Friday, March 24, 2023

An Unforgettable First Day of Spring(steen)

Count the band in, then kick into overdrive
By the end of the set we leave no one alive
Ghosts runnin' through the night
Our spirits filled with light
I need, need you by my side
Your love and I'm alive

After what feels like an overly extended Darkness on the Edge of Town, a weary and hungry E Street Nation this week made its return to the not-so Secret Garden in Boston to break free of our pandemic-induced withdrawal from the live concert experience that is the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, house-rocking, earth-quaking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, love-making LEGENDARY E STREET BAND, led of course, by their Boss in rank and name, Bruce Springsteen.

And let me tell you, after nearly seven years of not seeing the Boss and company have crowds nearing 20K eating from the palm of his hand, it was a desperately needed return to normalcy for an experience that has accompanied so many of us for decades, providing the background soundtrack of our lives.

My brother Jimmy first started seeing the Springsteen not long after his 1973 debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., and indoctrinated me into E Street Nation by taking me to my first Bruce shows, in Providence, R.I., and the original Boston Garden.  

In the ensuing 40+ years, my friends, family and I have enjoyed live Springsteen in all of his iterations, numbering literally more than a thousand times collectively among us.

Along the way, we have been joined by multiple like-minded fans who have helped us write new chapters in the Book of Dreams that has chronicled our shared memories.  Sadly, we have also lost some members of that Band of Brothers.

Well now young faces grow sad and old
And hearts of fire grow cold
We swore blood brothers against the wind
I'm ready to grow young again

But this week, we reunited to celebrate the return of live performances, something we've been clamoring for ever since the cloak of COVID blanketed live concert opportunities more than three years ago.

And let me tell you, it was exhilarating to be back Out in the Street with the Boss.

A disclaimer: the pics to follow come from a variety of sources - me, Andrew, Katie, Marcia, Ken, and the interwebs.  Apologies for no cutline credit, but in the days where everyone in the crowd brandishes a hand-held camera, it's hard to keep track of what comes from where.

We gathered first, as we often do, to break bread in the North End.  We MAY have slipped a cannoli into our pre-game warmup.

We got our own roads to ride and chances we got to take
We stood side by side each one fighting for the other
And we said until we died we'd always be blood brothers

One of the additions that made this particular Bruce show so unforgettable was that it marked the first time Andrew's bride Katie experienced a live Springsteen concert.
She's had to endure the songs non-stop alongside her husband, but this would mark her first live show, and it would, inevitably, leave its mark upon her.
(Notice she's already working Springsteen tee-shirt swag, alongside her husband who's wearing my OG 1980 Springsteen long-sleeve tee.)
From the North End, it's over to the North Station for the Main Event.
(Though for some, an Italian dinner in the North End is a Main Event of its own.)
Ghosts runnin' through the night
Our spirits filled with light
I need, need you by my side
Your love and I'm alive
I turn up the volume, let the spirits be my guide
Meet you, brother and sister, on the other side
I'm alive, I can feel the blood shiver in my bones
I'm alive and I'm out here on my own
I'm alive and I'm comin' home
Yeah, I'm comin' home
From the opening notes of No Surrender straight into Ghosts, it was readily apparently the Magic was back.
Our collective E Streeters circle of friends was scattered throughout the Garden, but we were still united as kindred Spirits in the Night.  A special shoutout to Ken Gordon and Susan Strauss who scored standing spots in the pit
Cue rapid-fire live set show pics:
Historically, we've always been known to lose our voices singing/screaming along to the songs that fill the sometimes four-hour live Bruce shows.
This particular Boston night, I had already lost my voice before the encores, which featured so many of his anthemic songs.  Sadly, for me, happily for those around me, I had little to contribute to the noise level by the time Born to Run blew the roof off the Garden.

Well, there's another dance
All you gotta do is say yes
And if you're rough and ready for love
Honey, I'm tougher than the rest
Katie and Andrew spent most of the encore dancing, earning them praise from the concert-goers behind them who were swept up in their sheer jubilation.
Somewhere in this mass of humanity stands Ken and Susan, swarmed by a crush of fans who rushed the mid-floor runway during the Tenth Avenue Freezeout. 
Here they are here, center screen:
Despair not, the pair held their own and captured these epic shots:
So, a fun little aside:
Out there in the twitterverse, some fellow Bruce fans posted these random shots of Bruce and Nils riffing it out.
What makes them of particular note to regular readers of this blog is the guest appearances (above Bruce's head) of ye author, ye author's wife, ye author's son, and ye author's daughter-in-law.
Mike Wizowski would be proud of us.
(I zoomed in on them in case we don't stand out from the crowd)

If you're still with us up to this point, I'm hoping these pics helped capture some of the Glory Days of being back on the Backstreets with Bruce and friends, not to mention our own friends who've logged many a mile on our own Thunder Roads.
After sending the 17 members of his band off stage, Bruce broke out his acoustic guitar to end the night with a poignant solo version of I'll See You in My Dreams.
I'll see you in my dreams
When all the summers have come to an end
I'll see you in my dreams
We'll meet and live and love again
I'll see you in my dreams
Yeah, up around the river bend
For death is not the end
And I'll see you in my dreams
We still have multiple shows to absorb in the coming days, weeks and months of this tour, but man, does it feel good to be back.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

