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I don’t think I’ll survive the night.

If you fall in love with someone or something based on misconceptions, assumptions or false narratives, it generally doesn’t end well. (For example: “This coat will look great on me after I lose some weight.”)

But when you fall in love with a song for inherently false reasons, it makes not a bit of harm or difference.

The text for tonight’s sermon is Cheap Trick’s “Dream Police,” which was starting to fall from the national charts around this time of year in 1979 after peaking in the mid-20s.

(In dear old Allentown, ever slightly behind the times, it was listed as hitbound for the week of Nov. 19, 1979, when the record was fading on the national stage.)

“Dream Police,” like Cheap Trick’s other best records, is a subversive piece of work — a tuneful but paranoid song about being haunted by inescapable demons. It’s one of those songs you can easily let slide by, but that takes on a different dimension if you stop to think about it.

It’s catchy, like songs about girl problems and car problems and high-school problems … except it’s about brain problems.

In the historical mythology I have created, 1979 was an unsettled time — a year of nuclear near-meltdowns, long gas lines, a presidentially declared malaise and the start of the Iranian hostage crisis, not to mention the usual Cold War saber-rattling.

Unsettled times make for unsettled art … and so, what better time for a song about paranoia and fear to hit it big?

(It’s true that disco, one of the least jarring genres ever to gain mass popularity, was still big in ’79. Escapism, I say. Music for people trying to forget about being threatened or unsettled. You can only shake your groove thang against the darkness for so long, though.)

I also note that the Dream Police album was released Sept. 21, 1979, and its title track rode the charts in October and November — months when the weather starts to turn cold, the leaves start to die and the night starts to creep up earlier and earlier. Dark times call for dark music.

So, “Dream Police” fits perfectly into this image of teenage Halloween 1979 I’ve created in my head.

I see kids out not-really-joyriding in the cold night, not bound anywhere in particular, listening to Rockford’s finest on the radio, and feeling uneasy for reasons they can’t quite explain.

Of course, this is complete horseshit.

I realized long ago that, while the woes of the republic register with its occupants, they don’t color everything people do.

People — especially teenagers — don’t let the events of the day affect their perceptions of the world around them. In fact, they can be pretty oblivious when they want to be. So, jangled times do not necessarily promote or support jangled art, no matter how neat that narrative might appear.

I’ve also learned that the time of year has almost no effect on when a record is released — except perhaps for live albums and best-of compilations, which are sometimes timed to appear around the December holidays.

The Dream Police LP is a dramatic example of this. The Interwebs say the songs were recorded in mid-1978, for release late that year or early the next. (“Dream Police” could well have been a Valentine’s Day single, not a Halloween single.)

But late ’78 and early ’79 found Cheap Trick’s At Budokan live album selling briskly as an import from Japan. And when the live album became a Stateside smash, Epic Records pushed back the release of Dream Police to the fall, so as not to cannibalize the sales of At Budokan.

So the association of “Dream Police” with autumn in America has nothing to do with the soul, spirit or content of the song. It’s entirely the product of a big record company trying to nudge its newest golden goose onto a coordinated laying schedule.

So, my hazy historical narrative is Swiss-cheesy and totally at odds with the song’s backstory.

But it doesn’t really matter in the end, because the record delivers the goods. “Dream Police” is still a great, catchy, imaginatively arranged, bitter-edged pop song, and one I can still enjoy without surrounding with self-created nonsense.

At any time of year.

Holes in the mosaic.

In some regards, expansion is the smartest thing Major League Baseball’s ever done, because each round of new teams only adds to the fan’s sense that every night is a tapestry of action.

On any given day in the regular season, a bunch of games get played. Most every game has something cool or interesting or distinctive about it, either when viewed by itself (the Cubs made four errors in the sixth inning!) or as part of a larger picture (Pitcher X, who pitched a shutout tonight, will end up leading the league this year.)

Whether you’re getting your updates over AM radio or over Twitter, it’s fun to immerse yourself in any given night — ’cause they’re all a little different — and follow each of the twists and turns to their conclusion at the night’s final pitch.

There’s a crafty veteran pitcher trying to keep his job in Houston, and a 32-year-old rookie playing his first big-league game in New York, and three ejections following a disputed balk call in San Francisco, and a 54-minute rain delay in Washington, and … pull up a chair, friends.

The tapestry of action (maybe “mosaic” is a better word, since lots of little snapshots make up the big picture) gets even more interesting when you zoom out and add the off-the-field perspective.

