Highways and Hunger on Substack

A new piece up on Substack. Check it out here.

An excerpt:

Built in 1955 to augment the nation’s first true superhighway, the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike runs from Plymouth Meeting to Clarks Summit, connecting the east-west route from the Philly Metro through the Lehigh Valley, the Poconos, and into Lackawanna County. 

Before and after the Lehigh Tunnel, bored by Army engineers in the 50s, there are stunning views of expansive green…

…Adam Smith’s invisible hand, is, for far too many people, more like a middle finger. Whether or not you contribute to food banks, you likely have accepted them as a para-capitalist solution to a problem capitalism itself was supposed to solve…

Old Tom Petty Songs I’ve Only Come to Know as a Full-Grown Man

But not me, pretty baby
I still love Tom Petty songs
And driving old men crazy…

Gaslight Anthem, “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”

I love Tom Petty and always have. Full Moon Fever (near perfect) came out when I was nine, and I remember stopping on the video for “Running Down a Dream” because it was a cartoon. I got to know “Don’t Come Around Here No More” because it was still in constant rotation on VH1 even four or five years after Southern Accents. Into the Great Wide Open came out when I was in fifth grade and I remember Tom looking like a glorious paisley pirate on SNL. In between those things was the Roy Orbison renaissance, so the Wilburys were always there, too. The greatest hits record came out when I was in junior high, and by then I probably knew all of the big radio hits except “Refugee.” Wildflowers was huge, of course, and then there was “Walls (Circus)” which is maybe one of the best songs ever written.

So, from about 9 to 17, I grew up on the radio, video, and soundtrack hits. Then I started listening more closely to the greatest hits disc (and classic rock radio) and realized the amazing piece of work “Refugee” is. But for whatever reason (probably lack of cash) I didn’t run out and buy the old records. Then came The Last DJ, which I also loved.

So it wasn’t until I was in my late 30s and sprung for satellite that I hard songs like “Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid)” and “Louisiana Rain” and “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me).” They are amazing. Here they are.

Radio Jesus

My dear friend John Hardt just released a new track for which I wrote the lyrics (and he cleaned them up to fit). He said “I want to write an Oasis song called ‘Radio Jesus.'” I think we pulled it off.

Words and Music

The Rilke post from earlier got me thinking about the first poem I ever memorized.

Obviously, nursery rhymes were first, and then songs like Jesus Loves Me. Then, when I started school, My Country Tis of Thee, America the Beautiful, The Star-Spangled Banner, Simple Gifts.

In fourth grade we had to memorize and recite poems, so of course we all asked if we could do Top 40. Someone beat me to We Didn’t Start the Fire (I memorized it anyway…we all did), so I did Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins. The song really affected me. Years later, I’d find myself working street-level with the homeless populations of the Lehigh Valley. What had seemed like a very 80s problem has gotten so much worse.

The first sort of classic poem I ever memorized was To Althea From Prison by Lovelace, the cavalier. It’s very famous, especially for this line:

Stone Walls do not a Prison make,
Nor Iron bars a Cage;

but the ones that really got me were

When (like committed linnets) I
With shriller throat shall sing
The sweetness, Mercy, Majesty,
And glories of my King;
When I shall voice aloud how good
He is, how Great should be,
Enlargèd Winds, that curl the Flood,
Know no such Liberty.

and especially:

When I lie tangled in her hair,
And fettered to her eye,
The Gods that wanton in the Air,
Know no such Liberty.

I was 15, so yeah. Killed me. Still does.

It strikes me now that “Slide Away” by Oasis, which I also discovered around that time, is a cavalier poem from the Council Estates. I love it so much.