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Eulogy for Michael Anthony Gonnella September, 8, 1957 – August 1, 2013

Dillard-Nina-and-Anna-196x300I am honored that my second family asked me to help celebrate Michael’s life today. My name is Leo Daley, and though I’m not Italian, I grew up with an Italian family. The Gonnella family.

I can’t imagine the pain Tony, Barbara, Mark, John, Paul, Nina and Anna are feeling, I just know they’re Gonnella’s, and they’re strong enough to survive it. Michael loved them all so much, as he loved Kerry and Shelley, and Tracey and Amanda, and Jeannine, and all his nieces and nephews. His uncles and aunts… And his 27 cousins. So while I mourn his loss, I’m here to celebrate Michael’s life. If he knew I was down here crying, and bringing everyone down, he’d be slowly shaking his head in a disapproving way, then he’d look up over his round hippie glasses, and have just one word for me. “Weak.” I can’t hit every highlight, or tell every story, especially in church, but I hope to shed just a little light on Michael’s journey.

For the last week and a half, the outpouring of love on Michael’s Facebook page has been incredible, just like when we lost Peter only 15 months ago. Tony and Barbara and their boys have had an incredible impact of so many lives. This week in Arizona, I think Mrs. G got a glimpse of Michael’s out there, but I’m not sure she understands that she and Mr. G are a big reason their sons have so many friends. I’ll tell you why. 67 Greenwood Ave in Wakefield was an open door, and a welcoming place for all the friends of the five Gonnella brothers. Mike Mercurio, Joe Ventura, Ralph Gonzales, Scott Brown, Frank Gallahue, Pat Tecce. The list is a long one. The boys grew up in a home where their friends always felt welcomed. So they kept making new ones, and still do today.

Michael wrote and posted a lot about life, often from “Hippie Peace Freaks” and from the sayings of Native Americans. Over the past couple years, Michael shared things to help cope with the loss of his brother, Peter. I’ll share some of Michael’s own words today to help us understand the man he was. Here are the first two:

On April 1, 2011, Michael quoted Pope Paul VI (I got this one in for Mrs. G…):

“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”

On July 27, 2011, Michael wrote to Nina:

“For my oldest beginning her new life, it’s time for you to make your mark. Always be true to yourself and follow your heart. Find your balance and be happy. Enjoy and protect all the creator has given us. Love you.

Sometime in 1967 or ’68, like all lifelong friendships, one day Mike and I just started hanging out, but things didn’t really begin that well. I remember my mom saying pretty firmly, “I don’t want you hanging around with those Gonnella boys.” What I didn’t know was Mrs. G. was saying the same thing to Mike about me. Well, we loved our mothers, and still do, but they were both wrong. Within a few years, my mom would ask, “why can’t you be like Mike?” I think she meant his aggressiveness, particularly in sports. “Be like Mike…” Nike ended up stealing that line a few years later for some basketball player.

Speaking of basketball players, Peter now has a partner for 2 on 2 hoops. Michael and I used to thrash the other brothers in 2 on 2 at the court at 67 Greenwood Avenue. We were “Wilkes and Walton,” dominating like the undefeated UCLA teams of the mid 70’s. Of course, Mike and I were in high school by then, and our brothers in grammar school… Like all his brothers, Mike was an excellent athlete, and an even stronger competitor.

One summer, Mike and I were roommates for two weeks at the Sam Jones – John Killillea basketball camp at Stonehill College. Somehow our parents made that happen. Every day we’d have a morning and afternoon “clinic” on fundamentals. One hot afternoon, Celtic Assistant coach John Killilea took a group of us out to one of the 8 courts on the parking lot to learn defense. For the sake of this story I’ll say the temperature was a buck twenty. For 45 minutes, as the waves of heat rose off the blacktop, coach had us in “the defensive position.” Thighs parallel to the ground and arms held out the same. We kept our backs straight, butts down, and heads up while coach Killilea whistled us through defensive drills, shuffling quickly side to side and back to front. You could hear the groans of the young. Some quit from the heat. Most of us didn’t. Mike didn’t. When it was over, coach Killilea explained the drill. He pointed to his chest and said, “defense is all about heart.” That was Michael. Mike could score, but he had the heart to play “D.” Later in high school, Wakefield would game plan to neutralize high-scoring guards with Michael. “Oh, you guys got a great scorer? Well, tonight you don’t.” Remember that, right Cam? Shutdown D..

