BETTY IN THE USA

WHO IS “BOBBY JEAN”? HE/SHE/IT MAY SURPRISE EVEN BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

Right before I hit the road the other day from my family’s vacation home in Lake Placid, NY to travel to Newport, RI for a Georgetown girls’ weekend, my father called to wish me a good trip and at the end of his message, he said “I have one question: who is Bobby Jean?” The previous weekend, he and my mother left Placid to return back home to NYC on the late side, which was worrisome. During dinner before their departure, I shared those highlights from the record-breaking Bruce Springsteen concert #3 at MetLife Stadium from a few days earlier on August 30 that I knew my parents would relate to the most: “Dancing in the Dark”, “Shout”, “Twist and Shout”, and “Jersey Girl”.  Before they left, I also handed my father my copy of the “Born in the USA” CD (Apple hasn’t hit the parents’ roadster yet!) for the ride home, hoping that Dad would play it as he did so many times when it first was released in 1984.  Music has a way of opening a pandora’s box of memories like nothing else. I seem to remember he asked me that same question then, though I didn’t know the answer at the time, nor did I listen to music the same way then as I do now.  Good music  – and lyrics – also have a way of standing the test of time, lending itself to different interpretations at different times of one’s life. That one song “Bobby Jean” is a perfect example, and Dad had obviously played the CD multiple times on that ride home and after.

Two years ago was the 30th anniversary of “Born in the USA”. June, 2014 was a pivotal moment in my own life, arriving in Lake Placid, NY and finding myself riding a bike around Mirror Lake again, just as I had done in 1984 while listening to my Sony Walkman with the cassette tape that changed my life, over and over again. This time, I had my I-pod, and a new (but old and refurbished) bike, that cried out for some complementary accessories to keep it (and me) company: a horn, a basket, some flowers, a nameplate (Placid Betty), and…a “Born in the USA” sign on the back. It may seem to be a bit much, but it seemed perfect to me at the time, as it still does now. It was a reminder to me of that time in my life where I was most carefree, when I was still in my youth with so much ahead of me, when I was the closest to home and the closest to my family. I had not yet had my drivers license then, so my bike was not only my way around town (as I spent my summers in Lake Placid both vacationing with my family, as well as figure skating), but it was also my way to feel free and to come and go whenever the spirit moved me.  “Born in the USA” was the soundtrack to that period in my life, as well as the birth of my lifelong love for Springsteen’s music, so it seemed very apropos that the 30th anniversary of this seminal album was coinciding with another seminal moment in my life 30 years later.

When “Born in the USA” was released in 1984, I remember it being something that brought my father, brother, and I closer together. It was a summer when my brother and I spent several weeks in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. with my aunt, uncle and cousins. I remember my father and my uncle (and godfather) listening to the album together, as they also had done with certain movies and other more favored genres of music  – classical and operatic – so many times together.  They had done the same with another rock artist and album – Elton John and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” a few years earlier.  What was it about this music and these artists that bonded these “Blood Brothers”?  Springsteen’s songs on “Born in the USA”  – like much or all of his music – are all about the human experience  – and more specifically – the American way of life: childhood, youthful dreams, baseball, Main Street, homes come and gone, the plight of the working man/woman, the backyard and neighborhood streets populated and vanished, the various highways, roads and directions taken over the course of a lifetime, wars fought, won, and lost, the migration out West, milestones missed and achieved, friends made and lost, wanderlust satisfied or dreamt about, opportunities missed and chased, and friends made, lost, and made again. Springsteen’s songs are the stories and touchstones of life and humanity that break all boundaries: biological, religious, political, familial, socio-economic…and so much more. While baseball, hometown roots, the American dream and the work ethic that helped to achieve that dream, were the themes that resonated most with my brother, myself, and father (and my uncle) at the time, it was all of those other things too that touched our hearts and souls then, without even knowing it, as they still do and may do even more-so, now.

While there are so many songs on “Born in the USA” to delve into further as it relates to all of the aforementioned, “Bobby Jean” was and still seems to be the one that stands out the most. Who is “Bobby Jean”, my father wondered.  I wondered how to answer this for my father during my long trip from the Adirondack Mountains to Newport. While I knew he was looking for the exact right answer and I had that answer, it made me think more expansively about what would be an even more meaningful and metaphorical way to explain the use of “Bobby Jean”.  The use of a gender-ambiguous name is purposeful – to create a character who all of us can relate to, a friend who is in one’s life at a certain time for a reason, a friend who can come in and out of one’s life at various stages and always remain the same, a friend who one can lean on with no questions asked, a friend whose essence remains the same regardless of success or failure, a friend whose shared experiences as a child, adolescent, or adult who always brings things “home” again – in one’s memory or in reality.  Springsteen’s songs are stories with many fictional characters including Mary, Janie, Wendy, Sherri, Johnny, Jack – who may be based in reality, who may be fictional, and who may be a hybrid of both, but most importantly who are characters we all can relate to in one way or another.  Bobby Jean however, is the one character who seems to resonate the most. Sometimes we may have only one “Bobby Jean”, sometimes we may have a few, or even many.  He or she (or it) is that one character who comes in and out of our lives, but who never really ever leaves. While Bruce’s “Bobby Jean” is his longtime friend and guitarist Stevie Van Zandt and also perhaps a metaphor for the depressed self he was saying goodbye to at the time, “Bobby Jean” is also a metaphor for that person(s) or thing(s) in all of our lives that remain a constant, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. I am lucky to have just spent the weekend in Newport with a group of my longtime college “Bobby Jeans”, and to have one specific “Bobby Jean” who knows me inside and out despite our very different life directions.  But I am also so lucky to have had that bike in 1984 and again in 2014, as another “Bobby Jean” to remind me of how far I have come, how much farther I have to go, how quickly I can change directions if I lose my way, and how most importantly – I can always find my way home again.

