When Harry Sang

On July 16th it will be forty years since the world lost Harry Chapin. For those too young to know who he was, simply search on iTunes and download an album or two.

At a time when singer-songwriters monopolized the airwaves of the better rock stations, Harry was the best. He was so good he even got radio stations to air seven minute songs. Now, while they may have seemed long to station managers and advertising executives, to those of us who loved a good story, those songs were Shakespeare on vinyl.

Whether listening to Harry sing in the comfort of your living room or while sitting outside on the rock at Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park you were transported to Frisco on a rainy night or a steep hill in Scranton, Pennsylvania. You could care less who was President or what party controlled Congress. You were listening to Harry tell stories and that’s all that mattered.

Harry sang about people, ordinary people. A tailor who dreamed about singing at Town Hall; a waitress who could recognize her own loneliness in others; a cabbie who fell short of his dreams. Harry sang about us. We saw ourselves in his cast of characters and, somehow, we were made better people because of it.

It’s useful to remember that the seventies weren’t exactly the golden age of America. Cities were burning down; we had hostages in Iran; we could only buy gasoline on certain days; and double digit inflation was the norm.

No matter.

When Harry sang it was really a better place to be.

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Freaky Saturday

My Saturdays used to bring me to a park.

I would either find myself amidst the park-goers of Central Park or among the Bleacher Creatures of Yankee Stadium.

I have yet to discover my Florida park.

Instead, my park-option has been to walk around Sarasota and take in a farmers’ market.

This is probably closer to walking in Central Park than watching a ballgame in Yankee Stadium. Pre-pandemic, the Sarasota experience was like walking through a Woodstock reunion. People of that age milling about, some in tie-dye apparel, others accompanied by their pets.

Booths erected to encourage buying and selling, primarily items like coffee, vegetables, and the like. Then there are the shops of a more permanent nature like book stores. It’s nice to wander through a book store and to find something you weren’t even looking for or even thinking about before you snatched it off the shelf to purchase.

Amazon is easier but not nearly as much fun.

I have to remind myself to buy a stereo system.

My new Mac desktop doesn’t accommodate loading a CD onto iTunes, and I have grown desirous of re-purchasing the vinyl records I gave away before moving to Florida.

Bluetoothing my iTunes saved music on to my Bose is easier, but I long to flip an album to the other side and marvel at the album art and liner notes.

I haven’t yet decided what kind of system I will buy or, more importantly, where to put it when I do.

I know the next thing I will be looking for is a used SLR camera that uses film instead of digits and doesn’t know squat about pixels. I have my son’s enlarger in the garage, so maybe I will go back to the days I developed my own prints?

That’s a nice thought, but digital is too easy for me to create a darkroom in the Sunshine State.

Maybe I should just get a tune-up kit for my 1973 Vega and call it a day?

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Rebel Rebel

Happy Fourth of July Everybody.


Today is a good day to remember who we are and maybe who we want to be.


We are the heirs of a noble experiment. A few men, yes, they were men and they were white, set off to create a nation.


These men weren’t perfect, and there was enough partisanship to go around to keep them from being perfect and from creating a perfect country.


Still, it is what it is, and we are who we are.


While we celebrate the joys of liberty and prosperity, we can still acknowledge that there is a great deal of work to be done to bring liberty and prosperity to all.


We are all tired of pointing fingers and being pointed at as the enemy of the nation. We have enemies for sure. Some are foreign, and some are domestic. But we have a system of laws that binds us all together as one nation, and I do believe, under God.


So when I watch the fireworks tonight, I will be thinking of our glorious past that has not been without its flaws and imperfections, as well as the glorious future that is surely ours to behold.


Don’t forget to have a hot dog and a cold beer.


Now, that’s an American tradition!

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Summer In The City

If you are reading this in the northern latitudes, you might be wondering why I am writing anything at all with the word summer in it?

April in New York was always a confusing month for me. It could be downright frigid in the morning when I was heading to the train, but by the time I got off the subway in Brooklyn, it was already getting quite warm.

For some reason, I always felt the cold more intensely in April than in February. I reasoned that you expect to be cold in February, but by April, I knew you were close to summer with baseball starting and trees budding. But then you really weren’t, and those thirty and forty-degree days seemed to go right through me.

I have no such confusion in Florida.

It’s freakin hot already, and I can only feel that summer has arrived. So, that is why I am writing about Sumer In The City.

Of course, many of you will remember that Summer In The City is a song that the Lovin Spoonful put out in the summer of 1966. You might not remember that the summer of 1966 was one of the hottest in New York City history, at least on Leland Avenue in the Bronx. On Sunday, the temperature reached 106 degrees, and so every time I hear Summer In The City, I can feel the heat of that particular day.

But it is not the heat that I wish to write about in summer in the city but rather the joy of summer in the city.

I used to love New York in the summer. I got to walk around the city quite a lot when working as a mail clerk for Lorillard Corp. Walking on Fifth Avenue on a steamy hot summer’s day with thousands of New Yorkers walking with and against you like the surf at Jones Beach or Hot Dog Beach. I can still see the heads of my fellow travelers bobbing up and down in uniform precision like the Rockettes leg kicking at Radio City.

It was exciting just to be there walking with everyone.

I never understood how people didn’t love New York City.

These were the days of Woodstock and Goin To The Country when all the hippies wanted to live on a farm or commune far, far away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Not me. I wanted to be in New York.

Despite working a whole week in the city, every Saturday morning would see me board another Pelham Bay local downtown. Heading to my summer haven, Central Park, I had no disdain for yet another subway ride on a hot, un-airconditioned train. After all, the subways were always empty on the weekend, so it was a pleasure, and even the fans overhead, which, on any weekday were but mere feeble attempts at comfort, actually served a refreshing breezed making your journey tolerable.

