Monday, November 7, 2016

We Called Him "Big Dog"



I want to take a minute to honor the memory of a man who is well known here in the Rutland community, especially the hockey community. Over the weekend my good friend Phil Varney passed away. Phil was instrumental....and really the catalyst behind the creation of the Rutland Regional Field House which is now Spartan Arena. I remember Phil floating the idea of the Fieldhouse years ago when his kids were playing local hockey for the Rutland Amateur Hockey Assn (RAHA) at the Mandigo Arena here in Rutland. Through his vision and hard work a new place to play hockey became a reality.....something that he was very proud of. Phil was also there at the inception of the Castleton University hockey "Blue Line Club" serving on the board of directors from the very beginning and held the position of the club president for three years.That's just some of what Phil has done for this community over the years, but what was more important to me was the Phil Varney I knew on a personal level. Phil was one of the very first people that I met when I first brought my family to Rutland almost 24 years ago, and we became instant friends. He loved the Red Sox, the Patriots....and The Moody Blues. But most of all he loved his family and I was honored that he considered my family part of his. It is always hard to say goodbye to those who are especially close to you...but sometimes certain lives, like Phil's, make it almost impossible. So instead. I say sleep well my friend, until we meet again.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Thinking Back



I’ve been in this business that we call radio for almost all of my adult life. I have been one of the lucky ones. I have been able to make a living & raise a family doing what I love in a business that doesn’t allow that luxury to most. I say that from my perch here in an “unrated” Vermont radio market that some working in larger markets may scoff at but it is a place that I fell in love with many years ago and has become my home just as surely as the place that I was born and raised as a child was once the place I loved most. I never think much anymore about what got me to this place or the larger “rated” markets that I worked in years ago but this weekend I was reminded of one of the best “gigs” I ever had in this business. The reminder came however in the sad news that one of the best men I ever had the pleasure to work for passed away last week. His name is Joe Rizza. Joe was my boss for nearly all of the seven years I spent at WMAS-FM in Springfield, Massachusetts. Joe and I didn’t always see eye to eye on things but he was always fair and pleasant no matter what the issue. I certainly wasn’t always as accommodating in return. The last conversation we had ended badly; and I never spoke with him again. That was more than 20 years ago. It wasn’t because I was angry at him and I know it wasn’t in his make up to remain angry over an unpleasant exchange of words that took place two decades ago; of that I am sure. But life does have a way of putting you in the position of looking back and finding a regret here or there no matter how successful or happy you are. And for me, one of those regrets was never having the chance to finish that conversation. To tell him that he had a hand in allowing me the luxury to work at what I love so many years later. All I can do is hope that he knew that already.


Me, Bob O'Brien, Jack Kratoville, Joe Rizza & Chuck Herlihy- WMAS-FM, Springfield, Ma
       

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Time's Failure



I was born only a week after the calendar had turned from December to a new year in January. My first birthday gift was being born as the 7th of 11 children right on the heels of a brother who joined a chaotic but loving family just 15 months earlier. Some of my earliest childhood memories revolve around the seemingly endless hours I would spend side by side with my older brother. It seemed we shared everything; from the clothes on our backs to the bed where we slept.  As we grew older together we watched our family grow larger. My younger brother followed just a year and a half later. Then it was two more sisters (4 in all) and finally the last born….a brother that none of us ever knew, losing him just days after he came into this world.
Far more than half a century has now passed since that first January and in all that time so have so many family members. Grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins….all lost to the ages. None ever forgotten or loved any less. But today marks the day that the brother who was born just 15 months earlier than me would have celebrated his 63rd birthday. For as long as I can remember Matt was fun, serious, cerebral & goofy all at the same time. And then, far too soon, he was gone; less than six months before his 22nd birthday. I was only 20 at the time and like my parents, brothers & sisters, that sudden loss in a traffic accident cut through me like a blade so sharp that the wound would never heal. But…time heals all wounds. Years go by and the pain will gradually disappear. The wound will one day stop causing the pain of sudden loss. 

So we were told.