Most of all, I am lucky to have “Bobby Jean” – my family and my friends – to continue to stand by me (and vice versa) – every step – or bike ride around the lake – of the way.  Of course Springsteen’s music continues to be the soundtrack, so “Bobby Jean” – and Bruce – are along for the ride – all the way home. My companion for long road trips by myself is always “E Street Radio”. Guess what was the companion for this trip to Newport to see my longtime college girlfriends? That same concert from 1984 at Giants Stadium where my dad sat in the parking lot listening to the sounds of Springsteen while my brother was inside.  And guess what was the finale for the song from the previous night at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia – a show that broke the record yet again as Springsteen’s longest in U.S. history? “Bobby Jean”.  Not only has this song stood the test of time, but it also made history – with fireworks to boot.  Almost eight hours later last weekend (thanks to E Street Radio, and not to Mapquest), I also found my way “home” again to my own “Bobby Jeans”, and Dad? Well, he seemed pleased to know that not only was there indeed a real “Bobby Jean” for Bruce in Stevie, but also now seems more interested in learning more about the real and fictional characters featured in Springsteen’s unparalleled stories, while also exploring who they might be in his own life. “Born to Run”  – the album and the book – is also now a must listen and a must-read for him too. Seems like my answer to his question was more than he bargained for, but that’s what good music does to the heart and the soul, thanks to “Bobby Jean”.

 

 

Celebrating Your Roots on St. Patrick’s Day and Every Day of the Year

Celebrating my Irish heritage today by remembering my maternal grandparents, James Britt Donovan and Mary McKenna Donovan, and my paternal grandmother Irene Carley Amorosi & Dr. Leo Amorosi (albeit the Italian branch!), as well as honoring my maternal great-grandparents, Dr. John Donovan & Harriett O’Connor Donovan, through the one picture I found of them and taking a trip through my family tree and all its glorious branches.  Though I am actually more Irish than Italian, my surname is Italian and actually means love, so it is certainly an equal ingredient to who I am, which today is a being filled with love for my family and pride in my family tree.

That said, my Irish and Italian ingredients create the whole dish of being an American first and foremost.  That my friends is what makes us all uniquely American.  Celebrating where and who we came from is a journey that helps us to understand and learn our families’ histories-including their triumphs & accomplishments, mistakes & failures, personalities & dynamics. One of my favorite shows is “Finding Your Roots” on PBS, a weekly, hour-long show with Henry Louis Gates and notable individuals that brings them and us on a journey. These individuals are just like the rest of us: human beings thirsty for a deeper connection to their roots and to themselves.  This show’s journey reveals things that these people never even knew about their own families, ultimately helping them to uncover a new lens into themselves.

Who we are is a life-long expedition of wondrous discovery and an evolution of the mind, body, and soul perpetuating and honoring family tradition, while also growing new branches and blooming new leaves that create new branches – for even those of us who do not have children, for those whose family includes friends, and most of all for those still searching for or without any family. It’s also an exercise into becoming open to always learning something new and being open to change. Perhaps it’s even to surrendering to any possible existence of shame, and instead transforming shame to gratitude for being given the opportunity of life to make our own uniquely individual impact on the world, while also being part of each, unique collective known as family.

The family tree is one grand force of nature, that on this day and all other days of the year, I cherish by doing my very best to water its branches each day to honor each and every member of my family today and yesterday.  I also work to give this tree careful nourishment so that my leaf on it is as green as the ones who came before and green enough for those little blooms in our family today and for those yet to come, so that they are never thirsty for life’s nourishment: the love, life & pride in life through family and growing the family tree one way or another.

My family tree is mainly Irish, with a very healthy and zesty dose of Italian.  But even I am curious to learn more and perhaps discover that there might be a still unknown ingredient.  But the main dish is American: all-American and Born in the USA, and that is one flavorful dish that makes me and all of us uniquely American.  Irish America Magazine and the Irish Examiner newspaper honored my grandfather, Cold War lawyer and negotiator James B. Donovan through wonderful articles, one of which I share here today as a showcase of the personification of the American Dream.

https://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/how-the-irish-emigrants-son-jim-donovan-did-a-deal-with-the-cuban-revolutionary-leader-373151.html

https://irishamerica.com/2016/10/the-real-life-story-of-bridge-of-spies-lawyer-james-b-donovan/

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to my Irish and Italian-American family, and to everyone.   Here’s to celebrating your own, unique heritage, and most of all, our shared ideals as Americans who came from anywhere and everywhere to fulfill their own manifestation of the American dream.

 

 

THE ART OF THE HANDWRITTEN LETTER-A “Love Letter” to “41”

George HW Bush LetterThe passing of our 41st president, George Herbert Walker Bush, is a solemn occasion, as we have not only lost a great American and a loyal, compassionate, kind, honorable and loving human being, but also a symbol of a bygone era marked by civility, ethics, grace, honor, manners and meticulous attention to detail, such as the handwritten letter.