Going to Central Park on a Saturday was at once Goin To The Country and urbanization at its best. I got to enjoy a stroll through the park and stop at the baseball fields to catch a few innings of a softball game. Then I would make my way to the Bethesda Fountain, where on its plaza frisbees were zooming overhead in a never-ending display of ultimate faith in your fellow human as you were sure to get your frisbee back at the end of the day. (Perhaps this was the origin of Ultimate Frisbee?)

Having enjoyed the beauty of the frisbee toss and the splash of the fountain’s waters, I continued my walk.

I aimed to reach Literary Walk to welcome the coolness of the shade provided by the umbrella of trees lining the walkway. Maybe I would read a bit from my book? But it wouldn’t be long until I sought out the several folk groups that provided afternoon entertainment for all to enjoy.

On Saturday, I continued up the walk to the Band Shell, where Pete Seeger gave a free concert. As I said, it was like going to the country…without leaving the city.

What made these Saturday meandering even more enjoyable was the freedom that summer always represented. School was out, and even though I had actually learned to love learning, not having five or six-term papers to do was liberating. I could finally read what I wanted to read.

I always thought of these summers as times for reading and listening to music. Since then, I try to have a summer reading list and an accompanying music list.

I guess the Pandemic has put all of these memories in stark comparison to days when it was ok to find and live joy. It seems we have to be grateful for what we have and never mind what we have been unable to enjoy.

During a storm, whether a hurricane or blizzard, Lockdown is always a challenge but one that is short-lived. The Pandemic doesn’t seem to want to go away. We have vaccines, but it still seems to be spreading and mutating so that even the hope we have that normality is coming to a place near you may be only a dream.

Nevertheless, I will be going up again to be with my children in the Bronx, and I will be making a reading list and checking it twice and re-doing my summer playlist, both of which will be the subject of a forthcoming Newell Post.

It’s going to be a glorious summer. I still have faith in that.

I

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I Watched The News Today…Oh Boy….Or Lies Lies And More Lies

All America is divided into two parts.

Julius Caesar crafted a similar sentence much more capably than I when he was describing Gaul, but I thought I would steal from him today, even it is only by allusion.

While Gaul may have been divided into three parts in Caesar’s day, he was writing in the geographical sense. Whereas America consists (with apologies to Hawaii and Alaska) of one part geographically, politically, we are split in half.

I won’t try to discern if the two parts are of equal size.

I have taken it upon myself to identify these two constituencies MSNBC and Fox News.

If any certainties have survived the last four-plus years, it is that a FOX viewer firmly believes that everything said on MSNBC is a lie.

Similarly, MSNBC viewers condemn FOX for spreading lies and disinformation.

Which one is right?

The answer hardly matters.

We used to watch the news for information; now it’s just a Neo-reality show put on each night for our entertainment.

Stories are presented in a particular bias that may or may not have vestiges of truth. So long as we are fans of the NJ (News Jockey), we will believe it.

No matter what the truth is, we have decided only to believe those we trust and never take it upon ourselves to question this allegiance.

It was bad enough when people were divided over a particular issue because they had honest differences of opinions. They had their own view on a specific problem and how w should solve it.

A runner on first in the bottom of the ninth with no out?

A reasonable baseball fan would urge his team to bunt the runner over into scoring position.

Another reasonable fan would rather have them try for a hit and run.

Another reasonable fan would say let the batter hit without any distractions.

These reasonable fans all had a difference of opinion, and each had their solution to the problem at hand.

They were fans of the same team.

They wanted their team to win.

They only had different views as to how that could be best accomplished.

They didn’t hate each other.

If the team won utilizing one of the fans’ plans, the other two fans would rejoice in the team’s victory, nevertheless.

If that could only work in politics, Susan.

Compared to the real issues that divide us, what to do in the ninth inning with a runner on first and no out is child’s play.

I know what the truth is on many of the issues that divide us, and I have solutions for each.

The trouble is that many people feel the same way and vehemently disagree with my take on the issues.

There doesn’t seem to be any wiggle room to allow any kind of compromise.

Truth trumps truth in a world where everything is true and nothing is true.

The sad thing is someone is lying but damned if I know who.

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The Last Time We Attended The Tree Lighting

I was still working at St. Vito’s as a seventh and eighth-grade teacher. Eileen had just recently moved to New Rochelle.

We had made a tradition of going to see the tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center and had done so for several years. Back then, it was a simple ceremony that lasted less than a half-hour.

While carols were sung, it had not yet been the big production that you will see tonight. Nevertheless, a big crowd had always shown up for the lighting.

It was December 3, 1979, and Eileen and I were accompanied by our friend Bob with whom I worked at St.Vito’s.

We took the train to the city from Larchmont and got down to Rockefeller Center in plenty of time. The crowd seemed much bigger than in past years, and we had to struggle to stay close together.

As the time for the lighting approached, it got a little hairy being in such tight quarters with so many people. We were only a matter of feet apart from each other, but I felt a bit out of control. There was a mother with a child in a stroller right next to us, and the people around made sure not to get too close to her, but it was scary.

Finally, the moment of truth arrived, and the countdown began. The tree was lit, and it was a joyous moment we would always remember. (Bob and I would still laugh and wonder if we actually had seen it go from dark to lit or had we blinked at an inopportune time?)

So, with the tree lit, we started to make our way home…but it wasn’t easy to that.

