Archive

Author Archive

PA Grand Jury Report

August 15, 2018 Leave a comment

What’s being called the largest and most comprehensive report on the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church ever done in the United States was released yesterday by a Pennsylvania Grand Jury.

Over 300 priests were named as child predators. It would have been more but the report only deals with 6 of the state’s 8 dioceses. The abuse goes back 70 years.

I know 4 of the names.

One was my church’s pastor as a child (his crimes are redacted in the report, for which I almost feel gratitude). Another was principal of a school where I coached basketball for a year. The school my niece and nephew’s were in at the time.

Bishop Timlin is a friend of our family. He gave last rights to both my Mother and Father, and visited them daily in hospice. For days and even weeks. I’ll never forget his support to us during these times. He seemed graceful, elegant, statuesque, on a different spiritual plane than the rest of us. I can’t explain it, so I won’t try. It’s the power of the trappings of organized religion. I’d shunned Catholic dogma years before and become a proud atheist, but even I wasn’t immune. I told him how much it meant to me that he was there. And I meant it.

And now, this. To read that this man was no better than the near-caricatures I’d read about in Boston and elsewhere. A man who facilitated the sexual abuse of children by covering up crimes, paying off accusers, and shuffling sexual predators off to unsuspecting parishes, where they inevitably abused again. He showed a shocking disregard for victims, and a stunning empathy for the monsters he was attempting to control under a cloak of secrecy. It was either the personification of the banality of evil, or the comprehension level of a 2nd grader. What mattered most, always, was the reputation of the Church.

That reputation had largely been shattered in 2002 when the abuse scandal broke in Boston….tempered somewhat recently by a new, somewhat progressive (for a Pope…) Pope. But this report makes Boston look like a blip on the radar…..and Pope Francis has thus far remained silent on the findings. More and more it appears that Francis is sitting atop one of the largest child abuse rings in human history, which doesn’t bode well for next Sunday’s collection plate. Or his legacy. The scandal already sent Benedict off like a scalded dog…so there’s that.

What if a similar report is done in New York? In California? In Texas? What might we see there? It’s pretty clear that our state is not the exception. It’s the rule. When you peel the layers away from the organized church, what’s underneath is like a termite infested basement.

How exactly do you spin a priest forcing a small boy to act out the crucifixion in the nude while priests took pictures?

Or the priest who finally quit after years of abusing children. He asked for, and received, a letter of recommendation for his new job. At Disney World.

Whatever moral authority the Catholic Church had is long gone…and all that’s left is the rituals and fear-mongering and the tax-exempt status.

And once again it’s men who’ve done this. Mostly old conservative white men. Men with ghastly senses of entitlement driven into them like nails, and fearing all things female, modern, and non-traditional.

Some of these men I still trusted, and I can’t explain why.

I’m just glad my Mother and Father passed before this. It would have shattered them.

It shattered me.

Yet again, men put in positions of obscene authority are caught behaving obscenely. I wonder if there is a correlation?

Read the report. All of it. Then make up your own mind.

In a bit..

–tf

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized

“Tales From PA 6” available now!

June 22, 2018 Leave a comment

Physical CDs now available here..

CARDS

 

Download now from….

 

Amazon | ITunes | Google Play

download the album NOW. Name your Price. From our BandCamp store

 
 …
 01 – I Ain’t Gonna Grow Old In This Place Anymore (Flannery)
02 – Amantha Ray (Flannery)
03 – Rolling On (Flannery)
04 – Morning Eyes (Flannery)
05 – The Death of Joe Strummer (Flannery/Alexander)
06 – As Good a Choice as Anyone (Alexander)
07 – Stephen Foster’s Ghost (Flannery)
08 – Twilight In the Shadowlands (Flannery/Alexander)
09 – County Line (Flannery)
10 – Shelby Cobra (Flannery)
11 – A Greater Generation (Flannery/Alexander)

lyrics

copyright 2018 all rights reserved
recorded at Saturation Acres in Dupont, PA
produced by Bret Alexander

Tom Flannery – guitar, vocals
Bret Alexander – guitar, vocals, mandolin, piano, harmonica

“Their songwriting chops are touched by the gods on this 11 song set. I don’t think any other duo does it better right now”
 
— 88.5 WRKC radio
“‘Twilight In The Shadowlands’ is a haunting track….Alexander transfers this
listener from the streets of north Belfast Ireland to
the rugged and haunting mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania…..
With its embattled stories of love, life and death ‘Tales From PA 6’
matches the intensity and standard of what the two men
have done before. We can only hope that this isn’t the last collaboration
between these 2 American gems”

— Seán Ó Sirideán

Belfast Poet, author of ‘The Ramblings of a Bessbrook Boy”

“Tom Flannery and Bret Alexander do it again. Two different voices, but one soul. And that soul shines within these new songs as it did on their 2016 release ‘Dupont Back Porches’.

