For my Mom…..

August 29, 2017 3 comments

(these are the words I said this morning at my Mother’s funeral mass. I want to remember how I felt today….)

The tears here today are for us.

But the smiles are for her.

Not only because of where she is….but who she is with.

Because I firmly believe that my Mom’s last breath Friday morning was stolen with a kiss from her husband. Our father. The man she loved with a fierceness that inspired awe in her children. Nobody could get between them. Not even us.

20994076_1704079492936123_6167765189384734161_nTurn to your partner. Look them in the eye. The love there is too frequently unspoken…..taken for granted. The great Flannery and Loftus clans are Irish after all…..entire conversations can consist of grunts, eye rolls, nods of the head, stony silences, empty glasses….or the infamous Irish goodbye, in which we vacate the room when nobody’s looking.

Now….imagine saying to your spouse….”honey, I called out our love on my LICENSE PLATE!” Their first reaction might be to increase the medication.

But my Mom was “MRSJXF”.  Personalized. I still consider it one of the loveliest things I’ve ever seen. I wish we lived in a world as in love and loved…..as unabashed…as what those 6 letters represent. My Dad would call her at work….and say after multiple decades of marriage….”can I talk to my bride?..”

Boys? You can’t touch that. That’s a romance mic drop moment.

A somewhat legendary Dunmore friend of mine had no idea my Mom worked in juvenile probation….and texted me yesterday saying…”that must be why she could relate to me..”

She was fair to all. We knew the rules. Our house was never the “wait ‘till your Father gets home” type house. It was….”when is Dad gonna get home…?” There’s a Civil War story of a private trembling before a famous General….who tried to calm him by saying “there’s no need to be frightened son ….you’ll get justice here..”….and the private replying “I know that General…that’s what I’m scared of…”

She was the President. The heart of a lion and the soul of a little girl….the one that pretended she didn’t like the family dog but got caught crying when the dog died. The one who always ended up granting us full and absolute pardons.

But love is sometimes like flying too close to the sun….or staring into that solar eclipse. My parent’s hearts were intertwined……but one would give out before the other. Love is not that perfect.

My Dad passed away 7 years ago. Alzheimer’s had taken him even sooner than that…..so we watched my Mom’s heart break….slowly….day after day. She missed him so much it sometimes hurt to be with her. I agonized over how to explain her pain with words….and that’s the best I can do. It sometimes hurt to be with her.

But that’s over now. They’re together again. Where they belong. And nobody up there is gonna be able to get between them either. And this fills me with an indescribable joy. So today the tears stop, and the smiles begin. She was the last of the great Flannery and Loftus Clans to let go….so I anticipate a party of biblical proportions is brewing. The Loftus’s were a baker’s dozen with enough personality to create a smorgasbord. The fruits of their labor may be many things, but we’re never boring.

She was our Mother. Our first love. My friend Lorne reminded me that it is only with a Mother’s passing that we become orphans. It was to her we ran with scraped knees and high fevers and bad dreams…..her we had to prove our sudden “Sunday evening before an important test illnesses” to…..her we so desperately did not want to hurt….to disappoint. She gave up so much of herself for us….for her husband……and maybe it’s only now, with her passing, that we don’t take that for granted anymore. We are the sum of their parts…..glorious and goofy and stubborn and salty and fearful and fierce…faulty and fabulous…mothers and fathers and husbands and wives ourselves…wondering how they made it all look so graceful and easy….but oh so grateful they set the bar so high…because we’re Flannery’s and Loftus’s……and we’re not gonna let the old timers have all the fun.

Our family would like to publicly thank Bishop Timlin and Father Doris, for making my Mother’s faith tangible.

I want to thank my cousin Janie….and my brother Tim…..for all they did for my Mom so she could stay in her own home until near the end. And of course my sister Eileen…..our family’s hero…..who at times seemed to be capable of being in 6 different places at the same time. Our united front is because of you. You are as selfless as our Mother. We love you….but because we’re Irish we don’t say it enough. So let me say it now.

