Friday in Cincinnati

My first stop was at my Uncle Max’s restaurant in Lexington.  I had a couple glasses of milk and a monkey-bowl of meatloaf.  Max is a man who can get things for people and I don’t mind doing favors, especially for people who have been so generous to me.  So I accepted the box and jumped into a tricked-out, turbo-boosted Subaru street racer sporting California plates and headed north on Interstate 75 for a 76 mile drive to a bustling city nestled on the Ohio River.  Now the city is named for the brotherhood of soldiers who served under General George Washington for at least three years during the Revolutionary War.  When Washington refused to be King of the United States, insisting instead that a Democracy must exist, he was given the nickname of the Roman citizen who did the same thing in the 300’s B.C., Cincinnatus.
I crossed the Ohio River and turned left onto Vine Street and pulled into The Westin Hotel to valet park the Subaru.  I grabbed the box and walked into the hotel.  I called my brother to tell him I had arrived and heard his voice behind me say, “It’s hot!”.  We hugged and boarded the elevator and ascended to the 14th floor to the room of Josey Wales.  When we got in the room I handed the box to Josie, I mean, my brother and he set it down and opened it.  He was delighted as he pulled one of the mason jars out and stared at the clear liquid inside. “This can grease a lot of wheels”, he said.  I figured it must be holy water or something.
We took the elevator down to the lobby and exited the hotel and began walking to the Great American Ballpark.  As we walked he told me things about the team that no one outside the clubhouse could ever know.  As is tradition in Cincinnati, we stopped at Skyline Chili for a coney dog and then continued to the ballpark.  When we arrived at the park everyone was happy to see Tim and many of the security folks remembered me from the last couple years.  We went through the doors of the visitor’s clubhouse and into a weird world.  Once inside we took a hard right turn and walked to the coaches’ locker-room and found some familiar faces.  Bruce, Billy, and Dave, the “Lifers” and a newer inmate, the great Cub infielder, Shawn Dunston.  As Tim lay on the floor and began to stretch, I began to write this on my BlackBerry.

Tim asked if I wanted to walk, which I did, so we walked through the clubhouse towards the field.  Having watched each game this season I knew almost everyone.  Tim introduced me to some players and clubhouse attendants and then he exchanged Leprechaun noises with a naked Brian Wilson.  We walked through the dugout onto the field and then into deep left field.  We walked along the warning track from foul pole to foul pole.  Then we did it four more times.  Then we passed the Red’s bullpen in left-centerfield and walked out the back side of the ballpark.  We picked up steam as we strode behind US Bank Arena and then climbed three flights of stairs.  At the top of the stairs I saw that we were on a giant bridge that spanned the Ohio River.  We went for it, power walking across to the Kentucky side.  It was 92 degrees and very humid so I was dripping with sweat but good to go.  When it was done and we returned to the field we had walked six miles easy.  When we returned to the coaches’s locker room I took an ice cold shower and tried to cool my core temperature.  Tim found me a new shirt and we sat and drank ice water for 30 minutes.

Me and Tim

We then went back to the dugout to watch the Reds finish practice so the Giants could start theirs.  Bochy was filming staged interviews for the Showtime reality series “The Franchise” and Tim remarked how surreal that whole experience has been.  Tim went out to hit infield fungo and I grabbed some sunflower seeds and started munching.  I was visited by a very cheerful and interesting Tim Lincecum.  Eli Whiteside and Jeremy Affeldt also took time to chat and are absolutely charming people.  Andres Torres immediately recognized me and ran to give me a hug.

About 6 pm Tim said it was serious time so I gave him a hug and walked back through the clubhouse and grabbed a Subway Italian sub and sat down and began to eat it.  Guillermo Mota grabbed me a water and gave me a fist bump.  After I ate I left the stadium and walked through downtown Cincinnati back to the Westin.  I went up to Tim’s room and called the front desk to bring my car from the garage.  I drove back to Lexington and am listening to the game now as I edit.  I love extra-innings.

This was a cool day.  Tomorrow my wife Michelle and I will be taking someone to the Reds/Giants game who has never been to a MLB game before!

