Archive for June, 2011

Almost Heaven….

Jun. 25th 2011



Almost heaven…………West Virginia……………Blue Ridge Mountains……….Shenandoah River……..Life is old there , older than the trees…….Younger than the mountains, flowing like the breeze…”

Stop.  Stop.  Stop.

Correct musical artist.

 Wrong song.

Take it from the top.

“He was born in the summer of his twenty-seventh year ……Coming Home to a place he’s never been before…Left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again…..Might say he found a key for ev’ry door……..”

That’s better. This is the song I wish to sing. Rocky Mountain High by John Deutschendorf and Mike Taylor. Deutschendorf was better known as “John Denver.”

I am in Denver, Colorado USA. Thoughts turn to you John Denver, singing about the Rocky Mountains and the beauty of  Colorado.

It is often difficult to think of people who influenced my life that have departed.

This is  my first trip to Colorado; and it’s quasi-motivated by a pop song.

Rocky Mountain High was on every  radio station’s play list in the 1970s. Our family would sing along to this John Denver song in our green Mercury station wagon, with faux wood paneling. I have happy memories of family car sing-alongs as we tooled up the Maine Turnpike to our summer home. Whenever Rocky Mountain Highwould play from our car radio, our entire family would sing along–especially my father (who sings Gregorian chants and still remembers how to sing the pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Mass–in Latin–without sheet music.)  He too was a John Denver fan.

Maybe somewhere out there, there is a family singing in a automobile to Poker Face. I don’t know what moves or motivates modern American families when it comes to car singing in the 21st century. Do families still sing in cars–together?

Rocky Mountain High is a ebullient, catchy, bouncy, environmentally friendly song. It is on my private top 25 “Songs-I-Like” list.

John Denver seemed outstretched towards the end of his short life. I speculate he left his often difficult world not as happy as he could have been. Just an intuitive observation.

In a secret way, I dedicate my Colorado trip to John Denver however hokey this sounds. As a youth, the thought of being a mile high above sea level was intriguing. I wanted to see snow covered mountains–in summer. It took thirty plus years to make my dream a reality.

John. You were a  great singer and lyrical story teller. I hummed your song as I deplaned from my Delta Airline flight at the Denver, Colorado airport; a structure that looks like a circus tent.

Yes, humming this classic song was sentimental and goofy, yet it transformed me back to a happier time in my life; a time  when summer was elongated and laced with limitless possibilities.  

The best way to describe Denver, Colorado  is through its people and environment. In a future post, I will write a stream-of-consciousness piece sharing my impressions of Colorado. I’m braced for the “what is this?”  and “what  is your point?” e-mails.

The point is, points often move in different directions; adrift at times–like we often feel at times. 

I say, spice it up.  ee Cummings wrote in a different style. Many shook their head thinking poetry must have structure rigid as steel. I sort of remember this in my Freshman Literature class at Boston College.  I say essay writing takes many different forms.  When I publish my Denver post (no relation to the outstanding Denver newspaper) I’m sure the “what is this?” e-mails will arrive in my in-box.

The air is thin in the Mile High City. I did feel short of breath and woozy at times. Was this the Rocky Mountain High John Denver was singing about?  Was this caused by being in an altered  state of  consciousness due to Colorado’s magnificent scenery and air? One will never know since I’ll never have the opportunity to take you out for dinner John and have a meaningful, rich conversation.

John. Thank you for the inspiration. Wherever you are in the universe, on this glorious third day of summer, I’m singing your song.

Brendan Ben Feeney

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The Conversation

Jun. 19th 2011

X) ” Hello. Ben?

I) “Yes.”

X) “Great to chat with you!”

A conversation begins. I am along for a ride—– on a one-way street.

X) “I am tired. So tired. Yes, tired.”

X) “I’m running around. Running in circles. Yes, circles. Running around.”

X) “Too much to do. I can’t keep up. No. I just can’t keep up. No. I can’t keep up. Breakfasts. Power lunches. The chicken pot pie circuit. Too much to do.”

