NOTHING STAYS THE SAME

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I just put my wife and youngest daughter on a train to Virginia. I hate goodbye. Especially at the end of summer.

Now I’m in a coffee shop with my oldest daughter, sipping a protein shake, listening to The Head and the Heart. Cause no one likes to be so lonely. No one likes to feel alone.

As the train left the station, I tried to keep it together. It’s a perfectly sunny morning in Connecticut, but my eyes could use wiper blades.

“You okay, Jo Jo?” my daughter asks. (My daughters call me that – long story.)

I’m fine, I tell her. September, after all, is my favorite month. The beaches are empty, but the water is still warm. Football returns. The Red Sox are usually in a pennant race. And the clocks haven’t changed back yet.

But September is also my most reflective month. This year, I started reflecting over the Labor Day weekend when I got word that Walter Becker had died. The co-founder of Steely Dan wrote the smoothest songs of my youth. Songs like “Deacon Blues", which opens with lyrics that mean much more to me now than when I first heard the song as an eleven-year-old boy in 1977.

This is the day of the expanding man
That shape is my shade
There where I used to stand
It seems like only yesterday

walter becker

Beck was a loner from Queens, a funny cynic with a sad family history. His partner Donald Fagan said this about him: “Like a lot of kids from fractured families, he had the knack of creative mimicry, reading people’s hidden psychology and transforming what he saw into bubbly, incisive art.”

The day after Beck died, my wife and I hosted a big Labor Day party at our home. After everyone arrived, I had my son take a picture of the group. In the silent moments while were photographed, I felt so lucky to be surrounded by treasured friends.

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I got the idea to take this photo from the Steely Dan song “Reelin’ in the Years.”

Your everlasting summer
You can see it fading fast
So you grab a piece of something
That you think is gonna last

After looking at the photograph, I realized that everyone in it with the exception o one or two people had grown up within a few miles of each other along the shore in southeastern Connecticut. We were all kids at the same time. Now our kids are barely kids. We can see it fading fast.

But I am always trying to make it last. The night after the party I went with my son to Fenway. The game ended up going 19 innings. It lasted six hours, getting over just before 1:30 a.m. As far as I was concerned, it wasn’t long enough. Way back in the eighth inning when we all stood to sing “Sweet Caroline,” my son pointed out that we’ve been doing that for as long as he can remember. Good times never felt so good.

Two nights later, I took my 15-year-old daughter to Gillette Stadium for the Patriots season opener. We were primarily there to watch and cheer for linebacker Kyle Van Noy. I met Kyle when he was a sophomore at BYU. He agreed to let me shadow him through his junior year. I then told his story in The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big Time College Football, a book I wrote with my partner Armen Keteyian.

JeffVanNoy

That is a picture of me interviewing Kyle on the Provo campus. His story is one of the best I’ve ever told. But seeing him start against the Chiefs reminded me how much has changed. He’s now a man in every sense of the word – happily married and the starting linebacker for the defending Super Bowl champions. Pressure! Meantime, Armen and I are now finishing up the Tiger Woods biography. Pressure!

I had another thought as my daughter watched the game – we are witnessing the end of an era. Tom Brady is undoubtedly the greatest quarterback – perhaps the greatest player – to ever play in the NFL. He just turned 40 and there were signs in the stadium that said: “40 is the new 20.” Cute, but not real.

Even if Brady plays five more years as he hopes, there is no way around the fact that he is in his twilight years and we are witnessing the final scenes of storybook career the likes of which will never be repeated. Last year David Ortiz retired. The year before that it was Derek Jeter. In the very near future it will be Venus Williams and Roger Federer. These are the athletes that have thrilled and pleasantly distracted us for a generation. It’s hard to imagine it ever being that good again.

But all of that pales in significance when considering the changes brought about by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Life for so many people in Texas, Florida and the islands will never be the same. Mother Nature can be a harsh reminder that the people and places we hold dearest are fragile.

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