As I mentioned, the three of us were no more than a foot apart from each other. Nevertheless, it took us a full hour to find each other afterward. We were stuck in a whirlpool of people and were taken hither and yon in many different directions.

It was frightening.

This was a time before cell phones, so being out of contact for so long during a frightening experience took the joy of the moment right out of us. Finally, we caught up with each other and made our way to Grand Central Station to ride back to Larchmont.

When we got home, we got ready for the next workday and then settled down to watch the 11 O’clock news.

The first story was about a rock concert by The Who in Cincinnati.

Evidently, general admission tickets were sold, and no one was assigned a seat. So, people just ran to get the best seats available.

A stampede resulted, and 11 people were killed.

Having just experienced an out of control situation where we were tossed around and unable to determine which way we would walk, this was a frightening thing to see. A time of joy turned into a time of tremendous tragedy.

I vowed I would never put myself or Eileen through something like that again.

In fact, a year later, in September 1980, we were on the train heading to the city to see Elton John in Central Park. No doubt, a large crowd would be in attendance.

As we approached the city, Eileen mentioned that she might be pregnant. After I got over my excitement and joy, I thought about where we were going and immediately decided against going to the concert.

Instead, we went down to the Village and walked around and had a burger at Mr. William Shakespeare’s, a lovely pub in the Village. On the way home, we stopped at a pharmacy, and Eileen got a pregnancy test.

Sean Patrick was born in May.

So, tonight we will be watching the tree lighting ceremony from the comfort of our home.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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His Address It Will Be Changin (With Apologies To Bob Dylan)

His Address It Will Be Changin

Come play another round, Donald; that’s all you can do
For Rudy has proven he’s not savin you.
And start packin now because the UHaul is due.
If you have anything worth you’ll be taken.
Then you better start packin Melania’s already leavin.
For His Address It Will be Changin.

Come, lawyers and poll watchers, you let your man down.
You promised that he would still wear his crown.
But the judges you faced shot all your claims down.
And you know who they should be blamin
It’s that orange skin man who made you look like a clown.
For His Address It Will Be Changin

Come all you republicans who cackle like hens.
And defend troubled Donny, who’ll be off to the pen.
Your oath and your office never once did defend.
In the face of this Putin defender.
You cowered to the Commander Tweet-Master.
For His Address It Will Be Changin

Come, Hannity and Ingram, watch your ratings dip.
As Trumpers look for a new place to flip
And don’t be surprised if you choose to jump ship.
‘Cause Trump Network will soon be airin
And when Trump is in charge, sycophants go right in.
For His Address It Will Be Changin

The election is over; Joe Biden has won.
The recounts and recounts and recounts are done.
And there’s no more votes for Trump that are comin
He’s a loser; you’re suckers.
And America comes back in twenty twenty-one.
For His Address It Will Be Changin

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Right Of Reconciliation

Bless me, Father, it has been an extremely long time since my last confession. In fact, the Catholic Church was still calling the sacrament Confession. Now, I hear, it is called the Rite of Reconciliation.

It seems that America needs a Right Of Reconciliation if American Exceptionalism is to be restored.

For a country that has served as a beacon of hope and opportunity for so many years and countless numbers of refugees drawn to our shores, there’s just too much hate and division keeping us from being the country so many have given their lives to preserve.

Clearly, 2020 has been a year when so many of us are at odds with one another. The Viet Nam War divided us but never like what we have witnessed these last ten years or so. Race relations have always challenged our ability to be a united country but never have we faced such challenges as we do today.

Then there’s COVID.

Who would have thought Pole, Cancer, Typhoid, or Small Pox would have caused such a nation’s polarization as has COVID?

It’s a disease! Not a belief system.

Still, that is what I profess to believe.

We know that at least seventy million voters think otherwise.
The question is, why do so many people differ on matters of science?

Well, let’s look at the other side for a moment.

Back in the early 1970s, Archie Bunker was the symbol of the Old Order.
He was deemed a bigot. He was a World War II veteran who didn’t understand how young people could protest against their country and President.

His world was changing in so many ways, and he had no way of adapting to the new world order as his world was being replaced.

There is so much about the people who support Trump that I don’t understand. There is so much about me that Trump supporters don’t know about me. It’s time to try to understand each other even if we will never agree with each other.

The trouble is so much of what we believe is rife with inconsistencies.

Many Americans support a woman’s right to choose but refuse to consider…just consider, what other people believe.

Then you have the Pro-Life people who look the other way when babies are ripped out of their mothers’ arms.

Can we just think about the other point of view for a second?

I am so sick of the Constitution.

It’s ambiguous at best. It was written at a time when women didn’t vote, and blacks weren’t even considered citizens and had no rights. Nevertheless, let’s continue to look at the Original Intent of the Constitution for guidance!

We profess to be a people of faith, but that only seems to apply on the Sabbath.

We talk about the separation of Church and State, which may be a fine concept to apply to government, but it is an inconsistent policy to apply to one’s life. We should not separate our religious beliefs from our daily actions.

Jesus, for one, wouldn’t like that.

The sad thing is that this election has shown us all that nothing will change unless we change. We don’t need a President to change for us. We are reasonable people who know what needs to be done.

So before you cast that first stone at the other side, consider if you are without fault.

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Why 200K?

Twenty years ago, as we had survived the IT Terror of Y2K, I was diagnosed with leukemia.

The word leukemia was enough to scare most people back then and still is a deadly disease today.

I was able to survive because I had an indolent variety that was not as aggressive as the disease often can be. I also survived because I had excellent health care and excellent health insurance.

Although America at the dawn of the twenty-first century was lagging behind other industrialized nations in various categories affecting the quality of life, including education and health care, both were accessible to you and your family if you had money.

