Sunday, August 31, 2008

Empty Rooms at Frankie's Joint....

He'll be leaving in the morning - not from St. Mary's Gate perhaps - but from one of the gates at Newark Liberty Airport. Headed back to Georgia - not to be seen again by these old eyes until mid-November. But for right here, right now - my son is home. It is the joy of the simple-minded I suppose that we find joy in the little things. You need not ask - I am smiling as I write this.

Any number of methods exist for measuring relativity. Right now, we are experiencing one within the four walls of our home. A visit we have looked forward to for one month will be over before we know it and our "boy" will be headed south again to complete what he started in early July. I realized yesterday - however - listening to Rob talk about what his life has been like for the past seven plus weeks that he has grown much more than seven weeks in the time he has been away. He was not a flighty or immature young man by any means prior to beginning this experience. To the contrary, his head was on square and straight and his eyes were fixed on the road ahead. Even against that canvas, however, the lines that have been painted upon it while he has been away are stronger, darker and more substantial than I could have imagined - given the relatively short time he has been out there on his own.

My son speaks now with the confidence that comes thru acquired knowledge. He has learned much - in the academic realm - thus far, which knowledge he will carry with him throughout the career upon which he prepares to embark. And he has learned more about himself even than he has ever learned in school. He has learned that his insatiable drive to achieve his dream is powerful stuff. It is powerful enough to get him thru days of endless physical stress and mental and emotional strain. It has not failed him and it shall not. He knows now the truth of what he had hoped would be true before he left, which is that no matter where he is, we are with him.

And - as always - the most important lesson he has learned thus far is that he has much more to learn. The knowledge is there to be acquired and he is in full pursuit of it. If there is a thing that provides more pleasure to a parent than seeing a child fully engaged in the pursuit of his / her dream, then I know not what it is.

Apparently last week in Georgia, heavy rain fell courtesy of a tropical storm barreling its way up the Atlantic Coast. It impacted Rob not at all. He came thru it just fine thank you very much. You might say he stayed dry as a bone. It is amazing, is it not, how dry you can remain even on the rainiest of days by simply walking between the raindrops.

-AK

Saturday, August 30, 2008

"Ten - Fifteen Minute"

Any number of things occurred yesterday that surprised me, which in and of itself should not be a surprise I suppose. Given the number of things that occur in the world on a daily basis and my limited aptitude and ability to follow a lot of them, I often wonder if the things to which I express surprise also surprise those around me......or if the surprised look on the face of another when I express surprise over something that I have heard or read is directed at me - and not at the event. You know that look - the "are you kidding me? Does this guy live in a cave or something?" expression one's face inevitably forms when someone shares a piece of "can you believe this" information that the listener has long been aware of and the listener simply does not have the heart to disclose that fact to the modern-day William Dawes reporting the news.

It may be just the manner in which my mind works - or does not work perhaps - but surprise is more often than not, not a stand-alone emotion for me. It seems to be that I am surprised....and something else. I think of it as the Chinese take-out approach to the processing of information ("I'll take an order of surprise from Column A and let me see what I want from Column B").

The day's first surprise yesterday occurred early - during my commute to work - when I heard on the news about the preparations that the City of New Orleans is making (kinda, sorta I suppose) in advance of Mother Nature's latest assault weapon - Hurricane Gustav (if the Russians had not just bitch slapped the Georgians, would this hurricane have a different name you think? Are we expressing our current opinions on Geo-political issues thru the National Hurricane Center? I suppose if the next one is Hurricane Vlad we will know the answer to that question.) The first item that made me actually turn up the volume on the car radio to better hear what I thought I had heard was a spokesman from the Army Corps of Engineers saying, essentially, "the levee system is far from perfect but it should be OK." Then, came the sound bite that almost made me drive my car into a utility pole - from New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. In light of the ineptitude Mayor Nagin displayed before, during and after Hurricane Katrina, I was surprised and stunned to learn he was still mayor of New Orleans. How he got re-elected in 2006 is a mystery to me. It was stunning not only to hear him identified as the present mayor of N'Awlins but also to hear when he spoke, the same amorphous drivel that masqueraded as leadership when he spewed it three years ago as Katrina annihilated his town come out of his mouth again.

He offered no plan to the residents of his City - only a stern warning that "this time they should listen if and when they are told to evacuate" - while glossing over the fact that three years ago the City did scant little to (a) order its residents to evacuate; (b) even less to enforce the evacuation order once it was belatedly given; and (c) provide the resources necessary to assist its financially destitute and ill residents to get the hell out of town. It is Einstein - I believe - who said "insanity is repeating the same behavior over and over and anticipating a different result". Here's to hoping that the good folks of the Gulf region do not have to pay for their own seemingly insane decision to re-elect as their leader one who apparently has no grasp of how to lead.

