Friday, October 12, 2018

So Much That Time & Memory Fade Away

I am a man of few friends.  It is an arrangement that the world and I embrace with equal enthusiasm, I assure you.  

Among those who I am fortunate enough to have called my friend for almost thirty-five years now is my roommate from my freshman year at CU, Alex Schreiber.  Today is Schneeds' birthday and I hope that it is a happy one.  

After rooming together on Farrand Hall's fourth floor our freshman year, Alex and I lived together off-campus as juniors and as seniors.  He is among the most profoundly intelligent, naturally intellectually curious human beings who I have ever known.  His intellect, combined with his passion for British rock and roll, his willingness to enjoy some of that old demon alcohol, and his commitment to working hard when it was time to work and playing hard when it was time to play, all worked together to ensure that our time at CU (in addition to the two of us, Jay, John, and Loku comprised our band of merry (and only occasionally criminally so) men) was a time of my life at which I still look back with fondness.  

Schneeds and I sat side-by-side in the Events Center on May 12, 1989, and flipped the tassels on our caps from "We Have Almost Done It" to "We Did It!" in rhythm with the other several thousand graduates of the CU-Boulder College of Arts and Sciences.  This spring shall mark the 30th anniversary of our graduation.  I know not for certain where all of the time has gone over the course of these past three decades.  It has gone where it always goes, I reckon, which is right past me at a speed that I find harder and harder to comprehend...

...although not as hard to comprehend as whatever the hell Loku is doing in this thirty-plus-year-old photograph.  If I had to wager, I would bet that at some point not too long before this picture was taken, the old demon alcohol had made an appearance.

Happy Birthday, Schneeds. 


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Sip of the Magical Elixir

I spent Thursday and Friday of last week as disgusted by the climate in this country as I have ever been in more than fifty-one and one-half years of life - and counting.  In a nationally-televised spectacle, we demonstrated that we have elevated our capacity for talking at one another and over one another - as opposed to talking to or with one another - to heights heretofore believed to be unattainable.  Along the way, we have collectively learned how to enable opinion to complete its metamorphosis into fact, which has enabled us to perfect the not-entirely-unrelated skills of converting any statement with which we disagree into a lie and any person with whom we disagree into our blood enemy.  This mess, which is very much one of our own creation, is one that not only seems unlikely to be cleaned up soon but one that the powers that be on both sides of the ever-burgeoning chasm that divides us in these United States have zero interest in cleaning up. 

It was against this backdrop that the Missus and I made our annual pilgrimage to lower Manhattan on September's final weekend.  We were joined, as we usually are, by Jeff and Gidg.  Gidg and I have run in the Tunnel to Towers Run, which is held on the last Sunday of September, every year since 2010.  Jeff joined us for the first time either a year or two later. 

This brief jaunt into New York City is about so much more than simply participating in the Tunnel to Towers Run.  Margaret and I arrived shortly before three o'clock on Saturday afternoon and after checking into our hotel, met up with Gidg so that the three of us could walk around the National September 11 Memorial and pay our respects.  I am lucky in that no one to whom I was related by blood or marriage nor anyone who I had a close enough relationship with to call my friend was murdered on that terrible day.  I have family members and friends who are not as fortunate as I.  This year, we placed an American flag at the name of six such individuals:

Joyce Ann Carpeneto
(Friend of my friend, John Quinn-
a/k/a "The Omnipotent Q")

John Michael Collins, FDNY
(Immaculata High School Class of '76-
Classmate of my brother, Kelly)

Antoinette Duger
(Cousin of my friend, Gerard Gonnella)

Thomas Irwin Glasser
(Only Wardlaw-Hartridge School alumni
killed on September 11) 

Thomas Edward Gorman, PAPD NY/NJ
(Only Middlesex Boro, New Jersey resident
killed on September 11)

Frank Bennett Reisman
(Friend of my sister, Jill) 

In addition to placing those six flags, Margaret and Gidg helped me place a flag at each of the ten Colorado Buffaloes who died on September 11, 2001.  None of the men and women with whom Joe, Jill, and I all share our Alma mater was someone who I knew.  It matters not.  My association with the University of Colorado, Boulder is an association of which I am as proud as any I have ever had. The CU fight song includes the words, "Shoulder to Shoulder", and in the almost thirty years since I graduated (it shall be thirty years in May, 2019), I have been reminded time and again that to a Colorado Buffalo "Shoulder to Shoulder" means more than simply being a lyric in a song.  Quite a bit more.  