Five-Gonnellas-300x225You may have seen the picture of the five Gonnella brothers at a Wakefield alumni tournament in 1996… Mark, Michael, Peter, John, and Paul. The apostles they weren’t, especially in any competition. Taking on the five Gonnella’s in hoop? Only a “gidrul” would do that. Besides, I always thought you just needed one Gonnella if you wanted to win.

Just one more story about Michael’s heart… Our senior football season took a big hit when one of our lineman rolled Mike’s ankle before we played our first game. Anyway, I recall Mike missing games early in the season, but for some reason the Watertown game lingers in my mind. It was late in the year, and brutally cold, but Mike was on fire that day. I remember watching him run through a hole and seeking out defenders to hit, and they were hitting hard. Each play he’d bounce off two or three like a pinball, until a gang finally dragged him down. It was all blood and guts on one good ankle that day, and Mike heroically carried us on his back… to a 27-6 loss.

Now it wasn’t just all Moms, apple-pie, and sports when we were young. One time we got caught drinking by Mr. G. He always treated me like a son, and on that occasion he gave us an epic lecture about how he had 4 younger sons, and that I had 2 younger brothers, and that we needed to set an example. Mr. G.’s words really hit home with us, and our brothers were very important to us, so from that point on, Mike and I made sure that we never got caught drinking again.

Again, I’m sorry I can’t tell every story, but I want to make sure I tell this one. I think it may have foreshadowed the free-spirit Michael became later in life. In the Fall of 1973… I know this because you can look stuff up on the internet. We were at a party at Jeff Lanzillo’s house. Moose, Chico, Fitzy, Bogie, Rogie, Mike B., Mac, Tony, Hog, and Dillard. We were all there. I’m not sure how Mike got a hall pass from Marie that night, but that’s not important right now. Anyway, as the evening wore on, it occurred to some of us that Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band” was repeating over and over in the dark living room. The tune was a huge hit, and Mike’s favorite song. When we walked in to see what was up, we found Mike dancing by himself in front of the stereo wearing nothing but his whitey-tighties. Of course we started teasing him, but unfazed, he just kept dancing. And that’s the end of that story. Except for the music…

Michael’s taste in music was not everybody’s taste in music, but Mike’s taste in music was a wider range than most. For every Sabbath or AC/DC or Motorhead song, there was one by the Beatles, or BB King or Johnny Cash or Frank Sinatra or John Lennon. His favorite song, and a song that defines him is “Imagine” by John Lennon. Listen to its simple message that Michael lived:

Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

“My Way” is another song that defined Michael. You know the words. It’s Michael.

Around midnight back in August of 1977, Mike and I approached the MA Turnpike West in a white 1969 Camaro convertible. Michael slowed the car, and said, “This is it. We can turn around or go.” We were, “at the dividing line between the East of our youth and the West of our future…” I stole that line… We were not yet 20 year olds from Wakefield, MA. We paid the toll. Already best friends, that trip to college in Tucson, Arizona bonded us with a unique experience only the two of us lived.

Early on, I always understood the love and loyalty between the brothers, and I’d seen it in action. Sure, Michael was all about that hippie peace love stuff… unless you messed with his family. I remember the one and only time we went to a bar while we were in college… Yeah, we just wanted to see what this “bar” thing was all about. Anyway, Michael and I were looking over a balcony talking about an accounting course or something, when we heard commotion behind us. We turned around to see some guy pushing Mark. Apparently Mark was talking to this guys girlfriend. Michael darted at the guy like Deion Sanders, except Michael could hit, and before the guy knew it, Michael was on top of him expressing some sort of dissatisfaction with the poor fellows actions. Michael’s words were flying as fast as his fists, and neither was saying “peace.”

