A Tip of the Hatt to Another Ghost From the Past

Joanna Hatt Dalton, left, and her little sister, Aimee, sit in this photo I blatantly borrowed from Aimee's Facebook Page.

Joanna Hatt Dalton, left, and her little sister, Aimee, sit in this photo I blatantly borrowed from Aimee’s Facebook Page.

It’s funny how the spark of a memory can come from out of nowhere, and how quickly it snowballs into a full-blown rush of yesteryear.

One minute you’re sitting there looking through your Facebook feed; next thing you know you’re dancing with ghost after ghost … and, more often than not, smiling.

Joanna Hatt is a name I haven’t thought of in a long time. A long, long, long time.

But on Saturday afternoon while bouncing down through random Facebook posts, I noticed one of my Facebook Friends had shared a post from “Aimee Beth Hatt.”

And so it started.

Joanna Hatt had a little sister named, Aimee, didn’t she?  Could this be the same one?

As I searched through Facebook streams and Google’s search engine, the memories came pouring back, one by one.

Joanna was three years my senior and from what I recall I was probably 17 or 18 when I met her, putting her in college while I was still in high school.

She worked at the Athletic Attic, a sporting goods store which was must-stop for any area athlete in the Bangor Mall, back in the early 1980s.

My best friend, Jody, would later work at the Athletic Attic, too, but from what I remember that was a year or two away.

But both of us became smitten with Joanna and every time we stopped by the Attic and she was working it was a journey made complete.

I guess you could say we were smitten with Joanna, a former track athlete at Bangor High School. She was the older woman we pined for, yet deep down, we both knew was unreachable … maybe not in a Mrs. Robinson sense, but definitely in a college girl vs. high school boys sense.

But she did become our friend. She was able to put aside our foolish immaturity and see us for who we really were. And, as far as we were concerned, that was pretty special in its own right.

Jody and I both connected with Joanna in different ways.

He, after all, was the great distance runner, who would later run in college and recently made it into our high school’s Hall of Fame. (Finally). She was a  pretty good track athlete herself back in the day.

Me? I was a run-of-the-mill high school runner who could never use my times and distances to impress a  member of the fairer sex. But I did have the written word on my side … and when I found out Joanna liked to write, as well, we had our connection.

Writing is a very personal thing and you have to be pretty damned confident in it to want to share it with others. And the moment I realized I might have meant a little something to Joanna was when she shared with me some of the words she had written.

I photocopied many of her writings and kept them in a folder which I entitled, “Jo’s Best.” I want to say I still have that folder somewhere, tucked away in my box of memories, but I’d have to go digging to confirm that it still exists.

Right now, I’m still dancing.

I can’t remember how many times we’d make the journey to Athletic Attic to see Joanna, but it numbered a lot … today, it’d probably be considered stalking.

But I do remember all of us hanging out every so often, and we cherished those times more than anything.

Whether it was grabbing a pizza after work, or making the long trek to my home in Orrington to swim at my pool in the moonlight on a hot summer’s night, when we got to hang out with Joanna Hatt, it was a special time.

I want to say we even met Aimee once at Joanna’s family home. But that’s a recollection still in the fog of a land far away.

Joanna moved from Bangor to Portland shortly thereafter and I do remember making a road trip to visit her.

It was a night than ended up with Jody, myself and his brother, Rob, breaking into Fitzpatrick Stadium, at the bottom of the hill from downtown Portland, and timing ourselves in the dark in 100-meter dashes.

Over the 30-plus years since, the flickers of memories of Joanna were few and far between.

Bangor and Portland sat about two hours apart from one another, so over that distance and over the passing of time, our own futures started swallowing us up. Slowly, Joanna became a fading part of our pasts.

Until she was all but gone.

One Facebook post on a Saturday afternoon changed all that, though.

Just like that, Joanna — who is married now and lives in Massachusetts, from what I discovered — was back front and center in my life, even if for only a few moments in my head.

So, of course, I had to write about it. I think she would appreciate that.