Surprise #2 of the day - for me - came in the late morning when the story broke that John McCain had selected Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska to be his Vice-President and to join him on the Republican ticket. I was surprised and curious because I had no notion who Sarah Palin was until I heard her identified as the Governor of Alaska. I was surprised and - I must confess - a bit skeptical upon hearing the news, hoping that this was not simply a political counter punch to the Democrats having a minority candidate atop their ticket by the Republicans putting a woman in the #2 slot on theirs. I spent a considerable amount of time yesterday afternoon reading about Governor Palin from a number of different sources and while I am sure that her gender played a role in her selection, there appear to be a number of substantive reasons for her selection as well.

Unfortunately surprise #3 of yesterday arrived hot on the heels of the second one and this time surprise was accompanied by disappointment. I was profoundly disappointed to hear the text of the statement that Bill Burton, the Obama Campaign Spokesman released within a few minutes of Governor Palin's selection - Today, John McCain put a former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

Memo to Bill Burton: when the guy in the #1 slot on your ticket has the same dearth of "foreign policy experience" as the woman in the #2 slot on the other team's ticket, stay away from the "a heartbeat away from the Presidency" references OK? After all, your newbie is the one who hopes to experience at least 4 and perhaps 8 years of his very own Presidential heartbeats. On this issue, could one not argue that we should all care more about the amount of experience that our chosen occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue brings to bear than we do about that of our chosen occupant of Number One Observatory Circle? There was a lot of chatter yesterday about "glass ceilings". A refresher course on "glass houses" appears to be in order for the Spokesman of the Obama Campaign.

The day's final surprise was benign. As a Yankees fan, I have come to grips with the fact that for the first time since prior to the 1994 lockout there will not be playoff baseball in the Bronx. With but twenty-eight games to play, the Yankees are six games behind the Red Sox for the AL Wild-Card. It is a gap that I do not expect them to bridge. Nevertheless, in what is fast becoming a profoundly disappointing season - coming as it does in the final season of the current incarnation of Yankee Stadium - a ray of surprise and pleasure has emerged from the least likely of all sources.

Much-maligned (and with good reason) Carl Pavano - he of the four year - or twenty starts (whichever comes first) contract, made his second start of the fourth and final year of his contract last night. And again, he pitched well and he led the Yankees to a win they absolutely had to have. He pitched them to something last night that they had failed to accomplish in three earlier tries this year: a win over the Toronto Blue Jays when A.J. Burnett pitched for Toronto. Pavano threw six innings of three hit/one run baseball - out dueling his old Florida Marlins teammate as he went. Even if he continues to pitch more like Carl Hubbell than himself, do I think Pavano's right arm will help the Yankees play October baseball this year? No - I do not. And it matters not. It does not take away from what he did last night.

Surprises are like Chinese take-out for me. I can have a day chock full of them and the next day - I still wake up hungry for more. And just like Chinese take-out, they may never be more than "ten - fifteen minute" away.

-AK

Friday, August 29, 2008

Lonely Pilgrims in the World of Wealth

We've reached the official/unofficial end of summer - the Labor Day holiday weekend, which means that next week all of the people in my office who have been off this week will return on Tuesday and grouse about the agony of trudging thru a 4-day work week (is it just me or is that your favorite lament of a co-worker? The "oh God it's so hard to be back here after vacation" gripe. I have difficulty suppressing the "How 'bout you shut the hell up" reply but in the interest of world peace - and getting my typing done - I feign sympathy) and we will celebrate Labor Day in the most American of ways: by having retail stores nationwide that pay their employees (to steal a phrase from my big brother Bill) "minimum wage plus a nickel" open all day. Does it occur to anyone that perhaps we're just not getting it? Or do we apply the same searching analysis to the garden department at Wal-Mart being fully staffed on Labor Day that we do to the "curious" (I can think of a lot of far less kind words but it's early) decision-making of the National Basketball Association in scheduling a full slate of games on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day? Nothing screams racial sensitivity quite as well as requiring your predominately African-American work force to WORK on the only Federal holiday that honors an African-American Civil Rights leader.

Summer's end is upon us and as we turn the calendar page to September we can hopefully clear a little time from our usual autumnal business to give some consideration to the pending Presidential election. Last night Senator Obama formally accepted the Democratic nomination in Denver and a week from last night Senator McCain shall follow suit, presumably, at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Although wouldn't it be a hoot if just for a moment or two a nominee declined to accept the nomination? Channel Pat Paulsen perhaps, "If nominated, I shall not run. If elected, I shall not serve."

Visualize if you can Barack Obama's entrance last night and the reaction of 80,000 + people if he announced that after careful deliberation he was declining the nomination and was instead signing a 3-year guaranteed contract to play shooting guard for the world champion Boston Celtics - who'd been scouting him since the first footage of him shooting hoops emerged during the primaries. Senator Obama is a splendid orator and I am confident that he would have been able to hold a straight face for the 5 seconds or so before letting them off of the hook, thus allowing the crowd enough time to process what he had just told them but not enough to allow those sitting in the upper deck of the stadium to try and throw themselves out of the cheap seats. Maybe next Thursday night Senator McCain could tell the assembled GOP'ers that he's abandoned his Presidential bid to concentrate his efforts on settling the nagging question about him and dirt (the question being, of course, which one is older). It will never happen of course but as someone who roots for just a bit of chaos to break up the day-to-day monotony of life, there's nothing wrong with dreaming about it.