We love you.

Mom. Godspeed. From your favorite child….

Smile. That was to get you to smile…

My father once wrote about the death of a beloved pastor of this parish, saying….”life has not ended, but merely changed….”

He was pretty good with words. So I’ll leave it there……

–tf

August 29, 2017

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Bread and Circuses

August 20, 2017 Leave a comment

cec058799b18b2fc117e722abdcaf8a5--revolt-conservative-politicsThe world is an untidy place. Fractures and fissures appear….to be mended or stepped on or avoided or argued relentlessly over. We don’t always, or even often, agree with each other. On much of anything. We’re about as politically divided as a nation not at war with itself can actually be without…..you know….being at war with itself. To conquer one first must divide. The division creates the opponents. Left/Right. Black/White. Gay/Straight. Poor/Middle Class. Confederacy/Union. You name it. It hardly matters what side you’re on. The divisions are a distraction, of course. Bread and circuses tossed to the masses by rich white men who really don’t care what side wins because, in the end, they get it all. They always get it all. What they love most about Americans screaming themselves hoarse over statues of long dead soldiers and unborn babies and the lesbians across the street is that as long as we’re so busy hating the people fighting over the same crumbs of sheetcake (thank you Tina Fey) as we are… the fact that 20 Americans now have as much wealth as half the population is lazily overlooked. Our nation is currently being led by a man who said at one of his rallies that “I love the poorly educated…..we’re the smartest people.” This line was met not by marauding Tiki torches, but by cheers. And so it goes. Bread and Circuses. And when the news cycle gets boring, toss in a few Nuclear threats and some Nazis right out of central casting. It’s like a media oil change. They’re good for another 3000 miles.

Anybody remember that Russia influenced an American election? How about the dumbest of Trump’s two dumb boys admitting that he committed treason? Ring a bell? Seems like a million years ago. And it’s all disappeared into the ether. Nobody cares anymore. Well, maybe Robert Mueller does, but even that remains to be seen.

A true American hero died yesterday. Where will Dick Gregory’s statue be placed? I think we all know the answer to this one…

We hate to admit it…..”leader of the free world” stuff and all of that. But the President’s job is largely to just make sure everybody else is doing theirs. Much of the duty is ceremonial. Speeches. Protocol. Getting all the facts from all the different sides, and doing what’s right for the nation. Reading a few history books helps. Knowing that Frederick Douglass died in 1882 and that Andrew Jackson could not have prevented the Civil War…..or that taking credit for building the Panama Canal makes you look like an idiot because it was built over 100 years ago. I could go on but you get the idea. Some intellectual curiosity comes in handy at times.

Our greatest Presidents have been the ones with the most empathy. Lincoln and Roosevelt. Our worst, Nixon, once described domestic policy, which he cared so little about that handed off to an adviser, as “building outhouses in Peoria.” When the nation gets its heart broken, it’s the President who begins the healing. Reagan’s Challenger speech ( “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’”). Clinton’s soothing words after Oklahoma City and Columbine. Bush’s post 9/11 bullhorn moment. Obama’s tears at Sandy Hook. My favorite story is LBJ visiting a New Orleans shelter in the Ninth Ward after a devastating 1965 flood. He entered with only a flashlight and announced to the stunned gathering, “This is your President, and I’m here to help you!”

Words. They matter. Winston Churchill kept his nation alive in 1940 through the sheer genius of his oratory. Lincoln’s second inaugural somehow willed a bleeding, dying nation back to life……”With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds….” Words. That’s all they had left to give.

WWTD?

