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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Goodfellows52: Demonstrate your patriotism and wear a mask

Goodfellows52: Demonstrate your patriotism and wear a mask: “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Mark Twain AUBURN, Maine — I wear the mask for the greate...

Goodfellows52: Demonstrate your patriotism and wear a mask

Goodfellows52: Demonstrate your patriotism and wear a mask: “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Mark Twain AUBURN, Maine — I wear the mask for the greate...

Demonstrate your patriotism and wear a mask

“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

AUBURN, Maine — I wear the mask for the greater good — and to satisfy a fantasy of robbing a train with two of my favorite outlaws — Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Every time, I wear my designer cloth mask, it makes me feel empowered and positive knowing that I am a putting a dent in the spread of COVID-19.

Butch’s Wild Bunch gang never complained about donning a mask, especially when they were intimidating railroad engineers with six-shooters. Butch and Sundance understood that masks were tools of the trade to knocking over the 5 p.m. Evening Express and absconding with payroll money. 

It was part of their job description and it explains why they thrived as outlaws.

But here in America, some citizens foolishly believe it his or her constitutional right to refuse to wear face coverings. You want to demonstrate your patriotism: Wear a mask.

In the Pine Tree State, no mask means no shopping or being served at a restaurant. Businesses are just following the governor’s guidelines. The other day I nearly stiffed armed another shopper who ignored the six-foot, distance marker and tried to stand right next to me as I paid for my items.

I am not a germaphobe, but I don’t want to visit an ER, so backoff while I am in line. Let’s say you survive a serious bout of the coronavirus, but then there are the after-effects of the pathogen like lung transplants, losing a leg or taking months just to get back to normal.

All it took was a bit a research on the internet to prove that we should all wear the DAMN mask without bitching about our constitutional rights — because those rights don’t exist. It is a worldwide outbreak and it continues to kill. The federal government has done a poor job protecting its citizens. Science has the final say in this matter and we should all be listening to the sage advice of Dr. Fauci and the CDC.

According to the American Constitution Society, and I am quoting its Web site:

“In the face of that devastating pandemic, the judicial branch seemed to adopt a non-justiciable, political question-type approach to local health measures in an emergency. Typical is the Supreme Court of Arizona’s pronouncement, “Necessity is the law of time and place, and the emergency calls into life the necessity … to exercise the power to protect the public health.” In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court had called for just such deference in Jacobson v. Massachusetts. In the midst of a small-pox outbreak, local authorities could mandate vaccination on penalty of a fine for refusal: “Upon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.” 

“But In South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, the Chief Justice John Roberts affirmed the central position of Jacobson v. Massachusetts:

“Our Constitution principally entrusts “[t]he safety and the health of the people” to the politically accountable officials of the States “to guard and protect.” Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U. S. 11, 38 (1905). When those officials “undertake to act in areas fraught with medical and scientific uncertainties,” their latitude “must be especially broad.” Marshall v. United States, 414 U. S. 417, 427 (1974). Where those broad limits are not exceeded, they should not be subject to second-guessing by an “unelected federal judiciary,” which lacks the background, competence, and expertise to assess public health and is not accountable to the people.”

The judges are pretty smart guys who know it would be foolish to pass themselves off as experts in epidemiology — although that hasn’t stopped many of our leaders in D.C.

So when someone makes this claim, I cringe knowing you really don’t have al legal leg to stand on when you try to make this futile case.

We are still riding the first wave of a deadly pandemic because leaders at the federal level dangerously dismissed the coronavirus like the common cold.

The mask interrupts the spread of COVID-19 and we all should be wearing it for the other guy, who should be wearing it for you.

So please wear the mask or we will continue to pay the consequences in this life-and-death struggle with a pathogen that doesn’t give a damn about your politics.

Think of yourself as the Lone Ranger. People will shout in the grocery store, ”Who was that masked man?”

It was you doing the right thing for all of mankind.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Goodfellows52: Taking cover from a deadly pathogen

Goodfellows52: Taking cover from a deadly pathogen: My wife and I walk down the church isle in Westbrook, Maine 30 years ago. AUBURN, Maine — A deadly pathogen known as Covid-19 is kno...