Some 30 years later, I wanted my son Kyle to experience a road trip like Mike and I did. Well, the rated “G” parts, anyway. So when I planned our trip, it was natural to begin and end with some Dillard time. That’s when I witnessed that love and loyalty to his brothers was only surpassed by that for his girls, Nina and Anna.

Nina-Anna-Harley-300x225On Facebook, Michael posted a picture of Anna sitting on his bike, her head back against Nina’s shoulder. Anna was beaming. Nina was looking into the camera with that look of hers that says, “there’s quite a bit going on in my head right now, and you can’t even begin to comprehend it.” Yeah, Nina is very much like her thoughtful, free-spirited father, and Anna the mischievous “twinkle in Michael’s eye.” The picture of the girls had a simple caption written by their father. “My life….”

On that trip, Michael and I had a lot of catching up to do. We met in Sedona, a desert paradise of soaring red rock and mystic energy. Mike’s kind of place. After Mexican food, we grabbed cigars, a bottle of bourbon, some ice, and then retreated to a private balcony eventually blanketed by an Arizona sky of stars I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Now, anyone seeing Michael on the street would think “Biker” from the tattoos, head scarf and black leather vest. I remember one of our high school friends asking me, “What’s up with the beard and the tattoos and all the Indian stuff?” All I could say was, “He’s still the same guy.” I have spent some time reflecting on Michael’s evolution, and some of the adversity life put in his path. First was the torn ligaments in his ankle before Senior year football, but that was nothing compared to a serious car accident after HS, that not only nearly killed him, but caused him to miss a KISS concert a few weeks later. Then a lung tumor and surgery a few years after college. Was it all bad luck? No. It was just Michael’s journey, and the lessons that taught him that our time here is short, so you should live the life you choose. So if I were asked that same question about Michael today, I might say, “People are like Motorcycles: each is customized a bit differently.” The Harley. I’ve never ridden, so I did a little research to find out what drives those that love to. Here’s a quote I found:

“Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.”

That night in Sedona, I also learned how spiritual Mike was. At yesterday’s wake, someone told me that friends at the Arizona service described Michael as “the healer.” I don’t know about that. The next morning after the bottle of bourbon, I didn’t feel like he did any healing on me. What was most enlightening was hearing Michael speak about his girls and his efforts to instill the wisdom of the Navajo in his eldest, Nina. I then understood the spiritual center of Michael, and why he signed everything he wrote with “Peace.”

We had a great time reminiscing and filling in gaps like loose grout in our life’s mosaic. After several hours, we had recounted some 40 years of family, children, women, music, working and living.

After the trip, I remember thinking, “Why can’t you be more like Mike?” I was amazed at how outgoing he was with people, and how many friends he had. I wrote about it, and referred to Mike as “the mayor of Anthem.”

On October 24, 2011, Michael quoted musician Tim McGraw on Facebook:

“We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere.”

Michael was us, and we are him. Sometimes I’ll hear myself phrase something a particular way, or even laugh a certain laugh, and I think, “That’s Michael.” I hear the same things in Mark, John, and Paul, and definitely in Nina and Anna. In that way, he’s still with us.

It’s now been 12 days since we lost Michael, and in my reflections on his life, I again find myself asking, “Why can’t you be more like Mike?” What I mean is that he had the courage to live life on his own terms, be true to himself, and not bow to societal pressures about how to look, and he made no apologies for it. Michael Gonnella was a man of family, of peace, of love, and of incredible heart. I’m going to miss him.

I leave you with Michael’s last written words, On August, 1st, the day he died, Michael posted a picture of a colorful peace sign, made up of smaller, multi-colored peace signs. He wrote,

“Peace, love, and happiness from Phoenix. Happy August……”


Weddings and Funerals

When I began this six months ago, I’d been on a cold streak of more funerals than weddings. Now unions are outnumbering wakes. I guess I’m on, “The Circuit – The Next Generation.” Nieces, nephews, sons, daughters… but not mine. Yet. Weddings are happy beginnings where two people commit to building a life together. Funerals are dreadful ends that signal the beginning of unraveling a life. Weddings look forward. Funerals back.

