Go Bráth (‘Til Doomsday) A Mallory and Gunner Short Story By Christopher Ryan

“They cheered their own deaths.” Detective Frank Mallory spat out the words like the poison they were.

“They thought it was part of the parade.” Detective Alberto “Gunner” Gennaro, his partner in the Major Case Squad, tried to ease the bitter edge Mallory clearly had in his voice. His partner tended to struggle with the emotional toll of these cases. To Gunner, that way laid madness.

“They saw what they wanted to,” Mallory insisted.

“We all do, brother, we all do,” Gunner sighed, looking out across the bloody corner of Fifth Avenue and 69th Street

where the St. Patrick’s Day Parade had been attacked. Three dead, two critical, another four seriously wounded but stable, dozens more with minor injuries. The biggest single spilling of blood in Manhattan in over ten years.

And it had all started so beautifully.

After such a long, harsh winter, many thought the parade wouldn’t happen, forecasters had been predicting yet another snowstorm, or, best case scenario, freezing rain, something horrible and depressing like the city had been locked into for weeks.

If only NYC could only have been so lucky.

Instead, it was crisp blue skies, the sun working to warm a slight chill out of the breeze, urging temperatures into the mid-sixties, warm for mid-March in New York City, and a gift of a day for the parade.

The marching bands lined up, bass drummers booming, bagpipers filling the day with their signature sound, and even a few Glockenspiels tinkled. School band after school band marched blaring joyfully. Smiling young Irish step dancers bounced and twirled. Older, more serious fraternal society bands strode with fierce pride. Civil service Irish societies, their membership beginning to age out a bit, held fast to their significant presence.

The NYPD had their bagpipers, as did the NYFD. The Corrections Department was there, as were construction locals and the teachers, so many groups from all over the city, the surrounding New York counties, and neighboring states. All marching. All proud. All Irish, at least for today.

And, of course, the Hibernians, organizers and hosts of this New York tradition, oversaw the over 250-year-old event.

More than anything, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was a blue collar event, supported overwhelmingly by working people from all over the tri-state area. Sure, VIPs had the viewing stand, but the crowd was more than willing to let those precious few box themselves fend for their precious selves; the masses took Fifth Avenue, the neighboring streets, and, as a small ocean of beer was consumed, all of Manhattan, turned it all bright kelly green for the day and filled it with laughter and music, cheering and life.

The one percent of the one percent took a back seat on St. Patrick’s Day; this party was definitely for the people.

And to al involved, the parade was grand; a celebratory casting off of the shackles of snow and cold and gray that had held the city down since Christmas. The parade seemed a declaration that spring had finally arrived, and life could begin anew.

Onlookers mobbed both sides of the wide, lavish avenue, cheering, sneaking drinks, wearing green, mostly on their clothes, but some dyed their hair or painted their faces, or both. All in fun, all in the spirit of the day.

As the saying goes, on St. Patrick’s Day everyone is Irish.

With the possible exception of Mallory, whose shoulders seemed slightly more hunched that day, his habitual frown a bit more pronounced as each drunk stumbled by.

“Wearing green doesn’t make them Irish,” he muttered.

“Today it does, you stick in the mud,” Gunner chuckled.

“That’s the magic of the day, the generosity of your people. You should try it some time.”

“There’s so much more to my culture than beer and green and green beer.”

“That’s what the rest of the year is for,” Gunner winked.

“Today reminds people that the Irish culture is alive and well and fun. Then they can explore the rest of it as they please. I plan to start with that redhead over there.”

Truth be told, Mallory hated how people celebrated his cultural holiday. Too many insisted on inebriation because “that’s what the Irish do.” He despised that stereotype so vehemently that he rarely attended the parade, preferring to avoid seeing all the drunks.

Of course, Gunner took Mallory’s morose mood as a personal challenge, cajoling his partner into attending this year by singing The Irish Rovers song “The Unicorn” off key every working hour of every day for a week. Mallory finally consented to attend the parade only if Gunner promised never to torture that song again. The big lug’s solemn vow lasted an hour before “it slipped out”, the linebacker-sized teddy bear apologizing for loving that unabashedly corny song so much he couldn’t help himself.

Not a drop of Irish blood in his veins, yet Gunner celebrated St. Patrick’s Day every year, singing the songs, reciting passages from great Irish writers, espousing Celtic mythology, peppering the week with parade factoids.

“Begun in 1762,” he told Mallory every year, “an official New York City event by 1766, ten years before the Declaration of Independence. How do you like them shamrocks?”

Every year. He did the same for his own people on Columbus Day, and over the last few years had begun educating himself in preparation for other parades as well, the Puerto Rican Day Parade suffering particularly badly; Gunner’s Spanish was earnest but brutal.

Regular fountain of information that Gunner, Mallory thought, and a mountain of lust. That unsuspecting redhead had no idea what was coming her way, and if Gunner’s absolutely uncanny romantic track record suggested anything, she’d probably be in love by morning.

The big detective sauntered up to her, said something Mallory missed that got her to chuckle and offer him a truly fabulous smile–

And then the flying leprechauns appeared.

Four of them, each over a foot long, plastic, clearly attached to drones, flying their mischievous smiling faces from Central Park, ascending with surprisingly smooth synchronized movements over and above the parade, trailing festive green smoke.

People looked up, oohing, ahhing and laughing at the grinning toys and their green vapor trails.

“The farting of the green!” a drunk college boy proclaimed.

But Gunner knew immediately. “Incoming! Get down!”

No one listened. Not even the redhead. They were all amused and pointing. Gunner grabbed Mallory and pulled him under a bus shelter. “Take cover! Get away from the—”

The leprechauns exploded simultaneously into what looked at first like sparkling green confetti. The crowds and the marchers cheered, and reaching up to grab some as souvenirs.