What would Trump do? Blame Hillary’s emails for the Space Shuttle explosion? Call out all the good people involved in Timothy McVeigh’s militia group? Keep in mind that the President has NOT really been tested yet. Forget the little North Korean dwarf threatening to nuke Guam or a few Nazis in Khakis. These are week long carnivals. I mean a real credible threat to the security and/or moral standing of this nation that will reverberate in the years to come. Clinton faced with Rwanda and Yugoslavia. Bush the elder and the first Gulf War. George W with 9/11. Not to mention the aforementioned homegrown terrorist events, like Columbine and Sandy Hook. It’s not just that Trump’s 4th grade level oratory will make any bad situation worse. That much we already know. It’s the level of defcon his narcissism and imbecility could very well trigger.

But we allowed it to happen. And we allow it to continue.

There has always been more that binds us than divides us. JFK famously said that “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal….”

Can anybody imagine such words being uttered, or tweeted, by our current President?

SAD!

Soon, as Ford reminded us when Nixon was chased out of the White House like a scalded dog, “our long national nightmare will be over.”

One can only hope. Americans do hope well. We’re the best hopers. Believe me.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

F—ing Nazis

August 14, 2017 Leave a comment

When threatening nuclear war is only the 2nd worse thing the President has done this week, it may be time for an intervention (surely threatening nuclear winter is against Twitter’s terms of service, no?).

We now live in a nation so polarized we can’t even all agree that Nazis are bad. Fucking Nazis.

166It took the President of the United States 3 days to publicly condemn rampaging Nazis killing a US civilian, on US soil. Fucking Nazis…..running down a slew of bystanders, and killing  an innocent woman, in broad daylight, in front of the world’s cameras. In America. Our fathers and grandfathers fought and won a war over this shit. And this is how our nation repays that debt? By electing a guy shamelessly supported by fucking Nazis? What’s next? Khmer Rouge t shirts? When the press asked the President why it took him so long to call out fucking Nazis, the President ignored the question and walked out of the room.

My President. Your President. Our President. Think about this. Rationally. Please. His silence is providing shade to fucking Nazis. You ok with that?

Yea yea, I know. You voted for him and you are not a Nazi. Congratulations. But before going to the polls I always ask myself a simple question. Am I voting for the guy that the Nazis want to win? If the answer is no, then I can come home to some Yuenglings and benzos and sleep the sleep of the just. If it’s yes, I’d question my……well…..entire belief system…..

You can’t reason with Nazis. That’s pretty much a historical fact. You might have a chance of getting through to a Trump supporter…although the one today who defended Trump’s reluctance to condemn Nazis on Hillary’s emails might be a hard sell. But as long as he’s not sieg heiling for the cameras, dressed like a 90s era Blockbuster video clerk, carrying a tiki torch (did anybody else find this bit hilarious?), firing off spittle in all directions….you’ve got a fighting chance. Always believe in the better angels of our nature. (Except when it comes to fucking Nazis)

My daughter came to me the other day and said…in a voice of utter incomprehension, “But Dad, they’re fucking Nazis…”

Generally I frown on that type of language, but I was strangely serene about it. Still am.

And last night she was front and center at the Scranton peace rally in solidarity with Charlottesville. Wearing her “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt. Like that old Robert Conrad battery commercial….daring somebody to knock it off. Because she’s a good kid. A kind and gentle soul with the heart of a lion who hates fucking Nazis. She’s what our nation needs more of, apparently. To use a Trump term….I find this….well…SAD!

But then again….for every pro-fascist troll lurking on Facebook comment pages today, blaming black people or Benghazi for a Nazi running over and killing an innocent woman in his car, there are 100….maybe 1000 people utterly gobsmacked that somebody is actually taking the time to cover up for fucking Nazis. There is hope. If I wasn’t the father of my daughters I might not think so, but I am and I know there is. Because if they are our future, the future is dim for fucking Nazis.

Where does the hate come from? That’s the question that remains unanswered. Why are white guys who ooze privilege outing themselves as racist buffoons? For what purpose? If these guys were waving signs advertising a sale at the local Gap store they might have done a roaring business. But we’re being led to believe these are our nation’s disenfranchised? Our tired and poor? Our homegrown huddled masses? It would be really funny if one could work up a sense of humor about Nazis.

