Monday, October 12, 2015

Smutty Emeralds

Two weekends, two wonderful half marathons - different weather conditions and obviously, completely different courses, but the same cast of questionable characters winding their ways through the 13.1 mile courses to do our best to represent and take advantage of the wonderful fall weather that makes New England the greatest place to be in the fall.

First up was the Smuttynose Rockfest at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, a favorite fall outing for the E Streeters.
This year, though, despite the warm and placid appearances to the contrary, a biting headwind for the first six miles was a special treat that didn't make it into runners goodie bags.
This year also included a special gift for spectators:  the bridge from Seabrook to Hampton was completely closed, which meant folks like spectator stalwart Ann Scanlon had to make the trek across the windyway on foot.  But she did it with a smile.  And nary a word of complaint. *cough*
One half of this happy couple was at least dressed for the weather
Andrew's got his stride going in the first loop around Hampton
The sight of Blink's Fried Dough being closed behind him was enough of an impetus to drive Andrew to run at much faster pace
And perhaps Tommy was driven by the same fried dough closure, as he, too, was blazing up the boulevard on this seacoast Sunday
Either that or he's trying to run away from his brother's inappropriate comments
Sunshine on my shoulder
Barry strikes an imposing figure against the Hampton Beach skyline
The camera went away for the back 7 miles, though.  Too damn windy, and needed to concentrate on the course!
Post-race:  yeah, we might look bright and colorful, but make no mistake, we were frozen.
Tommy and his posse at least had the common sense to grab thermal blankets and sweatshirts up at the half-shell
Nicely done, all you Smuttynosers!

This past weekend, it was on to the Boston Marathon half-marathon, which weaves its way through the historic Emerald Necklace loop, which starts at Franklin Park

Barry, of course, was clowning around as always
The weather was a bit warmer for this outing, but we still needed to have our race start disposable gear on to keep us warm on the front end of the 13.1
In the chute, everyone was smiling.  Except for the woman whose nose Barry broke.  (Not really.  Not even close.)
One final thumbs up from Andrew and we're off!
Andrew was in full fighting mode.  Me, I looked like I'd already gone a few rounds.
Because yeah, photobombing friends is what running a half-marathon is all about
I felt bad for the other runners.  They didn't have a chance getting around the rolling roadblock of Barry, Sean, and I.
One of the more interesting finishes, I might add.  After an out-and-back along the Emerald Necklace, past the Arnold Arboretum, and back to Franklin Park, we ran a loop through the Franklin Park Zoo.  Sadly, I didn't see any wildlife, other than my fellow E Streeters.
Post-race we proudly showed off our medals swag.  This was pre-feedbag, which, I might add, was epic thanks to hamburger sliders provided by B Good.
While we didn't get a chance to connect in person, we can't let the blog pass without a shoutout to fellow E Streeter Nicole Hatem who was blazing up the byways with best bud Colleen! Awesome socks, Nicole!
One final note - a posthumous thank you to our bud Martin Brewer, who passed away this week, but was on our minds during the race.  When I hit my darkest patch of the course around mile 12, my ipod provided me with Bruce Springsteen's cover of I Wanna Be Sedated by the Ramones, an unforgettable cut from one of the dozens of Springsteen shows we took in with Martin.
Barry chose to acknowledge the unforgettable Mr. Brewer with a note on his running bib.
Long may we run! 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

My Favorite Martin

A few times in each person's life, you encounter someone who leaves an indelible mark on you.  Obviously, everyone we meet is special, everyone is unique, and everyone brings something different into your life.
But occasionally, you meet a breath of fresh air, someone who adds a smile to your face, an energy to your conversation, and a renewed passion for life, just through his/her exuberance, vitality, and perspective.
That was Martin Brewer.
He passed away very suddenly this week, after a very brief battle with an insidious disease that has claimed far, far too many lives.
I don't even recall the exact year I met Martin Brewer, but I DO know, that it was because of Bruce Springteen.
Martin was an English teacher from New Hampshire, who came into my life via Barry Scanlon, who met him while covering high school soccer during a gig at Foster's Daily Democrat newspaper in New Hampshire.  He hailed from a city outside London, England, but made his home here, and proudly shared the news when he became an official U.S. citizen a few years back.
Barry and Martin immediately bonded, and not surprisingly, that friendship blossomed because of their mutual passion for all things Springsteen.
It would only be during the long car rides, or the pre-concert feedbags that Martin and I realized how many times in our lives we had been at the EXACT SAME CONCERTS throughout the decades - whether it be Bruce, the Clash, the Moody Blues, Fleetwood Mac, the Kinks, David Bowie, U2 - hell, name just about any concert tour, and chances are that Martin and I were in the same building at the same time.
But it was Bruce that brought us all together.
And by us, I mean the far-extending group of friends who've collectively come to be known through the years as the E Streeters. 
What does it take to be an E Streeter?  Hell, nothing.
Just be a friend to any of us, and you're one of us.  There's no dues, there's no requirement to love the music of Bruce Springsteen.  You don't have to be a runner.
You just have to be a friend.
In the pictures to follow, you'll see Mr. Brewer mugging it up with any various collection of E Streeters at any number of shows throughout the last 20 years.
Before every Hartford show, there was a tradition.  We had to stop at Angellina's for one of the most gluttonous, indulgent Italian meals to be found on the East Coast.  Sometimes I think Andrew and Mike O'Connell would go to these shows just to partake in the chow-down
But always, without fail, there was Martin.  Not always hoisting a pint, sometimes just a pint of Sprite. 
Elsewhere, Andrew posted a link to Springsteen's song Blood Brothers, which speaks to this unbreakable bond between friends that exists, without having to be spoken.

