There is something magical about this time of year. The snap in the air. The explosive colors. We dig out our baggy sweaters and our hoodies. We’re just more comfortable. Nobody is worried about tan lines and bathing suit bellies anymore. It’s time to stop pretending. Fall is when we let our hair down, spend 12 hours on the couch watching college football, all as a sort of warm-up to Sunday when it starts to get real. And Sunday night. And Monday night. And if there is any down time, playoff baseball covers nicely. Like Grandma’s nightshirt.
I’d feel this way even if I didn’t hate everything about summer. I’m sure of it.
(The beastly heat. My glasses sliding off my nose. The interminable days. Bored kids. Stressed adults needing vacations to recover from “vacations”. Nobody contemplates anything during the summer. They just run out and mindlessly do stuff in case somebody mocks them for not doing stuff. It’s why so many long days end up with sun-burnt heads and blistered feet and draining sand and empty wallets. And it’s why Labor Day weekend, far from being depressing, feels to a grown up like Gerald Ford taking over for Nixon, reminding us that “our long national nightmare is over”.)
I adore the fall. And I don’t much mind the winter either. Christmas is near. All the great Charlie Brown and Elvis songs. The homemade cookies. The splendid lights. The way even the most disagreeable persons swallow their miserableness in honor of the holidays. It’s the only time of the year I actually welcome crowds. Patience is a virtue, and between Thanksgiving and New Years we’re virtuous as hell. Nobody wants to be the Grinch (that comes by Valentine’s Day).
Like most folks I know, I spent 40+ hours a week doing something I don’t want to so, surrounded largely by people I’d prefer to not be surrounded by. I’m nobody’s boss and like it that way. I would prefer to be nobody’s underling at the same time, but alas that ain’t so. I answer to a bewildering assortment of real and pseudo bosses, most of whom live the “kick down, kiss up” lifestyle to the fullest extent of the law. I’ve discovered it’s best to think little and say even less. Smile and wave and wear a nice shirt and stay awake in meetings.
As much as possible I occupy my desk with ear buds blaring and teeth clenched, watching the wheels go ’round. When time expires I run like hell and sleep like a stone. I’m too damn tired to dream at the moment. Maybe something in color slips through on the weekend…..if I’ve been a good boy.
What makes the 40+ bearable? The view. A gorgeous painting of NEPA foliage outside the 3rd floor window that reaches from the floor to the ceiling. A quick spin of my chair is like a oil change. Good for another 3000 miles. Ok, maybe 10 minutes or so but still. It’s better than nothing.
I was hoping at my age that my livelihood would have more going for it than the fucking view, but the economy is a bitch and all that. We’ve been programmed to feel lucky for such largess. And so…..thank you Wall Street. I guess. Could be worse. Ebola, which is apparently contagious even if you dress like a condom, could be creeping under the door like the blob in that diner. And Steve McQueen is dead….so what now?
The bank is no more than a holding pen. What goes in is earmarked for dismissal before the electronic transfer ink is dried. “Retirement” is a word that silly actors who claim to have “financial planners” on speed dial use in glossy commercials. For most it means the years we’re going to spend as Wal-Mart greeters until the college loans are paid. Or until we drop dead from excessive minimum wage-ism. Who “retires” these days anyway? It’s un-American.
Looking out the window at something ugly just might be the thing that makes me take my ball and go home.
It’s the little things. That’s what those who have most of the big things tucked away in safe deposit boxes usually say.
But sometimes….there’s a kernel of truth to even the hoariest of clichés.
If the view is pretty enough.
In a bit..
Since I’ve been laid up for 2 days running with my own personal case of Ebola, I’m doing my best to catch up on an ever-changing world. Yesterday my daughter mentioned that the latest shot across the progress bow is for schools to replace libraries with computer work-stations. Not add computer work-stations to libraries mind you. Get rid of libraries altogether. You know, no more of those quaint (and space-eating) books. Because who needs them in the world of Google and all that.
So essentially, let’s revise our reading lists shall we? Replace “The Grapes of Wrath” with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grapes_of_Wrath? Perhaps a link to purchasing the Cliff Notes on Amazon.com? With some kick back to the school?
So first we stop teaching kids how to write (cursive writing? gone…), and now let’s encourage them not to read, as if the devices that schools are forced to rip from Junior’s hand every morning don’t do enough of that already.
