Saturday, August 1, 2015

Uncommon Ground

A little bit of deja vu this morning.  I shall meet Gidg and Jeff in Sea Girt, just as I did one week ago, for the purpose of running in a race.  Last week, it was the Parker House Two-Mile Fun Run, an event that did not suck in no small part since it took place nowhere near the Parker House.  This morning, August's arrival is accompanied by one of my favorite events:  The Sea Girt 5K.  

Every year, the good folks who put this event on single out a worthy, local cause to assist with its proceeds.  This year, the aforementioned cause is the Common Ground Relief Center, which is located in Manasquan.  Common Ground is a place that provides support for kids ages six through eighteen who have experienced the death of a loved one, such as a parent, a sibling, or a friend.  Good people doing good work to help other good people. 

And this morning, for twenty-five minutes or so, in addition to getting a little exercise, I get to feel a bit better about myself through the simple act of lending my legs to their cause.  If you are in or about Sea Girt this morning, join the fun.  You shall be glad you did.  I assure you.  

-AK 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Gracie at Forty

My great friend Lisa is celebrating her fortieth birthday today.  One of the world's genuine, old souls, it has been more than a decade since she left me here at the Firm for greener pastures.  I knew when she left that her decision was the correct one.  Ten years further on up the road, I still know it. 

When Gracie (a nickname bestowed upon her in recognition both of the fact that she fell and broke a bone in her foot while attempting to teach her niece how to do a cartwheel ("Not like this!") and her deft comic timing) announced, way back when in February 2005 that she was leaving the Firm, I rather glumly reported the news to Margaret.  The very next day, my wife called the office - not to talk to me but to talk to Lisa directly.  She did so to wish her well and to ask her to stay.  Margaret reminded her that in having worked with me for five years, she had assumed the responsibility of keeping me sane (Code for "Acting like less of an Asshole") at work, which allowed Margaret to focus on performing that task in every other facet of my life.  

I must confess that Gracie's 40th birthday snuck up on me.  No, not her birthday, which I remembered, but the milestone associated with this particular one.  It was not until I recalled that Margaret and I had gone to a surprise party for her to celebrate her 30th birthday, which party had taken place only a few months after she left the Firm in 2005 that I worked out the math in my head.  In the decade-plus since our work lives headed off on divergent paths, they have overlapped for just a brief moment in time.  When I stepped away from the Firm in 2009 for what proved to be a brief, ill-fated adventure, the sole redeeming part of the experience was that it reunited us.  It turned out to be a very brief reunion but, while it lasted, it was fun. 

Had my arrival as their sixth child, with my Jupiter-sized head and epileptic seizures, not convinced WPK, Sr. and Joanie K that God no longer wanted them to go forth and multiply, then perhaps there would have been a seventh Kenny sibling.  There is not.  For the past fifteen years or so, I have considered Gracie to be the cool, hip younger sister I never had.  

And when I consider the journey she has made in the time that I have been fortunate enough to call her my friend, I beam ear-to-ear in a way that, I imagine, a proud older brother would.  

In honor of her birthday, I offer a song.  And since it is her birthday, the voice singing it shall not be mine...




-AK


   

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Renaissance Men

True confession:  I had no inclination - none at all - that as the summer careened its way towards the end of July the New York Yankees would be two weeks above .500.  While I have no affinity for the taste of crow - for it tastes not at all like chicken - I am happy to eat it.  Their success thus far this year has been - for me at least - nothing short of a revelation.  Whether it lasts long enough to allow October baseball to return to the Bronx for the first time since Sunday, October 14, 2012, which was a Game Two loss in the American League Championship Series to Detroit in a series in which the Tigers would sweep the Yankees 4-0, I do not know.  However, with one hundred games played the likelihood that the Bombers will play in the post-season this year look better and better.  Joe Girardi has once again this season done a job that has been nothing short of extraordinary.  It has been damn fun to watch the Yankees this season.  I could live without the angina that Chris Capuano brings to the mound with him during his "every once in a while" start.  I have no argument however with the way in which his mates picked him up in Texas on Tuesday night.  I am not certain, but I believe the top of the 2nd inning finally ended about thirty-seven minutes ago. 

Second true confession:  While I tend to pay little to no attention to any teams other than (a) the Yankees; and (b) the team the Yankees are playing on a particular day, the New York City area has been energized as well by the terrific performance of the New York Metropolitans.  It has been a very, very long time between sips from the fountain of success for the Mets and their fans.  This season, on the almost-unworldly arms of the young core (DeGrom, Harvey, Syndergaard, and (before he was hurt) Matz) of their starting rotation, they have engaged the heavily-favored Washington Nationals in a good, old-fashioned street fight since Opening Day.  Although the Mets thus far this season have, generally speaking, swung the bats in a manner that could fairly be described as terrible, which has led them into a couple of fairly dark stretches, they have not flinched.  Terry Collins has a fairly resolute bunch of fellows in his clubhouse, including but not limited to the one who looks back at him in his bathroom mirror every morning.  Washington arrives in Citi Field on Friday night for a three-game weekend series, which could end with the Mets in nothing less than a flat-footed tie for first place in the NL East, and in which the home team shall pitch Harvey, DeGrom, and Syndergaard.    

A baseball summer in a great baseball town.  It is more than just a hell of a thing.  It is a renaissance.   



