“Rocky Mountain High”: John Denver & Traveling to Denver, CO for 13.1 Miles of Running

“Rocky Mountain High”: John Denver & Traveling to Denver, CO for 13.1 Miles of Running

“But the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye
Rocky mountain high”

– John Denver “Rocky Mountain High”

The other day was gorgeous outside, with the sun shining and 65°F. I mean, it could have been 50°F, and, as a New Englander, I would have thrown on shorts and celebrated! The temperature was incredible, and the snow finally melted. I went for a run, and along the way, as I allowed myself to fall deep into thought, I reflected on my favorite half marathons. I have spoken of them before on this blog, but my memory kept bringing me back to Denver, CO. The Rock n’ Roll Denver Half Marathon is one of the best races I have ever run, and I mentioned it in an August 2020 post. Denver is a fantastic city, and this was an awesome trip.

As I mentioned in one of last month’s posts, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn!”, my brother Jeff promised that if we ran the Rock n’ Roll Brooklyn race in 2016, he would support me in selecting a race destination, further away, in 2017. Knowing exactly where I wanted to go and supported by a series of welcomed cosmic occurrences, the stars seemed to align. I went to Jeff with my request to run in Denver. Join me as I explore the city, the race once again, but honestly, for the first time, first observing the emotional connection that sparked my need to visit the city and see the mountains I had read about, or more importantly, heard about in songs.

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“The Raid: Redemption” Epic Movie Rewatch w/ Jeff

“The Raid: Redemption” Epic Movie Rewatch w/ Jeff

“Okay, listen up. Our target is Tama Riyadi. I’m sure most of you know who I’m talking about. This man has become something of a legend in the underworld… I don’t care how big he is or who is behind him, he must be stopped. That enterprising f**k’s been renting out rooms like it’s an apartment, to any low-life piece of sh*t looking to keep his head down. Our mission is simple: we go in, and we take him out!”

– Joe Taslim (Jaka) in The Raid: Redemption (2011)

Today I am posting about a recent movie rewind with my brother Jeff. A rewatch of one of, if not the best, action films I have ever watched; The Raid: Redemption. It’s funny; in 2014, my brother called me and told me he had a movie for me to watch. It was a foreign language film from Indonesia, and he explained the premise of the film thoroughly and succinctly. It sounded good, but I decided to hold off on watching it. In the summer of 2017, I finally sat down and watched it. Oh my, I was both amazed, transfixed, and shocked by the viewing experience. The movie was fantastic. I quickly called my brother, provided my deepest apologies for not watching it sooner, and owned the fact that my older brother was, in the end, correct about suggesting this film.

A few years after my first viewing, and leaning into the weekly movie chats my brother and I have engaged in since the pandemic’s start, I asked Jeff to do The Raid rewatch. He, of course, said yes. As I am sure you are well aware, I do not do standard film reviews. I do, however, like to reflect on specific films or genres of film or some aspects of the cinematic experience. I often discuss those films with a story, an event that initiates a need or wish, to explore those films again. I welcome any opportunity to relive or recall a specific film’s viewing experience. I did that with Trollhunter in October and Anna and the Apocalypse in December. Today, I do that with The Raid: Redemption. As film critic Chase Whale said, “My only complaint about The Raid is that it ended.”

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Adventures in Philadelphia: Breweries, Baseball & Badassery in the City of Brotherly Love

Adventures in Philadelphia: Breweries, Baseball & Badassery in the City of Brotherly Love

“I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. But when my sister brought Doug home, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack… it grew by one. So there… there were two of us in the wolf pack… And six months ago, when Doug introduced me to you guys, I thought, “Wait a second, could it be?” And now I know for sure, I just added two more guys to my wolf pack.”

– Zach Galifianakis (Alan) from The Hangover (2009)

In the long history of my life, which isn’t that long at all, I have never had a ton of friends. Sure, I have close friends from my past who I am still in contact with from time to time. I communicate with colleagues and classmates who I met along the way and positively impacted me. But friends I hang out with and talk to frequently are a much smaller group, at least in terms of number. Over the last decade, I built a small group who I consider great friends. So, it should be of no surprise that when returning from my month-long stay in Shanghai, China, in July of 2018, I was invited by a couple of those close friends for a weekend trip to Philadelphia; I responded yes. This group of friends goes on a trip once a year, usually to visit a Major League Baseball stadium, test out the local breweries, and eat fantastic food. I was thrilled to be invited. I had not been on one of their weekend excursions, but I enjoyed playing softball and exploring breweries with these four guys, so I was eager and excited to join them. Filled with history, a couple of breweries, and a visit to Citizens Bank Park, this trip became an unforgettable memory.

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“Hold your breath, make a wish, count to three”: Recalling Sentimental 1980s Toys

“Hold your breath, make a wish, count to three”: Recalling Sentimental 1980s Toys

Woody: All right, that’s enough! Look, we’re all very impressed with Andy’s new toy. / Buzz: Toy?/ Woody: T-O-Y, Toy! / Buzz: Excuse me, I think the word you’re searching for is ‘Space Ranger’. / Woody: The word I’m searching for – I can’t say, because there’s preschool toys present.

