“There Was Singing In The Streets” – The Life and Legacy of Nancy A. Kelly

Nancy 1943

When we think of Nancy Kelly, we think of an exquisitely warm, loving, and generous woman with a heart and soul of unending kindness. She possessed a radiant beauty; a peaceful, quiet beauty and a serene dignity. Our mother was filled with a gentle compassion that inspired us to always be our best selves under any circumstances. In her unique way, she instilled in us the best of what made her so unique, filling our hearts with love, strength, compassion and inspiration.

In addition to all of this, Nancy also had a magical effect on everyone she met. She made friends easily and her charming personality possessed an easy laugh, a soft voice, and a sincere interest in the circumstances of other’s lives. There are not many like Nancy Kelly to be found anymore. And it’s important to note that her remarkable spirit was spread over 87 years.


Nancy was born on April the 8th, 1928. According to Nancy’s brother John Munnis, our grandmother said “there was singing in the streets when you were born and there’s been singing ever since.” John says Nancy was a, “charming little girl” growing up on Athelwold Street in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

She spent her summers as a youngster on the sandy streets of Ellsworth, Maine, with her grandmother, Nana Willett and all of her extended family. “She was a pleaser,” says her brother John. “She would avoid any and all confrontation, even as a young woman.”

Kelly Family

Nancy was a devoted wife, of John J. Kelly, Sr.,  and mother of five children, Maureen, Patricia, the late Elizabeth , John Jr., and the recently deceased Richard . She taught her children the value of hard work and had an extremely strong work ethic herself, including a career that spanned several decades.

She taught her children to study hard in school and always strive for high achievement. Nancy had a strong artistic streak, which she inherited from her mother and grandmother, who were great artists themselves. She loved knitting and sewing and many other artistic endeavors. She taught her children the joy of reading and love of language, and always insisted that proper grammar be spoken in the house.


No remembrance of Nancy’s life would be complete without mention of the 20-year romance and partnership she had with the late and sorely missed Alfred Lotero. Al was my mother’s great love and soul mate for 18 years and they complimented each other wonderfully. We have so many vivid memories of Mom during her retirement years together with Al at his home in Mattapoisett on Cape Cod or even further south in Florida’s Marco Island during the icy cold Boston winters. They golfed together and found the quiet peace they loved. Nancy even found a hobby after she retired, reading to the blind at radio station WATD.


In July, Nancy’s son John and his fiancée Janet visited her in Dedham, Massachusetts, for what would be one final time. They enjoyed a truly lovely week filled with conversation and laughter and ice cream cones. The cherry on top of this visit came with the arrival of Nancy’s younger brother John Munnis from Ohio. Through the magic of technology, we were able to connect with my mother’s older brother Joseph Munnis on FaceTime and the three siblings from Dorchester, MA were united again. It was a special day for three very close siblings.


Our mother always had a love of people, especially young people, like her granddaughters Ashley and Jillian Harris. She was interested in their stories and their lives. She would always advise everyone she met of the importance of “keeping a happy heart” and she also liked to remind people “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.” But no matter how difficult things would get, Nancy was always kind and she looked for the best in people. And if you look for this, you usually find it.


Though our mother had her own trials and tribulations over the years, Nancy was a true survivor. As the esteemed Elizabeth Edwards once wrote, regardless of how bad things got she stood “in the storm, and when the winds did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” This, too, is her legacy. To outlast any hardship. To rise up whenever we fall. To prevail.

And so today we celebrate the life of Nancy Kelly. It was a life of beautiful grace and unending hope in the goodness of both others and ourselves – the perpetual responsibility to always be our own best self, even during the most trying times.

To always think and act with kindness and generosity of spirit. To meet each new day and new challenge with a happy smile and great vigor. Nancy had this kind of passion for life that will endure long past her final breath.


May the light of her spirit always warm our hearts with memories of Nancy. This is a spark and glow that can illuminate even the darkest of days. May we forever follow her exemplary example and carry the fire which sustains us and give us hope and faith. May her love never cease to inspire us and may we always find that love when we look back in awesome wonder and remember Nancy Kelly’s smiling face.

Always so comforting.

Always so serene.

Always at peace.

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My Seven Day War…With Comcast

“It’s a long way down

And I feel alright” – Ryan Adams

Over the last week, I’ve been contacted by hundreds….no, thousands (actually zero) friends wondering, “John, where in the heck have you been.”

Excellent question!

There have been many spurious rumors. Many believed that I have been in deep meditation over how many pounds per square inch I prefer have in my own balls. (They call me “The Inflator”)

Others have postulated that I mistakenly Super-Glued myself to my couch.

And still others believe I was kidnapped by members of of The Church of Scientology and forced to spend my days saluting Tom Cruise, John Travolta and, our grand leader L. Ron Hubbard. Some . I am here to tell you that all of these theories are probably not true.

The truth is that for the last week, I have been waging a war with my Internet provider, Comcast.

As I write this, I’m totally worn out.

But I been to war and lived to tell the tale of my ultimate victory over these evil forces.

It has not been a traditional “boots on the ground”-type war. It has not been waged with bullets or bombs or napalm. No, that would have been easy.

Instead, my war has been waged, for the most part over the telephone, speaking with Comcast representatives in all four or five corners of the world, from Kentucky to India to Parts Unknown. It began when I started to have Internet connectivity issues which made it impossible for me to access Facebook, Twitter, and the hundreds of other social media networks where I am in great demand by at least two or three people, including members of my own family.

They say War is Hell and “they” are correct.

What follows is my journey into the eight (or is it nine?)  circles of Dante’s Inferno. My hope is that this will either give you hope or convince you that I am now ready for the nuthouse. As Jack Nicholson famously said, “Here’s Johnny.”


Day One – Friday, May 8, 2015 – 11:00 a.m.

