RSS Feed

Author Archives: kblumenau

Here’s to the moment when you said hello.

Posted on

I’m spending a lot of time on the highway this spring.

And of course there is always noise to help me make the miles — everything from power pop to progressive rock to the New York Mets Radio Network. (Howie Rose and his partner are solid, and you can get flagship WCBS crystal clear from first pitch in Connecticut to last out in New Jersey.)

One of my travel companions this past weekend was Wave, the last album by the Seventies edition of the Patti Smith Group, produced by pop wunderkind and longtime Neck Pickup favorite Todd Rundgren.

Side Two of Wave is a struggle, like eating unleavened bread, or washing your entire body with pumice soap. It’s inspirational if you’re in the mood, but if you’re not, it’s an uphill battle in quicksand. Those four songs feel like they last an hour.

Side One (I speak in pre-CD terms, of course) is the upbeat side. And it kicks off with my new favorite song of the nonce — a perfect highway song, a driving song, and one I wish would show up on my radio out of the ether some night in New London or Nyack or Morristown.

Frederick” is Smith’s love song to her future husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith, formerly guitarist for the MC5. The pair were married in 1980, the year after Wave was released; had two children together; and remained married until Fred’s death in 1994.

The song owes some musical debt to “Because The Night,” and probably some other Bruce Springsteen songs as well.

No matter. It builds. It moves. It uses both tambourine and synthesizer in the way tambourines and synthesizers were meant to be used. (It invokes prayer pretty cleverly, too.)

It wrings out its four chords as if any others would break the spell. And it’s clearly the work of someone whose soul and spirit have been touched — which is a rare thing, even in a world of a million love songs.

(I remember Keith Richards, discussing his solo tune “Eileen,” saying something like “a chick’s name and a riff — the classic rock n’ roll combination.” What are the great rock songs built around a man’s name? This is one right here.)

We’re probably just about to reach the song’s 40th anniversary, by coincidence. Wave was released in May 1979, and as the album’s lead single, “Frederick” would presumably have preceded it by a couple of weeks.

It pains me to report that not that many heard it, at least not on the radio. If Wiki is to be believed, the song topped out at No. 90 on the U.S. singles charts.

And the invaluable ARSA database of local radio airplay charts contains only two surveys with “Frederick” on it — one from June, one from July — both from KBEQ in Kansas City. (I’m glad there was a station someplace in America that could take a couple spins away from “Morning Dance,” “Dance the Night Away” and “Makin’ It” and give them to Patti Smith’s cry of the heart.)

I do note, though, that Wave hit No. 18 on the U.S. album charts — the highest placement of any Patti Smith Group album, and not at all bad for a punk poetess whose untutored, Jersey-bred singing voice repeatedly renders her song title as something approaching “FRAD-er-ick.”

So maybe people dug the song at home, with the windows open, in their bedrooms and their front rooms and wherever else they wedged in room for a turntable. That counts for something.

It’s not quite the same trip as hearing it with both hands on the wheel, Route 95 moving at a copacetic 70 mph, and the cockpit of a solitary car suddenly awash in a tangible feeling of both excitement and attachment, adventure and contentment, passion and calm.



Posted on

Cultural activities people in New England could have taken part in on the day I was born, courtesy the Boston Globe archives, specifically the old “What’s Happening” Friday week-ahead listings:

Jerry Orbach in 6 Rms Riv Vu at the Falmouth Playhouse.

Joe Orton‘s What the Butler Saw at the Tufts Summer Arena Theater, Medford.

7:15 p.m. and 10 p.m. showings of the 1933 Alice in Wonderland at the PolyArts Film Circus, Central Square, Cambridge. Admission $1.

The Electric Light Orchestra at something called John Hancock Hall (it rings no bells); shows 7:30 and 9:30; admission $5.50 and $4.50.

The Boston Children’s Theater Stagemobile (featured plays: “Pinocchio” and “Land of the Jesters”), 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. shows, East Junior High School, Andover. Free admission.

The City Art Fest at Boston City Hall, an annual display of artwork by municipal employees.

