Help me join the Philadelphia Eagles in taking on autism

For a second year in a row, I will be running the 5K component of the Eagles Autism Challenge, taking place on Saturday, May 18, 2019. Last year’s inaugural event drew over 3,300 participants – despite torrential rain – and raised $2.5 million for autism research and programs. This cause is especially important to me as my 3-year-old son Benjamin is autistic.

Please consider making a small donation in support of my 2019 Eagles Autism Challenge 5K run. It would mean the world to me — and to my son.

Thank you.

– BK

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Helping Eagles Autism Challenge is Easy.
Your donation will count towards Brian J Kelley’s fundraising efforts.

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Margo Price performs at Asbury Lanes, 12/29/2018

BK Bulletin – January 2019: Already…ugh!

I closed out 2018 and welcomed 2019 with a completely ridiculous sinus infection (as diagnosed, although I’m not entirely sure that was correct). That was quickly followed up by a stomach bug and now a slight cold. In the few hours of decent health I’ve had so far during this newborn year, I somehow managed to write my first real song in ages. Read on for more about that, and other odds and ends…

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New music: “You and Me Against the World”

Despite the fact that I don’t think of myself as any kind of musician, I am constantly creating musical pieces in my head. Most of the time, those ideas fade away into a deserved oblivion (because they are bad ideas). Sometimes, they stick.

Recently, I sat down at the out-of-tune piano in our house and played a few chords. I quickly came up with verse and chorus parts, and almost immediately envisioned the complete song in my head.

I wanted to record the parts in GarageBand on my Mac, but was sidelined a few days by a sinus infection. So instead I sketched out the parts in GarageBand on my iPhone to keep the momentum going.

Regarding the musical direction of the song, it is very much influenced by Los Angeles band Lo Moon, who I have been obsessed with for the past year and a half. There’s also a bit of Keane in the choruses.

Once I got the music set and recorded, I quickly wrote some lyrics. Most of them came from improvisation, including the title, but the conflict depicted was initially influenced by an article I was reading about how many of the victims of the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif., were basically defeated by flames, geography and flawed city and emergency planning. That version of the lyrics got real dark real quick, so I adapted the subjects of the song to be a couple in turmoil who rally together to take on less-specific external forces working against them.

I’m not sure if the lyrics are completely set in stone, but they do the job for now. Once those were done, I recorded the vocals. Yeah, I wish they could be better, but I’m not going to spend days perfecting them for a demo.

That said, I’m rather pleased how this all came together. It’s definitely one of the best songs I’ve ever written. Maybe someday I’ll do something with the catalog of songs I’ve written over the past three decades. I still would like to release an EP or full album of my material at some point…if just to check off a bucket list item.

Lyrics:

I see the walls are closing in
and I reach out for your hand
I pull you closer as I try to think
of some kind of plan
We start to run, but then I look at you
and think otherwise
This battle’s not about retreating,
but our will to survive

What must I do to make things right?
What can we do to win this fight?

It’s down to you and me

The world keeps swinging
and it’s landing blows that cut to the heart
With every shot we take it feels as if
we’re pulling apart
I take your hand and beg that you
will be right there by my side
There is no other way to win
no other way to survive

What must I do to make things right?
What can we do to win this fight?

Right here and now
It’s time to take a stand
I’ll fight for you
Hand in hand, we battle together

It’s down to you and me

The walls keep closing in
it seems the world has got us ensnared
But we stand our ground as we defend
this life we have shared
With our resolve, we get ready
to launch a counterattack
To claim our life, our love, our liberty
our dignity back

What must I do to make things right?
What can we do to win this fight?

Right here and now
It’s time to take a stand
I’ll fight for you
Hand in hand, we battle together
Right here and now
We lay it on the line
I’ll fight for you
Stand or fall, we’re in it together
Forever and ever…

It’s you and me against the world
It’s you and me against the world
It’s you and me against the world
It’s you and me against the world

We’re gonna stand our ground
It’s you and me against the world
It’s time to fight, it’s time to lay it all on the line
It’s you and me against the world
We’re gonna take them on, we’re gonna take them down
It’s you and me against the world
Now that we’re united, we’ll never be divided again
It’s you and me against the world
Nothing’s gonna stop us, nothing’s gonna stop us now
It’s you and me against the world
It’s time to fight, it’s time to lay it all on the line
It’s you and me against the world
We’re gonna take them on, we’re gonna take them down
It’s you and me against the world
Nothing’s gonna stop us, nothing’s gonna stop us now
It’s you and me against the world

It’s down to you and me

© 2019 Brian J. Kelley. All rights reserved.

