And though we may chose different paths, I have a pretty good idea that our destinations are the same…

August 23, 2016 Leave a comment

Summer hanging on. Heat hangs like a vine on a chimney….but people are moving faster now. School beckons. And the growing up (or growing old) continues, or commences, depending on where your head is at.

FullSizeRender (1)Football is nearly for real….which means lifestyle changes for some. Weekends that were once made for something else, have now reverted back to the natural order of things. Vacations, if you were lucky enough to have one….are likely over by now. We just returned from a 3 day dash to the beach….where we gazed at the Atlantic Ocean together, as a family, for maybe the last time. Kids are getting restless, ready to move on. My oldest girl starts college in 3 days. Close, but not close enough as far as tears go, but 90 minutes away still means the house is gonna seem a bit empty….and a bit quieter….than I’m used to. Nobody makes me smile so hard as my Alyssa does….and my loss is only somewhat salvaged by the fact that it will surely become the Moravian College community’s gain.

My baby girl starts high school at the same time….so the new life events are doubled. My Kiera is brilliant, beautiful, and bound for glory. Nobody works harder at making things look so easy. At times she makes me so proud I start feeling like a balloon in a room full of pins. So I’ll stop gushing before I rupture something.

IMG_0524I’d wish both my girls luck but they’ve proven to me over and over that they don’t need it. Their sturdy character will get ’em past whatever obstacles this world might toss in their path (…and of course I’ll be there with a sledgehammer, just in case).

The days are getting shorter. Me and Kiera went searching for sunset pictures at the beach 2 nights running and mis-timed it twice, watching helplessly from traffic the last night as the sun dove into the bayside horizon. Another 2 green lights and we would have made it. Ain’t that the way life is sometimes though? Some nights the straightaways are simply filled with late yellows and early reds. One good thing about the sun though. It’ll give you another shot. And that’s about as fair as you can hope for these days.

There’s no school for parents. You fumble and stumble through and try to do no harm. If it feels wrong it is wrong, and if that’s the only thing you stick to as your kids grow up I think you’ll do Ok. As the father of 2 stunning girls I’ve certainly been rolled more times than an Idle Hours bowling ball…..but there were times when I held my ground, and it was these times that made me a father. It’s shit easy to be your kid’s friend. Not so much being their Dad. But they know this now, and sometimes (through clenched teeth) will even admit that I was (maybe…sorta) right all along. I’d take on an army for both of them, but that doesn’t make me special. It just means that I take my duties seriously enough to earn my pay. And to paraphrase Mark Twain, my girls, who once considered me the dumbest man alive, are now amazed at how much knowledge I’ve seemingly gained in the last 3 months.

It’s so easy to be cynical, it almost seems cheap. We seem to tear down instinctively, out of fear. We build up only upon reflection. Maybe what we need is more time for that reflection. Less mad dashes to and fro, less 30 second snatches of the 24 hour news cycle, less device clicking and more eyeball to eyeball. We all know that to understand each other we need to walk in each other’s shoes. So why don’t we take the time to lace each other’s up?

I’m as guilty as anyone. I try and I fail and I try again. I walk and I fall and I try like hell to get back up before somebody runs me over. But I get so preoccupied with my own journey that I don’t recognize that you’re on one too. And though we may chose different paths, I have a pretty good idea that our destinations are the same. And that they involve our children.

We should commiserate more, no?

In a bit…

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

What was, no longer is…..

July 31, 2016 5 comments

CentraliaI finally got here. I’ve read about it (two outstanding books, one by David DeKok and the other by Joan Quigley, along with a stirring little documentary called The Town That Was, co directed by a past Dunmore, PA resident, no less), and it’s been the inspiration for a few songs over the years. A once vibrant mining town of 2000 residents, quite literally wiped off the face of the earth by a combination of epic bad luck, bureaucratic incompetence, and an unwillingness to face the unpleasantness rising from the ground outside the kitchen window. It’s a true American tragedy, and yesterday as we drove in the first thing we noticed was the couple who had set up a hot dog stand on the side of the road. Doing a nice little business, I might add. “2 for $4” is what their homemade sign said. I like that. Sounds a better deal than $2 each, no? We are nothing if not relentlessly resilient. And hopeful.

