Monday, April 24, 2017

And Then There Were Twelve...

...more games that the New York Rangers must win in order to capture the 2017 Stanley Cup.  As someone who has rooted hard for the Blueshirts my entire life, a half-century that has seen them win exactly one Cup, I shall be disappointed but not terribly surprised if this season proves, again, to be one that ends somewhere short of a championship. 

Whether that proves to be the case remains to be seen but as of this morning, the Rangers are still standing and preparing for the start of the second round of the playoffs.  On Saturday night, they rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the first period to defeat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 and close out their first-round series in six games.  

Four wins down.  Here is to hoping that they have one dozen more in them. 


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Words and Thoughts

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
that struts and frets its hour upon the stage,
and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing. 
- William Shakespeare

I heartily recommend to all - irrespective of your political leanings - devoting a period of time every day to reading a newspaper.  I am well aware of the fact that Al Gore's monstrosity is awash in sources of information, ranging in quality from reliable to "Hey, let's make some shit up and see how many hits and retweets we receive".  I subscribe to the New York Times, which arrives on my doorstep every morning after I have already left for work, but which I am able to read on-line (my print subscription gives me unfettered access to the on-line version of the paper) during the day when time permits, and at night when I return home.  I also read the New York Post as well as parts of the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post on-line daily.  

Does it take a bit of time every day to get through my required reading?  You bet.  Yet as someone whose day begins at 3:00 AM and typically consists of anywhere from twelve to sixteen hours of work, substantially more often than not I carve out the time necessary to do it.  If we opt to, any of us can use "lack of time" as our default excuse for not doing something.  None of us feels as if we have more time than we need.  The problem, of course, is not lack of time but, instead, lack of commitment to making productive use of time.  Pointing our finger at the former as opposed to the latter makes us feel better, I suppose.  We, the people, have grown accustomed to blaming someone and/or something other than ourselves for any misfortune that might cross our path during our day-to-day.  

If you opt to take the plunge and subscribe to the New York Times then perhaps one of your favorite features of the paper's on-line edition shall be the "Right and Left:  Partisan Writing You Shouldn't Miss" feature that appears every few days and directs you to other publications that span the full spectrum of these United States and opinion pieces that appear in them.  It not only provides a cross-section of viewpoints, it exposes you to language, its employment, and its deployment. As someone whose love for language far exceeds my ability to use it, I find that to be a gift of incalculable value. 

Today marks the birthday of William Shakespeare and, also, the anniversary of his death.  In his honor, a trip in the WABAC Machine, piloted on this particular jaunt by the late, great Alex McDougall, without whom I likely would not have developed the appreciation for Shakespeare that I have carried with me for close to forty years. 


Willie the Shakes & the McDougall Method

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”
-William Shakespeare

Willie the Shakes was born on this day four hundred and fifty years ago.  Were he still alive today, he would be really, really old.  He is not.  He died, in fact, at age fifty-two.  He had a playwright's sense of timing even in death - dying fifty-two years to the day from the day on which he was born.  Tough break for the stone mason at the cemetery I suppose having to carve a headstone that read "04/23/64 - 16" as opposed to two separate lines (one for the date of birth and one for the date of death).  

My education was not that different from the rest of the world I suppose in that at W-H, Shakespeare was thrust upon us in several different English classes.  The best time I had studying him was in 8th grade.  My English teacher was Alex McDougall, who was Martin and Ruth's father.  Mr. McDougall was a Scotsman and a trained actor who had performed in a variety of Shakespearan plays in small theatre companies in England and in the United States.  

In Mr. McDougall's class, we did not just read Shakespeare, we inhaled him.  Among the most vivid memories of my secondary school education are those of Mr. McDougall, who was a hair or two more than five feet tall, in full-on acting mode with his little face all scrinched up and his entire head turning beet red, which when set off against his stark white hair gave him the visage of the world's smallest killer tomato.  Picture if you will Linda Blair in The Exorcist both during and immediately after one of her 'episodes' and you have a pretty good understanding of the transformation that Mr. McDougall would undergo while reciting Shakespeare's words.  At the time, there were days when it veered off the tracks temporarily from entertaining to terrifying but it never once was anything less than enthralling. 

