Well, I kind of stumbled into this decision with this update being so delayed, but from this point on, I’ll be sending these emails out every other month. Read on to find out what’s been going on since April…

So…what’s up?

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There are basically two reasons why it’s taken so long to get this update out. The first one is that things have been hectic around here. The second one is that…well…nothing much has happened.

I haven’t really touched on it here, but since the beginning of the year, our 4-year-old son Benjamin has been dealing with a rather aggressive case of ulcerative colitis that has resulted in a number of hospital visits in New Brunswick (and one in Philadelphia) and other related appointments for tests, blood work, etc. And, of course, he has autism and is nonverbal so we can’t really explain to him what’s going on. It’s all rather emotionally draining.

On top of all that, these issues have led to many sleepless nights for Benjamin, as well as for Alison and me.

Meanwhile, I’m still looking for a job and, at one point recently, I had to schedule job interviews back-to-back on the same morning to squeeze them between hospital visits and Benjamin’s therapy sessions.

So, yeah, it’s been rough.

But we somehow managed to get to Brigantine, NJ, for Memorial Day weekend (pictured above and below). It was a bit chilly on the sand and in the waves, but it was nice to get away.


Race recaps: New Jersey Marathon, Broad Street Run and Eagles Autism Challenge 5K

I have run in three events since the last email went out. Here are quick summaries of what went down in each:

New Jersey Marathon

Now, before I get into this, a reminder that during the training cycle for the New Jersey Marathon (Sunday, April 28), I was sidelined for about a month by trochanteric bursitis (hip) and never got in a training run longer than 16 miles—and that was within a week before the race when I should have been tapering. I didn’t have a stated goal for the race, but obviously I would have liked to beat my marathon PR of 4:51:22 set at Philadelphia in 2017. However, I also knew that my recent string of injuries (remember the herniated disc last September) would likely make that impossible. In my head, I just wanted to run a sub-5:00:00 marathon.

I missed doing that by a measly 27 seconds, finishing the 2019 New Jersey Marathon in 5:00:26.

If you want to read a full recap, click here.

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Broad Street Run

For the second time in four years, the 10-mile Broad Street Run in Philadelphia was run in a steady rain. Fortunately, the weather models were off by a few hours because the heavy stuff forecast to fall during the race didn’t come until after the race. The conditions were slightly better than when the 2016 race was run in a wind-driven heavy rain. Of course, this was one week after the New Jersey Marathon, which also featured some showers during the last few miles. At this point, I was pretty much done with running in the rain. However, I love the Broad Street Run and wasn’t able to participate last year so I was just happy to be back among the 40,000 or so runners. Because of my recent injuries and training at a slower marathon pace, my body hasn’t really been receptive to running shorter distances for about a year. In fact, my best 10-mile time since setting a PR of 1:27:03 at the 2017 Broad Street Run was my 1:43:40 in the inaugural Crest Best 10 Miler last October. Amazingly, though, I got off to a decent start in this year’s Broad Street Run, but I felt my body telling me to pull back a little halfway through so I settled for a 1:38:37 finish. And I was pretty happy with it.

The worst part was after the race when I discovered that after nearly 40 years of holding this event, the organizers still don’t have a handle on running the shuttle busses back to the stadium-area parking lots. I have usually walked the mile or so back to my car, but this was the second straight week of running in chilly, rainy weather and I was done. But after waiting about 20 minutes in the rain for a bus, it became clear the drivers had no idea what they were doing. Our bus driver, for instance, wound up driving all the way to the other side of the Philadelphia Navy Yard and exiting near the Girard Point Bridge. This meant he was now heading into race-related traffic on the west side of a closed Broad Street—opposite from the stadiums! As a result, a police officer stopped him and instead of saying to the cop, “Hey, I messed up and have a busload of tired, angry runners with me, so can I just drop them off a little closer to Broad Street,” the bus driver simply dropped us off right there…ABOUT A MILE AWAY FROM THE PARKING LOT! So, basically, I waited 20 minutes for a bus that drove around lost for about 20 minutes just to walk the same distance I wanted to avoid walking by taking the bus. What a freakin’ disaster.

