Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Healing Power of Vitamin Sea

The Missus and I woke up this morning, for the first time since mid-October, in our little Paradise by the Sea.  Granted, we have only owned our little piece of the Jersey Shore since May, 2015 but this break represents the longest continuous stretch of time since we purchased it that we had not spent any time there.  

Understand that in the weeks since we were here last, we have been some places and had some fun: Washington, D.C. the weekend of October 21 and 22 for the Marine Corps Marathon; Colorado (after an oh-so-fun driving tour of America's Heartland (a/k/a "part of America best seen out of the window of an airplane from 37,000 feet")) the weekend of October 28 and 29 to visit Rob and Jess; New York City the weekend of November 4 and 5 for the NYC Marathon; and (for me) New York City again this past Saturday to see "Springsteen on Broadway" - courtesy of our great friend, Lynne Kizis.  

Having shaken off our travelin' Jones, for the time being at least, it is awfully good to be home.

Today is the annual Turkey Run in Manasquan.  Once upon a time this event was known as the Turkey Trot but, a few years back (2014 I think), a group of Monmouth County-based turkeys got together and hired a lawyer to represent them in a class-action suit, which suit's prayer for damages included changing the name of this event from "Trot" to "Run".  The turkeys argued that it is bad enough to have human beings jam our hands up their asses, roast them for our consumption, and then fall asleep within eighteen minutes of eating them, without us implying that they are slow-footed birds.  The court found their case compelling and ruled in the turkeys' favor.  Not only did they receive their much-sought-after name change but, also, each received a voucher redeemable for one Thanksgiving dinner.  Oddly enough, all these years later, no word from the victorious plaintiffs regarding the voucher portion of their award.  

But I digress. 

Turkey Run Day is one of the highlights of the Fall calendar in 'Squan.  It is a wonderfully well-attended event, both by those of us who run in it - including those of us who are fucking thrilled to run five miles after back-to-back marathons - and those who line 'Squan's streets supporting our efforts.  NOAA predicts a bit of a windy, drizzly day in the greater 'Squan metroplex today, which will likely have little effect on the enthusiasm of the runners or their comrades holding down bar stools at Leggett's for the post-race party. 

And tomorrow, irrespective of the weather, I will go for an early-morning run with the sounds and smells of the ocean to keep me company.  There are any number of great places in this world to spend one's time...

...and I would not trade a single one of them for mine. 

Lifeguard Stand - 17th Avenue Beach
Belmar (07/30/17)


Friday, November 17, 2017

Every Picture Tells A Story...

Someone significantly smarter than I once remarked on the importance of teachers, which importance is underscored by the effect a particularly excellent teacher can have on a student's life, even years past the cessation of the student/teacher relationship.  It is an effect akin to that seen on the glass-like surface of a pond or a lake when a stone is skipped just so across its surface.  Outward go the concentric circles, seemingly without effort and without end.  

I had the good fortune during my school years to keep company with a number of excellent teachers. One of them was Link Keur.  Truth be told, Mr. Keur and I had a multi-dimensional relationship that extended beyond the walls of his classroom.  We first made one another's acquaintance when I was a 7th grade member of the 7th-8th grade football team of which he was the Head Coach. I remember his reaction to discovering - when we were being fitted for equipment - that although I was among the smallest players on his team, I required the second-largest helmet.  He handed it over, laughing, while saying something to the effect of, "I hope the rest of you grows to be as big as your head by season's end."  Sadly, that wish did not come true for either of us.  

I played football for him again the following season and while the rest of me had still not caught up to my head, I had stopped taking phenobarbital for my epilepsy, which improved my football skills markedly...all the way from God-awful to merely-awful.  I played free safety and he made me our defensive captain, which meant I called the defensive signals in the huddle.  Our team had its share of terrors on defense, including Shel Buffaloe, Steve Keller, and the incomparable Dwight Giles, which made calling signals pretty easy.  I just pointed those three in the general direction of the fella on the other team who then and there possessed the football.  

