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A Remembrance – Mark Merenda

March 14, 2017

“He was going to live forever, or die in the attempt.” – Joseph Heller, Catch-22

In many ways “Catch-22” was the cornerstone of my relationship with Mark Merenda. When we met in 1972 he embarked on a literary exercise to make me memorize sections of the novel’s dialogue, so we could recite them back and forth to each other. He was much better at it than I was, but eventually I became Orr to his Yossarian.

He was much more literate than I, and had the kind of memory  I could never hope to achieve. He was also brilliant, well read, opinionated, stubborn and a cad of the highest order – all of which made him my idol.

Mark Merenda circa 1972

Mark Merenda circa 1972

We met at our first jobs, at a small newspaper in Massachusetts where he was the sports editor and I covered one mid-size town. We became instant friends since we were among the only staffers who were not members of the  clan that ran the business. Like Heller’s Yossarian, it was us against them, and we were determined to keep our sanity by taking advantage of everything we could.

I lacked his self confidence, and  was never sure what he saw in me, but I accepted my role because he was everything I wanted to be. It worked out well for both of us, I got an education and he got a wing man. I could never really describe our relationship until many years later when the movie “Sideways” came out. We were a buddy movie before I knew what buddy movies were.

We had no business covering Boston’s professional sports teams, but as long as the Red Sox , Patriots, Bruins or Celtics would give us press passes and we did our jobs at the paper, we played the part of big-time sports media types. Mark was the writer, and I was the photographer, and we were both pretty good at our roles. He got to meet his idols and I got to get trampled by Dave Cowens, John Hannah, and almost beaned by Willie Randolf.  That’s the chance you take when you sit under the Celtics basket, along the sidelines of the New England Patriots, or in foul territory at Fenway Park.

Even Mark knew that his stories had more readers if there was great art alongside.

He was warm, dry and safe while I was often soaked and had a bad back from carrying camera equipment all over whatever field we had chosen to cover.

But I would not have traded the experience for anything, because it was really the post-event education that was the best part. After the game, we’d head over to  Cambridge where Mark and I set up shop in the bar, at either the Hyatt Regency or later the Charles Hotel. Both were target-rich environments for a young stud and his wing man. I was not very good at meeting women, but Mark was a pro and more often than not an hour or so after we arrived, he would glance in my direction and throw me the car keys so I could drive myself home in his MG.

I never asked how he got back home but I just marveled at  the show. The fact that he lived with a very nice young woman who had to put up with his behavior just made him seem more dangerous. I’m sure she knew, but was willing to put up with his behavior for the same reason I did. Every discussion with Mark was an education and just being in his presence made you feel better.

Mark could pretty much talk me into anything.. He would take me shopping in Boston, to Louis, the most expensive store in the city, and convince me that I ‘needed’ a $700 cashmere overcoat. It was a great coat, and I loved it, but I was almost afraid to wear it.

His brother, Guy, was trying to start a leather business so I ‘needed’ to buy a new briefcase. It’s still here in my office next to my desk.

No matter, it was just part of my role. The flip side was, what I have since learned, is what drew Mark to me: I could tell him what an ass-hole he was being. He knew, that I knew, that sometimes he was simply full of crap, and I would be brutally honest without messing up our friendship.

We grew to respect each other, covering news, and sports together learning skills that they don’t teach in journalism school.

We even started a magazine. It was mostly about sports and we were sure it was going to be our ticket to stardom, or at least untold riches. At least until our bosses at the newspaper decided it was a little too much like competition. Forty years later I still have a few copies and I know Mark did too, even though we only produced two editions.

The beginning of the end was like a scene from “Good Will Hunting,” when Robin Williams’s character misses what was, until 2004, the most famous event in Boston baseball history, because he “had to see about a girl.”

When my future wife,  had the audacity to claim Zelda Fitzgerald really deserved major credit for F. Scott’s work he refused to even debate the topic accusing her of “getting her facts from People Magazine.” To this day, she relishes the fact that history and research have proven her correct.

We got married three years later, after I had moved to Maine to manage a newsroom. I always thought Mark never forgave her for taking up the time he wanted. He never came to the wedding and I never expected that he would. I have no idea what he thought when he found out we divorced 5 years later.

I lost touch with him and his career and it wasn’t until 30 years later when I decided to become personal coach that we reconnected. Somehow I found out he was now in marketing, so I called to ask for help. He refused to accept any payment for developing my web pages and freely offered marketing advice.

We had both matured, and the youthful arrogance was tempered by life, and now he had hundreds of friends, clients and employee who depended on his wisdom  I never made it to Florida, as I had promised,  and we missed connecting on his trip to San Francisco where I now live.

We chatted off and on, and he even allowed me to do some freelance writing, when I restarted my writing career. I would send him sporadic texts when I visited my parents near Boston. Always making sure I stopped by our old haunts, so I could bore my new wife with stories from the good old days and text Mark a photo or two.

He would text back quotes from ‘Catch-22.’


