Saturday, June 18, 2022

Getting Back

It was 80 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.  Well, at least 80 years ago today was when one of the members of said band made his debut in this world.  June 18, 1942, Sir Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool, and before his 20th birthday, would join best mate John Lennon to launch, along with George Harrison and Ringo Starr, the most famous quartet in music history.

Regular readers of this blog know that during a 2018 pilgrimage to Liverpool, I was lucky enough to walk (and run) the streets where the Fab Four got their start, during a memory-packed trip to the city along the Mersey.

This month, I, along with more than 30,000 fellow fans of Sir Paul wedged ourselves into the uncomfortable wooden seats at Fenway Park to take in sold-out shows that blended many of McCartney's solo stuff, or as close to solo as his Wings band hits can be considered, along with a healthy dose of oodles of the Beatles' best-known songs, most of which featured McCartney as the frontman on vocals.

Naturally, for McCartney's Get Back tour, I had to show that I Got Back of my own.

A couple of sections away from us sat a couple of gents who've got a healthy archive of music history filed away in their grey matter - my brother Jimmy and Peter Aucella, he of the Lowell Summer Music Series.  These guys were around when Beatlemania first came to the U.S. Shores in 1964, so they've got OG Beatles Street Cred.
Our own version of the Fab Four for this special event
Andrew and Katie were able to take in their first McCartney concert together, a sure-fire recipe for romance.
Fenway shows are a blast, for sure, but it helps having jumbotron video screens that help provide the close-ups for the Living Legend carousing around on the center field stage.
Not surprisingly, some of the Beatles songs were among the highlights of the evening's setlist - Hey Jude, Let It Be, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Helter Skelter, and a Quarrymen gem, In Spite of All the Danger to name just a few.
Of particular note, though was McCartney's tribute to bandmate George Harrison, with a ukulele intro'ed Something, one of Harrison's finest;
For me, one of the absolute treasures of the night came courtesy of director Peter Jackson, who compiled the Beatles Get Back documentary series that premiered last fall and chronicled the last live performance of the Beatles, of the rooftop at Saville Row.
Jackson, he of Lord of the Rings fame, told McCartney he could isolate the late John Lennon's vocals to be used to help provide a working duet for McCartney for an emotional and powerful delivery of I've Got A Feeling. So Paul took him up on the offer and has added it to this tour.  Absolutely chilling.
Folks know how much of a Bruce Springsteen fan ye writer is, and how I've followed his concerts wherever I can around these United States.  If you know me, you also know how important the Beatles music was to my earliest years, and how those tunes, too, have followed me throughout my life and helped provide the soundtrack for countless memories.
Add this concert to that memory bank.
To be able to see the 79-year icon known as Paul McCartney deliver a two hour, 40 minute tour-de-force of music royalty is an event that one doesn't soon forget.
God willing, I can make it to the age of 80.  To think that this guy is still belting out these classics and entertaining millions in his SEVENTH DECADE of performing live music is nothing short of humbling and, truly legendary.
Happy Birthday, Paul.  And THANK YOU.

Back to where you once belonged, yeah.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Marathoners of Today - and Tomorrow

April in Boston, and besides the usual dose of renewed optimism that spring always brings, it's also one of the best stretches of time in New England, as it heralds the return of the vaunted Boston Marathon, a favored run of many an E Streeter.
And since it's not just the 26.2 mile course itself that makes for the weekend experience, hitting up the Marathon expo is always a favorite event.  This year, the excursion felt extra special as Heather (2017 Boston Marathon Veteran) and I took along with us two up-and-coming runners, Haley and Brooke Lemay.
Both girls have been logging amazing mileage and clocking personal bests tearing up 5K road races with the Greater Lowell Road Runners.
Their love of running at so young an age is infectious, so we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to have them share the field with thousands of others runners from all over the world.
We started our visit on, of course, Boylston Street, the historic finish line of the most celebrated of marathons in the United States.
Ran into a friend and former colleague Gina Spaziani soaking up the sunlight with her fellow runners in a Boylston Street cafe.
If you're out there on Monday, keep an eye out for Multiple Marathoner Gina, running in yet another consecutive marathon.  She's definitely got the bug, and likely still has many more marathons in her future.  You can track her via her number, 26887.
Our timing at the finish line coincided with the memorial wreath-laying to commemorate the bombings that rocked the finish line nine years prior, so we couldn't get direct access to the finish line itself, and had to settle for pics at a distance.
They're doing it as a dry run rehearsal now, but do not be surprised if both Haley and Brooke are official entrants when they come of qualifying age in about a decade's time.
I have no doubt they'll be crossing that finish line with pride and blazing their own paths through history.
From there it was on the Hynes Convention Center.  We weren't even inside the expo for two minutes when we saw another familiar race, Katie's cousin, Liv Paulo, in full-on expo mode with her mom, Anne.  Watch for her and number 25555 out there on Monday.
Boston Marathoners Past, Present, and I strongly, believe, Future.
Every one who runs Boston knows - hydration is key.
Past Marathon winner Desiree Linden started her prestigious running career with her first steps early in life, and she'd be proud and honored to know she's helping to inspire the female runners of tomorrow.
Kudos also to Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run this course in 1967, helping set the stage for the thousands of women runners to follow.
Hales and Brooke needed to add their names to the start of the race in historic Hopkinton to wish the 2022 runners good luck.
And the finish as well.