Players get signed, traded and released. Former players pass away, and future players are born. There’s a whirl of action every day.

Well, almost every day.

Inspired by something I noticed on Retrosheet, I set out to answer this question:

How many times has Major League Baseball been totally radio-silent — no games, no transactions, no births, no deaths — during the regular season?

Here’s an example of what I mean: Go to Retrosheet’s summary for 1977 and scroll down to the day-by-day calendar. You’ll see every day has a clickable link — which means something happened that day — between April and October. The one exception is July 20, which was the annual day off after the All-Star Game.

My question: Has there ever been a day, other than the All-Star break, where the MLB mosaic was totally blank, and nothing of consequence or significance happened?

Has there ever been a day during the course of the regular season that gave fans absolutely nothing to talk about, marvel at or chew on?

The answer is yes. And here’s how many times it’s happened since 1961, the first expansion season:

May 14, 1962. Presumably this was a travel day for everyone, as the sports page of a newspaper from that day indicates no games were scheduled.

May 2, 1966. Again, contemporary records indicate no games were scheduled.

April 30, 1973. Yet another day with no scheduled games. I figured we’d get at least one empty day due to rain — a day where only one game was scheduled, and it got rained out. Those days might have happened, but it looks like something else (a transaction, a birth or a death) came up every time to fill in the blank.

Summer 1981: Numerous days lost on account of the players’ strike. (These blank days might or might not count as being “during the regular season,” as the season had been stopped. I’m excluding the 1994 strike from this post for that reason.)

August 6, 1985. Major-league players start another strike. (A sports page for Aug. 6 lists a full schedule of games that would otherwise have been played.) Teams did not play Aug. 7, either, but the death of former New York Giants outfielder Johnny Rucker put at least one MLB-related event on the day’s calendar. Games resumed on Aug. 8.

Sept. 14-16, 2001. All MLB on-the-field action stopped for nearly a week following the Sept. 11 attacks. A player transaction on Sept. 12 and retired players’ deaths on Sept. 11 and 13 means events of some consequence happened on those days. But Sept. 14-16 were completely silent.

Barring strike or catastrophe, it seems questionable that we will ever see another totally empty day on MLB’s docket, now that there are 30 teams to play games and make transactions.

(More teams also means a larger pool of up-and-coming players whose birthdays will join the MLB calendar, and a larger pool of retired players who will someday pass away.)

Stop! Hammer time.

While others dissect the big winners, disappointed losers and future policy implications of yesterday’s elections, I will simply offer the following analysis:

The Hammer endures.

# # # # #

It was 1992, in Boston, and I was sharing a dorm room with a guy named Matt — a scion of the quiet farm country of central New York.

1992 was an election year, too. And one day a letter arrived for Matt, from a guy he’d never heard of.

The guy’s name was Mike Nozzolio. He was running for state Senate in the 54th District back home in New York. He’d mailed a form letter and flyer, hoping to attract Matt’s vote from afar.

We greeted the campaign missive — the flyer, particularly — with the irreverence we thought it deserved.

Nozzolio’s portrait was promptly decorated with warts, handlebar mustachios and worse. We gave him a new nickname that made us laugh: “The Hammer.”

And his campaign slogan — something innocuous about leadership or new vision or something — was slightly altered to become, “GUESS WHAT? MY BUTT!”

Matt and I posted the defaced flyer on our door, and the buzz from it continued to make us chortle every time we came back from class.

But Matt was a more thoughtful sort than his shaggy appearance suggested; and two or three days later, he began to have other ideas.

You know what?” he said (and of course I’m paraphrasing here, as the hidden tape machines that record my every interaction with others were not installed until three years later). “I’m kinda honored that Mike Nozzolio went out of his way to write me and ask me personally for my vote. Dammit, I’m voting for Mike Nozzolio!”

Matt voted for Mike Nozzolio via absentee ballot. And Mike Nozzolio won — buoyed to victory, no doubt, by his unexpectedly strong performance in Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

It was a veritable feel-good story, a young man’s first participation in the political process, and I’m sure we toasted the news with one of the Domino’s pizzas we ate incessantly that year.

# # # # #

Time’s path led me away from Matt (and central New York), and I didn’t think much about the Hammer for almost 15 years.

Then, in the summer of 2006, I went to a summer-league ballgame for college-age players in a funky old stadium in Geneva, N.Y. (I wrote about the place a year or two ago.)

