Thursday, March 22, 2018

Advice To Which Attention Should Be Paid

Worry not.  The source of this particular piece of advice is not Your truly.  It is the late Irish poet and Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney.  

At the funeral mass, Heaney's son, Michael, told the mourners who were gathered in the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, south Dublin, about his father's final words.  He shared with them that a few minutes prior to his death, Seamus Heaney had sent his wife, Marie, a text message in Latin.  He used just two words:  Noli Timere, which means "Don't be afraid."  

Well said, Seamus Heaney.  Well said indeed. 

Words to live by - brought to all of us courtesy of a dying man...

...and irrefutable proof that much can be said when few words are spoken. 


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Recycled Material

The mechanism that serves as "home" for this screed is a Google creation ( and if I had one dollar for all of the various aspects and elements of it of which I have zero understanding, I would have sufficient coin in my pocket to permit me to sleep through the alarm clock two or three times per month.  One of its features is a tracking feature.  It keeps track of how many times someone has clicked on and/or brought up a particular thing that I have written.  It does not measure whether someone actually reads it - nor their reaction to it.  It simply identifies what pieces have been viewed and when.  The viewer is not identified.  Here is a fun, apropos of nothing factoid.  According to the tracking feature, the most-viewed piece I have ever written (and by a considerable margin) is this one.  

Given how little time I spend providing new content here, I have begun to derive a fair amount of enjoyment out of popping in every couple or three days or so and seeing what, if anything, people have read or - at least - what they have viewed.  Often, I am fascinated by what I see.  The principal source of fascination for me is trying to figure out how it is people find some of the pieces that they have taken the time to view.  Truthfully, on more than one occasion, I have zero recollection of ever having written what it is that someone has taken a moment or two to look at or, perhaps, to read. Sometimes I then click on that piece to read it and think, "Wow that did not suck."  It is a reaction that occurs infrequently to be sure.  It occurs far less than, "For fuck's sake, why did I write this?"  Neither time nor distance improve poor writing.  Trust me on that point.  Not even an "own bullshit-believing fraud" likes Yours truly is delusional enough to believe it does.   

For reasons not completely clear to me, a piece I wrote back in mid-October, 2015 has received a considerable amount of traffic, sixty-two visits, in the past thirty days.  Considering that in the two-and-one-half years since I wrote it, it has received slightly more than one hundred visits altogether, its resurgence is interesting. I should qualify that perhaps.  It is interesting to me.  In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote the majority of this preamble prior to yesterday morning's school shooting in Great Mills, Maryland, in which a student opened fire on at least two of his fellow students prior to exchanging gunfire with Deputy Blaine Gaskill of the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Department, which exchange ended with the seventeen-year-old gunman dead. Deputy Gaskill is the high school's School Resource Officer (a/k/a "a well-trained, armed law enforcement officer whose assignment is Great Mills High School"),  There shall of course be those who point to Deputy Gaskill's actions as support for their "good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns" argument.  To do so, respectfully, misses the point and, without intending to, it demeans Deputy Gaskill, his training, and his profession.  He was not "a good guy with a gun" acting out his Call To Duty VR fantasy.  Rather, he was what he is:  A well-trained professional who performed a difficult task in the manner in which he was trained, which is to say with courage and alacrity.   

So, in order to do my part to preserve the planet for the Franchise (Class of '17) and her Class of '18 brother and cousin who we shall add to the lineup by summer's end, instead of writing anything new, today is Recycling Day!  In the interest of saving you the trip back in time to October 13, 2015, I offer a glimpse of what was going this particular space.  It shall not be a long visit because...

Without ado, further or otherwise...


A Word of Caution for the Cardboard Cowboys

We had not even finished our synchronized hand-wringing over the multiple killings that occurred on the campus of Umpqua Community College two Thursdays ago, when that particular act of insanity was pushed off of the front pages by dual shootings at Northern Arizona University and Texas Southern University, which occurred within hours of one another this past Friday.  One develops a good appreciation for just how far through the looking glass we have come when commentators - discussing the latter two events - took solace from the fact that in both instances the shooter was not an "active shooter".  Rather, the shooter was someone pissed off about something (real or perceived) that one or more of his victims had done to him and responded to that horrible transgression by shooting the committer of that particular sin as well as anyone else in the immediate vicinity.   Phew - what a relief, right?  

Thirty Septembers ago, it freaked me out more than a little when my roommate Alex unpacked his stuff in our freshman dorm room (Farrand 487) and his belongs included a Chouinard Ice Axe.  I might have shit the bed nightly had he unpacked a gun among his treasures.  

I find all of the political back-and-forth that goes on in the wake of events such as these to be as pathetic as it is predictable.  Among the "ideas" (to give that term the broadest definition permitted by the Einstein Estate) that I have heard vocalized is the one that goes something like this:  If more persons were armed on campuses, including college campuses, then it would curtail events such as these because those viewed as targets by the "active shooter" would likely include at least one individual armed with a weapon that he or she is prepared to use to kill, if necessary, the bad guy.  