Not sure where this leaves us. Diminished no doubt. Our President has the overwhelming support of the Nazi Party…….something even a heartless racist bastard like Nixon would abhor, he being a Navy vet with 2 battle stars. Heel spurs be damned man….Nixon was mean as catshit, but he at least had some balls. Trump is a pussy.

I realize calling the President of the United States a “pussy” might seem a bit disrespectful. But it was just this type of built-in ass-tightening in the face of authority that allowed the cocksucker to slither into the Oval office in the first place. I’m not having it anymore Bubba.

Fuck fascists. Fuck Nazis. And fuck you Mr. President.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

As George Bush, no longer the dumbest President ever, once said…”bring it on”…

July 25, 2017 Leave a comment

We have become a nation of moral cowards. Seemingly every time our President opens his mouth (or twiddles his thumbs) he says something offensively, outrageously fucking stupid.

The other day he confused life insurance with health insurance. The President of the United States literally does not know what fucking health insurance even IS.

And yet? Nothing. How much longer will we accept being humiliated in front of the rest of the world?

History is a bitch of a judge. Choose carefully boys and girls. Once you’re on the wrong side of this one, there ain’t no coming back.

ps

“But her emails…..”

…….so went my latest facebook post……some spleen-venting into the ether of the dumbosphere. Since like most I tend to congregate amongst my own kind, there were no dissenters, although I suspect some verbally challenged right wing vulgarian with a Hillary hard-on is searching for the usual “Obama is a Muslim and hates America” response…..hopefully with the words all spelled correctly and the proper usages of “their” “there” “they’re” “your” “you’re” “too” “to” et al…..

I ask for so little.

As George Bush, no longer the dumbest President ever, once said…”bring it on”. I do not argue. I delete.

My life is a tad shallow these days….so I take my fun any way I can get it. Remember, no matter where you are, there’s always somebody dumber than you in the room. It’s a near mathematical certainty.

26scouts-master768Trump is fresh off his best Nuremberg rally impersonation, spewing 4th grade-level bile to thousands of perplexed boy scouts yesterday, demanding their “loyalty” like some coke-fueled African dictator surrounded by his personal militia. As low as he’s managed to set the bar, he still, somehow, almost daily, slithers under it. Recall that his Trump-Youth speech was preceded by an on the record conversation with a reporter in which he clearly and unapologetically admitted to the world that he doesn’t know the difference between health insurance and life insurance. Not a big surprise for a man who thinks that Frederick Douglass is still alive mind you, but still a bit of a stretch for someone who somehow talked 63 million people into voting for him. The fact that a decent percentage of that 63 million had better hope they never get fucking sick again until the day they die probably won’t sway them in the slightest because…..well…Benghazi.

But I digress, as I often do when I’m writing and feeling thoroughly convinced that we’re totally doomed. I see nothing redeemable on the horizon. Even if our nation collectively comes to its senses and forces Jeff Sessions to frog-march Trump out of DC wearing a jump suit the same color as his face/hair……we still gotta explain this one to the next generation. It’s like that tattoo you got after drinking that 12 pack of PBRs. You can wear long sleeve shirts all you want…but that chick’s name is still there. And it’s different than your wife’s.

Surely this nonsense won’t continue for 4 years though, right? Well, it could I suppose. When Stalin had a stroke and was pissing himself on the floor, his minions were afraid to call a doctor for fear that maybe, you know, he’d get mad at them if he somehow didn’t die. That sorta explains Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and Pat Toomey fairly well I suspect, a pack of soulless cowards without a single ball between them. And the less said about that sorry old fool John McCain crawling away from his government sponsored brain surgery so he could start the ball rolling on fucking 20 million people out of even a fraction of that level of care, the better. I was taught to respect my elders.