Nina Patrice Bell

Christopher Ciafardini

Scott Thomas Coleman

Brian Thomas Cummins

Christopher Edward Faughnan

Allison Horstmann Jones

Chandler Raymond Keller

Joshua M. Rosenblum 

Adam S. White

Leslie A. Whittington

On Saturday evening, after we finished our business at the National September 11 Memorial, the four of us had dinner at O'Hara's Pub, which is located less than one block from Ten House.  O'Hara's Pub has an extraordinary history, including but not limited to the part it played feeding and nourishing the first responders who made lower Manhattan their home in the weeks and months following September 11, 2001.  We make it part of our pilgrimage every year.  If you have never been, I strongly recommend that you visit it.  Its proximity to Ten House makes it easy to visit both on one trip. 

Sunday morning dawned bright and beautiful.  Gidg, Jeff, and I took the ferry from Pier 17 over to Red Hook, Brooklyn and made our way to the starting area.  We were joined by a small, intimate group of 25,000 runners and walkers, a very small portion of whom can be seen in these pre-race photographs. 

I am indeed a lucky man.  I am lucky because Margaret was waiting for me at the finish line in lower Manhattan - as she always is.  Trust me when I tell you that there is no sight I would rather see at journey's end than my wife's face. 

Not too terribly long after the three of us crossed the finish line, our quartet gathered ourselves up and headed back to our hotel and, thereafter, the journey back across the river to the Jersey side.  As the Missus and I were standing on the platform in Newark Penn Station, awaiting the arrival of our Northeast Corridor train to Metropark, which arrived only six minutes late (a/k/a "on time" by NJ Transit standards), it occurred to me just how important Tunnel to Towers Weekend is to me each year.  It is a transformative experience.  It is the live-action equivalent of a B-12 shot.  And in all the years that I have participated in this event, never has there been a year when I needed its curative, elixir-like powers as much as I needed it this year.  

For just a very short while, I was reminded of the fact that America has not always been about appealing to the lowest common denominator in human beings; it has not always been about looking for those things that divide us rather than those things in which we can all final common purpose, strength, and hope.  Whether we have injured ourselves and this Republic beyond the point of repair I know not.  I choose to believe we have not.  I hope to hell we have not.  

I know not whether I have the strength to make it another fifty-one weeks until I receive my next B-12 shot.  I reckon though that I am going to be required to find out.  


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Here, at September's End...

- Green Day

FF Stephen Gerard Siller - FDNY 
Squad 1 - Brooklyn
National September 11 2001 Memorial

Firefighter Stephen Gerard Siller was the youngest of seven children born to Mae and George Siller. At the age of eight, Stephen lost his father, and a year and a half later his mother passed away, leaving him an orphan to be raised by his older siblings. For a while Stephen went through a period of struggle, but thanks to the love of his siblings, and the values instilled in him by his parents, he grew up to be an extraordinary individual and dedicated firefighter. More than most, he knew that time was precious and accomplished much in his 34 years.
On September 11, 2001, Stephen, who was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1, had just finished his shift and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he got word over his scanner of a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Upon hearing the news, Stephen called his wife Sally and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later. He returned to Squad 1 to get his gear.
Stephen drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 lbs. of gear to his back, and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he gave up his life while saving others.
Stephen had everything to live for; a great wife, five wonderful children, a devoted extended family, and friends. Stephen’s parents were lay Franciscans and he grew up under the guiding philosophy of St. Francis of Assisi, whose encouraging and inspirational phrase “while we have time, let us do good” were words that Stephen lived by. Stephen’s life and heroic death serve as a reminder to us all to live life to the fullest and to spend our time here on earth doing good – this is his legacy.
This morning, thousands of runners and walkers shall assemble on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and follow in the footsteps of Stephen Siller.  Civilians and first responders alike shall participate in the 17th Annual Tunnel to Towers Run.  This annual labor of love is the creation of Siller Family, which has turned a moment of unspeakable, abject tragedy into a never-emptying reservoir of boundless, limitless love.  Their strength gives us strength.  
It is my incredible privilege and honor to be able to, again, this year toe the line on the Brooklyn side and make the journey across the river into Lower Manhattan.  It is my incredible privilege and honor to able to, again, shake the hands of the men and women of the FDNY, the NYPD, and the PAPD NY/NJ, who stand on the Manhattan side of the Battery Tunnel wearing a silk-screened sign bearing the name and face of each of the first responders who died on that terrible Tuesday morning slightly more than seventeen years ago.  It never ceases to amaze me that as we emerge from the tunnel, the men and women in uniform applaud us - as if we - and not they - are the heroes.  
I first participated in this event on September's final Sunday in 2010.  This morning shall be my ninth trip through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, following in the footsteps of FF Stephen Siller and all of those brave men and women who - knowing what hell awaited them - ran into the maelstrom with little regard for their own well-being, focused on the task at hand.  
Here, at September's end, we gather to honor the innocent who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and to ensure that although each of them is gone, none of them shall ever be forgotten.  Not today.  Not tomorrow.  Not ever. 

