Town crier

I haven’t always been a crier. In fact, most of my twenties were spent dry-eyed and distant. In my rock band, I was the aloof one – the guy you needed to “get to know.” In retrospect, I guess I was kind of a jerk.

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One afternoon, however, a significant aspect of my tough-guy facade changed forever: I was camped out at a friend’s apartment while she was at work, and it was there that my status as a non-crier ended. Some cable channel was broadcasting a Little House on the Prairie marathon, and I was sucked right in. (Some of you may be aware that I have a thing for Pa.)

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Curled up and blanketed on the sofa – all cozy and safe – I watched schmaltzy episode after schmaltzy episode. (As I lived in a shared apartment with no common space and no television, this day was a rare treat for me.) The only thing that could have made the situation better would have been a plate of graham crackers and a glass of milk.

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My day’s viewing climaxed with the episode in which Half-Pint – filled with jealousy – wishes death upon her newborn-baby-brother. When her wish comes true, she – being incredibly freaked out – runs away from home. Finally, after much soul-searching, and some advice from a mysterious stranger, the middlemost Ingalls girl returns home to beg her father for forgiveness.

With music crescendoing and Pa squeezing his beloved daughter, my ducts started to tingle. I swallowed hard and tried to fight it off, but to no avail. I cried.

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No one else was home, so my secret was safe, but now that my tear ducts had been stimulated, I started to cry regularly. Still having my cool-guy image to protect, however, I became a closeted weeper.

Simple things like a bird’s whistle or a Bruce Springsteen song could trigger a jag. For the most part, I was okay with my newfound crying status…after all, it isn’t that hard to imagine what the Boss himself would look like boo-hooin’ it up.

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 My closeted status ended when I was outed at age twenty-nine by a substantial family loss, which sent me into an emotional tailspin. Next thing I knew I was bawling in public. Like some sort of grotesque performance artist, I was crying everywhere I went.

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This period apexed while I was on a second date with the future Mrs. Uncontrollable Freak. I fell into a twenty-minute-long episode, doubled over on the sidewalk and hyperventilating. The cause of my breakdown: a panhandler asking me if I had some spare change I could offer. (The injustice of society troubled me so deeply at that moment that I was paralyzed.) If I was to function normally in society, I clearly needed help. I needed a shrink.

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I signed up at my local neighborhood mental health clinic for six free therapy sessions, and argued weekly with my psychologist about the validity of my condition. My stance, which she never successfully refuted, was that given the state of the world, any responsible person should be depressed.

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 As I walked the earth and considered the pollution, degradation, and lack of human kindness, I imagined myself as the teary-eyed Native American gentleman of that PSA from the ‘70s. I think you know the one I’m talking about.

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After my sixth free therapy session ended, I dropped out, and my tears mostly dried up on their own. This was essentially because I started to feel like my crying was becoming a little self-indulgent.

True, I’ve got my public crying mostly under control, but it still emerges from time to time. At a recent New Year’s party, for example, I had to excuse myself because I spontaneously lost my shit while having a deep conversation with a new friend. And of course, during the final installment of the Rocky saga, my cheek was graced a couple of times with poisonous emotion.

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As Balboa himself proclaims in this glorious swansong of a film, “I still got a monster in my basement.”

57 responses to “Town crier”

  1. Trixie Honeycups says:

    I’m the town crier
    And everybody knows
    I’m a little down
    With a lifetime to go
    Maybe you don’t believe my heart is in the right place
    Why don’t you take a good look at my face
    Other boys use the splendour of their trembling lip
    They’re so teddy bear tender and tragically hip
    I’m never going to cry again
    I’m going to be as strong as them
    They say they’d die for love
    And then they live it out
    They’ll give you something to cry about
    And suddenly you really fall to pieces

    I’m the town crier
    And everybody knows
    I’m a little down
    With a lifetime to go
    Maybe you don’t believe my heart is in the right place
    Why don’t you take a good look at my face
    Other boys use the splendour of their trembling lip
    They’re so teddy bear tender and tragically hip

    Love and unhappiness go arm in arm
    Long suffering friends of your fatal charm
    Isn’t it a pity that you’re going to get hurt
    Just a little boy lost in a big man’s shirt

  2. that picture, scott. wow. the whole set of illustrations better be making ms parrish nervous about her reigning position as chief illustrator.

    so about those tears. next time you’re in town (or i’m out there), can we do a karaoke duet on “boys don’t cry”?