Their latest release Tales from Route 6 is sharp, focused, and poignant. It’s filled with tales of America. Tales of all of us caught in the middle trying to make the best of thing…keeping our chin up…moving forward. Their style is in the vein of Springsteen, LaMontagne, and Drake. It’s Americana, it’s gritty, and it’s real. Alexander breathes into his harp and it wails in a Nebraska style. Many of these songs could easily fit nicely between “Mansion on the Hill” and “Used Cars”.

..even in the most melancholy or heartbroken lyrics there’s a sense of hope…Flannery and Alexander are two truly gifted individuals. Not sure if there’s anyone better locally to tell our stories.”

–Keith Perks – 1120 Studios / AntiHero Magazine

“Tom Flannery’s songwriting has always been distinctive for its defiant exuberance in the face of loss. In his latest, Tales from PA 6, with Bret Alexander, he takes it step further, claiming the mantle as coal country’s answer to James McMurtry. From the stunning, nuanced opening lines of “I Ain’t Gonna Grow Old in This Place Anymore,” into the evocative picaresque, “Stephen Foster’s Ghost,” all the way through the rocker “Shelby Cobra”, Flannery and Alexander catch the soul of a region – and a country – making damned sure if it’s bound for hell, it’s gonna squeeze every drop out of life before it goes.”

Seamus McGraw – Author of ‘The End of Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone’, ‘Betting The Farm On A Drought: Stories From The Front Line Of Climate Change’, and ‘A Thirsty Land The Making of an American Water Crisis’

“…Universal and articulate; powerful ruminations on life, family, love and death.  An exception album of rock-driven acoustic story-telling…. the songs from Tales from PA 6  are thoughtful, mature and empathetic stories that have a familiarity that rings true no matter what road you are on.”

–Vinyl Voyage Radio

“Throughout its stirring 11 tracks, ‘Tales From PA 6’ takes you on an imaginative and highly descriptive creative journey. With each number, singer/songwriters Tom Flannery and Bret Alexander take you inside the lives of people that we’ve all seem to have known or encountered, and its done with a thoughtful sense of poignancy. It’s folk music at its best from two of the region’s finest songsmiths.”

—Alan K. Stout, music journalist and radio host, 105 The River

..

— NOTES —

My favorite line from Tales Of PA 6 is this: “Resistance is futile saith the Lord/Especially when you’re 50 and bored”.

You have to be 50(or close to it) to feel that line. If you are half a century old AND a musician you feel it quite a bit more. The ghost of that line keeps showing up time and time again throughout the record. In character after character and in every story.

Tom and I discussed this record for the first time at a bar. We didn’t talk much about marketing it or doing shows to support it. We just talked about Pennsylvania. Love it or hate it, Northeastern PA is a unique place. It’s the kind of place that deserves a song or two written about it.

I wanted to do a collection of tunes about the people and places along Rt 6. I have spent a lot of time on that highway, and I thought there were treasure troves of stories on the side of that road. Tom had half the lyrics written before I decided whether I really liked the idea or not. That’s the way it is with him. We are a good combination, no doubt.

When I was in middle school my favorite short story was “A Piece Of Steak” by Jack London. It was a tale about an old prize fighter trying to win a match against a young man. The one fought for his family and the rent, the other for glory. Experience lost, youth won.

Years later, my favorite movie was “Cinderella Man”. A similar story but with a happy ending.

I don’t know what it is about fighters that I love so much. And if they know they are fighting a losing battle, I’m totally smitten. Resistance is futile, indeed.

As Rocky famously put it “It’s not about hitting hard. It’s about getting hit.”

That’s what I get out of these tunes. Everybody is out there, still in the game. Maybe they win, maybe they are still waiting to win. Sure, things didn’t go according to plan. That was years ago. But, like The Winter Warlock, they still have a couple magic beans….. and goddammit it’s time to use them. Probably they are fighting a losing battle, they know that. But there they are anyway.

Any 50 year old can relate to that.

— Bret Alexander

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

So we were sitting in this bar….

It was last summer. Bret and I decided to meet over drinks and discuss working together again. So we found a joint halfway between his place and mine, and started in on the whiskey and lager.

Our first effort was a record called “Dupont Back Porches” which we released in 2016. We met and wrote and recorded it in a sort of creative blur, skipping the parts where you’re supposed to rehearse, and going right to the parts where you hit the “record” button and hope you remember the bridge that you just finished writing 30 second ago. Somehow we pulled it off, and became good friends in the process. Music does that.

When we get together to talk new music we usually spend a few hours talking about everything else first. Our kids (we both have 2 daughters, around the same ages), our shared love of Levon Helm, the books on our respective nightstands, the current state of our nation. There’s no fixed starting point, and no roadmap. It’s a whirlpool of laughing and head shaking and sometimes astonishment that we’ve managed to make it this far without committing a felony. We kept the bartender busy, needless to say.

