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A contact sport

April 30, 2014 1 comment

My daughter is a gymnast. She started young but gave it up for a few years. Then 2 years ago she got back into it with a vengeance…determined to make up for lots of lost time. From not being able to do a cartwheel to nailing double back hand springs. It’s been an amazing transformation.

She’s not a natural by any means. She’s gotten where she is by sheer will…..out-working just about everybody else. Her drive is inspiring. She’ll do something over and over and over and over until she gets it right. Then she’ll do it over and over and over again until getting it wrong is no longer an option. And then she’ll actually go to the gym. Her main work is done in our basement and in our backyard. We spent the weekend in Allentown so the hotel hallway became a place to practice her floor routine. I’ll walk into a room and frequently see her upside down, against the wall, trying to stay vertical. Her walking around the house has mostly turned to a series of ballet-like leaps. Anytime she encounters anything on the ground about 3 inches wide she treats it like a balance beam. Curbs. Cracks in the sidewalk. Ask her to stand still for a few seconds and invariably she limbers up but putting one leg above her head. She’s not even aware she does it anymore.

Of course gymnastics is a contact sport. In the space of 6 months she’s broken a toe and both ankles. The latest mishap happened last night. Landed wrong off the beam. Ankle rolled. She heard a pop. Others heard a pop too. By the time I got there she had what looked like a golf ball sticking out of the side of her foot. She was crying not from the pain (which I know was considerable), but because she knew this weekend’s scheduled competition would go on without her. She adores competing. Craves it. Wins some and loses some and always handles herself gracefully. But the rides home are more enjoyable when she wins. It’s validation for her that all the work she’s done has paid off. If she doesn’t win, she doesn’t think she worked hard enough. So she works harder.

And now she can’t work at all. She’s hobbling around on crutches mumbling to herself about the 4 weeks the doctor said she’d be out of commission….already planning her return much sooner. We’ll need to convince her the doctor knows best. It ain’t gonna be easy.

Nothing hurts more than your kid hurting. Today has been a lot of hurry up and waiting in various offices. Wheel Chairs and walking boots and filling out forms and digging for insurance cards and me trying to carry her to the bathroom. I used to be stronger. She used to be tiny. She’s 12 now and solid muscle. A few more fireman carries and she’s gonna have to fight her old man for those crutches. But still, I’ll carry her forever if I have to. If I can’t walk she can ride on my back.

The tears are still there. Not as constant, but I hear them. After getting X-ray’s today I took her to get ice cream. I’m not even sure she asked. It’s automatic. When a kid has to go through something like this, ice cream is automatically added to the menu. It helped some. It always does.

She’s napping now. Worn out. In my bed. I just went in and covered her with a blanket. Her iPhone was on her chest. She was watching gymnastic videos on YouTube. Now I’m the one crying.

It’s amazing how much you love them. I’m looking at the X-ray now. Doctor pointed out the break. It looks like a ghastly little smile on the film. Clean.

I wish it was my X-ray instead. Normal Daddy stuff this is. And really minor when you think about it. But when it’s your kid perspective is lost. It sure seems major to me as I watch her sleep with her cast propped up on 2 pillows. Still wearing her jacket….worn out and out cold.

The day is almost over now. It’s been a long one.  I’m thinking of all those parents who take care of children with way more serious issues than a broken ankle. And I wonder how they do it. It’s heroic is what it is. Tip your hat. Raise your glass. Whatever it is you do. But when a child hurts, you find stuff you never knew you had.

I hope I never have to be that strong. But I hope I am. For her sake.