-AK 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The System of Touch and Gentle Persuasion

- Tears for Fears

For everyone who lives here in the State of Concrete Gardens who spent February cursing the cold and praying for the advent of Jersey summer weather, congratulations on the favorable response to your prayer.  All across the state that I call home this week, there are but two temperature settings on every bank and backyard thermometer...and for all intents and purposes there is actually just one.    

If one lives his or her life as I do, which is to say that I am fortunate enough to live in a home that is air-conditioned, work in an office that is air-conditioned, and commute between one and the other in a vehicle that is air-conditioned, then extreme heat such as that which we shall endure in these parts the next few days is an inconvenience and nothing more.  

For those among our number who are not as fortunate - especially the men and women who earn a living working outside, which they shall do today just as they do on a sixty-degree day and just as they do on a zero-degree day, it is something far more than that.  Their need to earn a living and their desire for self-preservation might well find themselves at loggerheads today and for the remainder of this week.  May they ensure that they honor the command of the late, great Sgt. Phil Esterhaus.  

It shall serve all of us well to do something that we do not do especially well here in New Jersey - with the exception of the great folks of Robbinsville (read this story and try not to feel good about your fellow humans - at least those who are mentioned in it) - which is take life a half-step or two slower these next couple of days and pay a half-beat or so more worth of attention to those around us who usually escape our gaze, including the very young and the very old.   

This spate of extremely hot weather shall be over before we know it and, as sure as the winter that shall be upon us in less than six months from now, sooner rather than later we can resume bitching about the bitter cold weather.  Until it cools a little bit, we simply have to manufacture our own.  We shall get through this in one piece.  All we have to do is try.  


-AK 



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Workhorse's Victory Lap

I watched none of it on Sunday but, nevertheless, I am pleased as a baseball fan that John Smoltz was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a member of the class.  While he and his fellow classmates may not rise to the level of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the quartet of Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Smoltz is certainly one hell of a high-quality group.  

Smoltz's induction followed fast on the heels of his Atlanta Braves' brothers-in-arms Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, both of whom were enshrined in 2014, along with the manager under whom all three of them thrived while in Atlanta, Bobby Cox.  In the mid-to-late 1990's, when it appeared as if the Yankees and the Braves were destined to do battle in the World Series, which they did twice during that span, I used to pay a fair amount of attention to who was doing what in Atlanta.  While Glavine and Maddux both clearly earned their HOF status, for my money the biggest bad-ass in Atlanta's rotation was Smoltz.  He was a competitor who rose to his highest level when the stakes were the highest.  His team did not always prevail but Smoltz never failed to provide them with an opportunity to win.  

I think that my favorite thing about Smoltz is that when Atlanta needed him to become their closer, he did.  He lost the 2000 season to injury and upon his return to the Braves he went from being a front-line starter to the back-of-the-bullpen stopper.  Between 2002 and 2004 (from ages 35 through 37), he saved a total of 144 games.  When his twenty-one year career finally ended after the 2009 season, he retired with 213 victories and 154 saves.  He pitched in twenty-five post-season series, during which he earned 15 victories (against only four defeats), 4 saves and a 2.79 ERA.  

John Smoltz pitched for more than two decades in the major leagues.  During his career, he never threw a single pitch for a team for which I root.  In fact, he toed the rubber against a team for which I root on more than one occasion.  Yet, while he played he was always a player for whom I found it especially easy to cheer.  I have never been to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  It makes me happy, however, to know that if and when I ever get there, his plaque will be there for me to see.  

-AK 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Forrest and Trees

An interesting weekend of running this weekend.  On Saturday morning I ran in Sea Girt in a two-mile race known as the Parker House Run.  The starting line of the Parker House Run was four miles from our house in Lake Como.  So, I figured why not run to it.  And I did.  

Thirty three minutes or so after I left my driveway, I reached my destination.  Shortly thereafter I ran with Gidg and Jeff in the Parker House Run.  Nice little two mile sprint.  15:43 later I crossed the finish line.  By 9:30 am I had six miles under my belt. Gidg and Jeff and I spent a bit of time post-race at Fratello's.  Sufficiently "motivated" when our post-race celebration wrapped up and they headed south to 'Squan, I headed north to home.  Four miles later, I got there.  Ten miles by twelve noon.  All in all, a productive and satisfying morning.  

Yesterday, the plan as I envisioned it called for a four-mile run.  That plan went south quickly.  Actually it went north quickly.  Instead of simply heading north to Bradley Beach.  The southern end of Bradley Beach is two miles from our driveway in Lake Como.  But it was such a nice morning on which to run that when I reached my designated turn around point, I did not. I simply kept going north.  I continued north through Bradley Beach and thereafter through Ocean Grove.  I kept going north until I reached Convention Hall in Asbury Park.  Then, and only then, did I turn around and head for home.  

A four mile run turned into an eight mile run.  Twice the mileage.  At least twice the amount of satisfaction.  An eighteen mile weekend.  Not too damn bad.  Not at all.  

-AK

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Wee Small Hours and White Noise

It will likely not come as a surprise to anyone who frequents this space and who actually knows me that my favorite part of any day is the early morning.  I excel removed from the company of others.  And in close to a half-century of tenancy here on the Big Blue Marble, every indication is that the feeling is mutual.  

I particularly enjoy the early morning at the beach.  Our home is not close enough to the ocean that I can see it.  It is however close enough to allow me to hear the beautiful sound associated with waves reaching the shore.  It is among my favorite sounds. It is one unspoiled by the white noise of human beings.  

And punctuated by the occasional bark.  But only if Rosie feels sufficiently motivated.   If you know my Rosie then you know how infrequently that occurs.  

-AK