And what should greet me like a long-lost friend, out in right-center field, but a billboard for State Senator Mike Nozzolio?


I was back at McDonough Park in Geneva in the summer of 2012. And so was The Hammer.


And only a month ago, I was in Seneca Falls, N.Y., to run a 5K road race, as briefly referenced in this recent post.

The course ended in a public park with several Little League fields. And there, on the outfield fence of one of the Little League fields, was a State Senator Mike Nozzolio sign. I didn’t get a pic, ’cause my phone was back in the car and I didn’t want to go get it, but I promise you it was there.

I’m a big baseball fan — as was Matt, who’d played first base for his high school team back in Phelps, N.Y. Nozzolio’s apparent fondness for baseball diamonds makes me more convinced than ever that Matt chose the right horse to back.

# # # # #

Anyway, Mike Nozzolio ran for re-election this year in the 54th District. No longer the eager up-and-comer of 1992, he’s now so entrenched that he didn’t even have an opponent. Of course, he won handily.

Although an unopposed candidate doesn’t need to strain himself, Nozzolio is apparently still savvy enough to court distant voters. He logged 230 absentee ballot votes in Monroe County alone.

(I can’t tell you what those 230 people did with, or to, their Mike Nozzolio campaign flyers … only that they put his name on their ballots, which is what counts.)

I know nothing about the senator’s political stances, or about his performance in office. He could be taking envelopes with one hand and picking his nose with the other, for all I know.

It doesn’t matter. I think fondly of him anyway — both as a connection to my college years (and those connections are dwindling), and as a person who has dedicated a whole lot of years to public service.

There’s not a lot of glamour in the 54th District, which makes me imagine that Mike Nozzolio is most likely one of those career politicians who’s still in it for the right reasons.

A post-election toast, then, to the Hammer.

Long may he legislate.

Encore Performances: Nov. 8, 1975: That’s the way, uh-huh, uh-huh.

My stats page tells me that someone came here earlier today by running a search for “november 1 1975 at40 neck pickup.” Unfortunately, I’ve never blogged about that week’s American Top 40 countdown. But I did blog about the following week on my old blog, in November 2009. So here’s a repeat of that post, in hopes it satisfies my anonymous visitor.

I was gonna do a day-in-the-life thing for my next Casey Kasem AT40 roundup.
But a review of the week of Nov. 8, 1975, just doesn’t show that much in the way of big news going on.
Francisco Franco was still alive; David Ortiz was not quite born; the World Series had ended a week or two before; and the 29-man crew of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was just a bunch of guys preparing to go out on a boat that, as the big freighters go, was bigger than most.

In western New York, meanwhile, a two-year-old boy was filling in another week in that weird pre-school cocoon-state where you don’t make memory tracks of anything, and there’s not much besides weather to distinguish one day, week or month from the next.
Certainly, no one in the lad’s family was born, died, got laid off, graduated or even came to visit in that gray first week of November 1975.
Beyond that, time sayeth not.

Now, if they had switched on the radio, this is what they would have heard, with my favourites in bold as always.
(Warning: No fewer than six remakes this week. That’s usually not a good thing. But, plow on with me, won’t you?)

No. 40, debut: “Diamonds and Rust,” Joan Baez’ first hit since 1971′s execrable cover of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” — “and it sounds autobiographical!” Casey notes with the air of a man who’s just decoded a hieroglyph.
Darned if I didn’t listen to most of this song (which I was not tremendously familiar with, not being a Joan Baez fan.)
I couldn’t quite bring myself to bold it, but I think it’s a nice piece of writing, and not badly sung.
Wonder what the Judas Priest version sounds like?

No. 39: A former No. 6 hit, “Dance With Me” by Orleans.
This takes me back to another period when I had all the time in the world — summers in the early 1980s when my parents would drag me down to their new cottage.
The radio was always on, and it was always tuned to an AM station out of Syracuse that could be counted on to play toothless, melodic music of the prior decade.
Things like “You Should Hear How She Talks About You,” and “Bette Davis Eyes,” and Paul Davis’ “’65 Love Affair” … and this.
Drove me nuts at the time.
To this day, hearing any one of about 15 songs brings back the picture of that radio, and the musty smell of the little cottage, and the wish to be somewhere else.
It would be years yet before I discovered the fine art of savoring the slow quiet slipping of time away from me.

No. 38: Down an astonishing 20 notches, Tavares with the genuinely hot It Only Takes A Minute.
Great dance-floor jam.

