Friday, February 27, 2015

At the Point of Intersection Between Impotence and Anger

Sometimes No Truth is More Powerful Than
One Expressed in Anger by a Melancholy Man. 
- Pete Hamill

There is no feeling that makes me angrier than that of being powerless.   The feeling, grounded in fact and in knowledge, that irrespective of whatever I might do, whatever bribe I might offer to pay, whatever God I might curse, whatever deal I might make with Satan himself, am impotent to prevent events from continuing on their pre-determined course. 

At this moment, the tip of the spear (Sister edition) of the Kenny siblings - Evan - and the love of her life - my brother-in-law Glenn (whom she refers to affectionately as "MWH") are neck deep in a battle against the insidious, invasive piece of shit disease that is cancer.  It is a battle that they neither sought out nor deserve.  They have been engaged by an enemy whose only satisfaction will come from cutting a swath of pain and sorrow through their home.  

Cancer, I fucking hate you.  Leave Evan and Glenn alone, you prick.   




-AK 









Thursday, February 26, 2015

And Then There Were Two...

Months that is.

The 2015 New Jersey Marathon shall be run on April 26, which coincidentally is also the birthday of my oldest sibling, Bill.  While I am feeling pretty good thus far a bit more than halfway through my training, I will hedge my bet and make sure to mail my birthday card to him a couple of days ahead.  Just in case.  The legendary Frank Gonzales taught me (and countless others) - a bit more than a lifetime ago - of the importance of living life by "The Five Ps":  Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.  It was great advice then and it remains so today. 

As noted above, I am slightly more than halfway through my training program (3/4 of the way through Week Eight of a Sixteen-Week program) and thus far all systems are go.  I am continuing to push my mind to push my body into - and through - levels of discomfort that I hope will better prepare it - and me - for the discomfort that I shall undoubtedly experience during the race.  The goal is to condition myself to accept the discomfort and to, therefore, respond to it accordingly.  I cannot avoid it.  I intend merely to be able to manage it.  

All has gone well thus far.  Things shall really begin to get interesting this Sunday.  I shall kick off Week Nine with a sixteen-mile run.  From this Sunday through Sunday, April 5, my weekly Sunday long runs are of the following distances:  16, 16, 17, 18, 20 and 20.  Completion of the designated distance shall not be my principal focus.  Rather, my focus shall be on completion of it in miles completed at not more than an eight-minute pace.  

Two months to go.  Many miles still to run.  Discomfort management is - and remains - the order of the day.

-AK 




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

In the Words of Jimmy Page...

"Too good not to share...!"


Judging by this 6:13 performance, I would say that these children have acquired an impressive level of proficiency.  This is not only a performance worth watching, but it is worth watching more than one time, if for no other reason than so that you can focus your eye on different members of the ensemble.  I have a number of favorites - including the tandem in the front row, the little boy in the black sweatshirt in the third row who throws in the occasional head bob, and the four girls in the back (all of whom appear to be playing an instrument other than the xylophone - at least to my incredibly untrained eye).  

My favorite member of this ensemble is the little girl in the aqua/turquoise-colored sweatshirt who is a one of the three-player drum crew.  The little boy manning the kit in front of her is excellent as well (as is the third member of their troika) but she is simply terrific.  

As someone who has as little talent for music as, sadly, I do for essentially everything else, I find the performance of this talented group of children therapeutic.  I cannot help but smile watching them combine talent and enthusiasm to create something that appears to bring them a great deal of joy.  

It turns out that it brings a great deal of joy to others as well, including those of us whose child-like enthusiasms abandoned us a long, long time ago.   Terrific stuff.  Simply terrific.




-AK 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Hope For Just A Little More Rope

"Staring down that long steep slope, 
We gather 'round and we hold out hope, 
That at the end of the rope, 
There's a little more rope most times." 
- Carlisle's Haul 
James McMurtry

When one who is a self-proclaimed misanthrope offers an opinion as to something that he - said misanthrope - enjoys a great deal and that he thinks others might also enjoy, the natural reaction to such an offer is likely one of two things.  