These girls stood tall in Boston.
A detour on our way out let each of the girls take a run at the Hogwarts Sorting Hat.
Guesses on who landed where?
All in all, a tremendously enjoyable day in Boston, and another reminder about why this marathon weekend means so much to runners worldwide.  It's also an affirmation of how important this race has become to the fabric of New England life, another passage of spring.
And this year, it meant the next generation of runners got a taste of the excitement, the history, and the spectacle of the Boston Marathon.  Hopefully, a future blog post will chronicle Haley and Brooke's 26.2 mile journey.  Stay tuned.....


Monday, April 4, 2022

Boston Backstreet Boys

Through the decades, ye blog writer has managed to log more than a few miles in the Big City, Boston, but not until this past weekend was I able to tally some of those miles hitting sites that Andrew and I traversed during an epic father-son outing.

A tiny piece of background detail:  Jack, bride-to-be Heather, Katie, and Zoe were, as Andrew and I hit the pavement, hitting the bridal shops on Newbury Street.  The result of that bridal visit is a whole other topic altogether, and one which I can't post any pics to chronicle, for reasons that should seem obvious.  (Hint: SHE SAID YES TO THE DRESS!)  But I digress....

Andrew and I took advantage of the brilliant sunshine to instead explore many of the locales that millions of tourists come to Boston to enjoy.  This particular morning, we had a clear passage through many of those pathways, as there wasn't an abundance of foot traffic on many of the routes.

So without further ado, a quick tourist's guide to some of the sights of beautiful Beantown.  Hopefully you'll learn something about the Massachusetts capital in the process!

Our first mile took us across the Arthur Fiedler footbridge that spans Storrow Drive.  The footbridge was built in 1953 and named after the legendary Boston Pops Orchestra conductor Arthur Fiedler, who led the Pops from 1930 to 1979.  It connects the Back Bay to the Esplanade.  This day, Andrew's feet barely touched the ground as he crossed over Storrow Drive.

