Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! Just wanted to share some year-end notes and share some things I’m looking forward to in 2019…and some other odds and ends.

Support me in the 2019 Eagles Autism Challenge

Sorry to start this email out with a fundraising plea, but this is time-sensitive. Beginning today, Wednesday, December 19, the Eagles – thanks to the generosity of The Kelly Family (see graphic below) – will match, dollar for dollar, the first $15,000 in online donations raised by participants such as myself. So if you support my 5K run in the 2019 Eagles Autism Challenge with a small donation now, it will be doubled for greater impact.

Donate Now!

Eagles Autism Challenge - Kelly Family Match

Donate Now!

Visit to Morris Arboretum

Morris Arboretum

Earlier this month, we reserved free tickets from our local library and made the trip to Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia. While it’s obviously not the season for flora, the grounds are still interesting with sculptures and trees, etc. The big draw these days is the Holiday Gardens Railway, which can be seen in a couple of the pictures above and below.


My Ensoniq ESQ-1 Lives!

I recently reset my keyboard setup in our basement after it was moved around a bit as the result of some flooding a few months ago. In doing so, I decided to try to turn on my Ensoniq ESQ-1 synthesizer, which was the first pro-level keyboard I ever purchased back in 1987. The last time I did this a few years ago, the display showed a “low internal battery” message and went dark. But this time, after showing the “low battery” prompt, it took me to the screen showing the sound patch options and I was able to hear it again for the first time in about 20 years! Some keys don’t work, but there’s a place in North Jersey that specializes in vintage synth repairs so, someday, I may bring it there for a battery replacement and keyboard repair. But the fact that I now know for sure that it’s salvageable made me so happy.

Here’s a short video taken minutes after I realized the ESQ-1 still works.

And here is a photo of my keyboard rig, which consists mostly of instruments purchased between 1987 and 1989 (the only exception is the Alesis QS-6.1 in the foreground, which was purchased around 2004 or so). The ESQ-1 is at bottom left. (And, yes, they’ve gathered a bit of dust over the years.)


Remembering a Rider legend…and a reunion, of sorts

Longtime Rider University journalism professor, Willard E. Lally, passed away in November at the age of 96. I attended Rider long after Lally’s retirement in 1985, but his influence and presence within the department and at The Rider News, where I served as news editor (1995-96) and executive editor (1996-97), are still felt even today. As part of The Rider News legacy, I felt I should attend a memorial service held on campus December 15, and I’m glad I did. First of all, it was great to see some of my former professors for the first time in ages. Second of all, it is always great to hear the stories of so many journalism students who came before me.

After the service, there was a luncheon in one of the academic buildings, where I was reunited with the Frederick L. Ferris Award (see photo above), which is named after the “father” of Rider’s journalism program (Prof. Lally replaced Prof. Ferris) and awarded to the graduating senior for their accomplishments in the journalism program over their four years at Rider. I won it in 1997, even though I transferred after graduating from Ocean County College and only spent two years at Rider.

The Ferris Award used to sit in a display case in a hallway near the journalism faculty offices (and likely still does), but I had not seen it in years and it was nice to hold it again. And that’s when I realized something…21 years after winning it, I noticed my last name is spelled wrong. As it turned out, there was another former Ferris Award winner in the room that day who had the same problem. Of course, I complained about it, but it was mostly for comedic effect.

So, yeah, look at 1997…my last name is missing the second “e” before the “y”.

The cool thing was, because there were so many former Ferris Award winners in the room, including its first-ever recipient, Stuart Gellman ’57 (more on him later), and the most recent recipient, that all of us there gathered around the trophy, which somehow I wound up holding, for an epic and historic Rider journalism department photo. It was really an honor to be included in that. I’m not sure when or if I’ll see that photo online, but I’ll be sure to grab it when I do and share it in one of these updates.

OK, back to Stuart Gellman. I had communicated with him back in 2000, when I was working at Rider. Two of my former professors asked me to help them track down Rider News alumni for a homecoming event celebrating the newspaper’s 70th anniversary. I found Stuart in Arizona and talked to him, but he was unable to attend. He did, however, send a letter that I read at the event (I wound up serving as moderator for a panel of former Rider News editors). The following year, in early or mid 2001, Stuart was visiting campus with his son. He stopped by my workspace and introduced me to his son by saying “he writes for The Washington Post.” Of course, I didn’t realize at the time he was THIS BARTON GELLMAN!

Just a few months later, Barton Gellman became a household name (for those of us who follow journalists, anyway) for his reporting on 9/11. He later went on to report on the false intelligence regarding WMDs in Iraq, Dick Cheney (which turned into a book) and NSA overreach (he oversaw The Washington Post’scoverage after the newspaper received documents from Edward Snowden), winning multiple Pulitzer Awards for individual and group reporting for The Washington Post.

Even last week, when I re-introduced myself to Stuart after so many years, he remembered bringing his son to campus and, again, he just said “he was a reporter for The Washington Post.”

I left it at that.

Oh, one more story from this day. One of the Ferris Award winners not present was the late Herb Wolfe, who went on to be the president and CEO of Showboat Atlantic City. He is always listed as a ’64 grad, but I discovered years later when I was working at Rider and preparing to interview him that he left Rider a few credits short of a degree and that he was actually taking courses at the time – about 40 years later – to complete his degree requirements. But the university considered him an alumnus, most likely because he was a great success story and a benefactor. Anyway, he was the editor of The Rider News for the 1963-64 academic year, which meant he was overseeing production of the newspaper on Friday, November 22, 1963. Despite the grief and despair brought on by the assassination of President Kennedy, Wolfe rallied his staff to produce the paper as scheduled so it could be printed over the weekend and delivered on campus the following Monday, November 25. The bound volume of newspapers including this issue was also on hand so I took this photo…

Anyone see what’s missing on this front page…and in the rest of the paper (trust me, it’s not there)?

