Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Today was the spring concert at Hillel Day School.  The "World Drumming Club" performed Adenkum, a Ghanan song with gourds for rhythm (which is where the song's title comes from).  The Adenkum is an elongated gourd with a hole at one end, that is played by the Ashanti women of Ghana.  I don't know what the words mean; one youtube link says it is a song telling children to "listen more than they speak, especially so that they can learn from and respect their elders."

You can find other versions of the song, including with the song's composer Sowah Menah, on youtube.  Here's the version performed this afternoon at Hillel, with Elianna in the second solo.  Thanks to Robin Lash and Andrea Trivax at Hillel Day School, for forming the World Drumming Club.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sticking with the blueshirts

I grew up with the 1969 Mets.  There are worse things to grow up with.  Some years later, in the movie "Oh, God," George Burns, in the role of God, explained:  "The last miracle I performed was the 1969 Mets.  Before that, I think ypu'd have to  go back to the Red Sea!"

But I also grew up with the New York Rangers, and the Rangers never got big miracles.  The Rangers history was terrible; in a league with just 6 teams, 4 of which annually made the playoffs, the Rangers were almost always one of the two that would fail to qualify.  But my Rangers had Rod Gilbert and Jean Ratelle and Brad Park and Billy Fiarburn.  I knew who every player on that team was.  I had a Sports Illustrated poster of fearless maskless Eddie Giaocomin on the bedroom wall, facing down John Mckenzie of the Big Bad Bruins.  At least one time per season, my father would get us the Tuscan company seats -- section 112, Orange -- for a game.  We'd get to New York City from New Jersey by way of Stamford, Connecticut; we'd meet my grandfather and take the train to Grand Central and then the subway to Penn Station, and finally on up to the magical smoke-ringed electric world of Madison Square Garden.  When the Rangers scored, a cacophonous blare of air horns would start sounding up in the blue seats.  Then we'd have to leave after the 2nd period to get back to Stamford.  For a simple 20-mile trip, it was quite the production.  My first game was in February, 1970:  Rangers 2, Blues 1, and, thankfully, a scoreless 3rd period.

Eventually, my grandfather stopped coming to the games and we took simpler routes to the Garden.  But mostly we listened to Marv Albert and the radio calls on WNBC.  Even if that meant staying up late, as when Pete Stemkowski scored a goal in the 3rd overtime, just before midnight, to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6 of the 1971 semi-finals.

Those were seemingly miracle enough; did anyone even remember that the Rangers lost game 7?

Those teams of my youth were never quite good enough to take the Stanley Cup.  Every year, as spring rolled around and the Ringling Brothers Circus would take over Madison Square Garden, the ice would get bad, players would be injured, and the team would wilt.

That Rangers team eventually got old, and, by 1975, would be overtaken on the New York sports scene by the expansion Islanders.  The Islanders eventually won 4 consecutive Stanley Cups, and their fans would rub it in to Rangers fans by chanting "!940!," mocking the last time the Rangers had won it all.  The best Rangers fans could do was to invent chants insulting the Islanders' all-star defenseman Denis Potvin; a practice that has endured, even though Potvin retired in 1988.

Along the way, New Jersey got a hockey team, too.  An expansion franchise, having failed as the Kansas City Scouts and the Colorado Rockies, moved to the then-new Brendan Byrne Arena in 1982.  The Devils were terrible.  Their uniforms, red and green, made them look like skating Christmas trees.  In 1984, after Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers scored 13 goals against the Devils, Gretzky called them a "Mickey Mouse organization."

Sure, I was from New Jersey and proud of it, but I didn't need to root for that.  In basketball, the Nets had moved out to New Jersey back in 1977, but they had really moved to New Jersey.  The Nets played in Piscataway, for goodness sakes!  You'd go to a game there, through all the back roads to get to the Rutgers Athletic Center, and it'd feel like all the cousins assembled.  When the Nets -- every bit as awful as those early Devils teams -- actually made the playoffs one year despite a losing record, they got one home playoff game:  Southside Johnny did the national anthem.  Besides:  The Tuscan seats were front row by the visiting team's bench, and we could have them almost as often as we wanted.  The Nets were ok.

The Devils eventually changed their color scheme, and both they and the Rangers finally became very good, at the same time.  In 1994 they were the two best teams in hockey, and they met in the conference championship.  The series went 7 games, and I was in New York City the night of game 7.  The Rangers led, 1-0., until surrendering a goal with just 7 seconds left in regulation.  Every Rangers fan saw their lives flashing before their eyes as the puck went in.

But then something strange and wonderful happened:  The Rangers won.  Steffan Matteau scored against Martin Brodeur, and the skies lifted.

After the Rangers won the cup that year, one of the Rangers' reserves, Mike Hartman, brought the Stanley Cup to a local pizza place in Farmington Hills.  The cup is for free pizza and beer, right?  Patrons were invited to take pictures with Hartman and the cup.  When I got up front, I just said, "I didn't actually think I'd live to see this happen."  There was only one response:  "You gotta hoist it."

Since then, New Jersey has won 3 Stanley Cups and the Rangers have mostly been mediocre.  Martin Brodeur still tends goal for the Devils.  And I have no shame in confessing that I'll heartily root for my home state team... when they play Philadelphia or Phoenix or Los Angeles.  But when everything is on the line, there's only one way to go.