A week from today we will be but sixty days from Election Day. Much to do and not too much time in which to do it. It has been written - and it will continue to be written - that this is a historic event because Senator Obama is the first African-American candidate for President from one of our two major parties. While that is true, here's to hoping that at some point those who proclaim to love him and those who proclaim to not love him take some time to examine the man inside of the skin. He has invited the inquiry and I certainly do not get the sense he fears it at all. I simply think it would be appropriate for people to make a decision for something as relatively important as the Presidency using something other than a candidate's dominant pigment as their guide, either positively or negatively. You might think me silly or naive. Fair enough, try this simple test.

If your inclination as a voter is to vote based upon the color of one of the two major candidate's skin, then replace that candidate with a truly inane or offensive choice of the same skin color and see if your vote would remain the same. For instance -insert O.J. Simpson on the candidate's line in lieu of Barack Obama and ask yourself - presuming your sole reason for voting for Senator Obama is that he is African-American - would you vote for The Juice vs. John McCain, considering that he too is African-American? If on the other hand, you intend to vote for McCain because Obama is African-American, then replace McCain on the ballot with Ted Bundy and ask yourself - presuming your sole reason for voting against Obama is the color of his skin - would you vote for Bundy vs. Obama, considering that Bundy is Caucasian? While I hope that the answer to both of those admittedly silly examples is "No" I am confident - and frightened at the prospect of being right - that there are a significant number of people who will vote in November based upon nothing other than what they see when they look at the candidates.

Let's all take the time to be certain and to be informed, OK? It is fine to sleepwalk thru certain decisions - do I want butter or cream cheese on my bagel? Should I get plastic or paper bags at the grocery store? Should I wear jeans or khakis? - because at day's end the only one directly impacted by those decisions is the one of us who makes them (well, unless your butt really looks huge in those jeans you want to wear because that impacts all of us around you too). This November, we're playing for slightly higher stakes. Whatever decision the collective makes on November 4th, let's have invested the time to be comfortable and sure of the choice each of us makes as part of the process.

As the song says - God have mercy on the man who doubts what he's sure of.

-AK

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Connectivity

My love/hate relationship with time is well-documented here. Among the things I lament is my inability to better control my time. I become fixated on the task at hand - such as work where my very existence is measured and valued by the billable hour - and time slips right past me. I awaken to find that it is the end of August and 75% of yet another year has been confined to history.

Occasionally though an event will occur that will allow me to link together otherwise unrelated events and permit me to track time a bit better. This week the Democrats are in Denver Colorado for their National Convention, having formally nominated Senator Barack Obama to be their party's candidate for President. I spent four very enjoyable years about 30 miles up the road from Denver when I attended college in Boulder, Colorado at the University of Colorado. For the past 20 years or so, it is a part of the country that has been close to my heart - a feeling deepened more so within the past couple of months with the news that Rob shall be reading at night under the lights of Cheyenne for at least the next several years.

Tonight Senator Obama will make his acceptance speech and he will do so not at the Pepsi Center - an arena that did not exist when I lived in Colorado two decades ago (the Nuggets played their games in McNichols Arena and the Avalanche played their games in Quebec - they were still the Nordiques) - but at the "new" Mile High Stadium @ Invesco Field. As the "quoted" part of the name suggests, this incarnation of Mile High Stadium did not exist either two decades ago. It is the Rocky Mountain version of the 'new' Yankee Stadium as the Broncos constructed a new facility for football right next to where the old one used to stand. Senator Obama will be on a stage erected on the field itself for his speech.

One night, twenty-three years ago or so, I too stood on the field at Mile High Stadium. As a freshman in college in the fall of '85, I was lucky enough to join my sister Jill, my brother-in-law Joe, their friend Dan Byrnes and a girl with whom I was friends named Laura Woodcox at one of the final shows on Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. Tour. Although it was late September - it was Springsteen's 36th birthday in fact (September 23rd) - it was the Front Range of Colorado, which meant that although it had been about 80 degrees a few days earlier, the day of the show it snowed. It snowed so much on the 22nd in fact that the show that had been scheduled for that evening had to be postponed until the 24th. We stood on our folding chairs, laid across the field at Mile High, and watched in the cold for 3+ hours. While I have been a Springsteen fan since I was a young boy, it was the first time I had ever been fortunate enough to see him in concert. And it was a truly joyous experience.

Today is of course the 28th of August. Five years ago today, I stood with an old friend on the floor of another football stadium, again watching Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert. On that occasion, a friend I had not seen since we both were in high school, Marc Wichansky, and I stood about 50 feet or so from the stage in Giants Stadium - in "the pit" - and watched in the heat and humidity of a Jersey late summer night for 3+ hours. It was a terrific night and it topped off a hell of a day for me - having spent most of it moving the older of my two kids, Suzanne, into her freshman dorm at Seton Hall University in South Orange.