But back to the music. We discussed writing and recording an entire record in a single day. Neither one of us thinks the idea is insane….which should tell you all you need to know about who you’re dealing with. Anyway, someday we’re gonna do that. But we were looking for something else on this night.

Bret had this idea of getting in his car and following route 6 and the river, writing songs about what he encountered along the way. He also started to get really technical and talked about building an app for your phone that would pinpoint your location on route 6 and cue up the appropriate track…..like having a tour guide in the passenger seat who played guitar. I loved the concept but my non-technical eyes glazed over at the thought of downloading something from the app store…..and right around this moment somebody came into the bar and played The Beatles “Revolution 9” from the White Album on the jukebox.

I cannot convey to you just how weird of a moment this was.

You know the tune, right? Eight minutes of some guy chanting “number 9 number 9” over noises that sound like a barnyard being strafed by fighter jets. It’s how you spend your time when Yoko takes over, and the drugs run out of ideas. Why in the world anybody would play this song on a public jukebox is best left to deeper thinkers than I.

Bret and I both kind of looked at each other. Initially I thought maybe a herd of cats were fighting in the street, but no, it really was Revolution 9 on the jukebox. The volume was, it should be noted, at a level akin to a Motorhead concert.

A guy teetering on the edge of sobriety walked over to the (digital) jukebox. He assumed there was a record inside and that it was skipping. He was beating on it like the Fonz in a frenzy…to no avail. “Number 9 Number 9 Number 9….” continued unabated. He couldn’t take it anymore. Things were getting surreal.

We suddenly had the bar very much to ourselves. Everybody in the place had disappeared like they were raptured. The faces on potential patrons walking in was one of horror. What is that screeching sound? What kind of place was this?

And then, it was finally over. I think the next song was some vintage Chuck Berry, so at least the culprit had a wicked sense of humor. The bar re-filled and everybody pretended that what just happened didn’t really happen. And me and Bret emptied our glasses and silently decided that we’d do a sort-of concept album about a mythic road trip filled with rogues and tramps and saints and sinners and gamblers and thieves, all searching for redemption and little slices of dignity, and all not worrying about the sins of Saturday night until Sunday morning rolls in. We’d write songs about guys who might play “Revolution 9” on a jukebox in an Old Forge bar, in other words.

And then I went home that night and wrote the lyrics to “Twilight In the Shadowlands” and soon after Bret had the tune and we were off and running. We encountered Stephen Foster and Sid Vicious and Joe Strummer in our travels, discovered a man paralyzed by blind faith, waiting for his Amantha Ray. Men and women were scattering in all directions, running both towards and away from each other, numbed by religion or pills or booze or one-night-stands. Or just plain old 9-5 alienation. Three and four minute movies is what I discovered we were making. And we were pooling our voices together….showing solidarity with each other and the folks we were writing and singing about.

And just when we felt bereft of happy endings, kids the age of our own daughters stood up and said “no more”. Those long moments of silence from Emma Gonzalez at the March for Our Lives in DC were the first cracks under the feet of the casually cruel white men who stopped caring about us and the people we write about a long time ago.

The times seem to be a-changin. A greater generation indeed…..and so that seemed a good place to stop until the next time.

In a bit…

–tf

Tales-Cover

Categories: Uncategorized

WWJD. (Who would Jesus detain?)

June 18, 2018 Leave a comment

Raise your hand if you thought we’d be here.

Over 2000 children separated from their parents at the US-Mexican border, and put into, depending on your level of outrage…

Old Wal-Mart stores..
Federal detention centers..
Camps..
Cages

trumpmuralMany of the 2000 are infants. One was forcibly taken away from her mother as she was breastfeeding. When the mother resisted, she was placed in handcuffs. Inside the camps is a mural featuring the grinning face of President Trump, next to which is a quote “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.” The quote is written in both English and Spanish, a nice nod to the inclusiveness of our nation. Trump first used it to describe a NYC real estate transaction, in which he fought for the right to evict people from their homes and tear their building down. The quote appears in his book “The Art of the Deal”.

Does anybody else think this is a colossally fucked up quote to hang on the wall of a holding pen for children?

Border Patrol Agents Detain Migrants Near US-Mexico BorderThe children do not know where their parents are. Parents are not allowed to communicate with their children while in custody. And the government has not set up a system to reunite children and parents when one is released. In some cases, parents have been deported without their children, and children have been deported without their parents.

(A Texas detention officer has been accused of assaulting the 4 year old daughter of an undocumented immigrant and threatening to deport the mother if she went to the authorities. How many more of these stories lurk out there? It’s what happens when you play God.)

