New album “downhill” coming soon…

September 29, 2020 Leave a comment

It feels like a million years ago. For most of us things got really Covid-y in mid-March. It was parade day weekend in Scranton, and there was no parade. “There ain’t no party like a Scranton party” and all that, but aside from the diehards who filled the Scranton bars despite the warnings that doing so might kill them, the party was on infinite hiatus. In a matter of days, I was only leaving my house for long evening walks, and it was possible to safely wander down the middle of what used to be busy streets. My only company were the birds, who only seemed louder because they had nothing to compete with anymore.

Myself and Bret Alexander made records in 2016 and 2018 respectively. We half-joked last year about another in 2020, to keep the streak alive. But this was before everything went to shit. Plus, Bret was just coming back from major surgery. It wasn’t gonna happen.

And then it started to happen.

Bret and I stayed in touch throughout Covid-time, almost exclusively through text messages. (Guys do communicate. They just refuse to talk on the phone. And they don’t know how to use Zoom)

Isolation had forced me to learn how to properly use my Tascam 8 track machine. And I had this song called “What If These Are the Good Old Days”. A little pandemic-inspired ditty with a sugary melody masking its passive aggressive depression (I’m a hoot at parties case you’re wondering). One of its verses was based on something Bret had mentioned to me a few days earlier….

the world turned on its head / the kids laughing on the bed / just a suggestion if I may / what if these are the good old days?

His kids (and mine) were now home together. A bit of silver lining, to see and hear them together, home and safe. The song needed a bridge. I asked him if he had any ideas. He did. He sent them to me. Perfect fit. The song was done. It just needed to be recorded. So I cut a guitar track and a vocal. I sent these off to him asking him to fill it out. He added harmony vocals and some guitar tracks, and mixed it down.

None of this was planned. Or discussed beforehand. But it was fun. There’s something communal about music….and creating it with friends is the world’s best cure for the quarantine blues.

Neither of us was stating the obvious. Yet. But eventually it became apparent that if we could do this once, surely we could do it 9 more times? (10 songs being the magic Flannery/Alexander number for an official record)

So we’d start with an idea. Maybe a title. How about this? How about trying it like that? I’d have a melody and a few verses, and Bret would flesh it out with a bridge. Or I’d have a lyric and simply pass it along. We not only didn’t meet face to face during all this, as I mentioned we didn’t even speak on the phone. So there was no deep discussions. There’d be a text. “I just sent you something.” Then maybe 2 days later…a reply. “Ok….I’ll check it out”. Then another few days and “I sent you an idea”.

I asked him some questions about the town he grew up in, and crafted a lyric based on that. He said…”whadda you hear on this one?” and I’d say “make it sound like Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell” and instead of saying “are you fucking crazy?” he’d say “will do” and the result was “If All I Get Is One Goodbye”.

(A slight digression. Jimi Hendrix once asked his producer to make a song sound like “water” and the guy said sure and took it away and worked on it and when Jimi heard the results he said “that sounds great, but can you make it sound like blue water?” After 3 records together both of us could easily slip into this sort of talk….)

One night we were texting about the loss of civil rights pioneer John Lewis and I suggested that “From Selma To Montgomery” would make a great song title and he said “let’s do it” so I wrote the lyrics and the next day he had the tune. We cut it and he hated it. I asked him why and he said “I hate my acoustic guitar” and I said “well then get rid of it and replace it with piano” and he did and he didn’t hate it anymore. This constituted a major production meeting in Flannery/Alexander world.

Sometimes he sang and sometimes I sang and sometimes we both sang and sometimes he’d add harmonies and sometimes he’d say “singing harmony with you is impossible” and not. The only rule was to not repeat ourselves….to keep it new….which resulted in the unabashed pop of “It Never Feels Like She Cares All That Much” and the Petty-ish guitar/bass/drum workout “Cool It Out”, the latter of which featured rare loud noises from the old men. Boredom is more contagious than Covid-19, so it had to be avoided at all costs.

When we got to 10 songs, we figured we’d stop and release what we had. And then look forward to 2022.

I said “you got any ideas regarding a cover and a title?” and he said “well I had a picture but it won’t work” and I said “why won’t it work?” and he said “it’s an actual Polaroid” and I said “tape it to the wall and take a picture of the picture” and he did and that’s our cover (“With the blue tape or without?” “Definitely with”. Done.). The title is “downhill”. Our album packaging meetings are as long as our production ones.

And so here we are, in the year of the devil 2020. Our streak is still intact. We hope this music helps a little…

It’ll be up on Bandcamp soon, and eventually all the streaming services. We’re extremely anxious to cash that $4.00 Spotify check once we reach 1000 streams, which doesn’t sound half bad when you consider that the same amount of streams on YouTube nets us $1.75

What I’m saying is that we’re clearly only in this for the money.

In a bit..


