Quarantine Diaries – Day 29 (RIP Wilkes-Barre flower tent)

April 13, 2020 Leave a comment

It was a nice, quiet day yesterday. Nice dinner with the family. We went on a leisurely socially distancing walk with the dog. Took a family selfie. The weather was charming. It was easy to forget that the news outside our little cocoon remains bad…with no sign of any let up. The virus continues to spread. More and more are dying. And as we get further and further into this, more and more idiots are showing themselves, exposing themselves and potentially others. Some are doing it because Jesus. Others are doing it because Trump. Some because ‘Murica. And the rest are doing it, presumably, because they want us all to die so they can ‘own the libs’.

And since during a Pandemic a nation can only move forward at the speed of its dumbest inhabitants, this means we’re been on a fucking treadmill since this Covid-19 bomb detonated.

So in an effort to remain distracted I sat up late last night watching Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. Note to self….

“not a good idea….”

It already feels like we’re living some sort of Hitchcockian (sorry) nightmare. I did not need to see swarms of psychotic birds pecking the eyeballs out of Tippi Hedren and Suzanne Preshette to kick-start my already lumbering anxiety. It was past 1am when I made my way to bed, thankful that we don’t have an old-fashioned chimney that I needed to board up. And super-sensitive to any tapping on the door.

I was awoken mere hours later by what sounded like a freight train outside the bedroom window. Or actually…like thousands of birds trying to claw and peck their way inside.

And then it would be quiet. And I’d hear a few birds singing. Almost mockingly.  And then it would kick off again….and it felt like the house was gonna move. And then there would be a pause. And the birds would sing again. Had Hitchcock invaded my dreams? It was all beyond creepy. Before I looked outside I checked my phone. It told me temps were in the 50s and wind was at 12 mph.

Surely it jests.

Just so you know…..sometimes it’s best to….you know….check for yourself. Technology has a hard time with nightmares.

So I peeled away the blinds…..

Trees were sideways. If they were still standing at all. At least there was no birds waiting to Tippi me.

They were calling for a windy day….but this was scary stuff. It happened last summer here too….a tornado roared up the street and left trees and fences flattened. I thought it was a wild, fluke thing. This stuff doesn’t happen here. So maybe that was the once in a century event that would cover us.

Guess not. Hold my beer. Welcome to Oz.

flower_tentWe did what we could to nail stuff down….watched as a neighbor’s tree came crashing into our fence….and counted our blessings that the much larger tree close-by didn’t come down as well….as it would easily reach our roof. This went out for 4 hours or so….as news of what we happening elsewhere filled facebook feeds. Wilkes-Barre City hall lost its roof. Roofs and trees all over Scranton were gone. Traffic lights were swinging by single wires. Signs snapped in half. Power out everywhere. And perhaps most apocalyptically, the flower tent in Wilkes-Barre did not survive. If you live in NEPA you know what this means.

We’re doomed. That’s what it means. That tent is our survivor barometer, Bubba! We can survive as long as it can!

At the same time, large swaths of the south were being ravaged by tornadoes. Homes were shredded. At least 18 are dead. That’s sure to rise.

Somehow here we would usually compartmentalize things like this. It’s supposed to happen in the south. It’s not supposed to happen here. We conveniently forget that nobody seems to be playing by the old rules anymore. Ironically, the more the world tilts on its axis to favor the rich, the more level the playing field becomes for things like this. Weather and viruses go and thrive where they are allowed to go thrive. Where they are most welcomed. Where we clear the way. You can run but you can’t hide.

All of this pain in the midst of a global pandemic. We can’t check on each other face to face….we can’t comfort each other face to face. We can’t reach out and shake hands and hug and say “we got this…” It’s like we’re being graded on a test we’re not allowed to take.

Not sure if the worst is over or not. Conflicting reports as I type this. Tornado warnings abound, but so far none in Lackawanna county. It appears to be a lull in the storm. Perhaps.

I think it’s OK to be scared. We’re all touched by this, and fear shared can be fear halved if both sides contain the empathy gene. If I know you’ve got your eye on my back while I have my eye on yours, we can both keep looking forward. And when we reach somebody that needs a hand, we can reach down without breaking stride.

Dragging the stupids with us.

Be safe out there.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

John Prine – 10/10/1946 – 04/07/2020

April 8, 2020 2 comments

We were hoping he could beat this thing. The same way he beat cancer. Twice. There were hopeful signs. His wife was keeping us informed. He was holding on. Fighting. He was our barometer. It wasn’t gonna get him. And that being the case, it wasn’t gonna get us either.

john-prine-1It would not dare take John Prine. This cowardly thing. We’re gonna get through this. And when it’s over we’re all gonna have well deserved illegal smiles. For a long time.