The detectives saw it happen, everywhere and all at once.

The flying wish granters had been filled not with confetti but glass shards and shrapnel, and, along with slicing drone blades. All of it slashed right into the crowd, ripping them mercilessly. The carnage was widespread, brutal and immediate.

The detectives raced out into the street and began triage, but there were too many injuries in every direction. Most had minor cuts and scrapes but suffered major panic.

The stampede made things worse.

People ran in every direction, most flooding office lobbies or stores or bars, all shaken, way too many bleeding.

Those left in the open were worse off by far. Two bled out right there in the street. The legendary spirit of New Yorkers who cast caution to the wind ran to aid others in need, saving dozens from death.

Mallory saw one woman rip parts of her own dress to use as bandages.

Duane Reade workers ran from their store with first aide supplies, emptying their shelves on the boss’ orders, saving dozens more.

EMTs on hand for the parade arrived in seconds, more came within minutes.

NYFD marchers ran from the parade, joining the effort, as did the detectives’ fellow cops, rushing back from much further along the parade route. Mallory and Gunner were deep in the crowd assisting the wounded when the Borough Commander grabbed Mallory by the shoulder.

“You,” he barked. “You two are the ones with the reputation. Find who did this.” Mallory blinked. “Sir?”

The Borough Commander’s voice took on a decided edge. “Find them.

Immediately.” He marched away; there would be no discussion.

Gunner looked at his partner, then at the carnage that was Fifth Avenue. “Where do we even begin?”

John Mutchen was bored. He had selected the seminar because it was vaguely related to his field, and it was a good way to kill some time while Greta and her friends were enjoying the parade. She might be a sophomore in college, but the beautiful girl was still his baby especially since Trudie died. After that nightmare he found himself over- protective.

Greta seemed to understand and agreed to let Dad drive herself and her friends into Manhattan rather than letting them come in from upstate by train.

She spoiled him in that way, John knew, just as her mom used to before the cancer took her.

Still, the seminar was boring, and he had absorbed all he would by looking through the slim textbook they had handed out at the start and were following practically verbatim. So it was a relief when Greta texted him. Maybe she and her friends were bored, too. He’d take them to a nice restaurant—

Bomb exploded. Grace & I injured. Please come get us. 69th and Park.

He was up and moving quickly, boredom banished.

“Sir,” the seminar host called after. “You’ll miss our secret—”

“Page 53, second paragraph, third sentence in. Not a bad idea. Thank you,” John called as he exited, the rest of the audience flipping to page 53.

Mallory scanned the wounded, the first responders, the dazed remnants of the crowd. Of course, there would be no obvious suspects. Whomever did this had the perfect cover for escape — a panicked mob. He exhaled, “Witness interviews?”

Gunner shook his big, shaggy head. “People were looking at the leprechauns, not each other.” He thought for a moment, then snapped his fingers. “We’re gonna need Jimmy.”

“McLaughlin?”

“Nah.”

“Cahill?”

“Not today.”

Mallory frowned, “Alright, wise guy, which Jimmy is going to salvage St. Patrick’s Day?” “Canelli.”

“Of course.”

Det. Jimmy Canelli was exactly whom they needed; an NYPD tech wizard specializing in video surveillance monitoring. Legend had it that Canelli could bring up onto his monitor array any traffic, weather, or security camera anywhere in Manhattan in less than ninety seconds.

Gunner had him on speed dial.

Jimmy picked up on the first ring. “You catch this mess?”

“Luck of the Irish,” Gunner replied.

“McGennaro?”

“All day.”

Canelli chuckled, “I already started on the roof cameras. At 69th heading south?” “Better to try the Park first. They came from there, didn’t travel far.”

“On it. Let me work. I’ll call you as soon as I find the prick.”

“Pricks. With four drone bombs, we might be looking for a team,” Gunner offered.

“Ten-four.”

Gunner pocketed the phone, turned to his partner.

“Meanwhile?”

“Targets?”

“The parade in general?”

Mallory squinted across the carnage, “To what end?”

“Old grudge?”

“The Troubles died a ways back in favor of corporate profits.”

Gunner grunted. “Then let’s see who got hit, specifically.”

A uniform had been assigned victim identification detail. Not a rookie, so he knew what the detectives were looking for. “Got a partial list. Donnelly, Janet T., 38. Executive secretary for The Iron Workers local. McManus, John Patrick, 59, Steamfitters local 638 rep. McNally, Theresa P., 27. Formerly Terence Patrick. Affiliation unconfirmed, but it is rumored—”

Gunner finished for him. “She’s an officer of Irish Queers. Saw her on a Sunday news show last week.” The uniform looked confused, so Gunner elaborated. “Irish Queers is dedicated to fighting lingering reluctance of certain influencers to allow LGBT groups to participate in the parade. All sorts of body painting, hair dying, and inebriation are embraced here, but not alternative lifestyles. They’ve been marching for awhile now, but … old habits die hard.”

Mallory’s eyes narrowed, always a good sign. “Those flying leprechauns were homemade,” he said, bending to pick up a glass shard. “Stuffed plastic figures encasing hobby level drones, both obtainable at mall kiosks and toy stores everywhere. That’s easy enough. But making sure they could fly with the extra weight, getting them here, setting them up and flying without detection, that takes a lot of planning. It would have been easier to shoot or stab her. Besides, the result was wholesale injury. This wasn’t a hit.”

The cop countered. “Unless their perp wanted to disguise the intended.”

“Point taken,” Mallory gave his card to the uniform. “Please follow up on her and any possible colleagues that may have also been injured. Call me with whatever you find.”

“On it.”

“Anyone else?”

The uniform read the rest of list, but no one jumped out like Theresa McNally. “I gotta collect the rest of the names, then I’ll call you,” he offered.

