“That doesn’t mean that being there so close to Christmas…..on a Saturday….with the sun out and temps creeping into the 40s….is in any way enjoyable for somebody who munches benzodiazepines like Chicklets….”

December 16, 2014 1 comment

This past Saturday I was in NYC. With my family. Bus trip. Dropped off at 9:30am on 50th and 8th avenue. Nine hours to kill. I swear the driver was laughing at all of us as we disembarked. It was a swell ride in. Watched “The Bells of St Mary’s”. Timed perfectly. Ending credits…..we arrived.

For the first 15 minutes I was thinking…..”it’s not too crowded.” Walked past Hugh Jackman’s current Broadway home. Quaint.

An hour later I was paying $10 for a beer and wondering why there wasn’t dead bodies strewn all over Manhattan.

famI remember crossing the street. A street in the high 40s. It was like an alternate universe. All of a sudden….there was maybe 1000 people crossing with me. Coming towards us were another 1000 people. We met in the middle. Two brick walls. It wasn’t that nobody wanted to move, although that was probably true, It was that there was no room to move. A single NYC cop was there to sort this out, egged on by bleating horns from crazed taxi drivers. Merry Fucking Christmas. It’s amazing what you can get used to. In a few hours I went from extreme jay-walking paranoia at every corner to staring cabbies down and daring them to run me over. Next block? Repeat. And so it went. After a while you literally don’t care if you live or die.That’s New York for you. It’s positively charming in a horrifyingly flippant way. Being Blasé is your best option.

Yes. This was me….a crowd hater who thinks the Viewmont Mall is crowded on a Saturday afternoon. Here I am at Rockefeller Center trying to get a picture of the tree (from Danville PA I’m told) without having my family ripped from my grasp by a busload of maniacs from Toms River. I have to say that while I noticed many folks growing a bit…er….testy….nobody truly lost it….a Christmas miracle in my book. New York gets a bad wrap in the attitude department. All in all….I’ve met more dickheads in Dickson City bars than on the streets of Manhattan.

That doesn’t mean that being there so close to Christmas…..on a Saturday….with the sun out and temps creeping into the 40s….is in any way enjoyable for somebody who munches benzodiazepines like Chicklets. I am simply saying that it could have been much worse if everybody there felt that same way I did. That is, murderous.

The main reason? I had to piss.

Hey…don’t we all eventually? Two $10 morning beers will do that to a man.

New York may be the greatest city in the world. The city that never sleeps. Whatever. What it isn’t is a good place to be for somebody who has to pee. It’s easier to get a free cab on 42nd street than it is to find a place to piss on 42nd street. Urinals are guarded like bomb shelters. Even McDonald’s has a combination lock on the loo. We made our way up to Bryant Park, which had outdoor stalls. The problem? The line was literally 300 yards long. I wasn’t the only one with bladder issues. “Go to Macy’s” somebody suggested. Macy’s was 8 blocks away. By the time I got there I would have exploded.

Hotels you say? Ha! Doormen have them locked up tighter than a virgin’s prom dress. I finally snapped and barged into some sort of whacked out vegan bakery……ran down the only steps I saw…..and stood outside locked bathrooms (again…those ghastly combination locks) and waited for the door to open. A woman and her young daughter came out and I grabbed the door (a ladies room…but time had officially run out) before it snapped shut. By the time employees noticed….I had locked myself in and spent the most glorious 45 seconds of my near half century of earth dwelling. Arrest me. I really didn’t care anymore.

So yea. That’s New York. Twenty dollar cheeseburgers and no place to urinate. Positively medieval.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (my daughter kept asking “is this the Vatican?”) and Saks 5th Avenue (where we were followed like drug dealers….my wife reminding me the entire time that “you dress like a homeless person”) and Radio City Music Hall and NBC studios. Christmas trees and ice skating rinks and Salvation Army volunteers forced to continuously dance while soliciting (the better to distract from the charity’s blatant homophobia, perhaps?). Surly cops and surlier waiters and drunken Santas and peering up at the ball in Times Square and thinking…”I thought it would be bigger”. I’m told tens of thousands of people were marching and protesting around Rockefeller Center the day I was there. I saw nothing at all. All you were aware of was the wall of people surrounding you. Fifty yards away? A panzer division could have rolled down the Avenue of the Americas without being noticed. It was bizarre. It was sublime. It was surreal. The sheer mass of it all made you dizzy. I loved it. And I hated every minute.