Thirty-two years later, here I am still on the job

Magic Johnson was one of the best ever to wear No. 32. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Magic Johnson was one of the best ever to wear No. 32. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

In the history of sports, so many greats wore No. 32.

Jim Brown. Magic Johnson. Steve Carleton. Yes, even Orenthal James Simpson.

The number popped in my head today as the 2016 high school sports season officially opened here in the state of Connecticut.

Football has been going at it for about a week now, but today everybody else jumped on that new-season bandwagon. Everybody is tied for first, nobody is in last place and everybody is hopeful.

Hope springs eternal, is the cliche. In the fall, it is especially so.

Thirty-two years ago this month, I received a phone call that changed my life and every fall thereafter. A foot-in-the-door job was offered to me, working a part-time gig at the Bangor Daily News Sports Department.

New England journalism legend Bud Leavitt, who hired me and became my first boss, talks with his good friend, Red Sox legend Ted Williams. (Photo courtesy of the Bangor Daily News)

New England journalism legend Bud Leavitt, who hired me and became my first boss, talks with his good friend, Red Sox legend Ted Williams. (Photo courtesy of the Bangor Daily News)

All I had to do was go in, shake hands with a New England journalism legend (Mr. Bud Leavitt, the BDN’s Executive Editor, for those of you who don’t know) and I had the job.

I don’t know if it was really that easy, but it seemed so.

I was 18 years old andI swallowed everything up as quickly as I could. I knew I loved to write and I knew I loved sports, and here I was putting my two passions together.

Three months later, I had my first byline. Two and a half years after that I was promoted into a full-time position. Twenty-nine years and a few months from that date I’m looking at a different kind of “32” straight in the eyes and counting  my blessings.

For 32 years, I’ve had the pleasure — no, the honor — of working as a professional sports journalist.

Save for gigs as a waiter, a pizza delivery driver, and a substitute teacher — just temp jobs to help make ends meet — it’s all I’ve ever known.

 

My business is changing and I’ll admit it makes me sad. My chosen profession is dying and it breaks my heart to realize that I likely won’t be able to retire from a job I love to do.

I’m trying like hell to hang on, but every year it gets a little tougher and the writing on the wall grows a little more in font size.

Other than the fact that I’m really good at what I do (it’s the only thing in my life that I’ve ever been confident about), I’ve learned to do it all, and that’s helped keep me employed,  as well. Write. Page layout. Copy-editing Photography. Sports. Arts. Hard news. I really can do it all.

I started as a 20-hour-a-week sports clerk and moved up to a full-time sportswriter. Later in my career, in the space of one week’s time in New Hampshire, I went from being an assistant Sunday editor to the Sunday Sports Editor to the Managing Sports Editor.

A couple of years after that, I was laid off from that newspaper along with 10 percent of our work force, though they kept me working as a lowly freelancer … making more money while working less hours.

Go figure.

That was 13 years and two states ago.

Now, here I am in Connecticut, and there I was on Thursday morning at a Norwalk High School girls volleyball tryout.

As I watched a group of girls go through the routine of their season-opening drills, the coach whistled the veterans to the side and sent a large contingent of newcomers out onto the court.

Norwalk High's Edona Jakaj, right, is a senior leader for her volleyball team, even though she's not a captain.

Norwalk High’s Edona Jakaj, right, is a senior leader for her volleyball team, even though she’s not a captain.

Behind these rough-around-the-edge newbies, though, was one of the team’s seniors, who instead of sitting down and resting stayed court-side, yelling and cheering for the younger girls to try their hardest and do their best.

That girl, who I had gotten to know from being a good track hurdler in the spring, is a senior, but she’s not a captain.

But what a leader. And a what a story I’ll get to tell.

And today was just the first day of a new season.

For 32 years, I’ve been lucky to wake up and do a job I love to do. I need to remember that more often, even during these trying (dying?) times in the journalism industry.

Larry Bird is on deck (No. 33) with Walter Payton (No. 34) beyond that.

Hopefully, I’m still doing this when I have to figure out who the great No. 35s are.

