in online classes on the same day other kids are in the building. Everybody sitting 6 feet apart. Everybody wearing masks. Colleges are already discussing not having in-person classes until 2021. Restaurants and bars….who knows? Do we sit together? Do we wave at each other from across the room? How do we eat and drink with a mask on?

So nothing that’s going to happen is going to resemble what has gone on before. Nothing.

And if we all break out of our homes and half-panic and half-forget and start to pile on each other and kick-start another wave of this thing, the dams that have managed to hold up ’till now might just give way. I don”t see how we can go through the entire cycle all over again without creating a cataclysm.

When the nation’s top infectious disease expert makes a statement like “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you…” you know you ain’t in Kansas anymore. Life as we’ve known it is over.

When we get back out there, awkwardness will rule the day. Forget shaking hands….folks are gonna want to hug it out. We wanna look each other dead in the eye so they can see how much we’ve missed them. And instead we’re gonna have to live with invisible barriers. We’re gonna run up to long quarantined friends and then be jerked back like a dog reaching the limit of an electronic fence.

That’s what this thing has taken from us.

In a bit..

–tf

 

Categories: Uncategorized