Valley Breeze

The North Providence Breeze 11-18-2020

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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NORTH PROVIDENCE EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE | NOVEMBER 18-24, 2020 NORTH PROVIDENCE 11 Town hosting Thanksgiving food drive NORTH PROVIDENCE – The town is hosting a Thanksgiving food drive and asking the public to help in making it successful. Mayor Charles Lombardi and the North Providence Police Department are asking residents to bring food donations to various box locations around town. The Police Department, work- ing with Stop & Shop, will be hosting a Thanksgiving food drive called "Fill a Cop Car" this Saturday, Nov. 21, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will be held at Stop & Shop, 1128 Mineral Spring Ave. All donations will ben- efit local churches and schools. Box donation locations include: • North Providence Town Hall, 2000 Smith St. • North Providence Police Department, 1835 Mineral Spring Ave. • North Providence Union Free Library, 1810 Mineral Spring Ave. • North Providence Pool & Fitness Center, 1810 Mineral Spring Ave. • North Providence Mancini Center, 2 Atlantic Blvd. • Stop & Shop, 1128 Mineral Spring Ave. • Shaw's, 15 Smithfield Road. Allendale Baptist Church holds food pantry Saturday NORTH PROVIDENCE – The Allendale Baptist Church Food Pantry, 545 Woonasquatucket Ave., will holds its monthly Saturday Food Pantry on Nov. 21, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. In addition to the monthly amount of food, there will be extra items for Thanksgiving includ- ing stuffing mix, pota- toes, canned vegetables, gravy, items for making pies, and more. For questions or more information, call Kathy Savasta at 401-265-7244 or Kim Tebow at 401- 261-4044. Balukjian tracks down baseball stars, writes best seller In 2015 Brad Balukjian set off on an odyssey in his 12-year-old Honda Accord. It took him across the country, lasted 48 days, and cov- ered more than 11,000 miles, but in fact, the adventure actually began in Greenville more than three decades ago. That was when, at age 6, Brad bought his first pack of baseball pic- ture cards. The road trip, which he measured in cups of coffee (123) as well as days spent and miles driven, resulted in a best-selling book and some very meaningful discoveries, not the least of which were those he made about himself. The accolades for his book, published this year, continue to flow in. He is still processing the effects of the experience. Called "The Wax Pack: On the Open Road in Search of Baseball's Afterlife," the page-turner began with an ingenious idea. Balukjian went online and bought an unopened pack of 15 baseball cards and the requisite single, paper- thin piece of brittle bubble gum. The wax pack, as it was called, was manu- factured by the Topps Company in 1986, chosen because that was the year Brad first began collecting base- ball cards. One card contained an index. The remaining 14 were the iconic child- hood touchstones familiar to baseball- obsessed kids of the era. Each bore a photo of a major league player on the front and his statistics and informa- tion on the back. Brad decided he would track down as many of the 14 players as he could and interview them for his project. His intention was to discover what happens to major leaguers after their playing days end. He didn't know he would get to play catch with his favorite player and take batting prac- tice with another. Balukjian came to realize that his trip was as much a journey inward as it was a hunt for the former athletes. At the same time he was planning to shine a spotlight on them, he was holding a mirror up to himself. A publicity handout for the book puts it this way: "While crisscrossing the country, Balukjian retraced his own past, reconnecting with lost loves and coming to terms with his lifelong battle with obsessive-compulsive disorder." In the same vein, he told me "the theme of the book is vulner- ability. I was asking the players to be vulnerable. So, I thought I should be too. It was the connective tissue among all the players. I knew it was risky, but it was a risk worth taking." The finished product is an unblinking account that is as irresistible as it is enlightening. Among the 14 former MLB players was hall of famer Carlton Fisk, who turned out to be very elusive. Even after much inspired maneuvering to find and approach the sphinxlike former Red Sox and White Sox star called "Pudge," it proved frustrating. Balukjian's strategies to get a few minutes with Fisk are a testament to his ingenuity, cleverness, and willing- ness to be insouciant. Suffice it to say, his gambits