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Can We All Agree – 8/15/15 Edition

August 15, 2015

Filed under: Can we all agree — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — admin @ 9:13 am

Can we all agree that the longer Hillary’s email issues remain front page news, the less confidence Democrats have that she will be our next President?

Can we all agree that  Joe Biden and now Al Gore certainly feel that way?

Can we all agree that every time Jeb Bush makes a policy speech his approval ratings seem to drop?

Animas River - AP photo

Animas River – AP photo

Can we all agree that the longer Donald Trump remains the front runner the better the Democrats feel? It will be a lot of fun watching him report for jury duty.

Can we all agree that while we may not understand the reasons behind  China’s  moves, the phrase ‘currency war’ can’t be good?

Can we all agree that when the EPA pollutes a river with toxic waste it sort of hurts their image as a protector of the environment? The good news is, they have called attention to a serious problem.

Can we all agree that no-one in Ferguson, MO, seems to have learned anything over the last year?

Can we all agree that the folks at Coca-Cola are not fooling consumers when they try to convince us that a ‘healthy diet’ includes their drink?

Can we all agree that Frank Gifford was the only adult in the booth, during his years on Monday Night Football?

The entrance to the Robin Williams Tunnel

The entrance to the Robin Williams Tunnel

Can we all agree that a year after his death, it’s still hard to believe that Robin Williams is gone? At least we now have a tunnel named after him in California.

Can we all agree that the average internet user could care less that Google is now part of a holding company called Alphabet?

Can we all agree that another round of negotiations over Greek debt is just more of yesterday’s news?

Can we all agree that whether you agree with him or not, we are all saddened by news of Jimmy Carter’s cancer diagnosis? Likewise with Boston Red Sox Manager John Farrell.

Can we all agree that while grown-ups may be concerned about Bert and Ernie’s move to HBO, most of the kids will barely notice?

Can we all agree that, despite what Marco Rubio thinks, opening the US embassy in Havana is the right move?

Can we all agree that seeing crude oil at $42/barrel was something no-one expected to see – ever?

The Sesame Street cast

The Sesame Street cast

Can we all agree that there is a certain symmetry when NBC officially fires Donald Trump and Jimmy Fallon signs a six year contract extension in the same week?

Can we all agree that while we are alarmed at news that ISIS may be using mustard gas, nothing really surprises us about their tactics?

Can we all agree the NFL had a pretty bad week? A 49er gets kicked off the team for his third DUI violation: A reserve linebacker punches a starting quarterback: the daughter of a Hall of Fame inductee is not allowed to speak at her father’s posthumous induction and the league CEO is raked over the coals by  New York judge. Oh, and three teams are trying to blackmail their host cities by threatening to move to LA?

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Can We All Agree? 2/28 edition

February 28, 2015

Filed under: Can we all agree,Journalism,Politics,Tech,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 7:41 am

Can we all agree that walking on the street in Moscow, must be pretty dangerous – especially if you’re a foe of President Putin?

Can we all agree that regulating the Internet as a public utility is the right move for the FCC despite what Comcast thinks?

Can we all agree that the Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval of Loretta Lynch is a step in the right direction? Delayed, but at least a step.

Can we all agree that the President’s veto of the Keystone pipeline was less about the project and more about Congress’s attempt to usurp his powers.

Can we all agree that Karl Rove and the GOP seem to be the only ones still pushing an Elizabeth Warren presidential campaign?

Can we all agree that the potential shutdown of the House Speaker Boehner Holds Weekly BriefingDepartment of Homeland Security has, once again, exposed the GOP’s inability to govern?

Can we all agree that Speaker John Boehner had a better relationship with Harry Reid than he seems to have with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell?

Can we all agree that the industry sponsored ballot initiative opposing the state’s ban on plastic bags runs  counter to public opinion in most of California?

Can we all agree that The Boston Red Sox effectively paying million to sign an untested 19-year-old Cuban baseball player represents a new level in sports gambling?

Can we all agree that no one is surprised that a court in Argentina decided there was not enough evidence to indict their sitting president?

Can we all agree that this week’s decision not to file charges against George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin may be the right move legally, but is tough to swallow coming almost exactly 2 years from the date of the murder?

Can we all agree that Chris Christie may be running the most inept Presidential campaign since Rudi Giuliani?

Can we all agree that it will be interesting to watch Jeb Bush navigate the ultra-conservative CPAC gathering this weekend?

Can we all agree that the Oscars are still the longest and dullest show on TV but we watch anyway, just hoping someone will do something stupid?

Can we all agree that threatening journalists because they question your lies, may not be the best tactic, even if you are Bill O’Reilly and have all of Fox TV to back you?

Can we all agree that Kamala Harris is starting to look like a shoo-in as our next Senator?

Can we all agree that Keith Olbermann’s comments blasting the entire Penn State student body were inappropriate? Although some folks on campus say he was not entirely wrong.