One of the hallmarks of 41’s style was the art of the written letter, something the younger generations do not appreciate or experience with the gravitas it deserves because email, text message, voice recognition and emoji are quicker and more convenient. Indeed, I am nostalgic. But the loss of this art form is not just the loss of an art but a very human, personal act that touches another heart and makes a much bigger and impactful difference to relationships and to life. Further, the loss of writing a letter and handwriting in general is a much bigger loss: the loss of a part of our brain that can only be activated by the fingers touching a pen or pencil and taking it to paper. Certain thoughts can only be expressed when that simple act happens, and this, my friends, is science. According to a 2014 article published in the New York Times, “Handwriting increases neural activity in certain sections of the brain, sharpens the brain and helps us learn, and forces us to slow down and smell the ink.” Further, according to a study from Indiana University, the simple act of writing unleashes creativity not easily accessed in any other way. Cynics may require more proof than that, but that — and the more positive, longer-term effects I experience when I take the pen to paper rather than my finger to the keyboard — is enough for me.

Like President Bush, my grandfather, Cold War lawyer and diplomatic negotiator James B. Donovan, was a member of the “Greatest Generation” and a Navy commander who devoted much of his life and career to public service. As general counsel of the Office of Strategic Services, he was also a founding father of our the Central Intelligence Agency, where President Bush served as director. When I had my grandfather’s book “Strangers on a Bridge” republished in 2015, there were two notable people who immediately came to mind when asked who might be able to write a testimonial, as well as speak personally to my grandfather’s legacy. One of those two people was President George H.W. Bush; the other, not coincidentally, was someone from the opposite side of the political spectrum — Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. When I called the Bush Library to confirm the correct address for correspondence, I was taken aback when I was immediately put in touch with his office and was given the address. Though I had connections to the Bush family, I chose to go the formal route rather than asking for a favor to facilitate more immediate attention to my letter. This type of shortcut is also why people text and email: because it’s easier, quicker and more convenient. Unfortunately, I was remiss in following up, because … well … life got in the way, and the deadline passed. So I am not sure if President Bush ever received my letter, but I know in my heart that he would have given my granddad his due, and that I am proud of myself for making the effort and not taking the more expedient route.

So, I have now written a second letter — this time handwritten — to President Bush and have sent it to the Bush Library as a way to pay my respects and to further memorialize his legacy. I encourage others to do the same, as well as to take the time to continue to hand-write letters — thank-you letters; letters of sympathy, friendship and congratulations; love letters; letters of any and all kinds — as well as to continue to take the pen to paper for any and all kinds of writing. Personal expression in this form matters. You may be surprised by the difference in what is expressed when taking that pen to paper every once in a while, rather than the fingers to the keyboard or thumb to the iPhone. Additionally, not only does it also provide the writer with the opportunity for proper reflection and thought, but it also gives the recipient the same opportunity — as well as the gift of truly personal, authentic and heartfelt expression.

My handwritten letter to President Bush is a love letter to a man whose dignity, kindness, compassion, integrity, faith, commitment, grace, humor, humility, humanity and love have touched my life, the lives of Americans and so many around the world. President George Herbert Walker Bush may no longer be here, but I know in my heart that he has already received my letter. Though I will never get a direct response from him, I know that my grandfather now has another friend and former comrade to keep him company up above, and that is all I need to know. I know I could never hope to emulate the life President Bush lived, but at least hand-writing this letter is a good start. May you rest in peace, Mr. Bush, as your life serves as a role model for all of us for generations to come.

Beth Amorosi lives in New York City and Lake Placid, is president of AMO Communications and is granddaughter of James B. Donovan, a Cold War lawyer, diplomatic negotiator, World War II veteran and author who was a seasonal resident of Lake Placid, is buried in St. Agnes Cemetery in Lake Placid and was played by Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg’s movie “Bridge of Spies.”

Celebrating Easter and Passover with Traditions, Memories & a Bridge of Common Ground

So many beautiful images and powerful symbols embody the spirit of Easter, Passover, and Spring.  In fact, Easter and Passover are linked by their symbolism and by their positions in the calendar governed by the sun and the moon.  According to Wikipedia, “in most European languages, Easter in English is termed by the words for Passover in those languages, and in the older English versions of the Bible, the term Easter was the term used to translate Passover.” The history behind each and the reasons for observance may be different, but many of the rituals and the meaning for each is essentially the same.  We light candles, we fast, we celebrate moveable feasts, we pray, we worship, we sing, we honor tradition, we congregate with our communities, friends, and family, we thank God for eternal life and salvation.  We also celebrate purity, rebirth, and new life.  Wikipedia does not share the most teachable lesson: that despite the differences in history and even now, we are all children of the same God, and we can learn so much more from each other than our society imposes through religious structure, doctrine, and varying interpretations and beliefs.

For me, one of the most iconic images of Easter is that of President John F. Kennedy and his beautiful family emerging from the Kennedy

Compound in Palm Beach, Florida after attending mass at St. Edward’s Roman Catholic Church, a church where I have prayed and celebrated happy occasions many times, including on Easter Sunday. On that same weekend, my mother had the good fortune of having a very unexpected private “meeting” with the President.  Her father, my grandfather James B. Donovan (Cold War lawyer played by Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies”), had just returned from his final trip of many trips to Cuba to negotiate with Fidel Castro for the release of the Bay of Pigs prisoners and their families.  While his mission was officially on behalf of the Cuban Families Committee, he was also unofficially and very proudly representing and working directly with the President, his brother Robert F. Kennedy behind the scenes on behalf  our country.