I nearly wept when I found our bus at 6:45pm amidst the carnage of shopping bags. The first thing I did was pee. Then I probably popped another pill. Then we watched “White Christmas” on the way home. A Bing Crosby double feature.

The war was over. We had survived. Somehow.

Never again. Until they want to go again next year.

In a bit..

–tf

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Where My Daddy Died (an Iphone demo)

December 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Where My Daddy Died

You say you gotta move and can’t sit still
fall asleep…wake up and take a pill
say you want to be alone
but won’t leave the house without your cellphone
I watched you freeze and I watched you melt
and still I never knew just how you felt
but I got hope in place of pride
laying here where my daddy died

Once knew a woman about 10 foot tall
took a christmas tree nailed it to a wall
she loved me hard scared me half to death
sold baby clothes and crystal meth
but she lived before she went away
always laughed when she ran out of things to say
so judge me not your God lied
laying here where my daddy died

dying ruins living
that’s all I got to say
best that we can do
it look the other way

I got no kids but I got a car
drive around the world to chase a fallen star
then Detroit fell like it was supposed to do
before the price of oil made a fool of you
so now all I got is walking shoes
and a new appreciation for the blues
I got nothing but this time to bide
laying here where my daddy died

dying ruins living
that’s all I got to say
best that we can do
it look the other way

I got nothing but this time to bide
laying here where my daddy died

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What’s It Gonna Take To Leave It All Behind (new demo)

December 5, 2014 1 comment

Found these verses in my lyric tablet. Maybe a year old. Maybe more. Most of the time I write the date on the corner of the page….but not for these. Such is the life of one who prefers pen and paper.

Decided to bang this out late last night…

What’s It Gonna Take To Leave It All Behind
(Tom Flannery)

Driving on a road I’ve seen too many times
trying to dry out and stay between the lines
nothing waiting home ‘cept “where the hell were you?”
and window watching what I wanna do
All I had is hers I guess the rest is mine
what’s it gonna take to leave it all behind

Met her in a bar back in 1964
she answered my letters when I went off to war
came home said ‘son well what do we do now?”
so we rounded up a preacher and took ourselves a vow
by the summer of love things started to die
what’s it gonna take to leave it all behind

40 years with nothing left to say
and a house owned by the bank on Oyster Bay
take a train to the city get home 6:59
what’s it gonna take to leave it all behind

You are who you are when you do what you’re supposed to do
questions for the shrink on 7th avenue
put it all on the card pay for that gravestone
and hope like hell you never die alone
watch it unravel like a solid piece of twine
what’s it gonna take to leave it all behind

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Fear drives tragedy. Fear drives everything. And it sells….

November 25, 2014 Leave a comment

I was watching last night like everybody else.

I was thinking a few things while awaiting the grand jury’s decision.

First and foremost I was thinking how, unless I could somehow cut my age in half (and then some), turn myself black. and move to a depressed inner city, I have absolutely no idea how someone like Michael Brown handled himself each day.

And unless I turn myself into a cop patrolling an inner city….an area that views me with suspicion at best…..I really have no idea what it’s like to be officer Darren Wilson.

3Imagine living in a world where everybody assumes your intentions are bad. You are judged for the clothes you wear. The music you listen to. The girls you date. The cars you drive and the areas you drive your cars thru. You enter a store and all eyes are on you. And your hands. And your pockets. You walk down the street with your friends and the sidewalk becomes a mini version of white-flight. Popular culture endlessly portrays you as a thug. A drug dealer. A gang-banger. Your options are limited. Raising yourself up by the bootstraps…..well that sounds swell, but the boots you have are torn and frayed and have to last the winter. But if you make it through a crumbling cash-strapped high-school….college is likely a financial impossibility. Nobody really gives a shit either. You’re either a statistic, or about to become one.

