What I need is creativity. I need to swim in it. To wallow in it. To boat across its surface and dive under its waves.

March 16, 2015 1 comment

I’m sitting home alone in a quiet house on a Monday morning. It’s one of those “use or or lose it” vacation days that for whatever reason I still had on the books. So work is postponed this day. All Mondays should be so serene.

Winter seems to finally be breaking. I’ve spent the last quarter year largely trying to keep warm…wrapped in an old comforter in front of a fireplace….most of the time with a college basketball game to keep me company. Or the latest Netflix binge droning (BBC crime dramas mostly….the Brits are better at cliches than we are). What social life I’ve had has revolved around my daughters. Taking them here or there. And then picking them up later here or there. They are teens now, and starting to make their own way. I’m their taxi. I’m their catcher in the rye.

So, wake up, then that pesky 8+ hour thing that allows bills to be paid, then home. A few hours of depressed funkiness, then to bed. A very drone-like existence, actually. If this is normal for the approaching 50 crowd, it’s no wonder that number carries such a stigma.

It pretty much blows to be honest.

So, what can a poor boy do?

photo (3)I try to lose myself. Booze and pills are too obvious. They require no imagination at all. If I wanted to be surrounded by a lack of imagination I could spend more time at my job. I’m too fucking old to trust my problems to Dick Yuengling or Walter White. And besides…..I’ve known druggies…and none of them were as interesting as Jesse Pinkman. So, yea, there’s that.

What I need is creativity. I need to swim in it. To wallow in it. To boat across its surface and dive under its waves.

I need words. I need music. Dialogue. Laughter. Tears. Word hunger. Anti-boredom. I need a blank canvas….and then to see the paint being flung at it. And to slowly recognize what is being drawn.

I need guitars. Pianos. Drums. Legal Pads. Pens and pencils (and ok, word processors if that’s your thing….I mean….this is a blog so…)

I want to surround myself with people who feel the same way. If I don’t, then when I talk people look at me funny. Which is why whenever I talk at my job everybody looks at me funny. So I try not to talk.

My mind doesn’t do the normal things. When people ask me what kind of car I drive I say “a red one”. When pressed on the make and model I stammer like a terrified donkey. Twice last week I attempted to get into the wrong vehicle when leaving work. It was red. It was in the vicinity…..good enough for me.

Basic practicality eludes me. Fixing broken stuff for instance. Or getting from point A to point B without ending up in the wrong time zone. I have no idea what things cost. What my cable bill or cell phone bill is. I have heat in my house. It’s the type of heat that makes the house warm. Surely that’s the best kind? I still avoid self-service kiosks. When to use “debit/credit”. I never remember my PIN. If I write it down I’ll lose it, so I stopped writing it down.

I’ve been dressing the same way (jeans…flannel shirts….work boots….all seasons) since the 7th grade. I’m bewildered by fashion trends. I’m scared of change but will forever bitch about a lack of forward progress.

I adore solitude, aside from the loneliness.

But I got this guitar.

My kryptonite. My suit of armor. My sniper rifle.

And I learned how to make it talk.

And so when I am no longer capable of getting my point across in a one on one conversation, I pick up the guitar, and I write a song.

I’m thinking that’s the best explanation I can give as to what I do.

How many of us, if asked to leave something behind, chooses something from within the 9 to 5 window?

Not too damn many. Because for most of us, big picture, it matters not a fiddler’s fart.

It’s what we do to fight that lethargy that matters. The world doesn’t need another cubicle dweller shuffling papers with computer code. But another cool 3 minute rock and roll song?

Shit yea. That’s the business.

There’s a reason they call it “working”.

And there’s a reason they call it “playing”.

And I know I ain’t lazy ’cause I never worked so hard in my life.

You just need to get me on the right shift.

Argue with math, and you will lose.

I’ve got lots of new songs……pieces I’ve crafted this winter……guitar figures captured on my Iphone, or verses written on the back of store receipts. I’ve got melodies without words and words without melodies. I hope to introduce them and see if they get along.

I want things to change. But I don’t expect them to. So says the man who gets into the wrong cars.

Which reminds me.

There’s a new song I have…and it’s called “Got To Be the Change”

Someone falls they’re left there
Like stairs to be climbed
Seems we’re not much closer
To leaving this behind
Got to be the change
Got to be the change
Got to be the change you want…..in this world

Make it talk son.

Quit wasting time.

In a bit..

–tf

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Quick update….

January 24, 2015 1 comment

Still here. Still busy. Still working.

In no particular order…..this is what’s on my plate..

pen-and-pad1. an ep of new songs recorded with my friend John Canjar (of “Nowhere Slow” fame). Set to kick off recording next week. Probably 4 or 5 songs. Hooky….Beatle-esque pop is the goal. All live into 2 mics. Guitars. Some harp. Some harmonies. A sort of demented NEPA Everly Brothers. The kind of thing you get into music for in the first place.

2. a full length CD of new songs co-written with the extraordinary George Wesley, my long time musical brother and mentor. The project will commemorate Bob Marley”s 70th b-day. Songs are being written now…..as me and George toss ideas back and forth almost daily. To quote George…”Jah WORKS”. Here’s hoping.

3. adapting my play “God Bless Roy Campanella” into a screenplay for a film starring Liz Naro….a longtime friend (and fellow Dunmorean) and a truly gifted actress. This is going to be a huge challenge…and not only because I’ve never written a screenplay before….although that’s one reason. Money is another…..as I suspect movies require some. But first things first eh? I did manage to find free screenwriting software….so….you know…..baby steps.

4. Write a one act play for 4 females….amazing actresses all, including Kathryn Priestash and Ellen O’Brien Sherry. Scary stuff for a male of the species….scarier still because they claim to trust me. But still, talent like this even a dumb guy does not say no to.

Of course there is also the pesky “making a living” thing that cuts through all of these projects like a scythe. And sleep.

But although necessary, sleep ain’t fun.

My latest record is available here…..in case….you know….you forgot and stuff.

In a bit…

–tf

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“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…

Categories: Uncategorized
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