I)  “I had a frontal lobotomy.”

X) “That’s good. Good. Yes good.”

X) “I am soooo busy. Sooooo busy. So too are the kids. We are all running and racing. Sooooo busy.”

I) “I dyed my hair fuchsia then braided my armpit hair.”

X) “Great. That’s really great. Yes, great. I like my new hairdoo.”

I) “I decided to run away and join the circus.”

X) “Yup. Yup. Yup.”

I) “I’m the new guy under the big top. I get blown out of the cannon. The second option was feeding lions.”

X) “Ah ha. That’s right. Good. Good. Good.”

I) “Sky diving lessons today? Tomorrow is my competitive knitting night. Celtic step dancing on Wednesday. Friday—San Francisco Cable Car surfing. Want to come?”

X) “Oh, I’m so busy. I am running. I can’t keep up. Chasing my tail. Breathless! Running. Yes. Running.”

I) “I am adrift on an iceberg. Lost at sea with no life jacket.”

X) “That’s nice. Wonderful. Great. Nice. Yes. Nice. What about the weather. It’s cold?”

I) “I decided to get a tattoo of a donkey on my butt. You know I hate needles. They make me pass out. Turn blue.”

X) “Super. That’s great. I’m happy for you. Yes. Happy. Animals are lovely. Blue IS your color.”

I) “I think you are not listening.”

X) “Right. Right. Right. ”

X) “Yup. Yup Yup.”

I) “I’m considering applying for a job at Hooters. I want to be a Hooter Boy. I hear the tips are phenomenal. Yet, orange is not my color. I do have man tits. I hesitate filling out the application. What are your thoughts?”

X) “Oranges are nutritious. A lot of vitamin C. Oranges. Yes. Oranges. The best are from the Indian River region of Florida.”

X) “So good to talk with you! Don’t be a stranger. Come over! We’ll have coffee. We will talk more. I promise to call more often.”

I) “That will be………….”


 I stand in the kitchen–confounded–yet not surprised. The  lonely sound of a disconnected phone hums an acquard a silence. Stunned? Yes.

Surprised? No.

Jaded.I think so.

Hurt. Well yes.

Disappointed? I’ll say! 

Yup. Yup. Yup. Yup. Right. Right. Right. Ya. Ya. Ya.

Brendan Ben Feeney

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If I Had A…………

Jun. 7th 2011

I bet you thought the next word is………… HAMMER.


I truly enjoy singing the song If I Had a Hammer co-composed by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays of the Weavers. I find Peter, Paul, and Mary’s version of this song moving and a call to action. Peter  Seeger sings his iconic song with gusto and buoyancy. We sing a rousing rendition of  If I Had a Hammer at GLIDE Memorial Church, San Francisco, California during Sunday worship service.

 I digress.

Dateline. San Francisco, CA, USA. Location. Noe Valley. I am driving to the Noe Valley Bakery located on 24th Street. I’m up early on a weekday morning.

I come to an intersection. I’m  forced to STOP.


A school crossing guard,  wearing a fluorescent safety vest, gestures me to STOP. He is holding a portable, hand-held STOP sign.  A thought dances across my mind. I want a STOP and GO portable crossing sign.

 I like the fact this sign has two sides. STOP on one side. GO on the other.  Interchangeability is a good thing. So too is flexibility. This sign has two messages–not one— like traditional STOP signs one finds at major intersections.

If I had a STOP and GO sign, I’d use it in the morning. I use it in the evening. All over San Francisco.

If I see someone being rude, cutting a movie or concert line, dropping the F-bomb, or yelling at their children in the supermarket, I’d pull out my sign and expose the STOP side.

When I see the doorman at my residence helping my senior citizen neighbor down the stairs to the street, I flip my sign to GO………as in “you GO Mrs. (name withheld for privacy)! Fresh air laced with a hit of Bay Area fog. Movement keeps you young. Enjoy you walk, up and down Nob Hill. Proceed with delight. Pat dogs along the way. Waive to riders on the California Street cable car line. I do it all the time. A nice habit.  Enjoy observing people doing Asiatic exercises  in park  across from where we reside. Read the San Francisco Examiner. The sun is your reading light.