Tonight, on the final night of yet another overly produced, overly crafted National Convention, Senator Obama will finally have the opportunity to be heard. This has been an interesting week politically for the Dems in that it has been more about the vanquished - Hillary Clinton - and the scorned - Bill Clinton - thus far than it has been about Senator Obama. Perhaps he has been a willing participant in all of the goings on? Perhaps it is nothing more than a great facade - a feud created for the media so that people would watch the Convention and read about it? Call me cynical but when the front-page story in the New York Times twice in its first 500 words uses the phrase "prickly relationship" to describe the relationship between President Clinton and Senator Obama, methinks someone is trying too hard to sell me something.

Tonight, five years after Marc and I celebrated his 34th birthday at a Giants Stadium shindig hosted by Springsteen and attended by approximately 55,000 people Marc did not know, Barack Obama will have his coming-out party. And he will celebrate the occasion standing in approximately the same place where Jill, Joe, Dan, Laura and I stood almost 23 years ago with Springsteen and about 55,000 other strangers at a big birthday party Springsteen threw for himself.

Will the confluence of being in a place where magic has previously been made on a date when it has previously been made provide the ingredients for Senator Obama to conjure up a little bit of magic of his own? Who knows. As the bard of Asbury Park once wrote, show a little faith, there's magic in the night. Remember though too what else he has written - trust none of what you hear. And less of what you see. This is what will be. This is what will be. I suppose that by the time Marc Wichansky's 39th birthday starts being referred to in the past - and not present - tense, we will be a bit closer to knowing which principle applies here.

Is it really magic? Or is it nothing more than tricks?

-AK

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Paging Eddie Cochran.....

I bear no ill will towards the summer. This is so in spite of the fact that I am fair-skinned, which in the summer sun means I have but two skin shades: pale and burned. And this is so in spite of the fact that for most of my adult life I have carried around a bit more weight than I should. I am not "Oh my God Mommy, that poor whale has beached itself! What should we do?" size by any means. However, I am hard-pressed to think of a time in the 20 years or so since I graduated from college where I have not looked at myself in the mirror and thought - objectively - I could stand to lose 5 to 10 pounds. These facts, combined with the fact that I do not perspire - I sweat - makes hazy, hot summer days not always the most fun events in which to participate.

All of that being said, it is impossible to root against the summer. Even as an adult who earns his living in a profession that appears to pay little heed to time - other than to attempt to do these 1000 things as fast as possible - I remain intrigued by the communal relaxation of the foot on the accelerator pedal that goes on throughout the legal profession when the weather warms up. Over the past fifteen years, I have had more conversations than I can count with a lawyer who wants to put off one event or another and the stated basis for the request is "it's summer." I am either in the minority who realizes that we pay for the lazy days of summer with the hectic days of autumn or I am in the minority too obtuse to stop saying out loud that which all of us who practice law for a living know to be true. I suspect it is the latter. And I wonder why my pitch for a new super hero - Captain Obvious - never got off the ground.

Although us adults apparently need "summertime" in some form or another as much as we did when we were children, I am looking forward to the fall. While I have to - in the interest of fairness - inculpate the Spring in this as well, since about the time that the weather here in Levelland warmed up, things have been less than sterling. It was right around Mother's Day that Mom's brother - my Uncle Jim - died. He was about a month away from celebrating his 79th birthday, which he would have done on the same weekend that his big sis - Mom - celebrated her 80th. It would be an insult to the descriptive power of the word "impacted" to say that Unc's death "impacted" Mom - as it does not even scratch the surface of its effect upon her. They occupied space together here for eight decades and were as close in their late 70's as they had been in their childhood - perhaps even more so, steeled by a life that had visited more than a proportionate share of hardship upon them.

Then, August kicked off with the death of Margaret's grandmother - Nan. Nan was 94 years of age and up until the final few weeks of her life emitted the "I'll live forever" vibe. Perhaps it is inaccurate to describe the death of a 94 y/o woman as surprising, given her age. It is accurate to describe the impact of her death upon her family as jarring. And lasting as well.

And the impact of Nan's death was still reverberating thru Margaret's family when - 7 days later - Nan's little sister died.....at age 93. Margaret's Aunt Meni - having arrived here almost a century ago and having found her big sister already here and getting things done - remained here only 1 week without her. They were the final two surviving siblings from their family. And when August made its annual appearance on the calendar both were alive. Neither lived to see August cede the spotlight to September.

As September prepares to make its entrance onto the stage, my mind is drawn back to the remarks Bruce Springsteen made in early May when he was part of the first class of inductees into the New Jersey Hall of Fame:

You get a little older now and you get those crisp fall days that come in September and the beginning of October. My friends and I, we slip into that cold water of the Atlantic Ocean. These days you take note that there's a few less of your friends swimming alongside of you as each year passes. But something about being in one place you whole life, they're still around you, in the water. And I look towards the shore, and I see my son and my daughter, pushing their way through the waves, and on the beach there's a whole batch of new little kids running away from the crashing surf. Like time itself.