The Skyliners at King’s Row I near Fenway Park, Boston.

The Marblehead Festival of the Arts, featuring juried paintings, an invitational sculpture exhibit, photography and performing arts.

John Raitt in 1776 at the North Shore Theater, Beverly.

The Boston Publick Theater doing Much Ado About Nothingfree and under the stars, at its outdoor theater on the Charles River on Soldiers Field Road, Boston.

The Association at the Brockton Fair, Route 138, Raynham.

Myles Connor, “the President of Rock n’ Roll,” at Jimmy McGetrick’s Beachcomber Club, Quincy. (If you click only one link in this post, make it Myles Connor.)

Works of Haydn, Villa-Lobos and Mendelssohn, performed as part of the Bay Chamber Concerts series at the town hall in Rockport, Maine.

The Aeolian Chamber Players performing an unspecified program at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.

Jimmie Spheeris at Oliver’s, Brookline Avenue, Boston.

New acquisitions by Calder, Rauschenberg, Rodin and Le Corbusier at MIT’s Hayden Gallery, Cambridge.

Dancing for over-30 singles, 8 p.m. to midnight, St. Joseph Auditorium, Haverhill.

I’ll fill in the blanks, thanks.

Posted on

Sometimes the Internet delivers the full goods on something — like when you find all two hours and forty-three minutes of an old baseball broadcast on YouTube, complete with commercials.

And other times it just gives you a couple of details and invites your mind to go to work coloring in the rest.

I’m not sure which I like better. Depends on the context, I guess.

I’m in fill-in-the-blanks mode tonight as I survey what is, apparently, a newly built discography of Charles Ives recordings at the homepage of the Charles Ives Society.

It’s nothing you wouldn’t expect — a list of performers, recording dates, record labels and album titles, organized by type of composition (orchestral music, keyboard music, choral music, etc.)

And yet, every listing makes me either turn over an imagined LP sleeve in my hands, or wonder what it was like in the studio on the long-ago day when the music was recorded.

What was James Sykes’ day like, and what were the thoughts in his head while shaving, on August 28 or 29, 1963, when he went into Dartmouth College’s Hartman Rehearsal Hall to record the material that eventually became Folkways’ Charles Ives: The Short Piano Pieces?

Was October 12 (or 19), 1970, just another day at the office for baritone Peter Del Grande, who spent it recording the music for Peter Del Grande Sings Charles Ives at Wahlberg Recording Studios in San Francisco?

For that matter, I’ve never heard of Wahlberg Recording Studios. What was the place like (I’m picturing pale blue short-grained carpet, worse for wear, and a motel next door), and what kind of music did they usually cut there?

I note, also, the specific notation on George G. Baker’s 1975 recording of some of Ives’s organ music: “July 24-25, 1975, night, Basilica of St. Sernin, Toulouse, France.” D’ya think it mattered that he cut at night? Would it have sounded different if he’d played during the day? And don’t even get me started imagining what kind of old-stone-and-older-mojo palazzo the Basilica of St. Sernin must be.

(There is one building in the discography I don’t have to speculate about: On Nov. 13, 1976, my alma mater of Penfield [N.Y.] High School hosted a choral recording of Ives’s “They Are There!” as part of the Junior High Area All-State Festival. I am newly proud to have grown up in a place where pre-teens performed the music of Charles Ives.)

Of course, having noodled on the circumstances of each recording, I have to wonder what they all sound like.

The final products run the full gamut of experience and quality, from big-name orchestras on major labels to self-released opuses like Central Jersey Region II Bands: American Revolution Bicentennial 1776-1976, which features the Central Jersey Region II Wind Ensemble under the direction of Richard Castiglione performing Ives’s “Country Band March.”

(The recording info on that one consists entirely of: “ca. 1976, New Jersey.” Hell, man, there’s a novel in that little scrap somewhere.)

Lester Bangs wrote that his childhood dream was to live in a mansion with every record ever — vast, though well-organized, underground catacombs filled with literally everything ever pressed to vinyl.