Bolt was great, Phelps was greater; Lochte was the real goat of Rio

Carl Lewis - The Greatest Olympic Track and Field Athlete Ever. (Neil Leifer/Sports Illustrated photo)

Carl Lewis – The Greatest Olympic Track and Field Athlete Ever. (Neil Leifer/Sports Illustrated photo)

As far as I’m concerned, Carl Lewis is the greatest track and field performer of all-time.

Sorry Usain Bolt. You might be the fastest. But you’re not the greatest. You didn’t quite do enough to reach that level.

But, don’t feel bad. What you’ve done is mighty impressive. You’re only separated by 26 feet or so.

Bolt, as we all know from this past week, is a sprinter from Jamaica. He runs the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and the runs a leg of the 4×100 relay with three countrymen.

Usain Bolt, the best sprinter the Olympics has ever seen. (Photo courtesy of biography.com)

Usain Bolt, the best sprinter the Olympics has ever seen. (Photo courtesy of biography.com)

Over the past three Olympics from 2008 to 2016, he’s won three gold medals every time out, giving him a “triple-triple.”

Like I said, mighty impressive.

One problem? Lewis has nine gold medals, as well. Plus, he’s got a silver. That’s 10 Olympic medals … one more than Bolt.

Plus, Lewis doing the long jump adds a different dimension to his talents.

You see, Bolt, to me is just too one dimensional. He’s fast. He’s lightning. And he does that one thing with incredible ease and success. (I also think he’s a PED user who hasn’t been caught, but until a test comes back positive I can’t use that against him).

To me, that one dimensionality he boasts, is why he’ll never be mentioned in the same breath as another great like Michael Phelps, the swimmer, as one of the greatest Olympians of all-time.

Bolt is a great sprinter, probably the best sprinter of all-time. I’ll give him that until a test comes back positive.

Michael Phelps, the GOAT.

Michael Phelps, the GOAT.

Phelps, though, has proven to be multi-dimensional over countless events and styles of swim, and let’s face he’s the greatest Olympian – summer, winter – of all-time … by far. It’s not even a contest.

And in Olympic track and field circles, Carl Lewis is one medal in front of Bolt. Lewis’ Olympic-winning times would have left him in medal contention during this year’s games, too. He was that good back then.

If Bolt comes back in 2020 and gets to 12 medals, I’ll reconsider.

• • •

I hate using the term GOAT.

Greatest Of All Time.

I’m old school, I suppose. To me a “goat” is the guy who strikes out with the bases loaded in a one-run game, or makes the error that loses a game.

Ryan Lochte, the goat. (Photo courtesy of cnn.com)

Ryan Lochte, the goat. (Photo courtesy of cnn.com)

But this is 2016 and the pussification of America is too far gone and nobody seems to be a goat anymore. So, in reaction, society has turned the word upside down and made it the best anagram ever – GOAT is the GOAT of anagrams, in some people’s opinion, if you will.

If this Olympic games has a goat, it could be Ryan Lochte, the U.S. swimmer whose second week in Rio was filled by a dark cloud after he told people he was robbed, only to find out he was being stupid and somebody called him out on it by pulling a gun.

After probably crapping in his speedos, Lochte told his mommy he was robbed by badge-wielding men pretending to be cops, and since that happens far too much in real life in Rio, it struck a nerve with the locals as it appeared Lochte’s story wasn’t 100 percent true.

Mommy in turn told the media and from there a little half-fib, half-truth snowballed into an international embarrassment for Lochte, USA Swimming, the United States Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee.

(I say half-true, half-fib because if you were being stupid in a foreign country and a man pulled a gun on you, security or not, and made you hand over money before leaving, you’d feel like you were robbed, too).

Still, it embarrassed his country big time, and like we don’t have enough embarrassment going on right now with our political race.

So if this Olympics had a goat it was Ryan Lochte.

As far as a GOAT? Well, my money goes back to Michael Phelps.

“Sausage Party” was missing something. Maybe it was the weed

sausageparty-terribletruth-192764-640x320

Twice over the course of the last 10 years, I’ve smoked a little bit of weed.