I can hear you though, don’t worry. Surely they’ll simply “read” on their devices. You know. Kindles and Nooks and whatever the ghost of Steve Jobs calls the Apple version. Yes….and they can learn a foreign language by falling asleep listening to tapes too! There are two types of people in the world. One side decides they want to bend a spoon, so they take it in their hand and bend it. The other side googles “Uri Geller”.
As you can tell…I am here to praise books, not to bury them. The burying kind are misguided souls who never experienced the pure joy of packing for vacation and setting aside a separate suitcase for reading material. And maybe….just maybe….these are the same folks who want to ban Twain and Salinger every September….to save our little darlings from life itself. Wild guesses are my thing.
(Why don’t we get rid of all the Chemistry beakers and replace them with YouTube links to experiments? Think of the insurance money we could save? There’s always that idiot who manages to get chemicals in his eyes.)
I adore books. They are my passion. Before the written word our learning was via the oral tradition. Just think how a simple statement whispered around a room gets mutated by the time it reaches the first cheerleader and you can see the down side to this. But words written down. Now that’s grown up stuff. Steinbeck. Twain. They’ll last forever. And while they may spark debate….hell….all good learning sparks debate…nobody can claim that Tom Joad was a right wing conservative (well..um…see next paragraph for what they do claim). It is written. Read it. Learn from it. Go out and multiply and teach your offspring to do likewise.
I’m not against technology. This is a blog after all, I’m not writing these words with a quill pen. I’m all for technology when it advances learning. I’ll all against it when it encourages laziness. How many kids in high school actually read the books assigned to them? I mean cover to cover. Every word. Teachers love to think they can ask the kind of super-duper-insider-handshake questions that can’t possibly be known otherwise. But teachers are sometimes blinded by the fancy degrees hanging on their walls. So I’m here to say that any reasonably intelligent kid can pass a normal test on “The Grapes of Wrath” without actually reading “The Grapes of Wrath”. Hell….watching the movie might be enough in some cases. But the “themes” and the “what does Tom represent” questions are almost as predictable as the Fox News housewives who consider the Joad family to be Stalin loving commies.
I’ve read the Grapes of Wrath. Multiple times. I’ve devoured this book. Give me an hour with a kid with an average IQ and I’ll trick that kid’s teacher. Because what you learn from a book can’t possibly be tested. It’s what you carry away from it in your DNA….dare I say….your soul. A great book and its lessons stay with you forever. Long after a harried teacher puts down his or her red pen.
But the kid has to read it first. You know. The book. In it’s glorious heft. From a library (or for 1 penny on Amazon. Yes, 1 penny. The world can be had that cheaply….3.99 shipping included of course). That’s where books used to be. And that’s what some schools want to take away. In the name of…well….something that seems like progress because it’s got wires coming out of it.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” is still on high school reading lists. There are still those who try to suppress it, but stupid is as American as apple pie too. You can’t regulate small minds (although a nation that put a man on the moon should be able to keep them off school boards).
I read this book as a very early teen. At the time I knew nothing….like most teens. I lived in my own head…inside my own four walls. History meant 4th period, and the world was created the day I was born. Civil rights? Blacks? What?
Atticus Finch….a man who never existed. Fiction. Gregory Peck in that splendid white suit. He gently explains racism to his precocious daughter Scout. She asks him if he’s a “nigger-lover”….and after he tells her not to use that word (“ignorant, trashy people use it”) he says to her “I certainly am….I do my best to love everybody.”
And at that moment….I started to mature. I wasn’t asked about this on the test…..a test I probably passed with an 85 or so (“Discuss the author’s treatment of Boo Radley using the passive voice and no adverbs….” arghhhh!)…as a student I lived in Lake Woebegone and was depressingly slightly above average. But it was my personal moment. It belonged to me. Such lines in the sand can’t be dictated by questions on a test. And they don’t exist at all if all you do is scour wikipedia. It was a one on one connection. Harper Lee….to me.
I’m not done yet either. That’s what books do. Like a good drug….you’re always searching for that same high (get that suitcase ready!). And you know what? Over the years I’ve gotten there. Again and again.
But I never got anywhere taking a shortcut.
In a bit..
So here’s how my Sunday went. After watching the Steelers somehow not mange to once again lose to a winless team (and getting to spend some time with my sister and her hubby, die hard Steeler fans visiting my mom for a few days, bringing their assortment of terrible towels with them) I drove home in a good mood, taking the long way as an excuse to get in some extra foliage watching along the Casey highway. Say what you want about NEPA, but for a few short weeks every October there is no place with vistas like this (as to that unanswerable question posed concerning the very existence of the Casey itself….”who wants to get to Carbondale faster anyway?”….whistle past it and enjoy the view..)