At this point I honestly think Trump could sodomize a Shih Tzu live on Fox and Friends and gain support…..because Alex Jones would just tell everyone that Obama fucked a Golden Retriever at Bohemian Grove while dressed as a goat. Plus, Hillary harbors pedophiles in the basement of pizza parlors…so….you know….there is that.

After all, nearly 10 pct of US adults think that chocolate milk comes from brown cows….and when you finally wrap your head around that one, you’ll see that all sorts of things are possible.

So there ’tis…

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

What we do…

June 11, 2017 Leave a comment

A hot Sunday. A day to do nothing. To remind ourselves how hard we work and how we deserve a day to sit on our ass and drink beer in the sun and watch the grass grow.  A day that “exercise” is defined as taking the garbage out.

But somebody needed help. There was a benefit set up by a friend. He asked for help. A friend had fallen on hard times. So….that was that. No hemming or hawing. Because that’s what friends do. Especially musician friends. What time do you need me? Ok, I’ll be there.

19055233_10212628971536688_4509321112557294172_oThat doesn’t make us special. It makes us human. Which is why I’m proud as fuck to be from here. Humanity abounds. There may not be any fucking jobs….but there’s humanity in spades.

The sound system was set up. Guitar cases piled up. Drums at center stage. And the music started and never stopped. A full shift. Six hours at least. There was a schedule…I think. But that gets obliterated quickly. If you’re there, you’re on call. Wanna play this one? Grab this guitar. Key of G. You’re tuned down a half step? Fuck. Gimme a capo dude…I got this. Prima Donnas….down a half step. Damn…how am I supposed to blow harp if you’re tuned down a half step?! Never mind…I got it…..I think…..

You play your instrument. Or somebody else’s. It doesn’t matter. It’s a community. If you can’t hit that harmony vocal, you just ask somebody else to do it. So he puts his beer down, finds an open mic, and nails it. Or maybe he nails it and doesn’t put his beer down. More likely actually. Or maybe he doesn’t nail it, but he tries like hell. That’s what live music is all about. Like a NASCAR race. Sometimes we crash too. We rubberneck as much as the guy on the freeway driving past the wreckage….but we got short memories, man. Because that chorus is coming back around in 20 seconds, and I got another chance. It’s called community, motherfucker.

People dance and drink and knock your microphone stands over and request songs while you’re playing songs….always a challenge but if they are dancing and knocking shit over and screaming requests it means they aren’t bored as fuck so you do what Steve Winwood suggested and you roll with it. There’s free beer at the foot of the stage too. Granted, it’s a keg of Keystone Light but…who the fuck do you think you are…..the Beatles? It’s free….and nobody thought to bring along a copy of their backstage rider saying they stopped drinking Keystone Light when they were 18 and finally got a job….and refuse to drink anything less prestigious than Budweiser or Coors Light…although we’d love to swill Guinness or Sam Adams but can’t afford this $4 pint nonsense….which is why we’re demolishing the keg of Keystone Light like dehydrated pirates…..and promise to never do so again….until the next time. Admirable self-denial, eh?

I digress. I frequently do. But you get it. I know you do.

So the night is old. We’re home. But with no regrets. A nightcap on the porch. With the crickets for company. We’ll sleep good. And once again we’re all glad we could do what amounts to little….but can sometimes mean so much. And tomorrow the cycle starts anew.

What I see is that, whatever it is that divides us, we’re still willing to come together and help those who need helping. Differences seem to disappear at times like this. Oh, they’ll probably come roaring back in the morning…….but that’s fine…..because that won’t undo what we’ve already come together for.

Wouldn’t it be great if things could be like this all the time? If, for the time that the guitars and drums are pounding, and the bar is moving rhythmically, like people on an escalator in an earthquake…we could lock in and fulfill the promises that we all want to make to each other but don’t for fear of being…..well…..

You get it. I know you do.

