Fly the Flag

We have an American flag to display in front of the house on holidays mostly, plus on a few other days, like 9/11. The Irish flag comes out for St. Paddy’s Day, on March 17 or if I’m baking a soda bread or something.

This year, Juneteenth is on the list, and if you’re all about the good things that have been done under our flag, it’s a pretty moving holiday to celebrate. You talk about our country standing up for freedom? The greatest example of that was banishing slavery from our country — even if doing so meant ripping the place apart in the most bitter and violent way imaginable.

Make no mistake about it: June 19th is a milestone in the American fight for freedom.

But we’re not perfect, and you don’t need me to tell you that emancipation didn’t fix America. In truth, it’s never been more apparent, but the more we all get behind something the better off we’ll be.

La Cucaracha

It was just another day in Albany City Court on Tuesday — until someone let loose the cockroaches.

According to the Times Union, this was in the middle of the arraignment of four people arrested on charges related to a protest at the Capitol. The courtroom was packed with their supporters — until one of them released hundreds of cockroaches — and what was already a already a heated scene descended into chaos.

So, where does one get all those cockroaches, you ask? My wife suggested that someone collected them from squalid apartments, since the court matter arose from a tenant’s rights demonstration. Interesting idea, but there’s a much easier way to wrangle roaches.

Just Google “cockroaches for sale” and you’ll find that it’s surprisingly easy to purchase live roaches. I checked at Chewy.com, and they sell 400 roaches for $57. You can really stretch your dollar with crickets, which for under $30 you can get 1000. Just release the crickets and yell, “Cockroaches!” and I think it will have the same effect.

Oh, they’ll just sell you live cockroaches online? Yes. Most people use live insects to feed pets like chickens lizards, and it’s perfectly legit. Look: If you buy a hammer at Home Depot and they just assume that you’re going to drive some nails, not walk around town breaking car windows.

Here’s what I think: Having some live roaches would be handy if you want to break up a meeting at work or get out of a party you don’t want to attend. Order them today and you can have them by the weekend. Just saying.

Anarchy in the UK

Cheers to Queen Elizabeth on the 70th anniversary of her reign. She’s outlasted all of her detractors, including those fine young lads the Sex Pistols.

As Britain fetes it’s monarch, I’m knee deep in the Hulu miniseries Pistol. I’ve read nary a decent review of the Danny Boyle film, but I’d urge you to ignore the critical blah blah blah if you have any interest in the Pistols. It’s tons of fun and does a good job of showing the dynamic that creates — and ultimately kills — bands. There are plenty of great performances, but it’s really hard to look away when Anson Boon’s Johnny Rotten is on the screen, abrasive, brilliant and mad, sometimes simultaneously.

While I was already a big Ramones and Clash fan, I didn’t really get hip to the Pistols until their 1978 break up. It was really over just as it was getting started. To my young ears, Never Mind the Bollocks made other punk albums sound tame and over-produced. The chaos that poured out of the speakers left no mistake that these guys were deadly serious. It also sounded like the wheels would fly off at any second, which of course they did.

I know it’s frustrating to watch TV in a world with dozens of streaming services, but if you’re interested in punk try to see this one. Maybe there was no future for the Sex Pistols, but we can go back for a little taste of the past.

The Saddest Song Ever

Been spinning Chet Baker Sings on the turntable recently. Quite a record.

If I were a single man, this is probably what I would play for someone who I was trying to seduce. You can’t help but be moved by his voice and the arrangement. It’s quiet and vulnerable and intensely personal. And on side two is what may be the saddest song ever.

It’s a Hoagy Charmichael song and the lyrics were based on a poem by Jane Brown Thompson, who is said to have died the night before the song was first played on the radio in 1939.  Many artists have covered the song, but the 1954 Chet Baker version is devastating. He sings that he gets along without you very well, but you know what? I don’t believe it for a second.

There are lots of sad stories behind the music we love, and Chet Baker had more than his share of trouble. His career was a rollercoaster of fame, addiction, incarceration, and terrible setbacks that nearly derailed his brilliant art. Hollywood once eyed him as a matinee idol, but the demons wouldn’t have it.

Listent Chet Baker Sings on your Spotify or whatever. Pick up the vinyl if you’re the analog sort. It will take you elsewhere for a time, to a place that just doesn’t exist any more.

Mother’s Day Gift Guide

What do women want for Mother’s Day?

I’m here to tell you that they want a nice ass.

OK, I got that out of my system. When I say they want a nice ass, what I mean is that they want to to adopt a sweet little donkey in Ireland.

Roma, my wife’s donkey.

For a small donation you can go online right now to The Donkey Sanctuary in County Cork and pick an animal you’d like to adopt for a year. It takes about two minutes and 25 Euros (about $26 USD), and in a couple of weeks, Mom will get a lovely packet in the mail from Ireland containing an adoption certificate, a picture, and other goodies. They do a nice job.

Donkeys are wonderful creatures, but unfortunately many people get in over their head with them. Veterinary care and feed are expensive, and neglected donkeys have been a problem in Ireland, the way it is here sometimes for dogs, horses and other domesticated animals. The Sanctuary has cared for more than 5,600 donkeys since their inception, and currently they look after more than 1,800, some of which are housed at private residences, but most of then on their farms in County Cork.