Like time itself indeed. I enjoy those crisp fall days every year. But this year I find myself really looking forward to them. The magic elixir for this summertime's blues? I certainly hope so.

-AK

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

From the Pages of the Daily Bugle.....

The hardest-working individual on these premises is, apparently, on vacation. Riding the wave that has about 42% of the people who earn paychecks signed by the same nice fellow who signs mine all masquerading as empty offices this week and has had roughly that same percentage of people on vacation for blocs of time this summer, the creature who sets the bar that the rest of us duck under - better to avoid grazing the top of our heads - has opted for R & R in order to survive the '08 edition of the dog days.

Who is this non-stop working machine? A member of our staff? No. A new associate? Wishful thinking. This modern-day John Henry is the King of the Arachnids - a spider. I know less about spiders than I do about almost anything else (other than the ones with the little red hourglasses on their bellies are bad and that tarantulas are also less than fun. Unfortunately, while I know the black widow is the little vixen with the Days of Our Lives tattoo I do not know for sure what a tarantula looks like so as a general rule I simply avoid grass....and cave....and forests) so I do not know what type of spider he is. Or, for that matter, if "he" is a he. I should not malign the fairer sex - presuming that spiders have a fairer sex.

Anyway, irrespective of his type or his gender, my little multi-legged friend was on a tear for much of the summer. For reasons I do not completely understand, he selected the little section of roof that covers one part of my parking space as his residence for the summer. A selection I found curious not only because my space is nowhere near the tepid little creek that abuts the rear of the building (hours of fun summertime activities for the kids and plenty to eat) but because - given my own tendency to work more often than not - our worlds intersected not less than 3 or 4 days a week. I have worked here long enough to know that there are spaces in our lot that are rarely occupied by any vehicle - even some of the assigned spaces. Clearly he had better options available to him than my space.

Yet there he was - every day. Every morning I would pull into my space in the darkness and try to pay particular attention to where he had built to overnight so as to avoid doing something neither of us enjoyed very much - sticking my over sized head right thru his web. I am proud to say I got better at avoiding it as summer progressed. Way back when - in June - on an average of not less than three times I would end up with a face full of web upon exiting my car. If he had spent the evening trapping interesting things to eat, then it was not so bad but even someone with a relatively unsophisticated palate such as me gets bored of a diet comprised chiefly of flies.

By mid-July, having carted enough strands of web upstairs with me to have constructed my own No-Pest Strip I finally mastered the art of getting from my car to the front door of the office without wearing a crown of spidey silly string. I think the morning of my great awakening was the morning that I pulled into my space, looked up at my neighbor's handiwork and realized that overnight he trapped a bug that appeared to be the size of an engine bloc from a 1960's vintage muscle car. I realized that I really did not want to make angry any individual who could sh*t kick something roughly 10x its size. For a couple of days - as he expanded his web to compensate for either how much space dinner was occupying or the number of his buddies who were going to come over to assist him in eating this flying Winnebago - I actually got out of my car on the passenger's side. I was afraid that in view of the dominant role he had assumed in our space-sharing relationship I was but a week or two away from slowing my car down as I entered the lot, leaping out of the open driver's door as I killed the engine and hoping that the car came to a stop in a marked parking space in lieu of actually parking the vehicle.

Fortunately - and for reasons not clear to me at all - my eight-legged compadre scrapped his expansion plans. Perhaps the financing fell through. Perhaps his wife left him. Perhaps the kids went off to college. I know not. I do know that after a week of embracing his Manifest Destiny he simply pulled in the reins and resumed living in his original, little space. I figured we would continue our parking space co-op into the fall, at which time he would go where all New Jersey spiders seem to spend their winters - indoors, where he would balance the desire to feel carpet 'neath his many feet with the fear of being blotted right into the burbur.

Alas, he had one more surprise up his sleeve (when you have 8 per shirt it is really not as impressive a trick as one might suspect). He vacated the premises altogether. A couple of weeks ago, he disappeared. I know not where he went. And I know not if he will be back. While I fear the worst, I hope that, simply, he is French and he takes the entire month of August off to recharge himself for the fall.

Halloween is, after all, his busy time.

-AK

Monday, August 25, 2008

Constructive Summers

In barlight, she looked alright. In daylight, she looked desperate. And while the degree to which it afflicts us varies from person to person, it is a truism that for each of us how we appear to be depends in significant part upon the light thru which we are being viewed. Isn't it?