No. 37, debut: Frankie Valli, “Our Day Will Come.”
Try as I might, I can’t get my head around the idea of a 40-year-old man singing lines like, “No one can tell me I’m too young to know.”
No, Frankie, but they can tell you you’re old enough to know better.

No. 36: Casey makes the obligatory Beatles namedrop in his introduction to a truly historic moment … the first week on the charts for the debut hit by a Scottish band drawing comparisons to the Beatles …
… ladies and gentlemen …

The Bay City Rollers, “Saturday Night.”
Perfectly good, snappy, well-produced pop number. I don’t find the chanting as annoying as some people do, though I do get a little tired of Les McKeown’s screechy “I-yi-yi-yi just can’t wait.”

Casey also makes a great topical reference, mentioning the band’s prominent appearance a few weeks ago on “Howard Cosell’s show.”
(Although my readers are all hip enough to remember this, I’ll mention it anyway: Howard Cosell had a Saturday-night TV show that hit the airwaves in fall 1975, at the same time as “Saturday Night Live.” In fact, Howard’s show was called “Saturday Night Live;” the NBC sketch comedy show we’re all familiar with was forced to go by the name “Saturday Night” for about a season-and-a-half, until Howard’s show bit the dust and the SNL name became available. Perhaps what Howard needed was better musical guests.)

No. 35: Another cover. Freddy Fender with “Secret Love,” which had been a Number One hit in 1954 (!) for Doris Day (!!)
Someday I will ask my parents how they survived the pre-rock era.
I will say this, though: I find Fender’s vocals on this song much more pleasant than on some of his other hits from this period.

No. 34: John Fogerty, “Rockin’ All Over The World.” A stiff, tinny mix, but oh, what a voice.
Enjoy this hit, John. Disco, punk and new wave will not be kind to you.

No. 33: For the listeners of WFMO in Fairmont, N.C.: “I Wanta Do Something Freaky To You” by Leon Haywood.
Wiki tells me Haywood had played keyboards in Sam Cooke’s band. Well, whaddya know.
As for this song, the title is the best part … the music is a total cop from “Smiling Faces Sometimes,” while the lyrics suffer from lines like “I’d love to slide down into your canyons / In the valley of love.”
I guess disco and AC/DC have more in common than you’d think.

No. 32: “Just Too Many People,” Melissa Manchester. Nice flash of Fender Rhodes piano at the beginning, anyway.

No. 31: “Peace Pipe,” BT Express. Brain-dead pre-disco, not funky enough to be memorable.

No. 30: Ritchie Family, “Brazil.” Almost bolded this one. Nothing wrong with big, brassy, showy, flamboyant disco.

No. 29: Some Manhattan Transfer tune about an operator. I can’t be bothered to look up the title. Foppish and gimmicky.
Am I inconsistent? Very well, then, I am inconsistent.

No. 28: Staple Singers, “Let’s Do It Again.” Great languid summery sex jam.

No. 27: Willie Nelson, “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.”

No. 26: “Eighteen With A Bullet,” Pete Wingfield. The entry of the string section just kills this one dead.
Also, we’re establishing a new house rule for Things That Are Automatically Bad:
In addition to opening spoken-word monologues by anyone other than Barry White, children’s choirs and circus music, Fifties-style bass singers (you know the kind — the ones that go “dit-di-di-di-DIT”) are Automatically Bad.
The management thanks you for your consideration.

No. 25: Art Garfunkel, “I Only Have Eyes For You.”
He couldn’t save the Phillies in the Series; and he should have told his keyboardist to turn down the vibrato on his electric piano (which throbs and pounds like a hangover) … but he’s still got the freakin’ pipes.

No. 24: Simon and Garfunkel, “My Little Town.”
One of my favorite Simon compositions, and especially remarkable given that it’s complete fiction. (Simon, after all, is from Queens.)
A few years later, I would be pledging allegiance to the wall in my own little town.

No. 23: Bruce Springsteen, “Born To Run,” in its fifth week. This was maybe two weeks after Bruce made the covers of Time and Newsweek simultaneously.
Although I’m tired of this song, and I have (almost) never been seduced by the siren song of the American road, I still have to admit it’s a titanic production job.

No. 22: “Fly Robin Fly,” Silver Convention. Silver Convention a step ahead of Bruce Springsteen kinda sums up the ’70s, I think.
What was so great about this song?

No. 21: “What A Difference A Day Makes,” Esther Phillips. She has one of those loose, ragged, goaty voices that sell to jazz audiences. I can’t get to it.