Today, while I still receive daily and monthly leukemia treatments, a more significant threat confronts me and the rest of the world.

COVID 19 cares nothing about national rankings in any category. It holds no bias in favor of any degree you may possess or health insurance policy to which you may subscribe. However, the lesser-educated, uninsured, and economically disadvantaged of our population are incredibly susceptible to its ravages.

In the days when our nation was able to put a man on the moon seemingly at will, I would have written, “We can put a man on the moon, but we cannot effectively deal with a pandemic.”

The sad reality is that today we are no longer able to put a man on the moon, and we have failed miserably in dealing with COVID 19.

Along with this sad reality, we are bombarded every day with the absurdity and maniacal incompetence of our national government that has been unable to protect its citizens. Politicians cry out about preserving the Constitution! The hell with the Constitution, protect US!

An outdated piece of parchment that is incapable of protecting itself from daily violations surely isn’t doing We The People any good at all.

While the Republicans and Democrats toss spitballs at each other, Nero is fiddling with history and truth while the west coast burns, the southeast drowns, and the northeast hunkers down for a COVID 19 second wave.

It’s time we wake up and take our country back from the losers who would destroy it.

It’s just startling that a country that helped save civilization and helped to re-build Europe can fail so miserably in addressing its citizens’ needs. America First? Oh, no one believes that.

If America were first in our leaders’ minds and hearts, we wouldn’t have to ask Why 200K?

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Thanking Of You

 

 

I wrote the following for Thanksgiving 2019. Reading it again made me laugh and cry just thinking about what a simple time it was just one year ago.

Well, here we are again soon to be assembled round a turkey with all the fixins.

I am assuming this will be my seventieth Thanksgiving celebration, but I am guessing that not too much turkey was consumed in my earlier commemorations. Commenting that I soon made up for that is not a kind thought to have as we enter the holiday season.

I had a bit more turkey angst this morning than I have had in some time, or ever had. My wife, Eileen, called our local Publix supermarket to order a fresh-killed turkey. She made this call this past Friday and was advised to have it picked up on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

This in itself was reason enough for me to break out into a cold sweat if such a thing can actually occur in Florida. I mean, waiting until the day before Thanksgiving to get your turkey was something our parents would never have permitted. So, this morning, I called the supermarket to see if our turkey was available for pickup.

After waiting a few minutes, I was advised that no such turkey was being held in our name. Okay, not to worry as we had several Publix in our immediate area, so I made some calls.

Each call added to my sense of dread.

No fresh turkey in my name. A frozen turkey would not do as there is no way it would thaw in time for Thursday’s dinner. I began to ponder a Chinese food dinner. Chicken Chow Mein? Well, it did have poultry in it. General Tsao’s Chicken? Again, poultry but not really something the Pilgrims would have had feasted on.

Frantically, I set out on a mission to find a turkey fit to be roasted on Thanksgiving Day.

I need not have worried as they were in abundant supply…at Publix.

I guess I should have asked if they had any available when I was told I had none on reserve. But of course, Publix could have informed me of that fact too, but I have a turkey, and that’s all that matters.

It wasn’t so much worrying about having to face Thanksgiving turkeyless, it was what the turkey always represents in my mind.

The turkey was always cooked by my mother, carved by my father, and devoured by my siblings and in-laws.

Somehow eating turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas is like having it with my family. It has always been like that and will remain so. It is even like that with our children and other relatives who will be having their own meal in distant locations. Yet, no matter how far geographically apart we may be, we will be together.

It’s just that it would be so nice if for only one day to have everyone that we will be missing sitting alongside us as we pile on the yams and the stuffing and drizzle gravy over the turkey.

So, here is to all our dear friends and family, Happy Thanksgiving!

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Forty-Nine

Friday, September 3, 1971, was a memorable day. Life-changing events are almost always memorable, and I experienced a life-changing event on September 3, 1971.

The date also happened to be my mother’s 64th birthday. That is especially amusing as I am six years older than that as I type this story. I guess she really wasn’t all that old back then, nor was Pop who was the same age.

Anyway, as I do every year at this time, I commemorate the day that Eileen and I met. We met forty-nine years ago today, but we met on a Friday night of Labor Day weekend.

She was seventeen and for the first time in all the years reminiscing about that moment I am brought back to the Beatles’ I Saw Her Standing There.

After all, she was just seventeen, and I was twenty-one, so you already have a good idea as to what I mean.

She wasn’t really standing there, however, but perched upon a bar stool grinning from ear to ear as if, when she first laid eyes on me, she knew that forty-nine years later there would be a story to tell. How could she have known? And, having known, what a miracle that she stayed seated and grinning as I made my way over to her.

But she did stay, and soon we both realized that we would be staying for good. We didn’t know then about Sean, Jeannine, or Bryan but the idea of “our” children would not have been a surprise as we began our future, making our way home from the Hollow Leg.

Saturday came, and we ventured to Central Park and its environs. The picture that adorns my Facebook page on this date was taken on this trip downtown. The picture is of Eileen smiling into the lens with me holding the camera right next to her. A mirror in the Sherry Netherland Hotel served our reflection onto the film. It’s my favorite picture of Eileen because she looks so happy to be standing next to me.

Another Miracle, I suppose.

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Saturday Morning Musings From Florida

Here we are, another Summer Saturday in the Sunshine State.


Either my blood has sufficiently thinned to the point that I no longer feel the eternal heat that is Florida’s summer, or it really hasn’t been that hot…for Florida.