From there, it was time to pay homage to Fiedler himself - his statue, erected in 1984, is made of 83 aluminum plates and was built by Lippincott of North Haven, Connecticut.
His bust faces the venue where he spent his decades leading the Pops.
Apologies for the back side, but Andrew captured me running alongside the legendary Charles River Esplanade.
The aforementioned concert venue, the Edward Hatch Memorial Shell, (The Hatch Shell), which was built in 1939 and plays host to the world-renown Boston Fourth of July celebration each year.  
From there, we crossed the iconic Longfellow Bridge, which spans the Charles River and connects Boston to Kendall Square in Cambridge.  The bridge was first opened to traffic in 1906.
The span is named for American poet and author Henry Wordsworth Longfellow, he of Paul Revere's Ride fame, among other notable works.  In the background is the John Hancock tower, located near the terminus of the vaunted April Boston Marathon.
The bridge's ornamental stone towers have led many to call the bridge the Salt and Pepper Bridge due to the towers' shaker shapes.
On the Cambridge side of the Charles, the Cambridge Parkway was surprisingly free of much foot traffic, giving us the unimpeded run of the walkway.
The tyrannosaurus rex outside the Museum of Science is currently wearing a COVID-19 safety mask  that's about five feet wide and took a museum staff member around 10 hours to custom-make!
The Leonard P. Zakim bridge was opened in 2003, and is an iconic A-frame cable bridge that brings Interstate 93 traffic into Boston's tunnels.  Bruce Springsteen, a favorite of many regular readers of this blog, performed at the bridge's dedication.  It's named for Boston area civil rights activist Zakim, who championed "building bridges between peoples."
True Story:  Andrew claimed it as his own as a young lad nearly 20 years ago because he thought the A frame structure was an homage to his name.  As a result, at least in Cook family circles, we still lovingly refer to it as the Andrew Bridge.
Heading toward the North End, we logged some steps across from the U.S.S. Constitution, seen in the background beyond the lumbering runner in green.
Berthed at Pier One in the Charlestown Navy Yard, Old Ironsides is a three-masted wooden-hulled frigate of the U.S. Navy, and is the world's oldest ship still afloat.
Didn't get to the traverse the North End streets made famous by 1970s Prince Spaghetti runner Anthony Martignetti, who found television immortality as a 12-year-old Italian immigrant sprinting through the North End to answer his mother's window beckons of "Anthony, Anthony!"  (Sadly, Anthony died in 2020.)
We did, however, make it to the picturesque trellises of the Friends of Christopher Columbus Park on Boston Harbor.
Katie was busy documenting events at the aforementioned dress fitting, but we made sure to visit her workplace, the New England Aquarium, which was bustling this fine morning.  (If you visit the aquarium, be sure to seek out guide Katie Cook for a plethora of marine life information!)
No visit to Boston would be complete without a pass through Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market - a treasure trove of shops and eateries.  Oh, and a spinosaurus as well!
The Old State House was built in 1713 and was the seat of the Massachusetts General Court and is one of the oldest public buildings in the United States.  It's the oldest surviving public building in Boston, and is now a history museum.

So naturally, we had to bridge the old to the new, and cross the Boston Common, with the current Massachusetts State House in the background.
Phew!  There's obviously hundreds more landmarks we could have taken in, had we chosen to extend our 10K run a bit more.  But the ladies - and a Cornish pasty lunch - awaited, so we had to call it a day.  But an unforgettable day it was, indeed!
Feels like there's some more future running blogs waiting to be documented with another series of exploratory runs.
Andrew and I stand - and run - ready to accept the challenge.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

It's Fun to Run with the Y-M-C-A

Much like Jean Luc Picard stepped into fill the bridge post formerly held by James Tiberius Kirk, Sunday was a day for the Next Generation to step into the fold and show us longtime runners that the future of running in the family is in good hands - or feet.

The Lemay family took to the pathways behind the Tsongas Center and along the Merrimack River to crank out some of their best times EVAH for a 5K run (3.1 miles).

Haley and Brook have been tearing up the times of late, competing in races with the junior version of the Greater Lowell Road Runners.  Today, their older sister Addison, along with mom and dad, were logging the official miles along the Merrimack with them.

The race was the 5th annual 5K River Run the Greater Lowell Family YMCA holds annually (give or take a pandemic or two).  Proceeds from the race support the club's Annual Scholarship Campaign that provides assistance to keep the club's services accessible to all.

The girls' Papa and Memere also came out to cheer them on, along with younger sis, Harper

Andrew and his goddaughter were all smiles before the race started

Pre-race, it was smiles all around.  (Some would fade once the miles started getting notched)

Haley was like a lightning bolt right out of the chute, drawing first blood
Brook, with her pace car, Andrew
Addy started with Mom and Dad, then agreed to let Uncle Pat jump in to pace her.
Not sure she'll  agree to THAT arrangement ever again!
A nice detour through the center of what was once the Lawrence Manufacturing Mills, getting us up to the Aiken Street Bridge
On the north side of the riverwalk, the eldest sisters were able to high five one another heading in and out bound
Brook was still in fine form heading into Mile 2 - her pace car was holding his own as well
On the final stretch into the finish, Mom and Dad Lemay kicked in the after burners to blaze across the finish line together.  Didn't check the official results, so not sure who topped the standings, not that it matters to this pair.

The finish line family photo!
With personal best times all around for the family, it proved to be a memorable day on the running paths for this family.
Truly invigorating to see the young 'uns stepping into the sport with such zeal and energy.  It does a heart good to see another wave making such incredible running memories, and doing it all as a family to boot - or, in this case, to sneaker!
Congrats Lemay Runners!