Family Christmas card 2018

BK Bulletin – December 2018: Happy Holidays

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

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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.

Happy Thanksgiving…plus Disney Cruise, Philadelphia Marathon recaps and photos

636784103972391357.jpgPhiladelphia Marathon recap & photos

Well, I completed this year’s Philadelphia Marathon. That’s about all I accomplished. I know I should just be happy I finished considering I was pretty much incapacitated by a herniated disc in September that’s still not fully resolved. But I still wanted to beat last year’s time of 4:51:22…and that didn’t happen. I couldn’t even get it done in under 5 hours. I wound up finishing this year’s race at 5:01:29.

So, on one hand, I’m disappointed. On the other, I guess it’s an achievement that I was able to come back from that kind of injury to complete a marathon in about two months. And now I can say I’m a three-time marathoner, so there’s that.

On the plus side, I had the chance to do a “shake-out” run with run the day before the marathon with 2018 Boston Marathon champion Des Linden and Meb Keflezighi, 2004 Olympic silver medalist and winner of the 2009 New York City and 2014 Boston marathons. That was very cool!

 


Click to read the full marathon recap.


Disney Dream Cruise Photos & Recap

Just two weeks before the Philadelphia Marathon, the family flew down to Florida, spent a night in Cocoa Beach and boarded the Disney Dream in nearby Port Canaveral for a 5-day, 4-night cruise to Nassau and Disney’s own Castaway Cay in the Bahamas. I had been nervously tracking the weather leading up to the trip, but – except for a bit of rain after we arrived in Cocoa Beach – it wound up being a pretty beautiful few days (albeit hot and sticky…personally, not a fan of that).

I managed to run a bit on Disney Dream’s track on Deck 4, and completed the Castaway Cay 5K in 27:45, which was amazing considering how hot it was (have I mentioned I don’t like hot and sticky weather, especially running in it?)

Click here or below to view a Flickr photo album documenting the trip.   
Disney Cruise 2018


George Street Revisited

A couple of shows I did PR and marketing for while at George Street Playhouse have been in the news recently.

First, American Son by Christopher Demos-Brown is currently on Broadway for a limited time starring Kerry Washington. The Broadway engagement was actually in the works before the play was staged at George Street in early 2017 so this isn’t considered a transfer (the play had premiered in Florida before the GSP production anyway). Actually, the Broadway deal made it tougher to promote the play at GSP because Demos-Brown was prohibited by his contract to do any press about the show, which was a shame because he told us this after recording a phone interview with him that we intended to use for a podcast. Instead, we could just use limited quotes for background materials. Here’s the trailer from the GSP production, starring Suzzanne Douglas and John Bolger.

Also, my favorite musical produced at GSP while I was there was Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, from the creative team of Tony Award-winning Joe DiPietro (book), and Val Vigoda (lyrics and star) and Brendan Milburn (music) from the pop-musical theatre trio GrooveLily (Striking 12, Sleeping Beauty Wakes).

A few months after its GSP run, Shackleton was staged at ArtsEmerson in Boston before an off-Broadway run at NYC’s Tony Kiser Theatre that earned the show the 2017 Best New Musical honor at the Off-Broadway Alliance Awards.

Well, for those of you who get Channel 13/THIRTEEN/WNET in the NYC metro area, you can watch a performance of Ernest Shackleton Loves Me recorded for BroadwayHD at 9 p.m. ET on Monday, November 26.

I have a digital copy already, but still going to set my DVR. I love this show so much…IT FEATURES LIVE LOOPING AS PART OF THE PRODUCTION!!! Also, stars Wade McCollum and Val Vigoda are among the nicest artists I ever had the chance to work with. Actually, Val is the only artist I ever had a personal conversation with, as I had to tell her how I saw her nine years before Shack’s 2015 GSP run in a New York Musical Theatre Festival tribute to the “Musicology of Ben Folds” and became a fan of GrooveLily through that and Robert Drake’s annual playing of GrooveLily’s Striking 12 on WXPN at noon every Christmas Eve. She was super nice. Also, she’s a complete badass…she was accepted to Princeton University at the age of 14. She withdrew after a year to complete her classical violin studies, but returned to graduate with a degree in sociology in 1987. She’s also a former Army lieutenant.

Val is currently presenting her PEAK Aliveness musical keynote, which she describes as a TED Talk with musical performance. So, yeah…Val is pretty awesome.

Anyway, here’s a BroadwayHD trailer for Ernest Shackleton Loves Me.