They thanked him and moved on.

“Theresa might have just be in the wrong place at the wrong time, like the rest of these vics,” Gunner shrugged.

“The construction locals? Someone trying to stop a project from going union?”

“The reps injured here wouldn’t stop progress on anything. All due respect, but there was no one of weight hit.”

“Random nuttiness?

Mallory’s frown expanded. “That would be exactly—”

“—our cup of tea. See what I did there? Irish joke.”

Mallory sighed. “Today it would have to be pint of Guinness.”

“That’s exactly what the survivors need.”

The frowning detective almost smiled at his partner. “Perfect place to mingle, enjoy one’s handiwork, establish an alibi—”

“Or create more havoc,” Gunner cut him off, pointing to the mobs fleeing from taverns about two blocks down the street.

The bars were closer to Park Avenue, but those fleeing the parade chaos found all four of them. Beer flowed, as did whiskey, scotch, and so on, everybody looking for relief from the incident, settle nerves, assuage shock.

At first, the drink seemed to be working. People began to relax, text loved ones, make sure all their people were okay.

And then, in each of the four bars, men’s rooms doors flew open, guys rushing out, green smoke following.

That’s all that was needed. Just a bit of green smoke at each location.

Panic ensued; patrons stampeding, trampling each other to get free, to be safe from what must surely be some terrorist plot.

John Mutchen was jogging up the street, determined to get to his Greta quickly. Despite himself, he slowed when he saw the mob coming toward him in a panic. The street was suddenly flooded with people closer than the distant parade crowd. And they were running from what looked to be a number of bars, green smoke seeming to chase after them.

What had he gotten Greta into?

The sidewalk was clogged with injured people. Was this what Greta meant in her text? Or was this something new? Where was she? John looked for young college girls among those running, and then, as he got closer, among the injured.

He spotted four men come together about ten feet in front of him. Two had been waiting for the other pair. They smiled to each other, except for one who looked worried,

then walked casually down the street, not in a hurry at all, passing the concerned John Mutchen making conversation. The worried one was asking if they should just go. The answer didn’t make sense to John.

“No, everything’s going great.”

They must be drunk, he thought, because the rest of the area was in a collective state of fear. What had he just allowed his Greta to experience?

Mallory and Gunner ran to the bars, collecting assistance along the way; a few EMTs, three uniformed cops, two plain clothes guys originally assigned to mix in with the crowd and handle whatever presented itself, now helping out wherever needed.

Mallory addressed their de facto team. “EMTs attend the injured. Uniforms get the crowd under control. You PCs mix in; we’re looking for suspects. We need to find who is doing this and odds are they were just here.”

Everyone got to work.

The EMTs dealt with the trampled. The uniforms corralled the shaken to a safe distance and began taking statements.

Mallory, Gunner, and the two PCs wandered through the crowd, watching and listening to whatever they could overhear:

“The bathroom just started smoking.”

“Same stuff that came out of those leprechaun drones.”

“Al-Quada for sure.”

“The IRA is back.”

“It’s the gays.”

“—movie stunt. I heard they were making a Leprechaun sequel.”

No one was talking sense, Mallory thought, no one stood out, no one even suggested perp.

Then an older man stood up from beside a quartet of young women, a few of whom wore bandages, one sitting on the sidewalk with an ice pack on her ankle. The man stepped to Mallory. Gunner immediately redirected himself to join them, the two PCs positioning themselves several feet behind the man. Mallory liked their instincts.

“Excuse me, sir, are you a detective?”

Mallory squinted. “Why would you ask?”

“You are not helping the wounded. You are not wounded yourself. You are searching the crowd as if looking for someone. I think more than one.”

Gunner leaned in. “What are you getting at, guy?”

“My name is John Mutchen. I was a few blocks away and hurried over when my daughter texted that she was injured. Everyone I saw behaved the same way; panicked, running. All except one group.”

The detectives exchanged a quick glance.

Mutchen continued, “I saw four men casually strolling away, having a conversation that didn’t make sense then but now seems important. One said, ‘This is too much. Shouldn’t we just go?’ And another said, ‘This is going great.'”

Gunner raised an eyebrow.

Mallory didn’t. “Sir, for this to be of value, we would need accurate descriptions. Civilians just aren’t good at—”

The girl with ice on her leg cut him off. “My Dad has an eidetic memory.”

The detectives looked down at her. She gave them a disappointed face “Photographic. He remembers everything.”

The detectives turned their gaze back to Dad. Gunner wiggled both eyebrows now. “Really?”

Mutchen got right to work. “First one was approximately six foot, 200 pounds. Nose has been broken and never reset. Small blue eyes with a half-inch scar through the outside of his right eyebrow. Once wore an earring in his left lobe, hole is closed but still visible. Brown corduroy sports jacket with a lump in the right pocket, possibly a small caliber weapon. Maroon V-neck sweater over a crew neck white T-shirt. Khaki pants with a ketchup stain not completely cleaned off of his left thigh. Beige construction books, scuffed on the outside of the left one, oil stain on the inside of the right. He chews his finger nails….”

Mutchen described each of the four with the same exacting details. Gunner took copious notes, Mallory absorbed and visualized.

When the man was done, the detectives got an EMT for the girls and a uniformed officer for Mr. Mutchen, asking him to repeat the statement he’d made to them. Mutchen

agreed, and pointed out the direction the men went.

Mallory, Gunner and the two PCs headed that way, each taking a side of the street to cover.

“A bit much for a prank,” Gunner began when the partners were walking up their side.

“Agreed.”

“The bar chaos blocks the majority of cops walking the parade from progressing further into Manhattan.”

Mallory nodded. “I’m thinking the same thing.”