Tourists like me pick over the carcass of Centralia on a daily basic. We get there expecting to see one thing, and we fine quite another. (And we get hungry too, I suppose). I can’t explain the fascination, other than to say it’s there. It’s the concept of “home”, on steroids.

My traveling companion was my friend Mike Stevens. Mike is a professional wanderer (and noted TV reporter) so this sort of thing is old hat to him. He’d been to Centralia at least twice before over the years. As a matter of fact Mike has seemingly been everywhere at least twice before over the years. Driving up through Frackville and Ashland, we scarcely passed a dwelling where Mike hadn’t given a speech or judged a pie contest. His fame is unrelenting. But he tolerates me and finds me endlessly amusing. Plus, he agreed to drive.

7-centralia-pennsylvania-abandoned-city1

Images copyright (c) by David DeKok

I didn’t take this pic (thank you to author David DeKok for allowing me to use it)….but it gives you the general idea. What was, no longer is. There’s not much to see. This is the main drag. A very tidy, neatly laid out town in its day. We maneuvered through side streets. No street signs of course, but, eerily, the street and address numbers still register on GPS devices. So all afternoon I was standing in front of dwellings that exist only in the minds of global satellites. Mike noticed the curbs. “Unmistakable signs of civilization” he called them. Laid out in front of yards that were overgrown with trees. You could walk up driveways that led to nowhere. It was so quiet. The streets were like yours and mine. IMG_1394Cars. Children. Bikes. Pools. Laughter. Except they weren’t. A man walked past with his dog. He smiled. Very pleasant. Where had he come from? Where was he going? I wish I took his picture. Maybe he was a ghost.

Centralia is filled with ghosts. They haunt the town’s four cemeteries. Remarkably, all are immaculately cared for….still….as if making up for what the living were forced to leave behind (who pays for the upkeep?). A man was cutting the grass while we were there. He nodded politely at us. Many of the graves had recent flowers placed on them. This was clearly still home in perpetuity for many….and newer generations were doing the tending with no fuss.

And literally home to a few. Remarkably, some still refuse to leave. I think I saw two homes. One had a pool. I resisted the urge to gawk. Like most, I despise tourists unless I happen to be one. But as we drove past…..their stubbornness seemed almost sublime, and I suddenly admired the hell out of them. I wanted to run over and fist-bump the lot of them. “Fight the power” and all that. Home is where we say it is, eminent domain be dammed.

“Places like this make up the pulse up the country”, Stevens told me, and he ought to know, having seen a thousand of them. It reminded me of Lyndon Johnson’s quote about the Texas hill country, “…where the people know when you’re sick and care about when you die.” We focus on the large all the time…the loud. But when you sum up all of the small…..what you’re left with dwarfs the sky scrapers. But that takes time. And who’s got that these days? We’re not ignorant, really. We’re just lazy.

At one point during the day word was passed that a family driving a mini-van had gotten stuck on one of the trails (searching for the origin of the mine fire can be very interesting if you don’t know the lay of the land). Somebody alerted a local and in minutes he was there with his truck, pulling them free. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do when somebody is in trouble. That’s the way we’re supposed to treat others. The family thanked him (and us, as we arrived at the same time, proving way less useful….but it’s the thought that counts) and he simply smiled and shrugged. And then he was gone. Stevens said it again…almost under his breath. “Real people here….salt of the earth…”

Trump(And then we saw this….and I thought, “damn right”..)

Centralia is still a home. From homes like this come the men who fight our wars, and build our buildings, and put out our fires, and tend to our nation’s memories. And this is the kind of place I come from too. And when you need help and somebody arrives, it’s places like this they’re probably coming from. Nixon was an asshole, but his term “the silent majority” was apt and still stands.

