Monday, January 16, 2017

A Thousand Words' Worth...

Sometimes no truth is more powerful than
One expressed in anger by a melancholy man.
- Pete Hamill

For the birthday girl.  This year... year...

...Every year.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017

We Are 104

One cannot be a fan of the New York Rangers without knowing what it means to have your heart broken.  Last night, it happened yet again. 

On a day that confirmed the presence of multiple heroes in the McDonald family, Patti Ann and Conor allowed Rangers fans to do - at the Garden - what they had themselves had to do earlier in the day...


Friday, January 13, 2017

The Unsinkable Mrs. Brown

The following piece originally appeared in this space almost seven years ago, on Friday, February 13, 2009. Thinking about the incident that is featured prominently in it, almost forty years after it happened, never fails to make me laugh.  We were, for one evening, the "Irish Family Kenny".  To our rescue sailed the unsinkable Helen Brown, ably aided by her husband, Arthur, and their daughter, Roxanne. 

I suspect (or perhaps, it is simply a hope) that these days, Mrs. Brown, spends a portion of her time these days talking American History with her old friend, colleague, and boss, WPK, Sr.  Helen Brown died slightly less than two years ago, on January 28, 2015.   


Triskadekaphobia or Treat?

Today is Friday the 13th and as luck would have it - this being a year in which we look but do not leap - we will have the opportunity to enjoy another one this time, next month. (Do not get giddy in look ahead to April hoping against hope for a trifecta. It gets even scarier then - the 13th is a Monday.)

Friday the 13th evokes memories for me of certain events from my youth Beginning in the 5th grade, I went to school where my father was a teacher and an administrator. Either when I was a fifth grader, or perhaps when I was in Grade Six, Dad and the the school Booster Club organized a basketball game to raise money for the Club, which helped fund our school's Athletic Department.

The game was between the faculty and a team of Major League baseball players. (It was the pre-steroid era so none of us feared "roid rage"). The hook to the touring band of players was Jeff Torborg. Mr. Torborg was a Westfield native, a star player at Rutgers and had - in fact - for one season while he was between big league managerial and/or coaching gigs served as our school's Athletic Director and Varsity baseball coach. On what turned out to be a miserably cold and rainy winter's night, he brought his gang of ball players with him to Inman Avenue to "throw down" against the W-H faculty.

I still smile thinking of the event because it was an unqualified success. The players were not stars, although their roster included one future star - Willie Wilson of the Kansas City Royals - who might just be the greatest high school athlete we have ever produced here in Levelland, but they were all great sports. All posed for pictures for a long time after the game and signed autographs for whoever wanted one. Somewhere Rob has my autographed baseball that Mr. Torborg signed along with Willie Wilson, Glenn Borgmann, Johnny Briggs and the rest of their team.

The weather was a non-factor of course as the game was played at W-H's gym. Post-game however it became an enormous factor. On our drive home - with Dad behind the wheel, Mom riding shotgun and Kara, Jill and I across the back seat of the station wagon - we went thru a lake-like puddle and Dad's car died. We could not get restarted. We were but 5 minutes from school, which meant we were about 40 minutes from home. It was late. It was the pre-cell phone era. We were screwed.

Dad (if I remember correctly) found a nearby pay phone and had the audacity to call one of the teachers who worked for him and who had the misfortune of living nearby. And because she was the absolute salt of the earth, on a night not fit for man nor beast, in response to the call from her boss Helen Brown - my History teacher - and her husband, Art, came out to where we were to rescue us. And by "rescue" I mean not only get us out of our stranded car but put us up in their home for the night.

Mrs. Brown was a bit of a character. She was an incredibly good history teacher but she was generally considered to be a bit odd by most of her students.  In our defense, she was the only teacher I ever had who wrapped the pieces of chalk she used in Scotch tape, the efficacy of which I understand as an adult but which eluded me completely as a child. She had a Code of Conduct by which her life was lived that I could not get a whiff of on my best day. It was more than a bit mortifying to a "trying so hard to be so cool" 12 or 13 year-old to spend the night at a teacher's home and I was prepared to take to my grave the fact that I had been there. Unfortunately I failed to adequately communicate that fact to Mrs. Brown.

In History class on Monday, which as I recall was an afternoon affair, Mrs. Brown spilled the beans. She began innocuously enough by asking who among us had been at school Friday night for the basketball game and about autographs we had been able to collect and then - without warning - she gave up the fact that our family had spent the night at her family's home. Having kept that potentially embarrassing piece of information to myself all day up to that point, it was hard for me to pretend as if I had forgotten about it when, as soon as the bell rang signaling the end of the period, my friends descended upon me like fat guys looking to carve up the last hot dog.

In my pre-teen mind, I was incensed that she had "humiliated" me in front of my friends - especially when between my still-oversized head, daily dosages of medicine to combat my epilepsy and the fact that my old man ran the joint I needed neither her help nor anyone else's to accomplish that goal.

In relatively short order - and I do not know why or when specifically it happened - I realized that she had not sought to embarrass me. And more importantly, I realized just what an extraordinary gesture she had made on that cold, rainy Friday the 13th. She and her family had opened up their home to take in not one or even two stranded travelers but five of us.