Mr. Keur was my Geometry teacher in 10th grade.  I am pretty good with numbers (basic arithmetic) but "advanced" math, including Algebra, Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, and (God help me) Calculus utterly humbled and befuddled me.  Geometry, on the other hand, I "got" almost immediately.  On top of grasping the subject matter, I loved the time spent in Mr. Keur's classroom.  We worked hard but often times without realizing it, I think, given the way he conducted the class.  

When I played basketball for a couple of years (10th grade and, again, in 12th grade), he was one of the coaches for whom I played.  Now, if I watch a game and a player banks in a shot, it is his voice I hear in my head as that player heads back up court ("Did you call that bank?", "Doesn't count if you didn't call it!", "Oh man, banks are open early on a Saturday!", or "Late-night hours at the bank!"), and it never fails to make me smile.  Years later, when Rob was an 8th grader and I served as his team's assistant coach, many of the lessons that I imparted to him and to his teammates were ones Coach Keur had imparted to me and to my teammates half a lifetime earlier.  

He was the Faculty Advisor of one of my all-time favorite extra-curricular activities, the A-V Club. W-H had an enormously heavy piece of equipment (portable if you had four people to move it) that we used to employ to tape sporting events.  While its purpose was principally coaching-related - material to be used for film study - Mr. Keur encouraged us to provide commentary if we wanted to do so.  As if I needed an invitation to talk.  I loved providing the play-by-play and the color commentary and worked hard to remember to refrain from using profanity - even if something bad happened to our side - because I could not go back and edit the tape.  I simply recorded the event and then turned the tape over to the coach of that particular team.  Not every coach appreciated my play-by-play as much as I did (here's looking at you, Coach K). 

Anyway, what appears here now (from this point forward) appeared here originally on this date a couple of years ago.  An homage, if you will, to Link Keur and the lessons of a lifetime ago...

...which continue to ripple outward like concentric circles across the surface of the water. 


Think (Audio) Visual

Extraordinarily entertaining afternoon spent at Holmdel Park this past Saturday.  Liv and her Hillsborough Raider teammates were not able to defend their Group IV Championship but they were able to finish 2nd in the "Group of Death", which earned them a place in this Saturday's Meet of Champions.  I know not how many high schools in New Jersey field a Varsity Girls Cross-Country team.  I know simply that this Saturday morning, only twenty teams shall be on the course competing for the Meet of Champions crown.  Nice company to keep.  And damn fast as well.  

A lifetime ago, when I was a student at W-H, one of the extra-curricular activities in which I participated was the school's A-V Club.  We had one camera, which (if memory serves me correctly) recorded on VHS tapes, and was part of an apparatus that weighed just south of 1,000 pounds and required a team of Hannibal's most capable pachyderms to move from Point A to Point B.  The purpose of the A-V Club was to provide coaches with game films they could use for preparatory purposes with their assistants and with their players.  

Fortunately, our faculty adviser was Link Keur and Mr. Keur had an imagination that was not confined to the four corners of our club's stated purpose.  It was thanks to Mr. Keur that I had the chance to do play-by-play on games during which I worked the camera.  I enjoyed the hell out of it.  I did it on at least two or three varsity basketball games, which led to Head Coach Ray Kovonuk making an observation I have heard countless times in my life ("He talks too much"), which observation led to me not doing any more play-by-play for basketball.  Lucky for me, Mr. Keur was the Varsity Baseball Coach.  During either my sophomore or junior year, he green-lighted my request to do play-by-play of one of W-H's home baseball games. 

