Friday, May 26, 2017

In Appreciation of the Spiritual Significance of the .396

Under the heading of "If you have not read it before, then it is new to you", something that appeared in this space at this time last year.  A safe and happy Memorial Day weekend to one and to all. Remember please that this weekend is not solely about barbecues, beaches, and shitty big-budget movies.  It is about much, much more.  Take a least a moment out of your reveling to remember.

And be careful out there...

FRIDAY, MAY 27, 2016

A Ride to Wash These Sins Off Our Hands...

For a significant number of us, at some point today we shall embark on the beginning of a three-day weekend.  There shall be more people than usual this afternoon and this evening hurrying from Point A to Point B than one might otherwise encounter on a Friday.  Wherever you are going, be careful getting there.  

While it is fairly well-settled, unless you are a Republican in Congress that we the people of these United States (along with our brothers and sisters all over the world) are killing the only planet that we can categorically state is presently suited to support human life, I assure you that we shall not complete Earth's execution by nightfall.  Whether your destination is the mountains, the beach, or someplace altogether different, it shall be there irrespective of the hour of your arrival.  

In an effort to keep today from turning into "Throat-Punch Friday" at my office, I opted to work "out of the office" today, literally and figuratively.  Accompanied by my faithful canine companion, Rosalita, and more than 1,000 pages of documents from an employment discrimination case in which I am involved, my Friday is being spent out-of-doors at our little Paradise by the Sea.  My great, great grandpa Phineas once observed that, "Sometimes, chilling is better than killing."  One sagacious chap, Old G-Squared P.  Advice to which proper attention should be paid, so I am. 

Safe travels to one and all.  Regardless of the traffic on your drive, smile.  

Summer's here...




-AK 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Because Tomorrow Is Not Guaranteed...

A year ago in this space, I wrote about two rather extraordinary kids, Lucas Lowe and Stella Usiak. Yesterday morning, as I was searching for whatever it is that masquerades as an idea for filling this space today, I used "the Google" to search for news on Buffalo, New York's dynamic duo.  Boy, am I happy that I did. And I suspect that once you read it, you shall be too.

First, a quick trip to "That Was Then"...

WEDNESDAY, MAY 25, 2016

A Little Ditty About Lukas & Stella...



I am at a loss to think of something that occurs here on our Big Blue Marble that infuriates me more than children being afflicted with diseases and illnesses that threaten their lives and, even, end their lives.  As a man of little to no faith, there are few things to which I can point with more reliability in support of my intertwined arguments, which are (A) There is no God; and (B) If there is a God and he allows this to happen to children, then you can keep him.  I try to remain consistent to the teachings of my great, great grandfather Phineas, who was known for saying, "There ain't no Agnostic quite like a flexible Agnostic." 

Every now and again - or perhaps even less frequently than that - I come across something that both breaks my heart and warms the embers of the little briquette all at once.  Yesterday, such an event occurred.  

Lucas Lowe is twelve years old.  Stella Usiak is also twelve years old.  In addition to sharing age as a common characteristic, each is also battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a disease that has thus far put both of these youngsters through a remarkably similar-looking wringer:  Both were initially diagnosed with their cancer in 2011.  Both went into remission.  Both then relapsed.  Both underwent bone marrow transplants.  Both have spent more time in and out of hospitals than anyone of any age should ever have to spend.  Currently, both are patients at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York.  

And one more thing that these two rather extraordinary twelve-year-old warriors have in common: Lucas is in love with Stella and Stella is in love with Lucas.  Do not for a minute underestimate the sincerity or the depth of the affection these two youngsters have for one another.  Case in point, last fall Stella allowed Lucas to shave off her hair, which had just started to grow back after a round of chemotherapy when she learned that he had to undergo another round of chemotherapy and was going to lose all of his hair in the process.  