I was listening to an audio book in the car (new bio of Civil War General Sherman….excellent) and sipping on my 8th Diet Coke of the day. Normal stuff. I’d be home to see the 4:30 game on the tube, and then curl up with a book in an attempt to distract myself. Monday comes after Sunday. I dislike this. So I try to hold on to weekends as long as possible.
I was home about 15 minutes when it happened. I went from completely normal to a quivering, shivering ball of existential nausea. As if somebody hit a switch. No warm ups. Straight into the game son.
I figured it would pass.
I wrapped myself in a blanket and determined to ride it out. It was the type of nausea that punishes you for every excess movement. It was the kind of nausea that as a 20 something fool I would frequently bring down on my own head while chasing girls and Rolling Rock bottles across state lines.
But I digress.
Laying on my back with my head slightly raised and my one leg crossed over the other was about the best I could do. Any deviation from this position sent my insides churning and my head spinning like a top. We all know that the only thing worse than vomiting for 16 straight hours is feeling like you’re going to vomit for 16 hours. The bucket at my side mocked me for sure, but served no other purpose. Any stimulation, and by that I mean any, destroyed me. Somebody turning on a light. Or spraying Lysol all around me (is this normal?). Or just reminding me to drink fluids. I’ve got a great family. They meant well. But this is the type of thing best not shared.
The clock moved. Intellectually I know this. There were no power outages. But there were times when I was sure the end of the world was at hand. It would remain 2:30am forever, and I would be trapped in this alternate universe with nothing to keep me company but my bucket, orange Gatorade, and a straw.
I dosed. On and off. I had to get up once, which was a bad idea but probably better than peeing the bed. I walked bent over, looking like somebody searching for dropped change on the floor. My stomach cursed me. My head bobbed back and forth like it was being hit with left jabs. Oh. And I had to be at work in a few hours.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like working. It’s a nuisance. But I was raised with a certain ethic. Earn your sandwich. Whenever I’m forced to call off work the Irish catholic guilt works on me something awful. But another part of me doesn’t want to spread my own personal Ebola to my co workers, a few of whom I actually like. So what’s a poor slob to do? Bosses never believe you’re sick, so the dark side of me might enjoy coughing all over certain keyboards. But that’s a bit juvenile right?
I sent the call-off email at 4:30am. I spared him the details. The subject line said “sick” and the message body said “out today”. At my age I’m getting defensive over such issues of control. If you want proof I’ll hack up some sputum for you. Geez. (Damn guilt again…)
It’s been 20 hours since this all started. It’s not over yet. I can tell because I just got up and walked into the kitchen and my stomach said “it’s not over yet”. I made the mistake of passing a mirror. I’ve looked better. Currently I resemble one of the characters from “Trainspotting”. What I looked like at 2:30am can probably only be conjured up in the mind of Stephen King.
I know I shouldn’t go to work tomorrow. I can probably make it 8 hours but at what cost? I may wipe out the entire 3rd floor in the process. So I’m trying to assuage my guilt. A conscience is a terrible thing in these trying economic times.
In case it hasn’t come through in the above paragraphs, I’ve been known to be a terrible sick person. A ball-less whiner. The stereotypical guy. I plead sorta guilty. But I’ve been trying. Really I have. Normally I would have insisted my family witness my agony, just so they could see how I was being cosmically picked on. Maybe I’m getting old. Nowadays I prefer to hide behind doors and under multiple blankets, the better to keep up appearances. Especially when buckets are involved. Nothing to see here. Move along.
But when I catch a cold? I’ll bring that guy back. Promise. All will be right with the world.
In a bit….
What’s scary is how quickly this type of cycle manifests itself.
Just a few weeks ago the Pennsylvania State Police were darlings. One of their own had been gunned down, and the community came together in collective grief and outrage. We pledged to see this thing through. Cop killers beware. We’re coming to get your ass. People were buying and wearing T shirts in support. When folks don customized T shirt, it’s serious business.
Then….nothing. This guy is still out there. Somewhere. After a series of “we pretty much know where he is and it’s all gonna be over soon” press conferences, and some false alarms (“we got him surrounded”) that spread like wild fire because everybody had downloaded some police scanner app on their Iphones, the ground beneath our feet started to shift.