It is this idea that I find the most offensive.  It is this idea that I find the most potentially dangerous.  It is this idea - in a seemingly endless stream of stupid fucking ideas - to be the single dumbest fucking idea of all.  Why?  For it is this idea that poses the most potential danger to one of the people on this planet about whom I care most of all.  And before I stand by quietly and let one of the Cardboard Cowboys currently running for elective office repeat it with sufficient frequency to elevate it -almost by default - to a position of reason and logic, I will do my damnedest to expose the innate stupidity at its core.   For me, it is not a political issue.  It is a parental issue.

My son, Rob, has chosen a career in public service.  Unlike Yours truly, who finds it difficult to manufacture even a faux fuck about the world in general, he is one of those individuals to whom the term "first responder" applies.  When shit and fan arrive at the point of intersection, he heads towards that point with all due dispatch.  His is a path I could not - and shall not - pretend to have been born with enough (a) courage; and (b) selflessness to walk upon - not even one single step.  

Those among us who do what it is my son does for a living have enough to worry about when responding to a rapidly-unfolding situation without trying to discern which person with the weapon is "a good guy" and which person with the person is "the bad guy".  Also, unlike me - and possibly you as well - he was required to satisfactorily complete the best training in the world - MORE THAN FOUR MONTHS OF IT - before he was entrusted with his duty weapon.  If and when he receives the call to respond to a situation such as the ones that have played out already this month in Arizona, Oregon, and Texas, his "to-do" list upon arrival will be full enough, thank you very much, without having to worry about dodging friendly fire from a well-meaning civilian who is "just trying to help". 

Note to all of the aforementioned Cardboard Cowboys:  Irrespective of your gender or your political affiliation, the peddling of this particularly virulent strain of political expediency, which could adversely affect someone I love dearly, has gotten my attention and shall continue to commend my attention for as long as you intend to peddle it.  And I shall do all I that I am able to protect him - and the men and women who serve alongside him both literally and figuratively - from you and your dangerous "appeal to the lowest common denominator" approach.  

I have never been smart enough to back away from a fight in my entire life. I can assure you that given how much I loathe change, this is not likely to be the first time I do so.  And if you think for even one second that I might be bluffing, then I double-dog-dare you to call me on it.

In the words of celluloid hero John McClane, "Yippee Ki Yay, Mother Fucker...


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Hey, Look What I Found!

Since having given up this particular daily bread (You're welcome), I find myself with more free time on my hands.  I occasionally spend some of that time looking for old pieces of drivel that once appeared here and are relevant (kind of, sort of) for present purposes.  I do not always find one - and truth be told I do not look especially hard - but today is an exception to that rule.  Admit it, you are feeling your luck begin to take a precipitous turn, are you not?  

Today is the first day of Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere.  It is the Vernal Equinox.  Given that snow is in the forecast this afternoon, you are forgiven if you think it is beginning (or continuing) to look a lot more like Christmas than Spring here in the State of Concrete Gardens.  Hang in there.  If you have a roof over your head, a warm bed in which to sleep, and food sufficient to keep you relatively sated, then - generally speaking - cold and snow are inconveniences for you and not life-altering, devastating events.  Remember that in order to keep your whining at a respectable level.  There are real problems in this world - such as having one-half of your Final Four eliminated from the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament before the completion of the tournament's Second Round.  You can put on a sweater.  I cannot get a "do-over" on Arizona v. Buffalo.  

Anyway, apparently Spring's first day in 2014 was also March 20th.  What follows here is what I wrote on that date, which piece includes a link to a song that just might let you get in a few minutes' cardio exercise while chilling in front of your laptop or iGizmo reading it.  

Enjoy the Equinox.  Enjoy the Spring...

...and as you scroll down, enjoy these sharp-dressed characters.


Sunshine She's Here

Congratulations fellow inhabitants of the Northern Hemisphere and most particularly anyone who lives in a postal code that was introduced on at least one occasion this winter to the term "Polar Vortex"!  We have made it.  The Winter of 2013-14 is officially over. 

Everyone's favorite Equinox, Vernal, arrives today.  Irrespective of how warm - or not - it turns out to be today here in the State of Concrete Gardens his mere appearance on the scene, coming as it does after a winter that seemed as if Morgan Spurlock had super-sized it, could not be more welcome.

I cannot tell a lie.  My first day of Spring shall feel a hell of a lot nicer if my beloved Buffaloes are able to find away to defeat the Pitt Panthers [SPOILER ALERT FOUR YEARS AFTER THE FACT:  THEY DID NOT.  NOT EVEN CLOSE.] in the first round of the NCAA Tournament this afternoon - with the winner's reward being served up to Tournament #1 overall seed Florida on Saturday.  But even should my Alma mater's rather remarkable season come to an end today in Orlando, Florida, it shall not put a permanent crimp in my mood.  For at long last Spring has arrived.  We have been sprung from our Winter of Hell. 

It is enough to make even a grouch like me happy....


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Jeffersonian Model

Did you think I meant Thomas Jefferson?  Silly you.  I meant George of course.  He was, after all, the man who finally got his piece of the pie, right?  Truth be told, George never would have made it to the East Side without the ever-patient Weezy covering for him when he screwed up and kicking him in the ass as needed.  Garcon, we need one piece of Pi and two forks! 

Today is the day that each of us can get a piece of the Pi.  Apropos of nothing, today is also the birthday of the late, great Albert Einstein who, were he still alive, would be one hundred and thirty-eight years old.  Given the state of the world in general and of America in particular here in the latter half of the second decade of the twenty-first century, I wonder if he would be in the mood for a celebratory piece of birthday cake...

...or, maybe instead, a slice of Pi.  Pecan perhaps or, better yet, strawberry rhubarb.  

Low-hanging fruit, after all, abounds - wrapped in the skin of bright, shiny objects.  

The Birthday Boy 


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Her Ride's Here...

My sweet, beautiful girl Rosalita loved many things.  Among them, as I came to remember when I spent some time the other morning looking through the seemingly ridiculous number of Rosie photos my phone contains, was laying her head on my legs while I was on the floor either watching television, working, or sleeping.  

Another of her favorite things to do was ride in the car.  It saddens me to know that this summer, when every Friday becomes a "WFB" ("Work From Beach") Friday, my faithful canine companion will not be in the back seat of my car when I head to the shore on Thursday night.  Fuck.  The mere thought of heading south every Thursday night without her saddens the hell out of me. 

This evening, on my way home from the office, I am stopping by Animerge in Raritan, which is where Rosie left us on Saturday morning, to pick up her ashes.  If you read that sentence thinking, "What sort of asshole pays to have his dog cremated?" allow me to disabuse you of the notion that I considered your opinion on the subject for even a moment before having it done for Rosie.  She is part of our family.  Death does not change that - not even a little. 

This evening when I pick her up, Rosie and I shall take one final drive.  As it should be, our journey shall carry us home.  Together.     

My dog as my co-pilot... one final time.  


Sunday, March 4, 2018

A Promise Kept

The Missus and I bade farewell to our sweet, insane Rosalita yesterday.  Shortly after the first of the year, her annual checkup with the vet revealed kidney failure.  We were told she might have less than a month or she might have as much as two years.  Upon being told that terrible news, we made a promise to one another - and to Rosie - that we would do all we could for her to keep her well and to keep her comfortable but, also, we would not make her endure any undue suffering for our benefit.  In other words, we would not be selfish.  Margaret took her back to the vet on Friday.  Rosie had really seemed to be struggling the past few days and when the vet ran some tests, our worst fears were confirmed.  She was in fact failing badly.  It was not fair to prolong her discomfort. 

Hers had been a good life these past ten and one-half years.  I hope it was anyway. I know she added immeasurable joy and quality to mine and to ours.  We would not and could not compromise its quality as she reached its end solely because saying goodbye to her would break our hearts.   

We kept our promise... was the very least we could do.  And it broke our hearts.  As we knew it would.  

Sleep well, sweetheart.  


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Two Hundred Seventy-Three

Mom died two hundred and seventy-three days ago.  If it makes the math easier (as it does for me), then measure it in months instead.  It seems both incredible and utterly incomprehensible to me that it has been nine months already.  On certain days it seems as if much less time has passed.  On other days, it feels as if it was a lifetime ago. 

The college basketball season is both winding down and revving up towards its big finish.  Regular seasons are ending and now that March has begun, the journey to Madness is soon to follow.  College basketball was a love that Mom and I shared.  I have been thinking the past several days not just about Mom but also about the last time I was lucky enough to see her.  

I flew down to Florida for the weekend at the end of March, 2017 to visit her and Jill.  I remember the three of us eating dinner on Saturday night, at County Line if memory serves, and watching South Carolina battle Gonzaga in the first National Semi-Final, which was playing on the restaurant's big-screen television.  When we finished eating and Mom and I returned to her condo, we sat together on her living room couch and watched the nightcap, which was Oregon versus North Carolina.  Years ago, when I was in high school, we used to stay up late on the first two Thursday and Friday nights of the NCAA Tournament to watch together whichever game CBS was broadcasting from somewhere out in the West Region.  Invariably, one or both of us would doze off, missing the game's ending and having to wait (usually until the following day) to learn its outcome.  Our lack of success in making it to a game's end never discouraged us.  

Last year, on Final Four Saturday, as Mom and I sat watching Oregon battle UNC, history repeated itself.  At some point before game's end, she and I both fell asleep.  We managed to wake up before the broadcast ended so we each went off to bed knowing the game's outcome.  I had a morning flight home to New Jersey on Sunday.  After I woke up and took a shower, we sat at Mom's kitchen table having a cup of coffee (Mom went to her grave insisting that I am the world's foremost authority on coffee preparation) and talking.  I then gave her a hug and a kiss goodbye, walked out the front door, and headed to the airport.  

It was the last time I saw Mom.  

Sometimes I forget, as perhaps you do also that life is not comprised of "big moments".  Instead it is a tapestry of countless, stand-alone, "little" moments.  Moments that might have seemed to be no big deal as they occurred but which, in hindsight, furnish us with the memories that warm our heart (or in my case, the briquette) and give us strength as we negotiate our day-to-day.  

An important thing to bear in mind every day.  Especially so, perhaps, on this particular day.  Day 273.