This is what it has come to folks.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers responsible for these separations are using the “just following orders” defense, which you may recall has been used before. Didn’t end well. Just saying.

The policy has been called a “deterrent” by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, but “not cruel” because “children will be put into foster care or whatever”. So take that, snowflakes.

White House officials have said that “the president has calculated that he will gain political leverage in congressional negotiations by continuing to enforce a policy he claims to hate”, which certainly makes it sound like these children are being held hostage. Trump wants his wall, Bubba, and Mexico ain’t paying for it, in case you haven’t noticed.

The Attorney General of the United States has used Bible verse to defend the policy, despite cherry-picking a verse (Romans 13) that had been used previously to defend slavery. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, herself a mother of small children, also referred to scripture to defend the practice, which seems to obliterate the line between church and state that is supposed to, you know, be separate and stuff. WWJD. Who would Jesus detain?

When do we admit that Trump is not using the bible as a moral signpost, but in this case as some sort of demented justification for keeping his America as white as possible (sorta the same way slave owners used it)? Just because only some dogs can hear the whistle doesn’t mean it’s not hurting the ears of others.

What you are doing is saying God wants you to rip children from the arms of their parents. I mean….to even suggest this is monstrous….to believe it puts you in the category of a cretinous sociopath with the moral compass of a diseased badger.

A few of Trump’s Kool-Aid whisperers are having a hard time defending this one without getting drunk first, so they’re doing the next best thing and simply denying the situation even exists…

“There is no policy of separating families at the border”, says DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (as children are being separated from their parents at the border)

A Deputy Press Secretary called it “completely false” that children are being separated from their parents (as children are being separated from their parents at the border), then in the same sentence saying “this is all the Democrats’”….thus blaming democrats for something he just claimed wasn’t real in the first place…a neat verbal tick not possible until Trump became President and we entered Orwellian Memorial Stadium.

All of these goons are apparently using the Goebbels/Trump/Big Brother tactic that the bigger the lie, the more people will believe it….especially if these people watch Hannity or considered Winston Smith to be an unpatriotic whiner.

Or my personal favorite, calling the entire thing Fake News. Ann Coulter went on Fox and called the immigrant children “child actors” and warned Trump “don’t fall for it” (the same repertory theater where all those dead Newtown kids and David Hogg originated, perhaps?). Not sure if this was before or after Fox thought it prudent to argue that it was unfair to call the chain-link fences these children are locked behind “cages”, but in this case I didn’t think the timing was relevant. Just my liberal two cents.

Trump, on the other hand, frustratingly unable to blame children being held inside cages on Hillary’s emails, is repeating that the entire thing is the fault of the Democrats, conveniently forgetting, just this once, that he’s the fucking President and could stop the separations with a single word (or in his case, a hopefully not misspelled tweet). Even his own wife seems appalled, although she may be hesitant to speak up for fear of being deported herself.

This shouldn’t be that hard folks. It should be as easy as not calling Nazis “very fine people”.  

Are we really this far gone? Are we so entrenched in our own ideological bubbles that even admitting that ripping a child from the breast milk of his mother is wrong. That it is a sign of political capitulation? Of political weakness?

Honestly, how much lower can we go? I’m convinced this nation would never stand for 2000 dogs being separated from their owners at the border. There’d be a national uproar of biblical proportions, presumably the only kind of uproar that holy warriors like Sessions and Huckabee Sanders would pay attention to.

How much of an unempathetic douce-nozzle do you have to be to sanction this type of thing? There is nothing partisan about this. It’s basic fucking humanity. Out of the same book that says you should not kick puppies or rip the wings off flies or stick a lit firecracker into the mouth of your neighbor’s cat.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

It sounds so goddamned quaint now, doesn’t it?

In a bit…

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

The new normal….

May 11, 2018 Leave a comment

Gun sales flourish when people are scared. When fear is good for business, you can bet your ass you’re gonna get bludgeoned with it, Madison Ave style. Bad guys lurking anywhere, everywhere, ready to crash through your front door….at any time….to ruin your day and laugh at your sorry-ass godless Soros-loving liberalness. And just as these non-white personages are about to shoot you in the face and then ravage your wife, you’ll suddenly pray (like a foxhole atheist) to be saved by the card-carrying AR-15 toting red-hat wearing NRA member next door, white as a Wimbledon outfit, making America great again and then whistling dixie past your political yard sign promoting some anti-gun communist who supports those woefully misguided Florida kids who sat there dumb and unarmed and watched their friends get slaughtered like hogs.

It’s Cowboys and Indians. Black vs White. God vs the Devil. Liberty-lovers vs the socialist hordes who want to give away horrible things like health care and education, and keep things that aren’t rightfully theirs, like social security.