I call Comcast to inform them that for the last several months, I have had issues with what I shall refer to as “Internet connectivity.” I speak to a man in South Carolina who spends more than an hour telling me about how he is a “computer expert” and will be able to resolve my problem today.” This individual, Con Man, says he has four jobs and has learned everything he knows about computers from books. Con Man also claims to have built several computers from scratch, using only a hard drive, a motherboard, airplane glue and a small toothbrush. I speak with him for more than four hours, until he gives up and says in an hopeless tone that he is going to have to “dispatch a truck” to come to my condo.

I am told there is nothing more he can do and transfers me to dispatch, which is a department somewhere in Indochina. I am assured, after verifying my address, phone number and mother’s maiden name that a Comcast worker will be dispatched to my house sometime between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.  I am filled with hope.

Me filled with hope

Day 1, Friday May 8, 2015 – 9:00 p.m.

I am distraught and somewhat suicidal. I have been sitting in my living room, unable to move, waiting for the Comcast representative to knock on my door. There has been no knock.  Desperate, I call Comcast and speak to someone who I think is in South Korea. This woman, who I shall call “Kim,” asks me in broken English to confirm my Comcast account with my address, phone number and last four digits of my mother’s Social Security number.

Kim asks “How I may help you Mr. John?” I explain my earlier conversation and tell Kim that I have been waiting all day for a Comcast technician. She puts me on hold for at least 20 minutes.

Kim returns to the phone and tells me that a Comcast representative has been to my Condo complex (not to be confused with Herpes-Complex A, B or C), and has completed his task. I argue that this is impossible since I have been waiting all day without any visit. I ask to speak to Kim’s supervisor. I am put back on hold for a very long time. Finally, I file a formal complaint and am told by another South Korean representative that my case will be expedited and that a Comcast representative will come be dispatched “tomorrow”….meaning Saturday. I am too tired to feel any emotions.

I call it a day.

Day Two – Saturday, May 9, 2015 – 8:15 a.m.

My fiancee and I are awoken by a phone call from an man who says he works for Comcast. He has a foreign accent. He tells me that unfortunately there are no Comcast dispatchers available to help me today. He tells me that I will have to call the main number for Comcast again and schedule another “service call.”  I hang up and try to fall back asleep.

Day Three – Sunday, May 10, 2015

It’s Sunday.,The Lord’s Day, apparently.

Also, evidently Comcast representatives observe The Lord’s Day and do not make house calls on Sunday. I call the main number and have to confirm my account by giving my address, phone number and current height and weight. I also have to answer several “secret questions,” including the name of my first dog (Ernie) and where my parents met (I guess at this one). I am assured that a Comcast representative will “definitely” arrive at my condo between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.  I am filled with doubt and apprehension. I pray for a miracle!

Day Four – Monday, May 11, 2015 –  11:00 a.m.

A Comcast Truck arrives outside my Condo building. The driver seems lost. I rush downstairs to meet him, fearing that he will leave without coming inside my home.  I introduce myself to a man, whom I shall call Carl (his real name). I explain the situation which takes about 45 minutes.  He checks the Internet connection coming into the condo, which he says is “Strong, man.”  Carl then pontificates on the sad state of Democracy in America, discusses several conspiracy theories, the idea of becoming “Sovereign” from the government and his work coaching young kids in a Police football league. I try to seem like I care. Carl tells me he will switch the modem/router. Having done this he says the problem has been resolved. I still cannot connect to the Internet. Carl mutters something about a intermittent cable issue, shrugs and leaves.

I consider jumping of the nearby Ambassador Bridge into the Detroit River.

Day Five – Tuesday, May 12, 2015

I have lost the will to live..

Finally, I call Comcast.  I actually speak to someone who speaks proper English and is located somewhere in the contiguous 48 states. He seems, oddly, to know what he’s doing. After confirming my Comcast account, etc. he tells me to do a total system reboot by sticking a paper clip into the back of the Modem/Router and holding if for 15 seconds (1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, etc.) This does not yield any satisfactory result. He transfers me to someone in The Philipines. Someone tells me they will try to get a service representative out to my condo in the next two days.

I vow to never call Comcast again.

Day Six – Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Nothing happens.  I consider placing a bag over my head and suffocating myself.

Day 7 – Thursday, May 15, 2015 – 9:00 a.m.

I awake soaked in sweat after a fever dream in which I was fighting a giant serpent with eight heads.

At approximately 3:32 p.m., another Comcast Van appears. I rush down 21 floors so that this person does not flee.  He doesn’t tell me his name. He is all business. He asks me, “Why you got such a long cable.” At first I think this is a personal question.  I say I have no idea. He says, “You got too much cable, man.”  I apologize profusely.

After shortening my cable, and again switching my Modem/Router(second time), we wait. He stands. I sit. Fifteen minutes go by. I offer him a shot of whiskey.  He declines. I drink..

Finally, he asks me to enter the new password and check my connection.

Lordy, lordy, lord.  I have a great connection. We do a speed test for wireless connection. And although we are supposed to be getting at least 50 Gbps, I get 7 or 8. Which is better than none, right.

I declare victory and begin bowing and offering gifts to this kind man. He just laughs and leaves.

It has taken a week. I am thoroughly exhausted.  I have spoken to more than a dozen Comcast representatives in at least that many different countries.

But I feel victorious! I am back able to go back on line. Huzzah!

I can work again.  I can continue to write and post on the Internet.

God is good.  Comcast…..not so much.

Life lesson: Never give up.