No. 20: “You,” George Harrison. Ouch: Speaking of singing voices, it hurts a little to hear George flailing for the right notes here.
I have a hard time imagining this being anybody’s song … is there a couple out there that nuzzled to this?

No. 19: “That’s The Way (I Like It),” KC and the Sunshine Band. Crisp, sassy, rocket-fueled funk.
Now this is what funk-pop crossover singles are supposed to sound like.

No. 18: Bee Gees, “Nights on Broadway.” Just when things were looking grim, we get two straight cracklin’ jams for our delectation.
I have no idea what this is really about, just as I really don’t know what a bunch of other Bee Gees songs are about.
I just know it’s right in the pocket and the chorus is 50 feet tall, plus it starts with a taut moody riff that makes good, restrained use of synthesizer.

When I was a kid, I thought the Bee Gees were kind of a one-year wonder, riding the massive success of “Saturday Night Fever.”
Not until I grew up did I give them their due: They actually went five solid years (1975-80) turning out memorable, crisp, locked-in dance-pop singles and appealing ballads.
Much respect.

No. 17: The first U.S. hit for Jigsaw: “Sky High.”
This is not anywhere near in the same class as the previous two songs. I just like it because years ago, as a sophomore in college, my roomie and I stayed up late watching a dreadful action-adventure movie whose climactic scene featured this song.
Had something to do with a big shiny skyscraper blowing up, as I recall.
(This was in 1992 or ’93, when skyscrapers bursting into flame didn’t make me feel vaguely punched in the gut.)

Wiki tells me the film was “The Man From Hong Kong,” starring the post-Bond George Lazenby.
I wouldn’t go out of your way to see it.

No. 16: Neil Sedaka, “Bad Blood.” Shame to see our run of bold-face favourites come to an end. This song flat-out sucks; it sounds like something Doug Fieger would have written during his senior year in high school.
And a former Number One – gack!

No. 15: “SOS,” ABBA. Must … not …. think …. of Pierce Brosnan.
I’m telling ya, it takes an 18-wheeler full of dung to dim the shining wonderful poppiness of ABBA … and the movie “Mamma Mia” is alllllllllllmost equal to the job.
If you need a movie this weekend, find “The Man From Hong Kong.”

No. 14: Leon Russell, “Lady Blue.” The double-tracked vox on this have a slightly unpleasant quality to my ears, and I can’t decide if the minimal instrumentation is laid-back or boring.
I guess I give Leon the benefit of the doubt, but it ain’t getting any bold-face, you knows that.

No. 13: Olivia Newton-John, “Something Better To Do.”
We have a new entry for Things That Are Automatically Bad:
In addition to bass singers, opening monologues by anyone other than Barry White, circus music and children’s choruses, clarinets are bad.
Just bad.
As in, the kiss of death.

(And yes, Robert Lamm and Walt Parazaider, that means “Harry Truman” is a single without honor in this land. We love you, guys. But there’s only so much we’ll tolerate. You understand. Right?)

No. 12: War, “Low Rider.” A greasier take on pop-funk crossover.
Not quite as good as War’s all-time heavyweight champeen, “The Cisco Kid,” but a welcome streak of Saturday-night pachuco groove.

No. 11: People’s Choice, “Do It Anyway You Wanna.” Yeah, well, McDonald’s and Coors Light are the people’s choice too.
Grade-B BT Express.

No. 10: Captain and Tennille, “The Way I Wanna Touch You.” Nice dynamics, the way they drop down for the second verse. I don’t give ‘em much credit for the lyrics, and the hooks are nothing special, but we still give points for professionally executed arrangements.

No. 9: Morris Albert, “Feelings.”
OK, I’m just screwing with ya. I wouldn’t really bold this.
But really — considering all the insipid sap that has gone Top 40 (and even Top Ten) over the years, how did this song become so firmly selected as the cultural archetype of lounge-crooner schlock?
There’s worse, ya know.

No. 8: Natalie Cole, “This Will Be.” Nice gutsy piano. Was Rickie Lee Jones taking mental notes for what would become “Chuck E.’s In Love”?

No. 7: For the listeners of WSKW in Skowhegan, Maine, here’s the Spinners with “Games People Play.”
The kings of the smooth soul bump-jam deliver again with a tasty, tasty piece of work.

No. 6: Linda Ronstadt, “Heat Wave.”
Somehow this tune seems better-suited for La Ronstadt’s blowtorch-in-blue-jeans approach than some of her other covers.
Woulda been a much better single release in June, though.