“Whatever they have planned has to be executed in a very short amount of time.” “Clock is definitely ticking. The crowd back there is already calming down,”

Mallory said. “So what’s nearby that is worth all this trouble?”

The detectives scanned the buildings before them, settling on an impressively exclusive bank on the corner.

The partners never said a word, they just strolled, staggering once in awhile as if they’d had a few too many green beers to steady their nerves and were now wandering toward the train back to the ‘burbs. They passed within ten feet of the guy in the window.

Gunner spoke quietly, not looking at Mallory,

“Approximately six foot.”

“A little light for 200 pounds, but close.”

“Someone disliked that beak, brother. Maybe with a pool cue.”

“Eyebrow scar is right where it should be,” Mallory mumbled, passing so close there was just glass between the detectives and their target. “Jacket, sweater, T-shirt. Check.”

Gunner watched the suspect go into his pocket, thinking for a second they’d been made. Then the guy brought out a big wadded up bandana and wiped his sweating brow. He stuffed it back. Raised his empty hand to his mouth. Bit the nail of his ring finger, lost in thought.

“God bless eidetic memory,” Gunner chuckled. “If we’re right, they are pulling their heist right now. No time for backups.”

“It would be stupid to try this without support,” Mallory shook his head. “Thank God those PC guys have us,” Gunner smiled, waving them over. “You brief them, I got an idea,” he said wandering toward a sidewalk souvenir salesman.

Their team was in place, and working well, a still worried Luke observed, trying desperately to ease the tension as the seconds ticked away. So close. So damned close.

Wilford ran the job. He was the planner, the exec, the job creator, as he liked to say.

Ronnie was assigned to grab the VP and their target, force them back into open the vault.

Ray, their best shooter, coolest head, sharpest eye, covered everyone with a tech nine.

Luke was the street lookout.

This would work, he told himself, slapping at the sweat under his nose. Just like Wilford had shown them. They weren’t small time thugs, they were an executive board. They had a business plan. They had invested time and assets. Everything had worked well so far.

Just under three minutes and they could retire, he told himself, fighting an urge to puke. You cannot succeed without risk, that’s what Wilford preached. Can’t achieve without having skin in the game. This was the price of success. Wilford had taught them all of that, wanted them to live by it. Luke was hanging on to Wilford’s philosophy and trying not to faint.

It was Wilford’s vision that tipped them off to the widow Branchley’s weekly ritual. She had inherited the Branchley’s Confections fortune when her husband’s heart gave out. Legend held that Widow Branchley had turned up the volume on their 75-inch television when she heard a thud in the luxurious penthouse bathroom, utilizing her favorite station’s business report to better ignore his subsequent strained cries for help, thus securing her promotion to president of that company and sole executor of its fortune.

This was how the rich ascended, Wilford taught them. Succeed by any means necessary. Only the brave can thrive. Only the strong arrive.

Wilford did insist on referring to them as the “executive board” of a company he called Progressive Ventures Limited. PVL was designed to ascend like any major corporation, building on smaller

projects to acquire personal fortunes. The only difference was PVL would attempt this ascension in a single day.

Today, in fact.

The Flying Leprechaun Amusement was a brand that would excite interest, Wilford had promised. Then the spin off of one popular aspect of that project, the green smoke, in this case, would generate secondary interest and widen brand recognition.

And then they would diversify, utilizing momentum generated from these projects to mount a hostile takeover of Branchley Confections’ assets, namely acquiring the widow’s “girls” — her collection of rare jewels, which she visited once a week at this time like clockwork, holidays be damned.

Each member of the team had agreed to take control of one asset as Wilford put it.

Luke, the youngest member of PVL, was assigned the lowest asset: blue garnets from Madagascar worth $1.5 million per carat. She had three of them, two carats each. Ray would take on the serendibite gemstones from Mogok in north Burma. Of these, the widow owned four three carat stones, estimated at $1.8 to $2 million per carat. Ronnie would take over the red diamonds account. Widow Branchley currently owned two of these, each about two carats, estimated at $2.5 million per carat. Wilford himself would take control of the widow’s four one carat jadeite gems, worth $3 million each.

Ronnie would get them from the Widow Branchley, disable both her and the bank VP, emerge from the vault, hand each of the executive board a small pouch. They would slip these into their pockets, walk out, and dissolve the company, retiring multi- millionaires.

Wilford’s vision for this asset takeover actually came from being the venomous old witch’s much maligned personal driver for three years before she canned him for “being diseased” (Wilford had dared to catch a cold and sneezed four times while driving her to dinner on Christmas Day, two years ago). Ever since then, Wilford spent his time studying corporate strategies, acquired skilled assets like Luke himself, created his business plan. And PVL was born.

But Luke should be doing his job. He jumped a little out of his thoughts, tapped the timer app on his phone. “Two minutes!”

Then he scanned the streets for police. It was clear except for parade drunks. Even they were wandering away. “Streets are emptying,” he called out.

Wilford didn’t like that news. “This is New York City, Lucas, one of the most densely populated centers in the world. If no one is on the street, we are in trouble.”

Luke’s stomach lurched. He hated worrying Wilford. “There’s people, of course there are,” he switched gears. “Just no obstacles, I mean.”

“Keep watching,” Wilford ordered.

“One minute left!”

Ronnie emerged, shook their hands, delivering a small velvety pouch each time. This was it. They were rich. All that remained was for them to mix into the city

crowds as successful entrepreneurs.

Wilford gave the signal. They departed.

The sun felt warm, inviting them into their new life. Success felt thrilling—

And then someone threw a plastic leprechaun at them. All four jumped, covering up as if expecting pain.

When they looked up, a big sloppy man was pointing a gun at them. “Police. Drop that weapon or we will drop you without hesitation.”