Taking cover from a deadly pathogen

My wife and I walk down the church isle in Westbrook, Maine 30 years ago.
AUBURN, Maine — A deadly pathogen known as Covid-19 is knocking the hell out of humanity — and no nation is immune to this unrelenting scourge.

The United States, like many nations, is in the midst of a health crisis, which is an understatement.  Yeah, this is the big one and this worldwide pandemic has been in the making for 100 years, and now it has come to a theater near you. 

The Blasi family has been hunkering down at home, where we now both work. My wife is a teacher and I am sports journalist for several publications. It is has been a dark, cold spring, but it is difficult to look forward to the summer when people of all ages are dying around the planet.

We are lucky and safe — for the moment — and I don’t take that for granted.

There are 376 cases of Covid-19 in Maine and a handful of Pine Tree State residents have died. 

The sports world no longer exists and most of my stories have become Coronavirus-related. Read the column I wrote l about a sportswriter who longs to be back on the road covering high-school baseball, lacrosse and track. But my world has disappeared for a moment as fans across the planet mourn the loss of pro sports.

People in the U.S. are dying at an alarming rate, first responders are crying for relief and supplies, and millions of Americans are out of work as the world’s economy takes a nosedive into oblivion.

There is plenty of blame to go around after the U.S. appeared to ignore the warning sighs and got behind the eight ball. The people in charge should have understood the horrifying implications of what was transpiring in Wuhan, China. Other nations should have also mobilized instead of brushing off this deadly, infectious germ as a fluke. Back here, some leaders have called it hoax and have refused to order shelter in place.

Turn on the news in America and and your eyes will well up as nurses and doctors, who are also being infected, plead for masks and respirators as the body count continues to soar.

Everybody should understand to keep their distance and remain at home to stop this pathogen’s from jumping from host to host. This isn’t the common cold and the life you save may be your own — if you remain at home.

The three of us are going stir crazy and a trip to the gas station or grocery store is like a mini vacation. My heart goes out to all human beings around the globe.

Five days ago, Terri and I celebrated 30 years of a good, strong and health marriage.

I am still looking forward to another 30 years with my wife and son. So do the right thing and remain at home for the sake of all of humanity.

American writer and humorist Mark Twain had it right when he said: “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

It is OK to smile after reading Twain’s sage advice.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Goodfellows52: Holidays are a mixed picture

Goodfellows52: Holidays are a mixed picture: Albert John Blasi lifts his daughter Babs and me a long time ago. “What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’...

Holidays are a mixed picture

Albert John Blasi lifts his daughter Babs and me a long time ago.

“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”
                                                                        – Karl Lagerfeld

“You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.”
                                                                               – Joan Miro

AUBURN, Maine — I took a sentimental and pictorial journey through the past 30 years of my life.

The pilgrimage began after I started poring over worn-out photo albums over the past five months. I viewed hundreds of vintage pictures during an odyssey filled with tears, laughter and revelations of an era where over a dozen Italian relatives lived on one block.

This Italian enclave endured for decades before families starting spreading out across the nation. I miss the food, home-made wine and the company of my relatives, who made each Christmas Eve a night to remember in Revere, Mass.

There was no Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter, which I now look upon as a blessing since I discovered life was pretty damn good without social media. I can't shake those wonderful moments, but memories also trigger a daily dose of longing — especially during the holidays. 

Closure is nonsense for those of us with common sense.

Way back when

It was hand-to-hand combat when discussing politics in the backyard of my grandfather’s home, which was right next door to our house. Gatherings were huge, the booze sometimes ran like water, and voices grew louder as grown-ups sparred with each other over sports, weather and politics on hot summer evenings. My favorite argument occurred one evening when my dad admonished adults that the Beatles were partially responsible eroding society in America. 

My father was young and already set in his ways, but I thought the four mop-tops — Paul, Ringo, George and John —were a smash and could do no wrong in the world of Rock and Roll. The British Invasion was a hit as bands like The Who and Rolling Stones took Americans out for a walk with their innovative sounds.

An obsession begins

For five years, over a half dozen of my mom’s photo albums sat buried under stuff in a packed closet. I sifted through plastic bags filled with old pictures and then inserted them into new albums.

I neglected the photos after my father passed away, and the four of us had the unenviable, melancholic task of cleaning out our parents’ home, which, sadly, was sold in 2015.