So here’s what you do: get online and pick out a donkey to adopt for the Mom in your life. Fill out the paperwork, pay up, and download a picture of the donkey that you can slip inside her Mother’s Day card. I guarantee, you’ll be the only one to give your Mom a donkey, so get your ass moving and get it done!

We Hardly Knew Ye

What gets covered most in the Times Union? Yeah, you’ve got your Covid, crime, politics, race — but lately it feels like the most frequent subject is reporters leaving local TV stations.

We’re up to 15 on the local TV body count this year, and it’s only April. Honestly, you’ve probably never heard of most of these journalists, but just search “leaving” on the TU website and you can read all about them.

Local TV news wasn’t always a revolving door, maybe because TV reporters had a different job. They’d show up in the morning, be assigned a story, and have all day to work on it before the 6pm newscast. Maybe they’d cut another version for 11 and call it a day. You basically had one task to complete, and the pace was different; you had to wait for the slow, clunky equipment, not the other way around.

Today? There are a slew of newscasts, so a reporter will need to do multiple versions on a single story. And live shots. Then you have to create print versions of your story for the web. Then there’s social media. There’s a much bigger beast to be fed, and while the technology is great, it’s also a lot faster than you are.

Today’s TV reporter is doing much more work for the same money. And since 401k matching and plush health insurance plans are a thing of the past, it’s actually like earning less.

But even if TV news is not the coveted career it once was, for many young people it’s a great resume item on the road to doing something else. Corporate or government communication and PR come to mind. Oh sure, there are exceptions. Some of these kids were obviously born for it and have the star power to go places. But mostly, those fleeing the business are forgettable.

That leaves us with these endless departing reporter stories in the Times Union. It’s funny, but even today people on local TV are our celebrities in little old Smallbany, even if they’re just minor celebrities. What the hell, it’s not like when newspapers reporters leave. Nobody wants to read about that.

Under the Needle

Two years ago none of us imagined that you’d need proof of vaccination to go places and do things, but that’s pandemic world.

Oh, how we long for the old days.

And speaking of the old days, I recently received a box containing some original documents belonging to my mother. Her birth certificate, passport, high school diploma — and a vaccination record.

This was 1930, when my mom was less than eight-months-old. While there were vaccines for diphtheria and tuberculosis there was no protection against measles, which killed many children. It was also before the polio vaccine, and polio was probably the most feared disease of all.

This was a time when losing a child was not uncommon, but during my mother’s lifetime she saw the worst of these afflictions eradicated.

I suppose there have always been vaccine refusenicks among us, but it’s hard to imagine people saying no to shots that could prevent a disease that could kill or cripple them.

Thank god we know better today.

A Letter to My Brother

Well, this is awkward.

It seems that I have your copy of The Who’s “Tommy.”

And I’ve had it for more than 40 years.

I probably grabbed it during one of the times you were away from the house, off doing who knows what. At the time, your records seemed like abandoned objects and I helped myself. Honestly? If I knew then what I know now, I might have grabbed more of them, like those Kinks albums.

I doubt that you have a turntable, so I suppose it doesn’t matter now.

Anyway, I listened to it today and it sounds pretty great. They knew how to press albums back then, and it has that cool Decca Records label with the rainbow stripes. The sleeve is pretty nice, too, except where I wrote my initials on it, because you don’t want someone stealing your records. Even the records you stole.

I’m sorry. It was wrong of me to take it.

But do you believe that physical things can posses energy? If that’s the case, record albums would contain some great power. In the same way that dust gets stuck down in the grooves, maybe these vinyl discs collect our experiences and feelings. And I’m sure that a lot was going on in your head back when you would have listened to “Tommy.” Much of it revolves around troubled families, and you know what things were like sometimes. And your name is Tommy, so there’s that!

Over the years, so many records end up in landfills, and others get passed from hand to hand among strangers. I get a powerful feeling from albums that belonged to someone I care about, like you or Dad. I’m sorry I took it, and it wasn’t right, but today I’m glad I have this little part of you.

By the way,  yeah — I also took “Quadrophenia.”

The Middle Ages

So let’s just say that a guy turned 60 in November — does that mean that he can’t claim he’s middle aged any more? Asking for a friend.

You see, my friend aches all over like he was beaten with pool cues by a gang of Hell’s Angels. And he’s getting mail from AARP. And he’s taking a handful of pills and supplements and antacids every day. And he’s having some — oh, never mind that one.

He says he’s old, but I don’t know. This guy doesn’t seem that old and people assume he’s a lot younger. But he says the numbers don’t lie, and he has a lot less time ahead of him than he does behind. “My father was dead at 62,” he mused. “By that standard, I’m dead within two years.”

So, anyway Merriam-Webster defines middle aged as, “people between the age of about 40 and the age of about 60.” Wikipedia says, “the period of age beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age.” That’s vague. Other references call it at 64.

All this talk makes me wonder if it’s time to rethink the tag line at the top of this page:

The fascinating world of a middle aged American man.

Maybe so.

People say that age doesn’t matter. They wouldn’t question my use of “middle aged,” but they might take issue with “fascinating.”