Imagine getting up every morning and putting on your badge, being willing to lay down your life for the community you’ve given your oath to protect. And imagine knowing that a large part of that community considers you an oppressor. A cold-eyed racist with a license to kill. A state-sponsored goon who gets his kicks out of hassling young men of color. Imagine parents coldly hustling their little children away from you as you attempt to engage them…..or a wall of silence being instantly erected whenever you need their cooperation. Imagine spending your entire working day without a single glint of recognition. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year.

Imaging this dueling scenario…..and then place yourself in front of a Fox News screen…..where all cops are portrayed as white knights waving the American flag and saving kittens on their days off. Or MSNBC, where all young men of color who victimize their own communities (and each other) are portrayed as secret mama’s boys who just need more TLC and larger relief checks.

Somewhere in the middle is where we need to get. But it’s messy as hell in there. So….we close the garage door, grab a 6-pack (and maybe a 6 shooter)….and continue being afraid. On our side of the divide.

Because that’s what this is really about isn’t it?

I don’t think Micheal Brown was a remorseless thug. I don’t think Darren Wilson is a racist neanderthal. Each feared the other for reasons they probably didn’t understand. That fear was taught. Fear drives tragedy.

Fear drives everything.

Fear sells.

Our public debates more and more deal with the boogy man. The wild-eyed Mexican fence jumper coming to take our jobs. Crazed muslim criminals cutting off heads on YouTube. Africans jumping on planes and flying Ebola into our living rooms. The lesbians across the street who want to get married and overwhelm the local school board with copies of “My Two Mommies”. It goes on and on. Election season is particularly ghastly, which opponents dueling each other on how to best convince grandma that’s she’s financially fucked because the other wants to take her social security check and use it to buy hookers. It’s funny….until you realize that it works. The men and women running this country now are, for the most part, the best fear mongers corporations can buy. I’m pretty sure this isn’t what the founding fathers had in mind. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t what Lincoln had in mind as he somehow kept this nation together despite the fact that we were killing each other to the tune of 600,000 fresh graves.

Is this what so many have fought and died for?

This shit?

I sensed this grand jury thing was smoke and mirrors. The prosecutor was handling it like somebody had left a live snake in his bed….so I wasn’t surprised at all with the verdict. I don’t know what happened the night Brown was killed because I wasn’t there. Some witnesses saw things one way. Some witnesses saw things another way. As usual in this country, the accounts were racially divided. Blacks see things one way. Whites see things another.

For a brief moment I thought there would be no violence.

But it all seemed so…..well….scripted. Like waiting 8 hours so they could announce the verdict in prime time. Does that pass the smell test to you?

To not riot…….it seemed almost a dereliction of duty. I know that sounds absurd and that’s exactly how I want it to sound. Read the sentence again if you need to. I’ll wait.

Ok?

It was all too perfectly laid out. The “Lights”. The “Camera”. All that was needed was the “Action”. And there’s always a few yambags ready, willing, and quite able to exploit any situation. And so it went down. A few lobbed bottles. Cars overturned……broken windows…..some tear gas in response, and then the fires. What looks better on TV than some torched cars? Cue the fucking carnival. “Look Ma! I’m on TV!” I would not be surprised if all the major cable news outlets already had cameras outside that liquor store….just goading folks into action. “Go on son…..grab that Cold-45 so I can take your picture and Hannity can call you an animal.” And the kid with the hoodie and the pants falling off his ass does your bidding. Because he knows that’s what’s expected of him. You’re noticing him. For once. He matters. For a brief moment he really matters.

You want to talk about racism? Shit. The whole broadcast…..as it went down….just reeked of it.

But that being said….I couldn’t stop thinking to myself…..”look at these assholes walking towards police one minute with their hands raised in mock supplication, and in the next minute ripping their clothes climbing out broken windows with arms full of booze.”

The duality of man and all that.