Being a witness to Alzheimer’s diabolical and unrelenting progression knocked the life out my soul. Perusing through those old photo albums became unbearable for me after we buried four immediate family members in four years.  

But the passing of time and a year’s worth of grief counseling gave me the courage to extricate those boxes filled with my past and examine over 500 photos, including some that were nearly 70 years old —without slipping into a mind-numbing depression.

Those pictures are slowly fading away just like aunts and uncles who are no longer with us. I knew these photos needed rescuing and tender, loving care.

A notion is born

Before I sifted through this jumble of photographs, I decided to give my three sisters hundreds of never-seen-before pictures of their children that we had taken for over the past two decades. I estimate that I have 3,000 pictures locked up in 70 albums that are stored upright on large, home-made Spruce book shelves. I needed to make room for more recent photos, and I eventually tossed out 500 after they were deemed as poor quality.

So I carefully dug through each book and extracted pictures of my sisters’ children.

I finished the project in two months, but I was on a tear and I set my sights on those priceless, abandoned photos in the back of the closet, knowing time is now at a premium in our lives. Each grizzled photo album featured pictures of my grandparents at a backyard barbecue, trips to Pennsylvania, Niagara Falls, Washington D.C. and visits to New England cemeteries to find lost relatives on my mother’s side of the family.

Before I began, I needed to delicately remove each photo from the wax paper that held them there for over four decades. Peeling away each photo was an arduous task, but I discovered a method to speed up the process on the Internet. Heating an iron-made spatula with a blow dryer allows the spatula to cut through the wax without damaging the photo.

There are 513 photos that needed to be scanned and developed so someday they will take the place of the originals. Let’s hope they come out OK after some serious enhancing on my computer.

I needed to complete this project, which became an unusual obsession for me, and now this endeavor has taken me to the holidays.

After all, T’s the season to speak of loved ones in the past tense as we all fend off those winter blues in New England.

Darkness comes quick in the hinterlands, and with the early winter twilight, depression is at its mightiest as it makes the rounds, jabbing away at your fragile soul like a feisty pugilist looking for an opportunity to land a devastating right hook.

Thanksgiving and Christmas double team and overwhelm us with the past. The Ghost of Christmas Past slips back into our deepest recesses, resurrecting fond memories.

So it is easy to lament the passing of time in the cold dark of winter and wishing you could have one more conversation with your parents. But you realize that people drift away like the melting spring snow and there is not a damn thing you can do about it.

Picture this

I do a majority of my work as a sportswriter and photographer at home. One of my three bedrooms serves as an office and a pictorial history of my family fills the walls. There are at least 50 photographs of lives well lived that stare back at me.

This cavalcade of enlarged photographs is like taking H.G. Wells’ time machine out for a spin every day.

I look at them when I pause to come up with another original sentence or touch up an action shot. Sometimes, I wander off in the past for a few minutes before I return to the blank page.

It is a privilege to know where I come from, but there are people who have never been surrounded by loving and kind relatives and friends like I have. Few have lived in a neighborhood with relatives occupying one street.

That is why these old, knocked-around photos are important to all our children and the generations to come in our family tree.

The passing of time has a way of sorting out priorities in life — and it explains why those endearing photographs deserved my attention and soothed my longing for those I loved and lost over the decades.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Goodfellows52: Three astronauts who united the world 50 years ago...

Goodfellows52: Three astronauts who united the world 50 years ago...:   "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."                                            — Neil Arm...

Three astronauts who united the world 50 years ago

 "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

                                           — Neil Armstrong, astronaut and to walk on the moon

AUBURN, Maine — This date, July 20, 1969, was the day the world’s denizens looked up instead of down on each other.

Three dedicated and gutsy astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins, road a Saturn V rocket all the way to another celestial body — the moon — over a period of eight days.

It was a watershed moment for humanity, where many of us remember where we were when Apollo 11 raced through space at 24,791mph. This daring endeavor kept us staring at that hunk of glowing rock in the sky 50 years ago until all three astronauts safely splashed down on July 24.

Back in Revere, Mass., four sleepy children threw blankets and pillows on the parlor floor at 17 McClure Street and waited impatiently for the brave Armstrong to emerge from the lunar module Eagle, while Collins hovered above the moon in the command module Columbia.