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Remembering Our Brother Richard And The Lessons He Taught Us

Richard’s baby photoRichard as an infant Letter from Detroit on the occasion of a “Celebration Of Life,”  for our brother Richard. Dearly assembled – First, please accept my deepest regret and apology for not being able to be with you today. But although I am not there in person, please know I am with each and every one of you in spirit. Since I couldn’t make it back home to bid my beautiful little brother Richard farewell for now, I thought I might relay a few positive and pleasant thoughts about my memories of my brother Richard F. Kelly was born at South Shore Hospital on December 18, 1964 with Down Syndrome.  I remember how my father would always tell me that, “Richard is an angel sent from Heaven.” At times I struggled with that notion because of some of the frustrations he faced, but today I can honestly say I finally understand exactly what he meant.   Because through my brother’s astoundingly happy, unique and caring ways, he taught us the importance of compassion and caring for one another. What a wonderful legacy to leave behind! The angel with a sparkle in his eyeRichard in the sink As a young boy, Richard was simply incredible. He was a happy, precocious, and often, an extremely funny little boy.  I can still see him acting footloose and fancy free, pedaling joyously up and down our driveway on Springvale Circle in Weymouth on his “Big Wheels” tri-cycle, his dirty blond hair flying in the wind, holding on firm to the handle and bars flashing the sweetest, angelic smile I’ve ever seen. In that moment, my brother was the picture of pure joy. I also remember how much Richard loved toys and games…all sorts! I will never forget his favorite security blanket of sorts, the ubiquitous Raggedy Ann doll which he love to carry around. And when he wasn’t having his own fun, he would constantly be trying to entertain us. My brother loved to laugh and got equal pleasure from making us laugh too! Here’s my favorite memory of Richard: One day while he was living at the Perkins School in Leominster, the school held an open house, complete with a talent show featuring music and an actual play. Richard was cast, appropriately, in the role of “The Jester,” and his role was to come out disguised in a hilarious Jester costume and run as fast as he could in a large circle of other members of the cast. It was a stellar, four-star, hysterical performance with Richard once again so happy just making us laugh. Richard had a lust for life that would give you goose bumps. His great love of music was astounding. He had an uncanny ability to remember lyrics to his favorite songs, whether it was from “Mary Poppins,” “The Sound of Music,” and “The Wizard of Oz” or simply any catchy hit playing on the radio. He loved music so much it became part of his identity and I believe Richard taught many of us about the power and magic of music. What a wonderful gift, indeed! Richard with his sister MaureenRichard with Mo But it is vital to remember Richard was also an extremely caring and sensitive person, especially to anyone injured or in pain. One great example was Richard’s sensitivity and concern he displayed when he was with our sister Elizabeth, after she was paralyzed after being hit by a drunk driver in 1981. Whenever Richard would see Liz in her wheelchair, he would be so compassionate, gentle and concerned. I remember him asking her “Wha’ Happened?” and telling her she would “Get Better Soon.”  We may not have been fully aware of it, but I believe Richard was teaching us the vital importance of caring for each other always. To borrow a quote from another man with a special needs brother, “(Richard) was the Jesus of our family.” He taught us lessons every moment of the time he was with us, just as Jesus Christ did, about compassion, caring and love for all. So on this bittersweet day, as we honor and pay tribute to our brother and friend, let us re-examine our own lives and re-dedicate ourselves to always following his example. May we forever strive to love one another in Richard’s memory. May God bless Richard F. Kelly and may he rest in peace. Richard and his family.Kelly Family


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Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” – Seething, Simmering and Mad As Hell

At a top-secret Paris press conference last month, Bruce Springsteen talked about his brand new album, “Wrecking Ball,” how it grew out of a gospel album he had been working on for about a year and his own perceived job as a rock and roll singer/songwriter and troubadour of the road. “You can never go wrong pissed off in rock and roll,” Springsteen told his interviewer and a crowd of several hundred onlookers. “The genesis of the record was after 2008, when we had a huge financial crisis in the States and there was really no accountability for years and years. There was no movement, there was no voice that was saying just how outrageous – that a basic theft that struck at the heart of the entire American idea was about. It was a complete disregard of history, of context, of community,” said Springsteen. “It was just an enormous fault line that cracked the American system wide open.”

The New Jersey native and Rock and Roll icon was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore, so he began several years ago writing the songs that comprise his new album, “Wrecking Ball.” The result is a multi-layered, big, mulligans stew of an album, full of diverse sounds and loops, as well as a rocking gospel-singin’ counter attack by Springsteen and friends. And it was all aimed at the “fat cats,” the “gamblin’ men” rolling the dice up on “banker’s hill” where “the party’s going strong,” and the rest of the corrupt, corporate thieves and “robber barons” whom Springsteen asserts have brought this country to the lowdown, divisive place where we stand today.

The record opens with the anthemic and heavily hook-laden “We Take Care Of Our Own,” a song that can be interpreted in several ways, such as “We don’t take care of our own” and “We take care of some of our own,” etc. There’s a strange guitar sound at the start of the opening cut and it’s the sound of an alarm; the sound of an emergency that needs to be addressed. On the two songs that follow “Easy Money” (about a guy planning a heist…just like a corporate crime) and on “Shackled and Drawn”, Springsteen plays the role of the common man “trudging through the dark in a world gone wrong.” Both songs musically match the mood of the Seeger Sessions, from several years ago, with plenty of banjo and fiddle.

Perhaps the most beautiful song of the album, “Jack Of All Trades,” is a simple ballad by Springsteen in which an out of work man reassures his partner that he will always be able to provide. The beauty is in the songs naked, unembarrassed honesty, as well as in a gorgeous horn part and a scorching guitar solo played by guest guitar slinger Tom Morello (of Rage Against The Machine and The Nightwatchman). This song is, quite simply, one of Springsteen’s most tender ballads.

But Springsteen’s most vile venom is reserved for “Death To My Hometown” a Gaelic-foot stomper, which could have been written and performed by both The Pogues and The Dropkick Murphies. Springsteen uses plenty of Irish soul and a few penny whistles to back up his urgent delivery on this scorcher:

Oh, no cannonballs did fly, no rifles cut us down
No bombs fell from the sky, no blood soaked the ground
No powder flash blinded the eye, no deathly thunder sound
But just as sure as the hand of God, they brought death to my hometown
They brought death to my hometown, boys

This is probably as pissed-off as Springsteen has ever been, recounting a kind of midnight raid by nameless “marauders” in darkened board rooms that left many Americans jobless, homeless and shaking their heads in disbelief. But this is also a cautionary tale warning of these same thieves returning: “the greedy thieves who came around and ate the flesh of everything they found” and “who’s crimes have gone unpunished now” and “walk the streets as free men now.” Incredibly, some critics have already pounced on the album, damning it for failing to live up to the anger that it was said to contain. It seems hard, actually, to imagine any album more angry that this. If your blood isn’t boiling after hearing this song you may not have a pulse.