In a bit…

-tf

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Categories: Uncategorized

Addiction is optional, and encouraged…

April 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Music is such a personal thing to me. Even listening to it feels personal. Music can’t always totally cure what ails me, but it always manages to make me feel better. In that respect it’s like a drug with no nasty side effects. Addiction is optional, and encouraged.

mouldThe weekend my Ipod wheel (throwback old school…that’s me) stopped on Bob Mould. His band stuff with Hüsker Dü (with a little research you too can get the dots up there) and Sugar, and his solo records. I’ve got them all. Some of the early Hüsker stuff is so frantic that I get lost…..without melody my ears get bored….but by Warehouse: Songs and Stories I was completely hooked. Just in time for the band to break up of course, but when Mould formed Sugar and released Copper Blue…..this to me was everything good about the music of the 1990s…without the media hype. Anybody who thinks Nirvana created what Nirvana sounds like never listened to “A Good Idea” (or the Pixies…for that matter). Mould was doing this “alternative” thing before anything thought to give it a name. His subsequent solo records have all been crammed into my head….and remain there. In June he’s got a new record coming. At my age I don’t look forward to much…perhaps a morning I can sleep past 8am without having to let the dog out…or watching a good movie on Google Chromecast without being interrupted by the phone….but new Bob Mould music makes this old man smile.

Tomorrow it might be something else. But for now, it’s Bob Mould.

Why certain music at certain times though? Always questions.

Why when my Dad passed away did I listen to nothing but Irish traditional music for 6 weeks? Why do I keep returning to records like Quadrophenia when I’m feeling confused and old…..or Fairport Convention’s Liege and Lief when I’m feeling run down, or something by the Clash when my ass needs kicking? Why does John Prine make me cry? Why do we still care about Big Star even though I hardly even feel the need to listen to Big Star? Why can I not listen to REM for a year and then listen to nothing but REM for 2 months? Why is Stay Positive my favorite Hold Steady record, and not anybody else’s favorite Hold Steady record? How is it that the Beatles….perhaps the greatest band of all time, never improved on “I Saw Her Standing There”, one of their first songs…..and still changed the world? Why did Chuck Berry write some of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time in a relatively short burst…..and then just stop writing rock and roll songs? Why does Bono wear shades indoors? And why can’t the Edge just admit that he’s bald and take off the fucking skull cap? Why aren’t Los Lobos and The Replacements and Warren Zevon in the rock and roll hall of fame? Why are Rush in the rock and roll hall of fame? Why do I despise jazz?

Why did my father, not exactly a lover of pop music (more of a Tommy Dorsey guy), absolutely adore Paul Simon’s Graceland.

I could go on and on I suppose. Sometimes I do go on and on but I won’t tonight. The hour is late….and I must wake in the morning to beg for my supper…..spending 8+ hours doing things that have nothing whatever to do with music, which depresses the living shit out of me. But still. Reality and all that. The house is asleep now. The TV is on, even though I can’t hear it for my cranked headphones. I think the show is The Voice, which is enough to destroy the will of any self-respecting self-taught music freak-turned musician. Can’t these people just bash away in garages like the rest of us….learning how to be good by sucking first? These people are all so technically good they sound fucking horrible to me. I’m thinking of a young Bob Dylan singing “Song to Woody” for Blake Shelton and actually giving a shit about his reaction…and it’s making me desire illegal pharmaceuticals. And if I go there, I’ll never get to sleep.

A final word if I may. There’s a new song (at least new to me) by some dude named Pharrell Williams called “Happy”. Apparently it’s been played to death on the radio and people are starting to hate it…but I’ve heard it about 3 times in total and think it’s fucking great…..a throwback to Motown or Curtis Mayfield….a genuine soul song that sounds old and new at the same time. It gives me hope. If starts my feet tapping. It makes me feel something.

Maybe even happy.

Ain’t that what it’s all about dammit?

In a bit…

–tf

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Cobain was the heimlich maneuver

April 23, 2014 1 comment

I’ve written about Kurt Cobain before. I had to get somewhere tonight and decided to walk. Maybe 5 miles. So I brought some music along. I wasn’t sight-seeing. I just needed to cover ground and required a soundtrack.