– Tom Hanks (Woody) & Tim Allen (Buzz) from Toy Story (1995)

The other day, I watched a YouTube channel, and the two hosts visited the Funko shop on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA. Now, that might not sound like anything special, but it is for two reasons. One, I love those small Funko POP! figurines, and I wish I had more than the two I currently own. Two, the hosts made custom Funko POP! figures as part of the “POP! Yourself!” experience at the Hollywood location. That seemed incredible. Not only does Funko have an actual store, but people can make a toy/figure that looks like them. As a child of the 80s, I would have loved these custom creations, both then and, yes, now. At least I know one place I will be going when it’s safe to travel! Get ready, LA; I am coming.

The most cherished item in those early years of growing up was my toys. Sure, that might be odd to think of as an adult nearing forty, but as I have defined myself as a reflective person, someone who regularly ponders nostalgic thoughts, this adds up. For the last couple of months, I have found, one could say, somewhat of a groove with my weekly posts. One week I post about travel, one week movies/POP! Culture, one week half marathons, and another week nostalgia/memories. While it does not always turn out this way, nor are weeks confined to such a rigid structure, January and February proved the rule. To close out this cold and snowy New England month, I thought, why not dive into one of my oldest and purest enjoyments; toys. I no longer seek them out, except of course, for the occasional adult LEGO build of a Haunted Mansion or the Statue of Liberty, or the Nathan Drake Uncharted and John F. Kennedy Presidential Funko POP!. Still, I have the fondest memories of those days, nights, and Saturday afternoons when toys were the center of an imaginary world, of my invention.

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“No Sleep Till Brooklyn!”: Two Brothers, a Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon & Craft Beer

“No Sleep Till Brooklyn!”: Two Brothers, a Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon & Craft Beer

“In Brooklyn on a Saturday night, Saturday night, yeah, Talkin’ bout Brooklyn on a Saturday night”

– “Brooklyn on a Saturday Night” by Neil Diamond

I have spent two fabulous Saturday nights in Brooklyn. That might not be enough, true, but I spent both with family, fun was had by all, and I loved the city, its eateries, and its beer. My first experience in Brooklyn was with my brother Jeff. Together we ate, drank, and crushed the Brooklyn Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon. It was a memorable weekend, and it was a running trip that we have modeled all our other trips after. The incredible times we had in other locations, and in subsequent years, was inspired by our “brother trip” to Brooklyn. As I have focused on and provided attention to a half marathon each month, this month, it’s time to lace up the sneakers, get some craft beer, eat delicious food and enjoy Brooklyn. Two brothers, 13.1 miles of scenic running, and the weekend that established a tradition.

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It’s a Soundtrack Way of Life with Nostalgic Movie Songs on My Mind

It’s a Soundtrack Way of Life with Nostalgic Movie Songs on My Mind

“To me, movies and music go hand in hand. When I’m writing a script, one of the first things I do is find the music I’m going to play for the opening sequence.”

– Quentin Tarantino

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my affinity for original music scores. How the music shapes and molds the images you see is unbelievable. Still, the film score is solely one component of what makes up my favorite parts of the cinematic experience. Therefore, I thought why not venture back to the world of movie music, but this time focus on my most nostalgic movie songs. Many of my posts play around in the sandbox of nostalgia. I am a historian; after all, it’s where I feel most comfortable. But, what do I mean by movie music? Well, I am referring to those songs that immediately produce an incredible nostalgic feeling when I hear them on the radio, television, or film. When I hear the song, I grow still, the world around me becomes silent, and all I picture is where I remember it.

As a professor, one of my favorite traditions is to play “Back to School” at the start of the semester. Like those athletes you see getting off the team bus, headphones on, and walking into the stadium, I play this as I drive to class on day one. It’s smooth vocals and slow beat, quickly picking up tempo and ferocity in a fabulous 80s fashion. The song always has the power to pump me up, like a wrestler making their way to the ring with entrance music playing. Written by Richard Wolf and Mark Leonard and Jude Cole’s vocals, this anthem of the 1986 comedy film Back to School is heart-pumping fantastic. Sure, the movie, starring Rodney Dangerfield, is over the top, aged poorly at multiple points, but is in line with other 80s era films. The song always makes me laugh as I think back to watching it with my brother Jeff. I reflect on the film’s fun absurdity, and all the times I reenacted Sam Kinison’s cinematic moment when he yells “say it” and goes ballistic in the classroom. That is the power of a nostalgic film song.

As you can imagine the task of selecting nostalgic movie songs may sound like an impossible task. I have watched thousands of films, and most movies have several connected songs. No matter, it seemed a fun, worthwhile, and musically inclined venture. To find my most nostalgic songs, I focused on my most nostalgic movies, which I discussed in an earlier blog post, Cinematic Nostalgia: Traveling 88 mph to the 1980s. By focusing on those movies first, I could find those songs that inherently illustrate my love of cinema on a cellular level. But starting with those films does not mean it is where I will remain as I discover songs that strike the most nostalgic key. With that said, let’s dive back into cinematic music, but rather than listening to the original score, let’s put the cassette in the stereo, press play, skip over the instrumental and find the melody that brings all the memories flooding back.

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