Can we all agree that we’re happy the number of IRS audits has fallen to its lowest level in a decade and is heading lower?

"Star Trek" Los Angeles PremiereCan we all agree that the situation in the Ukraine is bad and getting absurd? Now the Russians are upset that the government has not paid for the gas that they are supplying to the rebels.

Can we all agree that we would have loved to be fly-on-the-wall when Rahm Emanuel learned he would have to face a run-off election against an unknown?

Can we all agree that, for many of us, Leonard Nimoy’s passing had more cultural significance than last weekend’s Oscar awards?

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Can We All Agree V 3.0

December 11, 2014

Can we all agree that despite what the officials say, today’s storm ended the drought in most people’s minds.

Can we all agree that if you need a legal opinion to define ‘torture’ you are already in trouble. As the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said about pornography, the definition may be unclear but, “I know it when I see it.”

Can we all agree that every once in a while the Noble Peace prize committee gets it right – like this year.

Can we all agree that the message of the Berkeley protestors has gotten a bit lost in the methods.

Can we all agree that the NCAA selection committee did a pretty good job. TCU and Baylor disagree but, the playoff games should be pretty good. My pick, Alabama-Oregon final with The Tide on top.

Can we all agree that the economy is headed in the right direction.

Can we all agree that John Boehner has told the Tea Party folks (and Ted Cruz) to sit down and behave like good little children and pass the $1.01 trillion spending package.

Can we all agree that there are probably so many unrelated provisions in the budget bill, (campaign finance is just one example) it will takes months to know what Congress is really approving.

Can we all agree that the Rolling Stone Magazine has done more to harm coverage of sexual assault than any jury ever could.

Can we all agree that continuing violence in protest of the Ferguson/NY grand jury decisions, is not helping race relations.

Can we all agree that when athletes participate in the debate on racial inequality, we all benefit.

Can we all agree that the Senate report on the CIA’s torture methods is an embarrassment to every American.

Can we all agree that GOP protests against release on the Senate torture report is just a smokescreen to protect George Bush.

Can we all agree that watching the price of oil fall is a great winter sport. The fact that Vladimir Putin is really squirming is just an added benefit.

Can we all agree that we knew Steve Kerr might be a pretty good coach but the Warriors are still a surprise.

Can we all agree that McDonald’s recent earning statement is good news for the overall health of the nation.

Can we all agree that when the federal agency sponsoring flu shots admits they might not do any good, the only winners are the pharmaceutical companies.

Can we all agree that the NFL’s treatment of cheerleaders is odious and disgusting and should be part of the sexual assault debate.

Can we all agree that President Bush may not have known what torture the CIA was up to, but Dick Cheney, the administration’s Darth Vader …come on.

Can we all agree that my RedSox may be better off with Porcello, Masterson and Miley instead of John Lester.

Can we all agree that The Santa Clara Niners…oh never mind.

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Boston You’re My Home

April 16, 2013

Filed under: observations,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 1:07 am

I’ve lived in the Bay Area for 18 years, but Boston will always be my home town. I was in San Francisco during 9/11 and while I had visited New York often, I had only been to the World Trade Center once. I grieved for the loss of life but it was still an event that happened to strangers.

But I’ve walked down Boylston Street in the rain, the snow, and on a crisp Spring day like yesterday. I’ve watched the beginning of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton and the end, just yards away from yesterday’s explosion.

I know who Bill Rodgers is, why John Kelley-the elder – is a Boston legend, and who first suspected Rosie Ruiz was a fraud. I’ve waited in the lobby of the Lenox Hotel -before it was remodeled and became respectable.

Rosie Ruiz, almost a winner

I know that the area is called Back Bay, because it used to be a bay until our colonial forefathers decided they needed more land for their cows to graze. And yes, until recently, I loved that dirty water, because Boston was my home.

I’ve been to the Patriots Day game at Fenway Park and walked down to the see the finish of the race, and then walked back to Fenway for the second half of what used to be a day-night doubleheader.

I can tell you the name of every store, bar, restaurant, gallery or hair salon that you pass walking from Boston Public Garden to Mass Ave. I can remember my mother teaching me the names of the cross streets to help me learn the alphabet-Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Gloucester and Hereford.

I know where Dorchester is and the neighborhood where 8-year-old Martin Richard lived and I’ve been to Revere where police searched an apartment for clues.

I’m happy when the A’s , Giants, or 49ers , or Warriors do well, but I FOLLOW the Bruins, Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox. I’m sorry, but it’s part of me.

I guess that’s why yesterday’s events have a much greater impact. The Marathon will no longer be the great fun-loving, 26-mile event that it once was. Security will be tighter, everyone will be on edge. Parents won’t let their kids take the T into town to watch the end of the race and  Sox fans will think twice about walking to Copley Square to see friends cross the finish line.

I know the city will recover. New York has recovered – mostly. But, when I visit Boston later this year and walk down Boylston Street once more it won’t be the same, and that’s what really pisses me off.

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