Schools were closed. Roads were closed. Folks were kept out of their homes. Families were separated. Sightings were everywhere. But the man himself was a phantom. When this sort of thing happens in poor places to poor people….that’s one thing. When it happens in a relatively affluent area like the Poconos, and happens to the relatively affluent people that live there…well…you know how it is.
Videos were posted. What looked like army regiments were marching through pristine backyards filled with toys and swing sets. Helicopters swirled overhead. Frightened home owners huddled in windows watching in worried fascination. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. This was the First Blood movie come to life. One guy did this? Cops cars literally lined the road. One every 10 feet. What if it was 2 guys? Would it be a cop car every 5 feet? Would the suburban army patrols march through living rooms? And why in the world were they dressed in camouflage? Too much Netflix anyone?
Whispers. They really have no idea where he is do they? And did you hear the rumor about the guy’s sister and the cop? Yea…I heard that one too. Not that it….you know….just that…well…you know. Yes, I know I know.
Tears….to whispers….to grumbles. I overheard somebody asking about the helicopters….and a guy answered that Frein was being dropped in to do play by play for some High School football games. And then the inevitable reply….”and they still won’t find him!” Laughter all around. People relaxed. Schools were back in session. The games were back. And the woods we were told to avoid unless we wanted a bullet in the noggin were now re-opened. For hunters. And not just the man-hunting variety either. From my cold dead hands indeed! Don’t step on the pipe bombs.
Frein had diapers in the woods. And he used ‘em up too. This was something the eggheads could use. And so….the “diaper sniper”. Hey, it ain’t the son of sam but it’ll do. Gotta sell the sizzle and all that.
Meanwhile….the T shirts are being used to wash cars. The weather has been unseasonably warm.
A man is still dead. Shot down like a rabid dog. A wife still cries herself to sleep every night in an empty bed. Two children try to make sense out of something that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. And the sideshow continues outside their window.
We all know better. If we were in charge we’d have found this clown. And we’d save the taxpayers the cost of a trial too….if you get my drift. Nudge nudge wink wink. Jesus, how hard could it be! Outsmarted by a guy shitting himself in the woods!
(And while we’re at it……fire Tom Coughlin and Chip Kelley too! I can fix the Giants and the Eagles AT THE SAME TIME. I’ve spent 40 years on Sunday couches, just waiting for my chance! What are you waiting for? I’m the king of my fantasy league!)
Reality can be a bitch, but she’s required. Sorry to disturb.
I wish I knew the answers. But I don’t.
I’m pretty sure the men risking their lives tracking this guy know a little more than I do. Have they made mistakes? Surely. Haven’t you?
If I think I can do better, I can become a state police officer myself. Tis a free country. My genius would surely lead me up the ladder in no time….and the next Frein would last about 3 seconds. That diaper would be filled because of ME. Such would be my fearsome reputation as a tracker. Like that guy with the white hat on the trail of Butch and Sundance.
And on and on and on. You get the gist no?
Remember how you felt a few weeks ago?
Keep that in mind when you contemplate how you feel now.
In a bit…
It’s hard to get my head around stuff sometimes.
It’s been a tough week for NEPA. A police officer, a husband, a father, was gunned down like a deer during hunting season. We don’t know why. The man who allegedly pulled the trigger is still out there, eluding a massive manhunt. Everybody is on edge. From what we’re being told about the suspect, nobody expects him to go quietly. We all fear more officers falling. I hate to even write that sentence. But I can’t get the thought out of my head.
Cpl. Byron Dickson was laid to rest earlier this week, honored by his law enforcement brethren from around the nation in a moving ceremony covered live by local TV. The street in front of St Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton was 20 deep with police standing silently in formation, some stoic, some in tears. All there for the same reason. The brotherhood of man. The manifestation of the better angels of their nature.
It never seems to fail. The worst in us brings out the best in us.
I think of Dickson’s wife….with the eyes of everyone on her….never wavering. Never breaking. Showing her 2 young boys what dignity really means. I think it’s the sort of strength that we don’t know we have. For the rest of their lives her sons will remember that in the face of a swirling vortex of pain and confusion, if they fell, their Mother would be standing over them with hands outstretched. It was awe inspiring. It dawned on everybody….at precisely the same time….that this would not break her.
