Category Archives: Bruce Springsteen

It’s the Little Things: A Good Mail Month

keepoursingingvoicesgoldenIt seems, nowadays, that almost every piece of information or news that we get comes electronically. The mailbox outside your front door has been mostly relegated to bills, flyers and takeout menus. That reality, however, makes it all the more surprising and uplifting when you do get something in the mail that has some worth or value on a personal level.

This past month, the mailbox has been good to me, and I’d like to share a few stories, and thank some people who went out of their way.

I was excited to hear that a long-time friend and former Syracuse roommate, Andrew Fillipponi, is finally tying the knot. I’m more excited, as a fisherman, that he’s tying that knot in New Orleans… one of the fishiest places I’ve ever set foot in. Congratulations Pinto Bean, we’ve got a few crazy stories to rehash at the next meeting of the… well, Syracuse fans, we’ll say.

If you’ve read this blog or followed my Social Media presence, you know by now that I’m a huge fan of a musician named Brian Fallon. He writes some beautiful songs, and I’d recommend checking them out if you’re in the market for new music (who isn’t?) Fellow fans of the band have formed a group online called Andy Diamond’s Church Street Choir (taken from song lyrics) and actually sent postcards, and very cool ones I might add, to fans around the world. I got mine this past month and it was a touching reminder of how music can connect people who are otherwise worlds apart.

When friend and former Emerson classmate James Spica saw the oyster-inspired Christmas ornaments we were selling at Tomo’s Tackle here in Salem, he naturally wanted one, so I stuck an ornament in the mail for him. This past week, he returned the favor by sending an Orvis gift card, which is all the excuse I need to head to the nearest Orvis and dream of the spring fishing that’s to come.

What do you get when you combine music and fishing (besides the world’s best possible combination)? A fellow Fallon fan, Christina LaMarca, liked one of the fish prints that we’re selling out of Tomo’s Tackle, so I sent a small mahi print to the midwest for her mom. She returned the favor recently by sending a movie she’s insisting that I watch, The Princess Bride.

I’m a fairly quiet guy who lives in a small upstairs apartment in an out-of-the-way part of a North Shore town in Massachusetts. Three people, all from different walks of life, none of whom know one another, went out of their way to send something thoughtful or personal in the past month, and each mailbox inspection has been an uplifting reminder that it’s a beautiful world, full of incredible people.

If you need some inspiration in the mailbox, and want to help a great cause… donate $25 to the Melanoma Research Foundation and I’ll send you a one-of-a-kind Catch a Cure T-shirt, thanks to Rick Roth at Mirror Image printing, who donated the shirts to the project. We only have a few left, and this will sound like a sales pitch, but it’s true so… if you want one, act fast.

Thank you to all of you you took the time, it honestly did bring some cheer amidst the snow-pocalypse we’re currently experiencing north of Boston.

Hemingway on Springsteen’s Birthday

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-9-08-49-pmAs part of a class assignment today, I visited the JFK Library in Boston, which if you’ve never been, is an incredible place to go. The view of the city, alone, from outside the museum is worth the trip.

Inside the museum, through December, they have a section dedicated in memory of Ernest Hemingway, an author whose impact on my life, and the lives of many, cannot be overstated.

As you wander through the exhibit you’ll see handwritten letters and notes from Hemingway, a man whose memory and legend have far surpassed anything one might attain in a mere, mortal existence.

I was lucky, earlier this month, to see a Springsteen concert in Gillette Stadium, and with four-plus hours of music, it was incredible. (I’ve gone to 13 Springsteen shows in the past with friends, girlfriends, and even one solo, but this time I took my Mom, who I blame wholeheartedly for turning me into a Bruce nut in the first place).

But between visiting the memories of Hemingway and seeing Springsteen on stage, I was reminded of something important, and perhaps even necessary for any of us pursuing a career in any artistic field.

If we are able, no matter the sum, to earn some amount of money doing this — this thing, or these things, that we love, that’s fantastic.

But if money were the motivation, we’d never have reason to write at all. Exactly no one, in the history of humanity, has ever said: “You know what I’ll do? I’ll get rich writing!”