  3. Mrs. Uncontrollable Freak says:

    Re. the second date: Disconcerting, to be sure. But: Worth it.

  4. andrea says:

    Rosey Grier told us It’s Alright to Cry.
    Kermit told us It’s Not Easy Being Green.
    Karen Carpenter admitted Rainly Days and Sundays Always Get Me Down.

    I blame society.

  5. Lisa Parrish says:

    Ha! Re: Bryan’s comment: I was thinking the very same thing, only instead of seeing it as losing my reigning position, I thought, how lucky that Oh Godfrey is taking up the wacky-illustrations charge, since I never have time to post anymore. Rock on, Oh! Today’s post is marvelous.

  6. Lisa Tremain says:

    Sometimes Scott gets down on himself for being too cynical in conversation with people. I, however, know that any said cynicism displayed by Scott equals tears right behind the eyes.

    What a sweet, sweet post.

  7. Lilly says:

    I don’t know you but is that a picture of you during your tough ass rocker days where not a tear would dare pass those “aloof” eyes? Well, do you all see the weight that lies behind those eyes…in fact I am sure a detect some welling…thank god that tidal wave broke free. To me that picture screams guy who wants to just wail. Then again it could just be a reaction to the eyeliner.

  8. Scott Godfrey says:

    Thanks for the nice comments everybody. This is a post that I’ve been thinking about writing for a while.

    Bryan, I forgot that you wrote a crying post as well. I look forward to the duet. Perhaps we can put together a whole show: Boys Don’t Cry, As Tears Go By, The Weeping Song, Tears on my Pillow, Cryin’ Over You… it seems like an endless well from which to draw.

    Mrs, You’ve honored me with our life together. For those of you who haven’t been privy, she’s quite a babe too!

    Andrea, thanks for conjuring Kermit. I cry every time I hear Rainbow Connection.

    Parrish, great to be on the phone with you as I spilled coffee on my lap this morning.

    Tremain, you get my vote as the sweetest Whatsitser of all.

    Lilly, yes that is a picture of me in my younger days. Perhaps the problem was that I was totally broke and couldn’t afford to buy any more eyeliner so I needed to make what I had last.

    Trixie, thanks for the lyrics. That Mr. Costello sure has a way with words.

  9. Scott Godfrey says:

    It’s not nice to tease, Jeremy.

  10. Tim Wager says:

    Scotty,

    This post is just too good. That photo of the younger you: yowza! Hot ‘n’ Hunky, plus vulnerable. I agree with Lilly on that well behind the eyes.

    Also, I’d say that crying is not necessarily a sign of depression (unless, of course, it’s interfering with one’s ability to, say, hold down a job). It’s a sign of the capacity to express your emotions.

    I must say, there’s Elvis all over this post, as by the end of it I was humming another of his tunes. At the risk of getting D.P. MacManus’s lawyers down on us, I’ll quote from it here:

    As I walk through
    This wicked world
    Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity.

    I ask myself
    Is all hope lost?
    Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?

    And each time I feel like this inside,
    There’s one thing I wanna know:
    What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh
    What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?

    yrs,

    T-Bro

  11. Jeremy says:

    I wasn’t teasing!!

  12. WW says:

    I sometimes think of you on the same continuum as Woody Allen, like you’re the non-Jewish, San Fran rocker version of the guy (which I guess isn’t really Woody at all, then, but go with me). At the risk of including you too in a club that might not want to have you as a member, your description of this emotional arc in your life strongly echoes Allen’s own journey, at least on film. In “Annie Hall,” we meet Alvy Singer as a 9-year-old talking to a shrink, his mom at his side:

    Doc: Why are you depressed, Alvy?
    Mom: (to Alvy) Tell the Doctor. (to the Doc) It’s something he read.
    Doc: Something you read?
    Alvy: The universe is expanding.
    Doc: The universe is expanding?
    Alvy: Well, the universe is everything, and if it’s expanding, someday it will break apart and that would be the end of everything!
    Mom: What is that your business? (to Doctor) He stopped doing his homework.
    Alvy: What’s the point?
    Mom: What has the universe got to do with it? You’re here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!