No. 5: Jefferson Starship, “Miracles.”
I wish I could explain why I like this song so much. Maybe it’s because I remember hearing it on the AM radio in my parents’ old Plymouth Satellite during long interstate car trips.
Maybe it’s just because it epitomizes ’70s deeply soulful, hot-tub, I’m-in-you-you’re-in-me-in-a-soulful-kinda-way lovin’.
Or maybe it’s because Red Octopus is a back-door contender for one of my 10 favorite albums of the 1970s.

Whatever the reason, I can get lost in this song any time I hear it.

No. 4: “Who Loves You?,” the Four Seasons.
Trying to remember whether this one was inspired by Theo Kojak’s legendary catchphrase or not. I guess only Bob Gaudio knows for sure.
This one doesn’t really deserve bold face, but the Bushmills is kicking in, and I really did enjoy this countdown, so what the hell.

No. 3: John Denver, “Calypso.” The life aquatic with John Deutschendorf.

No. 2: Eagles, “Lyin’ Eyes.” Misogynistic country trash.
Hey, how did these guys do on the country charts? I’m sort of dimly curious, but not so much as to go look it up. (Edit: Someone else did in 2009, and told me this song hit No. 8 on the country charts, the band’s highest placing.)

And finally:
No. 1: “Island Girl,” Elton John.
Casey shares a neat bit of trivia: Elton’s album “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” debuted on the charts at Number One in June 1975, the first album ever to do so.
And this week, Elton made it two in a row, with the “Rock of the Westies” album also debuting at Number One.
This is another in a long string of Elton singles in which the music, and Elton’s delivery of the lyrics, completely obliterate whatever the song’s supposed to be about.
There’s something to do with a hooker from the Caribbean, but really, how many listeners could describe a coherent plot arc?

Incidentally, I’ve been listening to “Nights On Broadway” since I first typed it in. Just thought I’d mention it.


Part of an ongoing effort to dredge my grandfathers’ photos out of the family scrapbooks where they sit unappreciated, and bring them out for contemplation.

Another installment, then:

Top 10 Things My Brother Might Have Seen In December 1973
That Would Have Had Him Spellbound
But Were Apparently Invisible To The Rest Of The Family

xmas731. Santa Claus removing his suit to reveal … Ronald McDonald.

2. Secretariat cantering across the front lawn.

3. The Tardis.

4. The inexplicable but fast-approaching popularity of “Seasons In The Sun.”

5. The endless psychedelic wonderland of lights caused by the silver-foil Christmas tree reflecting in the big front window.

6. Danny Glick, asking to be let in.

7. Up With People.

8. A time traveler with an iPhone, blithely looking up the address of the nearest Thai takeaway.

9. The Black Winterqueen.

10. The sum of all human toil.

5K at a time.

In the past few weeks, I’ve done something I’ve wanted to do for a while: Compile a spreadsheet listing every race I’ve ever run since high school.

I tend to favor small local 5Ks — no New York City Marathons for me — so it’s been fun trying to find my results from unknown races that happened a decade ago.

Many results are still out there, surprisingly, and I’ve been reminded of more than one race I’d totally forgotten. A few races seem to have vanished from history.

Using my old race T-shirts — some of which were converted into a quilt by my mom — as reminders, I thought I’d write down my memories of some of these races, before I forget all about them again.

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Schofield School 5K, May 31, 1998, Wellesley, Mass.: Only my second competitive 5K since graduating from high school seven years before. I ran my best-ever post-HS 5K time, then didn’t race again for three years. Nice plan.

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Marino Lookout Farm 5K, May 20, 2001, Natick, Mass.: Some co-workers got me back into running in the spring of 2001, and this was the first of seven 5Ks I ran that year. I ran an abysmal time and got beaten by an active NFL quarterback. (No prizes for guessing who it was.)

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High Tech Classic 5K, Sept. 16, 2001, Waltham, Mass.: This race happened the weekend after the Sept. 11 attacks. My main memory is the race organizers playing “God Bless The U.S.A.” over the PA before the start of the race, and me feeling like a lousy unpatriotic jerk as I rocked back and forth impatiently and thought, “Are we gonna have to hear this treacly shit before every single American public event now?”

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Marlborough Police 5K Police Chase, Marlboro, Mass., Oct. 7, 2001: This was a weird little race. Supposedly 110 people finished but I remember about one-quarter that many; and I know they measured the course wrong ’cause I finished impossibly fast. I wonder if anyone else even remembers this one.