“Death To My Hometown” is important in one other way. It marks an end to Springsteen’s radical ire, and he comes up for air and a bit of levity with the title cut to “Wrecking Ball,” a song that was written while on tour in tribute to the soon-to-be demolished Giants Stadium. Springsteen has said that in addition to working on that level, “Wrecking Ball” also serves as a metaphor for the dismantling of the American Dream. With “Wrecking Ball” comes a shift in this album’s focus, away from what has been, to an acceptance and understanding of the cyclical nature of things, and that “good times come and good times go…just to come again. So bring on your Wrecking Ball”

It’s a crucial turnabout by Springsteen and it heralds a new feeling (or what used to be called “Side Two”) and a love song, of all things, in “You Got It.” On this ditty, it’s just the singer and his guitar and it reminiscent one of some of his best love songs, like “Fire” and “I’m Goin’ Down.” This change of mood clears the way for what will probably be the least=liked track by Springsteen fans, the gospel, churchy “Rocky Ground.” On this track, Springsteen gets some help from gospel singer Michelle Moore who shines brightly. Beginning with the sample of Springsteen’s voice exclaiming, “I’m a soldier,” we hear Moore’s mellow refrain and a gorgeous appeal by Springsteen to “Rise up Shepard, rise up.” This song is easily interpreted as a call for everyman and woman to rise above the chaos and gloom. Rocky Ground is a song about survival and a heavenly, clarion appeal for acceptance and, eventually redemption, by Springsteen. In addition it includes Moore singing a bit of rap, a first for any Springsteen song. But it works nicely and “Rocky Ground” is soulful and smooth as silk. Combined with the totally reworked and soul-infused studio take of “Land of Hope and Dreams” and the gorgeous album-ending “We’re Alive,” the album’s last three songs promise better times to come, and actually mimic the same arc from despair to hope that has been so central to Springsteen’s past albums and live shows.

Springsteen chose to work with a new man at the controls, Producer Ron Aniello, and he brings a great deal with him on “Wrecking Ball.” It’s a winning combination and it’s tantalizing to consider what these two can accomplish together next time out. But taken as a whole, “Wrecking Ball” may be the first Springsteen album since “The River” to travel as much emotional terrain as one of his legendary shows, and it will be interesting to see how much of the album Springsteen will include in concert when his world tour kicks off at the Apollo Theater in New York City this Friday night.

“Wrecking Ball” is, after all is said and done, a topical and ferocious new Bruce Springsteen album. It contains the voices of so many different souls, all inhabited by a mature and enlightened songwriter, as he continues to, in his own words, “chart the distance between American reality and the elusive American Dream.” It is an album that will not only stand the test of time, but reveals right now just how talented and astute Bruce Springsteen is in measuring the miles that we all travel together.

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Jack Of All Trades

Jack Of All Trades
by Bruce Springsteen

I’ll mow your lawn, clean the leaves out your drain
I’ll mend your roof to keep out the rain
I’ll take the work that God provides
I’m a jack of all trades, honey, we’ll be alright

I’ll hammer the nails, and I’ll set the stone
I’ll harvest your crops when they’re ripe and grown
I’ll pull that engine apart and patch her up ’til she’s running right
I’m a jack of all trades, we’ll be alright

A hurricane blows, brings a hard rain
When the blue sky breaks, feels like the world’s gonna change
We’ll start caring for each other like Jesus said that we might
I’m a jack of all trades, we’ll be alright

The banker man grows fatter, the working man grows thin
It’s all happened before and it’ll happen again
It’ll happen again, they’ll bet your life
I’m a jack of all trades and, darling, we’ll be alright

Now sometimes tomorrow comes soaked in treasure and blood
Here we stood the drought, now we’ll stand the flood
There’s a new world coming, I can see the light
I’m a jack of all trades, we’ll be alright

So you use what you’ve got, and you learn to make do
You take the old, you make it new
If I had me a gun, I’d find the bastards and shoot ‘em on sight
I’m a Jack of all trades, we’ll be alright
I’m a Jack of all trades, we’ll be alright


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This One’s For The Brokenhearted

Sometime tomorrow night around 6:30, after all the hype, commentary, commercials and trash-talking, the New England Patriots will take on the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. The game is a big-time rematch between the two teams, who battled each other in the Super Bowl in January of 2007, a nightmarish affair for New England fans hoping the Patriots could complete a “Perfect Season.” Now the Patriots will have an opportunity to exact revenge for that devastating loss. The experts are predicting a close game. They say if there is an advantage, it should go to the Giants. Most of Patriots Nation is hoping those predictions are wrong. I happen to know that they are wrong.

A win tomorrow by New England will further cement their reputation as a legitimate football dynasty and smash all kinds of team and individual records. A win will also bring The New England Patriots their fourth Super Bowl victory in just over a decade, no easy feat in the NFL in the age of free agency. But for many, including Patriot team owner Bob Kraft, who probably saved the franchise and kept a professional football team in New England when he took over the reigns and ownership in 1995, the Patriots will be playing this Super Bowl to honor the memory of Bob Kraft’s “sweetheart” Myra.

Myra H. Kraft, passed away from cancer last July after 48 years as Bob Kraft’s wife, business partner and best friend in the whole world. Her death at the age of 68, left Bob Kraft and the millions of others who both loved and admired her, truly brokenhearted.

The New England Patriots dedicated this entire season to the memory of the beloved Myra Kraft, and have helped keep her memory alive by wearing a patch with her initials, MHK, right above their hearts on their uniform, all season long.