My father, Al Blasi with his wife, Louise, took their usual positions on the couch as four tired children struggled to keep their eyes open in a dark parlor with only a black-and-white TV glowing like a beacon on that historic evening.

Waiting for Armstrong to put his feet on the powdery surface of the moon was agonizing for this drowsy nine-year-old. Every now and then, my father went around the room and nudged us awake, but the sandman cast his sleepy spell on us as we fought a losing battle with him.

When Amstrong stepped out and eventually put his footprints on the moon, my father shook us awake. I just stared at the screen as Amstrong cautious stepped down the ladder and made the world proud. My father understood what was happening 238,900 miles away from Earth, and he made sure his children also understood this was a moment to be witnessed by all humanity.

Meanwhile, the Vietnam war raged, racism had come to a head and three leaders – President Kennedy, his brother, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated in a decade where civil unrest was rife and its violence spreading to the streets of America.

America was in need of an event that would bring us together — at least for a few moments. 

Despite tumultuous events transpiring across the nation, NASA went ahead with the program that would thrust three human beings across the dark void of space.

Fast forward to now and the country remains widely divided thanks to its own pathetic leaders, whose vitriol has revived racism and all the hate that accompanies this malevolent affliction.

We are at another crossroads and the world seems to be spinning off its access fueled by needless hostility toward one another, and yet, new discoveries are being made despite the stupidity that surrounds us all.

I am sitting here listening to Sinatra’s smooth voice and wondering if another life-changing event is on the horizon to stop the madness.

For naysayers who believe space exploration is a waste of time, I would tell them that it is as necessary as the discovery of fire and the wheel. It is worth the price to see what is out there and serves as a reminder that we are just another small rock in a expanding universe that doesn’t give a damn about us.

So take a moment to look up at the moon to honor three men who put their lives on the line for exploration and discovery, as well as unite earth’s troubled denizens, who are in dire need of coming together again for the sake of humanity.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Thursday, June 27, 2019

For this fortunate son, the stories of my father continue

The caption reads: “Umpire Mike Caira listens politely as Revere coach Al Blasi dramatizes his clam that Arlington’s Ron Valeri was out trying to steal third base during yesterday’s game. Blasi lost the argument and Revere lost the game,2-1. 

Editor’s note: This is a poem by Diana Der-Hovanessian called “Shifting Son.” It is a poem that has never left me and now has more meaning since my father’s death.


When your father dies, say the Irish
you lose your umbrella against bad weather.
May his sun be your light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Welsh
you sink a foot deeper into the earth.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians

When your father dies, say the Canadians
you run out of excuses.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Indians
he comes back as the thunder.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Russians,
he takes your childhood with him.
May you inherit his light say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the British,
you join his club you vowed you wouldn’t.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Armenians,
your sun shifts forever
and you walk in his light.

LEWISTON, Maine — It appears the positive impact of my father’s legacy as a great baseball coach and an adept teacher will follow me like my shadow for the rest of my life.

His dedication to teaching and his community was what made him an icon in Revere, Mass. — and the endless stories about the big man with a deep voice and reassuring smile are still bandied about well beyond the borders of Massachusetts.

I have always been proud my father’s solid reputation and integrity because I loved the guy. He played baseball and other sports in the U.S. Army during the occupation of Germany in the mid 1950s. He missed the Korean war by a year, but instead of lugging around the M1 Garand rifle, he carried a bat and glove during his two years in the service.

He passed nearly five years ago and his absence still hurts like the nagging pain of a human joint ravaged by arthritis. Alzheimer’s was merciless when it claimed him, and anybody who is forced to endure “The Long Goodbye,” well, my heart goes out to you.

When you care about someone that much, there is no letting go.

The other night, I was assigned to cover a mixed martial arts event at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee. Fighters come here to mix it up — and these free-for-all battles are not for the faint of heart.

I was introduced to a man by the name of Nick Disalvo, who is a co-promoter, lawyer and a 1995 graduate of Revere High School in the Bay State

I was stunned when I learned he was one my father’s students and a player for the RHS baseball team. I shook Disalvo’s hand.

“I loved your father and respected him,” Disalvo told me.

“Yeah, I still miss him. The emptiness never leaves,” I said.

