Dispatches from Wolf Country — Old Age Should Rage

She said, "honey, ain't it funny how a crowd gathers around Anyone living life without a net? And how they'll beg you for the answers But it won't ever be enough...

Tom Petty, Bravo TV Photo

April may be the cruelest month, but this October has been an absolute nightmare, and I see no reason to hope it’s going to get better. The south continues to be targeted by a succession of hurricanes, and the Republicans are now planning a succession of attempts to lower taxes on the rich. Since Houston, Florida, Louisiana, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico look to have dwarfed the costs of recovery for Katrina, should we echo one of the Gingrich era Trump-precursors and say that in a time of horrid national disaster and destruction, the most important thing to do is cut taxes?

The President lies, prevaricates, back tracks and twists; one Republican Senator out of 52 comes out of the closet and speaks truth to power, since this one is actually pretty powerful, the President has made his own life tougher. There are other examples of dissent, but so far not enough to think they are capable of actually doing anything to make the government actually work. People who thought the Vice President might be a promising alternative of some sort of integrity are enlightened at a Colts Game. I wonder who paid for the tickets; Pence’s PAC?   

It’s worth noting that a professional athlete and a defensive back on the 49s actually decided to show us some people in public life have the ability to speak lucidly, use critical thinking and analyze complex situations. I guess being a safety has some benefits that being a quarterback like Pence buddy Peyton Manning or Trump buddy Tom Brady doesn’t. The Hill quotes him as saying this in response to questions about the staged Donny-Mike pretense at principle.

“So this looks like a PR stunt to me. He knew our team has had the most players protest. He knew that we were probably going to do it again. This is what systemic oppression looks like. A man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple of things out and leaves the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts. Based on the information I have, that’s the assumption I’ve made.”

Home teams can’t lose in the MLB playoffs except for the Nationals; the NY Giants can’t win for losing wide receivers. People in London seem to have forgotten how to drive if they ever really knew how to drive; and even though the tragedy in Las Vegas was only last week, on October 1, it’s sinking into hazy memory except for those who were there and those who lost someone; there’s just too damn much going on to stay anything except on edge, waiting for the next giant to decide to change his shoes, and drop another shit-covered, scum-crusted size 19EEE on us.

Our only President to whom I wish failure in getting us into a war, destroying the economy, or starting a racial-generational-gender-class war that destroys our democracy, continues to amaze with general awfulness. The First Lady wears pumps with five inch heels to natural disasters and then markets the crap. The President sells his MAGA hats for $40 on his website; she sells her clothiers horrendously priced clothing on her website. Nobody has taken Stephen Miller out and beaten him like a drum, given him a nuclear wedgie and then done a swooshie on the racist, reactionary twit; Steve Bannon has taken his Belfast Pimp routine back to San Francisco, and is trying to set up a salon in his DC townhouse. Nothing new here. October continues to suck. November will probably be worse.

And, Tom Petty died. My wife and I were having dinner last night, and out of no place she asked me how I was feeling about Tom Petty. Well, that was a surprise because as far as I knew, she didn’t like Tom Petty’s music that much; of course, she likes classic Barry Manilow from his “pre-risque” period. My wife is a devout Catholic convert who really likes Little Richard.

I don’t think the death of Tom Petty, like the death of Johnny Cash or that of JP Donleavy or Edith Piaf or Henry Dean Stanton or Jesse Darlin as a national or international tragedy. Artists age, and death sneaks up on little cat feet of fog, to twist something else  from TS Eliot. It’s sad, and in this case unexpected. My wife said, “He was young” and I reminded her that “He was my age, and I am not young.” I’m sad because I loved his music, enjoyed his shows immensely on Sirius-XM, listened to the Tom Petty Station on that service, listen to it in the gym on headphones, and enjoy playing his songs when I sit down with my guitar.

People come into our lives as we come into their lives; and then at some point, either they go or we go. The nature of media means that a broader swathe of comes in than did in medieval times. We move, we change, we die and they do too. It’s the nature of what makes us human.

Since we’re all doomed to die anyway, what matters isn’t so much what we can grasp now, but what we can do to make the world better, people happier, society more just and equitable, and life easier to sustain and tolerate for those we share this rock with and for those who come after us. Against that standard, Petty can be said to have done exactly what we should all do.

I discovered Brendan Behan before I ever heard Tom Petty; and, Behan was dead from chronic alcoholism and general neglect and misbehavior before I first read his books, his plays, his essays or heard his songs. I was aware of him though when I bought an album in 1966 or 1967 by the Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem, “The Clancy Brothers Live in Ireland.” Consider buying that one instead of whatever else I intended to be another of my roads less traveled by.

The concert they chose to record was in Belfast, in this period before the Troubles, and it was an excellent show of traditional popular Irish folk music. As happened in those days, and as Behan himself described in his “Confessions of an Irish Rebel” there was a lot of good natured humor between the Catholics and Protestants then, and perhaps there will be again. Something about 30 years of hate, terror and blood can leave nothing but hate and gallows humor.

Liam Clancy told the crowd about meeting a French student in Chicago who asked him if he’d known Brendan Behan. Clancy said he had, some laughs and drinks and a few nights singing as I recall the intro. The French student said that he had been struck by the fierce love of life and of others that Behan demonstrated, and that he had written a song, “A Lament for Brendan Behan.” The coda of the piece has haunted me these 50 or so years, serving for all those artists — the singers, the musicians, the actors, the writers — who have made this rock a more habitable place through their art, their songs and stories and books and plays and rock and roll.

No stranger to life, he lived right enough
No stranger to the glass in his hand
No stranger to the cause he fought all his life
Yet they tell me bold Brendan is dead

Ireland has lost her sweet angry singer
No longer his poems of fine design
Will ring out in Gaelic or sound through the lanes
For alas! bold Brendan is dead

I suspect that there’s a helluva new guitar pull going on in a pub in heaven if there is one, and a blond guy with a scraggly beard has just walked in with a 12 string Rickenbacker and joined his friends to try a few new songs out. Since he had a lot of friends who’re there already — Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Howie Epstein and so on — the city planner is probably discussing with God or whomever runs the afterlife about expanding the pub by a block or two.

She said, “honey, ain’t it funny how a crowd gathers around
Anyone living life without a net?
And how they’ll beg you for the answers
But it won’t ever be enough, there’s no way you could ever tell ’em
It’s just dogs on the run — Mike Campbell/Tom Petty

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