Bob Kraft, who’s been all over the television and radio airwaves talking about this years Super Bowl for the past two weeks, has broken down in a swirl of emotion countless times this week talking about the memory of his wife and how badly he wishes she could be here to see it. For many, in fact, she is looking down from the heavens on the Patriots and may have played a role in the strange gust of wind that drove a last minute Baltimore field goal attempt, wide left, in their AFC Championship game. Regardless of how you feel about “divine intervention,” you can bet the New England Patriots will have Myra on their minds when they go head to head with the Giants in the Super Bowl.

Yup, Wes, Danny, Gronk, Aaron, Deion and the mighty, mighty, Vince Wilfork will all have a giant reason to beat New York tomorrow for Myra Kraft; for the millions of New England fans of all ages; for every underdog and every brokenhearted member of Patriots Nation. Plus, they’ll have the greatest quarterback ever to play in Tom Brady, along with a game plan designed by Patriots coach Bill Belichick, a true football genius.

And if that isn’t enough to inspire this Patriots team, there’s always the story of the oil painting. Earlier this season, the Patriots players presented Bob Kraft with an oil painting of the team huddled together under the initials MHK(see above), a gesture that meant more than you could imagine to the brokenhearted team owner.

Bob Kraft said during an interview this week that after the Patriots gave up 21 unanswered points earlier in the season, he had somebody place the painting in the Patriots locker room. The Patriots say it at half time and ended up winning that game.

So count on that very same painting being inside the locker room in Indianapolis tomorrow night. You can also count on a very hungry and inspired Patriots team winning Super Bowl XLVI.

And if that happens, you can expect to see the Patriots owner Bob Kraft shed a tear or two for his “sweetheart” Myra, when he accepts the Vince Lombardi trophy on the field tomorrow.

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An Angel In The Whirlwind – A Stunning Win For MHK

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but for the first time in a lifetime of watching sports, I found myself in tears watching the New England Patriots jaw-dropping, miraculous victory in the AFC Championship Game yesterday. After Baltimore Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff hooked to the left of the goal posts what should have been an easy breezy, chip-shot field goal, I found myself prostate in front of the television, as I broke down and cried. As Gillette Stadium and 60,000-plus fans were going berserk thousands of miles away, I screamed and hollered with what was left of my voice and then was shocked to find myself as emotional as I’ve ever been after watching a victorious Boston team, in a combination of exaltation, relief, disbelief and joy.

The Patriots, my beloved band of brothers were celebrating with their genius/mastermind of a coach Bill Belichick under a rain of confetti and for just a a few seconds, I found myself with tears running down my face.

After more than 3 hours of screaming at the top of my lungs at just about every play, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by this outburst. And now, more than 24 hours later, I’m not even sure I know why I was crying at the end of that improbable victory yesterday. But I believe that I wept for everyone else in this sometimes cruel world who’s been down and out; for every person or team that has played it’s heart out and has been rewarded by some inexplicable turn-of-fate…this “angel in the whirlwind”; this strange breeze that incredibly blew Baltimore’s Billy Cundiff field goal wide-to-the-left of the goal posts and sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl for the fifth time in less than a decade!

I cried tears of happiness for the generations of Patriots fans, both young and old; for the kids who don’t really know the misery of being a Patriots fan – a team without a home that sometimes played at Boston University’s field, Boston College’s Alumni Stadium, the ancient Harvard Stadium and even Fenway Park. And I wept for the old timers, who had to freeze their asses of sitting on the metal benches inside that terrible joke-of-a-stadium in Foxboro where I used to go and sip hot-chocolate and pray that the game would be over soon. For the veteren fans who have never given up on a team that for so long lingered at the bottom of the list of teams, but somehow kept believing in better days to come.

I cried for the shame and regret that came when the New York Giants came from behind in the final minutes of the 2007 Super Bowl to ruin the Patriots bid for the “perfect season,” when there seemed to be another very different “angel in the whirlwind” that allowed New York Giant quarterback Eli Manning to escape the grasp of Patriot defenders and throw a long pass that David Tyree on his helmet! Oh, demons be gone.

But most of all, I cried for the memory of Myra Hiatt Kraft, who passed away before this season and whose initials, MHK, the Patriots have worn on their uniforms all season long and who’s spirit will hopefully guide this team of destiny to a victory in this years Super Bowl over those very same New York Giants.

I cried for Myra Kraft and all the other people who lost their lives after battling cancer and other illnesses, including my sports fanatic father and lovely sister Elizabeth, who’s passing in the cruelest of months of January my family observed once again this month. For my sister Elizabeth, for my father, and for Tom Brady, for Bill Belichich, for Gronk, and the Law Firm, and Wes Welker and the veterens of Patriots teams-past, like Drew Bledsoe (who presented Bob Kraft with the AFC Championship trophy yesterday) and Tedy Bruschi and on and one, and the rest of the 2011 New England Patriots who, hooray, are going once again to the Super Bowl in Indianapolis in just two weeks, where once again I will be on pins and needles all game, screaming at every play.

And hopefully – with a little help from an angel in the whirlwind and the great coaching and playing, the New England Patriots will win their fourth Super Bowl in just over a decade.

Once again it will be Tom Brady versus Eli Manning. Once again it will be the best team from the American Football League against the best team in the National Football League. Once again it will be Boston (well, okay, New England) versus New York. Once again it will be for all the marbles.

And for the next two weeks there will be plenty of speculation and pontification on what to expect. But regardless of the outcome, I truly believe that the Patriots will be playing, in their heart of hearts, for respect and for glory and for the memory of team owner Bob Krafts ever-so-dearly departed Myra H. Kraft, who I believe will pnce again be looking down at the game and cheering for her New England Patriots.

And if that’s not enough to carry them to victory, I don’t know what else is.

Go Patriots!!!!