2011 Tunnel to Towers Run


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Thank You... Sue Kizis (a/k/a "Gidg") for not only running every year but for her annual orchestration of what proved to be a decade's worth of incomparably cool-looking, stylish Sue's Crew race shirts;

Sue's Crew Team Shirts from I (J-O-E) to X (B-O-B) everyone who participated in Sue's Crew, whether you joined us every year or with less frequency.  You helped four generations of our family continue to turn a tragically sad occurrence into a truly memorable annual experience; 

The New Jersey Tree
(Generations I thru IV)

The New Jersey Tree
(Generations III & IV)

The Colorado Tree
(Generations III & IV) each and every member of Sue's Crew X who participated in the 2018 Garbolino 5K on Saturday, September 15.  I am not sure whether this year's Crew was the largest we ever assembled (I am the one who went to law school in no small part because of the refuge it provided to me from hard math). I do know that regardless of whether it was, it was as strong as any of its predecessors because of the character of the the men, women, children, and infants who comprised its roster, including family and friends who gave up a part of their Saturday for us and - in some cases - traveled from as far away as New York, Pennsylvania, or Connecticut to do so.  

Sue's Crew X 
(New Jersey) 

...and to my daughter, Suzanne, and my son-in-law, Ryan, who allowed this old man a morning of pure, unadulterated joy by permitting me to push Maggie (a/k/a "The Franchise") in her Colorado Buffaloes color-schemed running stroller up and down the hills of Roosevelt Park.  Maggie certainly seemed to have had a great time.  As my wingman, Pete Gonzalez, can attest to, I most certainly did.  I had, in fact, the time of my life.  

Maggie and Pop Pop Post-Race Selfie

Maggie & Pop Pop Post-Race

Thank you.  To everyone for every year from 2009 through 2018.  Not a minute of it would have been possible without your participation.  It is appreciated more than can adequately be expressed here.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

As The Light Fades From The Scene...

Sue's Crew I - Race for the Cure
October 3, 2009

There are moments when it seems almost impossible for me to believe that it has been almost a decade since my mother-in-law, Sue Bozzomo, died.  And then, I experience a moment such as I did this morning when I put on my "Sue's Crew X" t-shirt.  Suddenly, I remember just how long a road it has been for Margaret, for Joe, and for my wife's entire family.  

Sue Bozzomo died on June 2, 2009.  Almost immediately thereafter, her two oldest grandchildren, Suzanne and Megan, hatched the idea of "Sue's Crew".  We ran in our very first breast cancer-purposed race in October, 2009, which was the Komen Race for the Cure at Great Adventure.  Each and every autumn since, "Sue's Crew" has participated in a breast cancer-purposed race.  

For the past several years, the race of choice has been the Garbolino Memorial 5K in Roosevelt Park, Edison, New Jersey.  It is there that this morning, for the first and final time, "Sue's Crew X" shall gather and shall run or walk 3.1 miles.  This year though, unlike years past, there is no "next year".  Today's event shall be the tenth and final one.  

A number of us have participated in all ten iterations of Sue's Crew.  The neatest part of the experience, from my perspective anyway, is not those of us who are perpetual repeat customers.  Rather, it is the people we have picked up - and in some cases then lost - along the way.  People who have not run with us every year but have done so when their schedule has permitted it.  It is the changing faces of Sue's Crew that have given it its spice and its color throughout the years.  

Whether you are running with us today or not, if somewhere in your closet or in a dresser drawer you have at least one "Sue's Crew" t-shirt, then we thank you for your support.  We thank you for having been part of something that means a great deal to my wife and to me.  

One last time - with feeling...

...everything must have an end. 


Friday, September 14, 2018

Into the Gloaming

I played a bit of hooky on Tuesday afternoon.  Kind of, sort of I suppose.  I arrived at the office as is my custom by 4:30 a.m. but instead of haunting the Firm's halls until 6:00 p.m. or so, I left by 3:00 p.m.  

I had what I believe to be a solid, legitimate reason for bringing an earlier-than-usual cessation to Tuesday's revenue-generating activities.  I drove down to our little Paradise by the Sea so that I could participate in the September 11 Memorial Run that the Jersey Shore Running Club holds every year.  

Annually, on September 11, runners gather on the boardwalk at 16th Avenue in Belmar for the JSRC's Memorial Run.  Prior to taking the first step on what turns out to be approximately a four-mile run, the first list of three lists containing the names of people who died on September 11, 2001 who had a connection to Monmouth County (whether born there or living there at the time of their death) is read aloud.  Then, the group of two hundred or so runners runs in silence to the September 11 Memorial in Spring Lake where people taking turns reading names off of the second list of the three, and then approximately half of the runners place the small American flags that we have carried with us since the run's beginning at the Memorial.  After that portion is completed, the run continues in silence south on the Spring Lake Boardwalk to the gazebo at Washington Avenue.  There, the names on the final list of the three are read aloud and once that list is completed, people add a remembrance, if they want to, for someone whose memory they carry in their heart. While standing on the beach, we then sing "God Bless America" and disburse.   

This year was only the second time I have had the honor and the privilege of participating in this event.  I was pleased that I had the chance to run and to reflect with a great old friend from law school, Colin Quinn.  We ran together in silence from Belmar to Spring Lake and then stood together on the beach in Spring Lake lending our voices to "God Bless America".  It really is an extraordinary event.  I was pleased and touched this year to see a number of children who were born years after the terrible events of that day participate - including at least a half-dozen or so who read names aloud.  

It was raining lightly when we began our journey south from Belmar.  By the time we reached our final destination in Spring Lake, it was raining quite a bit harder.  With all of the meteorological machinations that have been afoot this week in the Atlantic, the setting could not have been any more appropriate visually.  The gun-metal gray sky seemed to blend and to intertwine itself with the powerful, gray ocean, from which waves white with foam arose with a determined purpose.  It was as if the weather knew precisely what it was we were there to do and cued up the most symbolic conditions possible for us to do it. 

An extraordinary event.  One designed to honor the promise that we the living make to the dead.  One in which I am very happy I had the opportunity to participate. 


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Importance of Nostalgia

I always make a distinction 
between nostalgia and sentimentality.
Nostalgia is genuine -
you mourn things that actually happened.
- Pete Hamill

Seventeen years ago, September 11 was a Tuesday.  It was the morning after the New York Giants - fresh off having taken a beating in the Super Bowl at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens - helped the Denver Broncos christen their new iteration of Mile High Stadium on Monday Night Football by taking yet another beating.  It was a warm, sun-soaked morning. 

I arrived at the Bergen County Justice Center in Hackensack that morning for the civil trial calendar call in the courtroom of the Honorable Peter Doyne.  In September, 2001, Judge Doyne was the Presiding Judge of the Civil Division.  I got out of my car and began the short walk across the parking lot to the courthouse at some time between 8:30 and 8:40 that morning.  I was inside of the building by the time the world had changed forever at 8:46 a.m. 

We are now seventeen years removed from what remains the single worst day that I have witnessed firsthand in more than fifty-one and one-half years on this planet.  All across this country, children shall graduate from high school at the end of this academic year who never lived in a "pre-9/11 world". Children who had not yet been born as of this date seventeen years ago.  

It is not just for them - but it is indeed at least in part for them - why those of us who were alive on this date seventeen years must never forget the men and women who were murdered that day, whether at the Pentagon, in Pennsylvania, or in Lower Manhattan.  It is not just for them - but it is indeed at least in part for them - why I spend the thirty days or so leading up to this date telling an admittedly skin-deep story about a man or a woman who was killed on September 11, 2001.  I write them because doing so teaches me something about someone who I did not know.  If you read them, then perhaps they do the very same thing for you.   

The obligation rests with the living to speak for the dead.  It is our obligation to do that which must be done to not simply honor their memory but to ensure that their lives, their existence, is not forgotten.  

Nostalgia is genuine.  It mourns things that actually happened...

...including those terrible things that happened seventeen years ago today.  Those things we shall never forget.  Those lives that shall never be forgotten.