Yep, they were so focused on assembling the issue they had planned before Kennedy had been assassinated during its production, that they didn’t think to include any coverage of the assassination in the newspaper itself.

Amazingly, there is a photo in the Rider archives showing Dr. Lally critiquing this front page with Wolfe, but doesn’t mention this fact. And you really can’t see the date in the photo. When I interviewed Wolfe for a Rider University magazine feature 18 years ago, he let the cat out of the bag. I can’t remember his exact words, but he said to me, “This photo shows Professor Lally saying to me, ‘Herb, it’s great that you got the paper out, but you should have probably included something about Kennedy.'”

That particular photo accompanied the article I wrote, but I can’t seem to find that magazine among my archives. If I find it, I will post it somewhere. It’s a classic when you know the whole story behind it.


WXPN Best of 2018

Below is my contribution to WXPN’s Best of 2018 list. While most of what I listen to is popular on WXPN, there is still quite a bit that escapes even their attention. Young Gun Silver Fox’s first album from a couple of years ago got played a bit, but the station ignored their superior 2018 release, which was a shame. And even though I discovered the band Field Music through WXPN’s Indie Music Hit Parade on a Friday night in 2016, they have just never made it into regular rotation. In fact, that may have been the only time Field Music has ever been played on WXPN. But I loved the band because they sound like Talking Heads, XTC, Peter Gabriel/classic Genesis and Prince (yes, Prince…who posted then deleted a tweet approving of their song “The Noisy Days are Over” a few weeks before his death) all rolled up into one. So I doubt they’ll make the list, but I still wanted to acknowledge those acts as the Best of 2018.


China Crisis in Asbury Park

China Crisis

A very underrated and overlooked band from the 1980s is China Crisis. I first became aware of them when “Arizona Sky” from their 1986 album What Price Paradise received a bit of airplay on MTV. Oddly enough, when I first heard that song, a big attraction to me was that I felt they sounded like if Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and Walter Becker had grown up in late 1970s/early 80s Liverpool. It wasn’t until much later that I learned CC’s Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon were, in fact, huge Steely Dan fans and that Becker had produced their previous album, 1985’s Flaunt the Imperfection, and was considered an official member of the band at that time.

To this day, I find myself humming “Arizona Sky” at random parts of the day.

Anyway, China Crisis just wrapped up a small tour of North America, which included a stop at Asbury Park, NJ’s The Saint on Sunday, December 9, that I attended (they also played at Randy Now’s Man Cave, a tiny record store/novelty shop just 15 minutes away from me in Bordentown, NJ, which I didn’t know about until after the fact). Below is a not-so-great video of China Crisis performing “Tragedy and Mystery” at The Saint. The person who took and posted the video added a somewhat offensive “death metal” intro to it and, for some reason, thought we would want to see periodic shots of him instead of the band. But it’s a taste of what I saw at The Saint. I configured the link to hopefully bypass the disturbing intro part, but I’ve found those configured links only work some of the time so who knows? Also, I think the guy who shot this video is the same one wrongly singing Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” when the band briefly goes into Chic’s classic “Good Times” during the bridge.

And here is the song that launched my China Crisis fandom in the late 1980s, “Arizona Sky.”


“Christmas Must Be Tonight”

My friend Christian Beach recorded this cover of The Band’s “Christmas Must Be Tonight” for a holiday compilation CD in 2009. It’s one of our favorites to listen to this time of the year.


“It’s Christmas Time Again” (Live, 2014)

So I shared my Christmas song last month. This month, I’m presenting this live version from a performance at the 2014 GSP Holiday Party. The video isn’t great and the audio was really weak, as were my vocals, so I added the audio from a rehearsal recording into the mix.


2019 Scheduled Races

I have already lined up my key races for 2019. They include another marathon, which will be my fourth (2 New Jersey Marathons, 2 Philadelphia Marathons), and my return to the Olympic-distance Atlantic City Triathlon (1-mile swim, 22-mile bike ride, 10K run). I did the Tri AC in 2014 and finished in 3:04:34, but that year’s edition included just a 20-mile bike ride and 5-mile run (although some that year believe they low-key added about a 1/4 mile to the swim portion).

New Jersey Marathon
Sunday, April 28, 2019

Broad Street Run
Sunday, May 5, 2019

Eagles Autism Challenge 5K
Saturday, May 18, 2019

Atlantic City Triathlon (Olympic distance)
Saturday, August 10, 2019

Philadelphia Half Marathon
Saturday, November 23, 2019

I am also interested in doing the Crest Best 10-Miler on October 13, but registration isn’t open for that yet. The same is true for the Broad Street Run on May 5, but by signing up for the Philadelphia Half Marathon using the “Philadelphia Challenge” option, I will be emailed a special registration link for a guaranteed spot in the Broad Street Run.

Of course, now that I’m also doing the Eagles Autism Challenge 5K on May 18, that means I’m doing two running events in the three weeks following the New Jersey Marathon. That should be interesting for my legs. So much for recovery time!

Other than these, there may be another 5K or two added to the race calendar. Barring any conflicts, I would like to do the WXPN Musicians On Call 5K in Philly in early October. I missed it this year because it was the same day as the inaugural Crest Best 10-Miler, which I opted to do instead. However, I think they will be a week apart in 2019.

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