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You Might Change History Today!

I am convinced, the more I study History, that the people who change History are unaware that their immediate actions will have such a profound impact over time.  A seemingly innocent and localized activity can set waves of change into motion.  In 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg, he was simply looking for a debate, picking a fight, if you will, with a man passing through his town.  I’m quite certain he had no intention of creating a huge split in the Christian faith.  But just a few years later Protestants were almost equal in number and power with the Roman Catholic Church in Europe.  And today, Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, and even the hippies at the Vineyard can all trace their beginnings to that singular event.

 Well, believe it or not the same thing has happened to me.  One fall afternoon in 1972 I joined my 3rd grade class for school pictures.  We were lined up in three rows, Mr. Morgan stood to the left of the group.  And I swear, it was such an innocent notion, but as I stood in the middle row, I took my right hand and raised it up behind Scott Comstock’s head, and made a peace sign.  Two little fingers, really meant as a blessing to my good friend.  Well, the Ben Franklin Elementary School yearbooks came out and there it was in black and white, Bunny Ears.

Needless to say, the next year there were no less than eighteen instances of the ears in school pictures and it has spread exponentially!  It is, of course, a world-wide phenomenon.  Admit it, you’ve done it!

Anyway, here’s the point.  You may have created History today and you might tomorrow.  So get your head straight.  Make sure your actions reflect your intention, and be sure your intentions are true, you might be making History!

 

Flan


I’m Really Nervous About Saturday Night

When my idea was in the Dream stage it was exhilarating.  I’ve been coming up with some solid ideas for the last couple years and this was no exception.  Then I put wheels on my idea and started think about specifics and with those came some concerns.
Let me back up.  As I wrote in my last blog, I have decided to play a concert this Saturday night.  I will play the concert at my home but will use a laptop with a webcam and microphone to transmit my performance to a free website that will allow anyone with a computer, a strong internet signal, and the ability to play audio to watch my performance live.  This practical use of technology intoxicates me and I can’t stop thinking about it!
So what am I nervous about?  I wasn’t nervous opening for Jackson Browne in front of 3,000 S.F. Bay-area socialites.  I wasn’t nervous singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” on the pitcher’s mound during the very last seventh inning stretch of the very last Padre game at Qualcomm Stadium in front of 65,000 fans.  Why should I get the jitters this time?  Perhaps because I’ll be playing my original songs for people who know me, some whom I haven’t seen in 30 years.
I have invited about 1,500 friends and acquaintances to watch the streaming performance and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  One fellow I vaguely remember from high school, who now resides in Montana, says he’s going to get his family around his 42″ HD flat screen and watch and listen in surround sound!  A former student says that she and her husband will be watching in Venezuela.
Only five or six people will be in the room with me but thousands around the world will be watching!  And here’s where the fear creeps in, what if they don’t like my songs, or my shirt, or there’s those little, annoying lags in the feed.
All of a sudden a huge group of people who only know my name or remember me from high school or college are going to get to hear my innermost feelings poured out as original songs.  Compounded by the fact that I won’t be able to see their faces.  I’ll be sending my love blindly up a wi-fi feed into cyberspace like Voyager or some experimental communication of friendship into to the faceless cosmos!

There will be a Stickam/Twitter chat feed on the site so I can take requests and give shout-outs.  But how am I going to react to them?  (Whew)  I need to breathe and stay focused.  I need to play my heart out and expect the best.  Fears will not contribute to a better performance so I need to rid my mind of any negativity or anxieties.  However, I’m really nervous about Saturday night!

Live Online Performance? Why Not?

This Saturday night, May 28, at 10 p.m. EST I am going to play a very short concert, just 4 songs.  I’m not even sure what songs to play because at this moment, the media is the message.  I will be playing in my basement in Lexington, KY and streaming the performance live at http://stickam.com/tomflannery1.  I’ll be advertising the performance through Twitter and Facebook as well as word-of-mouth.  I’m so excited about the potential of this becoming a regular broadcast.

