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Social Distance and “Hello In There”

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Hello in There

John Prine was a giant. No one loves his work more than we do. His gems include “Angel From Montgomery” and “Paradise“, among dozens of others. But since his death last week (from complications of coronavirus), the one we keep hearing, and celebrating, is one that speaks to isolation and loss. “Hello in There” is a fantastic song, and justifiably one of his best. But somehow it troubles us.

And by “us” I mean “me”

Let me step out from behind the curtain of the editorial we. I have listened to “Hello in There” thousands of times, and I love the song. The lyrics are beyond moving. The simple melody is classic Prine. It is everything I expect from a Prine song: beautiful, touching, eloquent.

But our job at Fleming & Curti, PLC, is to provide assistance and direction to the elderly and people with disabilities (and their families). Also, at age 67, I qualify as elderly myself. I worry that this one song patronizes “my” population — and even infantilizes us to a degree.

“Old trees just get stronger” makes sense to me. “Old rivers grow wilder every day” is a bit more of a stretch (don’t they really slow down, widen out and have fewer whitewater stretches over time? Maybe I’m overreacting). But “old people just get lonesome” is flat wrong. And a little dangerous.

How can I reconcile my love of a beautiful song with my concern about its misleading emphasis? By coming up with some alternatives, of course. I could suggest any number of Prine songs. And virtually all of them would be on my regular playlist (alongside “Hello in There”). But maybe we could look for other anthems for this time of isolation and loss.

Isolation? Let’s start with Leonard Cohen

Perhaps you want to lift the mood during your social distancing. There is likely no better candidate than “Hallelujah“, which is completely anthemic. Cohen himself gave it a somber tone that still seems appropriate for these times, though.

But if you want to wallow in the isolation a little bit, you might try “Our Lady of Solitude“. Or this literally anthemic presentation of “Anthem“, complete with poetry. That is, after all, how the light gets in.

Bill Morrissey, 1951-2011

Isolation, of course, can be shared. That’s the central point of one of the most wonderful folk songs in recent years — “Birches” by the late New Hampshire singer-songwriter Bill Morrissey.

Maybe you’re not familiar with Morrissey. He didn’t have the level of acclaim he deserved. It doesn’t really speak to isolation or loss, but you might like his “Handsome Molly” as a further introduction.

A few other entries, and back to John Prine

It occurs to me that this social distancing soundtrack is pretty masculine. Not to mention a little morbid, since none of the singer-songwriters I’ve listed is still among the living.

Carole King’s “So Far Away” manages to capture the moment and the irony. Doesn’t anyone stay in one place any more? And when you are isolated, isn’t it good to know that “You’ve Got a Friend“?

I’ve also focused on singers singing their own songs. Maybe sometimes someone else can do a good job with a good song. How about Judy Collins and the Bob Dylan song “Time Passes Slowly“? And that sort of brings us full circle — to Joan Baez in her own living room two weeks ago, singing a song for John Prine.

If “Hello in There” is no my favorite John Prine, what might I suggest for someone who, like me, loves his work and wants to reflect on his extraordinary career? How about his excellent social distancing advice from “Spanish Pipe Dream“? But the best entry, in my mind: “The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness“.

Now back to your regularly-scheduled programming. And thanks for everything, John Prine. We all miss you.



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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.