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The Wild, The Angry and The E Street Shuffle

Bruce Springsteen, that modern-day Rock and Roll warrior and long-time advocate for hope and human rights, is about to release tommorow from his forthcoming album the first single, titled, “We Take Care Of Our Own,” which will not only have people talking, but also give his fans a long-awaited glimpse of what The Man has been up to for the past year or more.

For months there have been rumors and rumblings about Springsteen’s 17th album, which follows more than a year’s rest for the singer, after almost three years of touring. Most of those lucky enough to get a preview of the new album have come away impressed and moved. Just about anybody who has heard it is calling it his “angriest” album yet (including Springsteen himself) and say it addresses many of the problems (ie: social, economic and political) that continue to plagued America. Today, RollingStone.com was reporting on the new release, calling it “sonically experimental” and quoting Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau, who says it is a “big-picture piece of work.” “It’s a rock record,” according to Springsteen longtime manager, “that combines elements of Bruce’s classic sound, and his Seeger Sessions experience, with new textures and styles.”

Its probably no coincidence that Springsteen’s latest musical endeavor is being launched the same week that people around the world observe Martin Luther King Juniors birthday and the same week that Republican candidates for president bicker and feud on their way to a primary in South Carolina. Bruce Springsteen has never been afraid to take on the same issues that affect the people he’s been writing for and about for his whole life. His lyrics have long been topical, and often controversial. The New Jersey native’s voice has always been the voice of the people, from Main Street to Wall Street and all the avenues that lie in between. Springsteen has publicly said over and over that he’s most interested in the problems and concerns that confront the people that he has always written about or as fellow musician Bob Dylan once wrote, “the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones and worse.” Whether he’s been speaking out in his songs about human rights around the world or here in America, or campaigning in support of Democratic presidential candidates John Kerry and Barack Obama, Springsteen’s music reflects mainly very populist views and ideals. To many who admire him, Springsteen is a modern day Woody Guthrie or as the New York Times once described him, “John Steinbeck in leather.”

The new album is a departure in a number of ways for Bruce Springsteen. For the past decade plus, Springsteen has worked in the studio either on his own at his home or with producer Brendan O’Brien in Atlanta. But on this new album, Springsteen has collaborated with producer Ron Aniello, who’s worked in the past with such bands as Candlebox and Jars of Clay, as well as with his wife, singer-songwriter Patti Scialfa. According to the RollingStone.com post the new record features members of Springsteen’s E Street Band, as well as “a variety of outside musicians, including Tom Morello and possibly former Pearl Jam drummer Matt Chamberlain” to name just a few.

So far there has been nothing confirmed as far as song titles, other than the one track that will be available tomorrow on Amazon.com, “We Take Care Of Our Own.” But you can expect lots of different styles of music on this record and that’s always fun. Rocker Bob Seger got a preview several weeks ago and told reporters that it this LP is unlike anything Springsteen has ever done before. According to another source in the Hollywood Reporter, we can look forward to songs with “unexpected textures – loops, electronic percussion…influences and rhythms from hip-hop to Irish folk rhythms.” Hip-hop and Irish folk rythms!!! That may surprise some, but not anyone who’s paid attention to the broad spectrum of music that Springsteen laid out both in the studio and in concert over the last decade. In fact, it’s long been rumored that Springsteen once worked on a entire “hip-hop record,” so now we’ll finally get to hear what that record might have sounded like.

One thing is for sure. This new release by the 61-year old Springsteen will be plenty controversial. According to that same source in the Hollywood Reporter, Springsteen “gets into economic justice quite a bit.” And in addition to being angry, Jon Laudau also says that the new album has a “very pronounced spiritual dimension.” But none of this should truly surprise anyone who has followed the path that Bruce Springsteen has taken on his records over the last 40 years.
Even Springsteen’s first LP, “Greetings From Asbury Park” featured social and political elements on songs like “Lost In The Flood” amd “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City.”

While some say that Springsteen shouldn’t have anything to be angry about, with the wealth that he’s accumlated, fans of Springsteen scoff at that and say that what is in this man’s bank account is not about to stop him from speaking out about the issues that matter for this father of three. For many, the album comes just in the knick of time, as the “Occupy Wall Street” protests start to lose some steam. Springsteen has always had a fresh and, for most fans, inspiring take on the wicked ways of the world and he’s never been afraid of expressing how he feels in his music. Even the artwork for the song, “We Take Care Of Our Own” has a DIY/Punk look to it.

Just the other day Springsteen was on the streets of Asbury Park, filming a new video to accompany the new album:

So on the eve of the release of the first round or salvo from an “angry” Bruce Springsteen, I say bring it on. Music has always been an essential part of radicalis and revolutionaries. And if we need a revolution to fix this broken country, then let’s join together and start today.

And…um….I don’t know about you, but I could use a little angry rock and roll right about now.

So bring…it….on!!!

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Detroit’s On Fire!!!

Oh my, indeed.

Yes, the city of Detroit is on fire again. Well, not literally. I’m talking about the city’s sports teams.

The Detroit Tigers are currently scrapping it out with the Texas Rangers for the American League Championship and the right to go to the 2011 World Series for the first time since 1984. Young, tall fastball pitcher Justin Verlander and a lineup of crackerjack batters are lighting it up on the mound and at the plate. After two games in Texas, the team returns this week for three straight nights at home and a chance to take the lead in the series and set things up for a pennant victory.

Meanwhile, the shocking and still undefeated Detroit Lions are slated to take on the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football tonight at Ford Field here in the Motor City capturing the national spotlight. It’s the first time in a decade that the Bears have played in Detroit and the Detroit Lions offensive line will do their best to protect young quarterback Mathew Stafford who has a bad history of being knocked out of games by the aggressive Chicago Bears defense.
Stafford has suddenly become the “franchise QB” for the Lions and their new spread offense has been modeled around him. Meanwhile, the 2 wins and 2 losses Bears come to town with something to prove and a chance to bring the soaring Lions back to earth.