And then the news came the way news travels these days. Facebook. One post. Then another. Then my entire feed lit up. He was gone.

I shook a little. Deep breaths. I went outside to get some air. It was a beautiful night. So quiet. And dark.

There was a full pink moon outside. It had the night to itself. And now this. It seemed to dim as I was looking at it. It knew as well.

I got suddenly furious. With those who still aren’t taking this seriously. With those who could have slowed this thing down and did not. With those still claiming that it’s over-hyped. Media driven. Politically motivated. Whatever. All these assholes blend into one punchable face to me. It’s a monstrous face that is killing people.

John Prine didn’t have to die. That’s what I’m saying. He did not have to die. There was nothing inevitable about this.

I exchanged a few texts with a few friends. Trying to make sense of it all. None of us could. We just didn’t feel like being alone. So we gathered in a Covid-19 sort of way. Nobody saw my tears. And I didn’t see theirs. But there were rivers. I could sense the current rising.

I didn’t know what to do. I found my guitar and sung one of my favorite Prine songs, “Souvenirs”. I got through it. Lots of folks were doing the same. It’s how we pray.

I sat up really late last night. Nursing beers. Trolling through old Prine performances on YouTube. Duets with Steve Goodman and Iris Dement and Bonnie Raitt. And recent 2019 shows where he’d end shows with “Lake Marie” (“you know what blood looks like in a black and white video? Shadows..”)and tear off his guitar to jig across the stage, into the wings as ecstatic crowds raved on. I watched as the tributes rolled in relentlessly on Twitter. Fans. Famous musicians. But then again…”fans” covers them as well. Nobody who worked with Prine wasn’t in awe of him.

I saw, over and over, a lovely man who was beloved. The way it’s supposed to be.

He made the world a better place. Do you?

I finally went to bed. I don’t know what time it was.

I’d written about Prine before on these pages. I’d touched on his extraordinary empathy as a songwriter. His ability to say more in a couplet than other artists say in a career. He was the closest thing to Mark Twain that America has produced since….well….Mark Twain. And through it all, his feet never left the ground. Remarkably unaffected by the extraordinary job he was doing. And the effect it had on others. Everybody said it. And everybody is saying it now. He was always a humble, kind, decent man. A loving husband and father. And one of the greatest songwriters this nation has ever produced.

I’m trying to remember when it started for me. He was 20 years older, so I backed into him. I’m guessing it was my brother who sparked it. Patrick would pass this great stuff on to me. He used to make me mix-tapes. And he’d annotate them. That’s probably where I heard the stuff from “Bruised Orange”. Or “Grandpa Was a Carpenter”. I remember when I first started to learn the guitar I could play “The Frying Pan” and “Sour Grapes”. And then I realized that I could pretty much play them all. The songs were so simple….3 chords…..but insanely memorable. And I started thinking…..”I wonder if I could do that?”

I quickly realized I couldn’t. But that didn’t stop me from trying. Then. Or now.

“The Missing Years” came out in the early 90s and shattered me. I’ve sung “Picture Show” for years. Loved Tom Petty’s harmony on the record.

And the title track. My god. They almost made me a believer. Nobody else in the world could write these lines…

So he grew his hair long and threw away his comb
And headed back to Jerusalem to find Mom, Dad and home
But when he got there the cupboard was bare
Except for an old black man with a fishing rod
He said “Whatcha gonna be when you grow up?”
Jesus said “God”
Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?
I’m a human corkscrew and all my wine is blood
They’re gonna kill me Mama. They don’t like me Bud.
So Jesus went to Heaven and he went there awful quick
All them people killed him and he wasn’t even sick

I remember my wife really loving the “Fair and Square” record. We’d play it in the car all the time. She’d sing along. I don’t think she even noticed she was singing along.

He put out the “John Prine Live” record in 1988. Just him and his guitar in a small California club. As great as the songs are, his stories setting them up equal them. It’s as funny as any stand-up act you’ll ever hear, and it’s probably the record of his that most soaked into my DNA. I still take it on trips. I still reach for it when nothing else will do.

Right now I can’t listen to any of them. I hear them all now, in my head. And my hands are shaking. That’s as close as I can get.

But I have faith. And my faith will be rewarded.

And once again he’ll be part of my soundtrack. And once again I’ll listen and study and laugh and cry and then throw up my hands in awe. But at the same time….proud that I walked the same earth and breathed the same air as John Prine did, for 53 years.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Quarantine diaries – day 23 (At Yankee Stadium)

April 7, 2020 Leave a comment

Last few days have been gorgeous weather-wise. Tackled some much needed yard work. The yard looked bleak and scruffy…..and it was almost magic that once we raked it up and shaved it down, it once again looks ready for prime time. The green is always waiting to spring itself on you….even though we doubt it every time.