We played king of the mountain out on the end
The World come chargin' up the hill, and we were women and men
Now there's so much that time, time and memory fade away
We got our own roads to ride and chances we gotta take
We stood side by side each one fightin' for the other
We said until we died we'd always be blood brothers

Jackie said it perfectly this week when she said that one of the most energizing things about Martin was his infectious passion for life.  He LOVED teaching, he LOVED literature, and he LOVED reaching out to youth to help invigorate their passion for the written word.  Just ask Andrew and Lyndsay about the influence he brought to bear on them.
But another great characteristic that Jackie recognized was Martin's zeal.  If he wanted to go to a concert, he went.  He didn't fret about the rest of life getting in the way.  If he wanted to go somewhere on vacation, he went.  Sometimes, he went alone.  Sometimes, he went with his mom.  It didn't matter.  He just went because it was someplace he wanted to see.
Jack Minch, Tim Bradley, Susan Bradley, everyone was pulled into Martin's infectious laugh and storytelling.
One of the more hysterical outings we shared together was a Bob Seger concert at Mohegan Sun, the same day as the Kentucky Derby.  It was a thrill to experience it with Martin.  Not just because he found a way to climb into pictures with the ladies and their Derby Hats.
Not just the opportunity to hoist a pint waiting for post-time
No, it was his glee at picking the winner and claiming his jackpot prize, one that he happily flaunted for all to see.  It was a whopping $3 payout. 
We'd return to Mohegan Sun last year for what sadly prove to be the last concert experience we'd share together, another Springsteen show, this time with John along for the ride.
Where, as was wont to happen at these shows, we'd meet up with Jimmy and Candy, thereby sparking another long conversation with Jimmy and Martin over not just Springsteen, but their mutual fandom for Bob Dylan.
Rocking out to Born to Run with Martin screaming in my ear is one of those indelible Martin moments that I'll keep forever.
The truth is, there are literally dozens more pictures, dozens more stories of Martin that I could share from throughout the past two decades.
Just about all of them bring a smile to my face, and ALL of them make me realize how much I'm going to miss the guy, even if we only saw one another less than a dozen times a year.
This week, by some divine nudging, I found an email Martin sent to me years ago.  It contained an essay about Springsteen's influence on his life that Martin wrote in 2004.  The contents of the essay speak to Martin's voyage through life, 

Here's one excerpt:

I have been getting rid of so much junk in my life lately as if to say that more room needs to be created for the things that truly matter.  Big things seem small to me now, and the smaller things are what is really big - a phone call to my mother, initiating contact with a friend, appreciating the beauty of nature, saying a prayer.  Growing old does not have to mean decay.  I am bracing myself for considerably more turbulence, but although I am piloting my own plane, I have a pretty good cabin crew that includes God, family, friends, and a certain musician who speaks to me as seasons change and generations shift.

Via Dylan:
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

Anyone who knew Martin knew of his propensity to grab a kip, even in the most adverse of circumstances.  And for those of you not up on your urban slang, for Martin, grabbing a kip meant catching forty winks, stealing a catnap, or just catching up on some sleep on a moment's notice.
In our circles, some of Martin's most legendary kips include the poolside slumber he snagged in Philadelphia, October, 2004, just before the Vote for Change concert.
My personal fave was the limo ride back from Mohegan Sun after an epic Bob Seger concert.  Martin managed to not just grab a kip, he managed to grab every sheet and pillow and sprawl out in the limo while the rest of us crowded into another corner of the limo. (see pic below)

So with that, Martin, I hope you're in a place where you can grab a kip anytime you want.  Where you've got reserved front rows for all the best concerts.  Across all of time and space, where the greatest Doctors reside.  And where you've got an endless libraries of the greatest works of literature that you can read to your heart's content.