This is the time of year when hope springs eternal. Students return to secondary schools and to university campuses across the country and at least some of them - in a perfect world we'd wish for "all" of them - are there to absorb as much information as they can about as many things as possible. There are times in my own mind's eye when it seems as if college ended for me about 11 minutes ago. And there are times, as well, when it seems as if it ended a lifetime ago - or worse that it never happened to the present-day me. Rather, that the "Me" who went to college was a person so far removed from the person whose ever-graying beard and ever-expanding crow's feet peers back at me courtesy of the reflective surfaces of my bathroom mirror in the wee small hours of the morning, it seems as if every time I speak of that prior incarnation of "me" I am not speaking about myself, I am plagiarizing the life of another.

Fortunately, while those moments come more frequently than I would care to admit, they (like the Olympics and even the nastiest case of poison ivy) run their course. And I filter thru all of the self-created drama and bring back from my memory how I felt - how my whole group of friends felt - when we were 19, 20, 21 & 22 years old and thought we could change the world. While acknowledging that the bar of anticipated achievement's qualifying height got greater in direct relationship to the amount of "stimulant" in our systems, and further acknowledging that we have not perhaps scaled the impossible to conquer heights that the evil Stag otherwise made us believe we could, we have in fact changed the world. Not the whole "big blue marble" world but - rather - our own little piece of it.

Each one of us - not just the pie-eyed optimists descending upon school yards and college campuses nationwide - has it within our grasp to change our little piece of the world. Irrespective of how I feel about what I do to earn my living - and there are days that I enjoy it quite a bit and there are days where it is a less pleasurable experience - I need to remember that when I am gone whatever value I added to the proceedings while here shall not be measured by how I did my job. Rather, my best arguments in support of not having simply taken up oxygen someone else's kids and grand kids can breathe someday are my own kids. To a degree - admittedly small - I helped prepare them for the lives they are preparing to lead and helped make possible the opportunities to pursue their dreams.

As an attorney, the value I have added to this planet is negligible. Here in Levelland there are about 85,000 of us who practice law for a living. Me? I earn my living defending people who are sued in civil lawsuits. Much like the guy on the assembly line who takes on faith that there will be always be a car coming towards him on the conveyor belt in which he has to insert the rear view mirror, I take on faith that the negligence of others will always put food on my table and pay the mortgage. What I do will never be confused with rocket science. It is not even close actually.

When what we do becomes who we are, then we lose the ability to accurately measure our own depth and breadth. Let us not do that. And let us make sure - as parents and grandparents - that the optimistic youths we send back to school or off to college this fall do not do it either. Life is lived horizontally as well as vertically. Keep your eyes on not only the path you take but the swath you cut. And enjoy the trip while always remembering the words of Oscar Wilde - No man is rich enough to buy back his past.

There's gonna come a time when the true scene leaders/
Will forget where they differ and get big picture/
Because the kids at the shows they'll have kids of their own/
And the sing along songs will be our scriptures.

-AK

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Redemption Songs

Tis the season.....for redemption. All over the world in the past day or so, redemption has been in full bloom and on display for all to see. It has proven itself - even in these nascent moments - to be something worth watching and truly something to behold. And it has made at least one human - me - eager to see more.

At some time today - or is it actually tomorrow - the whole International Date Line thing always confused the hell out of me when I was a kid and being older yes but wiser no than I was when I was young, would you care to wager on what direction my comprehension skills have tracked - the games of the XXIX Olympiad will end. And to think, I'll not know who emerged triumphant in the trampoline or the ping-pong (sorry "table tennis") competitions. THIS JUST IN: the British announced this morning that in view of all of the paved, relatively flat surfaces throughout London and the easy access to chalk - courtesy of the All-England Tennis Club - that hopscotch will make its Olympic debut at the 2012 Summer Games as will two versions of shuffleboard - street and cruise ship - with all competition in the latter to be played on the Lido Deck of the QE 2.

Anyway, I digress. Rosie barked to let me know that she needed to go out this morning at about 2:00 a.m. or so, which meant rather than sleeping "in" until 5:00 (it is Sunday after all) I got up with her and then stayed up to watch the Men's gold medal basketball game. Our team was dubbed "The Redeem Team", a reference apparently not only to the quest to erase the bad taste from the mouths of all from the nation in which basketball was invented due to the bronze medal performance in the '04 Olympics but also the bad taste left in the mouths of athletes from all over the world - including here in these United States - regarding the allegedly boorish behavior of the guys on the '04 team. According to the story I read yesterday on ESPN.com, the Athens squad treated the rest of the athletes at those Games in a manner that was described as being anything from disdainful to contemptuous. It was behavior that was not limited to the manner in which they interacted with athletes from other nations either as they apparently showed up at more than one game played by the women's Olympic hoops squad ostensibly to support the ladies but were shown on TV sleeping and/or talking with one another and paying no attention to what was going on down on the court.