Let the music wash over you….like a waterfall. Join that drunken conga line when it rolls past your table. Drink the free beer. And when that call comes….just ask what time you should be there.

In a bit…

–tf

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The Shillelaghs return…

May 26, 2017 Leave a comment

June 2 at the V-Spot in Scranton…
shillelaghs

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Chris Cornell

May 18, 2017 1 comment

Who knows where the time goes? I woke up this morning to my beeping Iphone. A text from my nephew. Chris Cornell was dead, it said.

It didn’t register. It was 7am. Not much cuts through the haze at that hour for me.

130925191836-chris-cornell-red-chair-orig-00004611-story-topBut the fog lifted. It does every morning. And it was all too real. He was gone. Played a show, returned to his hotel room, and hung himself. The crowd and the amplifiers were still ringing in his head. But it wasn’t enough. We’ll never know why. Only those who deal with what both Winston Churchill and Nick Drake called “the black dog” can come close to comprehending what filled Cornell’s head last night. And even they will end up chasing shadows. You may be able to walk in a man’s shoes, but you can’t get inside his head.

We’ll learn more in the days ahead. A note maybe. Perhaps drugs….booze….the usual suspects. But still, it won’t change anything. Yet another gifted soul who changed lives for the better has decided that his own wasn’t worth the effort. And for that we’re all diminished.

By all accounts a monster talent, A rock vocalist with a 4 octave range…Soundgarden didn’t really sound like anything else coming out of Seattle because Cornell could do things with his voice that others could not. Call it whatever you want. Grunge. Metallic Punk. Loud Mountain Music. He could wail like Plant and snarl like Rotten, with a touch of the poet thrown in for good measure. Quite a combination when you stop and think about it. I once heard him sing Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love” with just an acoustic guitar and if the world ended when the song did, well, there’d be worse ways to go.

We’re about the same age. You forget that sometimes. In my late 20s……things started to change. Cornell. Cobain. Cantrell. Wood. Gossard and Vedder. It’s so easy to be cynical about what it became….$100 flannel shirts and copycats and and the like. But these were blue collar kids filled with angst and rage, surrounded by poverty and drugs and overdoses….drop-outs from broken homes. They had no patience for anything between a whisper and a scream. They closed ranks, supported each other, and kick-started rock and roll at a time when it was down for yet another standing 8 count. Most of them flew too close to the sun….and today we’re left to ponder the remains. But at least we can do so with a helluva soundtrack for company.

I listened. I was always listening. I had my guitar. My pen. It registered. I felt safer. More secure….writing the things I was writing. Playing the songs I was playing. Loud. Soft. Whispers. Screams. I learned. I’m still learning.

So what did I do today? I reached out to friends. The ones who are my age. I wanted to hear that they were ok. I wanted to remind them to hug their kids. To not wait. Do what you need to do, now. There is no promise of a tomorrow. When beautiful souls like Chris Cornell start hanging themselves from hotel bathroom doors, synapses start firing.

It’s late now. The house is dark and quiet. My kids are home….safe. Asleep. My wife lays beside me as I type these words. We’re vaccinated from it all…at least for one more night. But for the first time today, I feel like crying. Maybe that means something. I don’t know.

What may have changed his mind? What may have pushed him along to the next show? A kind word? A human touch? A new song? An “I love you Daddy” text from his daughter? So often we seek to anesthetize artificially……as if we don’t trust the natural methods. But then again…..it’s all about timing, isn’t it? We’re stubborn. We’re selfish. We want what we want and we want it now. Did he plan this? Was it some terrifying, spur of the moment impulse? A cry for help gone wrong? Did he realize his own gifts? His own power? His unique ability to get inside people’s heads and stay there? Or did the business of it all just leave the scar tissue…..the cynicism….

The world was a better place with Chris Cornell in it. But it ain’t gonna stop turning ’cause he’s gone. So that part’s on us.

So sing your song. And remember his.

In a bit..

–tf

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