We did, of course, had to wrestle with the threat of a tropical storm two weeks ago, but that wasn’t nearly as bad as it might have been.


I don’t remember talking or writing about the weather this much when I was in my twenties and perusing the joys of Central Park on a New York Summer Saturday. Is it age that has me so preoccupied with the weather? Is it the news of west coast heat waves and wildfires and east coast downpours and floods, not to mention the terrible flooding going on right now in Germany and Belgium?


We didn’t talk about global warming or climate change back in the ’70s, but now that I am in MY 70’s, it seems that is all we talk about.


We are told on June 1st every year that “Today is the start of the hurricane season.” Oh, joy!
Instead of worrying about my summer music playlist or reading list, I have to make sure my hurricane survival kit has batteries and other paraphernalia to get us through the dark days of a power outage.


I know writing about the weather can be a divisive topic to address, so I am just stating the obvious. It’s raining in Europe. It’s not raining in California or Washington. And I am watching the coast of Africa to see if any hurricane’s a-comin’.

What else?


Oh yeah, the Yankees.


Well, my chosen boys of summer are not exactly taking my mind off the weather.


They, like atmospheric conditions, are hard to fathom and often serve as a source of frustration and angst.


I am not really complaining, but it is a little ironic that I am more optimistic about the New York Jets than I am about the Yankees making the playoffs.


Still, I remember 1978.


That summer around this time of the season, the Yankees were fourteen games out of first place. You must remember that at that time, there were no wild cards)so that if you didn’t win the division, you didn’t get to play in the playoffs.


Eileen and I went to Bermuda in August of that year, and when we came home and got a cab at Laguardia, the first thing I did was ask the cabbie how the Yankees were doing. I was told that they closed the gap and were about seven games out.


Later that season, when the Yankees were only four games out, they had a big four-game series with the first-place Red Sox up in Boston.
Willie Randolph, our terrific second baseman during the first game, was 3 for 3 before the number nine hitter for Boston even came to bat.

The Yankees won all four games, and we were tied for first. Well, the season ended with the Yankees and Boston tied for first, and a one-game playoff had to be played to determine the pennant winner.


As luck would have it, the game was played in Boston.


Now, everybody remembers Bucky Dent’s dramatic homer that gave the Yankees the lead. Still, Reggie Jackson’s homer ultimately proved the difference in the game, making the Yankees the American League East Champions.


The Yankees went on to beat the Dodgers in six games to capture the World Series.


Of course, then there was 2004.


The Yankees swept the Red Sox in early July, including the game when Derek Jeter dove into the stands after catching a fly ball while running at full speed. The Red Sox were sent back home demoralized, knowing the Yankees were on their way to another title.


Ok, so instead of another Yankee World Series, the Red Sox made a miraculous recovery in the American League Champion Series, having been down 3 games to nil, and finally broke the jinx that they and their fans were certain was a result of Boston selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees back in the day.


Both 1978 and 2004 illustrate that in baseball, anything can happen.


It’s much too early to despair. I can get angry when we lose, but I won’t give up.


As they say, “That’s baseball, Susan.

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What Is A Father? What Is A Dad?

I wrote this a few years ago to commemorate Father’s Day. I wrote…A Father is the guy…

I have updated this today and changed it to A Dad is the guy…

It’s a clarification that needed to be made. Any man can be a father but it is the blessed ones who become Dads. So, for all of you who are Dads or were fortunate to have a Dad, Happy Dad’s Day.

 

A Dad is the guy who took you to your first Yankee game and sat you in the Bleachers because that was where Mickey Mantle played.

 

A Dad is the guy who just couldn’t wait until December 25th to give you your first set of Lionel Trains and so he gave them to you in October.

 

A Dad is the guy who that same Christmas gave you your Santa Fe diesel three days before Christmas.

A Dad is the guy who didn’t get you those Mouseketeer Ears you wanted so badly but came home with the most beautiful red two-wheeler you ever had in your life.

 

A Dad is the guy who didn’t always give you what you wanted but made damn sure you got everything you needed.

 

A Dad is the guy who never uttered a profanity in his life until that day you went missing, and he had to search the neighborhood looking for you.

 

A Dad is the guy who answered ‘steak’ to the question ‘What’s for dinner?’ that you yelled to him up at the window when he was calling you in for dinner because he didn’t want the neighbors to know we were having meatloaf.

 

A Dad is the guy who took you to Ferry Point Park on evenings after he worked all day and then had to flag every fly ball that went to the opposite field he was playing.

 

A Dad is the guy who couldn’t tune a ukulele without breaking a few strings but could sing Ain’t She Sweet like no body’s business.

 

A Dad is the guy who made a weekend without electricity the most magical weekend of a kid’s life.

 

A Dad is the guy who was called The Tasheroo Kid and never explained what that meant.

 

A Dad is the guy who didn’t know the definition of a sick day.

 

A Dad is the guy who saw you sleeping on his living room floor and went out and bought a sofa bed the next day.

 

A Dad is so much more than all the things I have listed, and I am only one of his five children, and if you have been blessed with such a Dad, then you have been truly blessed, indeed.

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Memories

Memorial Day was always the teaser of holidays.

As a kid in grammar school, Memorial Day was always May 30th. We got the day off, to be sure, but it was a teaser, nonetheless.

Unless it happened to fall on a Friday, Memorial Day was always followed by a school day. This particular school day would usher in the three longest weeks of the school year. The last day of which would be the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL.

Memorial Day was the equivalent of Thanksgiving, which ushered in the longest month of the year leading up to Christmas.

Christmas and the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL were the two most significant events in a kid’s life, and no other days were as keenly anticipated as they.