We learned bits and pieces about the alleged shooter. Rumors are rampant….but nothing seems to stick. It seems so depressingly familiar in our society though. Some middle class non-descript white guy, loaded up with anger and ammo, feels the need to lash out….to inform that world that he’s sick and tired and he’s not gonna take it anymore. So he builds a little fantasy camp in his own head…..and elects himself judge, jury, and executioner. Another little man searching for platform shoes. We’re not really shocked when these guys show themselves. It’s when they could be hiding in the woods behind our homes that we start to screech about it.
From all accounts Cpl. Dickson was a good man. A decent man. The kind of person that is all around us, but we rarely notice. They don’t call attention to themselves. They don’t dress up for the cameras. They don’t lose themselves in make believe. They spend their days doing quietly heroic things. They go to work and earn their pay. They tuck their children into bed….hold their wives….and prepare to do the same the next day. They serve. There are 1000 Dickson’s for every Eric Frein, maybe even 10,000 to 1. What’s sad is we don’t realize this…..because it’s the loudest who carry the day. We live in a maelstrom of noise.
I don’t know when this is going to end. It could be today. It could drag out. There’s so much we don’t know. Frein could be holed up nearby. He could be long gone. He could be laying in the woods with his own bullet in his brain. Time will tell. But it will end. The cameras and the talking heads will move on to the next piece of drama….and those left behind will have to pick through the wreckage alone.
But then again, maybe not. Cpl Dickson’s wife and children will surely be looked after by thousands of guardian angels in blue….each knowing Dickson would have surely done the same for them. Because that’s what good folks do. There is no greater goodness than goodness displayed when others are not watching. It travels from one heart to another. There is no better connection.
So yea….as horrifying as this ordeal has been, it’s not the crazed savagery of an Eric Frein that I’m left with. It’s the stunning collection of hearts that honored the fallen. It’s Mrs Dickson and her young boys. It’s the way a community that can be selfish turned selfless.
I’ll say it again. It was the stunning manifestation of the better angels of our nature.
Cynicism is cheap and easy. It’s also a distraction.
My fervent hope is that this ends with no more grieving widows. No more fatherless children. No more mothers burying sons.
In a bit..
We live in interesting times.
So yea…I’ve always considered Bono a bit of a meathead. Anybody who is not blind and wears sunglasses indoors is not to be trusted. And who among us doesn’t have that Live Aid mullet seared into our noggins? . The longstanding Dublin joke “What’s the difference between God and Bono? God doesn’t walk around Dublin pretending to be Bono”, makes me laugh and wince at the same time.
But still. I can’t fault a guy who wants to change the world. The man’s heart is in the right place. His head might be up his hole….but his heart is where it should be. Front and center. He’s famous…and he takes his fame and rams it down the throat of the political powers that be..goading them to do unto others and all that. You know….their jobs. And he’ll suck up to anyone…from the rightwing crazies to the most deluded patchouli smelling lefty. Anything to get shit done.
But really…the most important thing is that he’s smart enough to be in a band with The Edge, the kind of inventive guitar player that comes along maybe once in a generation. Together they front a great rock and roll band (solid drummer in Larry Mullen…and the Ringo Starr of the bass guitar….Adam Clayon…the luckiest sod in the world of music…the man who puts the “dum” in ‘dum-dum’). Since I was in grade school they’ve been making great music. Some great albums. Some not so great albums. But a remarkable string of brilliant songs. Maybe 25 or 30 absolute classics. Not many can say that. They deserve their acclaim. Nobody sounded like U2 before U2 came around. Now, everybody sounds like U2…..which everybody conveniently forgets because it makes them harder to make fun of.
Their mistake is growing old, which you’re not allowed to do in rock and roll.
And always trying to top themselves, which is admirable, but when the smallest gig you’ve played in the last 20 years is a soccer stadium…it’s quite easy to go from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Enter Apple….and enough money to forgive the crushing debts of 3rd World nations. Something near and dear to Bono’s heart.
Enter the jackals….pushed over the edge by a free album they didn’t ask for. Cue national hysteria.
“Songs of Innocence” is, for the most part….vintage U2. It’s a solid record with a few horrid clunkers that I’ve already deleted (see how easy that bit is?)…but I’m more than happy to take the boys up on their offer of some free tunes. When they are good…..there are not many that are better. I’m still willing to listen. Maybe this makes me old too. I don’t give a shit. Rock and roll has been around longer than I’ve been alive. I’m quite content for it not to die before it gets old. Plus….as a guitar player I’d be willing to pay to listen to The Edge tune his guitar. So yea…there’s that.