My grandparents’ best friends from their seasonal residence in Lake Placid, NY had a fine jewelry store in Lake Placid that remains to this day, as well as at Royal Poinciana Plaza in Palm Beach, Fl. The Palm Beach store happened to be right next door to the famed toy store FAO Schwarz. One day before that Easter Sunday, my mother was in the store visiting the Coopers and her best friend, their daughter Carol Cooper, when Mr. Cooper said to my mother, “Do you know who is next door shopping for his children? The President! Do you want to meet him? I can arrange it.”  Needless to say, my mother was beside herself.   As her father had just returned his final trip to Cuba, it was a meeting that was “negotiated” fairly quickly!

My mother met with the President by herself (and the Secret Service) for 45 minutes, picking out toys with him for Caroline & John. Later that day, he saw her in the crowd waving to him in the open-air convertible from the sidewalks.  He spotted my mother amidst the crowd, got out of the car and went over to her to give her a big hug. She said he was the most handsome man she had ever seen (besides my father of course!), and that his outfit was so vivid that she will never forget it: pink pants and a black Lacoste shirt. I have similar memories of his son John as a young man, running into him countless times on the streets of midtown, the Upper East Side, and Soho in Manhattan. Every time I saw him, his beyond Hollywood face stopped me in my tracks, but his down-to-earth demeanor and warm smile drew anyone in.

The iconic photo of John Jr. as a child with his sister Caroline is timeless, even though we all know it was the President’s last Easter. Just like that picture, the story of my mother meeting the President transcends time as a cherished memory and as a reminder that we are all here for such a short time and that we are all one here on this earth, regardless of whether it’s Easter, Passover or Ramadan that we celebrate.  We are all children of God and are all headed to the same place after life here on this Earth, so bridging our differences to meet on the common ground of humanity that we all share is paramount on this Easter Sunday and always.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things

Fave Things

It’s always fun to talk about movies, especially during Oscar/awards season.  Like most, I have my own personal favorites list, the classics that are on most everyone’s lists, and then a few outliers that I just adore and will always watch if I find it on TV (yes, the joy of finding a movie by happenstance rather than streaming it on demand is still one of my favorite things!)  One of those outlier movies is In Her Shoes with Cameron Diaz, Shirley MacLaine, Mark Feuerstein, and Toni Collette. One particularly poignant scene is when Mark’s character tells Toni’s that there are three things that keep him happy, intact or in a nutshell – are his very favorite things. I believe they were the law, great food, and the Sixers. A great subject to think about: What are some of your favorite movies and things?

I have so many, so I am not sure I can condense the list to just three right now. They include music (especially live music) and Bruce Springsteen (yes, he is a subject unto himself) at the top of the list, reading and writing, media, history and philosophy, psychology and sociology, the mountains, the ocean and the beach, sports – especially figure skating and the Olympics (summer and winter), art, travel, photography, design and decor, film, books – especially memoirs and biographies, words and stories, maps, compasses, all thing nautical, marine life, penguins, elephants and sea turtles, family and friends, politics, business and innovation, spirituality and religion, inspirational people and speakers, and in the craft and power of storytelling.

I might also add archaeology, science and technology, magic, astronomy, astrology, exploration, heroes and heroines, role models, legacies, and family heritage as subjects that I love exploring, discovering, and learning more about.  Natural phenomenons such as the Aurora Borealis, when the stars visibly litter the sky, when the sky becomes purple before it snows, when the sun glistens on the ocean, when the breeze rustles the leaves, when the first spring bud blooms, and triumphant stories of the human spirit – from overcoming unimaginable obstacles to winning gold on and off the field, to yes – landing in the front of the pit for any concert, but especially Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

One of my very favorite things is when things happen serendipitously, and for a reason.  A few years ago, I had the pleasure of working with a member of a very historic, musical family who has given us all some of our very favorite things including raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens and the beautiful sound of music.  Carla von Trapp Hunter and her cousin Shela von Trapp Fletcher have founded Celebrity Legacy a speaking agency and media house, where I am now officially a speaker for hire.  If you or anyone you know is interested in learning about a variety of subjects as they relate to my grandfather James B. Donovan’s legacy, the movie Bridge of Spies and his book Strangers on a Bridge, please let me know or visit https://www.celebritylegacy.com/speaking-agency.html

In the meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend celebrating our U.S. Presidents, watching the Winter Olympics, maybe watching one of your favorite movies, picking from my list below, and engaging in some of your favorite things. I look forward to exchanging more on this topic, maybe eventually even adding “These are a Few of My Favorite Things; Tell Me Yours” to my current roster of topics which includes:

  • Changing the Diplomatic Paradigm: The James B. Donovan Story
  • Bridging the Gap: The Power Within Us All to be Agents of Change
  • Character & Ethics, Heroes, Heroines & Role Models

