Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Little Ditty About Lukas & Stella...



I am at a loss to think of something that occurs here on our Big Blue Marble that infuriates me more than children being afflicted with diseases and illnesses that threaten their lives and, even, end their lives.  As a man of little to no faith, there are few things to which I can point with more reliability in support of my intertwined arguments, which are (A) There is no God; and (B) If there is a God and he allows this to happen to children, then you can keep him.  I try to remain consistent to the teachings of my great, great grandfather Phineas, who was known for saying, "There ain't no Agnostic quite like a flexible Agnostic." 

Every now and again - or perhaps even less frequently than that - I come across something that both breaks my heart and warms the embers of the little briquette all at once.  Yesterday, such an event occurred.  

Lucas Lowe is twelve years old.  Stella Usiak is also twelve years old.  In addition to sharing age as a common characteristic, each is also battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a disease that has thus far put both of these youngsters through a remarkably similar-looking wringer:  Both were initially diagnosed with their cancer in 2011.  Both went into remission.  Both then relapsed.  Both underwent bone marrow transplants.  Both have spent more time in and out of hospitals than anyone of any age should ever have to spend.  Currently, both are patients at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York.  

And one more thing that these two rather extraordinary twelve-year-old warriors have in common: Lucas is in love with Stella and Stella is in love with Lucas.  Do not for a minute underestimate the sincerity or the depth of the affection these two youngsters have for one another.  Case in point, last fall Stella allowed Lucas to shave off her hair, which had just started to grow back after a round of chemotherapy when she learned that he had to undergo another round of chemotherapy and was going to lose all of his hair in the process.  

Give yourself a present today, whether you think you deserve it - and even if you are damn sure that you do not.  Invest a few minutes and get to know these two terrific kids, which you can do courtesy of this piece by Melissa Holmes, WGRZ-TV, Buffalo.  

Little ditty about Lukas and Stella, two American kids done the best that they can...

...and two American kids for whom the thrill of living shall never go away.  

     

-AK 


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Gaining Ground



A bit less than three months ago - when I first had the privilege and the pleasure of being permitted to participate in the 2016 New York City Marathon as a member of Team Stomp The Monster - I promised (OK, threatened) to use this space time and again to keep one and all apprised of how my fundraising effort was progressing.  Today is a day in which I deliver on my promise or - if you prefer - make good on my threat.  

As of today, the generosity of a great many terrific people has enabled me to poke my head past the 50% mark in terms of contributions received.  It is an accomplishment with which I have very little to do.  It is those of you who have dug deep and offered your help to me so that I may in turn offer my help to the good people from Stomp The Monster, Inc. who have had everything in the world to do with it.  

I talk for my living.  I talk too damn much in fact.  Rare is the happening that renders me speechless. This outpouring of extraordinary selflessness has come pretty damn close.  




-AK 

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Expenditure of Precious Time...

It was not the most glorious weekend weather-wise at the beach.  Saturday had a gray pallor for most of the day.  When my alarm went off on Sunday morning, beckoning me to head out for my early-morning run, Mother Nature talked me out of it.  It rained steadily until after 8:30, by which time the Missus and I had moved into the "project completion" potion of our morning.  I ended up getting out to run - but not until close to noon.  It was as gray as it had been the day before but at least it had stopped raining.  After coming close to drowning in the New Jersey Marathon a few weeks back, my enthusiasm for running in the rain - never high to begin with - has waned considerably.  

Still, less than perfect weather notwithstanding, I would not have wanted to be anyplace other than where I was.  I was in the place that brings me peace and was with the person on this planet who I love most of all.  

Time well spent, I would say.  

-AK

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Master Class at the School of Genius


By this time next week, our first official "off-season" as homeowners at the Shore will officially be over.  And truth be told, while I am looking forward to summer days spent sitting on the beach, reading a book and relaxing, there is a part of me that is already looking forward - at least a little bit - to September.  

The uptick in the energy level in and around our little Paradise by the Sea - during the summer - is palpable.  And that energy level, coming as it does accompanied by people spending money in bars, restaurants, and stores, is critically important to a great deal of the men and women who own and operate businesses in this area. 

It is though - for me - the off-season that has me enthusiastically looking forward to the day on which 'NTSG is squarely in my rear-view mirror.  I fully anticipate that the change in latitude shall bring about a change in attitude as well and that anticipation is predicated in large part on how incredibly still and quiet Lake Como is during the off-season.  

As someone who is rarely ever cold, all winter I did not deviate from my custom and practice of walking the three blocks from our house to the 17th Avenue Beach upon my arrival on a Friday night. Far more often than not, there was absolutely no ambient sound - other than the wind and the ocean. None.  That is something to which I grew accustomed very quickly and grew to love with equal alacrity.  

Its time shall come again.  It always does.  Until then, I shall embrace the return of the joyous noise - and hope like Hell that none of it ends up on my front lawn. 



-AK 
    


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Last Stop: Terrapin Station


Chief Petty Officer Albert Hayden returned home, to Mechanicsville, Maryland, in St. Mary's County, earlier this week.  It was a journey that was seventy-five and one-half years in the making.  

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Chief Petty Officer Hayden was serving aboard the USS Oklahoma (BB-37), which was docked on Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  He was one of the 429 men (14 Marines and 415 sailors) aboard the Oklahoma who was killed in the Japanese surprise attack.  Chief Petty Officer Hayden was the first person from Maryland killed in World War II.  