Still anticipating the long weeks ahead, Memorial Day was always a great holiday.

To us boomers of the 1950s and 60s, a day to hang a flag out or wave our patriotism in some other fashion, Memorial Day was a day to appreciate America as much as we enjoyed the ever-present hot dog and baseball doubleheader.

The weather was always beautiful (at least that is how I choose to remember it).

The hot dogs were always delicious, and Mantle and Maris always had a homer or two.

I still love Memorial Day and plan to have that hot dog in a minute or two.

But I still like thinking about those Memorial Days on Leland Avenue and anticipating those last three weeks of school.

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Memories Mis-Remembered

As we approach the Memorial Day Weekend, I started to think about the power of memory.

Well, the first memory I had as I began typing was that Memorial Day used to be known as Decoration Day. It started to remember the soldiers who gave their lives in the Civil War. But then it was changed to Memorial Day to honor the soldiers of all our wars.

Memorial Day was traditionally held on May 30th every year but then LBJ changed it in 1968 along with a number of federal holidays to Monday. And so Memorial Day is now celebrated on the last Monday in May.

Getting back to memories.

One of the nice thing about memories is that we tend to remember the nice ones more vividly as we push the negative happenings down into our subconscious.

I really excel at that.

I can see things form fifty and sixty years ago in vivid Technicolor in High Definition. I delight in reviewing all of them and probably torture you with them more than you need. Of course not all my memories are totally true to life. Heartbreak and failure have been eliminated as have some of my more shameful endeavours.

I don’t necessarily misstate my memories but I just don’t remember the bad stuff in Technicolor of Hi Def. It’s more like they are on a staticky 78 rpm record with sixty years of scratches and dirt obscuring these recollections from my psyche…Thank God for that.

That is not to say that all my vivid memories are accurate. 

There have been a few of my recollections in which I had such certainty only to learn that I was absolutely wrong. It wasn’t anything of real significance or life altering in the slightest but it was still unnerving to realize that I was wrong.

Realizing that I was wrong is always shocking, almost as shocking as when I admit it.

Nevertheless, the point is, regardless of their clarity sometimes we are deceived by our own memories.

Even more reason to discard the bad ones.

One of the aids upon which I most often rely to recall and review my memories is music. I used music always when I was writing A Bronx Boy’s Tale. From the Four Season in the summer and early fall of 1963 to the Beatles taking hold of us in late ’63 and from then on, music jogged my memories and it still does today.

In fact, I have been listening to Bob Dylan as he celebrated his eightieth birthday yesterday. My next blog, probably Saturday, will be my Top Ten Bob Dylan Songs.

Maybe some of them will jog your memory?

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Summertime Words Of Love

Words Of Love

Summer Music Through My Years

1968

Bookends
Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme
Album 1700
Idea (Bee Gees)

1969
Rubber Soul
Yesterday And Today
Revolver
Crosby Stills And Nash
Blind Faith
Byrds Greatest Hits
Led Zeppelin First Album

1970
Let It Be
Woodstock
Byrds (Galore)
Deja Vu. CSNY
Candles In The Rain. Melanie
Get Yer Ya-Yas Out Stones
Their Satanic Majesties Request Stones
Easy Rider Soundtrack

1971
Aqualung Jethro Tull
Four Way Street CSNY
Carly Simon (First Album)
Every Picture Tells A Story
Cat Stevens Teaser And The Firecat

Summer Of 1968

It’s challenging to think about the summer of 1968 without first thinking about the spring of that year. Of course, in April, Martin Luther King was assassinated, and then, a short two months later, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.

It was a tough year to graduate from high school, and there was no way I was adequately prepared for entering college. My head was spinning, and I really was adrift in my psyche with no foreseeable destination or a map to guide me there. I had not yet become a reader. That would not occur until 1970. So, music was my sanctuary during these dreadful days.

The summer before 1967, commonly referred to as the Summer of Love, virtually exploded on the radio. The Jefferson Airplane, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, and The Doors all created new and exciting music. But nothing compared to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles.

However, by the summer of 1968, I wasn’t looking for anything so compelling. I entered my folk/folk-rock phase and sought out music with a message and a soothing sound.

The list of albums that I have selected for the Summer of 1968 is a rather shortlist. That is not a reflection on the state of music that summer but was more indicative of the state of the economy that summer. Well, my economy.

I needed to buy a stereo.

I had jerry-rigged my own version of stereophonic sound by converting my family’s hifi to a stereo. I needed a new cartridge for the HiFi, and our local radio and repair shop, Johnny McGrath’s, had a cartridge that would fit the tonearm of my hifi, but it was a stereo cartridge.

I reasoned that I could hook up a supplemental amplifier and add a speaker, and voila, I had a stereo. I bought a cheap amplifier and a speaker at Lafayette’s Electronics down on 14th Street in the city and put it all together.

It was ok for a while, but I needed a stereo.

I used to go to EJ Korvette’s during my lunch hour from the mailroom at Lorillard Corp, and I saw a nice system for $99.99. I vowed to buy it as soon as I had the money after putting aside enough for college.

So, it wasn’t until August that I could buy the XAM Stereo at Korvettes, which is the reason for my short summer list.

Short though the list may be, it is comprised of iconic songs from iconic groups,

If you ever saw The Graduate, you will understand how Bookends and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme made the list. After the terrible spring, it was something we all asked ourselves, WHERE HAVE YOU GONE JOE DIMAGGIO!!!

I was actually asking, where have you gone, Mickey Mantle? Thank goodness I had Joe Namath, or else I would have no stabilizing hero for whom to pine.