BETH MOVIE LIST 

Ordinary People, Almost Famous, Dead Poets Society, The Sound of Music, Trading Places, Jaws, Silver Linings Playbook, Die Hard, The King’s Speech, Bridge of Spies, The Help, ET, A Little Romance, Racing with the Moon, Seems Like Old Times, Foul Play, Erin Brockovich, Pretty Woman, Something’s Gotta Give, Wedding Crashers, Basic Instinct, Silence of the Lambs, Witness, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Regarding Henry, In Her Shoes, Wizard of Oz, Saving Helen, Bridesmaids, Crazy Stupid Love, Wall Street, Walk the Line, My Cousin Vinny, Joy, Hacksaw Ridge, Saving Private Ryan, Thelma and Louise, Catch Me if You Can, Gran Torino, Steel Magnolias, Disclosure, Unfaithful, In the Line of Fire, Kramer vs. Kramer, Tootsie, Ice Castles, Copycat, Goodfellas, The Blind Side, Taxi Driver, Love Actually, Sleepless in Seattle, Father of the Bride, Jerry Maguire, Legends of the Fall, Legally Blonde, Moneyball, Mermaids; Moonstruck, Working Girl, A Few Good Men, American Beauty, Roman Holiday, The Client, Miracle, Home Alone, Breakfast at Tiffany, Gone With the Wind, A Time to Kill, It’s Complicated, On Golden Pond, The Social Network, About Last Night, Sixteen Candles, St. Elmo’s Fire, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, War Games, She’s the One, Devil Wears Prada, Blind, Wonder; Anything with Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, Robert DeNiro, Ashley Judd, Kate Hudson, Goldie Hawn and my very favorite Diane Lane

A CHILDHOOD SOUNDTRACK & A LUNCHBOX OF LIFE LESSONS FROM MY FIRST LOVES: The Partridge Family, David Cassidy & Music

Partridge Family 2

I am a big fan of holidays and nostalgia, always marking each one through creative expression via decor, dress, sentimental photos and notes to family and friends, writing, as well as through notes of resolution to myself.  Creating new experiences and honoring traditions each holiday not only makes it more festive, but also marks time and seemingly almost helps to make time stand still – even just for the day.  Further, it also helps me to hit the refresh button on each and every holiday and/or time of year, to start anew and over again with a clean slate.  This past September, I had intended to share what was on my mind for the September/ “Back-to-School” time of year via a new post, as that time of year is more of a “New Year” for me than the official one on the calendar. That said, I procrastinated, life interfered, and then it just wasn’t timely.  But there was really a reason it didn’t happen then, because in the wake of the death of David Cassidy, the timing is now just perfect.

When I was little, my dad drove a blue Oldsmobile, complete with an 8-track tape player and a custom 8-track tape made just for Oldsmobile, with Burt Bachrach and Dionne Warwick as the headliners. The other tapes we had include the two musical acts that remain as the ones who gave birth to my love of music: the Carpenters and the Partridge Family.  To this day, both Karen Carpenter and David Cassidy remain as the silky smooth, beautiful voices evoking my most vivid and cherished childhood memories.

8-track

Also when I was little, Friday nights meant two things: pizza and staying up late to watch the primetime ABC lineup of the Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family, way before both shows remained a consistent staple through each’s syndication of the afternoon repeats I watched throughout the remainder of my childhood and adolescence.  While I loved the Brady Bunch, the Partridge Family was the epitome of cool to me: a large family touring on a multi-colored bus playing music together wearing uniform velvet outfits with ruffled collars, playing jokes on each other, making mischief together, kids hanging out with adults as equals, and performing together in a pop/rock band for small and large audiences.

And then, there was Keith Partridge. At the age of 4, I discovered my first love – David Cassidy and yes, MUSIC.

I am a big believer that there really are no coincidences, and that everything is meant to be and happens for a reason.  To provide several examples:

  • It is really no surprise or coincidence that other than one other movie, Almost Famous is my very favorite movie, and Kate Hudson’s “Penny Lane” is my alter ego.  A rock band traveling on a tour bus wearing cool clothes, singing together on the bus, and performing all over the country and world? Of course I love that movie: it’s the Partridge Family all over again!
  • It is also no surprise that my hero – musically and otherwise – is the man who was almost overlooked at Columbia Records because of its success with the Partridge Family, and that his former manager wrote four of their hit songs: Bruce Springsteen.  Yes, there is a connection with the Partridge Family and Bruce Springsteen!
  • Finally, when I learned the news of David Cassidy’s hospitalization last week, I was devastated but remained hopeful that he would make it. Coincidentally (or not) and separately on the same day, my mother actually put together a brown bag lunch for my father and brought up the subject of the metal lunchbox that we all used to have for back-to-school. Each August was a ritual, picking out a new lunchbox. Mine was always the Partridge Family, which I told her again just last week. This past Sunday, CBS Sunday Morning aired a segment about the Lunchbox Museum, with the closing of the segment picturing the Partridge Family lunchbox and the reporter singing one of their songs – having no connection at all to the news of David Cassidy. I couldn’t believe it!

Lunchbox

None of these things were happenstance, but instead, interconnected reminders from the universe and God above that my life has meaning and purpose, and while timing is ideal, time is not infinite or to be taken for granted.

I – along with millions of other little and young girls – was David Cassidy’s biggest groupie or “Penny Lane”, as I remain to be Bruce Springsteen’s.  I sang along to all the songs in the show, started playing all of my vinyl albums on my parents’ Fisher stereo, made my dad play the 8-track tape on every car ride, dressed up like Lori and Shirley, and eventually started to sit at my parents’ piano pretending I was Lori Partridge backing up the dreamy lead singer.  My cousin Maureen and I shared this love together, so on every visit we spent together either at her family’s home in Washington D.C. or at our family farm, we always watched the Partridge Family together, played and sang along to the music together on the stereo and on our Steinways, pretending to be in the Partridge Family. Many years later, after she and her elder sister had girls of their own, we actually told them that Bethie (me) was in the Partridge Family and that I was sick on the day they took the album cover photo. It was only in recent years that her daughter learned that cousin Bethie was actually not a rock star!