Oh yeah. And then there’s always the always sensational Detroit Red Wings, who play hockey at the Joe Louis Arena, right next door to where I live. The Red Wings are so good that most locals have come to pretty much expect them to go to the Stanley Cup finals every season. Anything less than that from this team of fast skating, sharp shooters is considered a disappointment. In fact, most local hockey fans believe the aging Detroit Red Wings are well overdue for another Cup Championship and it would be very sweet to see a Detroit Red Wings-Boston Bruins Stanley Cup final in May of 2012.

Yup, with all the excitement here in Detroit, I almost missed the festivities at the “new Garden” in my beloved Boston, where I was born and spent most of my life. And truth be told, I still miss being back in Boston where I can best root for (gulp) the Red Sox, Bruins and New England Patriots.

But for the time being, I’m still here in Detroit and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it is really a lot of fun to see these Detroit teams playing so well. Heck, if there’s any city in these still United States, it is Detroit that needs something to be proud about. It is Detroit that needs something, anything to rally around. I mean, look what the New Orleans Saints did for that beleaguered city. And the Saints are still going strong as N’Awlins slowly tried to come back from the devastation of Katrina.

So I’ve jumped upon the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions bandwagons and who knows how long that ride will last.

But for the first time since I moved here almost three years ago, I can honestly say that it is kinda fun to live in Detroit.

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The Upstage Club, Asbury Park: An Interview with Author Carrie Potter Devening

FOR MUSIC’S SAKE: Asbury Park’s Upstage Club and Green Mermaid Cafe – The Untold Stories
by Carrie Potter Devening
255 pages
To order: http://www.authorhouse.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-000411026
Or: http://theupstageclub.blogspot.com/

A short time ago, I reviewed a new book (http://bit.ly/ovt5v5) by the daughter of club manager Tom Potter, about the people who created, performed at and frequented the famous Upstage Club in Asbury Park, New Jersey. While The Stone Pony is the bar that is most associated with the early days of Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny and dozens of other Jersey Shore bands, it was actually an after-hours club called The Upstage where most of these musicians met, made friends, jammed, formed bands and cut their musical teeth.

Now in Part Two, I talk to the author, Carrie Potter Devening, about creating the book, the many friends who helped her make it a reality and her vision for the future of The Upstage Club.

This Hard Land: When did you first become interested in the history of the Upstage Club?
Carrie: I’ve been interested my whole life, mainly because of my family history and my love for my Grandpa Tom (Tom Potter, manager of The Upstage Club) When I was in high school, I would often use artwork done by my grandfather to inspire me. He was a very artistic man. For example, I remember one assignment we were given was to do a black and white still drawing off a cardboard box full of my favorite things from my Grandpa. This included a book of poetry that my grandfather used to challenge me to memorize; the Spotlight Magazine article which featured Grandpa Tom; a set of his scissors and his license to be a hair stylist. I still cherish that cardboard box to this day.

Carrie: I knew the family history was very unique and that Tom Potter and his wife Margaret and The Upstage Club were very important to so many people who were part of the Sound Of Asbury Park (S.O.A.P) and desperately wanted the memory of the Upstage preserved. You could say that this book has been in my creative storage bin for many, many years.

This Hard Land: When did the idea of writing a book about it begin to take shape?
Carrie: I really didn’t think a book was feasible until my late Uncle Geofrey (Tom Potter’s oldest son), who passed away just a few weeks ago, came to Texas.

He had read Gary Wien’s book, “Beyond The Palace,” (http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Palace-Gary-Wien/dp/1412003148) which goes into quite a bit of detail about The Upstage. He encouraged me to speak to Gary Wien. Gary gave me a really good indication of how folks who had been part of the Upstage scene still felt about the club.

I had kept, literally, hundreds of slides (Tom Potter collected slides of photographs), I had his old scrapbook, and basically two big old storage bins full of memorabilia, including the famous Green Mermaid painting. None of these photographs had ever been published or really seen by anyone, including some great shots of Bruce Springsteen, Little Steven, Southside Johnny and basically all of the musicians who jammed at the Upstage. It was a real “treasure chest” of pictures and artwork that was just sitting in storage. So I took stock of all I had and said to myself, “I think I have the beginnings of a really great book here.”

In December of 2003, I got on a plane and flew to New Jersey and Asbury Park for the first of what would be more than a dozen trips. I checked into a room at the Manchester Inn in Ocean Grove, which sadly no longer exists after it burned to the ground. But for the longest time that hotel was my home base away from home, each and every time I came to Asbury Park.

First thing I did was meet face-to-face with “Beyond The Palace” author Gary Wein, as well as a friend of my grandfather, David Mieres, who showed me around town. The next few days are kind of a blur as I met so many wonderful people who became instrumental in making this book happen. Beofre I left I had met with so many people including Vini “Maddog” Lopez and Ilene Chapman, who’s been for the longest time very involved in Asbury Park’s music scene. It was a fantastic introduction to the people and places of Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Dan and Eileen Chapman Inside The Upstage Club

Carrie: Coincidentally, and I swear I had no idea this was going on, Bruce was performing one of his Holiday Shows at the Convention Center in Asbury Park the very next night. Fortunately and with a little help from my friends, I was able to get into the show. And once I was inside I got it into my head that I had to make the most of my visit, including introducing myself to Bruce. So here I was, this young “whipper-snapper” from Texas with a shopping bag full of my Grandpa’s slides and completely full of myself. I was lucky enough to go backstage for a little white and said a quick hello to Southside Johnny, who was also performing at the Holiday Show. Of course, Southside was his usual self, cracking jokes and asking me more questions than I asked him. It was very funny.

But when it came to meeting Bruce, things got a little sketchy. Apparently he was struggling from a bad cold, but he still took time between the sound check and the show to meet me. He was very kind but a little shocked that such a small person from Texas had such a big idea. I think I kind of caught him off-guard, going on and on about my how I was Tom Potter’s granddaughter. And he told me that he wanted to meet with me some other time to talk about the project. I’m still hoping that we can meet someday soon so I can hand him a copy of the book.