Where Bookends had us ask ourselves where the hell we were going, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme gave us poetry to help us through those troubled times even as it juxtaposed Silent Night with the mass murder of student nurses.

The next album on my list is Album 1700 by Peter, Paul, and Mary.

I had been listening to PPM for years thanks to my brother Michael, so one of the first stereo albums I bought had to be a PPM production. There were so many great songs that found a home in my psyche but perhaps none more than Bob Dylan’s Dream. Like the Byrds, Peter, Paul, and Mary sang Dylan so beautifully. But there were so many poignant numbers on this album powerfully performed, including Leaving On A Jet Plane by John Denver.

The last album of that summer was Idea by the Brothers Gibb, who was more commonly knows as the Bee Gees. Long before they or we knew of disco, the Bee Gees had several great songs, many of which were included on this album.

They were nice to listen to songs. Not so much full of meaning or poignancy, just excellent listening songs.

Well, 1968 had other terrific albums, to be sure. But these were the first few I bought for my new stereo. Other albums would come out in the fall, such as the Beatles White Album, but these summer albums would get me through the rest of that turbulent summer. The Beatles and Joe Namath would get me through the fall and winter.

Now we are off to the Summer of 1969.Summer Of 1969

In the world of music, the summer of 1969 can only bring up images of Woodstock.

Three days of peace, love, and music sprinkled with a bit of grass and brown acid that wasn’t particularly good. At least, that is what we would learn in the film and album that would come out the following summer.

But many would attend this festival in August of 1969.

I was not one of them.

At the time, the New York Jets were more important to me than attending any concert. Having beaten the Baltimore Colts on January 12, 1969, the Jets were now poised to play the New York Giants up at the Yale Bowl on a Sunday in August. It just so happened that it was the Sunday when hundreds of thousands would be listening to music up at Woodstock.

It would become one of those events that many would swear they had attended, but I was pretty content to say I had witnessed the first Jet-Giant game and one which the Jets had won.

Nevertheless, my summer had actually begun in May when I had completed my first year in college and returned to my summer job in the mailroom at P. Lorillard Corp. on 42nd Street in Manhattan.

To be honest, I would just as soon had stayed in the mailroom at the end of the summer the previous year and foregone going to college. I probably would have learned more. But I did survive that first year of college, even if I did not distinguish myself while doing so.

So, I was back in the mailroom and making money.

I had an economic plan now and could afford to spend ten bucks every payday on albums. Korvettes had a sale just about every week, allowing me to purchase three albums for around ten dollars.

I started by buying stereo versions of all my Beatle albums. The three that I listened to most were Rubber Soul, Yesterday And Today, and Revolver. I then added the Byrds Greatest Hits.

These got me through the first month or so of the summer. I would later purchase Blind Faith and Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

I then purchased the first Led Zeppelin album and became a fan of them as well.

Unlike the previous summer, my taste was growing more eclectic. I always listened to the Beatles, but I also loved the Byrds, and their Greatest Hits would prove but a dipping of my toe into their extensive library. Blind Faith, like Cream before it, was an amalgam of great talented performers with a unique style but who stayed with us for an all too short time.

Crosby, Stills, and Nash, however, brought us a great first album that would be followed up with continuous additions to the soundtrack of our lives.

Summer Of 1970

Purists may tell you that 1970 was the last year of the 60s. But, those of us who lived through 1968 and 1969 were happy to leave the 60s behind, and we greeted 1970 as the dawning of a new decade.

Unlike summers past, most of my musical delights were of more recent vintage. Having purchased the stereo versions of most of my must-have albums, I was now poised to focus on new or recently released albums.

The one exception to this was the Byrds.

Realizing that the Byrds Greatest Hits was a mere appetizer, the start of the Summer of 1970 began with the purchase of everything the Byrds had previously released.

I always thought Let It Be was one of the best Beatles albums, and I wore that album out in the Summer of 1970. It was released that spring but still remained on my hit parade for many months afterward.

One of the things that my friends and I used to do was venture into Central Park on Friday nights. First, we would go to the Sixth Avenue Liquor Store for a little Bali Hai and then peruse the sights of The Park.

On one of these Friday nights, our plans to go into the park were thwarted by a sudden cloudburst. We still went to the Sixth Avenue Liquor Store, but instead of drinking our wine in The Park, we opted to drink in a covered portion of a sidewalk cafe provided by the St. Moritz Hotel.

Realizing that the hospitality we assumed would be offered by hotel management was subject to change and revocation, we decided to vacate the cafe as we considered our options for the rest of the evening.

That summer, the film version of Woodstock had been released, so we decided to see it on this wet Friday night.

Well, it was like going to Woodstock.

We were wet in a mind-altering state. All that was missing was the mud, and we did not mind that at all.

The following week I went out to purchase the musical version consisting of three LPs, and it was an instant favorite that I would continue to listen to for quite a while.

Additionally, the Summer of 1970 provided us with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s Deja Vu; Easy Rider, another soundtrack from the movie of the same name; Get Yer Ya-Yas out by the Rolling Stones as well as Their Satanic Majesties Request; and Melanie’s Candles In The Rain.

I should point out that, for the Summer of 1970 and the previous years, there were individual songs that have made my Summer Playlist, but I never had the albums on which they were released. The nice thing about iTunes is that you can purchase individual songs. Nevertheless, you might include many of these albums on your list, but I only included albums that I bought.
Summer Of 1971

In the Spring of 1971, I marched on Washington in protest of the war in Viet Nam. I wrote about that in an earlier post so, I won’t dwell on that. But music had been as crucial to the peace movement as other examples of the culture of the times.