I hope you can check it out.  The website features a chat function as well so audience members can post comments and requests through Stickam or Twitter.  My plan is to play three original songs and a cover but I will definitely respond to the audience’s desires.  This performance will be interactive.  If you go to the website when I’m not broadcasting live, now for example, three short animated videos that I made can be viewed.

Anyway, I can’t wait until Saturday night, I’m so excited!  See you then!

A Moment at Work

“Chipmonks are eatin’ the heck outta my strawberries” he said.  I eavesdropped from inside the double-wide residence.  “I tried mousetraps (silence), nothin”.  The unmistakable sound of frying came from the kitchen a few steps away.  He continued, “Eleven thousand dollars!”.  He stood out on the porch with his cellphone to his ear, “Hello?…”
“I like to hear people say they’re doing good”, Mamaw said from the kitchen, “If this weather would start behavin’ ev’rone ‘ould be doin’ good!”
I smiled to myself as I thought about this past school year.
I sat across a large, dark, seventies style coffee table from their granddaughter as she bubbled-in her choices from the multiple options.  She is their treasure.  And rightfully so, she is their future.  I really never thought to ask where her mother and father are, it doesn’t matter to me.  I’m not her social caseworker.  I’m her teacher. And this trailer in this little valley next to this little creek is a one-room schoolhouse.
Papaw came in from the porch and stepped into the kitchen, reached in the white fridge, and cracked the top of a soda-can.  “Mr. Flan’ry, you wanna Pepsi?”
No, thank you, I’m all good.
Their treasure kept her head down and wrote.  She was writing about things they’ll never know; enzymes, DNA, proteins, graphing algebraic equations, and the like.  They are so proud, I am too.  I love being able to help her but I honestly have no idea how to get those chipmonks out of the strawberries!

To be read at my Funeral, which is hopefully a long time from now.

I recently attended a funeral for a young man who I knew and with whom I was friends.  During the eulogy I became uneasy, for the details of his life were being misrepresented.  The eulogy seemed to gloss over his life, in fact it seemed like a one-size-fits-all eulogy for any young man taken way too soon.  I don’t want this to happen to me so I’ve written this eulogy so that at my funeral, I will be represented accurately.  I hope to add at least 30 more years of events before it’s read, you know, for real.

Thomas Scott Flannery was born on October 27, 1963 in Portland, Oregon.  At his birth, his mother, Joyce, was pronounced dead and remained so for 20 minutes.  After pleading with the Creator she was allowed to return and raise the boy, which she did quite well.  Just 26 days later JFK met his Creator but did not get to come back.  Tom was the youngest of the four children of Ragon and Joyce Flannery.

The Flannery family moved a year later to Southern California, specifically Inglewood, a borough of Los Angeles.  Tom’s first memories included the glow of fire on the horizon and distant gunshots from the Watts riots on a sunday evening drive home from a church where his father was pastor in 1965.  A year or so later the family moved to Redondo Beach where Tom witnessed a deadly small-plane crash in his front yard.  Although his memory is not nearly as clear as other eyewitnesses, he would continue to have horrifying, realistic air disaster dreams about every three years.  It was on the Redondo Beach pier that Tom got his first tastes of New England Clam Chowder and Teriyaki Beef.

The family moved to Anaheim, California in 1968 just before Tom entered kindergarten.  Tom would remain in Anaheim for the next 21 years.  He attended Benjamin Franklin Elementary School for kindergarten through 6th grade.  He did quite well in elementary school and enjoyed doing well.  During the summer of 1969, Tom, his older brother Tim, and Mom & Dad drove across the country.  They visited Houston, New Orleans, Knoxville, Lexington, Cincinnati and back again.  On this trip Tom learned to swim and blow bubbles with bubblegum.

Tom’s family lived in a house in Anaheim 1.4 miles from Disneyland and during the summertime, each evening at 9:35 pm, the ashes from the Disneyland fireworks would float into the family’s backyard.  Somewhere around the 4th grade Tom bought a guitar that came with a chord book and taught himself to play in a single afternoon.  In 1976 the Flannery family moved from the westside of Anaheim to the eastside.  Tom finished 6th grade at Franklin Elementary but then attended South Jr. High School.  Some days Tom would ride a unicycle to and from school.  About this time Tom met Rob Poletti, who would be his best friend until about the mid 1990’s when their own families took priority over friends.