Spent some time sitting on the back porch….pretending that it wasn’t early April and that we weren’t in the midst of a terrifying global pandemic. When the sun shows up and does what it’s supposed to do it’s easy to suspend reality for hours at a time. Got a few books started, one in each room I hang out in. There’s still some cold Guinness in the garage. I’m working everyday….my kids are safe here with us. Today I moved 2 chairs to the front porch….a great place to watch everybody ignore the stay at home order and say piss off to social distancing. And a great place to drink aforementioned Guinness.

And John Prine is still with us.

Lots have it worse than me. And lots have it worse than you.

Folks are still dying out there. And folk are still risking everything to keep down that number.

Since this all started I haven’t been able to sleep through the night. I’m not napping during the day either….trying to stay busy and active. But while I grow weary when it gets dark…..it seems to come in waves…..and I might doze for an hour or more….and then I wake and might stay awake for 3 hours. I’ll wander into the living room in the deep AM and look for something mindless to watch. Or push through another chapter of the book always close by. If I’m really desperate I’ll hit the treadmill in the basement….and try to wind myself down. I’m sometimes fuzzy on what day it is, and my body seems to behave the same way when it comes to time. Neither of us has ever gone through anything like this before. We’re both learning I guess.

nrbqMusic is a steady companion, but there’s nothing different about that. Prine. The new Pearl Jam. NRBQ’s “At Yankee Station” was recently brought up by a Facebook friend and that’s been getting steady rotation. If NRBQ doesn’t chase away the blues 3 minutes at a time you need stronger medication. It made me think of the early 90s show I saw with my brother Pat….a double bill of Los Lobos and NRBQ, when the Q’s rather large-bellied guitarist Al Anderson watched the Los Lobos set from the side of the stage while eating a huge plate of baked beans. The show ended with both groups tearing through “Shake Rattle and Roll”, Anderson playing a bright pink guitar. NRBQ were all dressed in blue denim farmer jeans and plaid colored straw hats and featured a song consisting of nothing but them spelling bass player’s Joey Spampinato’s last name. Some shows you remember, and others fade away. That one I remember. The stage was absolutely littered with Budweiser cans. It was glorious and life affirming and made us both extremely thirsty. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd more deliriously happy…..and that’s the sort of thing that we need when this thing is over. What music does to us when we’re together. We need to eat baked beans and drink copious amounts of beer and make noises plowing through Big Joe Turner songs.

What say you?

There’s always light at the end of the tunnel, but sometimes the fucking tunnel is cut through a long deep mountain. Some hopeful news has been coming out of NYC, perhaps this thing is starting to slow down just a bit. Death tolls have been slowly decreasing. But here in PA the overnight numbers continue to increase. More and more testing positive. More and more caught in this invisible net.

There’s so much bad information out there. Some folks mean well, and others are just stump-dumb shits. Tigers are getting tested while people continue to stand in line. Waiting. Scared. In their own heads.

The President is incapable of showing any empathy. He’s incapable of tamping down any worry. When he speaks, he lies. He’s the worst kind of bully. The kind too stupid for reflection.

He needs to fuck off. He’s a clear and present danger.

There’s no way he’d enjoy an NRBQ / Los Lobos double bill. That requires humanity.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Quarantine diaries – day 20 (walkabout)

April 4, 2020 Leave a comment

Stayed up late night……watching something or another. I was told today was Saturday, so that works for me. Sleep in if possible, and of course it’s not because everybody is home and everybody sorta wanders around at different times and makes noise and the dog has to be let out and that’s pretty much that as far as sleeping goes. So eventually everybody gathers in the living room and buries their head in their phones. Family time. America, April 2020.

The only decision to make is if supplies are necessary. If so….the trip is planned with military precision. Volunteers? Masks? Which store? Who has the list? Clear the table for the return. Get the Clorox wipes. Scrub everything down. Deep breaths. I’m still unable to wrap my head around the toilet paper thing, this deep into this. Somebody needs to write a book about the peculiar fear Americans have of not being able to wipe their ass 20 times over. Almost everything else is available though if you’re smart about it. If you have a smaller, local store, chances are they’re more stocked than Walmart. So pay the extra dollar and come home with what you need. The Walton family doesn’t need your money. But the one who owns the grocery store a mile from your house sure does. Stop being such a dick. There’s enough for everybody because of the heroic efforts being made by overworked and underpaid people, everywhere and everyday. So be grateful and get only what you need.