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Halloween Hustle 5K, Newton, Mass., Oct. 27, 2001: I ran this one pushing my year-old son in a jog-stroller. I did OK except for one point where his blanket fell out on the road and I had to duck back and get it. I think this was also the race where I ran into a high school friend, totally out of the blue; I was kind of honored she recognized me.

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Turkey Classic 3.5-Mile Road Race, Framingham, Mass., Nov. 22, 2001: The race went OK. I mention it here mainly b/c I’m a little ashamed to admit I still have the long-sleeve T-shirt, 13 years later. It escaped being rounded up for the quilt and is still on my shelf. (In fairness to me, I always seem to have a whole bunch of T-shirts, and I tend to keep some in regular rotation, so it’s not impossible for one to land on the bottom of the stack and stay there … for 13 years.)

This was also the last race I ran in Massachusetts before moving to Pennsylvania the following spring. Perhaps someday I will return to Massachusetts, and I will sign up for some tiny local 5K in the fall, and I will toe the line wearing this shirt like a real townie.

A man can dream.


Jefferson Hospital Philadelphia Distance Run, Philadelphia, Pa., September 2003: My first, last and only half-marathon. It was somewhat disappointing — I didn’t really train hard enough, was seduced by a flat course into going out too fast, and did a bunch of walking. But, still, I got “half-marathon” off the bucket list.

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Kutztown Fools’ Run, Kutztown, Pa., March 31, 2007: A lovely 5K out in farm country; I would do it again except Kutztown’s an hour from my house. The post-race spread for this one included bagels, oranges, bananas … and pots of apparently homemade chicken noodle soup, which is just about the Berks Countiest thing ever.

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Families First 5K, Wind Gap, Pa., Oct. 10, 2009: Three memories of this race:
1. I died hard.
2. This was the first race where I ever got a T-shirt in one of those fancy sweat-wicking fabrics, rather than cotton.
3. Never run a race in a place with “Wind” in the name.


Giving Thanks 5K, Vienna, Va., Nov. 24, 2011: Ran this one while visiting the in-laws for Thanksgiving. You could dedicate your race to a fallen or wounded soldier, and on the spur of the moment, I decided to run in honor of my great-uncle, who died in World War II. My performance did not honor his memory.

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Allentown St. Pat’s 5K, Allentown, Pa., March 18, 2012: I’ve run this one every year since 2011; it’s the only race I’ve ever formed that kind of bond with. It’s a fun race, and a challenging race, and sometimes a cold race, and every year my time gets a little better. Plus, the race director is a nice guy.

In 2011, I was beaten in the St. Pat’s 5K by a sitting U.S. Congressman. In 2012, I beat him. I do not think the Congressman has been back since. Perhaps losing to me was the ultimate indignity.

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Concordia Lutheran Academy Pheasant 5K, Slatington, Pa., April 20, 2013: Another one of those great little races I tend to sign up for. Sixty-one people finished the 2013 race and probably one-third of them were walking. I like the color of this shirt, and also the menacing, vaguely fungool!-ish gesture the pheasant is making.

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Centennial School 5K, Bethlehem, Pa., May 2014: Sixty people took part in this one; I finished ninth. Contrary to the image on the shirt, the race did not end in a furious sprint between Zooey Deschanel, G. Gordon Liddy, and Yertle the Turtle.

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Forever Young 5K, Seneca Falls, N.Y., Oct. 11, 2014: The most recent 5K I have run. There are currently no others on my dance card, though I might like to get one in on Thanksgiving if time allows. This race honors a middle-schooler who died of some uncommon illness.

While the cause is noble, I don’t love the design of the T-shirt. I suspect this one will land at the bottom of the pile. Maybe I will find it again in a decade and be reminded of a flat, fast course on a crisp fall morning in central New York.

You can dress in pink and blue just like a child.

My man Jim Bartlett has written a number of times about how certain seasons from his youth still come through to him with crystal clarity, while other seasons didn’t leave many memory tracks to speak of.

(If you want to know which seasons registered with him and which didn’t, go search his archives. It’ll probably be more interesting than tonight’s post here.)

The fall of 1982 seems to stay with me more than other seasons. A couple of chance encounters have brought it to mind, so I think I’ll kill a couple hundred words summoning some of the impressions it left.