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Eagles Autism Challenge 5K

Last year’s inaugural Eagles Autism Challenge, which allows participants to raise funds through a variety of cycling and running/walking events, was held in a downpour, but still drew enough people to raise $2.3 million for autism research and services. I ran the 5K in 2018, but did not know it wouldn’t be timed. I also had a mishap with my Nike+ app so I didn’t get an exact time (although I estimated it at just under 28:00).

This year’s event was held in absolutely perfect weather and this year’s 5K had a much nicer course that went through the Navy Yard before finishing through the tunnel outside the Eagles’ locker room and out onto the field. More importantly, the 5K was timed! My 26:19 finish was one of my fastest 5K times in forever. The only 5K I have run in since October 2017 was the Castaway Cay 5K I ran during our family’s Disney Cruise to the Bahamas last November. I finished that one in 27:45 (which still amazes me since I was still recovering from the back injury and was running in ridiculous heat and humidity) so I shaved over a minute off from that.

More importantly, this year’s Eagles Autism Challenge raised over $3.5 million for autism research and services.

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We made it nine years!

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Well, May 22 marked nine years since Alison married me. Still not entirely sure why she did that, but I’m really glad she did.

This week’s “Throwback Thursday” (#TBTXPN) theme on WXPN was wedding and prom songs and two of the stories I submitted ended up being read by DJs on air. Kristen Kurtis on the XPN Morning Show read my post about the DJ not having the theme of my senior ball—Richard Marx’s “Hold on to the Nights”—and our class president having to leave the ball to buy it at a nearby record store and bring it back to the DJ. However, after another story was read on air about “Hold on to the Nights,” Kristen read a story about two XPN listeners who got married and danced to Marx’s “Right Here Waiting,” so that song filled in for all the Richard Marx-related stories. And, honestly, can you blame them for NOT playing multiple Richard Marx songs?

Another part of my submission was read by Helen Leicht during the midday shift. She played U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” because I mentioned in my post that Alison and I were introduced to it. I actually listed all the introduction songs (including Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual” for the parents’ introductions, and my edited version of “Ruben’s In” from the Ocean’s Eleven soundtrack for the wedding party), as well as our first-dance song, Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am.” Strangely, out of all those, the only song I mentioned in my post that made it to air was “City of Blinding Lights.”

Maybe they skipped “The Way I Am” because it’s a song they play quite often anyway? I was stunned “It’s Not Unusual” didn’t get played. I didn’t submit them, but two songs that were featured in our wedding were played Thursday on WXPN: The Beatles’ “In My Life” (mother-groom dance) and “Theme from ‘A Summer Place'”—although XPN played the more famous instrumental version by Percy Faith and his Orchestra and not the vocal version by The Lettermen played at our wedding for all the long-time married couples.

Incidentally, it was reported this week that Jim Pike of The Lettermen passed away on June 9 at the age of 82.

Anyway, here are those introductions and the first dance from our wedding nine years ago.


A close call

Alison and I were bringing Benjamin home from a clinical visit to Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania on May 29, and I was already tracking the severe weather coming our way. A cell that had produced a tornado near the border of Bucks and Lehigh counties in Pennsylvania was moving southeast toward the Princeton/Trenton area as we were driving home from Philly. We also had to stop and pick up our other son, Graham, from Alison’s parents’ house. As soon as we got home, I suggested everyone get a “go bag” together in case we needed to head down to the basement. I unloaded the car and took one more look behind the house at the approaching clouds and my phone started buzzing: TORNADO WARNING!

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We brought some essential stuff down to the basement, such as Benjamin’s medicine and contact lens solution, etc. I went back upstairs to grab one more thing and looked out the window. The storm was closing in fast. I ran back downstairs and first went to the back door of the kitchen—just steps away from the basement door—and started filming the video above as the tornado-warned storm passed overhead. I figured I would make a mad dash to the basement if I saw a funnel cloud.

At this point, I saw a tweet from one of the meteorologists I follow on Twitter showing a radar shot of the storm just west of us. He noted the hook starting to form, which usually signals rotation aloft and a potential tornado-in-waiting.

Well, we didn’t get hit by a tornado. However, the next day, I was looking at the data again, and it turns out it was a rather close call.

The area of rotation aloft went either right over our house, or pretty darn close to it.