I wouldn’t go that far. But it would sure be fun to live in one of those angular, natural-wood-sided Seventies-style homes in the New England woods, with a cellar — or, better still, a skylit loft — full of every domestically released recording of Charles Ives’s music.

Well, OK, not skylit. Skylights leak, always. And reality intrudes on even the gentlest and most clement fantasy.

Sunday in pictures.

Posted on

It’s been a good day replete with productivity at work, and a positive attitude, and new library books, and a second straight humble-yet-satisfying dinner based around green veggies and brown rice.

To keep my mind from veering off the primrose path and into the tall woods, I’m going to post a few pictures and write a few captions to sum up what I did yesterday.


This is a brand-new-to-me ballpark. It’s not very old to much of anyone else either: Boston College only opened it within the past two or three years. It’s part of something called, I believe, the Harrington Athletic Complex, which basically means it’s just ripe and waiting for a well-heeled alum to come along and slap down some money to rename it.

It has one of those weird all-turf fields where some bits are tinted brown to look like dirt. (I used to watch Lehigh University’s team play on another such rug back in Pennsylvania.) It’s a little artificial, but that’s a small price to pay for the ability to see spring baseball in New England — a natural-grass field in March or April is a much dicier proposition.

The Fifties-looking building looming out beyond left-center field is probably the best thing about the place. It lends a certain institutional tang, a reminder that dormitories and engineering classrooms are close at hand. You’ll notice a sort of berm out beyond left field; we’ll get there in a second.


The day was ungodly gorgeous, temps in the mid-60s, kissed slightly by wind, and all in all a fine time to find a place in the sun and drink it all in.

(I was not as sanguine yesterday as I am today — things hung over my head — so I could not enjoy it quite so freely. But I did enjoy it.)



The BC Eagles, struggling this season to win as many games as they lose, played host to the third and final game in a series with the Wolfpack of North Carolina State University. NC State, heretofore known to me as a basketball school, entered the game with a 29-3 record and the No. 1 ranking in its region.



Of course, the only logical thing happened: BC scraped across a pair of runs in the last of the eighth and won an upset victory, 3-1. (Shown above are the two teams’ coaching staffs bidding each other well after the game. I can’t remember seeing that happen after a game before.)



Curiously, the left field berm is not formally part of the ballpark, even though it might as well be. It’s fenced off from the park property. The hill grew increasingly more occupied over the course of the game, and I thought it would be fun to watch from there, so I headed over.

Upon arriving, it seemed to me that most of the hill spectators were students — some of them toting beer, others heckling the NC State left fielder. They were not rude to me (indeed they took no notice) but it seemed evident that a middle-aged man would be out of place, so I took a few pix and went back to the grandstand.

(BC baseball games, like BC women’s hockey games, are free of charge and open to the public, so you can wander in and out of the park as you choose. Can’t bring beers into the park with you, though.)


He’s not visible in this photo, but a BC baseball legend sat for much of the game in his motorized chair on the first-base side of the diamond.

Pete Frates, a former BC varsity player now afflicted by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, has become a high-profile raiser of funds and awareness to fight ALS.

(Pete and/or his supporters are sometimes credited with originating the ice bucket challenge that went inescapably viral a few years ago to raise money for ALS research. His is one of two retired numbers posted on the right-center-field wall below the scoreboard at BC’s new field.)


Upon the announcement of his attendance, everything stopped for a standing ovation that lasted several minutes and included both teams on the field. I joined in the ovation, albeit with a heavy heart.

Two decades ago, in my first journalism job out of college, I worked at a weekly newspaper in a little town on Boston’s South Shore. I had occasion to write a few stories about a retired local police sergeant with ALS. He was a fighter and a battler too, beloved and supported by all around him, and he heard a few ovations himself.

And then the same thing happened to him that has happened sooner or later to every fighter and battler that has ever been struck by this bastard of an illness. And ever since, my ability to buy into the courageous fighting-battling narrative has been touched by the sting of inevitability.

If Pete Frates is the first to break the curse, bless him. If not, I do hope someone else gets there.


