Saturday, November 22, 2014

Just Us HobGobblers

For the past three decades, on the Saturday immediately preceding Thanksgiving, the Town of Manasquan has played host to its annual Five-Mile Turkey Trot.  Sadly, the Turkey Trot, much like all good things, has come to an end.  

Do not let the bedazzled chapeau fool you.
The Trot did not last forever. 

Thankfully, while the Trot may be dead, long live the Manasquan Turkey Run!  Sure the name is a bit off-putting but perhaps by this time next year its participants shall have grown accustomed to it or the race itself will have taken on a more appropriate sobriquet.  What is important is that with the demise of the Trot, a new event has sprung to life and, in taking the Trot's place on the calendar, has volunteered to run a mile or five in its history-laden shoes.  

Last time I checked, which admittedly was more than twenty-four hours ago, the weather in which to Trot/Run this morning in 'Squan seemed fairly pleasant for the second to last Saturday in November. The Trot had been one of my favorite rites of Autumn.  I shall do something that is admittedly more than slightly out of character for me and go on record as saying that I have a very good feeling about this new event.  

Irrespective of its name, its purpose remains the same:  A bit of exercise and a day spent in the company of some excellent friends.  Whenever that is on the menu, I shall order it every time.  


Friday, November 21, 2014

It Is Not All Sausages and Fingers

"Slow down you crazy child.
You're so ambitious for a juvenile.
But then if you're so smart,
tell me why are you still so afraid."
Billy Joel

I believe that sometimes the hardest thing for someone to do is to do nothing.  I do not mean "do nothing" in the sense of being lazy.  Rather, I speak of not giving in to the temptation to do "something, anything" when disorder begins to become the order of the day.  

It is hard for us humans, I reckon, to do nothing.  No less of a man than President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, for whom tomorrow marks the fifty-first anniversary of his murder on the streets of Dallas, Texas, implored his fellow Americans to "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Americans are persons of action apparently.  Morbid obesity notwithstanding. 

One must be careful though to not confuse activity with action.  The two concepts, while similar in certain respects, are neither identical nor interchangeable.  More often than we tend to realize, I suspect, in response to an uptick in the level of stress around us we ramp up our own activity level. We do so because, presumably, doing something is better than doing nothing.  

Maybe, maybe not.  

I have spent the entirety of my life preaching to anyone who shall listen or who is not able to move quickly enough to get out of earshot with dispatch that panic is the one human emotion I shall never understand.  It is entirely and absolutely wasteful.  It blinds one from the task at hand, which is addressing and dealing with whatever it is that prompted depression of the panic button to begin with, and it causes one to waste energy.  Any and all energy devoted to the task of panicking is energy that is not available to attack the original and (guess what) still-existing problem.  Panic may constitute activity. It never, ever constitutes action.  

Thus, a fair percentage of the time the best course of action to take when it feels as if the world around your is beginning to spiral out of control is simply to step back, inhale deeply and take stock of what is going on.  Riding out the storm shall serve you well.  Far better in fact than trying to out-accelerate the then-accelerating chaos. 

Slow down, crazy children.  Slow the hell down...


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tenses Past and Present

A lot of water has been run under and around the hull of my ferry since then. 
And while life is undoubtedly meant to be lived forward, 
occasionally it is nice to take a moment to peer backwards through the glass
 at a moment that meant something to you then 
and to discover that it still means quite a lot to you presently.

Something that neither time nor memory can fade away...

Something that the son (f/k/a "the Boy Child") shared online earlier this week jogged my memory back to this time of year, six Novembers ago.  Rob, who has far more steel in his spine than Yours truly shall ever possess, completed the rather arduous four-plus months of training that he needed to successfully complete simply so that he could have the opportunity to take his first substantive steps on the path that he had chosen for his Life and then, what seemed to be nothing more than a moment or two later, he was off in pursuit of that next great adventure.  

In a span of less than two weeks, and at the ripe old age of 22, he trekked north from Georgia to New Jersey and then west from the State of Concrete Gardens to Wyoming.  I shared the first leg of that journey with him.  We spent approximately three days traveling "home" from Georgia and allowed Washington DC to envelop roughly half of our travel time.  It was cold this week six years ago - almost as cold as it has felt in these parts the past several days - but under gunmetal gray skies DC was bustling and preparing for history.   Preparations were already well underway for President Obama's Inauguration.  We walked all over and used the Metro to hopscotch our way around town.  

As I recall it, we did not really have a plan per se.  We simply found a place to park the car and then started our self-navigated tour.  At some point we arrived home in New Jersey.  A few short days later, we said our goodbyes as he and Margaret headed west to Wyoming - and to the rest of his life.  

If I had better vision, then perhaps I could have seen then the man he would become in just six short years.  The beautiful young woman who became his bride in June was not then known to him.  If he thought for one moment six years ago that all he was living through then was the most significant changes he would ever live through, Life has graced him with the ability to laugh at his own naivete.  It also graced him with the ability to be ready for the really big stuff, such as Jess and marriage and two people living one life together, by giving him those less tall, but no less important initial hurdles to clear. 