Both times, which occurred in social settings when I was offered a hit or two, will be left unexplained to protect the innocent. But, as much as I smoked from age 19 to 39, I’d say I’m a big proponent of the legalization of marijuana.

Thirty minutes into the new Seth Rogan movie, “Sausage Party” I can tell you I wanted nothing more than a joint parsed between my lips and unlike Hillary’s husband I would have inhaled.

If I had, I’m pretty sure “Sausage Party” would have been a laugh riot.

IMDB sums up the movie this way: “A sausage strives to discover the truth about his existence.”

Riveting, no? Well, consider it’s a sexually charged story about food finding out the truth of what lays outside of the supermarket doors, it was a movie with potential.

Especially with the hit-or-miss Rogan at the helm.

I went in with, pardon the expression, high hopes.

To the stone, cold, sober movie-goer, though, I’m afraid it was akin to seed-filled, dirt-tasting home grown. If you’re a smoker, or former smoker, you’ll know my disappointment.

Needless to say, I came away from the movie unimpressed, though perhaps I’m not sure what a 50-year-old man going to a cartoon was expecting.

It had moments, of course. Most movies do. The bath salts scene was funny. The relationship between the bagel and whatever that other piece of food was had some moments.

The movie could have done without the douche and the taco, if you ask me. (Those are words I’d never thought I’d write).

But it was definitely missing something.

Personally, I think it was the weed.

 

THE FLORIDA TRIP: Forever An Angel, Part II

When I was 19 years old, I took a picture of her. Just a simple push of a button and in one-500th of a second I knew I had captured everything that was beautiful and fun and sweet and special about her.

Lisa Marie Carleton — an angel in black and white — looking my way.

She was in her family pool, pulling herself up by the side, her wet hair slicked back tightly against her head. She had the slightest little smile, but her eyes were the story.

She looked my way.

Click.

She won my heart just as quickly, this girl.

I’ve written about her before. Back on May 11, 2016, I posted an item I titled, “Lisa Marie Carleton: Forever an Angel.”

I wrote, “Twenty years ago, Lisa Marie Carleton — one of the best friends I ever had in this world — flew too close to the arms of God, and He took her from all of us as the plane she was a passenger on fell out of the sky over the Florida Everglades.

It was May 11, 1996. I try not to think of that singular moment — Did she know what was happening? Was she scared? — but over the past two decades, I think of Lisa often and always smile.

It might be a song. A scent. A time and place. She is a ghost I still dance with often because a love and friendship that touches you so deep is hard to let go.”

On Friday night, I danced with Lisa again, thinking about her and so many of the memories we shared.

I knew her life came to an end not far from where I write this, but what I didn’t realize was how close.

Just 105 miles.

NSH_5490

The Flight 592 Memorial in the Florida Everglades (Photo by John Nash)

I knew there was a memorial built to honor the victims of ValuJet 592 and it didn’t take long to find out where it was.

So after waking up on Saturday morning, my first and only goal was to hop in my rent-a-car and head south, into the Everglades to once again remember a dear, dear friend.

Florida, I’ve found, is Florida … pretty much no matter where you drive a lot of it looks the same.

Palm trees. Strip malls. Golf Courses.

Then, driving West on U.S. Route 41, you hit Krome Ave., and the Miccosukee Resort and Gaming.

Beyond that, you enter the Everglades. And it looks like no other part of Florida that I’ve ever seen.

The Flight 592 Memorial is only 12 miles beyond Krome Ave., tucked away on the right side of the road across a small tributary of water.

The memorial contains 110 concrete pillars of varying heights, climbing upward toward the heavens — one for each person who passed away in the crash. At the far end of all the pillars is a plaque with the names of all 110 victims, as well.

And, the entire monument is built on a giant triangle surface which points in the direction of the crash site — an estimated 11 miles into the Everglades wilderness.

I made my way through the pillars, snapping a few photos as I did so.

