Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ryan Strong

A glorious day on Saturday, and it provided a perfect backdrop for our annual outing to support the March of Dimes March for Babies, an annual event we enjoy participating in to help support one of our buddies, Ryan Fennell, son to Craig and Jessica Fennell.
In Jessica's own words:  "as you all know, Ryan was born early.  He came because I had a horrible disease, pre-eclampsia.  I wish they knew more and could prevent this disease from taking over pregnancies.  We with that no other family had to experience this and no other babies had to spend months in the hospital before they could be with their mommy and daddy.  We are walking for Ryan and the strength he had to survive."
To donate to Jessica's fund-raising efforts in Ryan's name, you can visit her page at Racing for Ryan
Speaking of the Super-Soldier himself.  With Sippy-Cup in tow, he's ready to walk (or ride) the three-plus mile course
From the website for March of Dimes March for Babies, the money raised in walks like Saturday's in Lowell supports community programs that help moms have healthy, full-term pregnancies, and funds research to find answers to the problems that threaten babies.  The walks have been going on since 1970, and have raised $2.3 billion to benefit babies.  For more information about the great work done by March of Dimes, visit
Meanwhile, back at the ballpark, Addy leads the Fennell team on their victory lap around the warning track.
The second wave of Team Ryan gets ready to head out onto the course 
Papa Bear, Polar Bear, and Haley Bear 
An impressive crew.  Ryan seemed rather non-plussed by all the attention 
Haley was working all the angles.  She must have been tired from maintaining that level of cuteness throughout the mileage.  (Even more impressive, behind her in the double-tandem is Brook, who slept through the whole outing.) 
Even Brady logged the miles, though truth-be-told, he was dogging it by the end, and was saved by a last-minute carry from mom
Papa needed a hand getting through the last mile 
Apparently, so did Uncle Chris 
Brady was too pooped to pose for the family pic 
The champion himself, storming across the finish line 
And finally, we get the thumbs-up after the walk was done.  Time for another Sippy-Cup! 
Great day, with inspirational stories, and yet another reminder for all of us to be thankful we have our health, family, and friends, around us for days like these.
Rock on, Ryan!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

The father-son Springsteen Break continued, but not before an early - and I do mean early - morning run with original E Streeter Tom Beaupre.  Andrew, still basking in the glory that was seeing Bruce in Hershey, opted to sleep in.  Shocker, I know.
That meant Tom and I had to log a run in the mist before he headed off to his teaching gig.  Seriously, we both ended up in education gigs.  Rewind to 1982, who would'a thunk it? If only the nuns of St. Joseph's High School could see us now.
With a farewell to Bones and family (thanks for the Pennsylvania hospitality!), it was off to our next stop.  This one wouldn't spotlight a concert, per se, but it would prove to be one of the most unforgettable sojourns this father-son tandem has experienced together, made only more memorable by the eerie mist that laid a quiet blanket over the landscape and provided an almost spiritual endcap to the road trip.
From one end to the other - Albany to Asbury - it was time to go back to where it all began for a guitar player from Freehold, N.J., and his legendary E Street Band.
After driving down Kingsley, having Proved It All Night, we arrived at the desolate beachfront along Ocean Avenue.
Those kids huddled on the beach in the mist that everyone's heard so much about for more than 40 years?  This would be that beach. 
Remember that scene in the Sopranos when Tony's walking along the boardwalk contemplating the family business?  Hopefully, Andrew had more constructive thoughts on his mind that didn't involve the waste management industry. 
Fourth of July weekend, 1988, the original E Streeters road trip, and it included a stop at the immortalized Madam Marie's.
Man, were we young.
Did you hear the cops finally busted Madam Marie?
Actually, turns out she died in 2008, a passing that Bruce announced at one of his Florida shows we attended with Barry that same summer.
Madam Marie allegedly once told the Jersey Devil that he would make it big as a rock star.  Apparently she knew a thing or two about seeing the future.
Andrew and I couldn't get our fortunes told, but believe me, we already felt pretty damn fortunate. 
The Paramount, closed to visitors and under construction, but no less an impressive and dominant edifice on the shoreline.
It was two years ago, but the damages inflicted by Hurricane Sandy on this historic stretch of beach is staggering.  It was startling to see the amount of reconstruction still underway to extract the shoreline out from under the specter of Sandy.  And we're not talking Bruce's legendary ballad on his debut album. 
There ain't even any horses in the carousel these days, and the once-upon-a-time home of the rock and roll museum that showcased many of the key pieces of Springsteen's career has fallen to the proverbial Wrecking Ball that would also eventually claim his Meadowlands stomping grounds. 
Finally, it was across the street to where it all began for the Boss, not to mention dozens of other rock-and-roll acts throughout the last 50 years. 
Inside all was quiet, but the memories and markings were there.
Dozens of guitars adorned the walls, along with the occasional rock poster commemorating a certain someone's musical releases
So of course, Andrew couldn't help but take the stage where it all began.  He kicked ass on air guitar. 
Welcome, indeed 
Pilgrimage: a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance.
In the playbook of father-son experiences, this qualified.
Inevitably, though it was time to head home and reunite with the non-Springsteenians among the family.
And amazingly, and padded by just a handful of directional missteps along the highways of Connecticut, the trip odometer reached the 1,000 mile mark for the road trip just as we approached our driveway.  Sadly, our gas warning light also sang out to remind us that things had come to an end. 
Hiding on the back seats, were the carcasses of some of the CDs that provided the soundtrack inside our Ford Escape.  See a pattern here?
(For the record, we made it through about 70% of his anthology.) 
And yes, despite our attempts at looking bad-ass, Andrew and I were still talking to one another at journey's end.
I wasn't able to quote any of Springsteen's songs that spoke to a father-son relationship, mostly because they were all so dark and brooding, and reflective of a relationship that invariably shaped him, but clearly, was less than idyllic.
Anyone who's been reading this blog of late to follow our exploits throughout Springsteen's Promised Land knows that's not the case with Andrew and I.
This pilgrimage will go down indelibly in our history books, for a myriad of reasons.  There's no one I would rather have logged the miles with.  (Well maybe Jackie and Heather, but they would have complained about Bruce the whole time and made me change the music.)
Thanks, bud.
The dogs on main street howl,
'cause they understand
If I could take one moment into my hands
Mister, I ain't a boy, no I'm a man, 
And I believe in the Promised Land