includ- ed giving the burly catcher a signed photo of himself. He found Fisk at an autograph session in Cooperstown, N.Y., site of the Baseball Hall of Fame. It cost Brad $69 to get Fisk's signature. Along with the picture of himself, Balukjian gave the stoical star a card within which he included his contact information. Other players Brad tracked down included Garry Templeton, Lee Mazzilli, Richie Hebner, Rance Mulliniks, Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Yeager, Randy Ready, Jaime Cocanower, and Don Carman. Carman, who pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies, was Brad's favorite player growing up. The chance to meet and question your number-one hero from youth is every fan's dream. It also gave Brad some real insights into the arc of Carman's career. After baseball he became a sports psychologist catering to pres- ent-day baseball stars. Balukjian's time with Carman opened up some avenues for intro- spection that helped Brad gain per- spective on his own psychological outlook. "I learned something from Don Carman about how you man- age fear," Balukjian says. "With fear and anxiety, you can't control things, but you can control how you react. So much of our suffering comes from craving something that can't exist." The Wax Pack is full of examples of life choices made by the players that were ill-considered or downright destructive. It is also replete with sud- den reversals of behavior and fortune. Youthful excess and the accompa- nying disregard for responsibilities are unveiled, but in some dramatic instances they are balanced by hard- earned self-discovery that result in late arriving maturity of judgment. Second chances are not out of the question, but don't always occur, the interviews make clear. Like the rest of society, Major League athletes are fallible and given to the same basic human strengths, weaknesses, and foibles as anyone. Some of the players grew up without fathers. Some clawed for everything they got. Others came from more stable origins. There were divorces, new marriages. After baseball, some became coaches, others went into business, or lost their way. Rick Sutcliffe became an analyst with ESPN. "It wasn't disillusioning to write about them," Brad observes. "It was getting to know them as real people. You idolize them less, but respect them more. What they're dealing with we deal with. They're just guys." Balukjian is director of the Natural History and Sustainability Program and teaches biology at Merritt College in Oakland, Calif. He is also a freelance writer and has published articles in Rolling Stone, The Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Slate, and others. But it all began in Greenville. He grew up on Slack's Pond in a house that is still in his family, and he returns fairly often. "I love going back to Greenville," he says, noting, "I still connect with people I grew up around. I love to experience that when I go back. It was also a real thrill going into Barnes & Noble and seeing my book there. Greenville is part of my DNA." (Contact me at smithpublar- ry@gmail.com) Bottom Lines: Since we're all about baseball this week and the Phillies are Brad's favorite team, who will be the first reader to tell us what Greenville native became a top sports journalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. One More Thing LAURENCE J. SASSO, JR. wood oven pizza & Bar CURBSIDE PICK UP AND CARRY OUT (401) 353-7110 www.thefirebrickoven.com 1874 Mineral Spring Avenue, North Providence, RI Bar open TiLL LaST CaLL Hours: Monday through Thursday 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday & Saturday 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Sunday 12 p.m.-9 p.m. Taste Of Fall ROASTED BEET SALAD Spinach, tender roasted beets, spiced walnuts, shaved red onion, pickled carrots, crumbled goat cheese citrus vinaigrette $14 HUNTER & GATHERER PIZZA Roasted butternut squash, prosciutto, figs, caramelized onions, mozzarella and goat cheese, finished with sage pesto $16 PUMPKIN RAVIOLI Fresh pumpkin ravioli tossed with a roasted walnut & butternut squash cream sauce sprinkled with spiced toasted pumpkin seeds $15 ADD GRILLED CHICKEN $3 SHRIMP $9 FALL SPICED SALMON Faroe Island Salmon pan roasted with fall spicy and honey, bacon and Brussel sprouts, sweet potato mashed $24 8 HOUR PORK SHANK Berkshire pork shank, slow braised with fall root vegetables, served over sweet potato mashed, with rosemary & sage pan gravy $26 CHICKEN & BUTTERNUT RISOTTO Pan seared chicken breast with apple wood smoked bacon, caramelized onion and sundried tomatoes over roasted butternut squash risotto $18

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