And it’s easy to laugh on the inside. To scoff. We can look rough around the edges. A bit unrefined. Frayed at the seams. Our bodies can look lived in….our clothes worn. We may neglect ourselves in order to take care of our children. But we are the reason we don’t need to make America great again. All we need is a little amplification. And a place to call home. Only ignorance and hate can take hard-earned greatness away. And I saw precious little of it on my visit here.

In a bit…

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Hoping Machine

July 19, 2016 5 comments

13769385_1237780639566013_7469367090825700743_nI lost my friend George Wesley today. Cancer stole him from us. Cancer is the devil. It is evil in its purest form. It seeks health, and its aim is destruction. It does not discriminate and it does not get sidetracked. It’s a bully that never backs down.

I received the news early this morning. Since then I’ve been engulfed in a sort of fog. I’ve been physically and mentally wandering….not getting anywhere either way.

You think you’re prepared, but you never are. The mind has an almost endless capacity for hoping. The great Woody Guthrie once called human beings great “hoping machine(s)”. I knew George was ill. Very ill. But I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that he wouldn’t, in some way, find a way to beat the shit out of this thing. Because some people are just born to live. Dying doesn’t even enter into the equation. I’m a walking, talking hoping machine. And George Wesley is one of the reasons. And today, I’ve been diminished. We all have. To be diminished. Is there anything more sad than that?

I loved him. I told him that the last time we spoke. He gave me infinitely more than I ever gave him. He was the most generous man alive. I suspect there’s a lot of us out there admitting that to ourselves tonight. George just engulfed you. He radiated like a summer firefly. He wrapped you in a hug and blessed you, and turned non-believers into believers. I’m telling you this. If there ain’t no heaven….somebody ought to invent the place. Because for George to be anywhere else right now would be a cosmic blunder.

He thanked us for the inspiration. Truth be told nobody ever heard George’s music without feeling uplifted……like a child trying out a trampoline for the first time. He bobbed and weaved and sang Jah’s praises and invited everybody along for the ride. His music was unconditional and spiritual. He could rock. He could roll. He could groove. He could bring the funk. And he did it all on the offbeat. He asked for nothing in return except humanity. Peace. Love. In many ways George was a complex man. But his message could not have been more simple.

When we cry, we do so mostly for ourselves. I’m a selfish prick sometimes. I want him here. I want to call him up….to write some more songs together….to weave our guitars together and find melodies and phrases and reasons to smile. I want to sit at his knee and watch his hands on the frets….to close my eyes and listen when the visual gets too overwhelming. I want to hear him laugh with and at me. I want to call him and hear that growl….”greetings”….on the other end of the phone. I want to be blessed by Jah and I don’t even know who the hell Jah is. I want to see that smile obliterate the need for any other lights in the room. I want my kids to know him better and longer. I want my friend back. I’m selfish. For ME. My tears today were self-pity. I’m guilty. But I’m not sorry. I feel like Morgan Freeman in the Shawshank Redemption. “I guess I just miss my friend”.

George deserved more than this world gave him. Much more. All he did was give. All the world did was take. George lived with that. He left songs on everybody’s lips and smiles on their faces. And then he was alone, and life rolled the dice and whisked him away because she can be a dirty bitch sometimes.

Since the day I was born George Wesley has been in this world. Tomorrow will be the first full day he’s not here. It’s like a hole in the musical ozone layer. I have memories. And I have the music. That has to be enough. It doesn’t feel like it is, but it has to be.

When you grind life down to its powder, all it really consists of are the moments that you can remember. The rest is lost in the ether. The word “unforgettable” is dangerous, because forcing a memory and actually having one is the difference between knowing a phone number and repeating one you just heard over and over again so you can quick dial it before it’s gone.

With George nothing was forced. He was unforgettable for one reason. Because I’ll never forget him.