My iPod is ridiculously filled. Something like 40,000 songs. My life in 3 and 4 minute chunks. As in stepped outside a thin rain was falling. The temperature had dropped 20 degrees. The wind was howling. I put on a flannel shirt and an over stretched sweater that my dog likes to attack (when I’m wearing it). I covered this with my old ratty brown jacket that still has a concert ticket stub from the 1990s in the pocket. I protected my feet with a pair of green converse one stars. I looked like a mental patient from Aberdeen.

A friend sent me a note. “Don’t walk. I’ll pick you up.” I said, “no way, that’s cheating. This weather is glorious!”

kurt-cobain-600x450So yea, pretty simple choice to spin the IPod dial to Nirvana’s “Nevermind”. I probably hadn’t listened to the entire record in 5 years. I was still adjusting the volume when the Teen Spirit riff kicked in, nearly blowing my right ear towards the left side of my face. It made me dizzy. I didn’t dare turn it down. It was principle now.

“Nevermind” is around 40 minutes, minus the long dark spots at the end. When I reached my destination Cobain was lying on his back in that studio, whispering “Something In the Way”. The faders were all turned up as loud as they could go. On the track you can hear the air conditioner in the studio humming. It’s as bone chilling a performance as you’ll ever hear.

In between these tracks are as close to
a perfect pop record as you’ll ever hear. Punk raw, but with melodies that would make McCartney drool, the most perfect set of guitar hooks I’ve heard in one place since Keith Richards built “Let it Bleed” one riff at a time….yea…it’s all here and being orchestrated by this rail thin kid with the bluest eyes in the world. A kid with nothing to lose. And as it turned out, a kid who couldn’t handle winnings of any sort.

I’m not sure success fucked up Kurt Cobain. Pretty sure he was already fucked up to start with. Maybe it gave him a little push but I doubt the guy was gonna make 30 even if that’s the number of copies “Nevermind” sold. I hear an early song like “Sliver” and think…..well boys….we got a live one here. This kid’s complexes have complexes. Enjoy it while you can.

We can blame the drugs I suppose. Being a heroin junkie is bad for all kinds of business. Cobain was never gonna be strong enough to leave it. If he hadn’t shot himself with a gun, a hot dose would have done him in a week later? A month later? Better to burn out than to fade away and all that gibberish. We agree that his talent prevented the fading away. But it seems irrelevant how you burn out when your choices are shooting your own head off or lighting your insides on fire.

I cried when Cobain died. I mean I really blubbered. My girlfriend at the time (now wife) thought I was batshit. “What’s wrong with you?” she said. “You’re acting like you knew the guy”.

That’s exactly how I was acting. And that’s exactly how I felt. This creepy little blond kid had gotten inside my head like nobody since Peter Townshend. The little fucker had betrayed me. Left me with…..what? After you hear “Teen Spirit” nothing sounds the same anymore.

I survived though. We music fans are resilient bastards. Cobain didn’t invent rock and roll. He didn’t perfect it either. What he did is ram it down an entire generations throat.

For that he is owed thanks. If ever a generation needed a Kurt Cobain, it was ours. We were all sitting fat and drunk and choking on the bones of bad FM radio. Cobain was the heimlich maneuver. He saved ALL of us. Maybe that’s why I was crying.

Anyway…..I got to where I needed to go. But now the walk home. Long. Rainy. Windy. Cold. Dark. All uphill.

Easy. I found “In Utero”.

I made it home.

In a bit…

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Walking shoes…

April 22, 2014 2 comments

Weather has been glorious. Not to last I’m sure…but still.

walkingWhen spring rolls around I like to stretch my legs a bit. So I walk. A few miles at a time. Up and down unfamiliar side streets. I live in an area that isn’t very compact….but is still considered small. Working class stiffs. Some more working class than others….but what place ain’t like that around here?

It’s the hour before dusk usually. Lots of hidden dogs behind doors and windows…..announcing my presence to the rest of the street. A burglar around here is rare. I’m not even turning the corner and everybody knows a stranger is around. Folks are nice enough though. They wave and make sure I keep moving. I don’t feel unwelcome, but I ain’t gonna stop and check out the architecture either.