This made me feel a little strange too. My views on religion have about-faced in the past five years or so, from rejection to gentle embrace. In my last two years in Pennsylvania I was regularly attending Quaker Meeting, which connotes a certain agreement with the basic tenets of Christianity. And yet it throws me to see a three-story Crucifixion on the side of a building.

In recent years I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t have gone to a college with some religious affiliation.

This is total reconstructionist history — I visited one such college as a teenager and fled at the sight of Jesus.

But, looking at it as an adult with a desire for self-improvement, I imagine such schools must require kids to put in some contemplative time. In their marrow, just as part of what they are, they must force young people to think at least a little bit about the universe and their place and responsibility in it.

I don’t remember doin’ much of that there deep existential thinkin’ at my non-sectarian college, not even during the two required philosophy classes I guzzled in my second semester of senior year. I might have been a better, more mature contributor to society if I had.

On the other hand, I also wonder how much actual free thinking religious schools tolerate. What if you go to BC, take your philosophy courses, linger long in chapel as the sunlight dapples the stained glass, and decide in the end that the Buddhists have it right?

I can imagine a Catholic school saying: “We strongly encourage our young people to contemplate their relationship with God and their obligation to humanity. And, we also strongly encourage them to come to the same conclusions as St. Thomas Aquinas.”




Leaving behind the agonies of Jesus, I made haste across town to the Fenway Center. This has nothing to do with the Red Sox; rather, it’s a converted church tucked away on St. Stephen Street, a stone’s throw from Symphony Hall.

The (non-sectarian, and thus philosophically empty) college my son attends owns the place now, and I went there to see his concert band put on its spring performance.

I can’t remember whether the pic below was taken before the show or during the intermission. My perception at the time was that my son (who had a cold and seemed out of sorts) knew I was there but didn’t feel like looking at me and the camera.


And then, leaving the center fielders and star-crossed fighter-battlers and comparative-religion majors and percussionists of Boston to their own devices, I caught the night train home, as I do.


Neck deep, period.

Posted on

By day I try to do decent work at a job I’m still settling into. By night I come home and stress out over personal challenges that will occupy my next few months.

It is crunch time for these endeavours, and even though things haven’t been horrid so far, nervous-obsessive me finds the going ulcer-making anyway. At some point it will get better, and when it does I’ll (probably) breathe and unwind and smile and start blogging about 40-year-old pop singles again, but we’re not there yet.

For now I clutch at calm and grace.

Tonight I went running, showered, ate some noodles, did some laundry, and put on some English church music. It soothes me like a blanket. There is a YouTube channel with hundreds of BBC evensong broadcasts and I think it might just become my brand-new night-friend.

(It would be even better if I could resist the temptation to surf the Net in other tabs while listening, or if I didn’t have a dryer running about five feet away. I will do better in nights to come.)

Neck deep in New England.

Posted on

A few days ago I finally shelled out for a digital subscription to the Boston Globe. Gotta financially support your local paper, after all — or, at least, the paper that offers the most advantageous combo of regional, national and international news.

The best thing about the subscription is that it comes with access to 200 years’ worth of the Globe’s online archives. When time has allowed, I’ve started dipping my toes into it — only just starting.

(Among other things, I added some color to my knowledge of a curious story involving a young man from my hometown. It’s a story I was first drawn to 30 years ago as a teenager walking to school, but didn’t know the full details of until recently. At some point, in some format, I’ll tell the story, if I can figure out a way to do it justice.)

While I figure out where to deep-dive, I’m gonna do some shallow diving.

Specifically, I’ve pulled together a random list of people, places and things — mostly Seventies-oriented, mostly trivial — and I’m going to find out when each one was first mentioned in New England’s newspaper of record. If I can find any other interesting clips on the subject, I’ll mention those also.

Here goes.

Sir Grapefellow: Short-lived grape-flavored cereal — with marshmallows! — sold by General Mills. Mentioned 11 times in the Globe between 1972 and 1978. The first two mentions are ads, tied to the cereal’s introduction; the remainder are news stories and columns tut-tutting about the high sugar content in children’s cereals.