Our propensity to run around and break storefront windows and steal televisions when things don’t go our way is not something I ever understood….be it due to West Virginia winning a football game (“yes Virginia…..there are white riots too”) or (again) white folks being pissed because the beer runs out.

What happened last night was disgraceful. In any color. Nobody wins. There are no good guys.

And it makes me afraid.

In a bit…

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Music is best when it’s shared…

November 23, 2014 Leave a comment

Music is best when it’s shared. Last night I took my daughter and my niece, both 16, to see Los Lobos at a local casino.

photoThe girls are the best kind of music lovers. They have open ears. If it’s good, they’ll come along for the ride. Read more…

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To those about to rock, I salute you. To those who have been rocking this entire time, thanks for saving my life.

November 17, 2014 2 comments

Sitting downstairs tapping these words out on my phone while listening to an assortment of Marah records on my IPod. (I know you’ve never heard of Marah but really that’s your problem and not mine) My life may suck these days but it ain’t due to a shortage of great rock and roll music (literally) in my leg pocket (cargo pants…what can I say? I feel like Woody Guthrie would wear ‘em so….) Music keeps me sane and when it can’t do that it lets me dance all over my blues, excellent cover for a crazy person.

I’m pushing 50. My head is getting grey. My beard is getting grey. I was hoping for that graceful George Clooney look but something is missing I guess. They never warn you about the intangibles. The bastards.

My girls are 16 and 12 now. College is around the corner. I’ve worked full time for almost 30 years. Despite this everything with my name on it is still owned by various banks. We live week to week. If we emptied our savings account I might be able to buy Dylan’s new Basement Tape boxed set on CD. And maybe a case of beer with the change. Lionshead. Cans.

College tuition is 60k a year on average these days. When I ponder this I don’t know whether to laugh or cry so I split the difference and do both. I’d ask others in the same position as me how they do it but I’m not up for bookie/drug dealing/prostitution stories. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I’ve got new music in my head. I’ve got new lyrics in my notebook and new melodies captured on my IPhone. I’ve got a million different ideas on how to present them, the only common thread being that I can’t afford any of them. But I’ve got a guitar and a mic so I’ll get ‘em out there. I always do. I hope when I do you’ll give a listen. Someday I’m gonna write the perfect pop song and make Spotify tremble. But for now just pull up my stuff on there and spin it. I wanna complain about the size of the checks. So, you know, first I need to get a check.

I’m tired. I’m always tired. All over tired. The kind of tired that a 12 hour weekend sleep shift can’t touch. When I have to concentrate during the day I drift way more than I used to. I’m a Notre Dame and Pittsburgh Steeler fan, so that might have something to do with it. No rest for the weary. Especially when you keep turning the fucking ball over and losing to the Jets and Northwestern.

Somedays I can make my guitar sing. Some days I make it sound like a cigar box wrapped with rubber bands. Some days I can warble like a bird. Some days my rusty pipes scare our pets. Some days I can still write. Some days I can barely speak a coherent sentence. Some days the melodies are laying (lying?….dammit I always punt on this one and as the son of a writer it sorta pisses me off) on the floor in front of me. Some days they feel like shit on my shoe.

Some days you’re the windshield and some days you’re the birdshit. Something like that anyway.

Youth, a cheerleader’s smile and a cold 12 pack solved all these problems in the past. These days nothing but a great book, a warm blanket, or some serious Netflix binge watching comes close. Throw a few benzodiazepines in the popcorn bowl. Who’s got time for anything graceful these days?

I’m looking over my “people you may know” section on Facebook. All mucho-tattooed half naked women with come hither looks. Of course I don’t know any of them. What kind of perverted algorithm did that Zuckerman cook up anyway? Does this sort of thing just happen to us old, sore Who fanatics or what?

How about some more bands as drop-dead real as Marah? That would be some serious social networking. Rock and roll never let me down. I can’t say the same about half naked women with tattoos.

Today has been horrible. You know what got me through it? Songs like “Poor People” and “Out of Tune”. And ear buds. To those about to rock, I salute you. To those who have been rocking this entire time, thanks for saving my life.