First, consider the source of the information, what a cantankerous prick of misery said misanthrope is, and ignore it altogether.  

Second, consider the source of the information, what a cantankerous prick of misery said misanthrope is, the odds against him actually doing anything for the benefit of another, and take his recommendation to heart.  

Under the circumstances, either response is easily understood and easy to defend.  If, working within the confines of this hypothetical, you opt for what is behind Door #2, then I hope you derive at least a percentage of the enjoyment that I have derived this past week from listening (practically non-stop) to James McMurtry's new record, Complicated Game, which is officially being released today.  

I am not in the prognostication business so I know not whether you shall enjoy it.  I know simply that I have been enjoying it as much as any record I can remember while I have listened to it over and over since this time last week.  

As a fan of his music, I hope this record does well for him so that he can continue to make a living doing something that I think he does exceptionally well and from which I derive a significant amount of pleasure.  

And if you decide to give it a listen, notwithstanding my preference for all creatures four-legged and my presumption that if you are able to read these words, you have not more than one-half of that amount of legs, then I hope you consider it time well-spent.  

-AK 

Monday, February 23, 2015

These Days

First things first.  I would be remiss if I did not - on behalf of the Missus and me - extend thanks and appreciation for all of the nice words and kind sentiments directed our way in the wake of the sudden death on Friday morning of our cat, Boo.  If you are a person who is not a pet owner and a human being mourning the loss of a pet strikes you as absurd, then please know that I understand your position completely.   Please know also that I shall not apologize for my position on the matter.  Nor shall I apologize for my statement, which I stand by, regarding my preference for animals over humans.  

I am sorry that Boo died - and remain at a loss trying to comprehend just what happened to her - but I am thankful that she neither lingered nor suffered.  Within the past several years ago, Margaret and I have had to put down two beloved four-legged members of the family.  On each occasion, the experience has been brutal.  Our little hater spared us having to endure it.  For that I am appreciative. After a lifetime of thirteen-plus years in which she appeared (on her best days) to barely tolerate us humans who were part of her day-to-day, it turns out she loved us after all.  Who knew? 

Her death now makes me the only being in our home who uses the basement treadmill.  Before anyone speed-dials PETA, Boo did not run on the treadmill.  Rather, she used to sit in the basement watching me run and then - almost immediately upon the completion of my run - hop up onto the machine and lie down on it.  Knowing how much she enjoyed the treadmill, I have now set her up in a spot where she can (a) continue to enjoy it; and (b) keep a critical eye on me to ensure that I run hard through every mile.




On Sunday morning, I kicked off this week's training for the New Jersey Marathon by hauling ass (relatively speaking) through fourteen miles on the treadmill.  My goal for this training run, which is the first one in this cycle to take me past the half-marathon, was the same as it has been for each and every training run, which was to run nothing slower than eight-minute miles.  Fourteen miles at eight minutes per mile works out to 112 minutes.  I banged my way through it in 107 minutes and thirty-nine seconds.  While covering fourteen miles in 1:47.39 shall not cause either Meb or my brother-in-law Russ to lose a minute's sleep, for me it was pretty damn satisfying. 

And given the way these past several days have gone, I am not about to turn my nose up at pretty damn satisfying. 

-AK   

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Walk on Frozen Water

So are you willing to wait for the Miracle, 
Willing to wait it Through
Are you willing to wait for the Miracle, 
Or don't you believe they're True? 
- Marc Cohn

If you were born on or after February 22, 1980, then what occurred on that Friday late afternoon/early evening in the Medal Round of the Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament probably seems to you to be the story of an epic sports upset.  Nothing more and nothing less than perhaps the greatest upset in the history of team sports.  In and of itself, a monumental achievement. 