Tom attended Katella High School and somehow graduated in 1981.  Tom did very poorly in high school.  He was not motivated and there were no teachers that seemed to reach him.  Tom was the singer of a popular party/cover band called Kashmir.  Other than just a small handful of friends such as Rob, Erik, John, and Lou, Tom did not have many good relationships.  He felt disconnected from the high school experience and did not participate in any activities including graduation ceremonies.  During high school Tom enjoyed weekend trips to Rosarito, Mexico and afternoons at Newport Beach.

Immediately after high school Tom got a job at Disneyland as a Ride Operator on the Fantasyland Skyway.  At the end of the summer he was hired by Walt Disney Productions in Glendale, California where he worked as a Warehouse Laborer for nine months.  In 1982 Tom’s friend, Byron helped him get a job as a Dental Lab Technician, a job with which he stayed for a year and a half.

In late 1983 Tom was in personal crisis.  He was unhappy living a life that did not measure up to how his parents had raised him.  His recreational cocaine use was leaving him unfulfilled and he had no plans for the future.  Tom decided to try college.  He applied to 11 colleges and was turned down by 10.  It seemed that a 1.7 GPA in high school and no SAT scores were inadequate for admission.  Then a call from Chapman College changed everything.  The Admissions Director happened to be brother Tim’s college roommate and granted Tom admission.  His admission was contingent on Tom achieving a 3.00 GPA in his first semester.  So, in February 1984 he enrolled as an undeclared major taking Volleyball, Basketball,  Weight-lifting, Aerobics, Spanish, and Choir.  He achieved a 4.0 GPA.

He was deeply affected by his Choir class where he spent the semester working on Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, a three-hour choral work completely in German.  That summer, on a whim, Tom joined his friends Rob and Byron and went to Europe for two months.  This experience is documented in his novella 1984 – My Olympic Boycott.  Upon return Tom re-enrolled as a Freshman Music major.  Over the next five years Tom would master Music Theory and become a fine conductor.  He would graduate in 1989 with a Bachelor of Music Education degree and a California Teaching Credential.

In January of 1986 Tom began dating Michelle Crippen, a Freshman Soprano in the college choir.  They dated and became engaged while attending college and then after graduating together, married on July 22, 1989.  Tom and Michelle traveled with the choir to China in 1987, to the Soviet Union in 1989 and then on their own to Europe for a month and a half on their Honeymoon.

In late 1989 Tom began teaching High School and after his first year he hated it and quit.  A wise, old man persuaded him to go to graduate school, so in the Fall of 1990 Tom enrolled at the University of California, Irvine and resumed his musical studies.  Church work, scholarships and fellowships helped, but it was Michelle’s full-time work as a Nurseryman and Landscaper that allowed Tom to study Music full-time.  In 1992 Tom graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree and began teaching again and loved it.

In November 1992 Tom and Michelle welcomed Dylan into the world.  This experience absolutely transformed Tom.  Like his mother, Tom briefly saw into the realm of the Creator and was harshly humbled and broken to tears.

In the Fall of 1993 Tom landed a teaching position at the newly built Aliso Niguel high School and taught with great success for 11 years.  In the Spring of 1994, daughter Brenna was born and then in the Winter of 1998, son Macklyn.

In 1999 Tom’s father, Ragon began to deteriorate and then finally died in July from Alzheimer’s disease.  This greatly affected Tom and he became very depressed.  He refused treatment and hid his depression as best as he could.  In Spring of 2004 Tom and Michelle first considered leaving Southern California for reasons far more clear to Tom than anyone else, including Michelle.  However, seeing Tom excited about a dream for the first time in a long time and her faithful love was enough for her to leave everything behind and the family moved to Lexington, Kentucky.  Once in Lexington Michelle went to Nursing school and Tom went back into teaching.

That’s where we’re at so far.  Please add the following to the end of my chronological story.