I enjoyed Shakespeare when I read his plays in high school.  Three-plus decades later I still do.  I think my appreciation for him is owed in significant part to the way in which the work was taught to me.  Alex McDougall's love for Shakespeare's work was genuine and absolute and he shared his love for it with those of us in his class with unbridled enthusiasm.   If there is a better way in which to teach such works to 13 and 14 year-old American school kids, I know not what it might be.  

For me, the McDougall Method made all the difference.   

“Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.”
- William Shakespeare
"Julius Caesar" 


Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Day to Drop the Needle and Pray...

Happy Double Whammy Day! 

Today is Record Store Day AND Earth Day. A day so cool on so many levels that it almost makes up for Hallmark's countless blights upon our calendar.  Almost.  

Prior to the ascendancy of the ignorant fuck from Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt, to the throne of the Environmental Protection Agency, I had fairly confidently marked each of these events on my 2018 calendar.  Now, I find myself hoping that thanks to Pruitt's stewardship we do not find ourselves next year at this time observing "Remember the Earth" Day.  Fifteen years ago, I would have laid odds that the BBM ("Big Blue Marble") would be around long after the LP was just a memory. Now, not so much. 

If wherever you are today happens to be somewhere in the vicinity of one of the great independent record stores participating in Record Store Day - and if you are not sure than consult this handy and helpful list - and your store of choice happens to be located somewhere here on Earth, then remove the only stone you shall need from your pocket and pick out the two birds you intend to simultaneously plunk with it.  In the spirit of the day, kill them metaphorically and not literally. 

Now, get the hell out of here.  You have records to buy and dirt in which to dig...


Friday, April 21, 2017

Sixty Seconds in the Big City

Eight years ago, on this very date, what appears in this space today originally appeared here.  Within one month of my having written it, my work circumstances improved substantially.  Sadly, within six weeks of its original appearance, my mother-in-law lost her battle with cancer, which defeat still impacts Margaret in her day-to-day, and likely shall continue to do so for all of the days of her life.


The Mighty Little Acorn

I have been feasting mightily at the trough of self-pity for quite some time now. Well, in fairness to me, I take most of my meals in the trough of self-loathing, which is located cross hairs and perpendicular to the self-pity trough but from time to time I wander over to what is available under its sneeze guard.

On occasion however it is good to pull off the feed bag and give the old jaw muscles a break. It is good to look around and see what the hell is taking place. Sunday gave rise to one of those days.

Margaret's mom - my mother-in-law Suzy B. - has been battling hard against cancer for the past four-plus years. Cancer has attacked my diminutive mother-in-law with a vengeance one would think that the Supreme Being would reserve for dictators, mothers of beauty pageant contestants and Boston Red Sox fans - and something from which he would spare one of his most special creations. No such luck.

The most recent incarnation of chemotherapy began with an infusion on Tuesday last and a daily regimen of pills thereafter. For reasons not clear to the patient, her daughter or any of the rest of us who were with her, on Sunday morning she became spontaneously and violently ill. When it did not cease, she went to a place where she has spent an unfortunate amount of time these past few years - the Nardoni Pavilion at Somerset Medical Center, which is where she remains this morning. And by her side, because she knows not where else she would be, is my bride.

One can speak of unbreakable bonds. Poets write of them. Coffeehouse singers sing of them. Margaret and her mom live one every day. And even in circumstances that are painful for them to endure and sad for the rest of us to watch, the strength of their bond is a marvel.

Every once in a while it is good to lift one's over-sized head up out of the trough and take a look around. There is a hell of a lot of life going on out there. And even in sadness, there is beauty. It is hard to see it through the tears sometimes but it is out there.


Thursday, April 20, 2017


Only those who will risk going too far
can possibly find out how far one can go.
- T.S. Eliot

In the 2017 Boston Marathon, which took place on Monday under very warm April skies, thousands of men and women put themselves to Eliot's test and passed it with aplomb. 

Among their number were two retired American veterans, each of whom has lost his left leg to a combat injury.  Earl Granville, retired from the United States Army, apparently lost his leg to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2008.  His "disability" did not prevent him for competing in and completing the Boston Marathon, which he did while carrying his guide and running partner, Andi Piscopo, across his shoulders.

Staff Sgt. Luis Sanchez, U.S.M.C. (Retired) participated in Monday's Marathon on behalf of the Semper Fi Fund and did this year what he did last year, which is complete the 26.2 mile course on his prosthetic left leg with an American flag firmly grasped in his hand.  Sgt. Sanchez's flag bore the names of the Marines with whom he served in combat, including those with whom he served in Afghanistan in 2013 when an IED cost him his left leg. 

I do not know whether badassery is a word or merely a Sniglet.  But as was the case with Justice Potter Stewart and pornography, I recognize when I see it.  On Monday, I saw it.  As did anyone who happened to watch these two veterans in action. 



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

It Is Not Old If It Is New To You...

Once upon a lifetime ago, most particularly in the era noted in the annals as "B.M." ("Before Margaret"), I was every bit of the asshole that I am now.  Truth be told, I was actually more of one then than I am now, in no small part due to my preferred method of self-medication for all of life's ills, which was the relentless consumption of my body weight in alcohol.  Being the son of a fully-functional drunk and being that father's son gave me all the leg up I needed to seamlessly carry on that particular family tradition.  While living through it, I paid little mind to whether it served me well - although the collateral damage through which I waded on my day-to-day suggested that it had not.  Once I was able to view that part of my life through the rear-view mirror, the wreckage became more readily defined. 

The decision to no longer quench the demons that occupy prime real estate in my head in an alcohol fire, while laudable on some level I suppose, did little to quiet them.  It merely pointed out the need for an alternative, perhaps even a holistic, cure.  From that small thing has this thing come.  Nothing more or less, I reckon, than the (usually) daily wrestling match...for nine years.  In case you missed it, what follows is a reprint of how and when this all began.  Written at a time so long ago that my son was still in college in New York City (his senior year at John Jay College of Criminal Justice), Margaret's grandmother, Nanny, and her mother, the immortal Suzy B., were both still alive, cancer had not yet declared war on my sister, and I had neither left nor returned to the Firm.  

I suppose that this proves - if nothing else - that Jerry Garcia was right all along.  It really has been a long, strange trip...

...and through it all the dog has always walked just like he was smiling.


Man on a Tractor with a Dog in a Field

It's Saturday morning and once upon a time - though never in my professional life - Saturday was 1/2 of the "weekend", presumably meaning it was time spent away from work. For me, not so much. Whether by choice or necessity, my available options for generating sufficient income to support my family are limited to....well, pretty much what I do now and nothing else. I was reminded again last night watching the end-of-series handshake as my beloved Rangers vanquished the Devils in the 1st round of the NHL playoffs of what my mom told me when I was a boy - I'd never play in the NHL unless I learned how to skate on something other than double runners. I never did and so in spite of the natural openings in the Rangers lineup thru the years upon the retirements of Rod Gilbert, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, no phone call. It's ok though b/c I've been mad at Emile Francis for about 30 years anyway for trading Eddie Giacomin....

I'm the youngest of six. That strikes me as a humorous way for a 41 y/o husband and father of 2 college-age kids to describe himself but then again I have older siblings who still refer to me as either their "little" or "baby" brother. History really does exist in the eye of the teller I suppose.

Technically speaking I reckon today represents the end of this week and what a week it was. Professionally I've had better weeks. As a lawyer you sometimes end up in a spot where a client ignores the advice for which they're paying you b/c (much like most of us I suppose) they don't want to hear bad news and then when they get hit square in the face with the proverbial creme pie of bad news they scream at you for allegedly not telling them to duck. I landed squarely in such a spot this week and while it'll likely be a spot more akin to a gravy stain than a blood stain - it'll never leave that plain white t-shirt altogether but it'll fade to an almost imperceptible level over time as opposed to destroying the article of clothing completely - for present purposes I can see it and smell it clearly.

Personally though it was a hell of a good week. I did something that I've spent far too little doing his entire life - spent quality time just hanging out with my 22 y/o son Rob. He's finishing up his final semester of college - living, working and going to school in NYC. Wednesday night (coincidentally the same day of the week as the aforementioned gravy stain assumed its presently prominent position on the collar of my t-shirt) I went into the city and he/I went to watch the Yankees/Red Sox at the Stadium. It was a hell of a good evening - noteworthy really for its complete absence of a big event during it. We just sat in the LF bleachers and watched baseball together. We spent the night just watching the game and talking.

It's fascinating to me as a parent to see how a child is no longer a "child". The maturity both of my kids demonstrate clearly is a trait passed along maternally. Basically, upon graduating this Spring he's off into the working world and while he's still uncertain whether he's going to start out somewhere fairly close to home (such as D.C.) or somewhere not so close (such as the Southwestern U.S.), we all know he's going to be moving "away". It occurred to me not too long ago that but for the brief period of time between graduation and commencement of the 1st professional stop when he'll be living home (at the 'rents in NJ) he'll likely never live home again. It hit me that when I wasn't looking, my life has morphed into a Harry Chapin moment. "Cats in the Cradle" anyone?

The title for this little missive is lifted verbatim from a song by a country artist, Rodney Atkins, who my wife Margaret and I saw perform in May 2007 at Carnegie Hall (how'd he get there - practice, practice, practice of course....we simply took NJ Transit into Penn Station and then an Uptown Train) as the opener for Martina McBride. It's a great little tune preaching a simple lesson or two- spend more time cherishing what you have and less time worrying about what someone else has. Happiness is how you define it - not how anyone else does.

Like the eldest of my siblings, my oldest brother Bill, I am an enormous Bruce Springsteen fan. I'm excited that this time next week Margaret, Rob and I are going to be in North Carolina getting ready to see him/E Street Band play in Charlotte - a trip made possible by a friend's incredible generosity. I'm saddened though by the fact that Danny Federici, an original E Streeter and Bruce's friend and band mate of 40 years lost his battle with his particular form of cancer on the 17th. 

Daniel Patrick Moynihan was right when he said, "I don't think there's any point in being Irish if you don't know the world is going to break your heart."

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My Dog and Me

I make no apology for the fact that I like dogs significantly more than people.  Nor do I apologize for viewing Trumpelstiltskin with a jaundiced eye in no small part because of his self-proclaimed history of dog non-ownership.  It is not the only reason I do not trust POTUS as far as I could throw him - to be sure - but it is one of them. 

As luck would have it, on or about this very date one year ago, the canine who is the object of my affection was the subject of this space's contribution to noise pollution.  A decidedly pleasant journey in the WABAC Machine, with musical accompaniment provided by the always excellent Mr. Hiatt...


Fast Asleep by the Fire Side


Today is Primary Day in New York.  Unless the polls are incredibly off, it appears as if Mrs. Clinton shall emerge victorious in her party's primary and Mr. Trump shall do likewise in his party's.  Here in the State of Concrete Gardens, Primary Day is June 7.  Rare is the year in which the New Jersey Primary is of any significance whatsoever to the candidates in either party.  In this election cycle, however, it is an important election for the GOP candidates and, possibly, for the Democratic candidates also.  Only five months separate New Jersey's Primary Election from Election Day in November.  Five short months. 

The weather this past weekend was so incredibly nice that not even the specter of one of the Not-Quite-Fantastic-Five's ascendancy to the office of the Presidency of the United States could put a damper on it.  Sunday was an ideal weather day on which to embark upon a twenty-mile training run. It was warm but not hot.  I cannot lie and proclaim that I enjoyed the steady 5-10 mile per hour wind blowing out of the northeast that challenged Brooke and me all the way north from Asbury Park to Long Branch on the inward leg of our run but, all in all, even it was a small price to pay.  

I spent a few hours at the office on Saturday morning and then - on my way home from the office - ran a few errands, which I completed shortly after noon.  Once I arrived home, I turned my afternoon into an excuse to spend it in the backyard with Rosie.  Margaret was out with Suzanne so - under the watchful eye of my faithful canine companion - I set up all of our patio furniture, cleaned our grills, and otherwise prepared the backyard for Spring.  

Mission accomplished, I grabbed the book I am currently reading, pulled up a chair on the patio, and read for a couple of hours while Rosie napped away the afternoon a few feet away.  Neither of us spent more than about five consecutive minutes inside from shortly after twelve noon until shortly after five o'clock, which is when we finished grilling the London Broil that Joe, Margaret, and I ate for dinner.  I man the grill.  Rosie supervises the entire food-preparation process and tests small sample-sized pieces to ensure that the food is ready to be served. 

The Yankees played an early afternoon game against the Mariners in the Bronx on Saturday and the Rangers played a late afternoon playoff game against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.  I watched neither.  Instead I spent a few hours that were as spectacular as they were uneventful soaking up a bit of sun, breathing in a bit of comfortably warm fresh air, and enjoying the company of my long-haired, furry friend.  

She enjoyed it, I think, as much as I.  

"My Dog and Me"
- John Hiatt