In peaceful water that’s where I’ll be
With eyes closed I don’t need to see
The hurt we bring on each other
Bless up my sister and my brother

In  a bit..

–tf

 

Categories: Uncategorized

America, 2016

July 8, 2016 Leave a comment

Before there was always grey area. We at least had that.

But that’s gone. Philando Castile was executed at point blank range for a broken tail-light. Spin it one way. Spin it the other. You’ll end up in the same place. He was no threat. He was shot point blank 4 times while reaching for his car registration. His fiance sat next to him in the car. Her 4 year old daughter was in the back seat. Based on how agitated and crazed the cop acted, it’s a wonder he didn’t shoot the woman and child as well. Castile’s fiancee pulled out her cell phone and recorded live video of him dying. One of the most horrific things you’ll ever see. America, 2016.

Castile was a legal gun owner with a concealed permit. He did exactly what he was supposed to do. Announced he was legally carrying. Clearly. No grey area. Didn’t matter. Gun advocates are strangely silent. America, 2016.

Dallas police officer Brent Thompson was killed by a sniper. A fucking sniper. Thompson was married 2 weeks ago. Spin it one way. Spin it the other. You’ll end up in the same place. 

One man died because he was a black male. The other died because he was a white cop.

Is it even worth pointing out that neither fit the stereotype they were killed over? It should be, so I just said it. But I’d be shouted down on TV. Eaten alive. I’d look weak and silly. Both sides justify the unjustifiable. Those who point this out get run over in both directions.

America 2016.

If Castile was white, he’d be alive now. Most likely, he wouldn’t have been stopped by the police in the first place. If he was? White guy….with white fiancee next to him. Behind them a 4 year old white baby in a car seat. A cop is gonna blast away when he reaches for his car registration? In fucking Minnesota?

And, put bluntly, if Thompson were black, the rifle scope would have passed him by. Because he didn’t fit the profile.

Hate does strange things. And it makes for strange bedfellows.

Castile mattered. For a few hours. But once that sniper rifle opened up, he became just another statistic. Because America, 2016 can’t handle nuance. We are too divided to find fault on our own side.

It has to be one story, or the other story. It can’t be both. There can only be one headline. And that headline is screaming right now. Cops were picked off like ducks in an American city, 2016. That’s what it has come to. I’ve never experienced anything like this in my lifetime.

We cannot handle nuance. We shout too loud. Facts become pesky. Like mosquitoes.

160708035505-17-dallas-shooting-0708-restricted-overlay-teaseAnd then I saw this photo. And I thought, if we’re gonna put blinders on, maybe we should do so while staring at this photo. For a few seconds. A few minutes. Hours.

What do you see?

You know….maybe that’s America, 2016 too. Maybe, when the haters stop hating and the shouters stop shouting and the marchers stop marching….when we all collect our collective breaths, we can live and die together. We can comfort each other and ignore the fuck out of color and religion and class and geographical boundaries…..we can breathe the same air on this small planet and together cherish our children’s futures. And perhaps wrap our heads around the fact that the man who suggested we try something like this previously was killed. By a sniper. In Dallas. Hate can win battles but the war still rages. There’s still a chance. I can see it in this picture. Can you?

My eldest was born with the empathy gene. She feels the lash on the backs of others. At times like this she asks me, over and over…”why?” I stutter. I start to reply and then stop, because I realize that nothing rational is going to come out. She’s starting college in the fall. She’ll be away. I want to steal her and hide her and keep her from all of this. I want to block her ears and cover her eyes and cherry-pick her adventures.

But no. It’s those that feel the lash on another’s back that are in this picture. And if we’re going to heal this fracture, it’s those who must do the doctoring. The world needs her every bit as much as I do.

In a bit…

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Bringing the Healing

June 17, 2016 1 comment

Some years back Bob Dylan was being honored, as Bob Dylan often is. I think it was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this time. Springsteen was doing the honoring. And Bruce looked around the room, filled with rock royalty, and said that there wasn’t a single person in the room who didn’t owe Dylan thanks. A pretty breathtaking statement really, but entirely apt. Dylan’s footprint is the size of America, and then some.