Give yourself a present today, whether you think you deserve it - and even if you are damn sure that you do not.  Invest a few minutes and get to know these two terrific kids, which you can do courtesy of this piece by Melissa Holmes, WGRZ-TV, Buffalo.  

Little ditty about Lukas and Stella, two American kids done the best that they can...

...and two American kids for whom the thrill of living shall never go away.  

     

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...and now we return you to our regularly-scheduled programming, "This Is Now"

Spend a few minutes this morning watching and reading the piece that Melissa Holmes of NBC's affiliate, WGRZ, did slightly more than two weeks ago on  Lucas and Stella.  These two youngsters, both of whom are now twelve years old, continue to battle cancer.  And they continue to do so.  Side-by-side and hand-in-hand.  Remarkable stuff.  Not simply because of the depth of their courage but because of the breadth of their commitment to each other.  

Next time you find yourself uncertain as to what love is, cue up the story of Lucas and Stella.  These two children know better than a lot of us will ever know just how "non-guaranteed" tomorrow is and neither one of them allows that knowledge to deprive them of their today and however many more may come thereafter. 

-AK 

 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

One of a Million...

First, a shout out to my friend Lisa Ramos for having shared this image on social media yesterday:







I recognize that she shared it in response to the atrocity that occurred in Manchester, England on Monday night but I appropriate it here for an entirely unrelated purpose.  Every picture tells a story. In the case of this picture, more than one.

I do not know Kerry McGrath.  I do not know her big sister, Kathleen.  Truth be told, although I graduated from Wardlaw-Hartridge a lifetime ago, I do not know a single girl on this year's varsity softball team.  I do not know their coach.  I have a similar lack of familiarity with the Highland Park High School girls' softball program.  The only person involved in this story who I know at all is W-H's Athletic Director, Karl Miran, with whom I serve as a member of the school's Athletic Hall of Fame Committee (the "WHAHOFC" as exactly no one refers to it).  

Lauren Knego's piece, which I read on-line yesterday on www.mycentraljersey.com makes me wish that I knew all of them.  You can read it here and watch the video that accompanies it.  Do yourself the favor of watching video with volume.  You will feel considerably less self-conscious if your eyes start tearing up as you sit in front of your computer if you have the sound of people cheering to keep you company.  

Anyway, that is what people have told me.  Figured I would pay that tip forward.  Just in case you needed it. 

-AK  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Chameleons and Other Karmic Reptiles

What follows here, today, originally appeared here eight years and one day ago.  I wrote it to mark the occasion of my parole from a prison of my own manufacture, which was a very happy day indeed. I share it here again today to remind myself of the lesson it conveys about the correctness of Daniel Patrick Moynihan's observation about the likelihood that the world shall break your Irish heart.  

At the time I wrote this, eight years and one day ago, I was feeling pretty fucking smug.  I felt as if, in spite of myself, I did in fact have the world on a lyrical string.  Things were suddenly pretty goddamn good after having been anything but for four months.  I did indeed leave a bad situation at day's end that Friday and return to the Firm following the Memorial Day weekend, on which Margaret and I spent Saturday at Byrne Arena with the Sisters Kizis and a whole RV full of Springsteen fans. We were in the Pit, a row or two away from the stage and Liv, who was just a little kid then, joined Bruce in singing "Waiting on a Sunny Day".  The audience member who recorded it has a nice shot of Liv on the big screen at or about the five-minute mark, singing her heart out.  It was one hell of a start to the Memorial Day weekend.   




It was also that Memorial Day weekend, however, when Margaret's mom, Suzy B., made what proved to be her final trip to Somerset Medical Center.  She was admitted to the hospital through the Emergency Department on that Sunday night.  She never came home.  It was there that she died, in the presence of family, in the early morning hours of June 2, 2009.  

All these years later, as I read again what I wrote on that day, I am reminded just how quickly the world I inhabit turned from smug to shit. Lesson learned, Karma.  Lesson learned.  

FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2009

Washing These Sins From My Hands

In the wake of the success of his double album "The River", Bruce Springsteen appeared to retreat quite a bit commercially. Instead of following up the album that produced his highest charting single (as of that date) "Hungry Heart" with another full band album, he released the dark and brooding "Nebraska", which he recorded by himself at home using his 4 track recording equipment. Legend has it that he did not intend to release the record as a solo project but when he tried to teach them to his fellow E Streeters, he felt the full band treatment robbed the songs of their grit and their soul. So he scrapped the full band treatment and ultimately released commercially the songs he had recorded quietly, at home - alone.

Nebraska is - to my ear - one of Springsteen's better efforts. It is a record painted in dark, deep brush strokes. While there is not a track on it that I do not like, my favorite story is the one told on "My Father's House". In it, the narrator tells the story of his desperate attempt at atonement - his attempt to make amends for unspecified sins and his attempt to make peace with his father. In the end, in spite of his best efforts, he fails:


Springsteen has said frequently through the years that his dark side is his inheritance from his father's side - the Irish side of the family. We are a melancholy bunch, the Irish. And haunted we often are by failed opportunities and squandered chances.

And for quite some time since the calendar peeled '08 away in favor of '09, I was feeling the pinch. Candidly, I felt at times as if I had dropped into a hole and regardless of what I tried to do to pull myself out of it, the deeper into it I fell. Had I been able to gauge its depth I might have been able to tell whether I was closer to its bottom or its top. I could not so I did not. Instead I just kept falling.

And as suddenly as I had fallen into my downward spiral, an opportunity presented itself at redemption. Whether I did anything to deserve it is a question for others to answer. Whether I have ever done anything - stacking one atop of another all that I have done thru the first 42 years of my life - to deserve it is as well. But here it is. And so I go. Thank you Professor Peabody for working out the kinks in the way back machine.

Today marks the final day of my four month detour. And Tuesday marks the first day back on the path I was on before I ran squarely into the tree located between the tines of the road's fork.

And in between, we have reached Memorial Day. The unofficial start of Summer. My bride and I will spend a part of our holiday weekend in the company of good friends watching Springsteen and the E Street Band put the bow on the first U.S. leg of their world tour.

Summer is here indeed. And the time is most certainly right.

-AK

Monday, May 22, 2017

In Honor of Obes, Here Come the Meatheads

We have transitioned out of the time of year that I enjoy most of all as a homeowner at the Jersey Shore, the offseason, and into the period that is the Missus's favorite, the summer.  

Although the weather is a wild-card that impacts upon the number of people who shall spend their summer days on the sand or in the water, in my experience it has a negligible impact upon those upon whom the late, great Obes bestowed the sobriquet "Meatheads".  The Memorial Day Weekend is upon us at week's end and with it shall come the 2017 influx of Meatheads, the fun-loving, often boisterous, but always harmless groups of young people who rent homes within walking distance of the beach and then never, ever spend a single moment there.  

As someone who considers his purchase of a home at the Jersey Shore to be the smartest money I have ever spent, while I do not embrace the notion of the Meatheads, I recognize that their return this time of year is as certain as that of our swans to Lake Como.  I also recognize that their time among us merely serves to reinforce my enjoyment of our little Paradise by the Sea from Labor Day through Memorial Day.  

Paradise is still Paradise.  For the next several months, the big fella at the door is merely permitting more people to enter.   And somewhere, high above it all, Obes is no doubt looking down, shaking his head, and laughing.  

-AK

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Hand To Hold On To...





...subject to any questions, this concludes today's briefing. 



-AK 


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Guess Who's Gon' Be On The Plate?

If you are in or near the greater Belmar/Lake Como Metroplex this weekend, then you might want to bring yourself and your appetite by beautiful Silver Lake Park in Belmar, which this weekend shall host Belmar's 31st Annual Seafood Festival.  




Sebastian, my fine, clawed Crustacean, sing us home...




-AK