“Parents who give in to their children’s demands to buy Sir Grapefellow, Froot Loops, Cocoa Krispies, Cocoa Pebbles, Super Sugar Crisp and the like, are not only wasting their money, but risking the health of their children and teaching them poor eating habits,” chastised columnist Jack Thomas in September 1976.

Yeah, stow it, Jack.


July 23, 1972.

Magic Dick: Harmonica player for Beantown’s own J. Geils Band. Government name: Richard Salwitz. Unlike Sir Grapefellow, still alive and well.

Globe archive shows 458 matches for “Magic Dick” between 1876 and the present. Weeding out references clearly not related to Mr. Salwitz, his first appearance in the Globe biz comes in a record review by Ernie Santosuosso in the Jan. 3, 1971, issue (on page 69, no less).

Santosuosso sussed what made the man special from the get-go: “Seth Justman, piano and organ, and Magic Dick, harp, shore up even the more mediocre music with fascinatingly strong solos. … Magic Dick’s harmonica playing is first-class.”

(Two months later, stringer David W. Johnson waxed even more eloquent in a piece about the band: “Their harp player, Magic Dick, is truly an enchanted person.”)

Ubbi-dubbi: Language game popularized by the public television children’s show Zoom, produced by station WGBH in Boston (oh-two-one-three-four) between 1972 and 1978.

Zoom was later revived by WGBH, and indeed, only two of the 13 references to ubbi-dubbi in the Globe archives date to the run of the original show. The very first came on Jan. 15, 1972, in the form of a puzzle or challenge, alongside a piece by staff writer Bill Fripp introducing the show.


G-ub-ot ub-it?

John LaRose: By my research, Rhode Island native LaRose was the shortest-tenured Boston Red Sox player of the Seventies.

His career with the Sox — and his career in the bigs — lasted all of one game. He pitched two innings in relief against Detroit on Sept. 20, 1978, got knocked around a bit, and never got into another major-league game.

LaRose’s first mention in the Globe came more than eight years before his big MLB moment. On July 29, 1970, baseball writer Clif Keane mentioned LaRose as a young ballplayer doing well with the team’s Jamestown farm club.

On April 4, 1971, staff writer Ray Fitzgerald again mentioned LaRose as a promising up-and-comer — listing him earlier in the story than fellow prospects Dick Pole, Ben Oglivie, Juan Beniquez and Rick Miller, all of whom had considerably longer big-league careers. (It would have been hard to have a shorter one, I suppose.)

Charles Ives: Stepping away from the Seventies for a moment: One of America’s first great homegrown composers; lived in obscurity until near the end of his life; a New Englander and a Yale graduate.

There are 1,341 references to a Charles Ives in the Globe archives between 1872 (two years before Ives’s birth) and the present.

The first reference that can be clearly identified as the composer came on Jan. 26, 1931, in an unbylined review of a concert of modern music by the Chamber Orchestra of Boston.

The orchestra’s leader, Nicolas Slonimsky, was an early champion of Ives; the group performed Ives’s “Three Places in New England.” The review factually described Ives’s compositions but did not comment critically on them.

By the time of Ives’s death in 1954, his critical reputation was on its way to being established, as shown by the words of a memorial column by writer Cyrus Durgin: “Only the future can prove to us the true stature of Charles Ives. … It would be nice to be around say 50 years from now, when the talent of Ives will have become plain beyond all doubt.”

Steve Grogan: OK, back to the lowbrow. Steve Grogan, a strapping Texan with a remarkable capacity to absorb pain, was the New England Patriots’ chief quarterback of my youth. He played for the team from 1975 to 1990, taking part in a few great seasons and quite a few lost ones.

The first mention of Grogan the quarterback (another man of the same name was a minor member of the Manson Family) came on Jan. 29, 1975, the day the Pats took him in the fifth round of the NFL draft.