But perhaps there’s another kind of wealth to be sought. If we can impact, inspire, or move someone with words or images… if we can affect a life in a positive way with something we create… maybe that’s a reward that has a greater value, or higher purpose.

As I wandered through the JFK museum today looking at handwritten letters from Hemingway, I began to wonder…

And in Gillette Stadium sharing more than 30 songs with my mom, a Springsteen fan from the get-go, I began to wonder…

What is this… “worth?” What is the value of what these men have created, shared and left behind for us?

I will never be so bold or confident to think that I, or any writer, might articulate that value in question.

The music, the words, the books and the albums and the concerts and the novels that we share, that we savor, that become part of our fabric as a human being, are of greater value than any material thing we might exchange here.

Both Hemingway and Springsteen, early in their careers, were faced with critics, doubt and rejection. I can only really, for a moment, begin to imagine their “worth,” as human beings when I consider what my life might be like without their influence.

And if we each take a moment to consider what our lives might be like without our favorite author, without our favorite band… we can almost grasp how important these things are to each of us, and to all of us as a whole.

And how important it is, then, for each of us to continue to strive in our own way to make what contribution we can.

If You Can’t Laugh at Yourself…

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A bison in Yellowstone

I think one clear and definite sign that we’ve started down the wrong path is when we lose the ability to laugh at ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m serious about my attempt to start a magazine you’ll love, and you can help me here, and I think it’s incumbent upon us all to address the evils (like melanoma) that enter our lives, but if we can’t laugh, then I think we’ve lost something essential. When you’re sleeping in your Jeep in parking lots, attempting to raise money to find  a cure for skin cancer, or soliciting help to that end… it’s easy to get lost in your head and become a little more serious than anyone should be. Moments like these, I assume, were God reminding me to slow down, take a breath, and laugh out loud.

Seattle Wader Thief: My first attempt at a far-reaching, country-wide fishing expedition came thanks to Outdoor Life, who got behind my project Fish America. I was in Seattle, fishing with a great angler and artist named Chris Senyohl, and we were putting on waders before casting a few flies into Puget Sound. Chris and a friend had brought a black lab along for the trip, and it stole a wader boot I hadn’t yet put on. If you can picture me half-running and half-hopping, chasing a dog with my boot in his mouth, you might laugh as hard as everyone else was until the dog finally got tired and dropped the boot.

Embarrassed by Clarence: On that same trip I had the amazing, unforgettable opportunity to fish with E-Street Band saxophone player Clarence Clemons in the Florida Keys. Now, this would be an intimidating prospect for anyone… but at the time I was already a Bruce zealot. I’d been to more than ten shows, dragged friends, family and borderline-complete-strangers to shows, and… for better or worse, gotten Springsteen’s now-legendary Fender Esquire guitar tattooed inside of my right arm. Chris Miller, the guide with whom we were fishing, had seen the tattoo. When we finally made it out from Islamorada with Clarence and his brother, a storm came up and forced us inside. Rain beat down on the boat as we sat around waiting for it to pass. Clemons told stories that involved people like Keith Richards, who you constantly had to remind yourself was… yes… “the” Keith Richards, and I for the most part kept my mouth shut. Then, someone remembered the tattoo… Chants of “Show him!” started up as I looked for places in the boat to hide. Finally, I rolled up my long sleeve and Clarence started cracking up, recognizing the image immediately. When he caught his breath, he finally said: “You did that to yourself… you DID THAT TO YOURSELF!”

Have you Seen My Phone?: On that same journey, at the end of the night, if weather allowed, I’d typically climb onto the top of my Jeep Wrangler, in whatever parking lot I was living in, and try to take in a moment to appreciate my good fortune, look at the stars, and call home to assure my family that, yes, I was still alive. I’d then say a prayer that I wasn’t discovered by any law enforcement figures in the middle of the night, crawl into the back of the Jeep, and try to get a few hours sleep. One morning, when I woke up, I couldn’t find my phone anywhere. Frantic, I emptied the Jeep before I drove back to the marina where I’d fished the day before and scoured the parking lot. I asked inside if anyone had found an Android phone. Keep in mind this was my one connection… back home… to guides who I’d hoped would help later on in the journey. It had all my saved numbers and a number of photos from the road. I emptied the entire inside of the Jeep and was frantic and distraught at the prospect of having lost it. I opened my laptop, sent an e-mail back home that I’d lost the phone, drove to the marina where I was set to fish the next day, and tried to sleep that night. When I awoke the next morning I climbed on top of the Jeep to grab a rod from the Thule rack where I’d been keeping them… and there it was. The phone had somehow, despite two trips down different roads, stayed on the top of the Jeep.