When I see someone not waiting their proper turn at one of San Francisco’s famous 4-way stop intersections  at the apex of a steep hill,  I’ll roll down my car window and thrust arm out the window holding my sign. Which side is exposed? You know. Work with me people.

What about the community garden on the back side of Twin Peaks? I spot a volunteer working on a hillside garden. I hold up my sign. The GO side gleams in the sun. GO for encouragement. GO after weeds. Make the hillside come alive with wild California orange poppies, tall exotic blue blooms, and off-white calla lilies. Make our city landscape beautiful due to your volunteerism and kindness to the earth.

As an urban metropolis, San Francisco grapples with the systemic problem of hunger. In the land of plenty, many go to bed hungry. This disturbs me. I’ll hold up my sign to remind people to STOP when grocery shopping at Safeway, Whole Foods, or Cala Market  and donate food to one’s neighborhood food pantry.

Green means GO. So I waive my sign to the executive bicycling to the Financial District located at the base of California Street and the curvature of Market Street. GO green. One less car on the road. You get 2 waives from the GO side of my sign. It reminds me that I need to ride my bike more often. I vow to distance myself  and break away from the California car culture. I admit it. Riding a bike takes effort. I will STOP instead and get an Presidio Passion sundae at Ghirardelli’s, next to the Fairmont Residences. 


I’ve changed my mind. I want to order the new Gold Rush sundae. Visualize peanut butter, hot fudge, vanilla ice cream in a glass dish. Topping this treat is a  mound of whipped cream the height  of Mt. McKinley. Eventually I must GO to  Weight Watchers. That’s another story.

What do I see? A  dog pooping in  Alamo Park? An irresponsible dog owner with no plastic bag to clean up the you-know-what? I dislike dog doo stuck to the the bottom of my shoes. I flash the STOP side of my sign to the dog walker who neglected to scoop-the-poop. Nothing like a little STOP-sign-guilt to break a bad habit.

STOP and admire the pathways and zen artistry at the Japanese Tea Garden  in Golden Gate Park. Did you know, the gardener who help create this amazing pocket of tranquility was locked away in a Japanese-American internment  camp during World War II? True. STOP racial profiling and war hysteria.

GO to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Stand under the walkway and marvel at museum-goers 5 stories above as they pass above you.

STOP racism. STOP sexism. STOP homophobia. STOP ageism.

GO to the polls. Vote. Democracy is not a passive sport to be watch from complacent sidelines. Throw the bums out if they are not representing you.

STOP domestic violence. Arms are for hugging–not hitting. Words are to be melodic–not acerbic.

GO to art openings and support artists.

STOP school bullys. I once had rocks thrown at me while walking home from Junior High School. The pain of the experience lingers.

GO forward into the day and proceed with delight and wonder. Count clouds. Look for migratory birds and welcome their return.

Open more drug rehabilitation clinics and alcohol detox centers. Help people STOP the cycle of addiction and receive medical care without  judgement.

STOP and GO. STOP and GO.

If I had a STOP and GO sign, I’d use it in the morning. I use it in the evening…….all over San Francisco.

Why not take my new sign on the road and use it all over this land? Why I’ll  even take it to Iceland in February.

Just a thought as I patientlysit  waiting for children to safely cross the street near the Noe Valley Bakery on 24th Street. 

Children–learn, think, and act responsibly. Write. Read. Stare out the window. It is good for you. Sit with a  student who eats alone in the lunch room. Come home excited, telling your family…………”Guess what I learned at school today!”


Back to reality. Back to 24th Street. Zone in.

The crossing guard sign turns his sign  from STOP to GO. He gestures me out of my mind-wandering state. I GO, proceeding with a new sense of possibility. If I had a …………………..

Brendan Ben Feeney

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