It is said in Malden today, tomorrow, and yesterday…
I am fit as a fiddle (thank you to all who reached out to me) and ready to get back to bringing you all the Malden news that is vital to your existence – more hard-hitting questions lobbed at local polls, more essential news on where I drink coffee on Sunday mornings and more updates on the best cemetery director in the state, Jimmy “Stinger” Cahill. Thank you again.
Congratulations go out to Johnny “Meats” Mehos on surviving 35 years, five months and 12 days working as a beast of burden for the USPS. A few weeks back Johnny was preceded in retirement by Peter Myles, who also survived year after year the most grueling working conditions known to civilized man. Peter and John getting out with their sanity and good looks still intact. These letter carriers are real heroes worthy of our admiration and praise. John, I wish for you many years of “retirement” happiness. You certainly deserve it. “Meats” is one of the good guys (not only because he is from Edgeworth, insert smiley face). Maldonians, please remember these hard-working individuals around the holiday season. I’m talking lots of green stuffed in an envelope with some kind words for these modern-day warriors.
Vinnie Straccia! Again, I get shocked by the randomness and vagaries of this life we lead. I was not ready to lose you as a friend, Vinnie. Not yet anyway. You had too much life in you. And specialness (is that even a word?). I wasn’t done picking that massive musical brain of yours for more of the classics I may have missed growing up. Or hearing you perform more music. You were a true original, Vinnie. Loved beyond words, my friend. Thank you for turning me on to the “Unifics,” for the many hours of watching you perform, for those times a smile would break out all over my face when I saw “Vinnie Straccia” appear on my cell phone; “Of course, we want you guys to perform at Saint Rocco!” Rest peacefully, my friend.
Get well soon to the “gregarious one” Kevin Alkins. By the time this appears in print, The Big Dog will probably be up and around doing what he does best. Wise guys out there may snidely remark, “What exactly does he do best?!” To the haters out there, Kevin, I say, we know. All of Malden knows my friend. And we love and respect you for that! Get better, my friend, with the huge personality not only because you promised me some nice Malden Police swag, but because I miss you barking out for all to hear, “Don’t stand around, buy a round!”
Speaking of North Shore Acappella, I just love running into the pride of Medford (via the North End) Steve Gambale whenever I pop into DD’s on Lake Street in Peabody. Steve’s a great guy whom I befriended at the old Y while both were members of the Health Club during its glory days. Steve also appeared in Street Magic as well as just about every a capella group on the North Shore. The complete package, Steve’s charm, voice and Hollywood good looks has made him a fan favorite for years. I am happy to call him a friend.
Breaking news…while on my recent “COVID-19 Vacation” (as a colleague so cheekily called it), I discovered the 1975 police TV series “Bronk.” It is Jack Palance at his best (or worst depending on how you look at it). Archie Bunker’s Carroll O’Connor created the short-lived police show starring Palance as a detective lieutenant who recently lost his wife, drives the most glorious vintage cars you’ve ever seen and mostly sleepwalks through 49 minutes of dated, but never boring mid ’70s police work. I just love it. Thank you, thank you very much.
Time for Part 4 (and the last) of my top 200 basketball players in the history of my life while living and playing basketball in the best hoop city in the Commonwealth, Malden! This is by no means a definitive list. I’ve got great memory recall, but Father Time has diminished my ability to think on my feet as quickly as I did in the past. These are ballplayers that I have played with, and against, in my lifetime. If I have played with or against you and have excluded you or made a glaring error, please let me know, and we’ll rectify that after I have carefully examined all the facts. All have lived in Malden at one point in their lives or were born here. The list is in no particular order. Joe wasn’t the best I ever played with/against at number one (close though), and number 200 (Joe Frauton) was not the worst. Again, if I did not play against or with you in those glorious hoop days of yesteryear, that is why you ain’t mentioned here (or you just weren’t that good – insert smiley face). Again, please take into account that this is a list of players from my era. Players from the ’64 MHS State Champ team would not be included – never played with or against them. Also never played with Angel, Willie or Buddy Arthur.