Bison Encounter: If you drive through Yellowstone Park in Montana in December, you’ll notice two things. First, you’ll likely be the only human being driving down the one remaining open road, and secondly, bison are a lot, lot larger-looking up close than they appear on television. When you pay to enter the park you’re given a tag to hang on your mirror to show that you’d paid the fee. Driving through the park, I stopped and wondered if it’d be alright to get a little closer to the aforementioned bison for a photo. It was about 0 degrees and there wasn’t another human being in sight. I pulled to the side of the road, grabbed my SLR, and cautiously took a few steps in the direction of a monstrous bison, that stared at me without an ounce of fear or trepidation. I took a few shots and got back in the Jeep and continued through the park. You know where it tells you, EXPLICITLY, not to exit your vehicle in the presence of bison? Yep, on the back of that tag hanging from my windshield.

I’ve been lucky to take two trips since that first adventure, and now they have the purpose, thanks to all of our sponsors, of raising money to find a cure for melanoma. I suppose since those four examples came from the first trip… I might speculate that I’m getting a little…

…No, I won’t jinx it.

 

A Life Story: Told in Tattoos

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The guys at Miami Ink in Florida donated the cost of this tattoo to the Melanoma Research Foundation.

If you ask 10 different people about tattoos, you’ll likely get ten different answers, ranging from the inked aristocrat who believes that they’re art to the conservative person who believes that they’re a regrettable and passing fad. I’ll not weigh in on where I stand (although it might be obvious) but I’ll share the story of mine, save one, and I’d love to hear yours.

Catch a Cure: I’ll start with my most recent, a fishing hook through the melanoma ribbon on my left hand. Rick Roth is a guy who designed the T-shirts we’ve been selling to raise funds for the Melanoma Research Foundation, and the design he put over the back shoulder was so cool, I decided to have it tattooed on me permanently. I didn’t know when I made that decision that the guys at Miami Ink. would donate half the cost for the tattoo to the MRF, but it was a great addition to the story.

Zane Grey: When I first read the Zane Grey quote, “The lure of the sea is the same strange magic that makes men love what they fear,” I knew it articulated a sentiment about the sea that I’d had for almost my entire life, and better than I ever might.

The Hold Steady: The Hold Steady is a band that I love, and one of their songs contains the lyric: “Heaven is whenever, we can get together.” When I lost my Dad I thought a lot more about what heaven might be like, and came to the conclusion that if… all it was was seeing those who’d gone before us, that’d be as good as it might be.

Bruce: I’ve been a Springsteen fanatic for more than a decade now, and having his Telecaster with the sneakers hanging from the headstock (an image pulled from the back of an album) was a logical decision when it came to choosing the next tattoo.

Pearl Jam (1): I once drove for 14 hours from New Jersey to Wisconsin to see Pearl Jam play their 20th anniversary concert. Suffice it to say, I love Pearl Jam. Perhaps my favorite song is “Given to Fly” and so I had those lyrics, with a feather pen containing the ‘Given to’ and writing ‘Fly’ on my hand, tattooed on me when it became evident I’d be a Pearl Jam fan for life.

Pearl Jam (2): One thing that we learn as we get older, is that try though we might, we can’t control every aspect of our lives. That lesson came hard to me, but it finally did. Pearl Jam’s song ‘Release,’ is about Eddie Vedder losing his father, so the lyrics “I’ll ride this wave where it takes me” around the famous stickman from the Alive single seemed like a logical conclusion for my inner right arm.