Apple paid something like $100 million bucks to give this new U2 music to us….which makes sense to people in Apple’s boardroom I suppose….but then I don’t spend my days worrying about Apple’s finances. If they offered me $100 million to release my records for “free”….I’d probably say yes too.
Just about everybody is mad at U2 now. Apple was forced to create some sort of “remove U2” instructions….as if Bono was nasty spyware that could do irreparable harm to the entire internets.
Meanwhile I sit here typing these words…..with Songs of Innocence blaring into my skull..feeling superior because I didn’t get the album via an illegal download….which I hear some people resort to from time to time….though I of course would never stoop to such lows. Cut to the clearing of my throat now.
Plus, Bono is singing about how cool the Ramones were. How can anybody have a problem with that?
We live in interesting times. Terrorists post videos of themselves be-heading innocents….in the name of some god or another….and we watch in worried fascination….after fighting rush hour traffic and getting home and closing our garage doors…hunkering down. Isolating.
We are moments away from yet another carpet bombing of Iraq….which is beginning to feel regimented. War in high definition this time….on large screens.
Football players are beating on their wives and children….and smiling for the cameras. We are so appalled that we watch the NFL in even greater numbers. That’ll show ‘em.
And yet…..some cool free music from an outstanding rock and roll band drives us to twitter to vent our collective spleens. Apparently, next to unexpected Bono….the only thing that gets folks this worked up is Facebook game requests.
As for me? Bring on the music boys. Make it loud and hummable. Give me guitars. Some drums. Even Adam Clayton’s bass. And let Bono wail over the top of it. I’ll survive.
01 – Fool For You Again (Kris and Julie Kehr)
02 – In Lieu of You (John Canjar)
03 – Leaving Home (George Wesley)
04 – 12 O’Clock Whistle (Asialena)
05 – When the Circus Comes to Town (Bret Alexander)
06 – The Show (Lorne Clarke)
07 – MIA (Neil Luckett)
08 – Mickey Mantle (Michael Jerling)
09 – Don’t Kill My Heart (Tim McGurl)
10 – I’m Still Me (Joe “Wiggy” Wegleski)
11 – Can You Hide Me (Shannon Marsyada)
12 – Auctioneer (Josh Pratt)
13 – Bridges (Van Wagner)
14 – Miner Boy (Lisa Moscatiello)
15 – Mud Run (Tom Flannery)
All songs written by Tom Flannery except “Auctioneer” written by Tom Flannery and Josh Pratt and “MIA” written by Tom Flannery and Neil Luckett tracks 2,3,4,6,9,10,12,15 recorded at the Home Office in Archbald, PA others recorded all over the place…from London, England to Saratoga Springs, New York “Miner Boy” recorded at WVIA-FM Studios for the “Homegrown Music” program, with George Graham producing
Special thanks to Alan Stout and Mike Naydock for supporting what we do ’round here
a Pennsylvania treasure….Flannery has the soul of an Irish poet and the detail-capturing eye of a seasoned journalist…In “Under the Covers ” 14 noted artists take on some of Tom’s strongest compositions. Stripped down to their acoustic hearts, the music is direct and accessible…picture a baker’s dozen outstanding acoustic performers sitting on your front porch, playing some of the best songs you’ve ever heard.
–Jim Colbert, The Folk Show, WPSUfm
14 intensely intimate interpretations…”Under the Covers” showcases a songwriting talent on par with anyone at the highest levels of their craft..
– WRKC Radio
a very cool record….ambitious….it comes off as low key without pretense…A diverse collection of songs that showcases Tom Flannery’s talents as a songwriter.
– Music on the Menu, 105 The River
Tom Flannery has done it again, this time with a little help from his friends. The result is magical and truly captures Flannery’s brilliance as a songwriter.
– Vinyl Voyage
a master at the art of storytelling and songwriting. This effort is truly exceptional.
– The V-Spot
Most of these are new songs. I planned on recording them myself. Then I changed my mind.
I was sick of my own voice. These songs were different. They had more space in them, notes I couldn’t hit…or didn’t dare try to. They were more open to interpretation. I considered them some of the best I’d ever written….but the more I sang them myself, the more I heard the other voices in my head.
What other voices?
I had no idea. But I wanted to find out.