Once I got to the plaque, I looked immediately to Lisa’s name. I knelt down and ran my fingers over it, wondering simply, “Why?” Why did she have to die? Why did any of them?

(Photo by John Nash)

(Photo by John Nash)

I’ve been to Lisa’s grave, back home in Maine. I’ve visited her family, who I still love so very much to this day.

There are no satisfactory answers. I’m old enough to know that. There is no way to fill that empty hole in your heart when you lose somebody you care about. You hope the memories can just stop the tears in time, and they do.

They even make you smile.

As I made the drive to the memorial thoughts of Lisa and her family filled my head, and I found myself smiling a lot. And as I climbed back into my rent-a-car for the drive back to my hotel, I picked up right where I left off.

And I thought of that picture I took when we were both teenagers.

That smile. Those eyes.

That girl.

I’ll never forget you, Lisa.

THE FLORIDA TRIP: Time for me to fly

A Delta Flight, and the same kind of plane I'm taking this journey on. (Photo by John Nash)

A Delta Flight, and the same kind of plane I’m taking this journey on. (Photo by John Nash)

Off in the not-so-far-away distance I hear a baby cry.

Please, I say to myself, don’t be on my flight.

Is there anything worse than being stuck on a plane with a crying baby? OK, maybe getting stuck next to a really smelly fat guy who is still sweating out last night’s Pabsts.

Or sitting next to Donald Trump.

But I digress.

I’m sitting at Gate 11 in Terminal D at Laguardia Airport in New York City waiting for a flight to West Palm Beach, Fla.

At quick count this is probably the 15th time I’ve journeyed somewhere via flying tin-can. Physics says it’s possible, so I trust the process – even though none of it makes sense.

I barely remember the first time I flew — going trans-Atlantic to England to see relatives when I was but three or four years old, I suppose. It’s a trip I hope to do again before my October Weekend turns into November.

I want to say I flew Pan Am, or maybe it was TWA back then..

I should have flown more often, though. Both of those airlines are no longer flying. Never got to cash in those frequent flier miles, I guess.

But there again I switch airlines the way I switch socks. Which means I don’t wear socks a lot (just like I don’t fly a lot) but when I do it’s often a different pair.

Today is Delta’s turn, but that’s only because my company is footing the bill.

If i had my druthers I’d be flying Jet Blue. No frills, save for the TV in my seat.

With Delta, I had to shell out $25 to check a bag. I probably could have over-nighted it via Fed Ex for less.

Flying is basically a box full of pains in the ass that we put up with for convenience.

Getting to big city airports is never easy.  For me, I had to take a 100-minute train ride, followed by a $40 taxi ride, only to get the opportunity to stand in line before Homeland Security could either: A – Take naked x-ray photos of me, or, B – Feel me up via a shouldn’t-you-buy-me-a-drink-first patdown.

Had Andre been Andrea I might have settled for the latter. After all, it’s been a while since I got some. Maybe even last time I flew. (No, am not a member of the Mile High Club).

But it’s still the easiest way to get from Point A to a far away Point B so we shell out the money and put up with it.

Once we go wheels up, I’ll reach my destination in a little more than three hours. Thus, I guess, it’s worth it.

They just announced my flight as being full. That first leads me to ask, “Who the hell flies to West Palm Beach, Fla., in August?”

So the baby is still in play. As is the fat guy wearing “Eau de Pabst.”

Trump — I’m pretty sure he’s taking the Trump Shuttle. Oh wait, never mind.

Since the airlines are trying to cram as many people as they can into each flight, I’ll be playing the roll of sardine today along with everybody else. I remember a cross country flight I took nearly a quarter century ago. Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, via Detroit, or Chicago, I don’t remember.

I remember being up in the air for a while, but it was comfortable. There was room to stretch your legs, turn around to speak to the person behind you, or just walk up the row to go to the bathroom.

I remember flying as being fun back then.

Not so much anymore.

I like airports, though, in the way I like hospitals. Their like little cities built within bigger cities with a villager of workers doing their jobs. Here, we have pilots, flight attendants, cops, EMTs, janitors, food service workers, all milling about and doing their job.