If we condensed our world down to the northeast corner of Pennsylvania (and why wouldn’t we?), the same statement could be made about George Wesley. If you make music here, you should thank him. Because he inspired you. Mentored you. Jammed with you. Supported you. Laid back so you could shine. The people who dance like nobody’s watching are most likely listening to George’s music. He’s our man in black…our soundtrack…..our constant. No matter what is going on around us, what trends are catching on and/or dying out, what flavor of the month is fearing the flip of the calendar, you can bet George is onstage someplace….doing what he’s been doing for as long as I’ve been alive. Bringing the positive vibrations, healing us while being healed himself…..the music seemingly passing through him as much as coming from him.

12119112_10200913022985820_7805608614052689493_n

October, 2015 Meshoppen, PA

I remember the first time I saw and heard him. It was the 80s….I wasn’t 21 yet but close enough for Gallaghers in Dunmore, a place that checked IDs about as carefully as the person checking your Sams Club purchases on your way out the door. The good ‘ol days is what we call them now.

This skinny guy was fronting a trio. Just crushing Marley tunes. The dance floor was packed. It seemed to be vibrating. The beard was halfway down his pale chest….and it would swing back and forth like a pendulum as he played the type of guitar that made me, who had just taken up the instrument, want to go home and put a boot through mine. He oozed charisma. Dressed head to toe in black, when the lights went out between songs he completely disappeared…like a Dickens ghost. I was enthralled. I asked my sisters (always more hip than me), who were in the bar too, pretending not to see their underage brother drinking a Bud long neck.. “Yea, that’s George Wesley. He’s amazing and has been around forever…now get the hell out of here before I tell Mom…”

Even then, at the beginning, George had always been there. The definition of ageless.

We first met in the mid 90s. George Graham at WVIA thought it would be interesting to bring 3 disparate songwriters together and see what came of it. So he picked the biggest musical oddballs he knew. George Wesley, Canadian Lorne Clarke, and myself. I think he figured we’d either kill each other, or close ranks and become friends. We were like lab mice.

Over 20 years later my kids call George “Uncle”, and Lorne is the godfather to my youngest daughter. We’ve collaborated and covered each other and recorded together and done shows together and cheered each other on. And when one falls…he’s got 2 sets of hands to help him up. Friendship is a powerful thing.

Over that time, what comes to mind?

Bits and pieces. Like how George always has a guitar strapped on. Even visiting him at home….he’d walk around holding a guitar. He’d get a drink from the kitchen….while playing. You listen to him play, and it sounds like magic. And it looks effortless….his left hand like a large spider crawling up and down the neck. But make no mistake. He’s as good as he is because he put the time in. He never stops playing….which means he never stops learning. It looks so easy now because of how hard he works when the crowd ain’t there.

We even joke about how he can’t not play. We’d do these singer-songwriter in-the-round shows, where we’d debut brand new songs. I’d be in the middle of a new one, trying not to forget the bridge I just finished an hour ago….and George, in the chair next to me, would start playing along. It didn’t matter that he never heard the song before. He’s physically incapable of holding a guitar without playing it. “You’re sick, You know that, right?” I’d say with a laugh. “I know”, he said. “But it sounds good.”

Music is the reason he gets up in the morning. The only reason he sleeps is because music is also what fills his dreams.

You probably never heard him play old country songs. Hank Williams. Waylon. Willie. I have. And it damn near makes me cry. Because George can play Hank Williams as good as he can play Peter Tosh. I wish he’d do it more. Lorne and I once badgered him for months to write some songs in that vein. He finally did. I still have the tape. It’s incredible. George probably forgets what’s on it. To him it was like creating breaths of air.