Albums

Partridge Family 2

As I started opening that lunchbox of childhood memories yesterday preparing a gift for my sister’s birthday, I learned that David Cassidy had died. I was and am heartbroken for him and his family.  His life not only touched mine, but his life was seemingly filled with too much sadness and too many years left to live.  Each day we live is a gift. Each talent we have is an even greater gift. To have talent, passion AND persistence however, is something else quite extraordinary. We must use our talents, cultivate and refine them over and over again so that they never leave us or are taken from us too soon.

In recent years, it seemed that David was resurrecting his musical career. In fact, a friend of mine organized his show at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ, a show which I unfortunately could not make at the last minute. I thought for sure I would have another chance to see my first love LIVE in person, in my lifetime. Sadly, this was not to be, but even more sadly, the resurrection of David Cassidy was not to be either. That said, I am grateful to my friend @RichRusso for sharing his thoughts on David today, along with a video of that concert I missed in Red Bank. While it isn’t LIVE and in person, it’s the next best thing, so thank you Rich for sharing your sentiments and the great video work of another friend of ours @AlbertoEngeli.  http://richrusso.net/a-few-words-about-david-cassidy-and-two-special-treats-for-his-fans/

Piano

On this Thanksgiving, I am so very grateful for so many things that include a home, my health, my family and friends, food, nature, words, figure skating, New York City, Lake Placid, Bruce Springsteen, and music.  But on this Thanksgiving in particular, I am also so grateful to the Partridge Family, Shirley Jones, Shaun Cassidy (I was a big fan of his too!), and David Cassidy for that lifetime lunchbox full of cherished happy childhood memories, a childhood soundtrack, and for giving an early rise to my passion for music.  While I played piano for many, many years, I stopped playing a long time ago. I have also always wanted to play the guitar, though learning something new like that as an adult is different than cultivating a skill as a child.  But David has left me with another think to be thankful for this Thanksgiving: that it’s never too late to pick something up again, to start over, to try again and again, to learn again, to always keep playing the music, and to keep that inner child and zeal for learning alive.  So this Thanksgiving for me is really “back-to-school” this time ’round, to start hatching those plans just like that Partridge and her five babies, to start tickling those ivories again, to start strumming that guitar, to chase those rainbows, singing to the words of the Partridge Family, on my way back home again, all the way home.

Now c’mon get on that silver plane, fly away, and get happy with me. Why? Because I know something today I didn’t know yesterday: I’m on my way back home again and love is waitin’ for me, just like it is for all of you.

RIP David Cassidy, Happy Thanksgiving, C’mon Get Happy!

ON MY WAY BACK HOME AGAIN

“Got on a silver plane and flew away,
chased all my rainbows to the end
I wish I knew then what I know today,
I’m on my way back home again
Love —
that’s what’s waitin’ for me,
that’s where I’ve got to be
Just to look in your eyes,
feel your lips touchin’ mine
I’m on my way back home, gonna fly
I’m on my way back home, gonna fly
I’m on my way, I’m on my way back home to you
I went to look for Mister Happiness, only to find he wasn’t in
Wouldn’t you know I had the wrong address, I’m on my way back home again
Love —
That’s what’s waitin’ for me,
That’s where I’ve got to be
Just to look in your eyes,
Feel your lips touchin’ mine
I’m on my way back home, gonna fly
I’m on my way back home, gonna fly
I’m on my way, I’m on my way back home to you
I remember when you told me I’d return
You knew even then something I had to learn
It’s so far and yet it’s right there where you live
It’s something that you get only when you give and it’s
Love —
That’s what’s waitin’ for me,
That’s where I’ve got to be
Just to look in your eyes,
Feel your lips touchin’ mine

C’MON GET HAPPY 

“Hello world, here’s a song that we’re singin’
Come on, get happy
A whole lotta lovin’ is what we’ll be bringin’
We’ll make you happy
We had a dream we’d go travelin’ together
And spread a little lovin’ if we’ll keep movin’ on
Somethin’ always happens whenever we’re together
We get a happy feelin’ when we’re singin’ a song
Travelin’ along, there’s a song that we’re singin’
Come on, get happy
A whole lotta lovin’ is what we’ll be bringin’
We’ll make you happy
We’ll make you happy”

 

Partridge Family 1

Notes

 

FINDING WHAT I AM LOOKING FOR…ON A BRIDGE WITH BRUCE & E STREET, BONO & U2

The soundtrack of my adolescent years and “Glory Days” in New York City and college years at Georgetown University consisted of many of the lost bands and musicians from the 1980’s – some who are still out there on the road touring and some of whom fell to the lost annals of one hit wonder history. The two who have remained at the top of my own personal soundtrack, also remain at the top of the list of musicians who have transcended time and generations with their classics from those days, as well as new music to do what music does best: bridge us together as one. Those musicians are Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and Bono and U2, with both bands taking a page out of the 80’s chronicles by commemorating two of their best-known albums The River and The Joshua Tree with tours around the world in 2016 & 2017. I was lucky enough to see The River show eight times in 2016, and am lucky enough to be seeing U2 this week at MetLife Stadium, while also seeing them at the Garden in 2015.