Hospitals have doctors, nurses, cops, EMTs, janitors, food service workers … you get the point.

As a voyeur of life, when I do get to travel (at least alone) I like to take it all in.

I look at the people and wonder where they’re going or where they’re coming from. I try to look into their eyes, wondering if I’ll see joy or sadness or resignation.

I listen to conversations — somebody bitching to somebody else about paying $4 for something, another person talking about their life.

It’s a potpourri of the world and it is one of the highlights of flying.

My plane is at my gate. People need to get off and they need to clean up and restock the soda and peanuts before they’ll let anybody on, but it’s almost time to go.

See you in Florida.

Bourne Again … Unfortunately

Bourne ... Jason Bourne.

Bourne … Jason Bourne.

I think it has happened. I think I am officially old.

On paper, I’m a half century old. Physically, I feel as if at least six decades of life has led to a lot of wear and tear on me, from head to toe.

Mentally, though, I’ve always felt 10 to 20 years younger than I am.

And then I saw the movie “Jason Bourne.”

It was bad. Not sucky bad. Just stupid bad.

My head refuses to suspend belief anymore, thus I fear I am officially old.

Tell me a story and make it realistic, or else I’ll pick it apart.

And oh how “Jason Bourne” could be torn apart and shredded.

I’ve always loved action-packed adventures and I still do.

Last week, I saw the movie “Nerve” – starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco. And I enjoyed it. It was a movie geared toward a generation lower than me, but it was full of action … mostly believable action that kept you on the edge of your seat.

Jason Bourne?

Just stupid.

Here is the synopsis from IDMB: “The most dangerous former operative of the CIA is drawn out of hiding to uncover hidden truths about his past.”

Once again, Bourne is drawn out of hiding. (Yawn). How many times can you go to that well?

Matt Damon is a movie star and this movie will do nothing to take away from that.

It also stars Tommy Lee Jones, who can play a good guy or a bad guy with equal aplomb. And, when he’s playing the head of the CIA, it’s fair to say he’s playing a little bit of both.

Julia Stiles (remember her?) also returns, but (spoiler alert) her movie career might have come to a sudden end in this one. (After all, can you name anything else she’s been in lately?).

Is Julia Stiles looking at the end of her movie career with Jason Bourne?

Is Julia Stiles looking at the end of her movie career with Jason Bourne?

Alicia Vikander makes her Bourne debut as the CIA’s Heather Lee and while she’s workable and believable in a starring role, it certainly doesn’t come close to giving her much of challenge. There is no depth in this character whatsoever.

One big issue I had with casting was in Vincent Cassel as a CIA Asset whose sole job was to kill Jason Bourne.

Back in 2004 Cassel starred in “Ocean’s Twelve” as Francois Toulour, the antagonist to Damon’s group of good guys.

Vincent Cassel as The Asset.

Vincent Cassel as The Asset.

Through the entire showing of Bourne, I kept waiting for Danny Ocean or Rusty to rush in for some comic relief.

Alas, it never arrived.

Instead, it was two hours and three minutes of car crashes and gun shots and people finding people under conditions where you’d be lucky to find a Starbucks on any city corner.

One car crash in particular would have obviously decapitated Bourne on the spot, yet somehow he walks away … again.

And watching Cassel drive a police SWAT armored vehicle through what must have been 50 cars — and to keep going — was again ridiculous.

Now, I’m a firm believer in a chase scene being believable with the greatest chase scene in cinematic history coming from “To Live and Die in L.A.” as proof in the pudding.

Jason Bourne, however, was just dragged under by the fact that it’s too unbelievable to be entertaining.

I rolled my eyes far too many times in two hours and I don’t go to the movies for that purpose.

My advice: Waiting for it to come to HBO or TNT. I wasted $5.75 on a 10:15 a.m. showing of the movie and I left feeling as though I had wasted money.

Bourne again? No, thanks … but the ending does certain set up yet another sequel somewhere down the road.

I give it a three on a scale of 10.