We spoke in a darkened Colisee as workers rushed to get the ring ready for the amateur fighters. We shared memories of my father for 30 minutes. Mr. Disalvo went on and on about my dad and how he taught Disalvo the game. 

Whoever thought I would be discussing my late father with one of his dedicated ballplayers in the middle of Lewiston, Maine.

I didn’t want him to stop talking about my dad. Every story Disalvo shared about my dad brought him back to life.

Disalvo’s kind words about Albert John Blasi quelled my fading grief and eased my pain. I was grateful to Disalvo for his reverence for my dad.

Everybody who played for Big Al always has a story to tell — and hearing their appreciation for my father never gets old.

He has been dead for nearly five years, and yet his influence on his students and players continues to this day.

I once read that you are never really dead until the last person who knew you dies and your influence on the living stops.

I know I have not heard the last from his players or students because Albert John Blasi, a big man with a kind heart, coached the RHS baseball team for 43 years.

And they still talk about him to this day, which makes me a fortunate son who was raised by a father who loved his family, school and community.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Goodfellows52: A warm evening springs into action with Philharmon...

Goodfellows52: A warm evening springs into action with Philharmon...: "Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety ...

A warm evening springs into action with Philharmonia Boston Orchestra

"Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything." 

                                                                                  — Plato

FARMINGTON, Maine — I blame the Philharmonia Boston Orchestra for knocking Ludwig Von Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 from the top of my list after listening to a group of gifted musicians turn in an eye-opening, awe-inspiring performance of the German composer’s Symphony No. 6 — the “Pastoral.”

His ninth symphony, particularly the fourth movement, “Ode to Joy,” was always No. 1 with me when it came to Beethoven’s numerous works.

But alas, the “Pastoral” now tops ’em all.

Maestro Jinwook Park and his merry band of talented musicians were in Farmington on a warm and perfect Saturday evening to conduct the “Pastoral” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, which left a grateful crowd cheering for more at the University of Maine at Farmington’s Nordica Auditorium at Merrill Hall.

After the first movement of the Pastoral, I was sold that Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 will relegate the ninth symphony to second place even though “Ode to Joy” will always have a place in my heart.

Park’s aerobic style of conducting motivated his musicians and roused appreciative patrons, but his infinite energy also wore me out and made me want to take a nap. His enthusiasm was contagious as the uplifting music swept over all of us.

Watching these accomplished artists perform with the precision of a surgeon’s gifted hands, while a stunning sunset was clearly visible from Merrill Hall’s large windows, made a warm spring Saturday night entrancing.

UMF professor of music Steven Pain delivered an enlightening introduction about Beethoven’s fifth and sixth symphonies and gave the crowd a new take on these unique and treasured pieces. Pain explained why German conductor composed the Symphony No. 6. The composition is about Beethoven’s encounter with nature, and he translated his observations into a powerful four-movement wonder.

My mind began to wander and I found myself thinking of my garden or hiking in the Maine woods half way through the “Pastoral.”

By the final movement, my blood pressure had dropped and my optimism grew as the orchestra raced through the fifth movement. 

After intermission, Philharmonia played the Symphony No. 5, beginning with the first movement that is all too familiar to most classical music lovers. I enjoy the final movement, which is a stirring finale to a great composition.

My son, Anthony, who will be graduating next month from UMF, told me about the concert. My wife, Terri, and I took the 45-mile trip up Route 4 to listen to adept musicians from the Greater Boston area perform.

According to the university, “The New Commons is a public humanities initiative of the University of Maine at Farmington, Maine’s public liberal arts college, in partnership with the Maine Humanities Council.

“Our goal is to build a cultural commons for our community at UMF and for the state of Maine: a collection of 24 cultural works proposed by students, faculty, and members of the community, and selected on the basis of their potential value to the community.”

My goal was to enjoy an evening with my wife and son and the Philharmonia Boston Orchestra made that happen on a perfect evening topped off by timeless music.

Out and about

Take a walk on the wild side around New England's outdoors. Come walk with my son and I as we explore state parks, historic sites, and creepy cemeteries. This is the good stuff in life, and there is nothing worth watching on television, anyway. Join us as we take advantage of Maine's beaches and pristine forests. In between our sojourns through the Pine Tree State, look for political insight and a few well-written opinion pieces as well.