Albert Eugene Hayden was born in Mechanicsville, Maryland in 1896.  He was one of four Hayden children, three of whom were boys.  His father, James, died in 1917.  His mother, Emma, died in 1955.  At the time of his death on the Oklahoma, Chief Petty Officer Hayden was forty-four.  A career Navy man, he never married or had any children.   

Hundreds of the men who were killed aboard the Oklahoma, which was struck by nine Japanese torpedoes on that terrible December Sunday morning, were buried as "unknowns" in Hawaii.  It was long feared that none of their identities would ever be known.  However, in 2015, the Department of Defense began using a state-of-the-art forensic lab in Hawaii to test the remains.  Lo and behold, identifications started to be made. 


It is reported that the death of her son broke his mother Emma's heart and that she her dying wish - shared with her family - was that Albert would somehow, someday make it home.  While the family's confidence in the realization of that wish waxed and waned now and again over the course of three-quarters of a century, hope was never abandoned.  A space in the family burial plot was left available for him - just in case.  

On Wednesday, May 18, 2016, Chief Petty Officer Albert Eugene Hayden claimed it.  Seventy-five and one-half years after he gave his life in the service of his country, and after a long, arduous journey, he finally made it home.  

-AK 


Friday, May 20, 2016

I Am the Walrus. My Name is Jimmy Malone.

You wanna know how to get Capone? 
They pull a knife, you pull a gun.
He sends one of yours to the hospital,
You send one of his to the morgue. 
That's the Chicago way. 
- Jimmy Malone

Sean Connery has retired from the movie business.  His influence, however, remains palpable around the globe.  Including, apparently, in China. 

It was slightly less than two weeks ago that two tourists - apparently unable to discern the meaning behind all of the signage placed throughout Yellowstone National Park directing visitors that park rules prohibit them from coming within twenty-five yards of all wildlife and within one hundred yards of wolves and bears - took it upon themselves to "rescue" a baby bison.  Park officials could not successfully reunite the baby bison with his mother or with his herd.  He was shunned.  He apparently became so frantically starved for sustenance and affection that he continually approached people and vehicles.  Eventually, and with regret, Park officials euthanized the baby bison.  His human "helpers" paid a far less severe penalty - a $110 fine for touching wildlife.  

Earlier this week, a story originating in China broke worldwide.  Two men were drowned at the Xixiajou Wildlife Park in the Shandong Province by a walrus.  Apparently, the first man, a tourist, slipped and fell into the walrus's tank.  Presumably believing this unannounced intruder into his space to be a possible playmate, the walrus - who weighs in excess of three thousand pounds - swam over to the man and "hugged" him.  The walrus's keeper - who had worked with the walrus for more than a decade - dived into the tank in an effort to rescue the first man and the walrus "hugged" him too. While hugging his two new friends, the walrus dived down into the depths of the tank, killing the pair.   It has been reported in multiple media outlets just how much this particular walrus enjoys interaction with humans - including but not limited to his keeper.  An attempt, no doubt, to squelch any fears that these two deaths were "payback" for the two humans in Yellowstone having taken the life of a baby bison.  

It has also been reported in multiple media outlets that there is no safety rail or banister to keep tourists (or anyone for that matter) from falling into the walrus's tank. If, in response to this incident, no safety rail or banister is installed at the Xixiajou Wildlife Park's walrus tank, then one might surmise that Social Darwinism is alive and well in China.  

As is, apparently, the Chicago way

Goo, goo g'joob indeed...


-AK 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

9,125


At least now, this part has been done.  There is never going to be closure.
There's just what's right, and justice has been done for Timmy.
We loved Timmy dearly.

I have no firsthand knowledge of what transpired inside of the courtroom of the Hon. Dennis Nieves, J.S.C. at the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey, during the trial in the matter of State of New Jersey v. Michelle Lodzinski.  I never set foot inside of Judge Nieves's courtroom during the trial, which means that I did not listen to the testimony of a single witness, I did not see a single trial exhibit, I did not hear a single word of any argument advanced by any of the attorneys, and I did not hear a single ruling that Judge Nieves made.  All I know about the proceedings is what I read, saw, and/or heard through the media.  In all likelihood, you are in the same position as I am. 

Yesterday morning, the jury of seven men and five women returned a verdict of "Guilty" against Ms. Lodzinski.  Seven days short of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the disappearance of five-year-old Timothy Wiltsey, the jury convicted his mother, Michelle Lodzinski, of his murder. The fact that this precious little boy had been murdered had been determined since his skull and other remains were found buried in a marshy area near Raritan Center, which they were slightly less than one year after his mother reported him missing.  There was no mystery surrounding whether he had been murdered.  Rather, the mystery for more than two decades was the identity of his killer.   

9,125 days after Ms. Lodzinski - herself just twenty-three years old at the time - reported Timothy missing, twelve citizens - who had spent eight weeks listening to the evidence during the trial - determined that the State had fulfilled its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the then-young mother had murdered her little boy.  

Presuming the verdict withstands the anticipated appeal, Ms. Lodzinski could receive a life sentence when Judge Nieves sentences her on August 23.  She is now forty-eight years old and the mother of two sons, the older of whom is eighteen and the younger of whom is fourteen.    

One horrible, unconscionable act.  Its first victim was claimed a quarter-century ago.  Yesterday morning, it claimed at least two more victims.  Our job as a parent demands that we be willing to lay down our life for that of our child. It is a job for which it appears that Ms. Lodzinski has been pathologically ill-suited.  

Not once, but thrice. 



-AK