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hershey Comes Now

Well we're waiting here in Allentown
For the Pennsylvania we never found
For the promises our teachers gave
If we worked hard
If we behaved
So the graduations hang on the wall
But they never really helped us at all
- Billy Joel's Allentown

Stop 2 of Springsteen Break 2014 takes us to the land of chocolate, without, you know, the Oompa Loompas and Everlasting Gobstoppers.
It was time to head into the land of Hershey, and the stomping grounds of original E Streeter Tom Beaupre, who's molding young minds amid the steel mills of Bethlehem and Allentown.  (We'll check in officially with Tom in our next post.)
Alas, Tom couldn't join us for the trip to Hershey Park for our next Springsteen show, but he was certainly with us in spirit.
The signs were there, we were ready for round two. but was round two ready for us?
We got in position early, just behind the general admission section.
And right out of the gate, the Boss checked off one of the dream songs on my personal wish list, opening the night with a raucous cover of Clampdown, originally performed by another of my favorite bands, the Clash.
With Springsteen and Tom Morello springing off one another's exclamations 
Yeah I'm working hard in (nearby) Harrisburg
Working hard in Allentown
Working for the clampdown
Working hard in Hershey!
After taking in nearly five dozen shows over the course of 34 years, I have to say Springsteen's solo piano version of For You at Hershey may have been the single greatest vocal moment of his I've ever been lucky enough to be part of.  The guy's crawling up on 65 come September, but his soulful and gut-wrenching version of a song written in 1972 - 42 years ago! - was haunting, iconic, and truly, unforgettable!  While it doesn't do it live justice, here's a youtube version of the cut:
For You - Hershey 2014
So yeah, there's that.
A bit blurry, but that's probably because Andrew and I couldn't stand still.  That, or the random fan we enlisted was too pumped up himself to focus.  (Note the Middlesex swag)
Tour debuts and spotlights of 70s' and 80's B-Sides (that reference hearkens back to the days of hot vinyl for the digital age readers of this blog) Roulette and Be True were show highlights for both veteran and recent add-ons to Springsteen Nation among the 30,000 or so in attendance
For the final song, Thunder Road, Andrew and I moseyed slowly back toward the exit, deftly making our plan to avoid the mass exodus that would clog the exits within minutes.  These are the kind of time-saving and strategic maneuvers that come from being card-carrying road trip warriors.
With the house lights up since the anthemic Born to Run, the misty drizzle falling over the open field created a moody, fitting, and truly memorable nightcap to the evening.
Beyond the Palace, hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard
Girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors
And the boys try to look so hard
The amusement park rises bold and stark
Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist
Tramps like us

Sunday, June 8, 2014

We are Sparta! (Not really....)

So somewhere along the line, Carlos came up with a cockamie idea that it would be fun to do one of the Spartan 5K races - you know, running through flames, rolling under barbed wire, the usual.  Fellow E Streeter Nick Laganas is a longtime veteran of these races.  So Carlos has set about recruiting E Streeters to join him in Amesbury come August.  So far, he's enlisted Andrew, Tommy, and today, Jon Noone.  The rest of us are too smart to say yes immediately.
So with that, we took to the woods of Billerica today for a dry run to test our mettle.  The pics pretty much speak for themselves.
First up: the pull-ups.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the camera at the ready to capture all of Barry's 20 or so pull-ups, because he did them so crazy fast.  But I did get Jon, Carlos, and Andrew.
Then the parallel bars 
The rope climb had us tied up in knots 
Carlos performed well, but didn't ring the bell up top.  Sad. 
On to the tire course.  Carlos reenacted a typical morning at Drum Hill Ford 
Herculean effort 
My son was tired, too
But it didn't stop him from hurtling one of dozens of downed trees along our path 
Barry takes a more unorthodox style to vault a tree.  Not sure, but he may have hurt himself here.
Andrew, meanwhile, always knows where the camera is. 
Finally, the monkey bars to close it out. 
I think we're ready.