Lot of flags back here. Lots of right wing bumper stickers. I count three “don’t tread on me” stickers on the same road. These are the streets that give the census bureau fits.

Thankfully the dogs that are outside are tied. They always come running….and then get snapped back by their own momentum. I flinch…and then feel bad….and then feel grateful. Rich people always seem to have those dogs that can’t be bothered to bark at you. Like it’s beneath them. Out here dogs seem perpetually hungry. And lean. And perfectly capable of mayhem. But under control. It’s all good.

Lots of kids out and about. Making lots of noise. Cooped up the whole winter….forced to harness all that energy. Now it can come out. The yards are green again. There’s a dad playing catch with his daughter. He looks like he’s having more fun than she is. Hey…us grown kids have been inside all winter too you know.

I used to take music on my walks. But now I leave it. I want to listen as much as I want to see and feel. Those dogs. Those kids. What’s the point if I can’t hear them? Feels like cheating….like curling up to a video of burning logs in a fireplace on a cold dark night….or listening the the crashing ocean waves via a sound machine on the night stand.

I try to imagine things. Who lives in there? What’s their story? How did they get here? What makes them stay? When they decide to walk, where do they go? I can see the toys of children in the yard. How old are the kids? Are the toys current? Or have they been outgrown?

I remember flying home one time…and looking down on the valley. It was nighttime. All the homes….in bunches. Lights. It was perhaps 9pm. Everybody getting ready to tuck in. Each light a potential novel. All the secrets. The loves and the loves that were lost. The struggles and the triumphs. The quiet crimes and the quieter heroism. No one person could ever get to the bottom of even one small cluster of one small town. There’s too much there. I could walk for 40 more years and never grasp all I see.

And that’s a humbling feeling.

That’s life really.

You’re bored? How is that possible? With so much out there to discover? Literally within walking distance.

And it makes me want to lace ’em up tomorrow (assuming we don’t get an April blizzard….anything is possible this year) and make my way down different side streets. I’ve got multitudes to choose from.

In a bit..

–tf

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The cult of Salinger..

April 20, 2014 1 comment

I am impressed by a lot but it takes a lot to impress me. What everybody tells me I should think is great I try like hell not to think is great.

Like Jim Morrison. What the hell ? I’ve read more coherent poetry on a Wheaties box. Robby Krieger was The Doors best songwriter. By far. As Casey Stengel said….”you can look it up.”

J. D. Salinger.

So yea…..what’s this all about. One book. Catcher in the Rye.

Catcher-in-the-rye-red-coverLike most people I read the book because I had to. Or at least I think I did. I can’t really remember if my various catholic schools banned it because of the word “fuck” and other assorted things that old uptight white people, who went to war against the nazis, ban books for. So maybe I actually read it because I wanted to. I do remember that my Dad had a copy of it downstairs on his bookshelf. That iconic red cover with the yellow lettering. It was hard to miss. My Dad was old fashioned to the core but…..remained one cool cat through it all. He was a writer and a damn good one. Good writers don’t don’t burn books….even if they think reading them might send them to hell.

I read Cather in the Rye and was stunned. People write like this? I’m a person who thinks Shakespeare is a meandering wanker. Can’t understand of word of his gibberish. Could not then and can’t now. But Holden Caufield? Damn….this is how I talk. Well….in my head anyway. Book was published in the early 1950s. And this is still how I talk. In my head anyway. That’s 60 years. Either I’m backwards or this Salinger guy knew his shit.

Maybe both…but still.

Book created a shit storm apparently. I wasn’t alive so I’m taking this all on faith. Salinger couldn’t deal with all the adulation and what it took to be famous and moved to some weirdo place on top of some mountain in New Hampshire. This apparently drove all his fans batshit….and sent them flocking to his dirt road trying to find out what he was up to and why he wasn’t being a normal famous person and doing all the talk shows and releasing Cather in the Rye Part II. And why he wasn’t allowing Hollywood to turn his novel into a movie starring Jerry Lewis….as if Jerry Lewis being in charge of Holden Caufield wasn’t enough to send a guy off to the New Hampshire woods…..leaving his compound only to pick up his mail.