Once you’re supplied up….well….it’s time to improvise. Binge watch something. Get off the couch and go for long, solitary runs or walks. Settle in with a good book. Doze. Eat constantly. Try to come up with reasons not to crack a lager. Chase the dog around the house. Consider how long it’s been since you actually showered, and possibly rectify the situation.

I took a 5 mile walkabout this morning…..criss-crossing 3 towns up this way. Quiet. Lots of cars. Few people. Passed one guy who looked like a Tiger King extra. About 6 foot 3 and 120 pounds tops. Dude had a spectacular mullet and was sucking so hard on a cigarette he nearly knocked himself over. I quickly crossed the street and then he did the same….so I crossed back over and I think he realized what was happening and allowed for the social distancing. And then he sorta waved. I felt bad. I don’t know why.

facebook-small-business-grants-coronavirusGot to the main street….and all the small businesses were closed up. Signs in the windows. “Closed until further notice”. That sort of thing. I wondered how many of them would ever open again. A small bar. A day care. A hair salon. A hardware store. A local travel agency. All of them probably hanging on day-to-day under normal circumstances. Now…shuttered. What’s plan B for these folks? What do you do when you realize that the man behind the curtain is a fraud?

I was walking where people usually don’t walk, so the sidewalk would suddenly end and I’d be straddling the road……then crossing when I’d see paths on the other side. Not much money here…..sidewalks are all lumpy and cracked with weeds and broken glass fighting for space. You have to pay attention or you’ll take a header. Not the time to have you head buried in a phone.

Houses are forever years old…..and behind the curtains are folks who can hold their own in a fair fight. But we’re not allowed to face this foe. Not yet anyway. So downtown the boys are itching to get at this thing…but are being held back. You can almost feel it. The few faces I did see were hard. The kind that broker no nonsense. It made me proud to be from here. Again, I don’t know why.

I’d gone in a complete circle, so to get back home required a step ascent. Past our post office and gas station/convenient market and bank and local grocery store……all filled and defiant. Keeping us together. I just don’t want to take any of these things for granted ever again. The work people do. The friends and family I have. The town I live in.

I was feeling the burning in my legs. It felt good. The air. The minor struggle. The weather just right to be comforted by the breeze. And then to the mountaintop. Home. Peering through the front door was my dog…..barking away. My daughter opened the door before I could reach it. And I was in. Safe. Home.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Quarantine diaries – day 18

April 2, 2020 Leave a comment

After a while you forget what day it is.

fountain-of-wayne-webLast night the awful news that this virus had taken the enormously gifted songwriter Adam Schlesinger from us. I’ve become afraid to refresh my Facebook feed. There will be more. This thing is creeping ever closer….to everybody. It’s not flat lining. It grows. Everywhere. Every day. Later on, me and some family got together via Facetime and we updated each other on each other. We’re all running in place. We’re all fighting panic with Netflix and old baseball documentaries and knowing our kids are locked inside with us. We’re marveling at the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And trying to figure out how to create homemade masks.

I suspect you are too.

Today is Thursday. I know this because I just checked the bottom right of my computer screen. For the 2nd week in a row my recyclables went out the wrong night. One week a night too early. The next a night too late. I’ve been raiding my makeshift library for stuff to read. I’ve got insane amounts of books here….so I hope my eyes hold out.

Re-reading Bob Dylan’s “Chronicles”. On deck is Roger Angell’s “The Summer Game”, the greatest book about baseball ever written. Middle Middlebrook’s epic “The First Day On the Somme” sits on the left corner of my desk, on top of “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”, one of the most soul crushing reads you can imagine. Not sure my spirit could handle it right now. Another time. I’ve got an inkling that I should pull out David Mccullough’s magisterial “1776” again. Or maybe “Truman”. I find myself wandering into the large closet where my books are stacked to the ceilings. Part of the fun is they are in no order whatsoever, so if you’re looking for something specific you need to eyeball 1000 books, one at a time, and invariably you get distracted and forget what it was you were looking for in the first place. I love when this happens.

I think all music stores should be set up this way.

Speaking of, there’s always music on. Hefty doses of John Prine, a non-believer’s way of praying that he recovers. Last word is that he’s stable. When I think on it, I just listen harder. “In Spite of Ourselves”. Sometimes on repeat. I can’t listen to “Fountain’s of Wayne” today….it would make me cry. If you can, I would suggest their last 2 records. “Traffic and Weather” and “Sky Full of Holes”. Both power pop masterpieces that were pretty much ignored because we are a really really dumb nation with horrible taste in music. And for some reason I’ve been listening over and over to Uncle Tupelo’s “No Depression” a lot. I make sure to turn the thing way up for when “Graveyard Shift” fully kicks in. The Amazon echo I have is really small and not built for what I’m being pushing through it, so if it blows, it blows. Fuck Amazon anyway. What do you thing Woody Guthrie would think about Amazon? Think on that and then shop local once the coast is clear. Lots of folks out there gonna need you help way more than a shithead modern day robber baron like Jeff Bezos.