    This is bookended by “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” where the professor of Philosophy says: It is only we, with our capacity to love, that give meaning to the indifferent universe. After coming to this realization (and after a final fling with The Big Ideas in “Husbands and Wives”) Allen’s movies changed dramatically; figuring it all out lowered the drama quotient in his life. Your tears dried up on their own perhaps not just because you decided it was self-indulgent. Maybe love dried up all your tears: the deep conversation with a new friend; the passion a paunchy pugilist inspired within you. But most profoundly perhaps what changed your life is the love of a good woman and the love you give her each and every day.

    Jesus. How’s that for earnest?

  13. Scott says:

    Holy crow! How do I respond to those kind words? You’re both too, too kind. Thanks Wag and the West.

    WW, I leave you with one of my favorite Allen quotes: “A strange man defecated on my sister.”

    You’re both “Keen, [you’re] Keener than Keen. You’re Cugat.”

  14. Leif says:

    Scott, I like the illustrations. Interesting subject matter, there is nothing quite like the relief and sleep inducing endorphins after having oneself a good cry………it makes me feel clean again. I cried for miles when I moved to Cal………. I cried when I left……Don’t tell anyone. Best Regards, LK

  15. autumn says:

    I think laughing and crying go hand in hand; you have to know one well to equally know the other. and while from time to time I question the ease at which my own can come (sad ones, happy ones, empathetic or otherwise) I do feel they are a blessing.

    great post Scott. same goes for the Woody Allen reference (nod to WW). though I would argue you are better dressed than Mr. Allen and also a bit more decidedly subtle in the delivery of your keen observations.

    but Balboa…really?

  16. Dave says:

    Awesome post. The part about crying feeling self indulgent made me think of the phrase “a good cry,” which I’ve only heard female characters in books use (never heard it in real life). It’s like a bubble bath, I guess, or a day on the couch eating bon bons: a fine, even necessary indulgence form time to time, but not attractive as a lifestyle choice.

    I myself have a hair-trigger crying mechanism during emotional movies, especially stories of great sports triumph.

  17. J-Man says:

    Scott,
    The fact that you cry, plus that picture of you with eyeliner, add up to HOT in my book. I think it’s great that you aren’t afraid to admit your man crushes and your crying jags. Loved this post!

  18. Scott says:

    Leif, I’m so glad that you cried when you left CA, maybe that means you’ll come back.

    J. Bear, in a million years I’d never lift a finger to you, you big hunk of love.

    Autumn, yes, Balboa.

    Brian, Kundun to you too.

    Mr. Barber, I can’t tell you how happy I am to finally earn a comment from you.

    J-Man, let me know when you’re ready to leave that bum.

  19. A new friend says:

    Scott is clearly heading for a strong showing in the 2007 whatsies with only one post under his belt — the photos, the confessional aspect, and the general fabulousness.

    The crying is powerful because few people will readily share — and sharing is so great!. And in men it’s particularly amazing. No wonder Mrs. Future Uncontrollable Freak stuck with it.

    Dave – for the record, a good cry is less like an indulgent bubble bath and more of a healthy cathartic experience like a yoga class.

  20. […] « Town crier Let’s not don’t fear the reaper by Farrell Fawcett Posted on Thursday, February 1, 2007, under Words and Movies and Death andReligion […]

  21. Ruben Mancillas says:

    Why does everyone assume that’s an old picture of Scott?

    Re: WW and Scott-I’m with you guys on Crimes and Misdemeanors. The response Woody gives when asked why the guy did that to his sister is priceless.

    And isn’t Peace, Love & Understanding a Nick Lowe tune?

  22. Tim Wager says:

    Oops, you got me Ruben. Lowe wrote it, but I don’t think he ever recorded it, or did he?