In a draft analysis by columnist Will McDonough, Grogan went unmentioned until the 16th paragraph of a 21-paragraph story, overshadowed by higher picks — all of whom he long outlasted. In a separate column of draft notes, Grogan was again left as a last-paragraph footnote.

James at 15: Short-lived, critically praised, briefly controversial teen-centered TV series about a dreamy young man who is transplanted from Oregon to Boston when his father, a college professor, takes a job in the Hub of the Universe.

From 1977 to the present, the phrase returns 2,216 matches in the Globe archive — though most of those are false alarms, since the search engine returns any story in which “James” and “15” appear in close proximity. (Example: “James Pabst, 15, of Claymont, Del., said he does not care if he sees the Delaware River again after a ride aboard an ice floe almost led to disaster for him and a friend.”)

The first mention of the TV series came on May 4, 1977, in a preview of NBC’s nine new fall shows. Globe writer Robert McLean described it as a show about “a boy approaching manhood, suffering adolescent pains and pangs.” (He misspelled the star’s name as “Lance Kirwin.”)

McLean also found room to diss another newcomer to the NBC schedule, CHiPS: “Chips, which must have some action-adventure plot lines in its bag, already has been cynically labeled ‘Startsky & Clutch’ by one industry reviewer.” Meow!

To tie two threads together: The series’ pilot movie, despite the Boston connection, was apparently bumped from the local network affiliate to an independent channel when the network affiliate opted to show a Patriots exhibition game … no doubt featuring the above-mentioned Steve Grogan. (So reported the Globe on Sept. 14, 1977.)

William Obanhein: Small-town police chief in the Berkshires who arrested Arlo Guthrie for littering on Thanksgiving Day 1965 and was subsequently immortalized as “Officer Obie” in the song “Alice’s Restaurant.”

The name of Chief Obie (thank you very much) first appeared in the Globe issue of Jan. 25, 1960, long before his brush with counterculture fame. One of a lengthy list of bills scheduled for State House committee hearings that day was H. 1547, a bill “to provide unlimited tenure for William J. Obanhein, incumbent chief of police in Stockbridge.”

Unfortunately, later events would not be as kind to the chief. An article in 1966 noted the disappearance of his teenage son Mark; what happened next is not specified in the Globe’s archives, but in a 1969 profile of Obanhein, Mark is not listed among the chief’s three children. And a 1972 article noted the disappearance of another son, David, from a work-release program at the Berkshire County Jail, where he was doing time for helping a prisoner escape from his father’s jail.

Lynn Sailors: From the It Made Sense At The Time Dep’t: In 1980, the struggling Seattle Mariners decided to put their Class AA minor-league team more than 3,000 miles away from Seattle.

On top of that, they decided that having the team play in diehard Red Sox country — only about 20 miles from Fenway Park — was a worthwhile endeavour. Oh, and did I mention that their community of choice was a chronically rundown small city derisively known as the “City of Sin“?

The result of this brainstorm was the Lynn Sailors, who played four seasons in the Eastern League, switching to a Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate at the end. The Sailors were introduced to Boston on March 28, 1980, in an article by staff writer Neil Singelais; the team’s name would appear 113 more times, usually in game results in the sports agate.

Those fans who bothered to go might have had the last laugh: The major-leaguers who passed through Lynn on the way up included Alvin Davis, Mike Moore, Harold Reynolds, former No. 1 draft pick Al Chambers, and future Red Sox Matt Young, Dave Valle and Spike Owen.


May 9, 1980.

Art Garfunkel: Has no direct connection to Boston or New England that I know of; I just wanted to see when the Globe first took notice of him.

His name first appeared on page 447 of the Nov. 27, 1966 issue, as part of a record-company ad touting “two hip, very topical singers whose music has a unique flavor of its own.”

He was then mentioned in a photo caption on July 23, 1967, accompanying the TV listings, as he and that other guy were appearing on some sort of TV special.

And on Jan. 30, 1968, Globeman Kevin Kelly reviewed a S&G performance at Symphony Hall (no taverns or roadhouses for them): “Paul Simon is rather small, short, black-haired, rather outgoing; Art Garfunkel is tall, thin, wiry-haired, terribly hesitant.”