LIfe is indeed a forward-looking experience.  But every now and again, a look back is just what the doctor ordered.  A reminder that even in a time as perpetually bleak as the latter half of November when the world appears to be dying, great things are indeed happening all around us.  


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

If Ever We Were Fab

A lifetime ago - when I was a small boy and before my father died - my parents had a "summer" home.  It was nestled up in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania, in Luzerne County, in the little piece of Neverland known as Harvey's Lake.  

A rite of summer was our entry onto the lake - a 9 1/2 mile, natural body of water with but a single, two-lane roadway encircling it - at Joe's Grotto.  Even as a little kid, I knew what bad pizza was.  I renewed my acquaintance with it every time we ate pizza from Joe's Grotto.  It was adjacent to Joe's that the town fathers had affixed the Welcome to Harvey's Lake sign.  Each summer as we passed it, Kelly would read the sign's words aloud, pause for half a click and then add "now please set back your clocks 200 years."   Every year, all of the rest of us kids would laugh and laugh.  Dad would fix that "If I could reach you where you are sitting Mister" stare on Kelly while gripping the steering wheel so tightly in both hands we thought for a just a moment he might actually burst.  We would then make the left turn at the STOP sign, and begin the trek around the lake to our parents' home. 

It mystified me as a small boy - and the youngest of six children - how exactly my parents afforded a summer home.  For quite a considerable amount of time, Mom's primary job responsibility was within the four walls of the familial home and it was not until I reached either the 5th or 6th grade that Mom was able to matriculate back into the "outside of the home" workforce.  I know not how my father did what he did as the sole wage-earner, although as I grew older I developed a far better understanding about why his favorite place to visit was the island of Manhattan and why - try as he might - he could not persuade his heart to power his whole self for longer than fifty-seven years or so.

One of the things that was a fixture at Harvey's Lake was Hanson's Amusement Park.  My single clearest memory of Hanson's was the rickety old wooden roller coaster that was perched somewhat precariously over the two-lane roadway that separated the amusement park from the lake.   Although I recall having read somewhere years ago that Hanson's had closed down, I did not realize that it went out of business thirty years ago.  Dad died on May 31, 1981.  I recall making a trip up to Harvey's Lake for a couple of days that summer with Mom to check on the house and to visit Uncle Jim and Aunt Dot.  To my memory, I never set foot on the lake again after that summer.  

This past weekend, B-O-B shared with me a link to a news story documenting the demolition of the final remaining pieces of Hanson's Park.  If I understood the story correctly, the property that once housed Hanson's has been sold to a developer.  The developer intends to build homes on the property.  Harvey's Lake being the anti-mecca that it is, the developer's plan calls for the construction of four new homes.  

Maybe, just maybe, when people pass the Welcome to Harvey's Lake sign, they no longer are compelled to set their clocks back 200 years.  Anything is possible.  Do not feel obligated to take my word for it.  Stop in at Grotto Pizza and check it out for yourself.  If you are feeling hungry enough, you might even decide to have a slice.    


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Muscle Memory

Too much nonsense on the brain last week.  Too much clutter.  Was off a step pretty much all week.  As a result, not once last week - from Monday through Friday - did I run.  Not even one time.  Running is normally the elixir for my troubled mind so when there is enough noise going on between my ears that I cannot bring myself to lace up the shoes and run towards silence, it is truly not a happy time. 

Fortunately, this weekend I quieted the voices in my head long enough to get in some much-needed roadwork.  Good for the soul and for the sole.  Running on and over the streets of 'NTSG I logged nineteen miles.  For some, not much of a workout at all.  For me, a pretty solid weekend's work.  

This time of year there are more leaves on the ground than there are in the trees.  As a runner, using sidewalks where and when available to make life easier for drivers and safer for me, this is truly the "leap of faith" time of year.  Presently it is leaves and shortly thereafter it shall be snow and ice.  Whichever occupies the sidewalk prevents me - the person scooting along topside - from knowing what danger, if any, may be lurking below.  

While it is a decidedly inexact science, to a large degree I rely upon muscle memory to avoid stepping onto - and into - sidewalk slabs in need of repair.  I tend to run over the same roads - albeit not every day and not every time I go out.  During this time of the year, I rely in large part on the information my brain has gathered over the course of the past six months regarding the condition of the sidewalks and the streets.  I rely, as well, on my brain's ability to remember if a particular area was in disrepair and to bring that memory up out of storage with at least one stride to spare before I encounter it again.

It was biting cold both Saturday and Sunday - especially so on Sunday when I went for my run at about 8:00 am.  Saturday I ran with music.  Sunday, I did not.  I was accompanied by the sound of my breathing, the sound of my footsteps and the naturally-occurring ambient sounds, such as barking dogs and passing cars.  I did not see a lot of people out and about (other than those hardy folks taking their dog for a walk) but I did run past a couple of houses where kids (in both cases it was a boy) were shooting baskets.  