I’ve written a few new songs. Scratching out new ideas in a tablet…..mixing and matching and trying to keep the unrelenting gloom on the outside from infecting my fingers when scribbling and picking. It’s not easy. Right now I’ve got half a record of the most depressing dirges you’ve ever heard in your life, which is not what the anybody needs right now. On the plus side I’ve got some other stuff that might raise a few roof’s, if we’re ever allowed to play again under one that we don’t live under.

My friend and fellow musician Chuck Gudatis wanted to show his appreciation for the last few live virtual gigs that I did over the last 2 weeks, so the mad bastard dropped a 6 pack of Guinness on my front porch today. My dog caught him red-handed and started going crazy at the front door, but Chuck, ever the social distancer, was stealthy and made his escape. It was only later he sent me a note explaining where the beer came from. For a time I thought I had won some sort of beer lottery. And my kids thought I had found some sort of online beer delivery place.

Nope. I just got some badass friends. Just another NEPA musician doing what they do best. Giving. They don’t make ’em any better. Thank you Chuck! I promise you the beer will go to good use. Immediately.

Wind has been howling today. Even it seems pissed off.

What’s the use of blowing if there ain’t nobody out there to push back?

Stay safe. Stay home. We’re gonna get through this.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

God and John Prine

March 30, 2020 Leave a comment

You try to make the best of things. Stay home and stay busy. TV is on…or a book is laid out on the table. For snatches of time you can almost forget what’s raging outside.

And then something jars you back. Somebody you know is fighting this thing. It could be a friend from work, or a neighbor, or Tom Hanks, or Jackson Browne. And you’re back in the moment again, because this thing is remorseless and indiscriminate.

Things are so surreal right now, we’re kinda digging ourselves into our own holes. I check the news for the latest info and that’s all. Facebook has has become even more of a virtual lunatic asylum, so I’m using that to stay in touch with friends, not to diagnose online patients with my non-existent medical degree. Admirable self-denial these days.

JohnPrine1And then yesterday I got a note from a friend. John Prine was in critical condition with Covid-19.

I had to catch my breath. I really did.

If you want to know how great a songwriter John Prine is, consider this. The man generally acknowledged as the greatest of all time is Bob Dylan. Dylan’s favorite songwriter is John Prine.

That’s how good he is.

He’s an American treasure is what he is. And if this thing takes him from us the days are gonna be less bright, and the nights are gonna be even darker. I’ve never lived in a world without John Prine, and I don’t want to start now.

The songs. “Hello in There”. “Sam Stone”. “Angel From Montgomery”. “Illegal Smile”. “Paradise”. “Souvenirs”. “Lake Marie”.  “Grandpa Was a Carpenter”. “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore”. “That’s the Way That the World Goes ‘Round”. “6 O’Clock News”. “Jesus – The Missing Years”.  “Picture Show”. “When I Get To Heaven”. There’s a hundred more.

It’s one of the most impressive catalogs in the history of American music.

Each song simple and ultimately devastating. Nobody could write lines like Prine. You hear something like this…

“there’s a hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes / Jesus Christ died for nothin’, I suppose.”

or this…

“how the hell can a person / Go to work in the mornin’ / And come home in the evenin’/ And have nothin’ to say”

or this..

“I know a guy that’s got a lot to lose / He’s a pretty nice fellow but he’s kind of confused /He’s got muscles in his head that ain’t never been used”

…..and as a songwriter you have the same feeling a guitarist had when he first heard Hendrix. Utter defeat. You’re never gonna be able to do that….no matter how hard you try.

But still. What a bar to look up at.

I can’t tell you how many times I turned to Prine for comfort over the years. Or for a kick in the ass. He can make you laugh and cry, sometimes in the same song. He’s never cruel. His songs are soaked with empathy. His characters are always approachable. We know them. They’re us. Old folks or veterans or lonely housewives. His simple sounding songs are majestically layered….you come back to them again and again and find something new each time. There is no better road companion. He’s Mark Twain with a guitar.

“Who writes songs like this?” asked John Mellencamp. He then answered his own question. “God and John Prine.”

His music is American music. It defies any other categorization. It’s folk. It’s country. It’s rock and roll. It’s the blues. It’s stand-up comedy and high drama. It’s everything. For reasons unknown to little ol’ me, he’s still not in the rock and roll hall a fame. Together with Warren Zevon, it’s the hall’s most glaring omission. I suspect that will change. I just hope he’s still here to accept it himself.