Ireland: ‘Bach’ might not sound Irish, but my ancestors are almost all from the Emerald Isle. My mother came from a long line of Gillorens (after Killorglin County, Ireland) and my father’s mother’s side were McCabes. My first tattoo was the Irish words for ‘Hope,’ ‘Love,’ ‘Faith,’ and ‘Strength’ on my right shoulder, around a cross with a shamrock at the center. Muinin, Gra, Dochas and Neart… in case you were wondering.

Striped Bass: When I was an intern at Field & Stream, now-Fishing Editor Joe Cermele helped design my second tattoo, a striped bass over a nautical star. Suffice it to say I’ve loved stripers for the two decades that I’ve been chasing (and sometimes catching) them.

The Red Sox: I got the Boston ‘B’ when I moved to Boston. ‘Nough said, right?

Writing: One of my favorite bands is a group from New Jersey called the Gaslight Anthem. In a song called “Handwritten,” they sing: “From heart to limb to pen, every word handwritten.” I’ve loved to write for as long as I can remember, so having lyrics from a band that I love articulate a sentiment about writing seemed only logical.

Redfish: When I was a kid, we used to vacation in Florida and the house we’d rent was on a saltwater canal. Throwing a shrimp-tipped jig from dawn to dusk might get a hit from any number of species from ladyfish to jacks, but the one that kept me casting was redfish. I’ve been lucky to catch them in every state where they swim, but when I caught a 30-plus-pound red with Emerson classmate and friend James Spica, I knew it was time for a redfish tattoo. I have the redfish tail, with a bit of blue at the tip (a coloration they get from an oyster diet), and the signature black false eye.

Foo Fighters: Again, Dave Grohl has produced some of my favorite music in the past twenty years, but it took me about that long to understand the lyrics “Times like these you learn to live again.” During a period of my life when I was…. learning to live again, I had those lyrics, around the now famous double F, tattooed on my forearm.

One More: My father was a man of few words, but one thing he said to me that I’ll remember forever, whether it was regarding push-ups, hours of work, or attempts at something you cared about… was: “Do as many as you can, and then one more.” When he was diagnosed with melanoma in 2010, I had those words tattooed on my arm. He kept fighting, one more day, week and month, long after doctors predicted the disease would beat him. And I’ll keep fighting, in his memory, to raise one more dollar to beat the disease that took his life, once and for all.

It’s easy to look and someone and pass judgement based on appearance, and we’re all guilty of this at times, but if that’s going to be the case, I’d at least like to share the story and the inspiration underlying the ink. So there it is.

Any fishing, cancer-battling, or musically inspired tattoos out there? I’d love to hear about ’em.

“Bruuuuce!”: Inspired by the Boss

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Fishing with Clarence Clemons in 2010.

I recently purchased two tickets to see Bruce Springsteen at Gillette Stadium in September. They’re the kind of seats that… well, let’s just say we’ll be in the same zip code as Mr. Sprinsgteen, and I’ll leave it at that.

I’ve been friends with some great Springsteen fans along the way. My roommate from Syracuse University and one of my best friends from childhood, Andrew Fillipponi, turned me onto Springsteen originally. Gerry Bethge is the fishing editor at Outdoor Life who afforded me an opportunity many would kill for, fishing the entire country, and he’s the kind of Springsteen fan that I’m sure knows things about Bruce’s music that Bruce doesn’t even know.

My half-brother, Raymond Bach, was with me at Clarence Clemons’ last show in Buffalo, New York, and has fanned the flames of my Springsteen dedication over the years with thoughts of his own on everything Springsteen (like most educated music fans, he prefers the early stuff). He knows music, too… he’s a lyricist in his own right.

I’ve tried to turn a Springsteen concert into a date, an anniversary present for a significant other, a birthday present… you name it, I’ve used every excuse in the book to see Bruce.

I’ve even had the chance to fish with Bruce’s late saxophone player, Clarence Clemons. We were off the Keys, fishing for snapper and grouper when a thunderstorm snuck up, waves rocked the boat, Clarence tipped and I held him up. That’s one of those surreal moments that has you muttering “If I never do anything else for the rest of my life…”

Of the 13 Springsteeen shows I’ve been blessed to attend, I’ve gone with six different people, but this time I’m taking the person who has shared my Bruce fanaticism more than anyone since the beginning.