They know they’re full of shit. You know they know they’re full of shit. And deep down inside their Foxilized brains, they know you know they’re full of shit. And yet….

Here we are.

Follow the money, you dumb git.

If fear makes you rich, you can convince yourself of just about anything.

And if you’re convinced, your marketing department goes batshit.

So Donald Trump is Jesus, and Mike Pence is the ass he rides into Jerusalem on. Trump’s Sermon’s on the Mount are a bunch of 4th grade level Tweets that would embarrass the balls off any self-respecting English teacher. And an NRA that sees no hypocrisy regarding their convention, presumably filled to the brim with potential “good guys with guns”, not allowing any of these patriots to actually bring their guns into the building because the Secret Service decreed that one of them might accidentally shoot the President. No word on whether the Secret Service had to pry said guns from anybody’s cold-dead hands. I suspect they surrendered meekly. After all, the edict came from God…..albeit a deity who announced that he wasn’t afraid of the NRA and then proceeded to verbally fellate them until the room collectively nutted. We live in interesting times, Bubba. Being a God ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

(I’ll say this publicly, and the arguments against me in the comments section will specifically invoke Obama and Hillary, even though last I checked both of them are gainfully unemployed.

Obama because he’s….well, you know……

And Hillary because she got more votes than tiny fingers, and married the anti-Christ. And is, well…..you know….how shall we say?….sans a penis. Even a tiny one.

It ain’t much, but it’s worked so far so why not?)

170729114655-mccain-trump-split-0729-exlarge-169The President of the United States publicly decreed that any negative coverage of him is “fake”, not because it’s not true, but because it’s negative. And that inane tweet barely registered on the Richter scale that tracks his non-golfing hours because it was only about the 18th stupidest thing he’d said and done this week. Quite frankly, his dumbness and petty-meanness has overwhelmed news organizations around the world, and space limitations are forcing them to pick and choose, based on a silliness quotient, apparently.

It ain’t everyday the President nominates an admitted torturer to lead the CIA, after all. And when a noted Republican Senator who just happens to be the most famous torture survivor in the world publicly condemns the nomination, the White House joked that they didn’t give a shit because John McCain, suffering from brain cancer, would be dead soon anyway. But just in case he lived too long they sent an attack dog to Tass….er….Fox News to spread the long-ago debunked lie that McCain cracked under his torture and aided the enemy. Disgusting, vile, fucking reprehensible, and nobody really batted an eye. Because this is the new normal. There is no bottom. These people will dig themselves to China, that is as long as the President’s deferment-earning bone-spurs hold up.

Ho hum. The new normal. All this while the wife of the President of the United States manages not to spit through her nose as she publicly unveils her anti-cyber bullying initiative with language once again pilfered from the previous First Lady. If you blink too often you miss this stuff, truly. And I didn’t even mention Rudy Giuliani yet.

America’s Mayor, who believe it or not showed actual empathy and leadership skills in the wake of 9/11, has apparently been kidnapped by aliens and replaced by a cyborg made from spare parts found in Steve Bannon’s garage. America’s Mayor has turned on a dime into America’s worst lawyer, a man who somehow managed to defend his client by admitting his clients guilt on national television to a shocked and stuttering Sean Hannity, who suddenly looked like Max Von Sydow after collapsing dead on Linda Blair’s bed. It was spellbinding television, made even better when the next day Trump rolled over Rudy’s head with the Presidential bus…saying his lawyer would soon have his “facts straight”. Good advice for your lawyer, eh?

And if you’re keeping score (I’m not), scared white people have called the cops on black people over the last few weeks for..

  1. sitting in a Starbucks
  2. being a student and sleeping in a common room at Yale University
  3. being an airbnb guest leaving their rental with their suitcases

I could go on, but why bother?

God Bless America.

In a bit…

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Music frames everything

March 29, 2018 Leave a comment

Writing about music is tricky because, honestly,  you shouldn’t be reading about rock and roll, you should be listening to rock and roll.

Music criticism is largely irrelevant, because we like what we like and that’s pretty much that. We may not want to admit that we like something, for fear of being ostracized by the cool kids, but c’mon, you think Barry Gibb is badass too.

walkMusic frames everything. All our memorable moments are defined by these songs. Our loves and losses, new roads taken and old ones abandoned…..all are accompanied by a soundtrack…..a transistor radio glued to the ear, or a boom box perched on a shoulder….AM and FM. Eight-track and mixed-tape cassettes. The at-the-time-glorious Walkman (I got paint splatter on mine…dropped it 100 times, still works). Our sister’s vinyl, and somehow being snookered into re-buying the lot of it on strange little discs that cost too much and sorta sounded worse. And now, entire collections in the palm of your hand. Or on some far-away cloud somewhere….hiding behind the sun for fear of having to pay songwriter royalties. But…well…never mind that for now.