There was another guy to their right, two more to their left, guns in one hand, cuffs in the other.

Ray dropped their only weapon.

“Lucas,” Wilford muttered.

“There were no cops,” Luke tried but failed to keep the whine out of his voice.

The detective to their right was holding up his badge and his gun. “You all have the right to remain silent….”

After booking and paper work and all the rest, Mallory and Gunner and the two PCs, Billy Williams and Chuck Stockton from Warrants, it turned out, went to the traditional NYPD post-parade bash. It was understandably subdued, but livened up when the four “heroes” arrived.

Drinks were lined up for them. It was going to be a long night.

To everyone’s surprise, the Borough Commander insisted on buying the first round, and joined them for a shot of Jameson.

After signaling the bartender to pour again, he turned to Mallory and Gunner.

“When I ordered you to find the perps, I didn’t think you’d nail them in less than two hours. How did you know it was that bank?”

Gunner smiled, “Luck of the Irish, boss. Luck of the Irish.”

_________________________

A Seamus and Nunzio Productions, LLC Publication New Jersey, USA

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Will America Reclaim Our System of Checks and Balances?

(I know I just stated in my last post that I want to do less politics, but I really have to get this off my chest.)

Right now, if we are honest, we must acknowledge that we are a Divided States of America.

And, if we are truly honest, we must acknowledge that it is our fault.

Sure, many people absolutely abhor Trump, but it is equally true that many pledge their allegiance to Trump with unwavering commitment. That would be just a point of disagreement if the American system of government was in place. However, the demonstrable truth is our government is not functioning as it was meant to, particularly in terms of our fabled system of checks and balances, and it has aggressively not functioned properly for at least a decade, arguably longer.

Both major parties are to blame.

The Republicans spent at least 30 years building a heavily financed machine to conquer the US government, including super-rich elites including the Koch brothers financing universities that taught and produced lawyers and politicians who reflected their political preferences (see Dark Money for fascinating details). Then, with support from groups including the Federalists, some of those students were groomed and placed in the judicial system and politics in growing numbers. Between these and many more moneyed, committed efforts over the last three decades (at minimum), the Republicans built what we have now, a one-party majority that, rather than working as a checks and balances system between executive, legislative, and judicial, seem to work in concert to serve the preferences of those financing and influencing their careers.

Meanwhile, as best as I can tell, the Democrats went to lunch on the victories of the past that made us a more progressive, global nation. As the Republican machine rose from the ashes of the Nixon resignation, dems became an isolated machine of its own moneyed influencers. The Clinton Presidency drove the Republicans further to the right. But around that time it seemed the idea of bilateral efforts and checks and balances gave way in both parties to the attitude of “our side uber alles.”

If Clinton drove Republicans nuts, Obama made them rabid. See Mitch McConnell promising to make sure our President “gets nothing done” right at the start of Obama’s first term. Clearly, no legislative effort was going to be judged on its merits rather than coming from “the enemy”. And still, Obama had some success.

Under Trump, most of those successes have been dismantled, defunded, or reversed. Because that is what our government has been reduced to; antagonism, revenge, smearing, denial, and spin unchecked. Facts are now harder to share. Our government is significantly different now, from staffing, to function of departments, to protocol dismantling, to controversies, scandals, and questions on almost every front.

No matter which side you are on, it is clear that now more than ever before, this government is about divisive political parties, not a national whole. Sadly, this country is no longer about We The People, this nation is about We The People in Power.

And while the rich have always had the most influence, the effort to create and sustain a long term healthy nation was once the priority for both parties. At our strongest, we knew a strong middle class helped everyone. At our best, we invested well in the education of our young and benefited from it with new ideas in the arts, the sciences, the progression toward a more perfect union.

We have been turning away from that or decades, and we now must seriously question where we are, how we got here, and whether this is truly the country we want any more.

I know I want to live in the America we were always taught about. The America that had as its maitre de the Statue of Liberty encouraging the world to “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore….” Now our doors are much more closed, and those embracing that dream who have not been naturalized, for whatever reason, are hunted, children caged. That’s not the America my conservative father taught me to love.

Similar changes have gone on in economics, the environment, international relations, business dealings, and law enforcement investigations. This should move all of us to reflect on whether the country is moving forward as We The People intend for it to do.

As a result, America face several serious questions. How do we feel about the condition of our government? Is this truly the way we want our country to be governed? Is it really just about immediate economic upsurge for us, or can we consider a longer vision? Without a true system of checks and balances, are we still a republic? Do we still practice democracy?

From at least two sources now, we discover that people working around our current president keep information and take demanded declarations and edicts off his desk. Is that what we want? Reports suggest that our current leader does not want to follow democratic procedures, wants to just give orders, to the point where his own cabinet has allegedly discussed employing the 25th Ammendment. Is this the government we want?

Add to that alleged Russian involvement even now in influencing our thinking through social media and possibly manipulating our voting system. Are we okay with this possibility?

With all of this swirling around us, how can We The People not feel the need to deeply reconsider where we stand and what we want.

i haven’t been impressed with anyone in Washington, DC or local government, but I remain impressed with the American People. In a few short weeks, We The People have an opportunity to exercise our rights and exert our will on all of this. It doesn’t matter what your politics are right now, it matters that you vote. Check right now that you are registered. If, somehow, you have been taken off the voter rolls (yes this is happening in places across the nation), fight to get back on, and vote.

This mid-term election offers an opportunity to reset our system of checks and balances, to reset what our Founding Fathers meant our republic to be. Voting offers us, We The People, an opportunity to say what kind of government we want.