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Above is the radar shot Mike Masco, a meteorologist for Fox 29 News in Philly until recently, tweeted as the storm was hitting. His original image included the blue circle as an area he felt was in imminent danger if the rotation dropped and formed a tornado, pointing out the notch near the yellow circle I added the following day. That yellow circle shows where the broad rotation aloft was likely detected. As you can see here, our home was in the path of that rotation aloft.

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Above is a closer look from a National Weather Service radar product, but it appears to be from around the same time as the radar shot Masco posted—with the area of broad rotation aloft just west of I-295. Again, based on this, the rotation aloft appears to have gone right over us. Thankfully, the rotation remained aloft and weakened instead of possibly dropping a tornado on our house.

That’s probably the closest I’ve been to experiencing a tornado since the 2003 tornado that hit Lawrenceville, N.J., when I was living there and working at Rider University. But no severe weather had been expected that morning. When I woke up, it was overcast; I started getting ready for work and I could hear some rain. When I got out of the shower, I saw it was pouring out. The commute took longer than usual and there were a lot of emergency vehicles moving about. We were having a big, all-division meeting at work that day in a large room in the Student Center. I get there and there is absolutely zero power on campus, and people start telling me the tornado knocked out the power.

So, yes, there was one time when I was caught completely weather unaware and missed a tornado that was essentially down the street from me. It was embarrassing.


Darlingside at Haddon Lake Park

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Alison and I have loved Darlingside for awhile now, but haven’t been able to see them live together. I finally saw them at last year’s XPoNential Music Festival, but Alison took the boys to the shore that day. I stumbled onto the fact they were playing a free show at Haddon Lake Park in Haddon Heights, N.J., a couple of weeks ago so we brought the boys with us for a rare family weeknight out. It was worth the drive. Unfortunately, we missed opener Andrew Lipke, a Philly favorite. What didn’t help is that I initially parked at the wrong part of Haddon Lake Park, which is HUGE. We had to drive another five minutes away to get within a few blocks of the performance venue. By the time we reached the stage, Darlingside was just taking the stage so that was good timing.

Here’s a video of Darlingside performing “Go Back” from the 2018 XPoNential Music Festival in Camden, N.J.


Work in progress: “International Feel (Todd Rundgren cover)”

I recently rediscovered the awesomeness of Todd Rundgren’s lead track from his A Wizard, A True Star album, “International Feel.” Then I discovered that Tame Impala, one of my current musical obsessions, has been covering the song in concert for years. All of this inspired me to give it a shot.

I wanted to try to split the difference between Todd’s original psychedelic version and the techno version he did live during his TR-i days of the mid-1990s.

Click below to play my cover. Below that, you can find Todd Rundgren’s original version, his live techno version from the 1990s, and Tame Impala’s cover.


New Music Discoveries

Here are some recent music releases I would like to share.

BAILEN – “I Was Wrong”

I totally missed the boat on BAILEN, a New York-based trio consisting of twin brothers Daniel (vocals, bass) and David (vocals, drums) and their sister, Julia (vocals, guitars). They were an artist to watch on WXPN some time ago and then I passed on a chance to see them do a WXPN Free At Noon show around that same time.

But then their song “I Was Wrong” started getting heavy airplay on WXPN and, after a few weeks of “hearing” it all the time, I actually “listened” to it in my car and…whoa! The song is pretty amazing. It’s funny how one thing in a song can hook you in. For me, it was the “lend an ear” harmony/call and response thing in the second verse. And now I absolutely love this band and want to see them live very badly.

If you like “I Was Wrong,” you should definitely check out “Your Love is All I Know” below.

Keane – “The Way I Feel”

Not a discovery, of course, but the band Keane is reunited after a five-year hiatus and will be releasing a new album, Cause and Effect, Sept. 20, 2019. The first single and video from that album, “The Way I Feel,” was released Friday, June 14.

I have loved Keane since the first time I heard “Somewhere Only We Know” from their 2004 debut album, Hopes and Fears. And one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended remains Keane with The Redwalls and The Zutons (who have also reunited recently after a long hiatus and are working on new music…they are the band that gave the world the song “Valerie,” which was later covered by Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse) at the venue then called The Electric Factory in Philly in February 2005.

Anyway, I’m very much looking forward to hearing more music from Keane later this year. “The Way I Feel” is a great start!


2019 Scheduled Races

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

Philadelphia Half Marathon
Saturday, November 23, 2019

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