But as time has ticked away and attempted to close that wound all it has been able to do is dull the pain.
Time has failed. The wounds that it has always been entrusted to healing never fully close. The pain from the loss of those you love never fully subsides. The comfort to soothe that enduring pain comes from those loved ones who remain; through the stories…through the shared sorrow...through the memories. Time has done its best….but the healing only comes from those you love.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Ob–La-Di, Ob-La-Da



To many Americans, some too young, some too old, the anniversary taking place this weekend may be lost amid more important things going on in their daily lives, but to me and millions of other Americans the event taking place this weekend is ingrained in our very psyche just as surely as those often discussed tragic “moments in time” that all of us young & old remember like it was yesterday. For it feels exactly like yesterday that on a night in February half a century ago school aged American kids everywhere sat in front of their television sets (almost all in black & white) to witness what years later would become “The Night That Changed America”. For my family, well most of us anyway, it was a major event. With the exception of my oldest brother who at 20 was committed to the still popular music that eight or so years earlier gave us Elvis, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers and other early Rock & Roll greats like Chuck Berry and Little Richard, my other eight siblings and I were all as swept up in the hysteria of that night as much as any one of the 700 people in the studio audience to watch The Ed Sullivan Show live or the record breaking 73 million television viewers across the country. My mom & dad were even less impressed than my 20 year old brother but as long as we had our homework done & were ready for bed they allowed us an extra hour of TV time that Sunday night. It was a night none of us would ever forget….especially me. That night truly was magical for me in a way even all these years later I cannot completely explain. Yes, like so many other kids my age I bought every record and collected any Beatles related item I could get my hands on and now have quite an extensive collection of Beatles memorabilia, but it was something more. Something deeper; Something that not every youngster that night would come away with. Oh, we all were equally as excited and mesmerized by these four guys from England that looked and sounded unlike anything we had experienced before, but for me it became part of what I was all about from that day on. My musical tastes, my look and even the very fact that I began a career that I have had the good fortune to be part of for 40 years can all be traced back to that one night. Even on my wedding day the songs we chose were written by Lennon & McCartney. And now although it is hard to fathom, fifty years have gone by since that night in February. Many musical artists have come and gone, those school kids are all much older….and much grayer, but the music of those “four lads from Liverpool” continues to influence a whole new generation.
And now the same network that aired that original history making broadcast at 8pm on Sunday night February 9, 1964 will air a special program marking its 50th anniversary on February 9, 2014.
So Sunday night just before eight o’clock, get ready for bed….make sure your homework is done, and tune into CBS television. ….and through a combination of modern day artists and memories of a half century ago we’ll all be brought back to that age of innocence; To that night in New York City when Ed Sullivan walked out and said:
“Now yesterday and today, our theater’s been jammed with newspapermen and hundreds of photographers from all over the nation, and these veterans agreed with me that this city never has witnessed the excitement stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool who call themselves the Beatles.
“Now tonight, you’re gonna twice be entertained by them. Right now, and again in the second half of our show. Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles!”
So enjoy the trip back because as the last 50 years have proven to so many of us it will only be a blip in time and soon we will all be back to the reality of our daily lives. Because after all, “Ob–La-Di, Ob-La-Da……life goes on”


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Unextinguishable Light



It’s been a year. How could that be at all possible? How could days quickly turn into months and then remind you of all the time that has passed? Wasn’t it just yesterday that a visit with my dad ended with a wonderful evening with the two of us sharing a few quiet minutes together? I think my dad knew then that it would be our last visit; although the conversation never alluded to that.  I certainly didn’t allow myself to think anything other than that we would talk again at Thanksgiving….. & Christmas too. But that yesterday was our last together. Just two days later he would be gone. And now 365 other yesterdays have come & gone since that night. Even so, I sometimes still catch myself reaching for the phone to just say hello. Then I remember…..his phone no longer rings. The lamp by his chair no longer gives off light.  But through that silence and that darkness a light does shine. A light that can’t be dimmed by a thousand yesterdays. The light that I will always carry in my heart…illuminated by the memories I will never forget ..