Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Happy Pseudo-Friday to me! I realize that it is indeed only Wednesday (and wonder whether Wednesday is still Prince Spaghetti Day in Boston and whether Anthony has heeded his mother's call and made it home in time for dinner. I have confidence in that little kid. I never once saw him fail to make dinner on a Wednesday night) but I am playing hooky the rest of the week. Thus, what is mid-week to you is the start of the weekend to me. I thank you in advance for your sympathies. I shall try to remain strong.

Kudos to the good people of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. This past Sunday our little quartet spent the morning in Parsippany on what was a drop-dead gorgeous early November day on which to run (a touch cold perhaps but nothing worth getting one's knickers in a bunch about) participating in the PurpleStride New Jersey 2011 5K Run/Walk. In only their second year of having this event, their participation bumped up from approximately 900 to in the neighborhood of 1,300. Good people doing good works for other good people. It was a pleasure and a privilege to spend a piece of my day in their company. Pancreatic cancer is one bad mamma-jamma. The survival rates are staggeringly low. But the people from "PanCan" are undaunted. November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Do yourself the favor of spending a moment or two here to learn more about the disease and the work of this group.

Death came Monday night for Joe Frazier. It comes for all of us to be sure. Monday night it arrived - not wholly unexpected but nevertheless uninvited - at Smokin' Joe's doorstep. A few years ago HBO aired a documentary about his classic fight in Manila against Ali. The documentary was extraordinary in that it went far beyond what transpired in the ring that evening. It examined the relationship of the two men in stark and often unflattering detail. I learned things about the two of them that I did not know. I also received confirmation of something that even as a little boy (which is what I was when these two were going toe to toe in the ring) I suspected was the case: Frazier knew that Ali meant to be hurtful when he used terms such as "gorilla", "dumb" and "Uncle Tom" in speaking of Frazier. Frazier knew it. Ali knew that Frazier knew. Frazier hated him for doing it. And, according to that particular piece of filmmaking at least, Frazier never stopped hating him for it.

Apropos of nothing, I have a device on this blog that permits me to see who visits it and when they visit what it is they come past this space to read. On April 14, 2009 I wrote about my impressions of "Thrilla in Manila" after having watched it a couple of nights earlier on HBO and my impressions of both Frazier and Ali. Apparently I was not the only one upon whom Smokin' Joe's outgoing voice mail message on his cell phone left an impression. Probably not less than one time a month someone pops by here off of a Google search, "joe frazier's voice mail". In the immmediate aftermath of his death being announced Monday night, my little corner of the information superhighway lit up with visitors from a number of different places. All of them ended up in my 'hood courtesy of that very same Google search.

The night I watched the documentary and listened to the voice mail message on Frazier's phone (it is played right at the end of the movie and you the viewer are alerted to its existence not by Smokin' Joe but by his brother Tommy who seemed to me to be more than a bit distressed by it too) it struck me as one of the saddest things I had ever heard. Now, knowing that Frazier has reached the end of his life it seems even worse somehow.

From afar Frazier seemed to be a man who was not able to live in peace. Now that his time has indeed come, I hope he is able to rest peacefully. Peace seemed to be long overdue.


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