I have another wedding coming up, but I’m not looking forward to it. Sometimes we attend out of obligation, just like funerals, and often just as a show of support for the couple. We know they’ll need it. That wasn’t the case this weekend for Jakki and Steve, the kids who joined forces on Saturday. Earlier Jakki had posted on Facebook about marrying “the love of her life.” Steve didn’t write those words that I know of, but when he looks at her, you’re certain she’s his. That’s what you need… that balance. As the song goes, “one wing will never ever fly.”

I’m no fan of wedding ceremony, nor of churches, but when I attend either I listen. The priest in Berkeley, CA sounded like he was making a plea to mankind, not just a couple. His homily’s theme was “trust and commitment,” and based on his invocation of Watergate, loss of trust in institutions, and quantum physics, his message was for all of us in this dimension and beyond. Hey, it was Berkeley. Trust and commitment allow us to move forward and continue building. Without it, fusion is unattainable and particles disperse… according to quantum physics. (I don’t really know. I just made that up.)

As I watched Jakki’s and Steve’s eyes locked at the altar while the preacher preached… and preached some more, my faith in humanity was restored a bit. I realized hundreds or thousands of couples were getting married at that very moment. They all were stepping forward in faith. Faith in each other, and faith in building a life together. That’s what makes this rock spin. Well, at least the economic cycle.

Then there are funerals. They’re not usually planned like a wedding, but some are. My dad was clear with me what he wanted. I’m not ready to plan mine yet, but for years I’ve believed it’s scheduled for 2042. I’ll be 83 or 84. We’ll see. I’m not obsessing about it. Yet. However, the subject of pre-death (retirement) did come up while Joyce and I tasted small batch wines in Napa Valley yesterday. I’m not planning that yet either, but she is. She’s a planner who already knows where she wants to live and some of the things she wants to do. I wish I had that certainty. I sure hope she does draw and paint. She’s got a palate full of love that just needs a canvas.

I’m sure I’ll still be writing then, whenever and wherever that is.

Baby, I’m Amazed

Hey, who turned the lights out? Man, I used to be able to find my way around here in all the dark that was written. Not anymore. I didn’t note fifteenkey’s anniversary this year, but I did celebrate Megan’s 24th. These days I leave most of my thoughts on the (work)blog and Facebook. Still, there are some things too personal for work, and too long for Facebook, so here I am.

This week someone posed the question, “What is it that you love about Joyce?” My emotional knees buckled at the nasty curveball, when I was looking fastball all the way. In that situation, often the best a hitter can do is just reflexively foul off the pitch, and through the experience, be better prepared for the next. This is the next.

This week I visited my mom for lunch and a catch up on life. During one subject segment, Mom said, “They don’t sound like Christian’s to me.” I replied very plainly, “Mom, it’s got nothing to do with being Christian. It has to do with their humanity… being decent human beings.” I added, “Don’t get me going on how the name of God has been used to justify so much wrong in this world. Many people of faith ‘walk the talk.’ Some do not. They justify their wrongs by holding up their hands innocently and proclaiming, ‘we’re all sinners.’” Yes, we are.

As I write this, Joyce is methodically executing a well-worn path (she’d call it a plan) to celebrate Palm Sunday with her extended family, and me. It is an incredible amount of work to rock a gig like she will on Sunday. There is organizing, housecleaning, rearranging, ironing tablecloths, $hopping, baking, cutting fruit, making about a dozen quiche’s with her beloved cousin, Claudia, and her favorite part, calling everyone in her family to extend the invitation. That’s why she does it. For everyone else, and mostly for her mom. Palm Sunday at Joyce’s house is the social event of the year for Mrs. G.