  23. Scott says:

    I’ve only heard Lowe play the song once; it was on Fresh Air . He did an acoustic version that gave me a new appreciation for that particular number.

  24. bryan says:

    i’ve confessed to some of you privately that, well, on the list of things i know i should like but i secretly don’t at all, elvis costello is at the top. of course i know peace love and understanding, though. but it reassures me to know that nick lowe wrote it. nick lowe–now that fellow is a god. the jesus of cool to be exact.

  25. Scott says:

    Steph and I played this game with a couple of friends a few years ago. Mine was Pavement, which garnered some gasps. Steph’s friend Robb was the Pixies, and Steph’s is just too shocking to share without her blessing.

  26. bryan says:

    are you one of those fellows who didn’t like pavement because you liked the fall?

  27. Scott says:

    No, I think what happened was that I missed them when they were at their best. By the time I heard them, they were everybody’s favorite band, and seemed over rated to me. I had the same experience with Caddy Shack.

    What’s your excuse for Costello?

  28. bryan says:

    i was 9 when he hit his peak. by the time i knew who he was, his big single was veronica. he seemed like a weird old toad.

  29. bryan says:

    i was always a little more factory music than that faux-50s teddy boys shit they had going on. i needed the moody fellas. the ians.

  30. trixie says:

    bryan, listen to the album “imperial bedroom”. i am with you that after about 1988 elvis costello loses some allure. but the album mentioned above is on my favorite ever list.

    scott, i have the same thing with pavement. i did love the fall in the 80’s so maybe that was part of it for me.

  31. Rachel says:

    Bryan,

    Ditto what Trixie said about E.C. “This Year’s Model” is probably my favorite, and those early albums are all now available as yummy Rhino remasters.

    We should probably have a whole post on “music you should like but don’t.” I completely respect the artistic vision and cultural significance of Bjork, Polly Jean Harvey, and Patti Smith, but listening to any of them just feels like so much homework to me. I know. Take away my indie rock grrl membership card this minute.

  32. Literacy H. Dogfight says:

    Yeah, I have a whole post in the chute about this topic, though maybe it would be better as a short-contributions format than single-author with comments. P.S. Rachel: right there with ya. Don’t tell anyone. But I do remember Bryan giving me a strange look at the bar at Lisa T’s birthday when I suggested playing “Oliver’s Army” on the juke. He almost didn’t say anything, reconsidered, and then came clean to me about his shame. We’ve all got these dirty secrets. Take Lane and Bowie for instance . . .

  33. J-man says:

    Rachel,
    I’m with you on Bjork. Literacy – the B-side to that post could be “all the bands that I’ve heard of and know are supposed to be cool, but I have no idea what they sound like”. That’s really my secret shame.

  34. Tim Wager says:

    That’s because they all sound the same, J-Man.

    My not-so-secret shame . . . The Beach Boys. I. just. don’t. get. it. I mean, sure, poppy fun on the radio and stuff, but the stick-to-your-ribs greatness of the re-re-mastered Pet Sounds? I don’t hear it.

  35. Ruben Mancillas says:

    Trust me, for a group that, as a whole, would prefer to listen to the Scientologist who shall not be named or a certain well hyped harpist you’ve got plenty of musical shame to go around.

    Bryan, I’m with you about Patti and Polly Jean. I kept on reading how great it was supposed to be but my ear didn’t buy it. It is reassuring, however, that you do recognize their respective artistic vision and cultural significance so completely.

    E.C.-try King of America. I also like that disc he did with Burt Bacharach. Honest. I’ll also nominate he and Krall’s boys for best musical genes. Anybody else come to mind? Moore and Gordon’s daughter? I know, I know-Sean Lennon,end of story but I thought I’d throw out another category for nominations.

    I laughed out loud when Mr. Show took Brian Wilson to task for being so willing to write a song about literally the most mundane routine of his existence but the guy is a freakish, otherworldly talent. His ear (and only one works) is incredible-he’s the American George Martin as a producer/arranger and I find that dark unsettled edge lurking in the corners of all that gorgeous falsetto pop intriguing on every listen.