Turns out Salinger….who saw shit in World War II that might fuck up the head of Buddhist monk….wasn’t exactly a moral paradigm. The old coot might in our time be called a pedophile…such was his predilections for young girls. Especially those who thought he was a literary genius. He had a habit of writing fawning letters to young girls who wrote fawning letters to him first…and inviting them to share in his solitude….as long as they agreed to share his bed too. A bit of a creepy dude really….but such things are generally overlooked when said creepy dude has written the great American novel.

No matter….the problem with 14 year old girls is that they get older….and Salinger disliked aging. So he’d give ’em cab fare and send ’em home before they were old enough to drink. From these girls we know that the guy never stopped writing…..literally locking himself into a shack on his property for week at a time…..banging away at his typewriter. Salinger apparently wrote books and short stories aplenty….but considered publishing pandering to the pain-in-the-ass masses. So he’d stick his manuscripts in a fireproof safe…..and that was that.

I really don’t give a shit what the guy wrote in the woods. He’s dead now. If something comes out…wonderful. If not…oh well. My wish list on Amazon is already so long I’d have to live to be 167 to satisfy it. The cult of Salinger is annoying not because he wrote Catcher in the Rye….but because people expected him to write it again.

I can’t imagine anything more potentially horrible than reading about Holden Caufield in his 20s. Or 30s. How phony would that be?

I suppose I should mention that Salinger gained tremendous street cred in my years from the death of John Lennon and the near death of Ronald Reagan. Both Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley had huge Holden Caufield hard-ons….to the point where they were carrying a gun in one pocket and the Salinger book in the other….essentially blaming their own wretchedness on the alienation of a fictional character named Holden Caufield. Catcher in the Rye still sells around 250,000 copies a year….so there’s no telling how many other fucked up flaccid white guys are out there in the shadows….sticking Holden needles in their arms. Time will tell I suppose.

No wonder the guy locked himself in a room for half a century. Who’d want to be responsible for such mental gruel? Blame Yoko for breaking up the Beatles sure. But now because of this haunted, gaunt hermit they’ll never play on any more roofs.

So yea….I read that book. And I was captivated by it. Astonished really. I re-read it every few years. Nothing changes. It does not age.

I read the same copy my father read.

I don’t give a fiddler’s fart if those pages Salinger churned out ever see the light of day.

He owes me nothing. He’s done way more than most.

In a bit…

–tf

 

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….I think he might have been our only decent teacher…

April 17, 2014 Leave a comment

So yea. It’s one of them dark times. Sleep should have come but didn’t. Beer is running out. Work in a few hours. What now?

The Replacements on my Ipod. “Let it Be” and “Tim” and “Pleased to Meet Me”. On a loop for the last few hours. “Gary’s Got a Boner” standing side by side with “Skyway”. Enough to drive a good man to drink. Or a not so good man for that matter. This is the 80s we are talking about. Drinks were routine, with or without being pumped up by “Gary’s Got a Boner”. I need a benzo and some ambien. That generally does me good.

paulwest55544I was in college. I had a walkman. One of the first. I came in as a freshman blasting REM’s Murmur cassette, pretending I knew the words to “Radio Fee Europe” and “Sitting Still”. A guy from Old Forge pulled me aside and said 2 things. The first was that he could hear every note and word going into my ears, from about 20 yards away. He wondered if I was deaf. I told him I wasn’t sure but selective hearing was my strong suit. He then said “I know REM, I love them” and I felt crushed because I felt like they were my discovery and nobody else knew them. But Vince pretended he could decipher Stipe’s lyrics too….so we decided to join forces. We’d sit down…rewind over and over again….get something like “up to bar and Katie bars the door” or some shit like that and then felt like jackasses caring what this this weird guy with eyeliner was mumbling to the rest of us unwashed. Hasn’t he ever heard of a lyric sheet? But really….who cared? It sounded damn good unintelligible or not. Me and Vince soon had lots of company. REM broke big and nobody gave us any credit for being the top boys. We sulked a little and skipped a lot of classes to recover. Vince was an Italian from Old Forge. A prince of a guy. I wish I knew where he was today. The man had his priorities straight and probably ended up as demented as me. The poor bugger.