And make no mistake, this election will change America, either confirming national approval our current government’s behavior and encouraging more of the same, or firmly rejecting that path and instructing our government to change. This election can shift power from Republican dominant to a more balanced mix of Republican and Democrat. It can also re-elect those who have served for a decade or more, or to elect new leaders.

it is our decision, our right, and yes, our responsibility. If we want America to be ruled by We The People, we are responsible for being The People.

Whatever happens, it is on us.

Posted in #election, #POTUS, #Trump, #voting, #WeThePeople, America, politics, pop culture, writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’ve Been Away Awhile, Rebuilding

I haven’t posted since mid-summer when I gushed about U2. Been rebuilding. This blog now appears on my new website, http://www.chrisryanwrites.com. Worth a look, if I do say so myself.

Been rebuilding my social media presence, too. Much more Instagram, lot less Facebook. Unfollowed many dozens of political Twitterers, followed writers and creatives instead. A lot less stressful, though still pretty political. These days, politics is inescapable.

But I try.

Which is weird since my latest novel, A Simple Rebellion, is “a dystopian love letter to America.” But it is more about the divisiveness, the our side right or wrong, the where is this all leading us of it all. Again, politics is inescapable.

But I try.

The rebuild concludes with me accepting that I write fast-paced stories with humor and heart, and I am going to continue doing so, as best I can, for as long as I can, for as many of you who want it.

Mixed in under that will be pleas to our better angels, our more reasonably humane sides, pleas that we remember that all of this is based on “We the People.”

See? Politics is inescapable.

But we can try.

Posted in America, Book lovers, fiction, politics, pop culture, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

U2 Uses Mysterious Brush With Death to Defend the Idea of America 

My wife, known here and on my social media as the goddess, has saved my life yet again; she took me to the U2 Innocence and Experience Tour 2018 five times.

Yeah, five concerts, same band, same show.

Five times gave me the gift of studying U2’s show and thinking about their intent. From what I see, U2 delivered a novel, repurposing songs to reflect chapters of their “hero’s journey” (a phrase actually projected during this multi-sensory tour de force), even naming one (“This chapter is called ‘Vertigo’, appropriately,” says Bono, “since it is the time in the story when the band lost its mind”). and what a classic it was.

Amazingly, U2 presents an Irish myth of four lads overcoming all odds to realize a dream, nearly squandering it, and fighting to get it back, earning wisdom along the way. But it is also a Great American Novel about the Idea of America and how we may be killing it via petty infighting and the exact distractions that nearly killed the band, with a climax that shows fellow immigrants calling us all, left and right, Conservative and Liberal to remember what makes the Idea of America worth working together to save.

All in one impressive two-hour show.

And like most classic tales, this story starts en medius res, in the middle of things, namely in an MRI chamber.

“Breathe in. Breathe in,” a voice asks. “Exhale…. thank you.” And then a blast of mechanical doom as a simulated MRI machine slams through the arena, as frightening for us as it must have been for Bono during his mysterious recent “brush with death.”

On an arena-spanning screen we see ominous brain scans. And then the enormous screen rises to reveal Bono alone, quietly lit as one might imagine it would be when one is facing the Pearly Gates and awaiting that crucial meeting with St. Peter. Here he stands in the center of the arena (Madison Square Garden, among others on this tour), a thin band of light gliding over him at intervals a la an MRI, singing “Love is All We Have Left” blissfully, and so very still.

Love, love is all we have left

You argue ’cause you can’t accept

Love is all we have left


A disembodied, angelic falsetto (The Edge, arguably always a voice in Bono’s consciousness) sings
Hey, this is no time not to be alive.


The suggestion of final moments, maybe even an out of body experience, is there. Whether he is speaking personally or metaphorically is a discussion for after the show.

Bono is then consumed by the looming screen, and the band comes to crackling, booming life within it, appearing in flashes of electricity not unlike defibrillator shocks as they perform “The Blackout”. Here the narrative doubles more palpably, simultaneously commenting on Bono’s mysterious near death experience and American current events:
Statues fall, democracy is flat on its back, Jack

We had it all, and what we had is not coming back, Zac

A big mouth says the people, they don’t wanna be free for free

The blackout, is this an extinction event we see


“Lights of Home” follows, with more cryptic allusions to fatality:
I shouldn’t be here ’cause I should be dead

I can see the lights in front of me


That is as straight up as Bono gets, with one exception later on in the song:
I thought my head was harder than ground

I can see the lights in front of me


The chorus suggests his coming back from a near-trip to The Undiscovered Country, but it also serves to suggest a possible “life flashing before his eyes” moment. So many of us have had similar stresses  from the chaotic news cycles of recent times our own spirits have been challenged.

The band now takes us back to the beginning, to their punk roots, with their breakout song, “I Will Follow”, the first of many musical and spoken references to the driving force in Bono’s life; the loss of his beloved mother, Iris, at age 14. 

In this first hit, he speaks of searching for her, and later he mentions the hurt of her name never being mentioned in the house where he grew up with his widower father. Bono sings about both his mother “Iris” and his home on “Cedarwood Road”. She and a house holding two damaged people, father and son, created the wound that Bono would spend the rest of his life trying to heal through his art:
If the door is open it isn’t theft

You can’t return to where you’ve never left

Blossoms falling from a tree

They cover you and cover me

Symbols clashing, bibles smashing

Paint the world you need to see

And sometimes fear is the only place

That we can call our home

Cedarwood Road


And a heart that is broken

Is a heart that is open

Open, open


Here the band examines its own roots while inviting us to do the same (Bono literally says as much) and also setting the groundwork to have us consider how we define home these days, an uniquely American challenge we are currently struggling with once again. 

Yes, in 2018, Americans are uncomfortable with “the other” all over again. From Native Americans to African slaves to the Irish, Italians, Jews, Japanese, and so many others, each new group to these shores (for the record, Native Americans were here first and Africans were dragged here in chains) were treated as monsters, as suspect, as a threat, as criminals (Sadly, most brown people still are) while the Idea of America beckoned them here with a promise of hope, a chance to become what they dreamed of being. 