Palm Sunday is just one week of doing for others for my girl. Of course, there’s the 52 she works as a “Human Resources” professional, emphasis on the human. In many ways, that makes her the in-house sister, mom, friend, shrink, and she’s amazing at it. Oh, then there’s the charity work. On Thursday night we attended the United Way’s Community Celebration where she was nominated for Employee Campaign Manager of the Year. Yeah, but that’s just one charitable thing she does. Last week was a bake sale to raise money, on April 1 will be a (Fun)raiser for Red Sox opening day. It goes on all year.

Then there are Joyce’s friends. There are many, and most of them I believe are true “friends,” not mere acquaintances. She constantly stays in touch, and is a supportive friend. They know she cares. It’s not unusual for us to be strolling shops in Falmouth in July, when she says, “oh, wouldn’t this be perfect for Suzanne?” Or Stella, Lou, Christine, Bob, Rosie, Tom, Eddie, Brenda… our dear friend and neighbor, Nancy. She is always thinking of and supporting her friends. It also helps her satisfy her shopping addiction. Hey, she’s stimulating the economy. I didn’t say she was perfect…

My baby is an Italian girl from an Italian family. She’s the sister I always wished was in the Gonnella family, and she is a wonderful sister and daughter to her bro and mom. She knows what they need and what they don’t, and meets those needs with love. Speaking of mom’s, she is one, and young Mr. Leger is lucky to have her. Now again, I didn’t say she was perfect, and having a mom of my own whom I love dearly, but can make me crazy, I’ll use dialogue from the film Manhattan:

Isaac – “Yeah, I have a kid. He’s being raised by two women.”
Mary – “Two mothers are absolutely fine.”
Isaac – “I always feel very few people survive one mother.”

With all the people she loves and supports and helps, there’s no one more important to her than her son, and that’s all I’ll say about that.

Baby, I’m amazed at how much you do, and how much of it is for people. Last night after a long day of party prep and exhausting yoga, she shopped some more, came home, showered, then baked about ten dozen cookies while entertaining me. Well, she poured me a glass of wine, and gave me 2 unfrosted cookies, but I was really into my book. All I needed was to be there with her.

So, “What is it that you love about Joyce?” I’m still not sure words can adequately answer the question. What else? She can be really goofy, and her in a swim cap, or any hat for that matter, is a sight. She’s one of those “Sweet Caroline” singers at Fenway. I love the way her right hand sweeps across her neck as she sleeps on her side. I love the way she rides her bike. She reminds me of… Oh, wait. I won’t go there. There are so many other things I love about her, but many are intangibles, and some are none of your business. I can wrap it all up and say I love her humanity. I love who she is as a human being. I love her work ethic and her human ethic. And her face. I love that face.

So, yeah. There it is. I hope I got a little more wood on that curveball this swing.

“What Color is Uranus?”

There was no twinkle in her eye, nor any wry smile. Maddy was coloring the solar system on red construction paper, and she needed Papa data, Stat. “Um. Grayish, I think. And Neptune is blue.” She looked at me close with a doubting eye, as if she was thinking, “don’t be fucking with me, old man.” The little blond shuffled off to finish designing her world. One early calculation in the physics of her life…

I’ve loved space stuff since about Maddy’s age. Back then, I hung out with Jules Bergman and the Gemini astronauts. It’s always been a dream of mine to “get off this rock,” as someone in my journey once described it. For someone traveling through space and time at 2,724,666 MPH, it seems I often don’t get too far, and I spend way too much time in the past. (Time travel is so easy in your head.) That’s pretty dumb, since there’s so much here right now, and infinite possibilities ahead.

The journey can be difficult, but asteroids, black holes, the Kuiper Belt, and perhaps even the Oort Cloud aside, most of any real obstacles exist in the space between my ears. It’s funny (strange, not “ha ha”) to examine your life’s trajectory to see deviations in the arc and their causes. The Pioneer Anomaly explores how the Pioneer 10 and 11 exploratory spacecraft have been drifting slightly off course since their launches back in the early 70’s. Now, “slighty” means only 0.00386%, but in a voyage of 10 billion kilometers, that’s 386,000 kilometers off the grid. Yeah, maybe someone should have stopped to ask for directions.