thereplacementstommyairREM broke big. The Replacements never sobered up enough. REM loved the Replacements, and the Replacements loved REM. Both bands had the same goal. Do this music thing in a different way. Kids are in college? Ok, that’s where we’ll go, even though the REplacements consisted of 4 high school drop-outs. Delicious irony. Years later Craig Finn suggested we “Raise a glass to Joe Strummer…..he might heave been our only decent teacher”….and that sorta made sense, since you’d find Westerberg and Stipe and their respective bands listening to the Clash on the bus, while not having the remedial math skills necessary to keep from getting blatantly fucked over in contract talks by their record companies. And while all this was going on Bon Jovi was selling a gazillion copies of “Slippery When Wet”….a record with naked chicks on the cover who looked just like the naked guys in the band. Westerberg and his boyos had one more chance, on SAturday Night Live, but they proceeded to get so drunk on live television that NBC banned then the same way the Holiday Inn banned to Who when Keith Moon was alive. It seemed harmless enough but guys who wore suits for a living were pissed. Who were these Minneapolis neanderthals? Well….just kids really. Kids who didn’t trust you or anybody else. And kids who when told to go right, went left just because the last time they did what they were told you stole money out of their pockets. Kids who liked free booze but disliked just about anything else unless it came in the form of an unmarked envelope with no return address.

Just honest rebellion. You want to treat REM and the Replacements as circus performers? Two of the greatest American rock and roll bands on the planet? Good luck. I hope you don’t get hit in the face with piece of food while the camera is running. Westerberg and company sounded fine to me. They were banned forever afterwards according to rock and roll lore….even though the seemed relatively tame during their two songs. Not stone sober mind you, but upright and speaking english…and clearly making their own noises….not like Ashlee Simpson lip syncing and hurrying on to McDonalds to beat up on the minimum wagers. The Mats certainly sounded way better than…say…..Steely Dan or Paul Simon warbling through ‘Slip Sliding Away’. Not sure what all the fuss was about…..maybe the fact that the Mats were wearing each other’s clothing at the time and looked to be explaining to the rest of us, in 3 minutes or so, why selling your soul may not in fact be a good idea. It was like a masters class in “go fuck yourself 101”, and only Elvis Costello could match in in SNL lore when he broke free from his set list and played just what they didn’t want him to play. If only Johnny Rotten had showed up with his “I hate” Pink Floyd t-shirt right then we may have moved cultural mountains.

But no. It’s over. Bob Stinson went to war with his liver and lost. As in dead. Rock star dead. His brother Tommy went to war with Axl Rose as part of his touring band and was finally able to make some real money. Westerberg stayed in his basement and recorded a series of quirky solo albums, minor masterpieces some, that nobody ever paid any attention to. Every few years he shows up and threatens a Replacements reunion, but it just sorta fades away. This year the band got together for a special show at Coachella, and about 200 people showed up….roughly the same amount of folks that come to see me when my first band played a bar gig. Westerberg seemed pissed off. I felt nothing. The young 20 something half dressed in designer denim seemed more interested in being seen than in seeing, and when the bank broke into “Alex Chilton” there couldn’t have been 5 people there who knew what the fuck Westerberg was singing about.

I’m in love. With that song. And I always will be. And I don’t have the balls to ask Westerberg or Stinson for anything. Surely I owe them a helluva lot more than they owe me. That old walkman copy of “Let and Be” and “Tim” and “Pleased to Meet Me” made college bearable. As did feeling that I was in on a big secret. Just wait. The explosion is coming. Just like REM. Remember when I predicted that one? Shit yea…..I remember.

But no. But I’m glad. I don’t have them to myself again, not by a long shot. That’s selfish.