This year's squad left in its wake in Beijing not only the rest of the field but a lot of good memories of their time there. For the past couple of weeks, the stories out of Beijing have spoken of young guys like Dwayne Wade and LeBron James being besieged by autograph seekers - and staying to sign every one of them - as they have moved thru Beijing. During the swimming competition, it seemed as if every time a U.S. Swimmer was in a gold medal event, at least three of the basketball players was in the stands cheering him/her on. It is true that the guys on the basketball team left the ass-patting of the women's beach volleyball team to our Commander in Chief but otherwise, they appeared to be everywhere, doing everything and making fans and friends wherever they went. Except for on the court of course, which is how it is supposed to be. By the time the buzzer sounded on the Gold Medal game and the U.S. team had captured its intended prize, redemption had already been realized.

My brother Bill and I share a love of the New York Yankees. And I do not think I am betraying any well-guarded family secret by disclosing that we share an emotional reaction to the mere mention of the name Carl Pavano that can be described as.....well, let us just say it is somewhere "south" of love and leave it at that. Ian Kennedy has logged more innings pitched for the Yankees in the past four years than has the Man of A Thousand Ailments. As we approach the final 35 games of the four-year contract he signed prior to the '05 season, it seemed reasonable to believe that the fleeting glimpse we got of him in April 2007 was going to be his famous final scene in a Yankees uniform.

But it is the season for redemption after all and there he was last night on the mound at Camden Yard, pitching his way to his first win of the season. The Yankees, having stockpiled losses as if they were cans of cling peaches in the run-up to nuclear winter, have reached "must win" territory. And last night, while it was not a thing of beauty by any stretch, Carl Pavano pitched well enough to lead them to a win in one of those "boy we have to have this one" games. Whether he can replicate that effort six more times in the remaining piece of the season remains to be seen (Hell, it remains to be seen whether he was able to get undressed without giving himself a hernia or breaking a finger) but Carl Pavano had a nice dose of redemption last night. I am sure it tasted pretty sweet going down.

I try not to delve into the political in this space too often because I recall the lessons of my childhood when - asking my father for whom he voted in a particular election - he told me that it was none of my business. While I have now - and have always had - a keen interest in the political process (I majored in political science in college after all) I have always respected the fact that everyone has their own thoughts on what they like and who they support and I am not in the business of trying to change anyone's mind. I am more of a pragmatist. I want people to become engaged in the process so that each of us learns something about the candidate for whom we vote at some point prior to pulling the lever next to that person's name. Whether "your" guy is "my" guy or is - in fact - the "other" guy, I genuinely care not.

I throw that disclaimer out there in advance of this admission. I am a registered Republican. I am among those you can blame if you wish for the past eight years as I voted for President Bush both times (although I prefer - if you are someone who is less than enamored with the nation's path these past 8 years - if you would blame Al Gore. Only a complete droid can screw the pooch as ineptly as he did in '00. He was the two-term incumbent VP during a time of (a) economic prosperity; and (b) peace and he lost the election. Forget "hanging chads". Had Gore won either his home state or his then-boss's home state, he would have won the electoral vote. He won neither). I am also an enormous fan of Joe Biden, the Delaware Senator who has gone to sleep the past two nights (at least) knowing he is the Vice-Presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket.

A lifetime ago, when Biden was a younger, equally brash version of his present self, he sought the Democratic nomination for President. He is an exceptionally bright, intense fellow who is well-regarded on issues of defense, diplomacy and foreign policy and even then - 20 years ago or so - he was already held in high regard by his colleagues in those areas. His campaign imploded when he was caught lifting large portions of speeches from a British politician Neil Kinnock without properly crediting Kinnock as the source. Political plagiarism if you will. While his quest for the White House ended shortly thereafter he continued to serve in the U.S. Senate - where he remains today 36 years after he first got there.

I know not yet as much as I need to know about Senator Obama but I know this now - he is a smart man. He proved as much by picking to run with him on his ticket a man whose areas of expertise are in areas in which the nominee himself has little experience. Any man wise enough to answer "I don't know" to a question to which he truly does not know the answer is a man worth getting to know.

Joe Biden is not a young man. As he mentioned during his speech yesterday, he is old enough that he and John McCain have been friends for 35 years and he has been in the Senate for more than half of his life. Perhaps having him on the ticket will render moot the attack ads on McCain regarding his age; given that Biden is only six or seven years his junior. His presence on the ticket will render silly - if not moot - any attack ads aimed at Obama's lack of experience on international issues (although it has always amazed me that the Dems have not made more of the fact that President Bush 43 hired as his principal advisers the gang who had been his Dad's friends and advisers and no one - except for James McMurtry - has ever commented upon it).

It may be too early to tell whether Joe Biden will be redeemed. After all, he will not know whether he has achieved the office he seeks until the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Or perhaps, simply by being given the opportunity to compete at the highest level, he has already been redeemed.

These songs of freedom. Won't you help to sing?

-AK

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bo Diddley's at the Seaside Bar

Summer is gone. Well, almost anyway. From the downcast faces and hushed voices on the local news broadcasts during the past week or so, which turn an even whiter shade of pale when discussing this season's pending demise, one would think that it was leaving us with no intention of making a return visit. Woe ye of little faith indeed.