The camera position for baseball was dreadful.  I hauled the camera up on top of a container that was used for the storage of equipment, which container was located down the third-base line, about twenty-five feet past the third base bag and approximately twenty-five feet into foul territory.  It was a vantage point from which home plate was essentially obscured by a batter in the right-handed batter's box.  It was also a vantage point from which an unwary broadcaster/cameraman could get plunked by a foul ball.  My over-sized cranium and Mr. Keur's directive that I was to protect the school's camera equipment at all costs combined to make it, all in all, a slightly tense afternoon.  But as I remember it, I had one hell of a good time for even at the high school level, baseball is a sport that lends itself to the telling of stories and to the setting of the scene.  

I regretted that, in spite of my forays into basketball and baseball, I was never permitted to lend my voice to any of W-H's football games for which I manned the camera.  Well, I was never permitted to lend my play-by-play.  On more than one occasion, I blurted out something while rolling tape that I am sure got a chuckle or two when the coaches and players reviewed the game film.  

On Monday morning, as I was sitting drinking my first cup of coffee of the day,  I came across a piece of video on-line that, immediately, I found incredibly appealing. I am a big enough person to admit that when I saw that it was video produced by "MKA TV" I was more than a little bit envious.  Thirty-years ago, W-H had an A/V Club.  Today, Montclair Kimberly Academy (a school that thirty years ago W-H used to compete against in a number of sports) has its own television station.  Dylan was right.    

But I digress. 

Montclair Kimberly Academy hosted Mater Dei in the first round of the State football playoffs on Saturday afternoon and as the game ticked down to its final few seconds, the home-standing Cougars trailed 12-7.  They had the ball and time for one final "Hail Mary", which play inspired reactions from MKA's team of student broadcasters that were (for my money) as memorable as the play itself. 

Whether any of the kids on the MKA football team has a future on the gridiron, I would not pretend to know.  Similarly, whether any of the kids behind the microphones has a future in broadcasting (sports or otherwise) I could not begin to hazard a guess.  But for one moment on a mid-November afternoon, they combined their talents to tell one hell of an engaging tale.  

Pictures and stories.  May it continue to be a relationship that never grows old. 


Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Decade Further Into The Abyss

Under the heading of "Hey, I stumbled upon this and thought it might interest you", the sub-heading of which is "I was too fucking lazy to write anything new today", is this little beauty from nine years ago this month.  Nine years during which, I would submit, we have traveled with all due speed in one direction...

...and it is not up.


The EIB and The Temple of Doom

I had been on trial most of this week - and last - defending a client in a civil matter in the Superior Court in Essex County (Newark for those of you who slept thru your "Where Everything Is Located in the Garden State" review class), which concluded yesterday with a verdict favorable to my client. While I am typically not someone who listens to political talk radio, on my trek back to the office from court these past two weeks, I would listen to WABC - picking up the beguiling styling of Sean Hannity, in an effort to decompress a bit from the events of the day.

Let me throw this disclaimer out here up front: I am a registered Republican. I voted for John McCain on November 4th. And I am pleased to report that for the first time in a long time, I voted FOR the candidate who I preferred out of two diametrically different yet almost equally appealing choices as opposed to voting AGAINST the option I viewed as the greater of two evils. Thus, while in casting a vote for Senator McCain I was - obviously - hoping for him to win, I did not contemplate packing all of my family's earthly belongings in big plastic garbage bags and heading ROTC (Right Over To Canada) at or about the time that then-Senator and now-President Elect Barack Obama was announced as the winner.

And having had the opportunity that night to watch Senator McCain's concession speech - my faith in the vote I cast and in the outcome of the election was vindicated. Moments after he had been defeated, John McCain observed that, " Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that." And a few minutes later he said, "I would not — I would not be an American worthy of the name should I regret a fate that has allowed me the extraordinary privilege of serving this country for a half a century. Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much. And tonight, I remain her servant. That is blessing enough for anyone, and I thank the people of Arizona for it. Tonight — tonight, more than any night, I hold in my heart nothing but love for this country and for all its citizens, whether they supported me or Senator Obama — whether they supported me or Senator Obama. I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here."