The Next Generation of Turkey Trotters

For as long as this blog's been alive (which has been about 15 years, give or take), I've taken the opportunity of a Thanksgiving morning run to give thanks for my circle of family and friends and the opportunity to gather many of them in one place with running being the unifying activity.
And this year was no exception, with a fledgling 5K in Westford's Nabnasset neighborhood serving as the backdrop.  For me, at least, it was also a return to my running roots, but more on that later.
Unfortunately, one of the many activity casualties of the pandemic and the changes it wrought was the 5K from the Lowell Elks, which is no more.  That always gave the E Streeters extended family a gathering point where we could collect and run along the streets of Pawtucketville.
Alas, with that race course now off the table, it was time to find a new course.
And thanks to my niece Brianne who connected through the Greater Lowell Road Runners, we found a delightful start-up 5K in Westford, courtesy of the Peternell family.
But first warm-ups, as in jumping jacks, sort of, Brook.
It's so inspiring to see the Lemay girls embracing the fun of running, and in the meantime, logging some serious mileage and award honors!
Harper may be too young to officially run yet, but damned if she isn't the cutest cheerleader out there!
Again, highest of props to the Peternell family of Lake Shore Drive South in Westford who opened their house, yard, and street to the 50+ runners this cold November morning.
The entry fee for the race?  Donations for the local food pantry!  Bravo!
This Thanksgiving outing also provided the venue for Chewie's first official 5K!
As regular readers know, Chewie has been logging the mileage every weekend with the E Streeters, but today's race gave him the opportunity to compete for reals.
Andrew was nice enough to hang with the Old Man, and the backroads of Westford gave him the opportunity for a great race course selfie.
Great job by Addy, gearing up here for the biggest hill of the course
Chewie is just hitting his stride heading into Mile 2
Heading back to Lake Shore Drive, both by running buddies were starting to leave me in their shadows
Finish line furry fury!
Haley, who's been crushing the long-distance mileage, was a wonderful sister running back out to help push her older sister in with a final burst of speed
Afterwards, we're all envisioning the Thanksgiving feast to come
And Haley will be sure to bring her third-place avocado award to said feast!
As I do every year, I appreciate being able to take this opportunity to give thanks for my family and friends, and being healthy enough to drag my sorry @$$ out there on a cold November morning to log the running miles.
This year's outing spotlighted the up-and-coming generation of runners leaving older runners like me in their dust, and I couldn't be prouder.
Today's race also hearkens back to an important piece of E Streeters running history.
32 years ago, in the summer of 1990, I officially kicked off my running career, other than the annual outing we all previously did for the Hynes 5 miler every March.  But that one doesn't really count, because we ran it in Chuck Taylors and only did it for the party afterwards.
Yep, 32 years ago, John Piekos, Scott Spence and I used to run a four-mile loop from John's house, affectionally called the Lake Run.  Dozens upon dozens upon dozens of houses now occupy the fields and trails we used to run as part of this course, so the original course is in the history books.
But today was a nice throwback to some of our earliest social and athletic gatherings, and I'm proud as hell that the Lemay girls and their friends could experience the exhilaration and satisfaction of running in a group and challenging themselves to always move forward!
Happy Thanksgiving to ALL!

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Climbing WaCHEWsett

Every fall, Andrew and I try to squeeze in as many hikes as possible, taking advantage of as many gorgeous New England trails, and mountains as possible, and this, year, a primo textbook fall foliage season, was no exception.

This time, we brought a friend.

Anyone who follows me on any of the other social media platforms knows our two-year-old Cockapoo, Chewie, is quite the outdoor - and athletic - puppy.  He runs with me nearly every weekend, finishes the run, then wants to go for a walk.

So this time out, Andrew and decided to tackle a smaller mountain and bring our 16-pound brown-haired pup along for the outing.  Little did we know it was us who'd be left in Chewie's dust as we climbed Mount Wachusett in Princeton, Mass., just alongside Westminster.

(Mount Wachusett draws its name from a Native American term meaning "near the mountain.")

For many Mays over the last two decades, the E Streeters would take part in a 4/5 mile race up the mountain, and it was quite common for the race course to change from year to year, depending on trail conditions, construction projects, and roadway or trail access.

For this outing, Andrew and I decided to explore the Balance Rock trail option to start, a leg that occasionally served as the finish quarter-mile for the trail race.  Apparently, the boulders of Balance Rock are evidence of glacial activity that shaped the mountain thousands of years ago.

Courtesy of the Princeton Historical Society, here's what the trail path looked like more than a century ago: (the rocks haven't moved, but man, the trees have grown!)

We realized pretty quickly Andrew and I would be no match for Chewie's mountaineering.  He just instinctively knows how to follow a trail, regardless of its twist and turns.
This particular day, we had to contend with some rain.  The temps still hovered near 70, but the rainfall brought with it some fog, especially at the summit, and some slippery footing.

As Chewie scaled the rocks ahead of us, Andrew and I decided to explore the Semuhenna trail.  Now, knowing my late brother Gerald's passion for Native American history, I needed to know the origin of Semuhenna, since I had never heard the word before.  Imagine my surprise/disappointment to find it's the name Anne Humes spelled backwards.  She apparently was the wife of Bob Humes, a trailblazer of the Mid State Trail network.

The whole trail will get you just about four miles, before arriving to the summit, enshrouded this day with a thick, heavy fog.
This particular day, though, thanks to the weather, it also helped keep the population significantly low, giving us almost exclusive access to the trails.
The summit is just over 2,000 feet, so half the size of some of the 4,000 footers Andrew and I have tackled in years past.

Back down at the bottom of the slope, our Chewie bear wanted nothing to do with his distant relatives in the wood-carvings that surround the ski lodge, a popular ski resort in the winter months.

Undaunted by the climb, our intrepid climber, a little wet for the wear, stands ready to head home.  And the four-hour nap that awaits him there.
Chewie joined us in 2021 to scale Rattlesnake Mountain in the White Mountain range.  I'm thinking our four-footed pal is ready to tackle his first 4,000 footer.  Any suggestions from readers?  Chewie awaits your recommendations!