In appreciation of Stan The Man and Joni Mitchell
My ongoing education rarely fails to reiterate that the universe (and whatever other deities we choose to follow) ensure that we’re always where we need to be in our daily lives, even if we don’t always understand the reasons.
Further evidence came into my airspace Sunday, celebrating the life of former colleague Stan DeCoster — and then having the day’s events connected masterfully by the great Joni Mitchell’s epic rendition of “Both Sides Now” at the Grammys.
Stan, an intrepid reporter whose puckish sense of humor could disarm even the grumpiest of interview subjects, was here when I began in late 1991. He personified why we’ve had a history at The Day of punching beyond our weight.
The tributes to his life (Stan passed away in December) came in a banquet room filled with many of his contemporaries at The Day, friends and former colleagues of mine, who still don’t know how much they taught me. A look around the room: Morgan McGinley, Lisa McGinley, Bill Stanley, Ann Baldelli, Judy Benson, Kathleen Edgecomb, Moe Clark, Bethe Dufresne, Jack Sauer, Skip Weisenburger, Harold Hanka, Carol McCarthy, Tony Cronin, Milton Moore, Bob Laux-Bachand and others unintentionally omitted. Oh, the stories.
Dufresne and I recounted the day we got scolded at Foxwoods by its former head of entertainment, whose malaprops and mispronunciations made it hard to keep a straight face. Bethe wrote a column about one of Frank Sinatra’s later-in-life Foxwoods concerts, suggesting that, well, ol’ Blue Eyes might have lost his fastball. I wrote something about how house boxer Vinny Pazienza couldn’t lose a bout at Foxwoods even if he left the ring in a coma.
Skip and I had a few laughs about our assignment one night following the Double-A Yankees (about to move from Albany to Norwich the next season) on a road trip from Albany to Portland, Maine. We spent the first night in Portland at a gin mill called Cadillac Jacks with a few hundred others mesmerized by the O.J. chase.
It was an afternoon of sadness and inspiration Sunday, nothing more and nothing less, until later that night when Joni Mitchell began singing. Many others sang “Both Sides Now,” but none with more panache over the years than Mitchell, who is 80, iconic and still awesomely awesome.
The lyrics, melancholy and haunting, explain life’s travails better than all the rest. As one reviewer wrote:
“The three verses reflect the protagonist-vocalist looking at clouds, love and finally life from both sides: ‘up and down’ (clouds), ‘give and take’ (love) and finally ‘win and lose’ (life). She closes each section by admitting she really doesn’t know clouds, love or life at all.
“When ‘Both Sides Now’ was written, Mitchell had plenty of time left to understand clouds, love and life. But aging changes how those lyrics echo to become less about lessons one will learn in time and more reflective of the losses in life as they realize their formative years are in the rearview mirror.”
Full disclosure: The older I get, the more I resent young people whose self-absorption prevents them from appreciating and understanding the contributions, effort and talents of those who came before them. That’s why as Mitchell sang Sunday night, I caught a few tears. More than a few.
How inspiring, indeed, to see the number of younger (and quite accomplished) artists in the audience singing and swaying along in complete appreciation of an artistic icon still belting them out all these years later.
And then it hit me.
Hadn’t I been unwittingly tasked to do the same earlier in the day? I was still a (comparatively) young guy in that room Sunday, quite appreciative of those who came before me. And I realized it is my responsibility to maintain what the Stan DeCosters wrought here in their time, even if, in Mitchell’s words, I really don’t know life at all. Do any of us?
Show up, do the best you can, respect and appreciate all the Joni Mitchells in our lives … and then hope we can be a Joni Mitchell for the younger folks.
Turns out that, yes, Sunday, the universe made sure I was right where I was supposed to be. Leave it to Stan The Man’s celebration of life to deepen the many bonds so many of us feel for The Day. RIP to Stan. And thanks to all the others who made Sunday a keeper. Joni’s right: Something’s lost, but something’s gained in living every day.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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