For the first time since that 1994 season, the Rangers and Devils will meet for the Eastern Conference Championship.  The Rangers play a scrappy brand of defensive hockey rarely seen in New York.  Against Washington, they won one game in triple overtime, and another after Brad Richards tied the game with just 6.6 seconds remaining.  Henrik Lundqvist, the goaltender, is as good as any in the business.  As for the Devils... they still have Brodeur, and offensive stars such as Ilya Kovalchuk.

It should be a great series.  Let the war begin.  And may the better team Rangers win.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A note from Youngstown... by request

Since starting this blog, blogger says I've created 138 entries.  Some are just pictures or quips, some are writings, and some probably have links that need to be replaced.  But in some way they were all original works.  Except, however, for this intro and a couple of the pictures to follow, this one is from Scott Williams, a young man from the Youngstown, Ohio, area.  Scott attended Bruce Springsteen shows in Auburn Hills and Cleveland, found my email address (along with btx and a few others), and sent this report.

And, Scott:  Yes, "Youngstown" totally rocked.


Recently I had the most amazing day of my life! Since it was spring break, a teacher friend and I wanted to see if we could get another concert show under our belts before the summer (we were also going to Cleveland the following week). Since we didn't have to worry about school, we knew we had the whole day to work with, and seeing as the only concert that week with tickets still on sale was in Detroit, Michigan, off we went! On the night before the concert, I made signs. One of those signs was neon green with dark green letters that read "Greetings from Youngstown, Ohio!" We left Youngstown around 7:30 and arrived about 11:30am. We had floor tickets, and we wanted to get into the "lottery" for the pit (which is right in front of the stage). The wrist bands and numbers were passed out at 1:00pm and I was #11. If numbers 1-10 would have been drawn, or an extremely high number, I would have been in front of the stage. 

With time to kill (we didn't have to be back for the drawing until 4:30) we decided to go to lunch on the other side of the arena. After that, we hung out by the doors Bruce and the band would be arriving. The trucks and buses were already there so we got to see the crew bringing things inside. I met Bruce's guitar tech Kevin Buell and got my picture with him. After waiting almost two hours, the Boss never showed up. We had to head up the street a little to the other parking lot to get in line for the number drawing. The number was 268. They took 268 thru 711. We weren't in the pit :( .

Standing in line, I could see down the street where the band would be arriving. I had this feeling to RUN down there and just as I did, Bruce Springsteen arrived riding shot gun in one car, Stevie Van Zandt in the next, and the rest of the band in the last car. Seeing as most of the crowd that was there earlier was now in line, there were only 20 to 30 of us there. Bruce's car pulled inside and he got out and started walking towards us! He made his way over to me and the first thing I said was "I'm from Youngstown, Ohio!" and he said "Are ya? Cool!" I asked for a picture and he said hurry up. Leaving my camera in the car, I only had my iPod. I turned the camera on and handed it to some lady. She couldn't figure it out and kept hitting the wrong button! I knew Bruce was in a hurry and I started to panic. I said to Bruce "Sorry this is taking so long" and he put his head on my head and he said "Story of my life". 

I finally grabbed the iPod out of her hand and turned the camera to face me and just took the picture of us myself. After that he said he had to go and started walking back towards the arena. As I also started to walk away, I yelled "Play Youngstown for me!" and as he was walking he turned and pointed at me. Back to the long line of people I went, and started showing everybody. The word that I just met Bruce spread fast, and I had people coming up to me to see it and take my picture! hahah. (Once we were inside, people were STILL taking my picture! lol) Those with floor tickets (me) were finally allowed to go inside where we then waited in the hall. We couldn't see inside the actual arena because the ushers had the blinds pulled, however, we could still hear the sound check going on. The second song of sound check was Youngstown! I couldn't believe Bruce was playing Youngstown for me! 

Anyways, we got a great location on the floor and were still very close. The front pit is barricaded off, and then a small walk way separated that from the rest of the floor. I was right on the walk way where Bruce would later walk right by me while singing Wilson Pickett's "634-5789". Anyways, song number 10 of the night was Youngstown, and I started the video on my iPod just in time to hear Bruce say "By request!" I held my sign up during the song and got Bruce to point at me! I couldn't believe I actually got the Boss to play a song just for me! 

After the show, I got to meet him again. He signed my "Greetings from Youngstown, Ohio" poster!

Put my picture and name online if you can. There were soooo many people who came up to me, I'm sure they would love to see it and find me on Facebok.

- Scott Williams
- Youngstown, Ohio                 

Follow-up from Scott:
I met Bruce after the show as well and told him, "I'll be in Cleveland next Tuesday, so play Youngstown for me again" he said "Oh alright". It was such a great day! I love the pictures that you took of that night in Detroit. By chance, would you happen to have one of when I was holding my Youngstown sign up?
My answer:  No, but I did take a shot of this "Because the Night" poster before the show.  Bruce played that, too.

Scott continues:  For Tuesday in Cleveland, I made a new sign and put the picture of us on it!  Also in Detroit, much earlier in the day before I met Bruce, I get my picture with his guitar technician! This is Kevin Buell and he catches Bruce guitar when he throws it up in the air. He has bruises all over his arms from the guitars.

Pictures:  Scott supplied the pictures of the signed poster, and of himself with Kevin Buell and with Bruce Springsteen.  I took the others, including Tom Rye reading #262 in the pit lottery; you can see a winner celebrating (#268 was held by former Luckytown Digest adiministrator Kevin Kinder), of the "Because the Night" poster being held up before the show (Lori and the kids were right next to it, and reported that it was shedding gold glitter at a prodigious rate), and of Bruce preparing to launch in to "Death to My Hometown" as Kevin retreats with the last guitar.