When I first started to write songs, I studied Prine’s catalog. How did he do that? Musically there’s nothing complicated going on. “I learned 3 chords and they sounded pretty good to me so I never learned any others I guess” is how he put it. But the melodies are gorgeous. The lyrics are like eavesdropping on long lost friends. Most of what I know about songwriting I nicked from John Prine. I’m still at the bottom of the hill looking up, but my plan it to keep putting in the work, crawling on my hands and knees if I have to.

He beat back cancer. Twice. He drives himself on tour. His backstage rider includes $12 deli trays and a few 6-packs. He’s loved and lovable.

I’ve been listening to nothing but his music for the last 24 hours. “Long Monday” is on as I finish this up. I shit you not…

Gonna be a long Monday / Sittin’ all alone on a mountain
By a river that has no end / Gonna be a long Monday
Stuck like the tick of a clock / That’s come unwound – again

And it is.

The latest news from his wife is that John is now stable. So sing it boys and girls. Raise your voices. We can’t do this alone. Maybe he hears us.

This is real folks. Stay home.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Every Picture Tells a Story

March 29, 2020 Leave a comment

I’ve been walking a lot. Alone. Just to not feel the ever-present four walls. Four, five miles a day. Maybe more. Wandering to and fro. Sometimes it’s a left out my front door. Sometimes it’s a right. There’s not much happening outside. Cars, yes. People, no. Last night I saw one. Today I exchanged socially distant greetings with a man and his dog. Otherwise, I had my corner of the world to myself. I saw a few things that caught my eye. That’s where these pictures came from. And so that’s where I’ll start. I’ll try to frame what I saw with 150 or so words each. How’s that? I really need to keep my brain from atrophying. Last night I actually sat through a Grateful Dead documentary, despite considering them the worst band in the history of the world. Mentally, I’m fading fast.

**************

IMG_0110What I really want to know is…..how has this not been stolen? I don’t mean the entire thing. Just the mask. There’s shortages all over the place. I figured this would have been picked clean in a matter of minutes, but I’ve seen it for at least a week. Undisturbed. I suspect crime is down everywhere. It’s no fun being a criminal when everybody is home. (Although it is a good time to find those who have been hiding from you because they owe you money.)

The first time I rounded this corner and saw this….I got a bit freaked. It’s life sized…..and it’s Eynon, so nothing really surprises anybody up here. I damn near said hello. Today he looks to have clorox wipes on his lap. Last night he was definitely holding a red solo cup, so he’s clearly been monitoring the situation and adjusting his behavior accordingly.

If tomorrow he’s holding a rosary I’ll know we’re fucked.

**************

60719370118__1C21BF57-93D1-4516-8F9E-3C11DDA18E4EThis has to be the most NEPA thing ever.

It’s Dawn of the Dead-ish. I get it. We’ve got a well earned reputation for…er….imbibing. I recall a local documentary where a kid said “there’s only 2 things to do here….work and drink….and nobody works so…”

That seemed a bit harsh but then..well…there you go.

Still, the only message something like this sends is….”if we don’t do this you’re gonna throw cinder blocks through the front windows and steal all the Captain Morgan because we know that you are all brittle savages”. Either that or they suspect a category IV hurricane is imminent.

Don’t get me wrong. Our assholery frequently knows no bounds, but I’m not sure we’re quite at the level of violently looting liquor stores, especially when the beer distributor a quarter mile down the street is open. And places like Wegmans have an entire section that caters to our inner-alcoholic.

But thanks for planting the seed anyway.

**************

IMG_0116Again, not sure humanity is being given enough credit here. Maybe I’m just hopelessly naive.

It’s been 2 weeks that most of us have been in isolation. Doing our best to be socially distant while still trying to earn a living. Heroes are literally everywhere. Working the registers and stocking the shelves and cooking the take-out and delivering the packages and tending to the elderly and taking care of the sick. Much of what we’re finally noticing now we took for granted before this all started. Many of these folks we didn’t even notice when they were standing right in front of us. And now, they’re the ones holding anarchy at bay. Here’s hoping when this is over they all get a pay raise.

There’s all sorts of light being shone on the occasional asshole among us, and rightly so. But they’re the distinct minority. As they always are. They’re just louder. Don’t mistake amplification for anything other than what it is.

**************

IMG_0118I was up on Route 6….and in the Sugarman’s Plaza there is a discount food store. Folks were coming in and out with supplies…..which were being re-stocked at the same time by these trucks and drivers. All the supplies we need right now, are being delivered by trucks. Trucks don’t drive themselves. These folks are out every day. Enabling us to take care of our families.