For your reading pleasure, the last of the fabulous 200: Earl McAllister, Sean Leonard, Sandy Mathews, Steve Carlin, Mike & Joe Cook, Frank Wright, “Mac” Singleton, Senator Ed Markey, Paul Norton, John Crockwell, Jimmy Molinari, Dean Trioli, Kevin Nolan, Larry Kinnon, Jeff Hurley, Chipper Moore, Jamie McKenna, Larry Gilbert, Frankie Hanley, Dennis & Billy Murray, Glenn Patterson, Joe Strum, Benny Talbot, Mark Foley, Robbie Buckley, Johnny Salmon, Teddy Grifkin, Jimmy & Danny Guerin, Larry Goldstein, Joe Pagliccia, Gary & Mike Cherone, Franny & Joe Repucci, Bernard & Milton Stroud, Marty Grasso, Alan Small, Dennis Fitzpatrick, Albert Ford, Jackie Torosian, Jay Griffin, Jackie Guerin, Tommy Ruddock, Jimmy Lloyd, Steve Carpenter, Mario Borseti, Cathy MacMullin & Joey Frauton.
“This is the end, beautiful friend, this is the end, my only friend, the end” – “An empty bottle, a broken heart, and you’re still on my mind;” directly from my heart to the fingertips on these gnarly old hands the Richie Cremone lovefest continues. I really miss Richie Cremone. I miss him walking through the door at the Italian-American Citizens Club with mischief in his eyes, his partner in crime, Pete Robinson, in lockstep behind him. I miss him holding court, spread out, cane by his side, at a round table in front of the bar, barking out his opinion for all to hear – most times just to get a rise out of us – on occasion, when he was in a good mood, explaining to admirers the fine art of the kitchen with his 60-plus years of culinary expertise. I especially miss the times he would walk in and quietly whisper in my ear, “Your soup is in the back seat of my car.” I miss that a great deal. I miss that big slug! Loved that his obituary noted that he was a “proud Edgeworthian.” He probably lived longer in Wakefield than he did in Malden but, darn it, Edgeworth is a very special place; a place that once it gets in your blood, you never cease being from that tiny piece of real estate we called our neighborhood. (On a side note, my father was a West End guy to the core although he left there in 1960 after only 29 years. He lived in Malden some 60 years but never considered himself a Maldonian. West End forever, as they say).
I did not write his amazing obit but somebody asked me if I did. Particularly this line, which I could not have written any better (and wish I did): “Initially, he worked as a milkman with his father at Sunnyhurst Dairy, but soon found his calling at Tricca’s, Anthony’s, and Brandano’s restaurants, where he built a reputation as a hardworking and talented chef whose food brought people together and buttons apart.”
I was one of the many, many people that enjoyed Richie’s cooking over the years (and yes, for you wise guys, there are a few of my buttons missing along the way). I wholeheartedly agree that Richie used his remarkable ability to connect with people through his culinary skills. His spectacular soups along with other outstanding dishes, like stuffed artichokes and his Abruzzi sauce, did indeed secure the ties that bind to a generation of Maldonians and beyond. Once again, I completely agree, his concoction, skiffyskaf, happily filled the ever-expanding bellies of countless contented people over the years. (What do you say, Dom?)
Postscript 1: My sincerest condolences to his wife Toni Marie and two daughters Lindsay and Julie Ann. The line “they will never fully recover from the loss of their devoted and doting father” really struck a chord with me. Richie was a very proud father. He spoke of his family often. He loved his daughters and simply adored his grandchildren. That is for sure.
Postscript 2: “Happy trails to you (Richie), until we meet again, happy trails to you, keep smiling until then…” To me, my friend, it was always the way you rode the trail that impressed me. Life carries on, dude (not quite the same though), and our love for you will continue. Keeping you in my thoughts and my heart every Ballantine Ale along the happy trail, big guy. Love ya, Richie!