To Boston, With Love

BostonI don’t know how many times I put my arm up, but it was approaching a countless number. The air was starting to chill, and I wanted to get myself and my girls back to our hotel. My arm went up again, another attempt to hail a cab that had no intention of pulling over. There wasn’t an empty one in sight.

We were still sweating, from the sing and dance-a-thon that was a two hour Coldplay concert at the Boston Garden: a great show featuring staunch musicianship, pyrotechnics, and stunning visual technology. I was with my wife, daughter, and our cousin from Ohio. We were wiped out and needed the comfort of our hotel room.

“Taxi!”

The concert was a cap to an outstanding day in a visit to my favorite American tourist destination – the city of Boston – and I say that as a diehard New York sports fan (rivalry, anyone?). After walking along the harbor, darting in and out of shops in the electric Quincy Market, my wife and I stopped in a Cantina there to have a drink and chat with the locals. And make no mistake: even when I wear my Yankee hat, the people of Boston are some of the friendliest around.

While my daughter and the cousin roamed the landscape, we enjoyed our time at the bar, and had great conversations with those who were just happy to be in this beautiful place – and we were happy to be with them. We segued from Quincy quickly to a North End restaurant, where we enjoyed a tasty slice of Italian America before heading to the Garden to see my daughter’s favorite band.

After the show, we did finally get back to the hotel. A taxi did stop. Persistence pays off.

It all would have been very impressive if that was the first, or one and only, trip to Boston. But, of course. it wasn’t. My first nerve wracking ride on a jet airliner to take an initial romantic weekend getaway with my wife (then girlfriend), more than 20 years ago, was to Boston.

For the purpose of love and romance, we couldn’t have picked a better town.

Trips to Fenway Park, as a Yankee fan, brought me back here many times. Bus rides taken with good friends, enjoying baseball in possibly the most intimate stadium in America. Most of the games the Yankees won. I’ve heard horror stories from others about the dangers of rooting for New York at Fenway, but have never experienced anything but good will and good natured ribbing from the Fenway faithful. I hope to get back there soon.

This past year, we have witnessed events that bring us to question human integrity and sanity. All of us wonder aloud why a bombing would happen at a marathon, how men can be so sick and indifferent to the lives of others. How they can target locations where children run and play.

I’ve been to Boston. Many times. I love it there, and can’t wait to go back. The city will rebound and come back better than ever because of the qualities of the people that live there. I have made memories with family and friends in the place they call “Beantown” that would be hard to forget. I’m thankful for endless hospitality and wish them god speed in repairing their lives and building on the strengths that showed in those harrowing moments that we have become much too familiar with.

We love you, Boston.

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The Immigrant Song – Inspiration Around Every Corner

It was interesting to watch what I could of both the Democratic and the Republican national conventions recently. With the political posturing so evident in this election season, it’s obvious the candidates of both parties are looking to appeal to the “everyman”.

Your “Average Joe”, if you will.

Marco Rubio. Mitt Romney. Julian Castro. Democrats and Republicans alike are recounting the immigrant stories within their own families, in the attempt to win the voters who have their own immigrant stories.

You can’t fault these politicians for using the unique immigrant experience to try to sway votes that could help them win. We all have recollections of parents or grandparents that have inspired us with their personal successes of achieving the American dream.

Finding Inspiration

The stories are unique, but the story line follows a familiar pattern. Immigrants, whether they be Spanish, Italian, Polish, or Irish, made huge sacrifices for the good of their families. Some went to bed hungry so their children wouldn’t. Others, like my grandparents, worked multiple jobs to make sure the family had enough money to survive, then thrive.

My grandparents also left school early to aid in the financial support of their households.

They persevered through the Great Depression and willed their way to success. Because they knew if that feat was accomplished, the generation that came after them could enjoy a better life.

As one of the Democratic participants stated in a speech, “Their stories may never be famous, but in the lives they lived, you will find the essence of America’s greatness.”

Despite the campaign mudslinging going on now, with keywords such as entitlement and redistribution, the candidates seem to agree here: the strength of the country, and the economy within, was built on the very formidable backs of people from other nations.