I guess my point is we can all course correct to some extent. The path of our life is under our mission control. Just watch out for black holes, Oort clouds and other adversities that can appear in life at 2,724,666 MPH. Oh, and don’t look back. Objects in the mirror may appear closer, but they don’t matter.

Elect Ward Cleaver

“Leave it to Beaver” ran from October 4, 1957 to June 20, 1963, “the Cleavers exemplifying the idealized suburban family of the mid-20th century,” according to Wikipedia, but the New York Times called the show, “too broad and artificial to be persuasive,” which reminds me of the current Republican candidate for president. I’m sure the show was ideal to its white bread audience back then. The onlinepedia goes on, “Characters are nearly uniformly white and middle-class. Only one African-American had a speaking role during the run of the series; in 1963, Kim Hamilton played a maid…”

Yeah, racial segregation still existed in our country in the “fabulous fifties.” The late 50’s and early 60’s were a time of social repression and conformity, especially for minorities and women. “The pill” had not been invented yet, and abortions were illegal. Roe v. Wade would not decriminalize abortion until 1973. Few women worked outside of the home, and fewer went to college. If you want a sense of how women, mostly secretaries, were treated in corporate America, watch “Mad Men.” Equal pay? Laughable.

Our president was a famous military general, but as a man who actually experienced the hell of war, he was reluctant to involve his country in more of them, even warning against the perils of the “military-industrial complex.” “McCarthyism” raged, accusing fellow Americans, mostly government employees, entertainers, educators and union activists (i.e. liberals) of being “Un-American.”Oh, and they searched closets for homosexuals, too. The accused weren’t “one of us.” Sound familiar? Turn on FoxNews if you need a refresher.

Corporations began to rise, as did the pursuit of the MBA and creative finance, which would devolve into Bain pioneered “downsizing” and “oursourcing.” Television and advertising sold to us and our consumer binge began. Americans conformed to corporate norms, and jumped on the ladder in pursuit of the almighty dollar. As the affluence of whites rose in the suburbs, inner cities and their mostly minority inhabitants were easily ignored as they decayed. Writer Norman Mailer called the 50’s “one of the worst decades in the history of man.”

It wasn’t the worst for everyone. If you were white and educated, the 50’s were a time of incredible prosperity, a great deal of it fueled, ironically, by government spending like expanded Social Security, the G.I. Bill, and the Interstate Highway System. It’s no surprise the primary constituency of today’s Republican Party are white men. They long for the “good old days” of the “fabulous fifties,” so if you want to go back there, vote for Ward Cleaver… and Tagg Romney as the Beaver.

Mr. Romney’s Bedtime Story

In honor of the cartoon my pal Phil posted today on Facebook, I’m going to try live blogging Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech. Here’s the cartoon:

OK, Dirty Harry was cool for an 82 year old man the GOP let ad lib in prime time just before their nominee was on stage. Good thing Mitt didn’t have to follow him.

10:33 Good move bringing Mitt in through the crowd. He seemed less stiff.
10:36 He accepts! Didn’t see that coming.
10:38 Can you imagine what’s on Mitt’s iPod?
10:39 OK, we get the building a business thing. I guess Mitt never drove to work.
10:40 Well Mitt, financial deregulation really threw a curve at the American Dream, didn’t it?
10:43 Mitt wanted President Obama to succeed? Huh. That’s different than all the Republicans in congress.
10:44 Wow! Someone snuck Mitt a Red Bull!
10:46 He’s the epitome of an arrogant American.
10:46 …and dad released 12 years of his taxes…
10:48 Mitt just gave props to god.
10:48 oh, now he’s pandering to women…
10:51 Ann’s job was more important… I’m sure, Mitt.
10:53 Mitt’s delivery is quite good tonight.
10:54 Now it’s time to trash the President…
10:55 Nice joke, Mitt!
10:57 Your success hurt many working class, people, Mitt.
10:59 I do believe Mitt is finding himself on this stage tonight.
11:00 I’m better off, Mitt.
11:02 what plan to raise taxes on small business, Mitt?
11:02 Ok, the $700B Medicare lie again…
11:04 It must be that “clean coal.”
11:04 Cut the deficit? You just mentioned a bunch of new spending.
11:05 Mitt, Obamacare is your plan, dude.
11:06 Another lie- Obama’s not raising anything on the middle class.
11:07 Good contrast… Stop ocean rising v. Helping families.
11:08 USA!!!
11:09 Yeah, Mitt! Fuck Putin. Let’s fight the Russians!
11:10 Does America have a black dude in the White House? Noooooooo!!!
11:12 Strong military again… That costs money, Mitt.
11:13 Did he just say “density” like George McFly?
11:15 He got real stiff at the end, and not in a good way.
11:15 And James Brown rolls in his grave…

