PLAYING THE GAME: The starbright thrill of truth

All kinds of truth: feel good, justice is done, where else would you be?, oh yeah, kickass, mistake corrected, real deal, heartbreaker, ’bout time, puzzle solved, joy to the world!, never could’ve guessed, one of a kind, what a hoot, rip-roaring, rollicking, wow … try some on:

— Connor Cronin, waterboy for the Marblehead High football team in 2016. Five years later, his 83-yard lightning bolt catch-and-run that takes your breath away and seals Marblehead’s win over North Attleboro in the 2021 Super Bowl.  

— Four-year-old Kate, blonde pigtails flying, bouncing up the woods path at Ripley Point in Maine to greet me in the misty back-when: “You happy to me, Daddy!”

— A partial response to a very, very wrong perception of me: “The Truth will win.”

— The quite attractive and personable 60ish administrator who briefed me on discharge from Salem Hospital a few months ago turned and looked at me as she was leaving the room. “I wish you were younger,” she said, with a smile that might’ve been a wink. Despite my thousand years, I took not ageism offense, but gave her a wink back — even though she was out of sight. I threw in a mental pat on the back while I was at it.

— Jim Velleco, who passed away in April, was a brilliant architect with an elegant sense of style and wit, a man of quiet demeanor and Old World graciousness, a well-read appreciator of the arts and music, a man of exceptional warmth, generosity and impish humor who is survived by his lovely and charming wife of many years, Linda, his excellent son, Tony, and Tony’s wife, Melanie. I never saw an obituary of Jim, who went out of his way for me and spent hours producing a computerized visualization of a Marblehead Naval Memorial I had, so as just a small expression of appreciation, I wanted to utter a few truths for others to know about this selfless, starbright man.

— Another good way to spell “heart” is “H-A-R-T” (as in Pete and Mimi).

— May 1958. My senior year at UConn, at my “Gatsby” cottage. Sitting holding hands with Peg at the end of the dock at 6 a.m., Andover Lake shrouded in mist — “our music,” Beethoven’s Sixth, The Pastoral, sounding forth from the hi-fi in the cottage behind us. Almost as if on cue, as the strings in the symphony sought ever higher heights, a golden cast of sunlight overtook the mist and gradually the mist rose — to a postcard of the cottages across the lake.

Nobody held hands like Peggy did. Or ever will.

— The visit and sail of the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” to Marblehead in 1997 was an event of two days duration that was “one for the ages.” Along with pageantry (and in a way, outshining it), there was an incredible welling up and outpouring of unabashed patriotism and the very best of the human spirit.

For two whole days, time stood still, and we were allowed to swim in the purity of an idealized better time. Weather from heaven, patriotic electricity, unrehearsed courtesies. Everything slowed… to a hush. The impossible grandeur of the majestic vessel that ought long ago have been but a ghost of memory. So many who would scarce darken the inside of a house of worship save for weddings and funerals would recall it as a “religious experience.”

Celebration. Tears of joy and pride, newfound neighbors at every turn. Tower bells, cannon thunder, bands, bunting, flags waving, tens of thousands of voices at full throat.

Marblehead in all its feisty glory. Two days for ever.

Bob Baker is a branding and creative services resource in Marblehead whose memoir in progress is “Outlucking Gatsby: From Greenwich to The Green Light.”

Bob Baker
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Bob Baker is a creative resource in Marblehead whose memoir-in-progress is “Outlucking Gatsby: From Greenwich to The Green Light.”

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