Listening to Hannity on several occasions during the course of the past couple of weeks, I could not help but get the feeling that he did not get the McCain memo - the one that a pseudo-learned eye could detect fairly readily from not only the content of his remarks but the obvious sincerity with which he delivered them - that the race was over, a winner had been declared and it was not time to get back to the serious business of governing this nation. Nope. As far as I could tell, from the laughably absurd introduction to his program, featuring Scott Shannon in his best DJ voice declaring to the audience that "The Radicals have taken over!" and that "This is the Voice of Conservatism in Exile" to the "I Have Stacked All The Canned Goods That I Can Fit In The Bunker" callers (the ones who commence the call by kissing the host's fanny and reminding him that he is the smartest person ever and the caller has been blessed by God with the chance to finally get off of hold and on the air) the whole thing has the air of a carnival sideshow.

More power to Sean Hannity - and to Rush Limbaugh and to all of the talking heads on either side - including the increasingly more virulent Bill Maher who expresses the same nonsensical BS (masquerading as humor) weekly on HBO - a show that in my opinion would be considerably funnier if on occasion the host would STFU and let a guy such as P.J. O'Rourke talk more. I would gladly represent any of them if their right to say what they say was threatened by the government. That being said, any time one is in a position of influence one not only enjoys the spoils but also assumes the responsibilities brought to bear by that position. At their core - I was going to say soul but let us not push too far beyond the edge of the envelope OK - all of them are in the "let's manufacture controversy and nonsense" business for the same reason: ratings. Yet none of them possesses the intellectual honesty necessary to speak truthfully to that point.

And I never worry about my ability to see thru their smoke - and to realize that contrary to their claim of "FIRE" behind it all is really is there is hot air. They are expressing their opinions and trying to do so in such a way that brings the maximum number of ears to the radios and eyeballs to the sets. Yet I am concerned that in this age of instant access - where perhaps the ready availability of everything has blunted our innate senses of discovery, exploration and investigation - we are a nation of folks too damn lazy to distinguish between opinion and fact and to distinguish between political talk radio rhetoric and real news.

We are a nation in which political talk radio has been elevated to the point where it has become a new religion. We should worry therefore - should we not - how many of our fellow Americans accept the noise emanating from their radio as the Gospel? 


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

It Remains Available Only On Tap...

A trip in the WABAC Machine today.  It was nine years ago this month that Rob moved three-quarters of the way across the United States.  It was work that took him there initially but it is Life and Love that shall keep him there in perpetuity.  Reading what follows here now makes me think - much as it did when I first wrote it almost a decade ago - about the "Circle of Life" nature of the parent/child relationship and its innate pairing with other conjunctive relationships...


If Only It Could Be Bottled......

One week from this very day, Margaret and I shall be in Georgia to celebrate Rob's graduation from FLETC. Two weeks from this very day, I shall be standing in either our driveway or in the living room of our home, hugging my boy goodbye and wishing him well as he heads west to the lights of Cheyenne. I think I would be more excited about the former if I could suppress the latter for just a moment or two and not continue to consider them as a combination platter. The best I can do is enjoy the former, endure the latter and keep a good thought that everything comes out OK on the other side - wherever that may be.

Last night I did something I try not to do too often. I stood in Rob's room and looked around. Clearly, it is a work in progress - this transcontinental moving thing - which makes the moving boxes and cardboard cartons scattered throughout readily explainable. But it is also a little bit of a time capsule. One can scan high and low and to all four corners of the room to see little snapshots and mementos of what - at any particular time in Rob's life - caught his eye and piqued his curiosity. There are books from his childhood, yearbooks and photo albums from his high school days, memorabilia from Manhattan "acquired" while he was a student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and living at the New Yorker Hotel on 8th Avenue and 34th Street and magazines, DVDs and compact discs that are cross-generational. It is a good room. It is a room that reveals just a bit about its inhabitant to the visitor's eye but comes not close at all to revealing too much.