To have been born and to have lived, however, in these United States prior to February 22, 1980 puts you in a position that those among our number who were not so situated, cannot fully comprehend or appreciate.  A position of understanding that what occurred in Lake Placid, New York was about sports - to be sure - but it was about so much more.  

In 1980, there were two nations sporting the sobriquet "Super Power", the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  One of the two spent the decade of the 1970's on its knees, bloodied and bowed.  And it was not the USSR.  When the 1970's began, the "Summer of Love" seemed to be as far removed from the American psyche as was the Battle of Bunker Hill.  We the people spent countless hours (at least on the day that our license plate indicated we were permitted to do so) waiting on lines in an effort to obtain gasoline.  Tens of thousands of American troops remained committed by a gaggle of allegedly very bright, white-haired gentlemen to an utterly impossible-to-win conflict in Vietnam.  By the time the war had ended, a number of the men who had committed the troops there were no longer in office and yet it was the soldiers - the individuals who had been drafted into Hell - who returned home to, in far too many instances, openly hostile receptions.  

The American people re-elected Richard Nixon and his running mate Spiro Agnew in 1972 to the office of the Presidency and the Vice-Presidency respectively.  Nixon won re-election in a landslide over South Dakota Senator George McGovern.  By August 10, 1974, both men were gone.  Agnew in a criminal mess arising out of his way of doing business as an elected official, including Governor, in Maryland and Nixon in a little burglary gone wrong called Watergate.   Gerald Ford, a Congressman from Michigan who ascended to the Vice-Presidency when Nixon appointed him to replace Agnew, who resigned in September, 1973, continued his historic ascendancy when he became President Ford upon Nixon's resignation of the office at 12:00 noon on August 9, 1974.  When President Ford appointed former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller to serve as Vice-President, it represented the first time in American History that the two highest elected offices in the country were each occupied by an individual for whom no one had cast a single vote.  Not one.  

The wobble through the 1970's continued of Ford's watch.  Roughly one month after Nixon resigned the Presidency, Ford pardoned him, which proved to be a move of questionable political efficacy when Ford sought election to the office in 1976.  America, by this point, had become so completely mind-fucked that a majority of the people who showed up on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November, 1976 to vote for President actually voted for Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter

By the time the world arrived in upstate New York for the 1980 Winter Olympics, Jimmy Carter's America was in fairly dire straits, economically and geo-politically.  In 1979, the United States Embassy in Tehran, Iran was overrun by Iranian nationals who appreciated the virtues of neither their deposed Shah nor the United States government who had propped him up on his throne.  Americans were taken hostage.  They would not be freed during the Carter Presidency.  In December, 1979, the USSR invaded Afghanistan even though the United States warned them not to do so - or else.  It turned out that the "or else" was an American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.  

Ten years of self-loathing, self-doubt and self-destruction had left we the people of these United States feeling pretty shitty about ourselves and our country.  In spite of Carter's boycott of the Moscow games, the Soviet Union still sent its athletes to Lake Placid for the Winter Olympics.  No doubt, it did so in significant part because it welcomed the opportunity to flex its muscles not only on the international stage of the Olympics but to do so on American soil.  

In the final game that the two teams played prior to their respective arrivals in Lake Placid, the Soviet Olympic Hockey Team, which was essentially the Soviet Red Army Team - the most dominant hockey team on the planet, and the American Olympic Hockey Team, which was a team comprised principally of college-age players (and one Olympic veteran, Buzz Schneider, who had played in the 1976 Olympics) who somehow survived Herb Brooks' selection process and training program, played at Madison Square Garden.  On February 9, 1980, the Soviets dismantled the Americans 10-3.   

Thirteen days later, Mike Eruzione, Captain of the American team, collected a pass just inside the Soviet blue line, shot and scored the goal that put the United States ahead 4-3.  Eruzione's go-ahead goal occurred exactly at the game's fiftieth minute (the 10:00 mark of the third period).  For the final ten minutes, the Soviet players buzzed around the American half of the ice and peppered shots at goalie Jim Craig but Craig, who just thirteen days earlier had been overwhelmed by the Soviet attack, stood fast.  

