Saturday, February 27, 2016

Piekos at the Plate

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the E Streeter seven this day;
The temp was twenty two, colder winds were on the way.
Carlos cancelled out, Rick Sobey and Sean Kenny did the same.
A pall-like silence fell upon the runners' hopes at fame.

A tenacious few showed up to run in deep despair.
The rest they wondered could it be that Scott would join us there?
They said, "If Ryan could inspire us by returning to run this date,
We'd put up Vegas money and put Piekos at the Plate."

It happened forty years ago, but John's memories still ring true,
And who's going to challenge his version, not me, surely not you.
The stands were filled, the press was there, history waiting to be made,
The Chelmsford writers would dub it the Greatest Game Ever Played.

The story as it's told had the running basepaths filled
John was ready to win the championship, his nerves they all were stilled,
A single, or a double, a triple or home run
Any swing of John's mighty bat, and lo, the game was won.

When from the line of runners there arose a mighty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
It was a thigh injury, a hamstring that had felled the mighty Pat.

A few choice words, a painful grimace and broken heart,
Pat knew his only choice was to hobble back to the start.
But John he forged ahead and made his return to Glory Days
He stepped up to the plate to recount his tale, parting history's haze.

E Streeter eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
The Scanlon brothers' tongues derided when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Piekos' eye, a sneer curled Johnny's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Piekos stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped,
"That ain't my style," said Piekos.  "BALL ONE!" the umpire said.

From the sidelines, lined with Streeters, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm waves on a stern and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone in the stands;
And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Piekos raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Johnny's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on.
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Piekos still ignored it and the umpire said, "BALL TWO!"

"Fraud!" cried Tom and Barry, and echos answered "Fraud!"
But one scornful look from Piekos and the audience was awed.
Andrew saw John's face grow stern and cold, Steve saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Johnny might let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Piekos' lips, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence, his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered, the count, it's 3 and 0.

One pitch more and somewhere in this favored land, the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing and somewhere newsmen talk,

There is joy in Streeter Nation - mighty Piekos took the walk.

Friday, February 26, 2016

They Call Us Run D.C.

I'm strapped with rap when I attack, I'm stunning
Darrly Mack on track and I'm off, and running -
And that ladies in gentlemen should be the first and only time I quote Run D.M.C. lyrics in this blog.  I hope.

Anyone who runs consistently has favorite courses.  It might be a particular trail.  It might be an especially challenging course that pushes you to your limits.  It might be one that stands out for its environs.  Or it might be a particular race like the Boston or Disney Marathons that are distinctly historic for the totality of the event.
While I could easily rattle off many of my favorite courses logged in the 26 years I've been tallying miles (hmm, maybe another blog entry?), one of my undeniably favorite courses to run is along the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
It's not just because it's flat, or that you might get to see Steve Rogers running laps by you On Your Left. (Of course I watched for him.)
It's the sheer majesty.
One can't help but be in awe of the monuments, memorials, and magnitude that marks the mall.
I recently had the opportunity to cover the course again, in D.C. for a whirlwind tour of the Hill in one of my roles at Middlesex Community College.
I stayed in a hotel a bit further out from the hub this time, a couple of blocks from the National Zoo, but an early morning run in unseasonably warm temps allowed me to log more than seven miles on a picture perfect morning.  Truth be told, I would have kept going a lot further, but appointments beckoned.
And lest anyone leap to an incorrect conclusion, no I did not run through the Vietnam Wall or Korean Conflict memorials.  That'd be disrespectful.
A the Vietnam memorial, it amazes me that I've never visited when there hasn't been something left for the fallen, all these decades later.  There was also a pack of Camel cigarettes a few feet away.
The statues and monuments throughout our Nation's capital are unrivaled anywhere.
Sadly, I couldn't run through the Smithsonian Zoo to say good morning to the pandas, as it wasn't open.
You never know who you're going to see out on your runs.
It could be Marilyn.
Or Gandhi.
Julie Hay could better fill you in on the stories behind her university's hippo statue.
Legend has it that if you rub its' nose, you'll have good luck.
Never forget. 
Yeah, I know it's dorky to ask total strangers to take your pic in the middle of a run, but I'm not into selfies, and I wanted to document the run.
Damn, what a view from atop the steps of the Lincoln Memorial
Honest Abe
One of my personal favorite stops is the Korean War memorial, because that's the conflict that my father, Jimmy Cook, served in.
My dad never told many tales of his time over there.  It was always a challenge to get him to talk about the experience.  But I never hesitate to pay tribute to his service every time I get to walk alongside this formation of soldiers.
And then there's the monument in the middle of it all.
And finally, the people's house.
Funny thing about the blocks in D.C. - you automatically extend your runs exponentially just by adding on a single block - as in the case of the White House.  Adding this loop to the run is a lot longer than you think.
But it's worth it.
Sadly, thanks to the folks who insist on scaling the fence, there's now ANOTHER layer of fencing that prevents you from even getting up close next to the border fence.
Sappy, yeah, I know. But damn, I loves me this run.
How about you - what are some of YOUR favorite courses to run/walk?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Kiss the Girl

You must remember this
A kiss just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh
The fundamental things apply
As time goes goes by

Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow, once told Steve Rogers, Captain America, that public displays of affection make people very uncomfortable.
If that's the case, this particular blog is going to make folks flat out squirm in their seats.

Taking the time this Valentine's Day to dedicate a Wicked Good blog post to Jackie, the love of my life, the woman who's been by my side through thick and thin and everything in between since that fateful June 4th in 1991 we first met over a diaper change at a lakeside cabin.