Hearing those strange voices for the first time. Dylan….Neil Young. They sounded like they were from another fucking galaxy. But you’d cradle that cheap guitar in your hands, bleed your fingertips until they became manly, and, eventually, you realized that while what they were doing was magic, it wasn’t technically hard. I mean, anybody could play these songs. Even a rube like me could knock out the “Cinnamon Girl” solo. The trick of course was writing them. I later learned that Young wrote “Cinnamon Girl” while suffering from a very high fever….which somehow made it all sound even more exotic. And sorta explained the solo too.

My parents. Bless their gentle hearts. I asked my Dad to pick me up a Beatles record at Ralph’s Record City downtown on his way home from work, and he came home with some record by the “Beetles”, not understanding my pre-teen rage at all. “What’s the difference?” he said.

My Mom giving me spending money for a basketball trip we took in 8th grade, some tournament outside Philly, and me blowing it all on the first night buying Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same” and Petty’s “Damn the Torpedoes” at a local mall. She knew but pretended she didn’t.

Towards the end of his life one of my Dad’s favorite records was Paul Simon’s “Graceland”. The old bugger eventually learned the difference!

I miss them both dearly.

And speaking of the Brother’s Gibb…..I would sneak into my oldest sister’s room and listen to “New York Mining Disaster 1941” from the “Here at Last….Bee Gees Live” album and feel really bad about it. Then I’d do it again. Forbidden fruit. Strange days.

And the British of course. Speaking of high fevers, I first fell in love with the Beatles while lying on my couch down with one, listening to the “Red” album. I was probably 10 years old. A penny was taped to the arm of the needle in an attempt to alleviate the skips that I got so used to I just assumed George Martin placed them there. I must have dragged that needle across “Paperback Writer” 1000 times, no earthly idea what it was about but in love with that loopy guitar riff. One of the great songs to sing along to alone in the car, because you know you try to nail all 3 harmonies at the same time. Don’t lie to me.

The Stones. Even in the 1970s you were convinced Keith Richards was either going to die very soon….or that he would live forever. They were gone, and then “Some Girls” showed up and Mick sang that line about black girls that pissed Jesse Jackson off and it sorta warmed your rock and roll heart a bit. Maybe you could grow old and nasty doing this. Back then 30 was old…..Jagger famously saying that he wouldn’t be caught dead singing “Satisfaction” onstage at that horribly advanced age. Keith taught me the 5 string (remove the low E, critical) open G tuning and suddenly I was band-worthy. Sorta like not knowing how to drive but having keys.

It was Pete Townshend who showed me that the best way to get around walls was to knock them down……and so I’d lay on the floor in the middle of a circle of beer bottles and listen to “Quadrophenia” and feel like Jimmy on the rock in the middle of the sea….the desperate seeker. And then “Empty Glass”, sort of a loud nervous breakdown, showing what happens to real artists who lay themselves bare in front of their audience, haunted by the human wreckage they’ve managed to leave behind (like 11 dead kids in Cincinnati). It ain’t always pretty, but if it’s loud enough, it can be cathartic as hell. I was 16 years old when I caught Townshend-itis, and this many years later I’m still manically, happily ill. I trust it will kill me in the end.

And from Pete to Saint Joe Strummer….as obvious a connection as Dylan to Woody Guthrie. Incidentally, Strummer was born “John Mellor”, but before he became Joe Strummer, he insisted on being called “Woody” (So you see how all this fits together, right? ). I could smell London burning, and rarely left Dunmore. No mean feat, that. And to this day I’ll say that the one of the greatest 3 minutes of my life was hearing “Train in Vain” when I expected I had come to the end of “London Calling”.

Then I took a year off and immersed myself in all things Woody Guthrie…..and wrote a play about him. Because this is what he taught me….and Strummer and Dylan…

“A folk song is what’s wrong and how to fix it or it could be who’s hungry and where their mouth is or who’s out of work and where the job is or who’s broke and where the money is or who’s carrying a gun and where the peace is.”

–Woody Guthrie

….and for years after I wrote songs almost daily….learning, spewing, falling and getting back up, laughing and crying and preaching the gospel that if you ain’t in the arena you got no right to pass judgement on the bleeding.

And oh so many more random moments after and in-between. In college I’d thrust my Walkman blaring REM’s “Murmur” and “Reckoning” into unsuspecting ears…..not wanting to hog the divinity all to myself. I had no idea what Stipe was singing, but still it was like listening to Pavarotti sing some foreign libretto…..you just let the it wash all over you and bragged about being there. I’d drive for 2 hours and listen to nothing but “Sarah Smile” and “She’s Gone” from Hall & Oates on repeat….over and over again…..and be thrilled like it was some Groundhog Day. We’d moodily drink Rolling Rock in front of roaring fire with Springsteen’s “Nebraska” droning from the bed of a pick-up, waiting for the girls to come. When they did we’d switch to “The River”. I mean….we weren’t idiots.