I had the song “In Lieu of You”. I recorded a demo of it on my Iphone. There was something about it….something I liked. But I was only scratching the surface. John Canjar is a friend of mine. An incredibly gifted guitar player and singer. He lives down the road. I sent him the demo and asked if he had any ideas. He did. He came up to the house. I rolled tape and that’s how it all started. There was no way I was gonna touch what he put down. I decided then and there that I’d ask others to sing these songs for me. Sounds like an ego trip. I wish it was. The truth is I don’t have enough ego. If I did I would have borrowed/stolen all these arrangements and recorded them myself.
Asialena Bonitz is 17 years old. “12 O’Clock Whistle” is a weary song…..a song for old people. A song about what happens when dreams aren’t just put aside…but are obliterated….by the responsibilities that are supposed to subside but so often do not. How the hell was a high school kid gonna get this across? Why was I asking a high school kid to get this across?
Because I knew this kid. I’d heard what she could do. A voice like hers comes along….well…once?
She came over and did 2 takes. That’s it. I played and she sang. She laughed about her belly rumbling on the tape, and then sang like an old lady ripping out her own heart.
Lies in the bedroom / frames on the mantle the faces can’t know / what the creases may tell love letters buried / like secrets carried with the dawn ringing / from a rusty church bell
When it was over she just said “was that ok?” I’m not sure what I said. I may not have said anything. I’m still not sure what to say. I hope thank you will suffice. And maybe “remember my sorry ass when everybody else figures out what I already know and you are at the top of the world where you belong.”
And it went on from there. Songs I co-wrote with Neil Luckett (I sent Neil the lyrics to “MIA” and he did the rest from his home in England. Neil plays guitar like he’s got an extra hand….with 9 fingers on each) and Josh Pratt….who I consider to be Pennsylvania’s finest songwriter. I wrote “Auctioneer” and Josh said….”well…who is this Auctioneer?” When I stuttered and said….”um….some dude trying to pick up chicks I guess”….Josh picked up his pen and re-wrote most of the lyrics. Thankfully. In 3 minutes he completed a screenplay. I asked him for the lyrics yesterday and he sheepishly admitted to never writing them down. Josh is odd that way.
Kris and Julie Kehr made me cry with “Fool For You Again”, a song that picked at so many scabs I wasn’t sure I could ever sing it. Me and Kris aren’t related….but if I have a mirror musical image his is the face looking back at me (And any man who marries someone with a voice like Julie’s is gonna die happy).
George Wesley knocked the shit out of me even though I knew he was going to knock the shit out of me. I shouldn’t have been surprised at all, but that’s the way George rolls. “Leaving Home” just ignited. And that’s why I love him like a brother. Lorne Clarke rescued “The Show” from the scrapheap (something he’ll remind me about forever, incidentally….Canadians are like that)…for which I’m eternally grateful. Michael Jerling sang “Mickey Mantle”, a song about my own father, and turned it into something universal….fathers and sons….what we hope to be vs. what we really are. Jerling is a folk artist….and there ain’t many like him. Shannon Marsyada put up with my telling her how special she is…and then went and proved it. Thanks Irish. Tim McGurl came to visit and we both felt something special in the air….something we dared not mess with. His version of “Don’t Kill My Heart” kills mine for sure….and the song feels more like his gift to me than anything else. Van Wagner turned a 2013 ballad into a Dust Bowl Ballad…but made it sound new at the same time. Try that sometime.
Bret Alexander and Lisa Moscatiello should both be household names. Few are called. Fewer still are chosen. And you can count on one hand the ones who deserve the accolades. “Miner Boy was written in 1996….and I still sing the song at gigs…although not at Lisa’s level, because…well…because that’s impossible. There may be a better female vocalist in America…but they’d have to pass Lisa before reaching the finish line. Good luck with that ladies. And Bret took a simple song that I could never get right and nailed it, making it sound simple above the cacophony of whispered resignation and despair…which is what the best always do. Bret is special.
A final shout out to my soul brother number One, Joe Wegleski….a fellow Shillelagh and a man I trust above all others. Listen to his guitar work on “I’m Still Me”…….a master’s class in not overplaying….serving the song for the sake of the song. All the more remarkable because we were making it up as we went along. I will say that spontaneity is way more charming when you have a player like Wiggy in the room.
It’s quite a line-up here….and I’m sitting here tonight feeling like the kid in the proverbial candy store. The fact that I can call these people friends means as much to me as the music they’re helping me share.
– Tom Flannery
6/28/2014 Archbald, PA