The Red Sox Brand

20120818-110132.jpgIn recent days, President and CEO, Larry Luccino has spoken about the 2012 soap opera that is the 58-62 Boston Red Sox. When Mr. Luccino talks about the Red Sox, he uses the term “brand” quite a bit. The Sox used to be a baseball team, but now they are an asset in the portfolio of John Henry, and job 1 is maximizing financial return on that asset. That’s fine, but the management has seriously lost their way to achieving that goal. Let’s get back to the brand thing. A definition I like is, “a brand is the essence or promise of what will be delivered or experienced.” For a major league baseball team, that promise is good baseball. What’s wrong with the Red Sox is that good baseball has fallen off their list of brand attributes. Here’s what the Red Sox brand is actually delivering today:

– Fenway Park – a 100 year old theatre of nostalgia
– Commemorative bricks – Yours for $100…
– Miller Lite for $7.75
– A phony sellout streak
– A Neil Diamond song in the 8th inning whether you like it or not

The baseball? Well, it’s always about pitching, and this year, top starters Josh Beckett and Jon Lester have been largely ineffective. Their new closer, Andrew Bailey, was injured in Spring Training, and didn’t throw a pitch until August. Clay Bucholtz has pitched well for the last month, but in general, the Sox pitching has been perfectly imbalanced. On the rare occasion when the starters have not dug an early game hole, the bullpen has buried the team late. The offense has also been inconsistent, and has lacked the big hit needed to win close games. Injuries have played a part. Bailey, Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia, and most recently David Ortiz have seen pine while mending, but the Yankees lost Mariano Rivera for the season, plus CC Sabathia, Andy Pettite, and Alex Rodriguez have seen DL time. The Yankees are 71-48, 13-1/2 games ahead of brand Red Sox.

The most disappointing thing about this team is the attitude of many of its players. Beckett and Lester never seemed to recover from the fried chicken and beer meltdown of 2011. Beckett wears a smug FU face on and off the field, and Lester has spent the season whining about balls and strikes, usually right before he gives up a bomb. He’s not focused. They’re not focused. During the season, Pedroia told the manager, “that’s not how we do things around here,” Ortiz complained about his contract. Beckett focused on golf while on the DL. Underachieving Adrian Gonzalez texted the owner to complain about the manager. The owner said he really didn’t want to sign Carl Crawford. Kevin Youklis got old and got traded. Maybe that satisfied Beckett, who seemed focused on finding a “snitch” in the Sox clubhouse. Bobby Valentine? He’s no more the problem than Terry Francona was last September when the team went 7-20.

Long time fans of the Boston Red Sox hung in with their team through Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner, and Grady Little leaving Pedro in too long. The immense goodwill earned by the team in 2004 erased 86 years of futility and fan frustration. The Fenway circus of the last 150 games dating back to September have burned all of that goodwill into hardened discontent. The owners of the “brand” have another long climb to restore what really matters: their baseball team.

Until then, anyone want to buy a brick? They’re marked down to $75.