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Cool It Out (new song with Bret Alexander)

September 23, 2020 Leave a comment

Cool It Out

download mp3

written by Tom Flannery and Bret Alexander

Bret Alexander – guitars, bass, drums, background vocals
Tom Flannery – lead vocal, acoustic guitar

Radio pressed to my ear we’re skipping hand in hand
filled with beer and young love and the start of a plan
to boldly go where others always feared to tread
take a chance on forever if only in our heads

Down by the river we sit by the fire
warming our hands with flames and desire
lies in the rear view coast always clear
when you only fill your head with what you want to hear

Cool it out Cool it out Cool it out Cool it out

The years move slowly like a soldier marching on
to battle after battle with the officers all gone
every road sign a warning speed bumps ignored
all the picture frames falling to the floor

Cool it out Cool it out Cool it out Cool it out

change of direction a little change of pace
that little sense of wonder on a child’s face
Another storm is coming you better hunker down
sleep behind the levees and hope that you don’t drown

Life is a killer, time is a sword
A new set of words over the same damn chords
There’s a difference between leaving and planning to go
You might understand, but you’ll never know

Cool it out Cool it out Cool it out Cool it out

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Who Are You?

September 23, 2020 Leave a comment

I’m sitting here with a break in the day, listening to The Who’s “Who Are You” album at an astounding volume, and trying to comprehend that the record is over 40 years old. I flip-flop on this one, firmly convinced that it’s one of their worst one day, and criminally underrated the next. “Music Must Change” sounds like pretentious tripe one minute, and wildly inventive and ahead of its time the next. The production, with its faux strings played on a synthesizer, can sound a bit cheesy. But it was 1979, and Townshend was willing to sound cheesy in an effort to not remain bored. Daltrey sings his ass off, even on the slighter songs, and Moon fights like hell to keep up. The poor bugger would be dead soon, after all. But he refused to go quietly.

I was 12 when this music came out. The title track was just overwhelming to a kid. Now we’ve heard it so many times it’s like background noise, but it’s just a fearsomely good piece of music, as good as anything the band had done previously, and better than anything that came after it. Nobody was pushing the envelope like Townshend, and when he swung and connected with the fat part of the bat, the results could change lives.

Plus it was the first time I heard somebody say “fuck” on the radio, which was pretty cool beans.

Life-changing. That’s the kind of band they always were to me. And that sounds so stupid these days, because music just doesn’t matter as much anymore. It may co-exist with you, but it doesn’t change you. We have our favorite bands and songs and Spotify playlists, but we’re just as likely to hear the same stuff in the background hawking a credit card company. No more album covers or liner notes or the lyrics printed on the sleeve. Listening to music these days is like guerilla warfare. You hit, and then you move on. I cannot imagine myself listening to today’s music 40 years from now. That seems incomprehensible….and not just because I’ll probably be dead. I simply can’t see my 94 year old self digging through my portable devices trying to find “Wet Ass Pussy”.

But here I am….right this second as a type….listening to Townshends’s acoustic flamenco flourish in the break down of the title track…and feeling like a 12 year old again.

Ain’t it grand?

They were touring this album when 11 fans were killed at their show in Cincinnati…crushed to death in a wild melee to get in when only a single set of doors were opened to deal with 10,000 fans holding first come first serve general admission tickets. Two of the dead were only 15 years old. A week later the band were booked to play the Philadelphia Spectrum….and my brother and sisters had tickets. Not for me, as I was deemed too young. It was a bizarre time. I was just starting to realize the power of this music, and starting to feel like rock and roll was a matter of life and death, but nobody was speaking literally. I remember my Mother thinking her children were about to die, and my brother somehow talking her into letting them go. I still don’t know how he did it. They had reserved seats, (“upper deck on Entwistle’s side”, my brother noted. “I was deaf for a week”), so that helped ease her mind some I suppose. She would have been mortified to hear his story of Philly meatheads laughing and yelling “push push” every time a line formed, though. But thankfully, other than the aforementioned hearing loss, my siblings lived to tell the tale. They survived where others perished. And it still feels crazy to say that.

Forty years. As Sandy Denny said, “who knows where the time goes?”

It’s time to get back to work. I have to turn this music down a bit. It’s not like I’m sitting on Entwistle’s side of the stage, but damn close. The amazon echo I’m pumping this through is no larger than a hockey puck, but the thing has enormous balls. “Music Must Change” is on. Moon could not handle the tracks’s 6/8 time signature so his drums were scraped in favor of Townshend’s shoes walking across the studio floor. Moon was mortified at his performance….”I know this is shit, but I’m still the best Keith Moon-type drummer in the world!” Indeed.

Townshend’s whispered bridge says perhaps what I’ve been fumbling to say here…

But is this song so different?
Am I doing it all again?
It may have been done before
But then music’s an open door

Isn’t it though?

In a bit..


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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… 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…


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

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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… 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..


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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..


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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… 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… 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..


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..


Categories: Uncategorized