His songwriting is way too often overlooked. Much of what you’re hearing when you see him is stuff he wrote. He’s been so long associated with Bob Marley’s music, but just think about that, and this, for a moment. George’s songs sit comfortably next to Marley’s in his sets….so much so that you don’t even notice the juxtaposition. Bob Marley is one of the greatest songwriters of our generation. You see where I’m going with this, right?

George would scoff at the comparison, but I ain’t scoffing. My daughter has a poster of Marley on her bedroom wall. I have a picture of myself and Lorne and George after a gig, hanging on my office wall 2 floors down. I’ll take “The Wheel” or “Music Sweet Music” to the same kitchen table where “No Woman, No Cry” is seated. And I’ll stand on the table.

But enough of my gushing. He’s my friend. He’s your friend too. He’s got a fight in front of him, but he’s a stubborn old cuss and he’ll be back out there doing what he’s always done as soon as he beats back this thing. He’ll be bringing the healing.

There’s a benefit coming up next weekend at Mountain Sky. You can pick up a t-shirt. Some big medical bills are on the way, and the NEPA music community is gonna come together and see what we can do about that.

Because sometimes thank you ain’t enough. Sometimes you gotta sing along.

In a bit..

–tf

 

Categories: Uncategorized

The leaders we deserve…..

June 10, 2016 Leave a comment

Americans are a complicated people who are in love with simple solutions. This spells trouble. We are fertile hunting ground for a vast variety of snake-oil salesmen. Thus, we want more guns, no guns, walls built, less taxes, more services, free schools, blue skies, cheap drugs, the free market, Jesus in the pledge, no muslims, less mexicans, and government cheese. And we want it all now. And if somebody dares to stand up and point out that such wants require, you know, details and stuff, well…that person is stomped by the populist mob, who view an intellectual argument as highbrow elitist snobbery at best, or, at worst, just a bunch of long words strung together to test the spell-checker.

293976465_liberty_face_in_hands_answer_2_xlargeOur current political climate is so juvenile that it is collectively dumbing down all of us, to the point where all that we leave behind on the couches we collapse into every night is the residue of freshly killed brain cells. A man who could very well be the next President of the United States recently proposed printing more money as a solution to our economic woes. Read the sentence again if you want. I’ll wait. Ok? And his sage economic advice was met with howls of, not derision for being so breathtakingly ignorant, but delight. For isn’t it so obvious? You want more money? Just fire up the lazy proles at the US Mint. Make America great again.

We used to have guardians against this type of nonsense. But Cronkite and Murrow have long been replaced by bought-hacks like Hannity and O’Reilly, and the generation that once marched to stop a war are now out pounding the pavement looking for their 2nd or 3rd jobs, because “retirement” is now a synonym for “the day you die”. All but the top 1% are doing the doggie-paddle every minute of the day, and instead of getting pissed at the ones who tossed us in the dirty water, we’re shitting in the pool to spite each other. Pissed off people are rarely rational. And Americans these days have to be the most pissed off people on the planet. And the least rational.

Words have no meaning anymore. Or, rather, they mean whatever we want them to mean. So telling the truth has become quaint, like a kid who takes his hat off when he walks into your house. Thus many can and will still argue that universal healthcare is an American impossibility, despite the happy healthy Canadians looking down at them and waving frantically saying….”you fucking idiots realize that all of the politicians arguing against government health care HAVE government health care, right?” Facts are extremely inconvenient at times…..and never more so when we have no time. I gotta pick up my kid from the sitter after leaving my 2nd job, and you want me to hit up Snopes.com to validate a meme on facebook? You’re ADORABLE.

So 2 are left standing. Our choices. To run this nation. If you were to take a poll they’d probably be the 2 most hated people in America. So you gotta hand it to us. When we fuck things up, we do it monumentally.