One Direction

I’m more than happy to share the stories of the immigrants that influenced me. Yeah, the blog has occasionally meandered into the subjects of weight loss, Joe Paterno, cell phones, and the importance of being a patriot, but it’s mainly concerned with one very important topic.

My family, immigrant status and all, and how they molded and shaped the lives of those around them.

I like to, and choose to, write about different things. That won’t change. But I hope you’ll come along for the ride as I take a closer look at this one topic near and dear to my heart in the posts to come. It may be difficult to think that a bunch of diminutive Italians could teach you a thing or two, but I think you’d be pleasantly surprised.

As both Democrats and Republicans have demonstrated: the saga of the immigrants and their American story is one of the most important of our times.

If you saw the conventions, what do you think? Were the speakers sincere in their praise of their immigrant connections, or did they seem to be pandering for votes? State your case in the comments! And don’t forget to subscribe for future updates!

Explaining Evil To Your Children

Columbine. Oklahoma City. September 11th. Virginia Tech. Aurora.

vaderThe evil in the world isn’t easily explainable. The presumably safe activity of going to a movie theater is no longer safe. You can’t take for granted the simple tasks of going to work or attending class.

My son and I were on my way to my father’s house when he asked me why so many people got shot. Before his question was posed, I was thinking about the coffee I was going to drink, and he was anticipating the ice cream his Grandfather was going to give him.

I couldn’t answer his question with other than this lame response – “Son, there are bad people in the world.” We can only reassure our kids that these are rare events, and that the criminals usually get taken down. Good triumphing over evil.

When my daughter was much younger and drawing pictures of airplanes crashing into buildings over ten years ago, I felt useless then, as well. How do you explain such things? As an adult, I barely comprehend them myself.

As we went into my Dad’s house, and he quickly forgot about his question. Maybe because that house is a sanctuary. Our house is his sanctuary. Our yard. There is security of sorts in this world, but it’s usually contained within.

When I was young, it seemed all we had to deal with was the terror of the Son of Sam, preying on his victims in one sweltering summer in New York City. Simpler times, right?

I’d like to take my kids on a trip to “simpler times”, so they could catch a glimpse of a time without 24/7 media coverage of mass murders, of terrorism. Where they wouldn’t have to ask the question, “Why?”

When we get there, we’d play in my grandmother’s yard, without a care in sight. We could play games in the street, without much fear of other cars. We could go back to the family farm my cousins owned, and wander in fields for hours. No one would be concerned as to where we were.

In the days of “back then,” you could go to school without running for your life. You could go to a movie without the fear of flying bullets.

You should live your life by the windshield and not the rear view mirror, but who can blame us for looking to the past for comfort? Crap, I think that’s what I do here. I write about things that provide a dose of that comfort and stability. For myself. I can throwback for decades with writing subjects like my grandparents, music, baseball, and being an inspired teenager.

Kids, it’s difficult to explain these things to you. To say that you’re growing up in a much different place than your Mom and Dad grew up in – well, that’s a vast understatement. The only steps we can take are to raise you according to our ethics, and give you the room to grow into your own version of a wonderful person.

And once you do that, just believe that people like you will always outnumber the evil guys. And from tragedy, good will come.

Joe Lied – And Why It Should Matter To You

Courtesy of Wikipedia

The legacy of Joe Paterno was of a football program that molded boys into men, and did so with success for many years. Paterno was the archetype of the term “college football coach”, and a model of the Italian American community.

In that community of sports figures, his name could have easily been mentioned in the same breath as Lombardi, DiMaggio, and Marciano. Legendary in his work.

How sickening it was to learn, this past week, that his legacy will have nothing to do with football – but will have everything to do with his role as a protector of a sexual predator. A predator that preyed on children, ruining their lives.

It was easy to think previously that Paterno knew nothing, or knew little, about the crimes of Jerry Sandusky. That they were beyond his comprehension. But he did know. He knew for years. Lied about it. Did his part to try to cover it up.

He turned his back on the innocent. All in the name of his football program and its “reputation”. He could have stopped the actions of a monster, but he turned his back instead.

Could this have happened under the watch of Lombardi? In the locker room of DiMaggio? In the gym of Marciano?