And the thought hit me last night as I stood in the vault that is my son's room in his familial home that he will likely not call our home his home again. He will crash here now and then - when he comes East from Wyoming - or home from wherever his life's journey takes him thereafter. But his room will forever be transformed into "my room when I was a kid" shown off to children who had never seen grandma's house before and who want to see where Daddy slept when he was a child.

Those are days that I will enjoy when they arrive. But they are not even a mirage on the horizon line at this point. For the short term, all I see is an empty room. And stark reminders of time gone by. Time that I hope I did not merely squander.

Time that cannot be bottled. Not now. Not ever.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Of Solitude and Chicken Salad

If I were you 
I'd make it a point in that lunch hour 
I'd find a place that's quiet and peaceful 
and I'd be away from all the noisiness and insanity, 
have a sandwich read a magazine maybe listen on a radio 
to a game at Fenway if it was playing at the time 
and I'd make sure everyone knew 
that I didn't want to be disturbed in that hour of solitude 
because that would be my time my own private time 
which no one if they had any sense of any self-preservation 
at all would dare interrupt... 
...if I were you.
-Jerome Facher 
(A Civil Action)

I am a person of few friends, which arrangement the world and I greet with equal aplomb.  Among the many social rituals in which I long ago opted out of participating was the "work lunch".  I can still recall each of the half-dozen occasions in the past two decades on which I have eaten lunch out of the office in the company of someone with whom I work, which feat is particularly impressive when you consider that only one of those six occasions has occurred within the past twelve years. I bring lunch from home and I eat it, in the quiet of my office, alone while I read, on-line, portions of that day's edition of The New York Times.

Yesterday morning, I headed out to the boondocks of Sussex County to spend what I anticipated would be the first of several days (including all of this week and at least a day or two following Thanksgiving) trying a case.  When I left the house, I hedged my bet as it were and actually packed something for lunch.  I do not eat while I am on trial for I live with an almost pathological fear of a mustard stain on my tie or a lettuce fragment wedged between my front teeth.  Nevertheless, I risked jinxing myself by packing something to eat for lunch - to be consumed only if the case somehow resolved and I was back in my office before day's end so that I could eat it there. 

Margaret is a woman of innumerable talents - although taste in choosing life companion may or may not be one.  Among the things she does spectacularly well is make chicken salad.  I cannot divulge all of her secrets - if I told you I would have to kill you - but I can tell you that when she makes it, I take it for lunch EVERY DAY until there is none left.  Then I sulk until she makes it again. It really is extraordinary. 

To my surprise, shortly before 2:00 o'clock yesterday afternoon the case that I doubted would ever settle did so.  As I drove back to my office, I was buoyed by two thoughts, the first of which is that happiness is a closed file.  The second one?  My decision to bring Margaret's chicken salad for lunch had paid off handsomely...

...for in mid-November, while there is no afternoon baseball game to listen to, there is still Margaret's chicken salad and a quiet place in which to enjoy it.  


Monday, November 13, 2017

Not the Town for Whom the Cookie is Named...

Happiness is a Monday spent in Newton, New Jersey... likely a sentiment expressed aloud by significantly fewer people than you might think.  It is far less likely that you will add my name to that list.  Yet, Newton is where I shall spend my Monday.  Barring the unforeseen settlement of a case in which little to no progress towards resolution has been made, most of - if not all of - my week will be spent in Newton on trial.  

Trying cases.  It beats working for a living.  Most of the time anyway.  

Here is to hoping this week is one of those times. 


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Hey Eddie, Can You Get Us A Ride?

This old man is running on fumes a bit this morning.  

Thanks to the incredible generosity of Lynne, a great friend of the Missus and me, I spent a significant portion of last evening at the Walter Kerr Theatre with Lynne...and in the company of a third Garden State icon.   

Talk about one hell of an enjoyable meeting across the river.  An extraordinary experience from beginning to end.  An experience for which I am eternally indebted to Lynne.