Towards the end of my run, I ran past a house where a young boy on the front lawn was doing something I did for endless hours as a child:  He was playing football by himself.  I picked him up in my field of vision from far enough away that I was able to see him throw a couple of "self-passes" and execute two pretty nice tackles...on himself.  Although I was approximately eight miles in - and feeling more than a little tired -when I passed by his house, I felt my face forming an ear-to-ear grin as I ran by him, which grin I wore for the rest of my run.       

I do not know if I shall ever again see that young man doing just what he was doing when I passed by him on Sunday morning.  I hope I do.  If not, then I suppose I shall simply have to rely upon muscle memory to remind me of what I saw and where I was when I saw it.  

I reckon that shall be fairly easy to do.  


Monday, November 17, 2014

The Great Mark Twain Ran Over The Lazy Fox Assh*les

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool
Than to open it and remove all doubt. 
- Mark Twain 

Bruce Springsteen participated - along with a number of other musical acts, actors, journalists and public figures in the Concert for Valor on Veteran's Day, which took place on the Mall in Washington, D.C.  Springsteen performed a three-song, solo acoustic set ("Promised Land", "Born in the U.S.A." and "Dancing in the Dark") in the back half of the evening's program.  It was, however, his guest shot - along with Dave Grohl - during the Zac Brown Band's set that had the tongues of ignorants (and ignorance) wagging on Wednesday. 

Tuesday night, Springsteen, Grohl and the ZBB performed "Fortunate Son", a classic piece of rock and roll originally recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival and written by CCR's leader John Fogerty.  Wednesday morning, in a number of places, but most pointedly at the home of "Fair and Balanced" coverage, Springsteen and company were attacked not for the quality of the performance (personally, I thought Bruce's voice sounded raspy as hell but that he nailed his guitar solo) but for having performed an "anti-soldier" song.  Ainsley Earhardt of Fox News reported that Springsteen had, "Taken shots at the red, white and blue" while her co-host Steve Doocy contributed this gem, "Is it really appropriate to be performing it in front of so many vets who volunteered to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan."  "Fortunate Son" is, in the gospel according to Doocy, "a song that was intended to be an anti-war anthem."    

If only - in the era of the "Inter Webs" - there was a way for a responsible journalist to check with the source (and by that I mean the Mutha Fukka who wrote the goddamned song) about his motivation in writing it and what his song meant to him.  If only John Fogerty was still alive to ask directly.  What's that you say, there is a way to check?  What's that you say, he is still alive?  Apparently the Murdoch News Network spent all of its available money on illegally tapping cell phones of celebrities and public figures and had Zero Dollars left over to run a "GOOGLE" search.

Here is what John Fogerty had to say

"Fortunate Son is a song I wrote during the Vietnam War over 45 years ago. As an American and a songwriter, I am proud that the song still has resonance. I do believe that its meaning gets misinterpreted and even usurped by various factions wishing to make their own case. What a great country we have that a song like this can be performed in a setting like Concert for Valor. 

Years ago, an ultraconservative administration tried to paint anyone who questioned its policies as 'un-American'. That same administration shamefully ignored and mistreated the soldiers returning from Vietnam. As a man who was drafted and served his country during those times, I have ultimate respect for the men and women who protect us today and demand that they receive the respect that they deserve."

Fogerty was drafted in 1996, served Stateside in an Army Reserve unit and then was discharged in 1967.  Approximately one week before the Concert for Valor, Fogerty himself performed "Fortunate Son" on the White House lawn for a PBS Special saluting our military.  

My personal favorite Fox News contributor to this little tempest is Anna Kooiman, who if not for her age, might have served as the inspiration for a central character from a 1982 Don Henley song.  Ms. Kooiman said this on-air, "You're doing this for an audience of veterans, and it's almost a slap in the face.  These producers should have known their audience and known what they were getting with people like Bruce Springsteen."    

In fact, Anna, the producers of the Concert for Valor did know what they were getting when they invited Springsteen to perform.  

They were getting a performer who - for each of the eight years that Bob Woodruff has put together his "Stand Up for Heroes" benefit in New York City - has contributed his time and his talent to Woodruff's cause and to the Bob Woodruff Foundation.  If you paid attention last Tuesday night, might have heard Bob Woodruff say that during his introduction of Springsteen.  



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Question of the Day...

Is a Dream a Lie if it don't come True,
Or is It something Worse...
- Bruce Springsteen

Something to ponder on a November Sunday morning.  What is the answer?  It is whatever you believe it to be I suppose.  I have my own opinion.  I shall not poison the well by sharing it.  

Enjoy your day.  

There is nothing else to see here...

...well, except for this: 

OK, now there really is nothing else to see here.