Before the information from the Penn State investigation came out last week, I would have said “no”. As in hell, no. But no can turn into “who knows?”. Now, you can never be sure. About anything. This is part of what Paterno’s betrayal has done.

The worship of men, no matter the status, is a losing proposition. Can’t do it. It gives power and prestige to those that should never have it. Because they are human. They are flawed. Some of them are evil.

How many parents do you think felt completely confident sending their boys into the Penn State football program? Answer: All of them. How could they have known that they were bringing their children to rapists, molesters, liars?

If you are a parent, you are always on the offensive to begin with. When your kid drives a car. When they get into a car driven by someone else. When they go out with a friend.

Parents, it’s time to get your paranoia on. If you haven’t already. Every time your kids meet a new friend, meet a friend’s family, or go out among strangers, question it. Question everything. Make them give you every bit of information their little brains have.

Go on the offensive.

You’re in a new world now. Where coaches protect criminals, and themselves, in the name of fame, power and money. God forbid if your child is the one in the crossfire.

I admired Joe Paterno. Thought he was one of the good guys, a role model. I was fooled. I won’t get fooled again. The tradition that is the worship of men can no longer continue. Mickey Mantle is a memory, Willie Mays has faded, and “Where have you gone?” is a question that is no longer asked of Joe DiMaggio.

We know where they have gone. What they’ve left behind is a world where human tragedies play out off the field in the business of sports.

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I Know It’s Late, We Can Make It If We Run

“I saw rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen” – Jon Landau, 1974

Forget about the future of rock and roll. I have seen a man who performs as intensely now as he did in 1974, a true fountain of youth…and its name is Bruce Springsteen.

I’ve written about the undeniable power of music previously (see the article here).  But that post tends to look understated when I think of my long relationship with the music of Bruce Springsteen.

Copyright @ Times Union

Having just experienced my eighth live Springsteen concert, it’s no longer just a musical event or a wait and see if he’s still got it (which, by the way, he does. He’s 62, and has got “it” in spades). To say the man, who’s in his sixties, acts like he’s in his thirties, would be a gross understatement as well.

No, these concert events have turned into trips to see a dear friend. Go over, hang out in the living room, and there he is,  telling you his favorite stories all over again.

Stories I’ve heard for nearly four decades. He’s no longer just a musician, or rock star. He’s a trusted ally, a sounding board, a friend to support in good times and bad.

He was there for me through break ups with teenage girls, and compassionate when I thought myself an outcast in school.  The music was less of a getaway than it was a mechanism to know you were not solely on your own. Someone agreed with you, somebody else got it.

When I lost a good friend to an auto accident at far too young an age, his monumental double album “The River” helped stoke my rage and quell my sadness. It got me through the hardest of times. For that reason alone, I will always be a fan.

Being a fan, like anything, isn’t always easy.

The images within the music may make you want to cringe, to turn away. Bruce’s lyrics are replete with storms, rising flood waters, corporate greed, battered hometowns, and the haunting reference of a September 11th firefighter ascending a smoky stairwell to a certain death he can’t even see.

In live performance, those images are even more focused. But turning away from a force of nature is difficult. What you see is dropped into a tornado of light and sound, monster backbeats pushing you forward through the chaos, as you stand in all your fist pumping glory.

Springsteen’s America can be a brutal, unforgiving place. But after 3 hours of no holds barred non-stop singing, dancing, and sheer fun, you go back to that other place where faith, hope, and glory days and little victories are real again.

The little victories are what sustain you. Bruce played his music for me on my wedding day and when my kids came into the world, careening from speakers at decibel levels to make your pets run and hide. My daughter grew as a toddler, chanting the refrain from “Badlands” from the comfort of her car seat. Glory days, indeed.

I keep going back to that well because I don’t know how many more times I’ll get to see my friend. He’s getting old, I’m getting old(er), and the live tours can be years apart. But at 62, he can still outperform entertainers half his age.

Here’s to the hope the rest of us can hold out as well.  Concerts with Bruce and friends are great nights in my life, shared with my wife, where we get sent home with our ears ringing, sweaty, tired, and inspired again by the “future of rock and roll” present.

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