To quote a line from Hamlet, written by one of your favorite authors, that crazy old Bard of Avon himself, Shakespeare:
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.Now cracks a noble heart.  Good night, sweet prince, 

From the churches to the hails
Tonight all is silence in the world
As we take our stand
Down in Jungleland

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Walking Wed

A picture perfect day for the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, and it was a romantical getaway for me and my bride, Jackie, who's been pounding the pavement along this course since 2003!
That meant three hours for two lovebirds to drive one another crazy with inappropriate jokes, words of encouragement, and the occasional hand-holding.
Hugs at the start.  And a Dunkin Donuts coffee to start things off on the right foot in Wellesley.
Heather, who's done just about every year alongside mom, couldn't make it to the start from Stonehill, but joined her on Saturday for the number pick-up to wish her well in their annual excursion
All along the route stand sandwich boards adorned with the messages of the people for whom we walk.  Jack makes it a point to give each of them a loving touch as she passes each board.
Mile 14.5 - Justin is happy for a second chance at life!
Mile 15, Cian is 3 and likes being goofy
Also along the way, Jack collects stickers to mark her progress and reaffirm the traits that make cancer fighters so admirable
Mile 16 Jillian is a Jimmy Fund Walk Hero
Mile 16.5 is Aire - he's 16 and loves music, theatre and movies!
Mile 17 - Alison is 4 and likes playing with her friends
Mile 17.5 - Abel is 3 and wants to be a firefighter!
Mile 18 - Gavin is 4 and wants to be a tractor man when he grows up. 
And oh yeah, Gavin, as any Doctor Who fan knows, bow ties are cool.
Mile 18.5 - Emma is 9, and her favorite food is sushi
The volunteers add an extra layer of excitement along the course and have more than enough supplies to feed and nourish the troops
Jack made a new friend heading through the hills of Newton, Leo Gleason of Framingham, walking for his family members that have suffered from cancer.
He walked for quite a bit with us, chatting it up with all of his fellow walkers!
Mile 19 - Duc is 10 and wants to be a scientist or an artist
Because as any marathoner knows, you just can't do the Boston Marathon course without paying homage to the granddaddy of the course, Johnny Kelly
Mile 20 - Charlee is 3 and wants to be a princess.
Mile 20.5 and Dylan, 7, wants to be a policeman
And as any Boston Marathoner knows, there's nothing quite like reaching the top of Heartbreak Hill.  So Jack just had to experience the euphoria and run to the top.  Now she knows the Thrill of the Hill.
Mile 21, Dante is 8 and loves building with Legos
The cacophony was thunderous at Boston College, with an upbeat soundtrack to boot!
Mile 21.5 - Wesley is 4 and wants to be a spaceman
Mile 22 and Robyn loves spreading energy and showing off her puppy
Heading into Cleveland Circle, Jackie is full of this energy
Mile 23 and Tommy wants to be a chef
Me, I think Jack exudes this trait with every step she takes
Mile 23.5, Wynter is 7 and wants to be a singer.  Belt one out, Wynter!
Mile 24, 4-year-old Ari has a hefty work agenda - firefighter, policeman, doctor AND ambulance driver!  Phew!
And then looking up, running toward, lo, there comes a familiar figure.  Andrew joined the trek hustling out from the finish to walk the last few miles in with the old folks.
Crossing the Mass Pike and heading into Kenmore Square, Jack still has this in abundance
Mile 25, is 7-year-old Kate, whose favorite color is purple
The family shot with the damn iconic Citgo sign that taunts and tortures marathon runners along Commonwealth Avenue for what seems like an eternity
Now normally every year, Heather rocks out the wild socks, usually wearing the loudest ones she can find and almost always getting noticed coming across the finish line.  This year, her brother picked up that torch and rocked his Captain America socks.
Mile 25.6 and 3-year-old Briella loves princesses and ladybugs
Was even able to get some hand-holding in with my bride
With a quick right on Hereford and left on Boylston we come upon the most welcome sight on the Boston Marathon course - Boylston Street and the finish!
Where some finish lines just mean more than others
Me and my baby, happy to have finished together
The Champ!
Was even able to get in a smooch at the finish
And yes, for all of you loyal readers who were worried as you read this blog that poor Andrew might be wasting away to nothing, photographic proof that he once again, availed himself of the feedbag waiting at the finish.  So quit fretting, he's gonna be okay.
Thanks to everyone who's supported Jack all of the years that she's walked.
In case you're interested in still donating to her cause, you can still do so here:
All of us know someone whose life has been impacted by some form of cancer, and it's our hope that in some way, these walkathons can help give back something to say thanks to all of those working so hard to find a cure, and a walk of hope for all those still suffering.