A lucky day indeed on the unlikeliest of days.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dogs Sleeping Upside Down

True confession.  While a million things crossed through my mind yesterday (well, that is a blatant exaggeration as one million things have not crossed through my mind in close to fifty years' worth of yesterdays), nothing came into focus.

If I had actually planned even a little, I would have figured out some sort of "greatest hit" to post here today.  Nope.  I could not even pull that off. 

Good thing I have a lot of pictures of Rosie from which to choose, including this long-forgotten gem taken two weeks after her arrival...

Rosie Sleeping Upside Down
(October 2, 2007)


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Requiem for a Heavyweight

In the summer of 1986, NYPD officer Steven McDonald - working with his partner in Central Park investigating thefts of bicycles - was shot three times in the head and neck by a teenager as he questioned him.  McDonald survived the shooting but was left paralyzed from the neck down and respirator-dependent to breathe. 

Officer McDonald's wife, Patti Ann, was pregnant at the time.  Approximately three months later, Patti Ann gave birth to the couple's son, Conor. 

Steven McDonald was a die-hard fan of the New York Rangers.  And truth be told, it was his Rangers' allegiance - as much as his service to the people of New York - that introduced me to him. In the 1987-88 season, the Rangers introduced the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, which the fans vote on and which is awarded to the Ranger who goes above and beyond the normal call of duty. The Rangers have given the award every year since.  My favorite Ranger, Adam Graves, won it five times, which no other Ranger has equalled.  

Steven McDonald did not retire from the NYPD when he was shot in 1986.  In fact, he never retired from the NYPD.  He remained on the job, mentoring new recruits, lecturing at high schools, and sharing with the world his indomitable, unbreakable spirit.  He forgave the teenager who shot him and carried forward the message of "Faith and Forgiveness".  

And he carried forward the legacy of serving the people of the City of New York.  His son, Conor, who was born just months after his dad was injured in the line of duty, became the fourth generation of McDonald men to join the NYPD in 2010.  Last year, Conor McDonald was promoted to the rank of Detective. 

Steven McDonald, fifty-nine years old, suffered a massive heart attack at his home in Malverne, New York.  Yesterday, he died.  

From one member of Blueshirt Nation to another, thank you for your service, for your inspiration, and your example.  This world was a better place for you being in it.  May we all honor your memory by paying forward your example.  


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Wonderful World, Indeed

My sister, Kara, and my brother-in-law, Russ, spent at least several days last week in Orlando, Florida at one of the properties christened "The Happiest Place On Earth".  To borrow a line from Mr. Springsteen, they were not in Orlando on business, they were only there for fun.  Kind of, sort of. 

Thursday, January 5 through Sunday, January 8 was the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. According to the website, four races take place at Disney World over the course of those four days:  5K on Thursday, 10K on Friday, Half-Marathon on Saturday, and a Marathon on Sunday.  A runner may elect to sign up for all four races, a feat Disney refers to as the "Dopey Challenge", which is 48.6 miles of racing.  

Russ, 58 years young and a real-life running machine, accepted the "Dopey Challenge".  He not only accepted it, he obliterated it:  26:30 in the 5K, 44:08 in the 10K, and 3:25:48 in the Marathon.  In Friday's 10K he finished in 3rd place in his age group (55-59 y/o men) and 134th overall.  On Sunday, his 3:25:48 finishing time in the marathon was good enough for 2nd place in his age group and 263rd overall.  

Stel, who is about six months away from celebrating birthday #54, signed up for Saturday's Half-Marathon.  Unfortunately, the weather in Orlando, Florida on Saturday was fit for Donald Duck but not for those of the non web-footed persuasion.  Disney cancelled the Half, which bummed Stel to no end and deprived Russ of the chance to collect yet another top-3 age group finish.  Stel, with whom I ran this past November through the streets of New York, could have simply collected her Half-Marathon Medal and called it a weekend.  She did not.  Instead, she registered on one day's notice for the Marathon.  

If you are not a runner and/or if you are not a runner who has ever tackled serious distance races, such as half-marathons, marathons, and beyond, then I shall not bore you here with the minutiae of how one trains and prepares to race at such a distance.  I will say simply this:  I have completed a half-dozen marathons in the past six-plus years and, during that same time period, I have completed at least as many half-marathons.  Never would I consider - on ONE DAY'S NOTICE - bumping up from a half-marathon to a marathon.  

I should mention parenthetically that although the powers at Disney have a name for running all of their races (Dopey Challenge) and for running the half and the full marathon back-to-back (Goofy Challenge), there is no kitschy Disney name for what Kara did (although the "Not Recommended by Doc" leaped immediately to mind).  It mattered not.  On Sunday, Stel completed her second-ever marathon, crossing the finish line in 6:35:22, which shaved approximately five minutes off of her NYC Marathon finishing time.   

A PR on a day's notice.  I have no words.  

None are necessary.  This photograph sums it all up quite nicely, thank you very much. 

Dos Bad Asses