Walking down 58th

Walking down 58th

Earbuds Misunderstood – They opened with that!
Construction curtains star
Seven strides East to city glare
Along steel canyon base
“I think I might just crawl back in bed” sings the moment
I Turn my head
A homeless man lay
Or dead.
Could I get him a job?
Not another thought,
past the Subway without decent food
do these grates ever confiscate
Starbucks wait unemployment line deep
That’s fine
IPad and Times are mine
“venti” still ad word
Sips of rejuvenation
Sunny steps up
girls in their summer dresses
Only one in mind

cigarette light flashes
back under construction cloak
Front lighting the toll
Looking older than she should
Walking down 58th

One by One

This week I’ve been with my Dad in Florida. His heart is failing. No, not the one that pumps blood through his physical form, the one that makes the gift of this life exhilarating. After each day of appointments, meds, finances, puking, legalities, and expressions of surrender as Dad approaches a slow, sad end, I’ve escaped to the streets. By any objective measure I’m obese, but cognitive dissonance spares me from seeing John Candy in the mirror. This week I was reminded of how much work I have to do. Prior to a run, I was so excited to don my genuine Roma AC futbol shirt purchased at the recent tilt versus Liverpool FC at Fenway, but tugging it on revealed something resembling a ground pork product crammed into a transparent casing. Yeah, gross. Still, I got out there, just not as a Jimmy Dean ad.

Music helps push one foot in front of the leaden other, and it’s amazing how heel strikes in sync with the music. With nothing but faint breathing competing with crashing sonic vibration, I get lost in the music, although the bouncing soft cauliflower in my head is always working. Always taking me places. Good and bad. I haven’t yet figured out how to unplug that particular computer. Woven between thoughts like crochet are drums, bass, keyboard, guitar piercings, and the words. With blood elevating the senses, and circumstances magnifying emotion, the poets words comfort. Today one song stopped me in my tracks. Fuck that it did, I just needed that cliché for effect. I kept plodding, and the words were so fucking great. One by one, they calmed and filled me with hope. With every step, more of my life left behind me, but I’m damned well going to try to make the most of them. My heart is wide open.

One by One
words by Woody Guthrie

One by one the teardrops fall as I write you
One by one my words come falling on the page
One by one my dreams are fading in the twilight
One by one my schemes are fading fast away

One by one the flowers fading in my garden
One by one the leaves are falling from the trees
One by one my hopes are vanished in the clouds clear
One by one like snowflakes melting in the breeze

One by one my hair is turning gray
One by one my dreams are fading fast away
One by one I read your letters over
One by one I lay them all away

One by one the days are slipping up behind you
One by one the sweetest days of life go by
One by one the moments stealing out behind you
One by one she’ll come and find not you or I

One by one I hear the soft words that you whispered
One by one I feel your kisses soft and sweet
One by one I hope you’ll say the words to marry
One by one to one by one forever be

Nobody asked, but…

The NRA and most other gun proponents are less about the second amendment “right to bear arms,” and more about the right to sell them. It’s sad neither of our presidential candidates has the stones to stand up to them.

A one year, “death penalty” football ban for Penn State isn’t nearly enough. Kids got raped by a football coach, and the “legendary” head coach knew about it. And did nothing. The kids should be able to transfer, but that program needs to go dark for at least five years.

I’m an admitted “liberal elitist,” and I apologize for posting about politics, but given the healthcare plan he advocated for and delivered in Massachusetts, could Mr. Romney possibly be any more hypocritical regarding his opposition to “Obamacare?”

“The Dark Knight Rises” was superb storytelling and summer action, all with a “Robin Hood”/Occupy Wall Street bent. One of my favorite lines was by the villain “Bane” as he and crew raid the NY Stock Exchange. One floor toadie squeales, “This is a stock exchange. There’s no money you can steal,” Bane responds coolly and with alot of bass, “Really? Then why are you people here?” Oh, and Anne Hathaway rocked as “Catwoman!”

I’m looking forward to the Liverpool – AS Roma tilt at Fenway this week with (Play)Joyce and her soccer-playing son. I’ve never seen a world-class soccer game in person, plus it’s a chance to visit Fenway without being subjected to the cheesey “Sweet Caroline.” Not to worry, though, the $7.75 beer price will be irritating enough…

I wish I had more for you…

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