The Replacements could be the American Clash. But that’s not my call. That’s yours. In the cars and bars and bedrooms of your formative years. Who was your finest teacher?

Do you think Cobain and Vedder came from another planet? No….they had their ears towards Minneapolis. To Westerberg and Husker Du, who invented whatever the fuck “grunge” became, but lacked the blue eyes or the flowing locks to bring it to the mainstream.

Make no mistake. Westerberg is a giant….the way Cobain and Vedder are giants. Westerberg and his band were passed over the rock and roll hall of fame induction this year. Kiss got in. So did Cat Stevens. Cat Fucking Stevens. Peace Train my ass. How about taking on some of your mullah and telling them they’re bat shit? No? Then take your peace train and ram it up your ass. If Woody Gutrie was alive he’s take his guitar that kills fascists and put a knot in your head with it.

Alex Chilton ain’t in the hall of fame either. Neither in John Prine. Or Los Lobos. Who does the voting here?

One foot in the grave / the other one in the gutter…

In a bit…

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

“if you’re a guitar player, equivocation is deadly…”

April 12, 2014 1 comment

Spring has sprung. For a day at least. Near 70 degrees on this Saturday. Finally the birds are louder than the snow plows.

I’ve been crazy busy….but not doing the stuff I like to be crazy busy doing. Bill paying is a real nuisance sometimes…..and unfortunately it can rarely be done in 40 hours. I’ve been living a coal-miner’s existence. Work….sleep….work….sleep. A ghastly cycle. Books await my attention. My guitar awaits my attention. My notebook awaits my attention. Family members await my attention. And there I am…..snoring on the couch, still wearing my coat and shoes.

And as I’ve been told over and over again….I’ve got it good.

Thus, America, circa 2014.

I am one of the lucky ones. It’s so odd.

I woke up this morning with a song I wrote over 20 years ago in my head. I remember the chorus and the bridge perfectly, but the verses are nowhere to be found. It was sort of a Motown-ey thing……an “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” rip….called “Only You Can Keep Me from Crying”. No idea why I thought of it, but here it is still. Stuck. Somebody is trying to tell me something perhaps. Time will tell. I can’t remember many of my songs from 20 years ago because most of them were terrible. This was one of my favorites and it’s not terrible. I think it’s quite charming. I should dust it off…when I have time.

HoldSteadyAmerica’s greatest rock and roll band is “The Hold Steady”. That’s my take on it anyway. And I got a chance to see them last week (with my daughter no less!) at a radio station promo show. I was front row, with my feet on Craig Finn’s vocal monitor. One of those nights you don’t forget. Boys and Girls in America.

It’s a strange thing meeting your idols. Craig Finn was some geek getting beaten up by football players at a Minneapolis High School 20 years ago…locked in his bedroom banging away at a cheap acoustic while worshipping at the shirnes of Paul Westerberg and Bruce Springteen (both of whom he eventually met). All I could think to say to him was….”Craig…how does it feel when guys meet you….and you know they’re feeling the same way you felt when you met Westerberg?” He just smiled and said….”it feels weird man..”

An unpretentious dude….albeit not as chatty as usual since he was giving up beer for lent. And now he’s one of the greatest songwriters of our generation….fronting an absolutely killer band. And by all accounts having the time of his life. I came home after the show…..and it felt strange….knowing that my rock and roll-less desk job awaited in a few hours…..while Craig and his friends were back on the bus, off to the next gig. It wasn’t envy. It just reminded me of forks in the road….and the turns I didn’t take…..and how many fucking variables there are in life.

And how if you’re a guitar player, equivocation is deadly. All in or all out boys and girls in America. Nobody who works part time is allowed on that bus.

So yea….this is what has been on my mind lately. Bits and pieces as my Pop used to say.

Only you can keep me from crying / Only you can keep our love from dying
Only you can do the things you do / Only you girl….only you….

It ain’t poetry boys and girls. But it fucking swings. Trust me.

In a bit…

–tf

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