I recently played the video of Bruce and Bono singing “I Still Haven’t Found What I am Looking For” from the 25th Anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at Madison Square Garden. Because he interprets everything quite literally, he asked me at the end “What are they looking for”? While I was taken aback by the question at first, it made me think further about the song’s meaning and “what indeed are they – and what is it that everyone – is looking for?” The song’s undertones and overtones are quite literally about God and Jesus Christ bearing the cross of humanity’s greatness and our sins. It also is quite literally about a human being’s quest for his/her own life’s meaning and ultimate salvation, as well as the ongoing journey of life. While the yearning and searching evolves throughout the journey, the process of self-discovery and faith throughout the climbing mountains, running through fields, crawling and scaling city walls is indeed what makes it so hopeful. Despite still looking for God and meaning at the song’s end, the more I have heard it over the years and every time I hear it, I discover something new and different about myself, about my life, about God, and about humanity.

While I haven’t found the exact meaning of life, my life, the universe, and of God yet, my life’s course recently has taken me on a path that is finally helping me to find what I am looking for, and much of that has to do with music in general, but specifically the music of Bruce Springsteen and U2. The two seminal Springsteen albums of my adolescence and college years are Born in the USA and Tunnel of Love. That said, since then, my repertoire has expanded to include every single Springsteen album and song he ever wrote and performed, and most certainly now also includes the River as one of his greatest. The one seminal album of U2 however, most certainly was and still is, The Joshua Tree. That album captured my college years and my life’s journey more perfectly than any album ever, making the melodies create memories that live on to this day through that music.

Since then, I have also come to truly admire Bono and his uncanny ability – just like Bruce – to bring the power of spirituality and the power of transcending boundaries into a stadium and outside a stadium, through music, words, storytelling, humility, philanthropy, and by being the humanitarian souls that they are While I am still finding what I am looking for, I have recently found solace through bridges, literally and figuratively. Tom Hanks’ portrayal of my grandfather James B. Donovan in Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies resurrected the power of a bridge to cross boundaries and transcend them – culturally, religiously, politically, socially, and generationally. Despite differences in religion, class, gender, ethnicity, political party, and age, we are all one. It is more important to at least try to cross that bridge, as one never knows what lies on the other side – at least by meeting in the middle, if not completely going over the edge. Exploring, discovering, talking, reaching out, and finding a way to meet someone in the middle and listening, without pre-conceived opinions and judgment, and listening rather than talking, is where the source of real change burns, ignites, and bleeds into one positive place to help everyone find what they are really looking for.
Thanks to Bruce & E Street, Bono and U2 for helping me to find what I am looking for. I may still be looking, just like everyone else. But since 1985, I have been finding it, and most recently, am much, much farther along. But you have made the path so much more inspiring, joyful, and impactful along the way. Hopefully we will meet on that bridge some day – as Bruce says, somewhere “on down the road”, “in the Kingdom of Days”, and as U2 says “Where the Streets have no Name.” Until then…..I am – and always will be listening, never retreating, never surrendering, with and without you, though with you is always my very first choice.  Can’t wait to cross over to the Jersey side this week, as I always find what I am looking for in a show at MetLife Stadium with Bruce or U2!

I have climbed the highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you

I have run I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in the fingertips
It burned like fire
This burning desire
I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was one empty night
I was cold as a stone
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for

I believe when the Kingdom comes
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
But yes I’m still running.
You broke the bonds
You loosened the chains
You carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believed it
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for

THE GLORY DAYS OF THE 2016 WORLD SERIES & THE GREATNESS OF AUTHENTIC AMERICA Apple Pie. Coca Cola. Budweiser. Hot Dogs. Baseball. Springsteen.

The only other thing that Bruce ever wanted to be other than a musician was a baseball player. He tells a great story about playing in the Babe Ruth Little League in Freehold, New Jersey, and one sick day he faked to get out of a game because he was too tired. The entire team came to his house, begging his mom to get him out of bed or else they would have to forfeit the game. His teammate from that league inspired this classic hit about not letting youthful dreams and time pass us by, using baseball as the metaphor. The “Glory Days” video from the “Glory Days” of @MTV was filmed at a bar in Hoboken, NJ, and is actually one of the few, if the only, live glimpse of him with his first wife Julianne Phillips at the end of the video. His marriage to the only lady in the @EStreetBand, his redheaded woman @PattiScialfa has withstood the test of time, perhaps a symbol that all of us make mistakes, and to echo Bono and Mick: eventually find what we are all looking for and perhaps also, do get what we want after all.

I often see pro baseball players (friends and fans of the Boss) in the pit with me at shows. Bruce is also a big fan of hats, particularly baseball caps, most often wearing his team’s (and mine), a New York Yankees hat. One of the only, if not the only, commercial “endorsement” he has ever agreed to and done was for Major League Baseball’s post-season promotion in 2012, with his more recent hit anthem (and one of my very faves), Land of Hope and Dreams as the soundtrack. http://m.brucespringsteen.net/…/land-of-hope-dreams-feature….  Baseball is one land where hopes and dreams come alive, and there is no other time that showcases it at its best than during the World Series.