    Throw in how you can get a cultural studies department out of how plain weird their bio is: Hawthorne isn’t exactly the beach my East Coast brethren, that dad, the Beatles, Dennis and Charlie Manson, the Smile myth, Brian and Dr. Landy, and Mike Love still being an angry jerk while some incarnation of the band plays Kokomo at county fairs-it’s just all too great.

    Here’s one last nomination-most annoying/obnoxious/undeserving member of an acknowledged great group-Mike Love.

    Though I hear his nephew can ball and will be signing with my beloved Bruins so that moves him one up one whole level, say to Gehenna…

  36. bryan says:

    ruben — that was rachel (heh heh — ruben and rachel) who dissed patti, pj, and bjork. i like the first and the last and tolerate the middle. hell, i *teach* patti.

    i downloaded the remaster and bonus disc of imperial bedroom today. i’ll get back to y’all about that one.

  37. Trixie Honeycups says:

    bryan, i can’t wait to hear your opinion of imperial bedroom.
    (if you don’t like it, just email me. if you like it, feel free to write all about it here…)
    ok but seriously folks, all this jive talking about patti smith has me a little down.
    rachel, i was telling farrell last night that i feel i know your musical taste well enough from your mixes (which always kick ass) that i could pick the perfect songs from all 3 of those ladies and you would then maybe come around. or at least we could have fun debating it.
    when can you come over?

  38. Scott Godfrey says:

    You all need to consider Blood and Chocolate. Now there’s a record that BW might like.

  39. Trixie Honeycups says:

    by the way, i want to know what the band is that steph doesn’t get. steph, can we have your blessing so scottie can tell us? (or you can just tell us…) please. i need something to think about at work today. clearly.

  40. Rachel says:

    Trix, though I’d welcome the opportunity for you to educate me, my dis was by no means absolute. Who wouldn’t love PJ’s “Dress”? “Good Fortune’ got me through a rough spot a few years back (and sounds a whole lot like Patti, funnily enough). Likewise Bjork–“Big Time Sensuality” makes me feel all wiggly inside, and the first time I heard “It’s In Our Hands,” it was like someone told me a marvelous secret I had to keep precious. As for Patti Smith…well, maybe the legend of the person obscures the music for me. But one day, shortly after 9/11 & one of the first days I ventured back downtown, I came across her in Washington Square Park singing “People Have The Power” and I totally GOT IT.

    “Beyond Belief” on Imperial Bedroom is one of the best album openers I’ve ever heard.

    And Steph…’Fess up.

  41. Marleyfan says:

    Alright, here’s my two cents: most musicians seem to let their light shine in their first few years/albums. And I won’t call them all sell-outs, but in my opinion, their later work gets unimaginative and mundane, and/or self-indulgent. At the risk of being ostracized form TGW, my examples would include Dylan, Indigo Girls, and Neil Young (except Prairie Wind). Maybe it’s just my bend towards live albums, but most musicians just seem to express their feelings better in their earlier albums.

  42. Stephanie Wells says:

    Um . . . okay. I did tell Bryan that night at LT’s birthday and he was appalled. It’s not that I don’t LIKE him or totally RESPECT him and find him, you know, SEMINAL and all that but . . . (is there a smaller font I can write this in?)

    i just don’t always want to put bob dylan on the stereo

    sorry

  43. Trixie Honeycups says:

    wow. no way. steph, i have something to tell you…

  44. bryan says:

    i have something to tell you both …

    it’s called Nahville Skyline. 1969.

    No one can resist it.

  45. Lisa Tremain says:

    I totally want to fake like I don’t get Yo La Tengo right now.

    I get a little bored with the Smiths. And there’s a whole lotta rock that I’ve only pretended to like (i.e. Black Sabbath). Agreed with Tim on The Beach Boys too, except the song “In My Room.”

  46. Trixie Honeycups says:

    bryan already knows what i am about to say, as we have spent several hours discussing it on a variety of occasions.
    we (farrell and i) don’t get bob dylan either. i respect his work and his contribution to music culture, but if farrell and i were in a room together for all of eternity and every record ever manufactured in the history of time, (which i hope we are–that is what i have planned on anyway…) it is beyond me to guess which one of us would be the one to play a dylan album.
    maybe i had better get my listen on to nashville skyline, bry. you have recommended this before.

