What Happened To My Country?

My father was a real estate appraiser.

He started out as an engineer, but that lasted less than a year, he wasn’t an ass-kisser, he couldn’t play the game, he was bounced out.

So he opened a liquor store and tried his hand at commercial real estate. Unsuccessfully, because he didn’t have enough money to purchase property.

Trying to improve his lot in life, he relocated the package store next to an exit by the newly-finished I-95, otherwise known as the Connecticut Turnpike. And when redevelopment hit Bridgeport, his friend Maury Magilnick said no one knew as much about local real estate as my dad, and if he became an appraiser, he’d hire him.

My father spent a week at UConn. Another at the University of Chicago. He got licensed. And with his engineering background and his natural acumen he became a legend in the state, Attorneys General feared him, and my dad garnered the income of a doctor or a lawyer, he sent three children to private universities and graduate schools.

That dream is dead today.

I’m in Vail, Colorado. My family started skiing when I was ten. Used to be an egalitarian sport, you saw Beetles in the parking lot, sandwiches were de rigueur in the base lodge, brought from home. Skiers were not the upper crust, they were us.

No more.

So I’m riding up the lift with a fourth year medical student. I ask him what he’s gonna be.

“An anesthesiologist.”

Why? Because he loves it? No, because he can make good bread and vacation and live the high life.

I’d like to tell you I met some musicians on the lift, some regular people, but I kid you not when I tell you the only people I met were in finance. Oh, and there was one dentist.

They traded for the family account. They were “consultants”. They worked for hedge funds. They had their own private ski instructors, at $700 a day. They were the 1%.

And everybody in America is scrambling to get into the club.

That’s what’s wrong with the music business. The executives want to be as rich as the bankers, they too want to fly in private jets and tip with hundred dollar bills. What is the right tip these days? For a ride through town? I’m thinking $20, because the bankers have driven up the rate and the employees expect it and they’re struggling to make ends meet.

I grew up in the sixties. We were all in it together. Sure, my dad told me to be a lawyer, so he didn’t have to worry about me, but instead of taking the LSAT, I went to Montreal. There were no corporate recruiters on campus. Life was about personal fulfillment.

But now life is about money.

Either you’ve got it or you’re struggling to get it.

That wannabe anesthesiologist? He’s a Republican. He doesn’t want socialized medicine and he doesn’t want taxes.

Nobody wants taxes. Everybody thinks life is a personal struggle, that there’s no common infrastructure, no freeways, no police department, no power utility.

What’s mine is mine.

And if you don’t watch out, I’m gonna take yours.

No wonder musicians sell out to the Fortune 500. They too want to be rich. But the joke is upon them, they can never be that rich, the corporations laugh at them, they’re pawns in their game.

We live in a completely duplicitous country where no one’s honest, no one does what he believes in, everybody’s just motivated by the money.

And the problem?


Those teachers ruined the economy. Hell, you can barely make it on a teacher’s salary, you can’t vacation in Vail, Colorado, you’re closed out.

And somehow we accept all this. We shrug our shoulders and say it’s the way it is and will always be.


I feel like I’ve been asleep for thirty-odd years. While I was pursuing my dream, everybody else was pursuing the dollar. Reagan made greed legitimate and the baby boomers filled that hole and now their kids want more of the same. They just want to play on their hand-helds and feed at the trough. No one wants to innovate, they just want to get rich.

Ever speak to someone in finance? It’s a rare bird who likes it.

They do it for the money.

And with this money they buy up those concert tickets so you can’t get a good seat. They’ve got a shortage of time. When they get to the amusement park, they want to close you out. Get concierge treatment, cut the line…and you think this is okay because you think you’re gonna be rich too.

Ain’t that a laugh.

At least at Middlebury I saw what rich was.

Most people can’t afford a private college education any longer. 50k a year? Hell, public education keeps going up and up. Most people never even get into the game they think they’re gonna win.

There’s a ruling class, pulling the strings, and you’re not a member.

This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. This is a money issue. Money’s corrupted the system. You’ve got to be on the take to get elected. So you’re beholden to the corporations, not the people.

But you’ve read Steve Jobs’s biography and you think you’re gonna make it.

Don’t you get it? The odds of music success are infinitesimal, all the things you want most musicians haven’t got, a house, a spouse, kids, health insurance…

Don’t be angry with me.

And don’t be angry with the music business titans, keeping you out. They’re just worrying about themselves, they don’t care about you, they just want to live in a gated community and vacation where you aren’t.

They’re revolting in Russia. And they overthrew the government in a bunch of Middle Eastern countries. And if you don’t think it can’t happen here, you’re nuts.

Everybody thinks just because people have flat screens, they’re happy. But have you been following the shenanigans in cable? You’re paying for all this stuff you don’t watch just to keep rich people rich.

Music is a game for the poor. A place where the uneducated with no status can get a bit of notoriety and money. And as long as someone makes it, no one pays attention to the real problem.

The game is rigged.

You’re gonna be left behind unless you start making yourself number one and doing what’s expedient to get ahead.

What kind of country is that?

Not one I want to live in.

P.S. That great middle class of yore? It created the classic rock you’re still listening today. Music was a reasonable pursuit, rock stars were as rich as anybody in America. That framework expired decades ago, rock stars are no longer rich. There are bankers who make $20 million a year every year! So the Grace Slicks of today, people born with a silver spoon in their mouths, don’t go into the arts, it just doesn’t pay. Tom Rush was a Harvard graduate. He revolutionized the folk circuit, he pioneered the singer-songwriter game. Now we’ve just got poor people rapping about Benzes and boats. How fulfilling is that? I get it, they want in. But you used to follow your dreams, not the dollar. But now if you ain’t got the moolah, you’re gonna have a heart attack and no health insurance and you’re gonna be bankrupted. Hell, the dirty little secret is one health episode puts many people in bankruptcy even when they have insurance! But we’ve got to have less corporate regulation and as far as
health insurance goes…you’re on your own. Don’t you see, health insurance is a metaphor for our entire country! Can you imagine someone writing “Get Together” today? Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together and love one another right now… Who sings about that? Chumps.

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