But by the Summer of 1970, I was more interested in the love component of Peace and Love.

I am not sure if that change altered my taste in music. I certainly acquired a deeper appreciation of the music of that summer, especially as it culminated in the meeting of the girl who would be my wife for the last forty-five years. We met as the Summer of 1971 was nearing its end, and the music of that summer brings me back in time to that first encounter with Eileen.

Aqualung provided my introduction to Jethro Tull. Having bought this album in the Summer of 1970, I later purchased quite a few other examples of Ian Anderson and the boys of Jethro Tull. Four Way Street became an instant iconic presentation of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s music. No sooner had I purchased this album, but Every Picture Tells A. Story by Rod Stewart and Faces was released. It contained so many great songs that still are pleasing to the ear fifty years later. Then Carly Simon released her first album, and I fell in love with her music even as she elicited some concern about love and marriage in her The Way I Always Heard It Would Be.

Then there was Cat Stevens. Moonshadow, Peace Train, and Morning Has Broken on Teaser and The Firecat, which were instant favorites.

Then after I met Eileen, she introduced me to his Tea For The Tillerman album and the Moody Blues’ Question Of Balance.

Music provides the Time Travel that only a Doctor Who fan can appreciate. A song can instantly bring me back to another time and place, and this is undoubtedly true for the albums that I have selected for this essay.

Other summers have their music, but I chose these years as they were a significant change in me personally. I was not the same person in the Summer of 1968 as I became by the Summer of 1971.

By the Summer of 1971, I became a more confident person thanks to the fact that I finally listened to my mother, who always urged me to read. Well, I did finally do what she advised and never stopped. Then, my friend PJ, who, during a drinking session at Fordham University’s Ram Skeller, encouraged me to follow his diet. I did, and in a few short months, my transformation was achieved.

I was reading and looking good at the same time.

I like to think that the music of these Summers brings me back to the days of my Epiphany and helps me deal with the changes of life facing this seventy-one-year-old man.

Peace and Love, everybody.

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May The Fourth???

I saw Star Wars in the summer of 1977.

I thought it was a good movie. Lots of action. Nice special effects, especially when they went to hyperdrive or warp speed, whatever they called it. And blowing up the Death Star was exciting.

I didn’t, however, think it was excellent science fiction.

It was basically a western or war movie in space. Even the starships looked like WWII destroyers or battleships rather than flying saucers.

Still, it was a great movie that begot others in its lineage.

But on this holiest of holidays in Star Wars Universe, I thought I would recommend some really excellent science fiction novels and/or movies.

2001 A Space Odyssey

The Adventures Of Superman (It’s just my favorite all-time TV show.)

The Time Machine

Fahrenheit 451

The Illustrated Man

The Andromeda Strain

Forbidden Planet

The Lathe Of Heaven

Star Trek (The Original Series)

Doctor Who

This Island Earth

The Day The Earth Stood Still

When Worlds Collide

It Came From Outer Space

World Without End

The last five on the list are typical 1950s vintage science fiction, but they each have a good storyline even if the special effects are slightly lacking.

It is the storyline for all of the above that separates them from Star Wars. Where Star Wars had no relationship or lesson for Planet Earth, the list I have selected all have Earth-born characters or actually take place on Earth.

Other Sci-Fi that, to my knowledge, have not been portrayed on film are:

Childhoods End. Arthur C. Clarke

The Foundation Series Isaac Asimov

Out of the Silent Planet (and companions to his trilogy.) C.S. Lewis

The Ender Series Orson Scott Card

Obviously, like my music lists, it is all a matter of taste.

I would be interested in hearing what your favorite science fiction stories/movies are.

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It Was Fifty Years Ago Today

On April 24, 1971, I went to Washington DC.

I went with about three hundred thousand of my closest friends.

Well, I didn’t know them all, maybe three or four of them. I brought one of my friends from the Bronx, and I knew a couple of people from St. John’s. The Peace Committee at St. John’s sponsored a bus down to DC for the March On Washington to protest the war in Viet Nam.

I had taken part in some other anti-war activities in the past, and my parents didn’t seem to mind. Now, you have to remember that not a full year had elapsed since four students at Kent State were gunned down protesting the war. So, no matter how peaceful your intentions might be, you couldn’t be too sure what might happen. But I just took it for granted that my parents would be ok about my going.

Despite our departure from St. John’s University, my friend and I were in high spirits regardless of the early hour of our departure. By the time we got to St. John’s, the bus was starting to fill up. We both boarded and I sat next to a priest who was going. He had said the memorial mass for the students at Kent State, so I knew him to be a nice guy.

So, my immediate aim of meeting a girl at the demonstration had already been hindered.

Nevertheless, the day was truly memorable.

We marched to the Capitol but did not overrun it. We didn’t even want to go inside. We were pretty happy to hear the speeches and sing along with Peter, Paul, and Mary singing Blowin In The Wind and shouting out the Fish Cheer with Country Joe McDonald as we spelled out our disdain for the war proclaiming our rejection of The Establishment.

We weren’t a militia, and the only revolution that was on our minds was one of the heart and mind.

On this day fifty years ago, it seemed entirely possible that peace and love were more powerful than bullets and napalm.

How stupid were we?

We didn’t change anything.

We ignored, as everyone in leadership positions did, the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower as he was leaving office. Ike warned us about the danger of the military-industrial complex. This was the Swamp we’ve heard so much about in recent years.

There’s just too much money to be made by politicians, arms dealers, and aerospace companies to give peace any chance at all.

I hope today’s protestors, looking to change the way we treat one another, are more successful than their 1971 counterparts.

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