As the time grew shorter, people all across the United States (watching the game on tape-delay) kept one eye on the clock and the other fixed skyward awaiting the arrival of the inevitably Earth-bound other shoe.   It never arrived.  Eventually, time grew so short that but one question remained to be asked.  

Thirty-five years ago, on this very date, a group of twenty American kids, led by their mad scientist coach, won a hockey game.  And in the process they did quite a bit more than that.  They helped remind a nation of people who had grown disillusioned and weary under the weight of a decade's worth of failed expectations, corruption and incompetence what it meant to be an American

A miracle?  If one considers what happens when a group of people, united in purpose, put aside whatever differences and petty disagreements they may have in favor of sacrifice and subjugation to achieve a sought-after goal to constitute a miracle, then indeed it was.  




-AK 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Little Creature. Big Hole.

A bit of sad business crept inside the four walls of our little home yesterday.  One of our two cats, Boo, died.  As far as Margaret and I were able to tell, the little monster we affectionately referred to as "Six Pounds of Hate" because her beautifully-expressive face always made her appear as if she was mad as hell, simply had a heart attack or some such event.  




She was alive and well when Margaret and I went to bed Thursday night at a bit after 10:00 PM - and was in fact in her customary place flopping all over Rosie in Rosie's bed on the floor immediately adjacent to my side of the bed. However, when I walked through the hallway on my way to take a shower at 3:30 AM yesterday morning, I saw her motionless on the floor.  She was gone. 

Boo is/was one half of a great story.  She and her brother, Dempsey, were introduced into our home as newborn kittens, having been found in a box on the side of a road by Margaret's former husband, Bob, as he was on his way to perform electrical work at a customer's home.  Boo and Dempsey were so tiny that their eyes were barely open.  They knew not how to do anything for themselves and they had been taken from their mother at such an early age that she had not yet had the opportunity to teach them what they needed to know.  It fell therefore to Margaret and to Rob to take care of them.  And take care of them they did.  For the first several weeks of their lives, Margaret and Rob fed them them and, essentially, mothered them.  That was October, 2001. 

Over the course of the past thirteen and one-half years, Boo became what pets become, which was an integral part of the fabric of our life.  Her brother, Dempsey, is the single-most, un-catlike cat I have ever encountered in that he is incredibly people-friendly and at times almost desperate in his need for affection.  Boo?  She spent her life interacting with us humans who shared space with her on her terms.  Her physical frame was small - Dempsey is close to twice her size - but her spirit was big. 




I far prefer the company of animals to the company of human beings.  Nary a day goes by during which - on at least one occasion - I do not have to suppress my "I Want to Punch That M*ther F*cker in the Larynx" reflex while interacting with other humans.  I have never had to do so  - not once - with any of the animals with whom I have been fortunate enough to share space.  




I know not what will happen to Dempsey now - although I am worried about him.  He and his sister spent the past thirteen and one-half years essentially intertwined.  Now, she is gone.  I know not whether his little feline brain can actually process "loss" and whether he understands to any degree whatsoever what has happened.  




I worry about Rosie too.  She has lived in the company of cats her entire life.  This photograph from May 2008, when Rosie was less than one year old, features Boo, Dempsey and Rosie as they often are/were:  together.  It is among my favorites - admittedly in large part due to the fact that each one's eyes are drawn to something completely different.



Boo kept those of us of the bi-ped persuasion at arm's length.  Yet, she had a soft spot in her little heart for Rosie.  They slept together at night and Boo made sure to spend a portion of her day, every day, nuzzling with her hairy, canine half-sister.  On one particular occasion, she allowed Rosie to return the favor of using her as a pillow.


  

The great, sagacious Dr. Seuss instructed us, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."  It certainly did.

Every day for the past thirteen and one-half years.    

-AK