- I would have been nine years old then. As best I can remember, there was no particular reason the fall of ’82 would have left a special imprint. I was cruising happily through elementary school. There were no family events, good or bad, that changed my life in any great direction.

- I was at an age when news and ideas from the grown-up world were starting to filter down to me. Perhaps that made the season noteworthy.

I remember hearing about some of the season’s big news stories — Poland’s Solidarity movement; the Chicago Tylenol poisonings; the dedication of the stark, controversial Vietnam Veterans Memorial; and the death of Leonid Brezhnev and his replacement by Yuri Andropov.

- Or maybe my older brother’s listening to pop radio in general, and Men at Work specifically, helped fix the season in my mind. He was a huge fan of the Australian band, which came out of left field to fascinate American audiences that fall as “Who Can It Be Now?” duked it out with “Jack and Diane” for Number One.

To this day, the sound of Colin Hay’s voice has a capacity to transport and relax me that is rivaled by few other singers (Robert Lamm comes to mind.) Which must mean the fall of ’82 was a good time.

- As a baseball fan, I was quite interested in that year’s playoffs and World Series. The eternal Yankees and Dodgers, who’d done battle in October 1981, had been replaced on the national stage by the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers — two clubs not commonly seen in the Series. (The Cardinals won. My loyalties ran vaguely to the Brewers,  but I didn’t lose sleep.)

Pop music intruded here, too. Game Two of the National League Championship Series, between the Cardinals and Atlanta Braves on Oct. 9, had been a closely fought affair, won by the Cardinals in the bottom of the ninth. The next day — and it could only have been one day, because the Cards clinched the series on Oct. 10 — ABC aired a promo for the third game set to Billy Joel’s then-current hit, “Pressure.”

It was an apt choice to follow a nail-biter of a game. And, while I don’t have proof of this, it struck me at the time as unique and unprecedented and cool that a network had used a hit song for an ad like that, rather than the lofty purpose-written instrumentals that usually seemed to show up as sports broadcast themes.

- Speaking of BJ, his album The Nylon Curtain was released on Sept. 23 of that year. My folks were big Billy Joel fans, and I’m sure the new album would have been on regular play in our house throughout the fall.

The Nylon Curtain arrived between the Lennonesque watch-me-rawk moves of Glass Houses and the feel-good ’5os and ’60s pastiches of An Innocent Man, without the easily grasped pleasures of either. This was the album that produced “Pressure,” “Allentown” and “Goodnight Saigon” as singles.

Looking back over Joel’s discography — which I knew quite well as a child – The Nylon Curtain seems darker, more difficult and challenging, an outlier. And if I were sitting in front of my folks’ BJ albums, it’s probably the one I’d pull out first, specifically for that reason.

- I’m gonna cheat a little bit here. I don’t honestly associate Joe Jackson’s gleaming “Steppin’ Out” with the fall of ’82, the way I can specifically peg other songs to that season.

But I’ve always liked it; and just a few days ago, as I was beginning to nurse the idea of this post, I went to YouTube for no clear reason and dialed it up and listened to it again and again. So perhaps it is a more subliminal remnant of that fall.

I used to have (maybe still do) a Musician magazine from fall ’82 in which Jackson expressed his fondness for the likes of Cole Porter, and made fun of the monochromatic melodies of other songs on the pop charts (particularly Steve Miller’s “Abracadabra”). He was, of course, absolutely right.

- Speaking of Jackson and Men at Work, both performed that fall on season eight of Saturday Night Live, the season that introduced Brad Hall and Julia Louis-Dreyfus to the cast.

I was too young to be a regular viewer, or to get all the jokes; but I was also a night owl, and when my dad would stay up to watch, I’d often be there too. As a result, this is the first SNL cast of which I have clear memories — another sort of American pop-cultural milestone.

- The heroes of fall 1982 would go in any number of directions.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus became a star on “Seinfeld”; Joe Jackson a journeyman cult hero; Billy Joel the house headliner at Madison Square Garden.

World Series MVP Darrell Porter and Men at Work’s Greg Ham, whose saxophone heralded the beginning of “Who Can It Be Now?,” struggled with drugs and alcohol and died too young.

- A final mental image from the fall of ’82 shows the Milwaukee Brewers’ backup catcher, captured in a wire-service photograph, burying his head in his hands after his team’s Game 7 loss.

His name was Ned Yost; and tomorrow night, he will once again be center stage at the World Series, as manager of the upstart Kansas City Royals.

For Ned Yost, and perhaps for me, it might again be an autumn to remember.


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