Night in the Ruts: Given how many times I’ve mentioned this album — the product of Boston’s own Aerosmith — you had to know I’d work it in here.

From 1979 to the present, the phrase appears 22 times in the Globe archives. The first is in the radio listings of Nov. 20, 1979, noting that the album would be played in its entirety at midnight Friday, Nov. 23, on Boston’s WAAF.


Mon Dieu, for the days when radio stations not only played entire albums, but advertised it in advance! I bet half the teenagers in Boston had their TDKs at the ready and their fingers on the Record button at 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 23, 1979.

As for the record itself, the Globe didn’t get around to reviewing it until Jan. 31, 1980, which maybe connotes that the record didn’t spark any great urgency.

Writer Jim Sullivan correctly observed that Night in the Ruts was better than its predecessor, 1977’s Draw the Line, but that the band seemed stuck in a formula: “In a charged musical climate, neutral is not the gear to be stuck in.” (Other albums reviewed that week: Rupert Holmes’s Partners in Crime and Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall.)

The boat’s still in one piece.

Posted on

Here on Neck Pickup, either I’m flogging some obscure point of a long-ago pop record, or I’m bragging on myself … and guess which day it is.

Today, emboldened by last November’s successful half-marathon, I went out and ran another one, in New Bedford, Mass.

This winter was calm and snow-free enough to allow me to maintain half-marathon training during what would usually be a down period. Since I was in shape to do one, I signed up for one, ’cause you oughta use your ability while you’ve got it.

I had all kinds of excuses lined up in advance as to why this one would be slower than the last one — weather, wind, hills, some gammy leg muscles.

And then I went out and beat last November’s PR by four minutes.


I was reasonably charmed by New Bedford, which I’d never visited. It has a friendly enough downtown, neither over-quaint nor dingy, and I’d consider going back someday if I got the chance.

I’d always wanted to see the whaleman’s statue near City Hall — my fascination with the New England expression “stove” has been captured in this space before — and I finally did so before the race.

I even touched the inscription for perceived good luck. (I realized afterward that I’d touched the “dead whale” part, not the “stove boat,” which I chalked up as a sign of good fortune. I suppose it may have been.)


“A dead whale or a stove boat.”


I’d done some online cramming on the race course ahead of time, and it seemed fairly clement but for two concerns on the back half:

1) Between mile 7.5 and mile 11, runners traverse the outside of a peninsula that sticks out into the ocean, running three segments of a road named Rodney French Boulevard after a former mayor.

The winds here at the southern tip of the city are notorious among people who have run the race before. I overheard one runner in mid-race talk about “the Gales of Rodney French,” which struck my ears as a delightful piece of New England Gothic straight out of Dark Shadows. (I overheard another runner say that people passing through that area sometimes tuck in behind each other and run single-file so the lead runner gets the worst of the wind.)

Old Rodney was fairly merciful today; the wind was not a factor on the first two legs of Rodney French Boulevard. On the third and last leg he kicked up noticeably, but not badly enough to be soul-crushing.

2) I’d read online that miles 11 through 12.5 — the portion immediately following the wind tunnel — were straight uphill, which sounded like a nice test of one’s mettle right near the end.

Mile 11 turned out to be pretty well flat, and I was convincing myself the whole thing was nonsense when I reached Mile 12 and saw a steady and significant uphill, continuing for a half-mile. That was work, and I’m sure it added a little to my time, but again I was able to push through without being totally derailed.

(When you know you have less than a mile to go, that often provokes bursts of energy you wouldn’t think you were capable of at that point in a race.)


My thighs and calves are still grumbly, despite the soothing ingestion of ibuprofen and cream stout, so I’ll take it easy for a couple of days before I start running again.

Someone of great wisdom once told me that more injuries happen in the days after a marathon than happen in the marathon itself. I assume much the same is true for half-marathons as well.

You will be fascinated to know that I have also eased my aches with my now-traditional post-half-marathon dinner of hotdish — tonight, con tofu.