“Comme si” – Christine and the Queens (World Cafe Live, 11/2/18)

The Friday before leaving for the cruise, I took in Christine and the Queens’ WXPN Free At Noon show at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. What a show! It was very cool to see a show with so much energy and dancing set to intelligent, socially conscious, well-crafted pop music. Here is a taste of that show.


“For Me, It’s You” – Lo Moon

My favorite band of the past couple of years, Lo Moon, recently released the first song from the batch being readied for their sophomore album. I absolutely love the vision of this band and can’t wait to hear more from them for years to come.


“It’s Christmas Time Again”

Well, I’ll sign off on this issue of the newsletter with a Christmas song I originally wrote in 2011. I settled on this version back in 2013 and put this slideshow video together to accompany it. Kind of want to redo the whole thing…maybe next year.

If you’re into more cynical holiday music, check out my other Christmas song, “Have a Merry War on Christmas.”

A 2018 Philadelphia Marathon recap

Despite a herniated disc that had me practically unable to move for a few days in early September and left me with considerable numbness and pain in my back and upper left leg for most of that month, I never imagined missing this year’s Philadelphia Marathon. That was not an option.

I finished last year’s Philadelphia Marathon in 4:51:22, but I had already run a marathon earlier in 2017 and did not have the disruption in my training schedule I had this year. Before the herniated disc, I was targeting a time of 4:45:00 or better. Based on the training I was able to get in post-injury/recovery (I was only able to get in up to 16 miles twice), I had to shift my goal to simply finishing the race. Honestly, I wasn’t 100-percent certain I wouldn’t aggravate the injury and have to withdraw.

Internally, though, I still wanted that 4:45:00 or better. After feeling pretty strong during my last few shorter training runs (about 6 miles each), I made the tactical error of going out strong the first 10K, pulling back the next 10 miles or so and hoping to have enough in reserve to finish strong. At first, I thought I had made the right decision. My time at the halfway point was only 34 seconds slower than my time last year. But without the 18- or 20-mile training runs under my belt this cycle, I was gassed by mile 17. I wound up walking and running verrrrry slowly the final 9.2 miles, fighting nausea, cramping and tightness.

That said, I still thought if I could get to mile 26 with about 10 minutes left before that 5-hour mark, I could push myself to cover the final 1.2 miles in 10 minutes. However, I wound up missing that by a minute and a half, finishing the marathon with a time of 5:01:29.

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 9.42.02 AM

So, on one hand, it’s an accomplishment I was even able to finish after what I went through in September. On the other, regressing to a plus-5:00:00 time on a marathon is extremely disappointing.

I should have realized it was going to be a bad day that morning as I was headed into Philly from South Jersey on a PATCO train. I was in a seat with a door behind me. As the train was nearing the final stop in Center City Philadelphia, I freaked out because I couldn’t find my ski mask, which I planned on wearing during the race (so I could lift up the mask part every now and then to warm my face). I looked under the seat and it wasn’t there. I instinctively went to look behind the seat, forgetting there was a glass partition there. I slammed my head into the partition, but my sunglasses were resting on my head and one of the nose rests/hinges dug right into my forehead before breaking off, resulting in a gash on my head and uneven sunglasses. So I broke the other nose rest off to restore balance to my glasses as my head continued to bleed a bit. The dumbest part of this story? My ski mask was around my neck the whole time; I had simply lowered the hood part after getting on the train. D’oh!

IMG_9834 2

Another in a long history of head wounds caused by stupidity.

On the plus side, I took part in a “shake-out” run the day before the marathon with 2018 Boston Marathon champion Des Linden and Meb Keflezighi, 2004 Olympic silver medalist and winner of the 2009 New York City and 2014 Boston marathons. They were very accommodating, and chatted and took pictures with everybody who took part in the run…including me!

 

That was incredibly cool.

Here are a few race photos…

Track my 2018 Philadelphia Marathon progress

I’ll be running in the Philadelphia Marathon for a second year in a row Sunday morning (November 18). If you would like to track my progress, here is how you can do it.

BibTag/Chip Tracking via SMS/Text or Email:

You can receive alerts for me as I reach the 10K, Half Marathon, 30K and Finish checkpoints. You can search for “Brian Kelley” or use my bib number, 9418.

Sign up here!

Phone/GPS Tracking & Cheer Sending:

Use the RaceJoy app to track my actual position in a map view as I complete the course. Progress updates are sent every mile and you can send supportive cheers throughout the day.

Search for “Brian Kelley” or use my bib number, 9418.

Important for spectators/family/friends: Make sure to login as themselves and not as a race participant or RaceJoy will track your device instead of mine.

You can download the free RaceJoy app here.