  47. Trixie Honeycups says:

    farrell, i hope it’s ok that i have outed you with this.
    can i password protect that comment so that only steph can read it?

  48. Tim Wager says:

    If there’s one Bob Dylan record that non-fans will like, it’s Nashville Skyline. Even my parents had it when I was a kid, and they professed active disinterest in him. It might not bring you around to any of the rest of his stuff, but you’ll probably enjoy it.

    That’s because it’s not really representative of much of his work – long-form poems set to insistently thrumming acoustic guitar and squealing harmonica. It’s country-pop, through and through. If there’s one Dylan song that may bring around someone who doesn’t like the typical 60s Dylan, I’d say it’s “Chimes of Freedom” from Another Side of Bob Dylan.

  49. bryan says:

    #49 — not only did i recommend it, honeycups, i bought it for your man. it’s his birth-year dylan album. that’s more serious than your astrological sign!

  50. Rachel says:

    That leaves me with just Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”. What a rip! Give me back my Libra on the cusp of Scorpio!

  51. Tim Wager says:

    Yes! That means I get “Bringing It All Back Home” *and* “Highway 61 Revisited”! Age indeed has its benefits.

  52. Marleyfan says:

    Nashville Skyline certainly has some gems, especially “Tonight I’ll be staying here with you and “To be alone with you”. But, to my ears, comparatively, I like most every song on Freewheelin’.

  53. Ruben Mancillas says:

    I am skeptical about Nashville Skyline because I am wary of anything that is “the book for people who don’t like to read”, etc. It’s a good album on its own merits but I would offer that you do yourself a disservice to investigate a breadth of work like his via such Dylan-Lite. It would be equivalent to trying to see if you like Mexican food by going to Del Taco.

    Blood on the Tracks is my personal favorite and the live album with The Band-Before The Flood-is great too. Desire has Hurricane, which is practically worth the price of admission right there.

    I recommend trying out some of the newer stuff as well. Anything produced by Daniel Lanois is worth a listen in my estimation-how about 89’s Oh Mercy? And the recent Time Out of Mind and Modern Romance both have some real gems on them.

    And Bryan, is your Surrender preference studio or Budokan?

  54. bryan says:

    you can be a contrarian all you want, ruben, and you can call it dylan-lite, but it’s a hell of a record. and not just for non-believers. the remaster of that one is a gem.

    my birth-year albums are a mixed bag (selfportrait and new morning) but i’ve come to love them. each has its own quirky charms.

    i also like newer stuff, and even much maligned stuff, like infidels. dylan-as-dire straits! woo-hoo! the newest record was a surprise. much better than love and theft, i thought.

    as for the cheap trick, i go back and forth. the live version sure does rock.

  55. Jeremy Bear says:

    Heya, Scott, long time / first time.

    First of all, the photo of you is great. I never knew Rock Star Scott, and I sometimes wonder what he looked like. I guess I’ll wonder no more. You looked like the kind of guy who would’ve kicked my ass, but at least had the decency to feel sick and guilty about it later.

    Anyhow, thanks for the post. I won’t bother with a lengthy why-are-boys-so-afraid-of-tears lament because, come on, that’s boring. Instead I’ll only admit that I often hide my tears from my wife during sad or inspiring movies.

    It’s often at the strange moments, too: when Kevin Costner tells us not to forget the words of our dying king in JFK… or when Tom Hanks tells Meg Ryan that he felt as if he’d seen her before in Joe Vs. The Volcano… even the closing scenes of Armageddon made me lose it, for pete’s sake. Waterworks!

    Not sure why I don’t like Carey knowing, though. She’s the last person to get all “s’matter, sweetie, sand in your vagina?” on me, so I don’t know what the problem is.

    Well, whatever the case, thanks for coming clean. Knowing you how I do, the big surprise wasn’t that you’re a crier, it’s that you didn’t used to be.

  56. brian says:

    Scott, “Town Crier”, I liked it!