Even with this pic, you can’t see the drivers. They’re always anonymous. It’s Sunday. Is this the end of a long night for them? Or the start of a long day? Where do they live? When will they be home again? How are their kids coping? Are they scared? Is anybody asking them how they are coping? Will their be well deserved extras in their paychecks for this type of quiet heroism?

It’s weird….because we say we all want things to “go back to normal”, but actually that’s not at all what we want. We want this virus gone, but it exposed that “normal” needs to be revamped. Here’s hoping things never go back to normal.

**************

IMG_0117 (1)Well, cross this one off the list. I don’t care where you plant me, but if dogs ain’t allowed, I’m gonna do my best to haunt your ass forever.

If I could find any eggs I would have thrown one.

I mentioned above that I passed a man and his dog today. We exchanged greetings, and he told me he was going stir crazy. But his dog (a gorgeous golden retriever….I wish I got that pic) seemed absolutely ecstatic with the current situation. I was once told that dogs only understand time to mean “forever”. So when we leave they think we’re gonna never come back. And when we’re home, they think we’re never going to leave. So when this all passes, we’re gonna have some serious explaining to do.

We’ve got all this time now. And lots are thinking about the first thing they’re gonna do when we can all re-gather safely. I’m pretty sure mine is gonna have something to do with grabbing all my friends and all of us taking our dogs to this cemetery.

Thanks for coming on my walk with me.

Stay safe. Stay home.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Music in iso…..

March 27, 2020 Leave a comment

Woke up to a new track from Bob Dylan this morning called “Murder Most Foul“. True to form, he offered no context whatsoever, saying only that “you might find (it) interesting” and that it was recorded a “little while back”.

Interesting dude, this Dylan.

Nominally “about” the Kennedy assassination, it eventually wanders and encompasses….well….everything but the kitchen sink?….name checking the Beatles and the Who and Gerry and the Pacemakers and Altamont and Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Dickey Betts, “Only the Good Die Young, “Nightmare on Elm Street,” Buster Keaton, “Charlie Parker and all that junk,” Nat King Cole, Marilyn Monroe, John Lee Hooker, Wolfman Jack, Patsy Cline, Houdini, “Wake Up Little Suzy,” “Let the Good Times Roll,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” “Down in the Boondocks,” “The Merchant of Venice,” “Memphis in June,” “Moonlight Sonata,” “Play Misty for Me,” “Lonely at the Top” and “Lonely Are the Brave.” Oh, and Wolfman Jack. Did I mention him? Oh, I did. Sorry.

And that’ about half the song…..it’s 17 minutes long and meanders like a dream. To take it all in I’d have to listen about 100 times.

It’s structure-less and crazy and complete genius and slightly ridiculous all at the same time. In other words, it’s exactly what the world needs right now. I really hope the mad bastard lives forever.

The new Pearl Jam record “Gigaton” dropped overnight as well…..and it’s snarling in the background as I type these words. It’s crunchy and loud and conjures up old ghosts (and if I was a betting man I’d say Vedder had the Clash on some recent playlists) and manages to sound sorta modern at the same time (not sure what that means…but whatever..they still ain’t gonna play it on the radio). It ain’t gonna make anybody forget “Ten”, but it’s still pretty damn good. They sound like something is up their ass…..which is the state of mind you need to be in to make great rock and roll these days. Nobody would have blamed them for living off their past catalog. They’ve given plenty and don’t owe anybody shit. But knowing that these old dudes (the same age as me….so….) are willing to re-form and set up the instruments in the garage and howl about the shit we’re in the midst of warms my depressed and miserable cold dead heart.

kittyI don’t know about you….but it’s the music that’s been getting me through this. Music from my friends (including a version of Joe Exotic’s “Here Kitty Kitty” from my friends Wiggy and Stacie that turned them instantly into my new favorite male/female duo of ALL TIME. Sonny and Cher are silly little bitches compared to this, yo) and music from my Spotify account and music through my TV. Rock and roll and soul and folk and blues and all of the hybrids that are out there in their own corner of the virtual record store. The freaks and the outcasts and the kids you that got ignored in high school for unacceptable weirdness. Since we can’t be together, music is the thing that breaks down social distancing and gets in your face…and when it hits Bob Marley reminds us again and again that we “feel no pain”. So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.

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

I keep forgetting what day it is. And since I’m working in a room in the basement I have no windows so I check my phone for the weather. Time drags and then it flies and then it stops completely. I’ve got my guitar down here and my Quadrophenia poster and my phone and an Amazon Echo my daughter let me borrow from her room. I work regular hours and interact with my co-workers as much as I usually do. During downtime I try to keep my mind occupied. I write and I read and watch virtual live gigs from my friends and I try to get out of the house for solo walks at night. I scour Facebook for Joe the Tiger King memes because I’m a true fucking American, yo.