Michelle was the perfect companion to Tom.  He always loved how a beautiful piece of music could bring her to tears.  When the world beat Tom down, Michelle would build him back up so he could go back out into it.  And when the world exalted Tom, Michelle could keep him grounded, where he needed to be.  They were the best of friends and shared many beautiful secrets the world will never know.

Tom’s firsthand experiences with his Creator made his faith unshakable.  Tom, however was more comfortable with Agnostics and Atheists than most Christians as they seemed to eat better and seemed happier.  He was also wary of restaurants with only white customers.

Tom loved his family.  He loved being a husband, a father, a son, and a brother.  He loved being a Flannery.  He also loved Japanese food, Dachshunds, baseball, airports, seafood, Mexican food, cooking, fishing, and driving.  He only disliked a couple of things such as getting slapped in the lower back, getting splashed with water, and people who vehemently defend ignorance.  Okay, he really didn’t like poodles either.

Tom will always be remembered as an optimist.  He believed in dreams, his own and the dreams of others.  He was wonderful with language, his and the languages of others.  He once described himself as:  Musician, foodie, father, husband, writer, fisherman, and by the grace of God, quite possibly the luckiest man you will ever meet!

Kitchens

This particular posting will become part of a chapter in what will hopefully become my next novella.  It will be a memoir of my last two years as the Hospital/Home bound Program Instructor for a school district in rural Kentucky.

My unique job over the last two years has presented me with the opportunity to sit in the kitchens of literally hundreds of people’s homes.  I’ve been in the kitchens of both wealthy families and the harshly disadvantaged and everyone in between.  I can tell so much about people by simply and discreetly perusing their kitchens, what they contain, and the condition they’re in.

The kitchen I was in today was small but very clean.  There were pictures, notes, and colored plastic letters all over the new, black refrigerator.  The electric range was also black and sat beside the fridge.  There were shiny, stainless steel pots and pans atop it ready for action.  Everything had been straightened and organized as if for an important guest.  This kitchen didn’t appear to produce large quantities of food but I can tell that very good things had been made there with love.  Someone had cleaned the floors and under and between the appliances.  On top of the cabinets decorative plates and figurines were arranged into little vignettes that seemed to tell the stories from the family’s past.

At this time last year I was regularly visiting the kitchen of a very poor single-mother.  The floor was wooden, and I don’t mean what most people do when they say wood floors, it was made of boards.  Unfinished, old, dirty planks covered with dog and cat urine and feces, some old and some new.  A 25 pound sack of Russet potatoes leaned against the wall and the sink was full of dirty, unmatched dishes.  The cabinets had no doors which at times would expose scenes such as a kitten sitting amongst the sparse cans and boxes of food eating from a mostly empty bag of chips.  The cupboards and walls had smears of filth and in the winter rats could be heard scurrying within the walls.  The mother would sit silently in the other room next to a half-empty, green aquarium with a lit cigarette, drifting in and out of consciousness and reading books that had been delivered by the county Bookmobile.  During the fall and spring my nose would burn from the animal odor, and in the winter the exhaust from the wood-burning heater masked the smell but would leave my clothes reeking of a campfire.  I would go there twice a week to teach her son, whom she kept home from school for no good reason except I think to keep her company.

I can tell by the presence and brand of hot sauce or olive oil on the counter if a family has traveled and to where.  I can tell by the cleanliness and tidiness of a kitchen the level of education the family members have had.  I can usually tell within 10 seconds if the parents are native to rural Kentucky or if they’ve moved there from Ohio or Michigan, as so many have.

I can also sense the general arrangement of the family by the arrangement of items in the kitchen.  Two married, biological parents have kitchens like no other.  Not always as sparkling and organized as the high-functioning, educated, professional single-mothers, but quite ready to make wonderful food with seasoned utensels.  Functional families have functioning kitchens.

I am fascinated how one’s kitchen can be such an open book about one’s family.  Just a quick glance can tell me so much about a family’s health, values, and mind set.  Their socioeconomic status gets revealed in their salt and pepper shakers and visible condiments.  I’ve come to many of these truths without even opening any kitchen junk-drawers.  Which reminds me, when I get home from work today I have some dishes to do.