The years in between have flown by, and have been only enhanced by the addition of two incredible children (and a dog) who've made the adventure even more memorable.

But this post goes out to show my stweetie that I'm still Crazy (about her) After All These Years
So let's take a cue from Sebastien,
Do what the music say
You wanna kiss the girl

I Left My Heart in San Francisco, luckily she was there to help me find it

As Bruce Springsteen said in Give the Girl a Kiss
It ain't written in the sky above
No fortune teller told me this
You gotta tell her that you love her
Tell her that you need her
And give the girl a great big kiss
Give the girl a great big kiss
Now if you're such a fool you think
It don't matter, baby, what you say
Maybe you better tell her how you're feelin'
It ain't gonna happen any other way

Our recent trip to DisneyWorld for the Marathon provided us with the backdrop for many a smooch, particularly over in the World Showcase at EPCOT.
If I could make a wish, it'd be to get the chance to do it all over again 
The sun ain't setting on this romance anytime soon 
Aloha wau ia 'oe
No matter what language you say it in, hon, I love you.
Whether it's in Canada
Je t'adore
Or the United Kingdom where London's Calling, but I just called to say I love you 
In France, as in Canada
Je t'adore
In Morocco
In Japan, complete with a Heather photobomb
Kimi o ai shiteru
It's always an American Adventure with you by my side 
In Germany during Oktoberfest or any other time
Ich liebe dich
In China, fine or not
Wo ai ni
In Norway, where we can't Let It Go
Jeg elsker deg 
In Mexico, with or without nachos (or my iced coffee)
Te amo 
Carbo-loading in Italy
Ti amo 
Putting the Magic into the Magic Kingdom 
Keeping things Grand at the Canyon 
After 13.1 miles, heck after 26.2 miles, the love's still there

I knew that she was mine, so I gave her all the lovin' I had
And one day, she took me home to meet her ma and her dad
Then I asked her to be my bride and always be right by my side
Felt so happy, she almost cried, and then she kissed me.

Happy Valentine's Day, hon!  Here's to many more smooches to come!
In the meantime, here's a virtual one, your very own Wicked Good XOXO!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Springsteen and Us

Bruce and the E Street Band went XL, this time checking in at the XL Center in Hartford, and  - insert shocked face emoticon here - the E Streeters' extended family was on hand to cheer them on.  More than a dozen strong, in fact.
This was to be an extra special night, though, as Jack made her return to the concert scene.  That meant Andrew and I needed to be on top of our dancing game for this one.
Couple of facts in the life of Jack, myself, and Bruce:
Saw him the night before we got married at the Worcester Centrum.  Yep, Little Girl I Wanna Marry You happened just  a dozen hours after seeing the Boss on stage.
Flash forward four years, and Jackie was just days away from bringing Heather into the world and Bruce was playing in Lowell.  Jack, super partner that she is, held off on going into labor for another four days so I could see the Boss in my hometown (and get to meet him in person, to boot!)
What can I say?  It's love.
A good number of our gang connected pre-show for the group shot
Inside, we were all smiles.
Note the woman to Jimmy's right - more on her later
At the age of 66, a crowd-surfing Bruce is still a sight to behold
It's a brave man who wades into a crowd like that, but the faithful E Streeters in the crowd are just excited to have the Boss up close and personal
Andrew brought his official River shades back into play for this outing
Loves me this woman
Across the arena, John and Barry, and Scott, Sue, Courtney, and Colin Spence, and elsewhere, Mike O'Connell were all rocking their respective sections.
Ditto for John's friend, Scott, who made the trek from Jersey to join us in Hartford
Which brings us to Theresa Martin.
Who's that you ask?
She's a member of E Street nation, hailing from Rhode Island.
She's seen Bruce now 68 times!
This night, she found herself sitting next to Jimmy, and striking up a conversation about all things Bruce from throughout the last 30 years or so.
But one of Theresa's claims to fame?
She's one of the featured fans in the documentary Springsteen and I.  She's the fan in her kitchen whose son steals the scene when he crashes her video love letter to Bruce. (Her son was a couple of seats away at Hartford.)
Say hi to everyone, Theresa!
She brought a lot of fun and energy to our section, and was a true fan, especially enjoying some of the deep cuts off the River album.
Things got especially crazy during Rosalita.
It wouldn't be a Bruce show without a father-son duo rocking the joint 
Why she puts up with me, I'll never know 
You've just seen the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, house-rocking, earth-quaking, booty-shaking, Viagra taking, love-making, legendary E STREET BAND! 
Say goodnight, Andrew. 
Another Bruce show, another night of great memories for the books.  Scanning through past years of blog posts, there's been a lot of said concerts logged here at Wicked Good.
I've watched Andrew grow up through the evolution of shows he's attended.  Experiencing his 19 shows with him has been an unexpected highlight and benefit of parenting. (Heather was going to join us too for the Hartford show, but damn college got in the way!)
There's been a stalwart and extensive Band of Brothers who've been enjoying the shows together, and travelling the country to see this group of musicians.   Bruce has helped introduce us to friends in other states, and friends in other countries.
There's been lots of laughs, and unfortunately, some tears shed during the journey, which for me, started with my first show back in 1980.  Ask any member of the E Streeters, and sure enough, Springsteen has helped write the soundtrack of our lives.
It's made even more special to have loved ones alongside for the voyage, because as Bruce is so fond of saying, his songs are all about life, love, friends and family.
So here's to all the friends and loved ones who've been part of this journey.
Here's to Springsteen and Us.