As a kid – and to this day – I have always been a diehard Yankee fan and American League devotee. My dad took my brother and I to games regularly in the late 70’s (and beyond), and to multiple World Series games when the New York Yankees vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers was such a recurring theme, that my childish self expected them to always be the World Series teams! We either got great seats or at one game in particular, I remember being in the tippy top of the upper decks and my dad got so excited that he fell down into the crowd beneath us, who thankfully caught him intact. I can still cite the full team, with the first baseman always being my favorite player: catcher Thurman Munson, first baseman Chris Chambliss, second baseman Willy Randolph, shortstop Bucky Dent, 3rd baseman Graig Nettles, right fielder Reggie Jackson, center fielder Mickey Rivers, left fielder Lou Pineilla (whose fan cries of “Lou” mirror the Boss fan cries of “Bruuuuuuuce”), and if we were lucky: Ron Guidry as pitcher. Collecting and trading baseball cards and getting our hands on the Reggie candy bar were part of my lifestyle at the time. When I worked at Cartier right out of college, my boss was a great pal of Reggie’s. In fact, Reggie actually slept on a couch in his office the day after his 3 run homer game after partying all night with him to celebrate. He is actually even featured in the movie “The Bronx is Burning”! Reggie was always a big presence in the office and was very kind to me, though he took a particular liking to my office mate! I was always in awe of him, despite his braggadocio and bravado (just like someone else of note who shall remain nameless here!). We ended up doing a big event honoring him and the MLB at the Cartier mansion on Fifth Ave (just recently reopened and refurbished in all its spectacular glory), which was most definitely the best event for me during my years of working there.

One of my very favorite books (and the person who wrote it) is “Wait ’till Next Year” by Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. The book recounts her lifelong love of baseball, through the narrative of her childhood in Rockville Centre on Long Island and the bond with her father and the neighborhood through baseball’s heyday with the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. The detail in the memories shared there is astounding, as well as the emotion it evokes through metaphor and her ability to transport the reader back in time to an America of another era when small towns and neighborhood kids played stick ball, everyone listened to games and everything else on transistor radios, and when being an immigrant was celebrated by everyone as being part of the same, very exclusive yet embracing, “club” of America.

In college @GeorgetownUniversity, my friends were from all over the country and the world. But a group of my closest friends and housemates were all from @Chicago, four girls who all went to grade school together and two of whom are first cousins. As the lone New Yorker though, I never felt out of place but instead was buoyed by the things that made me always feel right at home:  their close-knit ties to each other and with their tight-knit, large families; their long heritage in their hometown of Chicago and their Midwestern values that mirrored my own:  devotion to family, friends, and faith; a commitment to hard-work, education, and achievement; the pursuit of enriching experiences, and intellectual, artistic and socially-conscious endeavors; and a vow to each other to be life-long friends, which we are to this day.  I had never been to Chicago before then, but once I did, I felt right at home – as I do in Cleveland with other close college friends, and other parts of the country and the world that don’t necessarily resemble NYC at all, but remind me that while there is no place like NYC, that this country of ours is great.  Seeing these two great American cities reflected in this World Series through the players and the fans only reminded me of all of them, as well as all the great American and humane values we all hold dear as Americans, and as people – through the lens of America’s heartland.

Also when I was in college, I switched allegiance to the National League during the 1986 Series, in honor of my close friend whose family name lit up their landmark stadium, and in honor of my hometown New York. Since then, I always root for the Mets – except of course during the Subway Series and ONLY if the Yankees are out of contention. This year however, has been another exception. Seeing a team who has always been the underdog, with such devoted fans even when they are losing badly, from the great city of Chicago, take their talent, skill, hard work, teamwork, faith, and spirit all the way through the wee hours of Game 7 has been sheer joy and a blissful escape for all of us, especially my father. Seeing him watch these games rooting for the Cubbies (though he is also a diehard Yankee fan, but as a kid the NY Giants were his team!) has been something to treasure forever, just like all these baseball memories and anecdotes mentioned here will always be for me. Seeing devoted fans like Eddie Vedder, Vince Vaughn, Bill Murray, and yes, Charlie Sheen, in the stands immersed among the rest of us rooting for their team brings what’s most important here, home. Baseball – like Budweiser, Coca Cola, apple pie, hot dogs, and Bruce Springsteen – is a grand American tradition that unites us through rituals, silly statistics, caps on our heads symbolizing team loyalties as a proud persona, pinstripes and uniforms on grown men, diamonds on a green, chants and anthems that are unique to America, celebrating our American ideals, the proud showcase of sportsmanship, and the group rally behind the simple call to “take me out to the ballgame”. The Cubs deserve this win for them, the city of Chicago, and the game of baseball, but also for America, especially right now, because America needs a reminder that it is already great, and that our glory days are not behind us, but very much still here with many more ahead.

And guess what book Dad is reading, even during the commercial breaks of the Series?! “Born to Run”. And guess what America? Springsteen is right: we are indeed the land of hope and dreams, as is this great world we live in and the world upstairs waiting for all of us, one for all and all for one.  Thanks to the Cubs – and to Cleveland – for taking us all out to the ballgame with you and for these glory days, uniting us through time seemingly standing still for a minute, and uniting us as Americans.  Through the celebration of the great game of baseball, camaraderie, the American success story, and most importantly, family, America is grateful.

To these glory days of baseball, take us with you far above and beyond November 8.  After 240 years, it’s time we all remember that while time does pass us by, we can still stand still for a minute and just play ball together.  Let’s play ball together, regardless of who becomes President.  Why? Because not only do good things come to those who wait, but also because time does not ever stand still (even though it may have seemed that way to Chicago for 108 years), time can pass us by, but our glory days are here with many more to come, so as the Boss says at the end of “Glory Days”: let’s rock it now!

 

Trish Muccia Scott Shea Drew Shea Bruce Springsteen Chicago CubsNew-York-Yankees @MajorLeagueBaseball Doris Kearns Goodwin @ClevelandIndians @CocaCola @Budweiser  New-York-Mets #baseball #USA @SiriusXM @EStreetRadio @GeorgetownUniversity @Cartier

 

 

 

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