I tracked down every Bodeans record there was, wondering why they weren’t as famous as the Everly Brothers, and never telling anyone that Kurt Neumann’s solo on “Fadeaway” from “Homebrewed: Live at the Pabst” is my second favorite in the world after Dave Davies on “All Day and All of the Night”. Until now. Thank you Kurt.

I could go on….forever. Jason Isbell and the Drive-by Truckers and Glen Hansard and James McMurtry and the Hold Steady and Slobberbone and the Smithereens and the Replacements and crying when Cobain died and finally learning that Bret Alexander wrote “…but I hate hitting the ground…” in “Fear of Falling” and not “….but I hate it on the ground…”

It’s the little things, Bubba.

Today I try to emulate a little bit of ALL those folks….and 100 more I haven’t mentioned…..with words and music and action and the 3 chords that I know….from a whisper to a scream…and back again….in an infinite loop…until death do us part.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

The Kids Are Alright

March 25, 2018 Leave a comment

I have two daughters. One is 19 and a sophomore in college. One is 16 and a sophomore in high school. Both of them marched in Washington DC yesterday. They were 3 blocks away from each other, kept apart by how many hundreds of thousands of other kids. Yet still, they bonded. Sisters. Marching for their lives. And the lives of their generation.

When I tried to tell them how proud I was….my oldest, said “you don’t have to praise a fish for swimming.”

So there.

I’ll never stop learning from them.

My youngest told me that at one point her and her friends wanted to move closer towards the speakers. The adults in the crowd all parted like the red-sea, allowing them to pass over and over again, saying “we’re here for you today…..we’re here for you kids….go on….get closer.”

She told me this story when she got home last night. Excitement practically bounced in her eyes. I think she realized right then how powerful her generation is, and will continue to be. It was tangible now….she stood in the middle of it…feeling its peaceful energy.

These kids are direct descendants of the ghosts sitting at that Greensboro, North Carolina lunch counter….and the marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge…..and the Memphis sanitation workers. They refuse to accept that their lives don’t matter. They instantly spot hypocrisy, and stomp all over it.

Anybody who thinks these kids aren’t gonna be marching to their respective ballot boxes when they’re old enough is deluded.

Sure, they’ll surely look to adults for guidance and leadership, but if the adults aren’t up to the job, these kids are gonna cut the line.

march-for-our-lives-emma-gonzalez-3-gty-jt-180324_hpMain_16x9_1600Where to start about what happened yesterday? The haters are out in full force today, but that’s to be expected. They’re loud, but do not mistake decibels for numbers. Silence does not equal acquiescence. Anybody who thinks this didn’t see Emma Gonzalez’s extraordinary call to action yesterday, putting herself on the line using only grief, tears and 6 minutes of bated breath

Hate is vastly outnumbered. Lashing out is all they’ve got left. So to those spending your day thumb-typing vitriol at grief-stricken children, please go fuck yourself with something pointy.

But I digress.

One of the Parkland massacre survivors was so overwhelmed by the enormity of the moment that she vomited during her speech. Samantha Fuentes regained her composure, shouted that “I just threw-up on national television, and it feels great!”, and soldiered on. You wanna tell me that kids like this are gonna be cowed by Twitter-bots, inane Facebook comments, and the fucking NRA? Bitch, please.

They watched their friends die. Face to face. Saw it. Smelled it. They’re woke. And they’ll never sleep again.

And so now they’re organized. They speak with one voice. They are growing more media-savvy by the day, out of necessity. And the walls of power are shuddering. Oh to be a fly on the wall inside the NRA PR war-room these days. “From my cold dead hands” is gonna lose its sting when the congressmen and senators they own are voted out of office by the kids they ruthlessly belittle. When blood-bribes aren’t accepted in the forest and the tree falls, does anybody hear the money falling to the ground?

(Be advised that the President of the United States ran to his Florida playhouse this weekend, and though he found the time to proclaim today “Greek Independence Day”, and bragged about how many lawyers are lining up to defend him against charges of Putin-fellatio, he has yet to address the million kids who marched past his DC residence calling shenanigans.)

I’m an old white dude. By default I’m cynical and pretty miserable most of the time. But I’ve always considered myself woke.

But my senses are in overdrive now. They’re tingling, Because of these kids.

And you know what? Maybe us parents are doing a better job than we think. Because each child marching yesterday learned the empathy they showed yesterday. From a Mom maybe? Or a Dad? They’re not as they are frequently portrayed. Self-absorbed. Narcissistic.

No, that’s not them.

That’s the adults.

The Kids Are Alright.

In a bit..