In one of Springsteen’s lesser known songs, The Wish, he sings about someone who we don’t often hear about in Rock n’ Roll songs.

There’s plenty of songs about future girlfriends, former girlfriends, a few about fathers, some about bosses, and a handful about crazy friends.

But if we’re honest, there’s one person to whom we owe everything that we’ve got in this world, and if you’ve got two tickets to Bruce, she’s the one you should ask first.

Despite sleeping in a Jeep for 200 nights, getting tattooed from neck to knuckle, fishing with a rock star, and getting paid to do what most people only dream about, I still owe everything I’ve got to two people, and only one is still with us: My Mom.

So we’ll be in attendance come September, to see Bruce one more time.

 

 

Road Tunes: The Soundtrack Behind Catch a Cure

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Fishing with Clarence Clemons in 2010 was a dream come true.

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

This quote is one that, depending on which stage of life you’re in, might make sense to a greater or lesser degree. If you’re a young person inundated with the various forms of streaming music, free music, YouTube music and every other kind of music, music might just be a constant part of life you are able to take for granted.

If you’re a little bit older, and remember getting a cassette for your birthday, that you could put in the tape deck of your first car, maybe music for you, like me, is the soundtrack to escape, freedom and discovery that paves the potentially rocky path from adolescence into adulthood.

I said recently in a blog that part of the reason behind Catch a Cure was my love for the open road, but that’s only part of the story. Were that ride down the East Coast and out to the Pacific, or that first Catch a Cure, or this most recent one, a quiet one… it might not have been undertaken.

On the road, with the right radio station on, the little nagging thoughts in your head, the worries, concerns, the self-doubt, fear or anxiety…those bumps seem a little smoother as you roll over them, the shocks in your soul respond a little more lovingly, forgivingly.

We all have our own music, and the fact that it is ours, that we discovered it, however we did, is part of what makes it so endearing to us. But the true beauty of music is that, no matter how personal it is to us, we get to share it with a community of people we might not know otherwise. If you are the only fan of a given musician or band, well… I think you’re mistaken if you believe that you are.

With that in mind, in hopes of connecting with more of you music-lovers out there, here are the top three bands that kept the bumps in the road on both journeys less jolting, because the musical shock absorbers were there to help me take them in stride.

Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band: This guy, and his musical catalogue, almost defies any attempt I’d take at describing what he means to his fans. I fell in love with Bruce at the age of 18, and 13 concerts, one tattoo, and one trip fishing with saxophone player Clarence Clemons later… suffice it to say it’s only gotten worse. I am one of those Bruce nerds who could debate the different lyrical versions of Thunder Road with you well into the wee hours of the morning, and if you’re of a similar mind, I hope we fish together some day. But for those of you who aren’t, I’ll quit rambling romantic about the Boss. Suffice it to say he is, and always will be, number one in my book, my first radio pre-set, and a concert I’ll always try to make it to if it’s at all possible.

Pearl Jam: I believe in a lot of ways these guys inherited the Rock throne from Bruce, or at least co-occupy it at the moment. They’ve stood up in defense of important social issues, they’ve written passionately about the political climate in America, and year after year, they’ve produced important, incredible and highly enjoyable music. Like Bruce, Thank God, they have their own Sirius radio station. I once drove 14 hours to Alpine Valley, Wisconsin, and slept in a parking lot for two nights, to attend Pearl Jam 20, the celebration of the band’s 20th anniversary.

The Gaslight Anthem/The Horrible Crowes: I’m grouping these bands together, because they’re headed by the same frontman, Brian Fallon of Red Bank, New Jersey. If Bruce is the old guard in my musical collection, and Eddie Vedder’s the now-accomplished Rock Star, I think Brian Fallon of the Gaslight Anthem is the budding “future of rock and roll.” (Bruce nuts will get that reference…) When I lived in Red Bank, I’d run into these guys once in a while and they could not have been nicer. I’ve seen them in concert a handful of times now, and Fallon is equal parts rebel and poet, and I’m hoping his bands, his solo projects and his musical efforts are the beginning of a career as long as Bruce’s.