I suspect this is all part of growing up. And growing old. I suspect that the only people who truly understand the power of rock and roll are those who can’t live without it.

In a bit.

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

What we can be proud of…

November 2, 2014 Leave a comment

It’s been common water-cooler fodder these last few weeks. What exactly would the PSP do to Eric Frein when they caught him. Everybody had their own take on it. Fists and feet and rifle butts to reorganize facial features. Some suggested dispensing with the cost of a trial altogether. Put a slug between his eyes. Give as good as the PSP got. There would be guffaws all around….and then everybody would disperse, not really understanding what they were just advocating.

Hell,we all did it.

Things aren’t always as black and white as we’d like them to be. The brain recognizes this. And upon reflection, it can be a bit of bother.

eric-frein-mugshot-cbd001e43388bb8eNobody was surprised when Frein’s nose looked like it had taken on a rifle butt and lost. A lot of people seemed aggrieved that he didn’t look worse. The press was simply doing its job when it asked about Frein’s injuries. The State Police said he’d been busted up prior to his arrest. He’d been in the woods for 48 days, so…..maybe we snickered, but that was that. Nobody was really giving a shit about a cop killer’s nasal health.

Alleged cop killer of course, something we tend to forget. Innocent until proven guilty and all that. That being said, if I had money I’d lay it all on Frein as the trigger-man. If he ain’t the killer, this is gonna be a classic TV movie someday.

He’s gonna rot in prison until he dies. All the saber rattling about the death penalty is just small penis talk, magnified by grief and DAs and the fact that it’s an election year. Check the books. Pennsylvania doesn’t carry out death sentences. That’s not pro or anti talk, It’s just fact talk, the kind that is so often lost in the echo chamber.

The US Marshals are the ones who actually collared Frein. Eleven of them. Frein was out in the open, unarmed, and did not resist. That being said, he’s also an alleged cop-killer. And federal cops now had him at their mercy. Turns out that Frein’s lopsided face was created by being driven into the pavement by 11 armed US Marshals. If he dared to resist? Use your imagination.

Can you blame them?

In retrospect I can go all ACLU on anybody. But cops (increasingly ridiculed by social media “experts” as bumbling incompetents, or worse) tramping through the woods for the 48th day in a row aren’t apt to be a retrospective bunch.

Then they took pictures of themselves and told the press, “yea, we did that to his face, what about it?”

And people thought….”well jeez the PSP told us whatever happened to his face happened when he was on the run”. PSP officials may indeed have been telling the truth as they understood it. But you only get one chance to make a first impression when the cameras are turned on.

It was not the truth.

So then the inevitable.

If they lied about this, what else are they lying about?

Lies are what gives birth to conspiracy theories. “It’s the lie that gets you”. Nixon said that. He ought to know.

What law enforcement has done is created a talking point for the defense. A monumental blunder.

But again, when you’re actually in the arena, what would you have done?

American DNA is filled with superiority. We consider ours to be the greatest nation on earth. The way we do things are the way things should be done. Nothing crystallizes this attitude more than how we feel about our own legal system. Innocent until proven guilty. Give the dirty rotten sonofabitch a fair trial and then string his ass up.

This is pie in the sky stuff of course. If you’re a dirty rotten sonofabitch with deep pockets, your odds in front of a judge improve dramatically. Nobody likes to brag about this part, except maybe the people with the deep pockets.

But still, everybody is entitled to their day in court. To legal counsel. To speak up when they need to and shut up when it’s best to. No matter how ghastly the crimes they have been accused of are. It might not be a perfect system, but I constantly recall what Churchill said about democracy….

“…..the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” 

….and think maybe our legal system is the best imperfect people can come up with.

As a nation we do things pretty good.

If I was accused of some evil I’d rather have US Marshals come for me than, say, the Secret Police of Sierra Leone.

And just think. The Secret Police of Sierra Leone are probably sitting around laughing at us for discussing a busted nose in such law and orderly terms. To many, it seems positively absurd.

But you know what? I’m glad it’s worthy of discussion in the United States of America.

In a bit..

–tf

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