–tf

 

Categories: Uncategorized

So the kids are forced to become the adults…

March 17, 2018 Leave a comment

180314105327-07-school-walkout-0314-exlarge-169So the kids are forced to become the adults.

I’m down with that.

These kids are old enough to get shot. So they certainly feel like they have a right to try not getting shot. Seems pretty straightforward.

Cult45ers may think otherwise, but history has taken a dim view of those caught in the web of a cult of personality. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. But still…..these are persistent little buggers. Nothing fires up a Jesus-ian more than a late night anonymous computer screen and a daily dose of Fox & Friends. Human-bots may not be able to spell or form coherent sentences, but they can hate like a boss.

We’re living in strange times.

Lies are truth. Truth are lies. What’s real is fake, and what’s fake is real. Ignorance is prized. Intelligence is elitist. We climb mountains to punch echoes if they don’t share our ideology.

We hate with much more intensity than we love.

Our national IQ has plummeted faster than our national reputation.

We could blame Donald Trump for a lot of this. He’s a paint-by-numbers idiot and about as dumb as a mound of piss-yellow snow. But our nation pulled enough levers so that he’s now President of the United States, so we really need to look inward. How the fuck do we let this happen?

Shouldn’t this have been a done deal when he mocked the handicapped? When he attacked a POW? When he bragged about assaulting women? When he told his 1000th easily proven lie?

It matters little to his supporters that McDonald’s has a higher level of employee retention (46%) than the Trump administration (44%), despite the President’s “drain the swamp” rhetoric. This is blind partisan bullshit, hero worship on a Stalinesque level, which is the main reason our own children have been forced to stand up and say”no mas”. They don’t do partisan, and they don’t do hero worship, and of course they do not wish to be peppered with automatic gunfire. They see right-wingers jizzing all over the 2nd amendment, while completely ignoring the 1st one, for exactly what it is. Partisan bullshit. And dangerous. Because it ain’t Hannity getting his face shot off. It’s 7 year-olds in Connecticut. And 17 year-olds in Florida.

So what we have now is the last gasps of dumb, scared, angry white people. A change is gonna come bubba. You ready?

Obviously those hiding under the bed with their guns are not, but that’s irrelevant. It is coming….and you don’t have to like it. But you do have to come to terms with it….

Tyrants all fall. Demagogues all fall. If you don’t believe me, you can do like Casey Stengel and look it up.

Half our nation is  too dumb to realize what they really should be scared of, and too scared to realize that their fear is entirely based on their own ignorance. We’re lurching towards fascism and nationalism for the same reason other nations lurched towards fascism and nationalism. Because we’ve been conditioned to ignore the astoundingly rich men behind the curtain, and to cast blame instead on those different than we are. Different color. Different sexual orientation, Different religion. It’s not very subtle. Donald Trump is now our President. How fucking subtle can it possibly be? He writes and speaks at the level of the 4th grader. And 60 million people voted for him. Nearly as many who voted for the lady….but such is the fuzzy math of our electoral process.

Voted for his wall. And his racist dog-whistles. And his frighteningly simple message of division. He’s very uncomplicated. Most 4th graders are.

People voted for him because he wasn’t a woman. And he wasn’t a black fella. They won’t admit to thinking this way, of course. That’s only because to do so is admitting to being sort of a douche. But it is the case. And deep in their cups they know this. They voted because they hated. They didn’t vote for. They voted against.

Half of us get more pissed off at kids walking out of classrooms in protest than we do at kids being carried out of classrooms in body bags.

That’s where we’re at.

You can spin that any way you want. But you cannot deny it. If you trash these kids, that’s what you are saying. These kids do not wish to die, and all you’ve got to bludgeon them with is “from my cold-dead hands”?

You need to bring something a little stronger than that fool Charlton Heston waving a flintlock over his head. That’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight.

That’s an analogy you can grasp, no?

111011_CB_margolick_EX.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlargeSorry son. These kids are pissed off. And they’re calling you out on your bullshit. And soon they’ll be voting. And you’ll be on the wrong side of history. You’ll be that scowling white lady showering spittle on the black school girl in Little Rock, Arkansas.

You’ll be the obscenity in the face of ramrod-straight dignity. And deep down, you know it. That fact that you don’t yet care is why this wound has been allowed to fester in the first place.

Hate unchecked is like cancer. It kills. But here’s a reminder. No one here gets out alive. It’s all about the scenery on the trip….and how many you help up, not how many you keep down.

I alternate between feelings of dread and hope, and I think it’s because I spend my days with adults and my evenings with my children.

Kids don’t see color or religion of sexual orientation. Kids judge eye to eye. Adults who judge by the group are pea-wits….and kids have no patience for pea-wits.

So they walked out of class last week. And they’ll March in Washington next month. All in an attempt to shame the adults into acting like adults.

Or in acting like the kids.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized