Wednesday, December 7, 2016

In Furtherance of Our Righteous Might

There is a Land of the Living
and a Land of the Dead, 
and the Bridge is Love, 
the only Survival, the only Meaning.
- Thornton Wilder

As of today, the Bridge that connects Pearl Harbor to the present spans seventy-five years in length. Incredibly, it is a post that remains manned by more than one hundred nonagenarians.  Seventy-five years ago, these young sailors and soldiers survived an ambush attack that killed 2,403 Americans, an attack that brought an inexorable, abrupt, and irreversible end to their youth.  

For some of them, including then-sixteen-year-old Vito Colonna, the war that began at Pearl Harbor carried them through a tour of places that were figuratively Hell on Earth, including Iwo Jima. 

On December 8, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Address to Congress requested Declaration of War upon the Empire of Japan.  From that day forward through the dropping of the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945, America was at war.  It was a war fought - as wars inevitably are - by young men.  Rare is the statesman or leader who - upon instigating a conflict or being drawn into one by an enemy - actually does the fighting, the bleeding, and the dying.  

Seventy-five years after one of this nation's darkest days, we find ourselves mired in a national state of gloaming as the amount of heavy gray in the skies above us depends upon one's political point of view - perhaps more than at any time during the past half-century.  Slightly more than one month ago, this nation elected a new President of the United States, an event that prompted (among other things) the cancellation of classes, the postponement of exams, and the scheduling of appointments with grief/crisis counselors at college campuses across America.  

On December 8, 1941, in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, countless thousands of American college-aged kids went to war. On November 9, 2016, in response to the results of the Presidential Election, countless thousands of American college kids went into the fetal position...and did so with the blessing (and in some instances, at the direction) of their professors and instructors.  


It seems to me (one man, one opinion) that among the lessons to be learned from Pearl Harbor and all that followed after it for the next forty-four months is that Americans responded to that horrific event - not by tucking our tails between our legs, wedging our heads up our asses, or running away towards Canada as fast as possible - but by backing up President Roosevelt's guarantee ("No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory").   

If we are no longer that America - a nation of people willing to sweat and to work and to fight like hell for that which is right and that which is just - then not only did 2,403 Americans die in vain seventy-five years ago today, Vito Colonna and the other one hundred-plus Pearl Harbor survivors have lived in vain every day since that terrible December morning.  

Personally, I refuse to accept that is who and what we have become and, furthermore, to allow it to become so.  I intend to man a post on that Bridge and invite you to do the same.  

There is plenty of space on it for all of us.

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial 
Photo credit:  Robert J. MacMaster 
(June, 2014 - taken while on his honeymoon)



Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hoping for a Stampede through the Museum where Daniel Whupped the Devil

On Friday night, in Santa Clara, California, the much-dreaded other shoe finally made its descent.  It landed squarely on the noggins of my beloved Buffaloes and knocked them silly, turning the Pac-12 Championship Game from a 14-7 contest at the half to a 41-10 blowout victory for the UW Huskies by game's end.  

Although Coach Mac and his charges fell one victory shy of their stated goal, it is impossible to view the 2016 season as anything other than an unqualified success for the Buffaloes.  To date, they have played thirteen games, of which they have lost but three.  On Sunday, December 4, they accepted a bid to play in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.  On Thursday, December 29, 2016, the tenth-ranked Colorado Buffaloes will lock horns with their old friends from the Big Eight / Big XII Conference, the Oklahoma State Cowboys.  

Oklahoma State Cowboys v. Colorado Buffaloes
December 29, 2016 

Had the Buffs won the Pac-12 Championship on Friday night - and earned a berth in the Rose Bowl - then I might very well have taken Horace Greeley's advice and headed west to Pasadena, California for the game.  As it is, given the unfavorable treatment that Irish Catholics have historically received on trips to Texas, I shall watch the Alamo Bowl from the comfort and safety of my living room. 

Whether Coach Mac's kids can put the brakes on their one-game losing streak, and finish this magic carpet ride of a season with one more victory, I do not pretend to know.  My job is simply to root like hell for them, which I shall have the chance to do one more time this season.  I appreciate the hard work they have done thus far to present me with this opportunity...

...some punk's idea of a teenage nation has forced Santa Ana to change his station from soldier to cartoon.  


Monday, December 5, 2016

A Return to the Happy Place

Christmas Tree Lighting - Lake Como, N.J.
December 3, 2016

Lake Como is very much a small town.  Margaret and I - although we "live" there for present purposes in the summer - spend as much time as we can there throughout the year.  For the second consecutive year, we attended the Christmas Tree Lighting at Boro Hall.  On Saturday night, after Mayor Brian Wilton led the children (including the tallish, gray-bearded ones) on a rousing rendition of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", the tree was lighted and the several dozen people in attendance went into Boro Hall, our Mayor read "Santa Claus Comes to the Jersey Shore".  It is quite a magical tale and this year - as it did last year - the mere reading of the tale conjured up the great man himself, Santa Claus! 

It had bothered me more than just a little bit that I had not been able to get to the beach at all during November.  It was a long time to be away from my happy place.   And it was very nice to be back.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like January...

Is it possible that Christmas is only three weeks away?  That is a rhetorical question of course.  Even with my limited skills, I can do the math necessary to calculate the distance between this day and that one.  Not to be a show off but I also know that 2017 is but twenty-eight days away. 

Whether it shall come to pass or not, I do not yet know, but as of this morning I am scheduled to start trial tomorrow in Bergen County.  It occurred to me while I was doing some trial preparation work on Friday that I have not tried a case thus far this year.  That is one hell of a drought.  While it is never my preference to try cases in December (no attorney who defends civil cases has any interest in dealing with a "Christmas jury"), if this case actually is tried, then it hopefully will be a fun few days in Hackensack.

The concern you have - as the black-hearted defense guy - is that 'round these parts as December pops up on the calendar, people start getting touched by the "Christmas spirit".  As a general rule, people generous in spirit tend to be people who are generous with other people's money.  When those people end up on your jury - if you represent the person or party who is being sued - it can make for a rather uncomfortable experience for your side.  

December jurors are the polar opposite (see what I did there with the "polar" reference) from their January and February brethren.  In January and February, juries in New Jersey are filled with individuals who no longer think the weather that we are forced to trudge through on a daily basis feels anything at all like Christmas.  To them, it just feels cold.  Additionally, they are jurors who have now been confronted with the unpleasant reality of their decision to spread Christmas cheer - in the form of credit card bills swollen by purchases that they end up regretting for whatever reason. Those are my kind of folks.  

Here's to hoping that at least in Bergen County this week, 2017 has already arrived and that it is beginning to look a lot like January...

...inside of the courthouse anyway. 


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Not the One in Which Costner's Scenes Ended Up on the Cutting Room Floor

Today is one of my favorite days of the Christmas season.  This morning is the annual "Big Chill" 5K at Rutgers University.  There are any number of things I love about this race, not the least of which is the fact that way back when in December, 2008, it was the very first race in which I ran.  I signed up with Wilma to run with her and some of her friends.  I still remember (a) how hilarious I looked bundled up in my far-too-many layers of bulky clothing; and (b) how crestfallen I was (not wearing a watch of any kind) to discover that at the moment my body felt as if it had already run three-plus miles, we had only covered about three-tenths of one mile.  My sister was one hell of a good sport, seeing as she could have completed a second lap around the course in the time it took me to complete just one, and she stayed with me throughout the duration of the race.  

The 2008 Big Chill remains the only race in which Jill and I have ever participated together.  For that reason alone, this event would forever hold a special place in my heart.  But it is so much more than even that.  This is an event for which there is no monetary registration fee.  The cost of entry is an unwrapped toy, valued at $15.00 or more, which Rutgers University collects and distributes to children, ages three to fourteen, in the New Brunswick area for whom Christmas would otherwise just be one of thirty-one December days on the calendar. Even for the unrepentant assholes among us (and I refer now to me and the face that stares back at me in the bathroom mirror every morning - any resemblance you bear to that remark is left for you to assess), it is an event that makes you feel good about yourself and, moreover, the world around you.  

This morning, prior to the race's start, I shall spend time sitting upstairs at the College Avenue Gym (a/k/a "the Barn") watching toys get added to the "Toys Collected" stack, which shall run this year - as it has in years past - the entire length of the basketball court.  The toys collected are not the result of the generosity of one person - or even a handful of people - but rather, they are the result of thousands of people, many of whom are strangers to one another and to the child who shall be the recipient of their donated toy, each taking a moment to do one small thing for someone else.  

And they are a reminder to me - and hopefully to you as well - that "one small thing" is really all it takes - and all that it has ever taken - to make a difference.  



Friday, December 2, 2016

To California We Have Come

UW v. CU 

The Champions of the Pac-12 North Division, the University of Washington Huskies, the nation's fourth-ranked college football team, shall take the field tonight at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California for the 2016 Pac-12 Football Championship Game as a solid, seven-point favorite.  Chris Peterson's team is widely expected to do on this game day what it is they have done on eleven this season's previous twelve game days, which is win the game. 

It has been eleven seasons since Washington's opponent in tonight's game, the unlikely Champions of the Pac-12 South Division, the University of Colorado Buffaloes, have played for the championship of any conference.  The last time the Alma mater did so, CU was a member of the Big XII and on that occasion, in Houston, Texas, the Texas Longhorns crushed the Buffs by sixty-seven points, 70-3, in a game that - truth be told -was not even as close as the final score.  Trust me, I watched the entire game.  

An argument can be made - and with ample proof to support it - that the entire 2016 season has been nothing short of an exorcism for the University of Colorado football program.  More than a decade removed from its last winning season, this year's edition of the Buffaloes has embodied the spirit and the philosophy of Head Coach Mike MacIntyre, who told his players prior to the start of pre-season practice in August that this year he expected them to play for the Pac-12 Championship - in spite of the fact that they had been picked to finish dead last in the South Division.  One should not question the wisdom of the Walter Camp Foundation National Coach of the Year.  

When the Buffaloes began their summer workouts, which they did, coincidentally, on the 35th anniversary of the death of WPK, Sr. - the father of two CU alumni, they were greeted by this:

At no point in the six-plus months since that first team workout has this herd of Buffaloes taken a backwards step.  They have not won every game, losing at Michigan on September's third Saturday and, again, at USC on October's second Saturday, but they have never lost their commitment to the task at hand.  They have remained true to their coaches, their teammates, and to themselves.  They have placed faith in their preparation and in their process.  It has carried them this far.  I know not whether it shall carry them to victory tonight in Santa Clara but I know that I shall be rooting myself hoarse from a continent away.  

The smart money tonight is on Washington, the higher-ranked, better-regarded team.  My heart, of course, is filled with hope for my beloved Buffaloes, for whom I have had much love since I first set foot on the Boulder campus a lifetime (at least) ago.  I cannot properly describe just what this group of kids and the men who coach them have given to those of us who love CU with not simply their play on the field this season but the manner in which they have gone about their business.  I want them to win tonight - for themselves.  Long before anyone outside of the four walls of their locker room believed in them or in their mission - they looked around it at one another and accepted that success would come only if they moved together, in unison and in lockstep, and never wavered in their determination to attain it. 

Here's to hoping that tonight, probably for the first time ever within the geographical boundaries of Santa Clara, California, the fight song may be sung post-game.  If history is any guide, Coach Mac and his gang shall sing it off-key...

...and it shall still be sweet music to this old Buff's ears. 


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Clothes and the Cowgirl

Today is my sister Evan's birthday.  Evan is the second-oldest member of the Kenny Sibling Sextet. She holds the distinction, also, of being WPK, Sr. and Joanie K's first-born daughter, an adventure once born into that every now and again took on the characteristics of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride...on hallucinogenics.

Having learned at the knee of the indomitable Joanie K. ("Pound for Pound, the Toughest Irish Broad Around"), it is no surprise to anyone who knows my sister that she is every inch her mother's daughter.  I am powerless to offer any her higher praise than that.

May this day, the day of her birth, and each day that follows after it, being nothing less than everything she deserves.