But the show was great, and it gave me a chance to meet a ton of people, so that was awesome. After the show I hung around and was introduced to several key individuals. That was the night I met Vini “Maddog” Lopez who was very nice to me and he has become a true friend and solid supporter of this project.

Carrie and Vini “Maddog” Lopez

This Hard Land: What happened next?
Carrie: Well, when I got back to my hotel I was informed that some important people were coming to meet me who were interested in helping me with this book. This turned out to be Dan “The Tape Man” Eitner and his wife Nancy. I can honestly say that without their love and support, I don’t know what I would have done. Dan is one of the most generous, thoughtful individuals that I have ever met. Ever since that first time I met Dan, he has helped me tremendously.

Dan just knows so many people and he has always had so many great ideas. Even now he’s constantly sending me inspirational emails and text messages that keep me going. I like to call him my unofficial “marketing director.”

Dan and Nancy Eitner On The Boardwalk, Asbury Park, N.J.

Carrie: Really, when I think about it, I have been truly blessed by all of the wonderful and generous people who have taken an interest in this book. And I have to give a ton of credit to Joe Petillo and Tom Jones, who were both extremely helpful. Joe was actually an original member of Margaret Potter’s house band, The Distractions, at The Upstage. Tom Jones runs the Halo Group in Los Angelos and has an incredible media background.

When things were not looking very promising for the future of the building that The Upstage was in, Joe and Tom, as well as a number of original Upstage musicians decided to hold a “Last Jam” inside the Upstage, which I wrote about in detail in my book. In fact, Tom videotaped that jam for a documentary that he’s been working on about The Upstage. Both Joe Petillo and Tom Jones really gave me the strength to continue during the most difficult part of this journey.

Joe Petillo, Carrie and Tom Jones

This Hard Land: What was it like the first time you got a chance to climb those steep steps and walked into The Upstage?
Carrie: You know in the movies when people finally reach the summit and they hear a choir of angels singing? That’s what it was like. In fact there’s one Disney remake, titled “The Secret Garden,” and there’s this scene where a little boy is entering the garden. That’s exactly how it felt. In fact, I get a little misty-eyed every time I think of it.

But getting upstairs wasn’t all that easy. On my first trip, I just walked into the old Extreme shoe store with a few of my new friends. There was an older Asian man running the store and no matter what we said he simply refused to let me go upstairs. He kept saying it wasn’t up to code and that I could get hurt and that kind of thing. I told him about my grandfather, Tom Potter, who ran The Upstage and how I had come all the way from Texas to see it. I tried everything, but he said it was too much of a safety liability for him to take a chance.

Well, then I turned on the water works. I got very emotional and started crying, saying, “I’m not leaving this store until you let me go upstairs.” (laughs) Finally, he gave in and grabbed the keys and up the stairs we went up, the whole group of us. And that’s when I heard the choir of angels singing. I felt like I was finally getting to see what I had been dreaming about for so long.

Steep Steps leading To The Upstage Club

This Hard Land: What was it like up there?
Carrie: Well, there wasn’t much left, just a few tables. But what was really cool was that much of the original art was still there on the wall. The paint was peeling a bit, of course. And there was the huge metal wall where Grandpa Tom used to put all the speakers. But a lot of the original artwork was still intact. The funniest thing was that when I went into the bathrooms there was all kinds of original writing on the walls and somebody had put up “Steel Mill.” I thought that was very, very cool.

But really, it remains today much like it did forty years ago. All of the fixtures are intact. And we had a great time, posing with various people for photos and checking out the place. Every time I come back to Asbury Park, I make sure to stop by and visit the place to make sure it’s all okay. I really hope that the new owner preserves it as much as possible. It really deserves to be preserved in some way as a museum and as a place for young people to come together. That’s my dream.

Carrie with Writer and Rock Historian Robert Santelli Inside The Upstage

This Hard Land: That first trip must have been quite inspiring for you.
Carrie: Oh, for sure. As soon as I got back to Texas, I got right to work. I started the Upstage.net website and I began asking people to send me their memories of the place. One of my biggest challenges was transferring the images from my grandfather’s slides, along with other illustrations to computer images that could be used for the book.

But one day while everything was on hold, my old high school art teacher, Paul Wilkins, and I were talking and I told him about my project and he was very excited about it. He immediately offered to help me transfer the slides. Paul and his wife Beverly took an immediate interest in this book and I’ve spent whole weeks at their house working on the book.

I would work for hours and hours on his computer until my arms were so tired I could barely lift them. Paul taught me the basics of this software program and let me go wild with it. He provided the tech support and gave me the creative freedom. In many ways, Paul and Beverly and Dan and Nancy were for me, what Tom and Margaret were for the kids who played at The Upstage. I could never have done this book without the help of many, many good friends.

Robert Santelli, Carrie and The Legendary Carl “Tinker” West

This Hard Land: This book is, I think, a living and breathing testament to the kind of community that existed back in the 1960’s when The Upstage club was thriving and everyone sort of helped each other, lending guitars and amps. As for you, what are your plans? And what kind of vision do you have for the future of The Upstage?
Carrie: Well, I just had a new baby and as much as I’d love to dedicate all my time to mass marketing this book, I just don’t have the time. But I want so badly for this book to be a success, so buy a copy for yourself or somebody you love. It is a great gift and the holidays are coming up and I think anybody who is truly interested in the history of The Upstage would really learn a lot from this book.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to do what I can. I’m going to keep flying to Asbury Park to do a number of book selling events in Asbury Park in the next few months, I plan to stay involved in helping to lobby city officials so the new owner can get what he needs to use this historic building most effectively.

Most of all, I’d like to see the building continue to be preserved. And I’d love to see it used as a sort of living museum and a place where young people and up and coming musicians can come together. That’s was my grandfather’s dream and now it’s my dream too.


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