The challenge of becoming can be overwhelming whether you an angry Irish youth living in a home shattered by heartbreaking loss or a South American mother and daughter fleeing dangers in their birth country, and an animated flood at the end of “Cedarwood Road” evokes that … And the dark times descend.

“Sunday Bloody Sunday” is played as a solemn dirge confronting the darkness of U2’s youth and calling for justice for the victims as the band members stand spread across the arena, illuminated by their country’s colors and below projected animation of their country and community being torn apart by The Troubles. It is impossible to pay attention to this performance and Larry Mullen Jr.’s drumming leading up to the exploding of three car bombs on the giant screen and not think of the violence visited upon these shores in recent years. School shootings, club shootings, street shootings of African American men, and other evils have plagued us in the time of U2. Troubles, indeed. 

It is almost as if our country is possessed…

 …creating a perfect time for the return of Macphisto.

Following “Sunday Bloody Sunday” an animated cartoon recounts a twist in the band’s heroes’ journey, as they are gifted with talents beyond their dreams, advised not to lose who they are, immediately ignore that advice in favor of material indulgences … And fall from grace, “losing their minds”, according to Bono, to their “Desire”.

Enter MacPhisto, Bono’s demonic incarnation who hasn’t been seen since the Pop Tour of th late ’90’s. It is fitting that Macphiso emerges on the immense screen via a social media filter, relishing how we are tearing each other apart on social media, on the streets, and most definitely in Washington. He delights in how we have succumbed to the illusion that serving the left or the right is more important than defending the Idea of America, howls his surprise at how easily we’ve put children in cages, and seems to have completely possessed Bono and subverted the band…and then the U2 spirit fights its way out, and U2 becoming the truth tellers and America lovers they have always been:

Don’t believe what you hear

Don’t believe what you see

If you just close your eyes

You can feel the enemy…
Broadcast across the dominating screen through a scratchy, sketchy filter, it is as if the conscience of the band is fighting through all the noise of today’s social media trolls and 24-hours news stations’ talking heads. As Larry, Adam Clayton, and The Edge create a sonic maelstrom, Bono defies his Macphisto side despite “the baddass hat” and glammish eye make-up, calmly intoning encouragement to a reeling America:
And I must be an acrobat

To talk like this

And act like that

And you can dream

So dream out loud

And you can find

Your own way out

And you can build

And I can will

And you can call

I can’t wait until

You can stash

And you can seize

Responsibilities

And I can love

And I can love

And I know that the tide is turning ’round

So don’t let the bastards grind you down


U2 has always practiced two traditions; undercutting their sincerity with self-deprecating humor and repurposing their music to make social commentary. They do both here with “Staring at the Sun” which they claim not to remember writing and not to know what it is about while recounting that it was written when Ireland’s Good Friday Peace Accords seemed endangered by a few “willing to go blind” to the importance of progress.

Sound familiar?

Building on the drama of “Acrobat”, the comparably calm “Staring at the Sun” is paired with footage from one of America’s most recent low moments, Charlottesville. Scenes of white supremacists with tiki torches give way to KKK demonstrations with angry whit people clearly screaming”White Power!” The scenes grow more violent as Bono stretches out the last line about being “willing to go blind” and the grabs a bullhorn painted to evoke the American flag. He points to the images and bellows:

“THIS IS NOT AMERICA! WHERE IS AMERICA? I NEED AMERICA!”

A familiar beat arrives like the calvary, and the entire arena leaps to its feet.

In a dramatic cut to the opening chords of the next song, the klan and neo-nazis are replaced by the Reverand Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

The arena erupts, faith and hope saved from the nightmare grind of modern history. MLK merges with modern protests marches, and the band’s message is clear: America can be its own savior if we wake up to who we truly are and defend the Idea of America.

The remainder of the show celebrates “American Soul” and our beautiful potential as a “City of Blinding Lights”. Bono gently insists that “there is no Us vs. Them, there is only US” (the word evoking our country’s name, of course), and reminds us we are “One”.

It does not escape us what those lyrics say. Yes, they evoke an attempted reconciliation between hurt lovers, but in the context of this show, they also can be reread as a desperately needed conversation between the disparate, warring sides of our America:
Is it getting better, or do you feel the same?

Will it make it easier on you, now you got someone to blame?

You say one love, one life, when it’s one need in the night.

One love, we get to share it

Leaves you baby if you don’t care for it.


Did I disappoint you or leave a bad taste in your mouth?

You act like you never had love and you want me to go without.

Well, it’s too late tonight to drag the past out into the light.

We’re one, but we’re not the same.

We get to carry each other, carry each other… one


Have you come here for forgiveness,

Have you come to raise the dead

Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head

Did I ask too much, more than a lot

You gave me nothing, now it’s all I got.

We’re one, but we’re not the same.

Well, we hurt each other, then we do it again.


You say love is a temple, love a higher law

Love is a temple, love the higher law.

You ask me to enter, but then you make me crawl

And I can’t be holding on to what you got, when all you got is hurt.


One love, one blood, one life, you got to do what you should.

One life with each other: sisters, brothers.

One life, but we’re not the same.

We get to carry each other, carry each other.

One, one. 