I’ve become tone-deaf, as only someone who supported Bernie Sanders but considered him far too conservative can be. I look at Donald Trump and think he’s hilarious. I’m not scared of him. There’s a part of me…..the part that loses myself inside Netflix binges…..that actually wants him to win for the sheer entertainment value alone. I want to see him on the world’s stage, kissing Putin’s ass and getting everyone else’s name wrong, desperate to access the launch codes but not knowing how to open the briefcase…..wondering why the lowest bidder can’t seem to find the laborers to get the wall built even armed with wheelbarrows full of not exactly inflation proof freshly printed green-backs. I want to see him issue crazy orders….and watch as nothing happens. I want to see him take on the iceberg that is the house of representatives, recently described as “435 heads up 435 asses”, and slowly lose what little is left of his small mind in the process. You want change? Oh, you’ll get change alright. I’m almost tempted to vote for the asshole myself.

Hillary has better hair, but that’s about as far as I’ll go. For years she’s been bloated with the same dirty money that republicans have gorged themselves on. She’s so bought and sold she might as well decorate herself with corporate stickers, like a Nascar driver. The main joy I’d get from her winning is watching Fox news collectively set themselves on fire in protest, like those Vietnamese monks.

I want to take all of this seriously. I really do. But I have to stop laughing first. I presume that won’t happen until after November, when it’ll be too late. When we start casting votes not for who we admire, but for whom we despise the least, democracy has officially broken down. I should feel inspired inside a voting booth, not like I need a shower.

If you think this is the best we’re capable of, you’re part of the problem. Only nationwide disgust can save us now.

“In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve.”

Joseph de Maistre

God help us…

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Memorial Day

May 30, 2016 1 comment

CEM46521925_110063655007I visited my father’s grave last night. It’s a beautiful spot as these places go. Well maintained. Green. Trees providing comforting breezes and pleasant shade. It was early in the evening so the heat was dying down. The sun was dropping slowly behind the stones. It had the area mostly to myself. Kept company by the birds and the fresh flowers and the American flags on the graves of veterans. It’s a day/weekend to honor their sacrifice. For many it’s a facebook meme spouting a cliche. Facebook posts and Tweets have so sozzled our brains that after a while we actual think we’re being patriotic and clever. In the age of the soundbite it seems the best many, including Presidential candidates, can do…as if anything more than 140 characters would require a Doctorate degree and a year abroad.

Our area has annual parades every year. The one on St Patrick’s Day turns epic…a hilarious cheap-beer-fueled amateur orgy of short college-aged white guys punching each other in the face to honor the guy who supposedly chased snakes out of Ireland. Or something like that. It attracts crowds well into the 5 digits. The same for the St Ubaldo festival in Jessup this weekend, back and better than ever in the 2000s after being shut down for a few years due to a local beating a guy to death on a Jessup sidewalk because….well…..I’m sure he had a good reason. So goes the legend. Anyway, the cops have since cracked down and now you only risk being beaten to death inside the enclosed beer tent…..which this year featured a “no weapons allowed” sign, right next to a sign advertising “$2 Genessee Cream Ale 16oz cans”…..a drink so vile I assumed it was either made illegal or is what rednecks now use to shock their swimming pools. Think of Wal-Mart on check day….add beer, greasy food, outhouses, and $5 for a chance to win your girl a stuffed animal while being laughed at by a barely-legal carny who can’t speak English. Ubaldo is not exactly the valley’s finest hour, but it raises a pile of money for a local hose company, so at least some good comes out of it. Oh….and it’s religious-based too. Catholics know how to fucking party.

Where am I going with this? Well….our area also has one or two Veteran themed parades every year…where active and retired service men and women march down streets lined with their own family members and pretty much nobody else. Which is another way of saying that we don’t come close to honoring either our live or dead veterans, on Memorial or any other day. And that’s a damn shame…..and that’s what I was thinking about when I was visiting my father last night….all by myself with the birds and the flags while the rest of the valley was getting drunk on Genny Creme Ale and trying not to get beaten up by roaming toughs wearing wife-beaters stained with potato-pancake grease.

We live in interesting times.

We live in interesting places.

We’ve got a long way to go.

Sometimes we have no idea where we’re going.

In other words, we’re lost.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized
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