And I think about those out there on the front lines. Fighting. Saving lives. And risking their own. We have to do better. Don’t we?

Surely we can…right?

So that’s it for right now. Keep your head down. Stay home. Try not to cough all over the grocery store produce. NEPA has been in the news enough this week. If somebody needs something and I can help, I will.

Reach out. Folks are there. I’ve seen it. And it’s been pretty life affirming.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Day ? and the boys of summer…

March 25, 2020 Leave a comment

I’ve lost track of how many days it’s been. Maybe 10? Maybe more?

I keep forgetting what day of the week it is.

Our family is extremely fortunate. We’re able to work from home. Our sacrifice has been minor compared to many. We work and then we eat and then we sorta wander around in circles and maybe find something to watch or to read and then settle in and wait for another day.

But still, it’s surreal.

We only step foot outdoors to get supplies, or to go for solitary walk/runs. These usually take place at dusk. It’s eerie out there then. Just a few cars, and no people. The soundtrack is birds and the barking dogs that spy you as you pass their front parlor windows. I usually take music with me, but for whatever reason that feels like an intrusion now. So I just listen for the silence and think about where we go from here.

We talk of things going back to normal. But what will be the definition of “normal” when that time comes? Eventually, if all this isolating flattens the curve, they’ll be some sort of world-wide “all-clear”. That may be months away. Maybe the summer. Maybe even longer. But when that day comes, what then? Are you gonna buy that concert ticket? Or visit that crowded mall? Feel comfortable sending your kid off to college? Are you gonna gather and hug it out with everybody you so sorely miss? Or did this thing damage something internally, permanently.

It’s become politicized because we politicize everything. But you can’t lie or bluster your way out of a pandemic. And you can’t build walls to keep it out. Or slander it away. Our nation should have been more prepared, and we weren’t. It is what it is. The buck stops with the one in charge. Fix it. And fix it now.. If you need help, there’s plenty of grown-ups out there who have already taken the lead. Follow them. Stop being such a whiny fucking pussy and do your goddamn job.

(Sorry…..I wanted to put that another way but couldn’t think of anything better.)

The news has been so relentlessly bad that I stopped watching network TV….and have limited my facebook time. Facebook has become a breeding ground for the stupid virus, which is way more infectious than Covid-19. Since so many folks are home, the number of users has exploded, which means there are literally millions MORE people popping up that don’t know how to use “there,their,they’re,to,too,your,you’re” correctly in a sentence, and it’s slowly breaking my soul into tiny irretrievable pieces.

When it’s this quiet….I often miss my parents. Their reassurance. The way just a short conversation with them could do wonders for my mental stability. My father was never flustered, and focused almost exclusively on those that lifted others up. He had no tolerance for hate, and wouldn’t give it the time of day. My Mom was…well…..she’s a mom. And she soothed me as much as a grown man as she did when I was a wee one. Because that’s the superpower that Moms have. I miss her now. I miss him now. But in a way I’m glad they’re not forced to see what’s become of us. And what we’ve managed to do to each other. Each had a huge heart. Which made it exceedingly fragile.

I hadn’t really noticed until last night, but it’s staying brighter longer. Winter seems in the rear-view, and all those birds will not be silenced. Dogs have never been happier. The end of this thing is gonna result in a lot of guilty stare-downs from our best friends. But I think they’ll understand. And they might enjoy the quiet time to catch up on some napping.

baseballLate last night I couldn’t sleep, so I was watching the Ken Burns “Baseball” documentary on PBS. It struck me that maybe the “all clear” that we’ll be waiting on will come when the umpires yell “play ball!”. Even world wars couldn’t stop it. Or terrorism. But now this. This cruel thing. Unseen….nowhere and everywhere….punishing us for seeking the company of others. I was watching last night……the section of the film that dealt with my childhood. The 1970s. Pete Rose and the Reds. My team. The Big Red Machine. The Mets on channel 9. The Yankees on channel 11. The Phillies on channel 17. I wanted a hot dog. I wanted an absurdly expensive beer. I wanted to sit close enough to hear the chatter. I wanted characters like Casey Stengel to invade my dreams..

“Most people my age are dead at the present time, and you can look it up…”

Thinking about it damn near made me cry.

When the boys of summer return……that’s when we know. The healing has begun.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Another live virtual show

March 24, 2020 Leave a comment

Tom Flannery – Virtually Live
from the Home Office

March 26, 7pm

fblive

Categories: Uncategorized