The final two songs serve as reminders performed to give us strength and return us home renewed and perhaps reborn into the innocent belief that the potential for love inside each of us can save the Idea of America. We are told that “Love is Stronger Than Anything in its Way” and that ” There is a Light”:


A And if the terrors of the night

Come creeping into your days

And the world comes stealing children from your room

Guard your innocence 

From hallucination

And know that darkness always gathers around the light

If there is a light

We can’t always see

If there is a world

We can’t always be

If there is a dark

Now we shouldn’t doubt

And there is a light

Don’t let it go out

Hmm

When the wind screams and shouts

And the sea is a dragon’s tail

And the ship that stole your heart away

Sets sail

When all you’ve left is leaving

And all you got is grieving

And all you know is needing

If there is a light

We can’t always see

If there is a world

We can’t always be

If there is a dark

Now we shouldn’t doubt

And there is a light

Don’t let it go out

‘Cause this is a song

A song for someone

Someone like me

I know the world is done

But you don’t have to be

I’ve got a question for the child in you before it leaves

Are you tough enough to be kind?

Do you know your heart has its own mind?

Darkness gathers around the lights

Hold on

Hold on

There is a light

We can’t always see

If there is a world

We can’t always be

If there is a dark

That we shouldn’t doubt

And there is a light

Don’t let it go out

And this is a song

A song for someone

This is a song

A song for someone

Someone like me

Someone like me

Someone like me


Bono actually lifts a light -a bare light bulb hanging from an electrical wire like he had in  to light his childhood bedroom- from a model of that childhood home. He releases it and lets shine out to the audience even as he disappears amongst us, his journey through experience to a more informed innocence complete, ours just begun.

Let’s go….

Posted in America, Music, politics, pop culture, Spirituality, U2, U2 Innocence and Experience Tour 2018, writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Writing podcast – new episode

I do a podcast with Blackjack creator Alex Simmons about writing and related topics. This episode is about finding the time to write even when your schedule is exhausting.

I hope this is helpful.

https://wp.me/p2yHYd-iE

Posted in # thrillers, #adventure, Book lovers, digital publishing, ebook publishing, fiction, film, independent publishing, pop culture, Pulp fiction, self-publishing, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do the Accusations Against Junot Díaz Negate His Work or Prove the Extent of His Trauma?

Junot Díaz, who, in a recent issue of the New Yorker, wrote openly for the first time about the ongoing effects of his being raped twice when he was eight, has now been reportedly accused by women of sexual aggression.

What makes this different from other, equally valid, #metoo reports is that, for his entire celebrated career, Diaz has written about sex abuse and an ongoing inability to maintain “normal” sexual behavior. He’s also written about substance abuse derived from self-medicating to bury past sexual trauma.

So it seems his creative career is based on the kind of behavior he’s being accused of doing.

So do these accusations confirm that the devastating effects of sexual abuse continue to spread like a cancer, which is essentially the message of Diaz’s entire writing career, or do his actions negate his work, even if that work is about his decades of suffering and shame and habitual abuse of others due to his rape?

This is a particularly cruel question about the source of creativity.

Here is a writer celebrated for bravely writing with evolving clarity about the struggle to overcome abuse and cultural macho expectations, and psychological need to compensate for both, and while being celebrated for documenting that struggle, his ongoing battle with it has reportedly done significant damage to others.

The cycle continues, as it has for generations, or more correctly, throughout human history.

How do we break the cycle, heal the suffering, progress as a race?

I don’t know.

Should Díaz get a pass because he wrote about abuse and fessed up about mistreating women while he was still mistreating women? The obvious answer is no, but then what did we celebrate? Why did we honor his writing as brave and healing and culturally significant and as shedding light on the ongoing effects of sexual abuse?

Here’s a person who was published with much fanfare for writing about still struggling with those rapes and their cataclysmic impact on his life; is he now going to get ostracized for still succumbing to what he wrote about and condemned himself for and struggle with in his writing as we cheered?

The victims of his unwanted advances are right, of course. One hundred percent. But it is worth noting that Diaz’s entire writing life documented his struggle to overcome sexual abuse, and to stop sexually abusing others as part of his often losing battle with his trauma.

Unlike others revealed as sex offenders, Díaz never hid what he was, in fact, he became famous for writing about it, not in a bragging, “grab them by the *****” way, but as in “what the hell is wrong with me?”

My point here is that sexual abuse is painful for all its victims, and often spreads like a disease, making the victim an offender, and while no one should get a pass, dealing with sex abuse is, by its nature, complicated and painful and unique to each victim. This doesn’t seem exactly like The cases of Weinstein or Cosby; Diaz made his career examining his problems.

In that context, bookstore reps saying they will no longer carry his books seems hypocritical; did they not know what they were selling all these years?

I would ask the same question of colleges who are considering severing ties with Diaz; what exactly got you interested in having him teach at your institutions if not his writing about sexual abuse?

And yet, abuse was inflicted. Women were hurt. Attention must be paid.

So what is the proper response when a public victim and offender keeps offending after fame? And what part does that battle between victimization and cultural expectation to “be a man” (meaning a lover of women) Diaz consistently wrote about play in all this? And how do we square worshipping the successful writer with condemning the experiences said writer succeeded by writing about?

I don’t know.

Can we benefit from art that examines the wounds in our culture while condemning the artist for still living with those wounds?

I don’t know.

Where is the line drawn for Junior Diaz, and in turn, for our whole broken, victimized, overcompensating, angry, confused society?

I don’t know.

But I think we all need to have a long, thoughtful, respectful discussion ….

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/04/16/the-silence-the-legacy-of-childhood-trauma

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/05/04/books/junot-diaz-accusations.amp.html

Posted in America, Book lovers, pop culture, sexual abuse, teaching, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

We discuss the NYT’s “Black Artist, Black Panther”

https://anchor.fm/alex-simmons6/episodes/Tell-The-Damn-Story-UNPLUGGED-Billy-Graham-Art–the-Black-Panther–Pt-1-e1616o

Posted in #reading, America, Black Panther, comics, Marvel, Marvel Cinematic Universe, pop culture, super-heroes, writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment