Monday, June 30, 2008

Every Breath You Take

At the end of last week a story popped up in a number of the daily newspapers here regarding an error that a surgeon made eight years ago, which error ultimately cost the patient his life. The error itself is almost incomprehensible: a man had a tumor on one of his lungs - his left one. He goes into the hospital so that his surgeon can remove the tumor. He awakens after surgery to discover that he is in excruciating pain on his right side so - naturally - he inquires of his surgeon why his right side hurts like hell if surgery was performed on his left lung. The surgeon, Santusht Perera, told his patient that when he opened him up to begin the surgery he discovered that the patient had an even bigger tumor in his right lung so Dr. Perera removed that tumor. Understandably, having been told that his doctor was some sort of surgical Superman, the patient was elated.

Oh the stories we could tell - as Tom Petty once observed - freed from any nagging encumbrances like the truth. That Dr. Perera - he told his patient Richard Flagg a whopper. It turns out that Dr. Perera made a fairly significant boo-boo. Although the cancer that was killing Mr. Flagg was in his left lung, Dr. Perera removed the lower and middle lobe of Mr. Flagg's right lung in error. Once he'd removed those pretty critical pieces of the man's sole functional lung, he could not correct his error by going back in and removing the cancerous pieces of the left lung - the one in which there was actually cancer. Instead of telling Mr. Flagg the truth, and perhaps regaling him with a story of how - in spite of his Board certifications in surgery and thoracic surgery - he'd always had difficulty telling right from left and apparently had made such an error here, Dr. Perera simply lied.

One wonders not only the dosage of unmitigated gall it requires to stand at the foot of the bed of a man whose death warrant you've just signed and lie to his face but also the dosages that were distributed to the other members of the surgical team. Presumably Dr. Perera did not "solo" on this surgery. What makes you sleep better at night? The belief that the other members of his team - from the assistant surgeon to the nurses to the doctor administering the gas or the Sleepy Tyme Tea or whatever the hell they used to knock Mr. Flagg out - were incompetent and did not realize that Dr. Perera made such a colossal blunder or the belief that the other members of the team were complicit in the post-operative cover-up?

Not surprisingly, having had the cancerous growth in his left lung left alone to grow unfettered and having had his healthy right lung eviscerated by Dr. Perera, Mr. Flagg died in 2003. Silly humans and our need to breathe, huh? The civil litigation his family filed apparently resolved some time ago. Finally, last week approximately eight years after his error doomed Mr. Flagg, Dr. Perera was punished by the State Board of Medical Examiners. His license to practice medicine is suspended for up to two years - although he can apply for reinstatement after six months - and he was fined $80,000.

That seems fair, doesn't it? Take a life through sheer incompetence - lie about it to save your own ass and the asses of those who bore witness to your incompetence and did nothing to stop it, pay $80,000 and lose your license to practice medicine for not less than 6 months and not more than 24 months. If Mr. Flagg had ultimately died from something wholly unrelated to his cancer and to Dr. Perera's screw-up/cover up, then one wonders if Dr. Perera would have been punished at all. If only a barrel of crude oil had as little intrinsic value as a human life, then we'd all be able to drive our Hummers wherever we want and whenever we want to do so.

-AK

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lawyers In Love

Last evening I went to the local A&P to do the weekly grocery shopping. One needs to look no further for incontrovertible proof that my chariot is on the shoulder adjacent to the right lane of The Road of Life - hood up and leaking fluids - than that I suppose. With Margaret at the Shore, Rob out with friends and Suzanne at work, it seemed like a judicious use of my time.

I do the grocery shopping in my house - not because I'm better at it than is my wife but - as she's happy to point out and I'm somewhat sheepishly embarrassed to admit - she is the one who does so much else around the homestead that I almost feel obliged to get off of my ass and do a little something. Besides, I love the grocery store. I'm constantly fascinated at the facial expressions of my fellow shoppers as they encounter disappointment, surprise and every so often - usually on Triple Coupon Day - a pique of genuine anger. If the store is out of Cinnamon flavored Cream O Wheat or something else I enjoy, thus preventing me from restocking my supply of it - I suppose I too react with a momentary dose of disappointment or - dare I say - sadness. I've seen other shoppers though react with actual anger and then go off to find one of the folks whose career arc perhaps didn't have quite the apex of yours or mine to chew him/her out for the lack of a particular item.

Intuitively of course we know that the poor fellow who's pulled the Saturday night shift is not responsible for the apparent run on whatever product it is upon which we'd set our sights only to be denied. Nevertheless he becomes the focal point of our frustration - the face of the franchise as it were. Our brain tells us that we know that the likelihood of all of the cashiers and shelf-stockers working the Saturday night shift having gotten together pre-shift to coordinate their roles in furtherance of the ongoing conspiracy against us and our pursuit of Minute Rice is remote at best. However, our heart is a lonely hunter after all and regardless of what we know to be true - at the moment at which reality betrays expectation we react emotionally, not logically.

When it comes to the supermarket wars, I am - much to my wife's chagrin - a non-combatant. If an item I was going to buy - usually because being a tightwad at heart I have a coupon for it - is not available, then I don't buy it. I'm embarrassed to admit that the whole notion of a "rain check" was lost on me until Margaret was in the store with me about a month ago.

She made a special guest appearance at the A&P because we were buying stuff for Rob's graduation party - and we've been married long enough for my lovely wife to fully appreciate and understand my limitations so she does not trust me to fly solo on such occasions. One of us needs to make sure that we don't have 82 boxes of crackers and a single can of Cheez Whiz for all of our guests and she fits that role with a glove-like precision for which Chris Darden and Marcia Clark vainly hoped. We were buying soda for Rob's graduation party and the store was completely sold out of one of the varieties that was part of the sale. To me, that meant filling the cart with other stuff (I'm Bill Kenny's kid and as a child I drank more than my share of Shasta Cream Soda b/c "that was what was on sale and that's what I bought dammit.") My wife simply went to talk to the Store Manager (for years I'd wondered who exactly that nice African-American woman was and what she did) and came back to me carrying a rain check - the grocery store IOU. While I'd never have thought to get one myself, it did feel a bit like a heist when the following week - with the prodigal soda now filled to the brim of its appointed shelf - I bought it and got the "insider discount" simply by handing the rain check over to the cashier. Just for a moment there, I was almost cool.

The only place more entertaining to me than the grocery store is Costco. I love the fact that one can buy in bulk at Costco - the trade-off being that not everything is sold in bulk. For example, my daughter loves Progresso soup but only certain varieties of it. In Costco, they sell cans of Progresso soup in eight packs - four cans of two different varieties. However the only combinations available are invariably comprised of one variety that she does not eat. Somewhere market research must have concluded that the "bulk packs" will be sold only in combinations such as Italian Wedding and Split Pea, Chicken Rice and Tomato and Minestrone and Yankee Bean. If those are your flavors, then congratulations you can go to any Costco anywhere in this country and buy enough Italian Wedding that you can do the whole wedding mass yourself in the original Latin and sing every hymn like Caruso. If however you like Black Bean soup, then hike your dumb ass back to the A&P.

The Costco that is closest to us opens on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. which means if I need to go there for any reason that is when I go. It's humiliating enough to pick up the 96-roll pack of toilet paper and lug it to the front - past the prying eyes of other shoppers - while knowing that they're all thinking "Damn, who eats that much Mexican food?" without having to wait in line for 30 minutes for the privilege of paying for my treasures. I prefer the "get in - buy what I need - dash for the exit" approach.

I don't need to sample the disgusting little treats they set up intermittently throughout the store either. Two weeks ago, Margaret and I were in Costco for something and there was a woman (I was guessing surgeon by the white lab coat and hat) standing behind a display giving out free samples of dried prunes, which people were of course lined up for the chance to try. It's a dried prune folks. Here's my guess - it tastes quite a bit like a raisin...only bigger. There was another pseudo-surgeon standing behind a display for some sort of stain-removal product. I was afraid to go near him as I suspected that the product demonstration involved some sort of ambush in which another pseudo-surgeon would throw something on you as you approached so this guy could apply the magic elixir thereafter and remove it.

I never cease to be amazed though that the same citizenry who shall bitch and moan ceaselessly about the lines created at airports in the post-September 11, 2001 world will line up ten minutes before Costco opens so that we can be the first ones in the store. It's refreshing isn't it to know that we'll wait not one more minute than we have to be safe from a terror attack at 37,000 feet but that we'll stand out in whatever type of weather is being thrown at us for the chance to buy the 50-pack of Slim Jims before they all disappear. Simply remarkable behavior.

Somewhere in America it's forever 6:00 o'clock it seems and there we sit - eating from our TV trays and tuned in to whatever happens to be on. If we're lucky enough to have TV Land then maybe we're still watching the adventures of Milwaukee's favorite family....

I hope they re-run the one where Fonzie jumped the shark.

-AK

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Waterloo Sunset

Here in the greater Gotham metroplex our two local Major League teams staged their own World War I reenactment yesterday - fought hard and long into the night, made advances deep into enemy territory and then by day's end had given back much of what had been gained. It was the baseball version of "Even Steven".

In the afternoon, the Mets put on one of the nine thousand variations of road uniforms they wear, invaded the Bronx and beat the tar out of the Yankees 15-6. Memo to LaTroy Hawkins: it's OK to not pitch to Carlos Delgado down by seven runs in the 8th inning (especially when he's already hit a grand slam and driven in six). Not our Mr. Hawkins - he grooves a pitch and gopher balls his way into the history books as part of Delgado's entry for most RBI in one game by a Met. As a Yankees fan I could say something snide such as Delgado's achievement is something akin to being designated the smartest member of the Bush Administration....but then someone (most likely my wife) would remind me that I voted for President Bush twice - both times were in '00 and one of those was in Florida so kiss my Irish arse Chad! (I'm kidding of course).

After spending the better part of four hours sweating in the Big Ballpark in the Bronx - and long after the Yankees fans in attendance had given up hope that some cats from the home team would start letting loose (an obscure Springsteen reference dropped here gratuitously for the benefit of my brother Bill and/or my son Rob - in the event either reads this) - the teams traveled to Queens for the second half of the day's double bill. Memo to Michael Kay: the 3 1/2 minute explanation during the second game last night as to why the games were really not considered to be a doubleheader was really, really unnecessary (and while we're at it vis-a-vis the boys from Yes - memo to David Cone: "Sing - e?" Is someone from Pixar paying for the reference or did you come up with that absurd from conception and dead on arrival nickname for Ken Singleton all by yourself?)

The Mets - who hung 15 runs on the Yankees under the light of day in the Bronx, hung exactly 15 fewer runs on them in front of their home fans last night. The Yankees - having looked inept all afternoon in the Bronx - found the soothing sounds of Flushing Bay - it's just the right combination of water, garbage and dead bodies - to be invigorating and hung nine runs on the Mets and Pedro Martinez. God Bless Sidney Ponson, huh? The best ML pitcher ever from the island of Aruba - which begs the question: how could one scout travel all the way to Aruba to find some chubby kid to pitch in the big leagues someday but the entire police force of that island not be able to find 1 strand of hair or trace of the young Natalee Holloway?

At the cessation of hostilities last evening the two teams were essentially back were they had started their respective days. Ray Davies is smiling no doubt. And if the weather holds today and tomorrow, they'll get the chance to go round and round again.

-AK

Friday, June 27, 2008

There Are No Bad Words - It's The Context That Counts

As the Yankees waited in vain for the rain in Pittsburgh to go, go away so that they could conclude their first visit in a half-century to the Steel City, my eyes wandered around the TV dial in search of alternative forms of entertainment (not that the pseudo-infomercials the YES Network cranks out in the guise of documentaries about former players who YES now pays to do games for them - David Cone and Paul O'Neill for instance - aren't scintillating but well, they aren't).

My wife and I camped for a while on Last Comic Standing on NBC. I have a genuine love of stand-up comedy and one of my favorite comics is Rich Vos - who competed on the first season of this show several years ago. Margaret and I watched as a number of comedians, some very funny, some less so competed from someplace in Las Vegas. Having not wondered for one moment what happened to the genuinely unfunny Bill Bellamy after his fledgling TV and movie career dried up several years ago I was intrigued to see that he's the host of the show now. I'd be curious to see whether Bellamy - working under a different name - could even make the finals of this contest if he entered. Based upon the body of work I've seen - not bloody likely.

Being a male of our species, at some point at or about the 21st TV spot in the first 40 minutes, my reservoir of attention (limited at best to begin with) had evaporated. While flipping around the dial and moments before cuing up "57 Channels (& There's Nothing On)" from the soundtrack in my mind, I came across George Carlin on HBO. I'd forgotten an item I'd seen earlier in the week in the paper about HBO running his specials as an homage to him.

I flipped on the tail end of a special he filmed about 20 years ago right here in Levelland - at the State Theatre in New Brunswick. Towards the end of it he did a bit about "bad" words. He commented that he hated when someone refers to a word as "bad". According to Carlin, "language is neutral. It's the context in which it's used to which attention must be paid."

The ability to use language is powerful stuff - or at least so I've been told by those who can actually use it effectively. What we say and how we say it can shape our perspective and that of the listener or the reader.

For example, the younger of my two young adults shall relocate to Georgia fairly soon. Today is the 27th of June. If my mind wants to try to trick my heart into thinking his departure is not imminent, then I simply remind myself that "Rob leaves next month" as if "next month" exists only in a galaxy far, far away.

However, there are times when my mind rips the band-aid off of my heart good and fast, which hurts like hell of course, and speaks to it of the truth. The truth is that two weeks from this very day my son will wake up in Georgia beginning his first full day at FLETC and taking the first stride in the next big step of his life. And the truth is that the next big step thereafter will take him geographically - but hopefully not emotionally - further away from home.

For present purposes therefore, until Monday comes and goes and the sweet comfort of this self-delusion is taken from me, I'm going to continue to pick what's behind Door #1 Monty. "Next month" has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

-AK

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tony The Go***mn Tiger

Once upon a time - or three decades ago - when I was a kid just starting to participate in competitive sports, all of us (child and adult) accepted the fact that not everyone was created equal in terms of athletic prowess. Armed with that knowledge and protected by all the comfort it afforded, those of us who were less gifted than our classmates understood that it was something less drastic than sporting a sweater from Hawthorne's Hester Prynne Letterman's Collection to be deemed unworthy of membership on a particular team for which we had tried out. We did our best and if - as Mr. Springsteen once sang - our best wasn't good enough - then we moved on to something else.

Here, in our kinder, gentler America (go ahead, I'll pause a moment to allow for laughter, snickering or head-shaking) the notion of permitting our children to try and not succeed has gone the way of the $1.00 cup of coffee and the $3.00 gallon of gas. The nation is awash in leagues at all levels for kids - including interscholastic teams - on which every child who tries out to play makes the team for which he/she has sought membership. The maraschino cherry perched atop this sundae of silliness is the "participation award" that gets handed out at season's end. It's the equivalent of receiving a trophy simply for showing up - which reminds me that since I never take any time off and never get sick the Firm is having some sort of party for me today at 11:00 to reward me for my relentlessness. I'm kidding of course. I get rewarded every two weeks for showing up every day in the form of a pay check. It's less filling than cake and easier on the heart.

I love kids and I'm not espousing that their lives should be lived according to some sort of bullshit Little League code - and I mean the real Little League like we all were exposed to in The Bad News Bears (chock full of parents who torture the crap out of their kids to participate because little moptop's success is critically important to Mom/Dad's status among the other miscreants living vicariously thru their own moptops) and not that Disneyfied version we see on TV during the Little League World Series each August.

I really don't believe though that (a) there is anything wrong with encouraging your child to get involved in sports even if he/she is not the best athlete on a particular team; and (b) there is anything wrong with actually having try outs for teams as opposed to having every child who shows up on sign-up day make a team. Hell, it's a team we're talking about here; it's not life or death. Michael Jordan allegedly was cut from his junior varsity basketball team in high school. Remember that Noah made cuts. For every pair of animals whose ticket was punched on the Carnival Cruise "Lost In the Flood" liner Noah skippered there was at least one of every species left standing on the dock waving good-bye. Interesting Biblical questions just leapt to the forefront of my mind - did Noah take 2 fish on the Ark? Presuming he did, how'd he keep them alive? Presuming he didn't, did they drown in the flood?

Unfortunately the extension of every little kid becoming a player in some youth league is that the ones who are talented enough to become professional athletes automatically morph into "Great" players. I watch a fair amount of sports on TV. There is no more misused, confused and abused notion among sports broadcasters than that of greatness. Somewhere along the line, the train skipped off of the tracks and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting started programming its students to believe that athletes are either great or lousy. No one is simply "good" any more. I was reminded last night while watching the Yankees and listening to Ken Singleton. For a number of years when I was a kid, Singleton was an important part of an always-solid and occasionally spectacular Baltimore Orioles team that battled the Yankees and the Red Sox year in, year out for the Division title. He was a very solid, good major league player - a switch hitter who hit for a good average with decent power from both sides of the plate and a good defensive right fielder. He was not a great player. He was a good player who had a productive, lengthy career in the big leagues. He was the type of player for the Orioles that Paul O'Neill or Tino Martinez were for Joe Torre's Yankees - solid, dependable and good. Singleton, O'Neill and Martinez are going to Cooperstown the same way I am - on a tour at full price admission - but all three of them were good professional baseball players.

Somewhere along the line we decided as a society that "good" is the new bad. It's sort of like going to order a medium cup of coffee at one of the nine million coffeehouses that have sprung up around this country only to discover that medium no longer exists. Sure it's on the menu but it doesn't mean medium any longer. Medium is now large because it makes people feel better (read: less like they're getting fleeced when they plunk down $5.00 for a cup of "decaf/half caf/don't make me laugh/licorice latte" or some other such nonsense. Here's a thought for Starbuckians across the globe - just drink f***ing coffee and simplify your lives). The lengths to which we go in our efforts to refine the fine art of self-delusion never cease to amaze me.

Radical notion folks: not every child who has a passion for sports has a talent to match it (trust me I look one square in the eye every morning in the mirror's reflection as I brush my teeth), not every person who straps on a jockstrap or a sports bra (or both) for money is "great"; and sometimes a medium is just a medium.

It is what it is in this life. At some point, perhaps in the next life, it'll be different. When we get there, wake me up for meals.

AK

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

North to Pleasant Stream

So many faces in and out of my life/Some will last/Some will just be now and then/Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes/I'm afraid it's time for goodbye again

So sang Billy Joel in "Say Goodbye to Hollywood". Life is indeed a series of hellos and goodbyes. The narrative of our life's story is often told in a style akin to a literary work - long, well-developed story arcs and characters who hold a prominent place in the narrative at a particular point, disappear from it completely for an indeterminate amount of time and then slip back into the story somewhere further on up the road.

A million years ago or so, when I was in high school - before I grew my beard and before my hair started upon its inexorable march towards grayness - I was friends with a girl named Dana. Long before I'd ever met Dana, I'd known her big brother Greg. Greg was 2 years older than me and I knew him since he and I were both fairly little kids thru his participation in a recreation program my father ran on Saturdays for kids from my father's school - at which Greg was a student. Once I started attending the school - Wardlaw - my path thru it followed Greg's at a distance. I knew him thru playing the same sports as he did - usually at the JV level as a 9th or 10th grader while he was flourishing on the varsity level as an 11th and 12th grader. Greg was a classmate of my sister Jill and they graduated high school together in 1983.

Greg had two little sisters - Stacy and Dana - the youngest of the trio. Tragically, when neither little sister was still a child but long before either of them had outgrown the need for a big brother, Greg was killed in a car accident. I have a vague recollection of it happening right about the time I finished college - in '89 or thereabouts - which meant he could not have been any more than 24 or 25.

In the ebb and flow of life, I lost touch with Dana at or about that time. TV and the movies always give us tent pole moments - the kind of "Ah ha!" moment that serves as the identifier for the viewer of the reason why something that is about to happen does. In my experience, real-life has far fewer such moments. In my head, I did not cease being friends with Dana - she was simply an old friend to whom I'd not spoken in a number of years. No one parted on bad terms - the course of our lives simply took us out of each other's narrative for an extended period of time.

I'm not sure how exactly we ran into each other - at every one's favorite meeting post (the Internet) - but we did a couple of months back. Judging by the wonderful family photo I've seen of her, her husband and their simply adorable little girls, she appears to have aged about 7 1/2 minutes in the past 20 + years; which is a lie I'll not attempt to tell myself (actually if I'd simply left that distant, somewhat blurry picture of Mom and me in Boulder the morning of my college graduation as my profile photo I'd have been able to pull it off I suppose). She and I dropped back into the narrative of each other's life and in the course of catching up she told me that while she was great and life was terrific, sadly her father was in a fight for his own life.

In my mind's eye, I see Dr. Boff where I last saw him - in his home more than 20 years ago - making the rounds of his children's friends at some colossal bash that Greg, Stacy and Dana had at his home in West Orange. I'd never known him particularly well and could not at gun point recall the last time I'd seen him before that evening. I remember however him that night periodically checking in with each of his kids and their friends to make sure everyone had everything they needed and that all were enjoying themselves. He was an eminently gracious host in a home awash in a sea of college-age and younger partiers. Candidly, I'd not have been able to pull it off - in his shoes.

Tragically, the two sisters - Stacy and Dana - have had death come calling at their door again. This time, it came for their father. Dr. Boff - after a life devoted to the treatment and the healing of others - lost the ultimate high-stakes game of "Physician, Heal Thyself". After battling the ravages of cancer for, apparently, a considerable period of time, he died yesterday.

Life has toughened Dana and Stacy - more than either of them deserve to be at their respective ages. So the same steely-eyed resolve that has carried them thru the tragedies they have already confronted and overcome will no doubt do so yet again. Their father, like their big brother before him, shall remain tied to them like the buttons on a blouse forever and shall be kept alive in their hearts for as long as they shall live.

In "The Bridge of San Luis Rey", Thornton Wilder wrote, "There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning." Armed with that love, and strengthened by it no doubt, Dana and Stacy will never not be connected to their dad and to their brother. In a veritable monsoon of sadness, that qualifies as a ray of hope I suppose. It's more than simply something; it's everything.

-AK

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's Morning Time in America...

Approximately fourteen and one-half months ago, Don Imus uttered the now infamous "nappy headed 'hos" comment about the Rutgers University women's basketball team. While nothing happened to him in the immediate aftermath of the broadcast, within a couple of days of its airing the ripples in the pond - reaching far and wide - got the attention of a lot of folks. When one makes his living with his mouth and prides himself on saying whatever he wants about whomever he wants, one runs the risk of having as many enemies as fans. Sure enough, within about two weeks of the remark being made on-air, the "Imus in the Morning" program was cancelled - and for good measure CBS Radio fired him in the middle of the annual, two-day radiothon for the Imus Ranch for Kids with Cancer and other charities.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with his firing last April is now of little moment. He was fired and he went off of the air for about eight months. In early December 2007, ensconced in his new home at 77 WABC in New York, he returned. Upon his return, Citadel Broadcasting (wouldn't you have loved to know what names were considered for the company before the big-wigs started popping Viagra like Pez? If "Citadel Broadcasting" isn't a name that screams out "overcompensating" I don't know what is) announced that his program was going to be on a twenty-one second delay; presumably so that if the I-Men or one of his band of merry men planted his own foot squarely in his mush, enough time would be on the clock to allow pain-free extrication - (Hell, I watch the new Password and Betty White can give good clues for all five passwords within 21 seconds and she's even older than Imus so 21 seconds is practically an eternity).

Alas Poor I-Man, perhaps it was still simply not enough. Yesterday morning, apparently, Imus and Warner Wolf turned their attention during the sports news to a discussion of Adam "PAC MAN" Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and the fact that in his relatively brief NFL career he's been arrested at least six times and suspended by the league for one full season. As an aside, I'd like to ask Mr. Jones to continue to go by PAC MAN. I'm asking not only on my own behalf but on behalf of all other Adams everywhere. If you're looking to drop the nickname because it's passe', then might I suggest simply trading it in for a new, hip, video game nickname. Among today's gaming systems, "TRUE CRIME" (as in Adam "TRUE CRIME" Jones) jumps immediately to the forefront of my mind.

Apparently in the course of the discourse about PAC MAN, Imus asked and was told that Mr. Jones is African-American, to which he replied "well there you have it" or words to that effect. Imus sent an e-mail to the New York Times last night suggesting that what he meant by that was that he was supporting PAC MAN. He further suggested that what he meant was that perhaps PAC MAN has had a seemingly disproportionate amount of trouble with the law because of his race.

Candidly, I don't know what I found more absurd watching the news last evening: Imus' suggested explanation for what he said, which couldn't have seemed any more credible to him when he typed the e-mail to the New York Times than it did when I read it on-screen during the late local news or the threatened call to arms by Rev. Al "Droopy Dog" Sharpton. If one looks up the term unmitigated gall in the dictionary, one runs squarely into Sharpton's picture - with a cross-reference to the other great fleecer of the flock - Jesse Jackson. As of last evening, Sharpton was quoted as saying that he did not have enough information about the incident to know whether he'd mobilize his forces as he did in April '07.

Sharpton and Jackson may end up choosing to sit this one out. If they do, it's not because either of them likely buys the jive explanation Imus has provided for why he said what he said. If they do, it's not because they don't recognize the potential exposure they could get for railing against Imus for his reinforcement of a negative stereotype. If they do sit this one out, they'll do so for only one reason: PAC MAN Jones. At day's end, it's not unreasonable to believe that he's simply not worth the effort. The apparent chink in Mr. Jones' armor is not the color of his skin; it's that irrespective of his outside, his inside is empty. He is by all accounts not a nice human being - not a "good guy", which has nothing whatsoever to do with the color of his skin but rather with the content of his soul.

The Legion of Decency came from far and wide to defend C. Vivian Stringer and the Rutgers Lady Knights in the Spring of 2007 - only to find that none of them needed the Legionnaires, thank you very much. Truth is an absolute defense to defamation and all Coach Stringer and her players had to do was be themselves and let the world see them - and not some half-witted mischaracterization of them - and the truth set them free. Contrary to the self-congratulations the do-gooders foisted upon themselves, it was not their trumped-up sense of moral outrage that was Imus' undoing - it was the grace and presence with which the young women he attempted to turn into objects of derision handled themselves. Their actions and their words exposed the falseness of his and in doing so carried the day.

Here, the Legionnaires know that PAC MAN Jones is many things - being the equal of any one of the Lady Knights is not among them. It will be interesting to see how many of them, if any, storm the ramparts on his behalf. I suspect that far fewer press credentials will be issued for the Inquisition of J. Donald Imus, Part II than were for the original, which has everything to do about the object of his remark and not its subject matter. C. Vivian Stringer appears on TV and gets book deals. PAC MAN Jones appears in arraignment court and gets plea deals.

If the sound of silence proves deafening in response to this incident, it'll have everything to do with hypocrisy in America - which like prejudice and bias knows no color or gender barrier.

-AK

Monday, June 23, 2008

This is the Hippy-Dippy Weatherman Signing Off...

I awakened this morning to hear the new reports on the radio that George Carlin died yesterday. He died of heart failure. He was 71 years old. June has thus far been cruel to American media icons with Tim Russert passing away on Friday the 13th and Carlin tripping the mortal coil only nine days later.

I was but a boy when George Carlin raised his profile substantially by uttering "The Seven Words You're Not Allowed to Say on T.V." and I suppose if that had represented the high-water mark of his career and his contribution to the world around him - it would have seemed sufficient. Comedy as the means for stoking debate about the 1st Amendment - great stuff.

It was not of course the end of the line for Carlin and for anyone who was not too familiar with him or his work who might have thought that was all he was about - the guy who said the seven allegedly horrible words one was not to utter on TV (if you're thinking "hey what about the Sopranos? They did everything on that show except name a character for one of these 7 words" remember it's not TV, it's HBO) - you missed out on someone truly special. It is Carlin who observed that, "Honesty may be the best policy but it's important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy."

Years ago, before he became the host of the Tonight Show and was still filling in as Carson's "permanent guest host" I saw Jay Leno interview Carlin. I remember not the reason for which Carlin was in beautiful, downtown Burbank, California (perhaps like seemingly everyone else Ed McMahon owed Carlin money and he'd popped over to collect) but I remember the interview. Leno asked Carlin why he, Carlin, directed the lion's share of his jokes at "establishment" figures - government leaders, politicians, celebrities, the rich and famous, etc when so many other stand-ups at the time were getting laughs telling jokes about gays, minorities and other "non-establishment" groups. Carlin told Leno that he always told young comics - if asked for advice - not to tell jokes about "target" groups for a couple of reasons. Carlin was apparently of the opinion that a comic should challenge himself or herself in terms of material and being one of a million comics telling gay jokes was not much of a challenge. He told Leno as well that in his opinion not only was telling jokes designed to mock a "target" group too easy, it was simply not cool and it turned a comic into something much more potentially sinister - a bully. Carlin told Leno he went after those who could return fire because he enjoyed the challenge of it.

The story about his death that I read this morning on MSNBC.COM said he'd performed as recently as last week. His death makes me think of a routine of his from several decades ago. He was talking about all of the reasons he hated the name George. The last one he gave was that he hated George b/c it was a name that went on forever. To prove his point, he spelled it out loud: "G E O R..G E...O R...G E..O R....G E..O R" before finally giving up in mock horror.

Here's to hoping he was right and that the name George Carlin goes on forever. If you're inclined to believe in things celestial and you're a comedian, then take note of the fact that upon your death the job of God's Comic is no longer available for you - in the next life. It's been permanently filled.

"There's no present. There's only the immediate future and the recent past." - George Carlin

-AK

Sunday, June 22, 2008

This Is Us

Margaret and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary this week. Being older now and less energetic than we were way back when we was fab, we didn't go out to celebrate the occasion on Thursday - which was our actual anniversary. Instead we went out last night.

Going out and celebrating our wedding anniversary on the 21st instead of the 19th of June isn't really like cheating - not at all in fact. Margaret and I dated for 2 years before we were wed and we actually got married on the weekend that marked the 2nd anniversary of our dating relationship. This ship set sail initially on June 21, 1991 - 1st date - which was a Friday. June 21, 1993 was a Monday. Figuring that no one wants to attend a wedding on a Monday, we landed on the 19th, which was of course a Saturday.

17 years ago our first date culminated in an extended conversation at a downstairs booth at one of New Brunswick's dining/drinking fixtures - Tumulty's Pub (their coasters identify Tumulty's as New Brunswick's "First" Restaurant). Last night after having dinner at Harvest Moon, we walked the block and a half to Tumulty's for a drink. Tumulty's is timeless. I don't think the decor has changed one iota since our first date. We sat at the bar thinking about how fast time passes and how much life we've lived in the past 17 years. It's not always been the smoothest ride - it's real life after all, not the movies - but it's been fantastic.

As we sat at the bar there was a steady stream of young people - I'd guess either students or perhaps recent graduates - coming in and out, some a bit glassy-eyed and all happy. I couldn't tell what they were celebrating - if anything - or whether they were just out for a night on the town with friends.

Perhaps in the crowd last night there was a young couple on their first date as Margaret and I had been 17 years ago? If so, then perhaps their luck will mirror ours. This is us, authors of a never-ending story. Maybe someone put pen to paper on their own story for the very first time last evening. One never knows, there's magic in the night and there's something about Tumulty's that allows you to capture it. And all you have to do is try.

-AK

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dancing With Who You Bring....

If we all truly were celluloid heroes, then the search for our true companion would be successful the first time out of the box. Alas, at the point in the distance where the horizon meets the sky the line between art and its most-famous imitator, life, gets a bit blurred. Our first ride on Love's carousel sometimes ends with the calliope crashing to the ground.

It is good therefore that unlike March Madness and the pursuit of collegiate hoops glory, the pursuit of Love's glory is not a single-elimination affair - or better said it doesn't have to be. A wise person once observed that the second time is indeed a charm (left unsaid in that observation is that the first time was considerably less so). I'm the beneficiary of such an opportunity. Had my life's love not picked a stinky fruit from the tree of life on her first attempt, Margaret would not have been back in the orchard looking for a plum - yes I'm aware of the jury's extended deliberations on the critical question of whether she's yet found one. I have a friend of mine from high school whose first bid for eternal love popped a hammie considerably far up the track but in her second bid she found what (and more importantly who) she was looking for. A number of years and two little ones later, they're doing just fine thank you very much.

Today - the Summer Solstice - Theresa, who works with me, and Matt are getting married. For each of them, this is their second walk down the aisle. Each represents the missing component part in the other's otherwise complete life. Each is a wonderful parent and they have molded together their once-separate units into a cohesive group that would do Brian Keith and Lucille Ball proud.

At some point on this gorgeous, sunny, longest day of the year, they'll begin their walk together, come what may. I know not whether an oak's bough figures into the ceremony but I do know that by day's end, they'll be wed. They've worked damned hard to earn this shot at happiness. Here's to hoping they not only get it but that it exceeds their wildest expectations.

Here's to a glass raised in the hope that today - for all of its wonder and its beauty - is not the happiest day of the rest of their life but, rather, a foundation upon which an endless series of "best day ever" is built. To two little grains of sand locked in Love's eternal kiss, congratulations and good luck.

-AK

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Man for All Seasons

Three weeks after the unofficial start of summer, we've arrived at the last full day of Spring. We wonder why our kids do not score better on standardized tests eh? Imagine this scenario as a multiple choice question and watch the heads of 10 and 11 year-olds nationwide start to smoke as their internal wiring begins to fry. ("I'm sorry - the sequence is summer/spring/summer?")

I'm the youngest of six - one must love the Irish Catholics I suppose - and my mother equally distributed her offspring on either side of the sexes' battle line - 3 daughters and 3 sons. My older brother Kelly (the middle of the 3 sons - and no, nowhere in family archived 8 mm footage is their any film of the shoes of Bill, Kelly and I tapping rhythmically. Likely for at least 2 reasons: (a) no 8 mm camera in the house; and (b) no rhythm in any of the sons) was my employer summers that I was in college. I worked for his construction company. I'd come home from school in early May, unpack my stuff and get up at 4:00 or so the following morning to start my gig as a laborer/light-metal framer at which I'd work until the Friday or so before I was going to return to Boulder (usually late August). The thought occurs to me just now that it wasn't simply a summer job - it was a spring and summer job because I worked at each summer for about six weeks before spring yielded the stage to summer.

Like clockwork, every year at or about the Summer Solstice, which is of course the first day of summer and the day here in our hemisphere that is the longest day of the year (in terms of daylight - not necessarily in terms of stress and aggravation), the guys who worked for him would discuss the fact that summer was finally here, long days, warm nights, yada yada yada. Without fail my brother would point out to all of them that they were wrong - that the nights while warm were actually getting a little bit longer every night. He'd explain to all of them, annually, that while they may have tricked themselves into believing the days were getting longer as we rolled into July, in fact each day was shorter than the one before it....and would continue to get shorter until we reached the Winter Solstice in December.

Not surprisingly, in those days at least my brother did not get a lot of offers to supplement his income by serving as a Toastmaster or a motivational speaker. When one presents as the human equivalent of the air hole in someones balloon that is to be expected I suppose. He used to feign surprise every summer at the fact that the guys on whose parade he'd just rained - or worse - did not seem appreciative of having received this little pearl of wisdom.

Scientifically, he was right of course. One needs to look no further than the table in the daily newspaper that notes sunrise and sunset to see that beginning on June 22nd and running thru to the Winter Solstice, the sun will rise a minute or so later than it did the day before and will set a minute or two earlier.

Life is bigger than the raw data that comprises it. Bruce Springsteen is right - it is the little things that count. Our brains know for certain that from tomorrow forward thru the duration of the summer, autumn in is the offing and winter is on its heels, attacking the sanctity of our hot, sunny days and our evenings outside enjoying the summer breezes but our hearts and souls care not. We need the summer, its warmth and its three-quarters speed pace to refresh and recharge. Although our minds know the truth about ever-shortening days and ever-expanding darkness, our will prevails. We allow ourselves the little lie. It hurts no one.

Enjoy it while you can because summer too often feels as if its over before you know it. Too soon it'll be Labor Day - the unofficial start of fall - followed three weeks later by the real McKoy. There will be time soon enough to acknowledge the approaching autumnal darkness and winter's anticipated onslaught. Don't do it today - it's still Spring you know.

-AK

Thursday, June 19, 2008

IF.....

It may very well be true that the quickest way from Point A to Point B is to walk along the straight path. It is also true however that life is structured in such a way that often times one cannot get there from here via the straight path. That's nothing to fear. It's in life's forks where the fun lies and the adventure begins.

Fifteen years ago this very day, she said "I do". At or about high noon - outdoors - on a day that was about a gajillion degrees, Margaret and I were married. Fifteen years further on up the road, I remind her that she took me "for better" or "for worse". One day perhaps I'll have the courage to ask her how the ride has been thus far. One day perhaps - but not today.

We arrive at a particular point in life in significant part because of the path we've trod to get there. As a young man I never gave any thought to marriage and family. Candidly, having spent the first decade + of my life as an eyewitness to all of the heartache my mother endured at the hands of my father, I simply did not see the appeal of the enterprise. My perspective changed little during high school and thereafter college. I was more of a short-term visionary as a collegiate romantic in that forever = closing time. If we were still engaged with one another by last call, then....

If life had gone according to Hoyle, then I'd have matriculated myself on down the education garden path from college to law school without any break in the action. However, by Thanksgiving of my senior year in college I realized that the prospect of more school the following September held little appeal. I audibled. Instead of sitting for my LSAT's and applying to law schools as a senior at the University of Colorado, I decided I'd come back East and get a job for a year to make a bit of money.

If I'd stuck to my original plan of action, then I'd have gone to law school directly out of college. Instead I spent about a year working for my older brother's construction company - functioning as a laborer and a light-metal framer. In the Fall of 1989, when the plan called for me to be in the middle of my first semester of law school, I took the PATH train into New York City to be @ 623 Broadway by 6:30 a.m. to work on a renovation/restoration. In or about January 1990, I took the LSAT for the first time and filled out applications for law school.

If I'd been accepted to any of the law schools to which I applied for admission for the Fall 1990 term - including the one from which I'd graduate in 1994 - then I'd never have flirted with the idea of fleeing back to Boulder. While I did not do it, the desire to do so gave me the incentive to do what I'd been too lazy or unwilling to do - because the money was good and because we got pie-eyed every night after work together - quit working for my brother's construction company and actually look to the future.

If I'd not decided - after spending several weeks interviewing for one job after another - to take a job as a bill collector for PAYCO GAC in Edison, New Jersey in the late summer of 1990, then I'd never have been put within the same four walls as Margaret. While I hardly knew her for most of the first seven or eight months that I worked there, but for having taken that job I'd have never met her or even seen her. Yet there she was.

If in the late spring of 1991 the people who ran PAYCO GAC had not reorganized their collection units so that - for a little while at least - I worked in a unit that Margaret supervised, then I'd never have had the chance and the excuse to talk to her every day throughout the day.

If late in the afternoon on Friday, June 21, 1991 Margaret had not decided to chat me up to see whether I had any plans after work that night (a move that to this day she tells all to whom she tells this tale that she made simply because she was bored), then I'd might never have gone out with her - given that courage was in short supply. I've not been without her from that day forward.

I lived the first quarter-century of my life not able to relate to anyone telling me of someone without whom they could not live. It was an alien concept - right up until June 21, 1991. I dropped Margaret off that evening after dinner at Chan's Garden in Dunellen and drinks afterwards at Tumulty's in New Brunswick....and sat in my car at the STOP sign at the end of her block knowing then what I'd never known up until that point - no matter where I went from that point forward, I did not want to take one step in that direction without her.

If I'd not met and fallen in love with the woman who became my wife, then I'd never have become a father to two spectacular kids. Suzanne was 6 years old I think and Rob was 5 when Margaret and I first got together. Just last month, Rob graduated college. He's off to the lights of Cheyenne in the fall as he begins his career in federal law enforcement. Suzanne graduated with honors from college a year ago and -channeling the old man perhaps - has taken this year off from school while she works full-time. In September she begins her quest for a Master's Degree. All she wants to do is work with deaf and profoundly hard-of-hearing children as an audiologist and speech language pathologist. Two kids, one mission: a career of service. They are the embodiment of their mother. If not for her, then I'd never been permitted the opportunity to get a glimpse of them and to share a little slice of their lives and the promise of all that lies ahead of them.

Fifteen years further on up the road, I am still the same old man she married way back when - a few less brain cells and a lot more gray hair, no doubt. Fifteen years - I hope to hell she's as pleased about that as am I.

Happy Anniversary Margaret.

-AK

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sisters, Back Seats and Ice Cream Cones

Rites of passage come in all shapes and sizes, one supposes. Yesterday - at the point of intersection in my mind's eye and in my heart between the horizon and the sky - I bore witness to one. As anyone who reads my daily scribblings (which means me I suppose) knows, my son is preparing to leave the nest - literally and figuratively - as the first stop on his career in the Federal government takes him west to the badlands of Wyoming. My freshly scrubbed college graduate, preparing for life as his own baker and earner of the daily bread, took the plunge last evening and purchased his first new vehicle - a pick-up truck.

Both of my kids bought their first "new" cars as high school students, which were used vehicles of course. We're not talking any of that "factory certified pre-owned" jive either - we're talking about used cars. Suzanne made the transition from her first beloved bomber to a new car a couple of years back and I still remember her reaction in the immediate aftermath of doing it: a combination platter of "Wow, it's shiny and new and I own it" and "Holy crap - I have to make a payment on this thing every month for lots of months". It was the combination of excitation and trepidation that we count upon to keep us alive and engaged as we stroll thru the shopper's emporium that is our life.

Rob's combination platter was served last evening. This morning as I backed out of my driveway in the still and the darkness of Levelland at 4:00 a.m. the shine and glean off of his brand spanking new silver toy was unmistakable. It's a fairly monstrous-looking vehicle - in terms of its size - especially in comparison to his old man's little red Corolla - but it suits him. When one prepares to pick up every atom of one's existence and reassemble them all 2000 miles West, one needs a vehicle of sufficient size and substance to cart them all. His shall do the trick just fine, thank you.

Soon enough he'll be heading west - down across the Delaware - and out where the Garden State give way to the real world and falls away in the rear view mirror. He'll make the journey in his brand new, new truck. Perhaps as he crosses over the Delaware, he will hit the gas and let out a cry, just for fun.

Me? I'm a simple man. I hope simply that the winds that shall carry him east to west and the wheels that shall transport him there safely will have the ability to carry him home again - whenever he wants.

-AK

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Say Goodbye to Disneyland

If life truly imitated art, then a smallish, middle-aged fellow from Arnie Palmer's hometown of Latrobe, Pa. would have gone to sleep last night as the Champion of the U.S. Open Golf Championship. Alas, for poor Rocco Mediate, while Frank Capra was off in the editing room, the inevitable force of nature known as Eldrick Woods (oh, OK, I suppose that only Grandma calls him "Eldrick" any more) - a force of nature known as Tiger Woods - seized his moment on center stage. Being the youngest son of an earnest and long-suffering Brooklyn Dodgers fan, moments after the ceremonial handshake marked the cessation of hostilities (makes golf sound a lot more like a sport and less like an activity of the idle rich, eh?), I heard my mom's voice in my head extolling Rocco that all would be OK, he'd just have to wait 'til next year.

The linear successors to the National League tradition that the Dodgers and Giants embodied for the first half of the 20th century - up until the point they got their Horace Greeley mojo working- a team whose ownership is constructing a new ballpark with an entrance that is an homage to Ebbetts Field has turned "wait 'til next year" on its head. The New York Mets - unable to shake the effects (real and imagined) of last year's epic collapse, which morphed into this year's lethargy, flew 3000 miles east to west on Sunday night, won a game against the Angels Monday night and celebrated by firing their manager and (for good measure) two of his coaches. Can you imagine that conversation with the GM? "Hey, nice effort tonight. I'm happy to see we've won 3 of our last 4. By the way, you're fired. Here's your Greyhound ticket." Who would have suspected Omar Minaya was a James McMurtry fan? Having deemed that what they'd done this weekend was indeed too little, too late, Minaya said "I'm sorry" and pulled the plug.

I've never been fired from any job - even the ones to which I was either less than fully-committed or the ones at which I was less than ably-talented (no, I'm not including the present gig in either category) - so I can't fathom how the conversation with one's spouse and/or children goes upon being fired. At least I have a job that isn't followed in the media every day. I could probably fake Margaret out for a couple of days - although one suspects that jig would be up when pay day turned into an existential experience as opposed to something tangible - by simply rolling out of bed at 3:15 a.m. and heading off to points unknown. When you manage a Major League baseball team though it's a tad tougher to fake your way thru the "Honey how was your day?" conversation. You know that she knows the answer to that question.

One suspects - and this one hopes - that there is a special spot in Hell reserved for Willie Randolph's now-former employers - the Wilpon Family and the cartoon character who runs their baseball team. Professional sports is a performance-based business and I quibble not with the Mets over their decision to replace their manager. However, given the timing of it, coming on the heels of Father's Day - a day on which Willie Randolph was at Shea Stadium from mid-morning on b/c his team played a doubleheader - prior to heading to the airport to fly to California - which means Willie had a negligible amount of time to spend with his kids and his wife to celebrate Father's Day, the manner in which it was handled was beneath contempt. The rationale of making him fly all the way to California was what exactly? Even if the Mets were trying to build up his 'frequent flyer' air miles, their actions were despicable.

Out here in the middle no one lies and no one cheats. Apparently however in Flushing, Queens all bets are off.

-AK

Monday, June 16, 2008

Lost in the Flood

If California falls into the ocean, then one day all of Iowa will be ocean front property. We've all heard that tired, old line too many times to count. It sometimes is met with a snort masquerading as a laugh, it sometimes is met with stone silence and it sometime is met with an affirmation ("that's right!"). Its intended target however always is California and its presumptive status as a victim of global warming. Iowa is never intended to be the punchline.

Recently though the pay-off part of that joke - like so much in the world -has appeared to have passed right thru the rabbit hole. In a world turned upside down, the good people of America's Heartland are being ravaged by water - relentless, ceaseless flood water. It's not the Pacific that has come knocking on the doors of Iowans - it's the rivers and streams that are cresting or have crested at record heights and - in spite of the best efforts of the people of Iowa - simply don't seem inclined to stop screwing with them just yet.

I've never lived thru a massive fire. However, I've lived thru flooding. In the Fall of 1999 Hurricane Floyd wreaked havoc on my little part of the world. Our home at the time was a ranch house with a small crawlspace under it but no basement. When Floyd rolled thru Central New Jersey in mid- to late-September 1999 it put close to 3 feet of water inside of our home. It took months before my wife, kids and I resumed some semblance of a normal life inside of those four walls.

Water is relentless. It comes at you with focus, purpose and bad intentions and it literally and figuratively swallows everything in its path. It's an utterly helpless feeling watching it come and knowing there is not a damn thing you can do to stop it. Sandbagging slows the march - briefly - but I personally believe it is done as much for the mental health of those being submerged (you feel better if you're not simply standing there not doing anything) than because of what it does to stem the rising tide.

Water cuts as wide a swath in its recession as it does in its invasion. This isn't crystal clear, bathtub or swimming pool quality water that saturates everything its tentacles can ensnare - it's dirty, filthy, bacteria-laden water that infects and compromises the purity of all it touches. For months after the last of the flood waters have receded, their health effects will be felt.

As bad as things are in Iowa, they can always get worse. Here's to hoping that they've already seen the worst of it and that sooner rather than later the flood waters will recede - so that they can begin the daunting but necessary task of picking up the pieces and beginning anew.

-AK

Sunday, June 15, 2008

That Seed You'd Sown

Today is Father's Day, which for the first time in their lives my cousins Dori, Pat and Michelle shall see come and go on the calendar without their Dad. My Uncle Jim died a bit more than a month ago. The double whammy for my cousins is that this weekend would have been his 79th birthday. Instead of celebrating two events with the father they adored, they feel instead the cold, hard slap of the back of fate's right hand.

John Hiatt was right - life is short and in spite of our best efforts, we're going to die. We spend an inordinate amount of time in the planning of things, which is understandable of course, but perhaps we'd be better served spending more time in the doing of things instead. "The best laid plans of mice and men" you know. Life happens whether we've planned for it or not.

I was a boy of 14 when my father died so unlike the narrator in Springsteen's "Walk Like A Man" I never felt the roughness of his hand in mine on my wedding day. While I'm again stymied by the interrelationship between irony and coincidence, it's worth noting that although both of my older brothers were married at the time of our father's death he was not in attendance at either of their weddings (Bill's because Dad did not fly and Bill lived in Germany at the time and Kelly's because....well because he found out Kelly was married after he'd gotten married).

I have one son - Rob- who is 22. He and Pam have been together for the past several years - since they were in high school. Are they going to get married? If one believes in the law of inevitability, then I'd presume they will. I don't ask because it's really not my business. They will make whatever decision they make as to their future - including whether they speak of it in the plural possessive ("our" house, "our" children) - without any interference from this old man.

I presume that when/if the calendar pages peel off to reveal Rob's wedding day, I'll be there to see it. I presume that I'll be there as well when/if my daughter Suzanne gets married. I'm not in the prediction business mind you and since the whole "length of life" stakes has proven to be one that's damn tough to win once you lay your money down, I'm not chasing that action.

A lifetime ago, when I was wild and young, I certainly raised a Cain. Thankfully the path of my life took me to Margaret. She gave me the opportunity to participate in the raising of Suzanne and Rob - the greatest Father's Day gifts for which anyone could ever ask or reasonably hope to receive.....

and both far more easy on the eye than an ugly polyester tie or "Super Dad" t-shirt.

Happy Father's Day!

-AK

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ain't No Storybook Story

This morning's pre-dawn work commute on 287 North was accompanied by the once-familiar but now a bit less so strains of The Rising. It's a CD I enjoy a lot and listened to relentlessly in the year or so after its release - during which time I was running to as many live performances of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band that heaven would allow (OK it was actually the combination of what time, money and Margaret would allow but heaven fit the meter). I can't recall the last time I've listened to it in its entirety. I don't know if this trait exists solely in me or is endemic to the general populace but I tend to be forgetful - even of those things I enjoy. I realized that again this morning as I slipped the disc into my car CD player for the first time in at least the past 4 1/2 years. I'd not stopped listening to it because I no longer enjoyed it. I'd simply stopped listening because other, newer things that I liked just fine as well had slid into view between it and my mind's eye. Gone but not forgotten? Almost.

I think I reached for The Rising this morning because it made me think of Tim Russert - the affable NBC Newsman who died yesterday afternoon while at work in Washington, D.C. While for me, Russert's connection to Springsteen was tangential at best - meaning simply that I did not equate one with the other in the context of my own life - the two men were friends and fans of each other's work. Their relationship to one another is perhaps not surprising given the similarities of their backgrounds as working class, Irish Catholic kids although their relationships with their respective fathers were - to steal a song title from The Rising CD - Worlds Apart.

The Rising is a CD that helps me place my relationship (viewer/newsman) to Tim Russert in context. The Rising is, of course, the record Springsteen released in the Summer of '02 as a sort of musical salve for the wounds of a nation still reeling from the attacks of September 11, 2001. For me (and for my generation I presume) September 11, 2001 stands as the defining moment - the Line of Demarcation that separates the two worlds in which we've all lived into "pre 09/11" and "post 09/11".

In August 2001 we concerned ourselves principally with second-tier villains such as Congressman Gary Condit - who the nation looked to hang for his allegedly inappropriate relationship with and his suspected (yet never proven) involvement in the disappearance and grisly murder of young Chandra Levy - and Danny Almonte - the 16 y/o who pretended to be 12 just to play Little League Baseball and whose talents (not to mention his full beard and his bass voice) led his team to the Little League World Series right before he was exposed as a fraud.

September 11, 2001 changed everything and moved all of us to the "Adult Swim" program immediately - and permanently. In the years since that horrible morning everything in the realm of politics and government seems to have taken on a heightened sense of importance. In the new "adult everything" world, the need for people to keep our leaders on their toes and to report to those of us out here in the wasteland everything they've been able to find out about what's going on is paramount. Tim Russert was always one of those guys for me - someone to turn on (or to listen to if he was on the radio) to see him ask the tough questions of those who lead us and those who would like to and press them hard for the answers.

As Americans, it's our duty to ask those questions of those who lead us - does the phrase "We the People" ring a bell for anyone - but there are a lot of us who live here now and you might have to wait in line forever for the chance to ask unless the person at the front of the line can ask all the questions that all of us standing a bit further from the counter want to have answered. Tim Russert was one of those people for me - and I suspect for countless others. If The Rising is part of the soundtrack of the "post 09/11" world, then Tim Russert was one of the announcers in the booth handling the play-by-play.

He was also a son, a brother, a husband and a father. Yesterday afternoon, fate's right hand waggled one of her fickle fingers and took him away from those who loved him and those who he loved. Russert was Irish-American and before he became a journalist he worked for the late, great gentleman Senator from New York - Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Senator Moynihan's observation, made in the wake of the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, sadly rings true again this morning: I don't think there's any point in being Irish if you don't know the world is going to break your heart.

On "Further On Up The Road" from The Rising, Springsteen sings:

If there's a light up ahead/
Well brother I don't know/
But I got this fever/
Burnin' in my soul/
So let's take the good times as they go/
And I'll meet you further on up the road.

At some point, the family and friends left here to continue living life in the aftermath of his death will hopefully meet him further on up the road. Til then, the sunrise this morning and every one thereafter will shed light on what shall be for them an empty sky. One hopes that over time the hole in the sky and the hole in their hearts will diminish, though it shall never close altogether.

-AK

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Wish

On a particularly wonderful "ACR" (audience created recording) that has found its way into my music library - from a solo acoustic show in support of The Ghost of Tom Joad (in Sydney Australia I believe), Bruce Springsteen told the audience that one of the hardest things to do in rock n' roll without getting made fun of is sing about your mom. He pointed out to them that other than Elvis Presley no rocker had ever really gotten away with singing tunes about his "momma". He pointed out that in the hip-hop world, gangsta rappers sing about "muthas" all the time but since he's pretty sure the "muthas" about whom they're rapping and the mother about whom he wanted to sing are two wholly different categories of people, it's simply not the same thing.

Upon the cessation of audience laughter he launched into "The Wish" - a song he wrote for his mom. Springsteen has spent a significant part of his career using his music to explain the always complicated, often strained and sometimes non-existent relationship with his father. Candidly, one good Irish son to another, neither the variable layers of strain in their relationship nor Bruce's inability to nail it precisely in one song surprises me. I spent only 14 years occupying the same space as my father and I remain uncertain still as to the amount of space it would require to fully set forth my understanding of that relationship - such as it was.

It's different for mothers and sons, I suppose. It certainly seems to have been for Springsteen - who knocked it out of the park on his first at-bat with "The Wish": If pa's eyes were windows into a world so deadly and true/You couldn't stop me from looking but you kept me from crawlin' through/And if it's a funny old world, mama, where a little boy's wishes come true/Well I got a few in my pocket and a special one just for you.

It certainly was for my mom and me as well. Joan Kenny (a/k/a "Mom") turns 80 today. If there's a tougher, braver old Irish broad on the planet, I've yet to meet her. I'm now 41 and the youngest of her six children. I was 14 when my father died in his sleep in my parents' bed on May 31, 1981. I was about 10 days away from completing the 8th grade. The two sisters closest to me in age - Jill and Kara - were 10 days away from the completion of 10th grade and high school, respectively. My 3 older sibs were off on their own by that time, raising their own families.

My father, fool that he was, believed that he'd live forever. It's sometimes a rough marriage - the one between theory and practical application and it certainly was for him. He died suddenly and with no Last Will and Testament and - given his proclivity for heart attacks - no life insurance. He was gone and there was nothing to cushion the blow for Mom - who now had to deal with the reality of getting Kara ready to go off to college in California and keeping Jill and I alive and well - all while dealing with a household income that, as of June 1, 1981, was approximately 20% of what it had been on May 30, 1981. A task, if not impossible, that was damn daunting to say the least.

She pulled it off. If you ask her how and take a moment to marvel at the achievement, she'll pooh-pooh it as if anyone in her circumstance would have been capable of doing the same thing. Mom was the prototype for the Lifetime Television for Women movie heroine two decades before the nascent idea for that channel sprung to life in some programmer's head.

Somewhere along the line - perhaps it was over the scrambled eggs and toast we ate for dinner at least once a week my last couple of years in high school because (a) we both liked eggs; and (b) we could afford them - Mom and I didn't simply bond, we were welded together. I tried not to let her fall thru the cracks as best as I could and she simply refused to allow me or us to do so. She kept us from falling thru the cracks because she refused to let fear or panic enter our lives. I presume she was scared a lot of the time - I know I was. I learned from watching her though that if we didn't talk about it and didn't acknowledge it, we could kick its ass. That's what we did.

In "No Surrender" Springsteen sings that, "we learned more from a 3-minute record baby than we ever learned in school." Me? I learned more sitting at the dinner table in Neshanic Station buttering toast and eating scrambled eggs with Mom than I've ever learned anywhere else. I'm 41 now and I still try to apply everyday the lessons she taught me sitting in our kitchen on Wertsville Road. If I live to be twice as old as I am now, I'll never outgrow their practical application. And I'll never forget the woman who taught them to me.

I've never mastered any musical instrument (other than the air guitar and even then I can't get the timing right on the windmills in "Won't Get Fooled Again") but my inability to strum the guitar doesn't make the last verse of "The Wish" resonate any less for me:

Last night we all sat around laughing at the things that guitar brought us/And I laid awake thinking 'bout the other things it's brought us/Well tonight I'm taking requests here in the kitchen This one's for you, ma, let me come right out and say it/It's overdue, but baby, if you're looking for a sad song, well I ain't gonna play it.

No sad songs here either. Thanks Mom. Happy Birthday. I love you more than I am capable of putting into words.

-AK

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Where the Broken Stars Fall

Yesterday the point of intersection between the horizon and the sky got a bit more well-defined in my little corner of the world. My son Rob who is bound for Georgia in 30 short days to begin 16 long weeks of training - learned yesterday that his first posting after he completes his stay in the great American south will be in Wyoming (cue Mr. Petty & the Heartbreakers please and tell them I'd like to hear something from "Into the Great Wide Open" if they'd not mind).

My wife - his mother - is at her very soul an optimist. It's her perpetual "glass half full" attitude that keeps her going when she perceives that all she holds dear is spiraling out of her control. Yesterday was a profoundly difficult day for her. Her brain has been telling her for months that he'd likely begin his career a considerable distance from home. Her heart however has been drawn like a moth to that little flicker of hope in her mind's eye that had been allowing herself to envision her exceptional little boy as the exception to the apparent organizational rule of starting newbies out in locations less-favored by the veterans so that he could be where she always wants him to be: close to home.

It's different for fathers and sons I suppose. Closeness of heart is not a measurement held hostage by geography. If one accepts the premise that, "no matter where you go there you are", then I suppose I'm a graduate of the school of thought that says, "he's here regardless of where he is." At its core, that's a little wall I've erected for myself to slow the inevitable blur between what I know is good for him and what the result for which I'd wished. In "Dad School" we are taught to be silent on issues such as this because silence = courage. In fact, it does not. My silence permits me to be a coward. It's a hell of a show to put on but at the end, really, that's all it is. I wish like hell he was going to be closer to home for the next few years - probably as much as Margaret does. Margaret's tears are a better and more tangible expression of courage than anything I'd ever be able to muster. We tend to fall into the roles for which we are best-suited. Mine is "put on a brave face/everything will be OK" guy. It's not much of a part but it's steady work.

I take solace in the fact that I'm beyond thrilled for Rob and unbelievably excited for him as well. He's worked damn hard to get to the point where he is and now all for which he's worked is beginning to take shape. It's more tangible and less ephemeral. Sure, he'll be two time zones away but it's still only a 4 1/2 to 5 hour flight from Jersey and he'll be an hour from where I went to college in Boulder and about 90 minutes from Denver. It ain't Antarctica, it's Cheyenne (although come early February that may well be a distinction without a difference).

Here's to my son - who ceased being a boy a long while back - and the next step in life's big adventure. It's a journey, not a destination; this life, that is. His will take him South for an eye blink and then West for a little while. Where to thereafter? I know not. I know however that he's well-prepared for the journey and will carry with him on it what he needs to handle the obstacles that will inevitably confront him.

With my apologies to James McMurtry - To the plains of Wyoming/We entrust our young man/May he be kept safe and thrive/Under the lights of Cheyenne.

-AK

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire

We've dialed down the setting on the heat index here in Levelland. The good folks at the Weather Channel are calling for a high temperature of only 90 degrees today, which doesn't sound too comfortable - until you juxtapose it against the 105-ish conditions of the past week or so. Don't misunderstand me - I left the heavy coat and cardigan sweater this morning right where I always leave them - but at least when I began the daily trek to work at 4:00 a.m. it was not already 80 degrees. Baby steps, my friends, baby steps.

My favorite thing about the oppressive heat - other than drowning in my own sweat - is the never-ending supply of pithy observations one hears while enduring a heat wave. When I was young, my favorite witless remark was "Is it hot enough for you?" but as I've aged that old chestnut has been tossed back into the fire for further roasting. Now, my favorite "duh" comment about the heat is, "Can you believe how hot it is today?" What precisely is the expected response to that remark? If it's 212 degrees out, then no I can't believe how hot it is. However 95+ degree days in Jersey - in June - while thankfully not a daily occurrence are not an unknown occurrence either. It's hot - I get it. News flash slick - the hot air you just spewed my direction making that rather prescient (not) observation ain't exactly cooling my core temperature.

I "play" (a lawyer for the Estate of Albert Einstein contacted me and advised me that when referring to my softball participation as a set-up for some lame reference to the great man's Theory of Relativity, I am required to write "play" and not simply play) softball in the Essex County Lawyer's League, which plays its games in Orange Park, conveniently located in Orange, New Jersey. The park is not located in one of the signature neighborhoods for Better Homes and Gardens. There is some sort of large apartment complex that appears to be for senior citizens only directly across the street from the park. Last week at or about the time the heat wave started here, I'm leaving the park after the game and when I reach my car, near where I'm parked are 4 old-timers sitting together with a radio listening to a baseball game. It's about 7:30 at night and it's still 80+ degrees and there they sit in their slacks and short-sleeve dress shirts on folding chairs listening to the game. I had some bottles of icy cold water in the cooler I transport back and forth on game days so I offered it to them and they accepted them, thanked me and went back to doing what they were doing - enjoying a warm summer's evening together in the park listening to baseball.

Clearly, my four nameless beneficiaries are residents of a neighborhood in which being bulletproof would certainly come in handy. I doubt highly that any of them are. However they all are most certainly heat-resistant, which these days is cool enough indeed.

-AK

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Ghost of William Jennings Bryan

If Frank Capra ruled the world, Barry Bonds would still be an electrifying 170 pound, 5-tool player who earned his way to Cooperstown on his overall body of terrific work and not on the back of his juiced up obliteration of Hank Aaron's home run record. If Frank Capra ruled the world, the megawatt smile of Ken Griffey, Junior would have illuminated south Florida yesterday not in celebration of career home run 600 but of 750 or 800.

One's a cheater ("alleged" cheater I know - sort of like OJ is the "alleged" killer of his ex-wife and young Mr. Goldman and Milli Vanilli "allegedly" could not really sing) and the other is a trouper. Bonds poured everything but the kitchen sink down his gullet in the relentless pursuit of history. Junior? He wore his milk mustache in magazines and brought his game every day to the park. Every day that he was healthy enough to play that is. One wonders what number he'd be on right now if he'd ever bothered to learn not to collide with the outfield wall. I suspect he'd never learn not to do it b/c to do it would require slowing down, which interests him not at all.

Out here in the middle, nobody steals and nobody cheats, which is why Junior at 600 is revered and Barroid at 760+ is reviled. We seem to accept as a general principle the inherent unfairness of life, which manifests itself in any number of ways - including some of us being able to work 2 1/2 hours a day for anywhere from 162 to 181 days a year in order to make a gazillion dollars while some of us work considerably more hours for considerably less pay. Do we resent those who appear to be more fortunate than ourselves such as athletes? At some level, I'd suppose we all do but I'd be willing to wager that we do it a bit less when the athlete in question goes about his business seriously while never seeming to lose sight of the fact that "Holy Crap - it could be worse. I could be that poor schlep up there in the mezzanine."

Junior has always carried himself in a manner that reminds those of us who watch him that he takes none of what he has for granted and that while he's a better player than all of us put together, that does not factor into the equation as to whether he's our equal as a person. He will not retire as the all-time home run leader in baseball but it matters little. He's our generation's Roger Maris in certain respects. While he is by all reasonable standards a superior player to Maris - no small accomplishment given #9's back-to-back MVP seasons in 1960 and '61 - he shares the same gift, which is he's at peace in his own head so that when those around him are willing to go to extraordinary and in some cases illegal measures to outshine him, he cares not. Maris is a man whose accomplishments were scarcely appreciated at the time he accomplished and then appeared threatened to be resigned to the dust bin of history in the late 1990's and the early 00's but who, recently, has been experiencing a resurgence. There's a cliche about cream always rising to the top, which aptly describes the manner in which what Roger Maris achieved is now viewed in the context of the "everybody cheats" mentality. Maris didn't cheat - he simply tried his best.

Once upon a time (OK in the era of baseball before steroids replaced speed as the game-day pick-me-up of choice) Ken Griffey Jr. was the game's most feared power hitter. Then, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds exploded onto the scene and for a time all of them eclipsed him - in what turned out to be a chemically created eclipse and not one of those pedestrian solar kind. All three of them left the game under a cloud and at least one of them may next be donning the pinstripe uniform of a federal prison. Junior will not leave as the "Home Run King" but he'll leave when he's squeezed as much as he can legitimately squeeze out of his body, which has never seemed strong enough to contain all of his talent. Junior has never cheated - he has simply tried his best.

As kids on lazy summer afternoons, we'd dream of being ball players. As adults on hot, humid summer afternoons we toil away at something far removed from our childhood dream. Yet for all of us lonely souls in the dashboard light we still have a prayer. In the end, it's not all that we'd hope for but it's more than enough to get us by.

-AK

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Horse is a Horse....

In the interminable heat and dust of Belmont Park late this past Saturday afternoon, we were once again confronted by the reality that life - much like 95% of NBC's Summer TV schedule - is unscripted. 100,000 people came to Belmont Park to bear witness to a coronation. Instead they were reduced to the role of spectators to an annihilation. Big Brown - the wonder horse - finished dead last. Having run the initial portion of the race as if he had a hansom cab affixed to his posterior, his jockey made the decision that something was amiss and rather than force the issue he simply pulled Big Brown up and allowed him to jog around the track. He completed the race in just under 2 hours, which is excellent time for the marathon - even in the four-legged equine division - but less so in the Belmont Stakes.

Actually Saturday turned out to be a really bad day for sure things. Big Brown found it impossible to get untied from the whupping post shortly after Senator Clinton finally ceded the day - at least from the perspective of the Democrats - to Senator Obama. 18 months ago she'd seemed as much of a lead pipe cinch to win her race as Big Brown had appeared to be up until 2 minutes to post. Yet, there they were on Saturday, awash in the wake of self-destruction.

Neither was treated particularly sympathetically by the press in the immediate wake of their fall from grace. On the heels of her "what does Hillary want" rant earlier in the week, even Senator Clinton's most fervent supporters criticized her. At least the Sunday papers yesterday toned down the attacks a bit. Apparently by admitting what we'd all known since June 3rd, which was that she has as much chance of being the Dem nominee for President in '08 as I do of becoming the first over 40, non-Spanish speaking member of Menudo, she earned a bit of redemption. Good. While her reaction on Tuesday night had been inartful, it was not completely incomprehensible seeing as she'd devoted a significant amount of herself on all levels to her quest. It's significantly easier for those of us who've watched from the outside of any event to shrug our shoulders and say "OK, well that was fun - what's next?" than it is for the participants to do so. Seeking the nomination of a major political party for an elective office is like participating in the ultimate popularity contest. No one likes being told we're not as smart, pretty/handsome or popular as someone else. It's appropriate for it to sting....for a while. That being said, here's to hoping we don't hear again before November her pose the "what does Hillary want" question aloud.

Poor Big Brown - handicapped as are many of us by his less than fluent use of the English language. Due to his inability to speak for himself, the public proclamations attributed to him are actually made by his trainer - a seemingly unlikeable human being named Dutrow. Apparently we all wanted to love Big Brown, like we all loved Secretariat, Sea Biscuit, Affirmed and Barbaro but Dutrow conducting himself in a manner - well consistent with being the business end of his pony - alienated a lot of us. This shouldn't surprise us. If Wilbur hadn't been a lovable oaf on Mr. Ed, then would anyone have watched? Of course not, Wilbur the foul-mouthed, opinionated drunk would have turned people off, which would have led inevitably to Wilbur and Ed being taken off the air.

I know nothing about horse racing except that I find it counterproductive to wager money I work hard (in the event that anyone for whom I work reads this) to earn on a contest waged between athletes who are not smart enough to come inside during bad weather - which is coincidentally why I don't bet on football either. I do wish Big Brown had (a) a better name; and (b) a less abrasive jackass doing his speaking for him. I get that he was named for UPS but what a lifeless, blah name. I wish he'd been named for one of the eight gazillion male ED products whose advertisements pop up (pun deliberately placed there for comic effect) during every program on YES. If Cialis or Viagra get into the horse racing business, then can "BIG STICK" or "BLUE BALLS" or "I LIKE TO FINISH FIRST" be too far away as names of champion steeds?

Also, it's not the horse's fault that his human - Dutrow - spent 3 weeks explaining why B Squared couldn't lose and did so in a way that his other trainers felt was overly arrogant and conceited. Memo to Mr. Dutrow - given that you spent three weeks chattering away as if you were paid by the syllable, when the other shoe drops and it lands squarely in your mush, man up and answer at least 10% of the questions about what happened.

Big Brown had a really, really bad day on Saturday. However, as Senator Clinton proved that very same day, the stink of defeat - even if it never leaves you completely - can be muted over time and when it is, it simply fades into the background. While New York's junior Senator mulls her next move, Big Brown knows his - off to the farm to concentrate on making little "Big Browns", hoping for on-time arrivals but caring not too terribly much about early deliveries.

-AK

Sunday, June 8, 2008

And So It Goes.....

It hesitated a moment, lurched momentarily back down towards the front lawn, caught an updraft and soon after it was gone. The "Class of 2008" balloon adorning the banister of the steps of the front porch of our home is gone. An event that took a seemingly long time to plan and put together passed by in an eye blink and resides now, and only, in our memories.

I'm a cynical old bastard but I think - at least from the limited perspective of those in whose company I spent a considerable part of my evening yesterday - Messrs. Daltrey and Townsend were correct and the kids are indeed alright. I'm biased of course because the discourse involved my two - in whom I have much pride and in whom I have vested much hope. It was not only the two of them however but rather a smattering of their friends and my nieces and nephews - ranging in age from 19 to 25. It was interesting to listen to their thoughts on any number of topics on which us "adults" typically hold court - politics, foreign policy, the economy, religion - and come away impressed by the breadth and depth of knowledge, know how and passion they all brought to the conversation.

A moment arose yesterday, as the evening faded into the black depths of night, when I was able to stand in my backyard and look out at my kids and their friends deep in conversation on topics that four or five short years ago I would have considered to be beyond their ability to comprehend substantively. It's nice when life slows down enough to allow you to enjoy a moment. It's a glimpse, a snapshot but it's enough to bring a smile to your face.

The balloon took a little while to find its stride and make a direct ascent upon being untied from the house. Once it started going though, its path was straight and true and in only a few moments I lost sight of it - forever.

My children - who are no longer so - are a bit like that balloon. They've occasionally misstepped or had difficulty finding their stride but they've never lost their sense of purpose and they've never lost their way. Soon enough they'll be on their way in the world - separated from our house. I'll watch them as they go and I know there will come a time when I lose sight of them. I hope though that for them - being composed of flesh and blood and not of helium and mylar - the journey is a steady upward climb but not simply a one-way trip.

And so it goes....

-AK

Saturday, June 7, 2008

School's Out Forever.....

Yesterday marked the 64th anniversary of the Allied landing on the beaches in Normandy, France. Today's marks the 4th graduation gala in the past six years in the Kenny backyard and I'm still uncertain as to which campaign took more advance planning.

Today in the sweltering heat of a New Jersey early summer Saturday, friends and family shall gather at our home to celebrate the graduation of child #2 (but son #1) from college. My role in the "at home" celebrations is fairly straightforward - making sure the grass is cut, making sure the grass is devoid of Rosie's care packages - she's our 9 month old Sheltie puppy so you figure out for yourself what gift she loves to give, making sure the tents are put up properly, making sure we have enough beer, wine, water and soda and making sure we have enough ice. These are my jobs and I do them.

I do them because I enjoy having friends and family gather at my home to help one of my kids celebrate something that I'm proud of - completion of a phase of their education. Rob's education road is now closed as far as he can tell. It's 16 weeks of training and then off to his first gig working for the federal government. Suzanne is back on the grind in September beginning work on her Master's Degree with a PhD. to follow. Given the back-to-back nature of their births - she's roughly 13 months older than he is, his college graduation party today marks the second leg and final legs of back-to-back celebrations.

Presumably Margaret enjoys these events - she is the one who schedules them and chooses our home as the venue. It's hard to tell in the walk-up to the day because she makes herself 11 different types of crazy planning for it. We have schematics, lists, diagrams, lists written to cross-check the contents and accuracy of the original list and every other possible device that at a future competency hearing - in the unlikely event the wheels ever fall off this little experiment we call our life - will inure to my benefit I'm sure.

It's a wonderful day today in spite of the heat and the stress associated with the influx of many into a space occupied normally by a few. It's the last go-round for Margaret and me with one of these. I'm going to enjoy it. I hope she shall as well.

-AK

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Boys of Pointe du Hoc and the Best of Everything

Sixty-four years ago on this very day, the Allied plan to liberate Europe from the Nazis came ashore on the beaches of France. It came ashore in the person of countless thousands of soldiers who sacrificed everything, including their lives, in support of the plan. These were indeed the Boys of Pointe Du Hoc - a core component of Mr. Brokaw's appropriately named "Greatest Generation". It is in one of his Greatest Generation books that Tom Brokaw reproduces the following, which Emerson wrote: So nigh is grandeur to our dust/So near is God to Man/When Duty whispers low, "Thou must"/The youth replies, "I can". They certainly did. Sixty-four years later, from my vantage point the courage displayed by each and every one of them still seems nothing short of remarkable.

Twenty-three years ago I graduated from high school - an event I'm reminded of today simply because the seniors at the wonderful little joint I attended are graduating this evening. I graduated from high school a lifetime ago - my oldest child - my daughter Suzanne - is 23. I've been a high school graduate as long as she's been alive. I'm not certain why that strikes me as interesting but it does. Perhaps the cumulative effect of too many years up at 3:15 a.m. and using coffee as a substitute for sleep is catching up with me. I don't attend the graduation ceremony at my high school Alma mater - candidly the only one I cared about being invited to was mine - but I find myself every year rooting for a group of kids I do not know and shall likely never meet to have beautiful weather in which to graduate. It's their final moment as "The Class of 2008" and here's to hoping that the image imprinted on the minds of one/all is one bathed in sunshine and not one pockmarked by rain.

The great Pete Hamill - in Downtown - My Manhattan - observed that "Time itself is long, even if the time of man is far too short." He's right, of course. At some point down the line, presuming good health to each of them and a bit less insane approach to global interaction than appears to be in vogue presently - let's hope we're not really dancin' thru the ruin of the realm - they will be where I am now - 23 years removed from their high school graduation - yet they will never be again where they are right now at this moment in time.

Relativity can be described in a number of different ways. In "The Best of Everything" Tom Petty sang "It's over before you know it/It all goes by so fast/The bad nights last forever/And the good nights never seem to last." Sixty-four years ago on this very day, all of the boys on the beaches including the Gipper's immortal boys from Pointe Du Hoc were experiencing a day that no doubt seemed to last forever. Sadly for scores of them it did as they fell where they fought. This evening, for the "Class of 2008" it'll be over in an eye blink.

And so it goes.

-AK