Late August in this part of the world has always intrigued me. Summer in New Jersey is hot. And it is humid. Apparently less so on both counts than at least three places: (a) the sun; (b) Hell's 7th Circle; and (c) Jupiter Florida. It is my Mom's residency in the latter that convinces me of its worthy inclusion on this list. She comes to Jersey in July and August to escape Florida's heat/humidity. I smile every time I think of Mom seeking refuge here to keep cool because the little GAF Viewfinder in my mind's eye scrolls back to one of my all-time favorite The Far Side cartoons. Guy is standing at the front desk in Hell, which resembles the lobby of a hotel, and the Devil (behind the desk) says, "Inferno or no inferno? Just kidding. They're all inferno."

I am at a loss to understand it but it matters little whether Mom's great migration north helps her escape truly oppressive weather or simply allows her to trade in truly oppressive weather where she lives for truly oppressive weather in the company of family and loved ones. If the latitudinal change represents nothing other than a positive attitudinal change for her, then it is worth its weight in gold.

Since childhood, my favorite part of late August is the month's uncanny ability to muster up a "change of pace" day, weather wise. Here, from Memorial Day thru early August, other than the precipitation, the weather is essentially the same. As a general rule, it will be somewhere between 85 and 95 degrees at the day's apex and the humidity will range from "barely tolerable" to "trying to inhale with dirty gym sock in my mouth". The final couple of weeks of August, however, something remarkable happens. A day or two will pop in which the mercury never breaks 80 and on which the humidity level serves more as a portend of October than a reminder of July. I have always viewed August's behavior as more of an omen than an aberration. It is as if nature is reminding us that even as we slather ourselves in oil and grease and plop ourselves down on the beach - like so many chicken cutlets being slowly baked or fried - a change is going to come.

Late August has always been among my favorite times of year because I have fond memories of high school and it was in the second half of August that we would begin two-a-day pre-season soccer practice. Mom and I lived quite a distance from where I attended high school and being only slightly more sociable then than now, I essentially neither saw nor spoke to anyone I attended school with from final bell in June until the first day of pre-season practice in August.

I loved those days. We would practice - as would the football team - and the girl's field hockey team. I'm saddened by the fact that a quarter-century later my Alma mater has long stopped fielding either a football team or a field hockey team, which seems unfortunate given how much success each sport enjoyed at W-H and the enjoyment each brought to its participants and its fans.

Each sport would practice from approximately 8:30 in the morning until about 12:30 in the afternoon and then take an extended break of 90 minutes or so before returning for afternoon sessions. We would all get together and head off somewhere to pick up something to eat so that we could spend most of our time just hanging out with each other, bitching about whose sport had the toughest practice and enjoying the respite. They were the types of days - as a kid - you thought might last forever. And you'd not have complained for a moment if they had. They were indeed the types of days that made you want to live forever.

I embrace this edition of August, Half Deux for an entirely different set of reasons. Monday, Suzanne begins her Master's Program at Seton Hall. She took a year off from pursuit of her career in order to experience a little - and hopefully enjoy even more - of her life. My daughter is absolutely driven to succeed so while she has enjoyed her little "time out" as it were, she is ready to resume learning about something that interests her so she can move closer to a career doing something she loves - working with children and young adults who were dealt less than favorable hands. Her passion for it is infectious and it is contagious. One cannot help but get swept up in it. I cannot wait to hear about all she is learning and all she is doing.

Also, the final week of August brings a true treat at its end. Rob will make a brief stop home as he and his brothers in arms reach what is approximately the halfway point in their training program. When he flies back to Georgia on Monday, it will already be September. And November, which once seemed impossibly far away, will be a bit closer still. He will be energized, one presumes, by his visit - irrespective of its brevity - as we will as well. It will put enough fuel in our respective tanks to enable him to go finish what he has started and to enable us to never waver, never stumble in our support of him from afar. And it will all happen this week - the final week of the second half of August.

Summer is gone. Then again, maybe not just yet. Like the song says - Don't let that daylight steal your soul. Get in your wheels and roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll.

-AK

Friday, August 22, 2008

In Search of a Convenient Streetlight

One of us missed the memo. I know not whether it was me or it was the person on Shepherd Avenue at whose curb sits a truly bizarre piece of "junk". I either missed the memo from our Mayor Under the Snow Globe advising that our DPW fellas were going to be picking up "bulk items", which is code for "really heavy, onerous sh*t for which you no longer have a use" or this cat on Shepherd read an imaginary version written only for him. Either way, blood flows.

When I first noticed this item at curbside yesterday morning I thought perhaps my eyes were deceiving me. One comes to accept when one's commute is made in the 4:00 a.m. hour that not only are objects in the rear-view mirror closer than they appear to be but sometimes they really are not there at all. By commuting to work when I do, I am truly just around the corner to the light of day but sometimes the journey takes me perilously close to a little town called delirium.

Thus last night I was both relieved and amused to see that my eyes had not been lying. There at curbside - standing alone with no other item anywhere to be seen - was a small, white flight of stairs. This flight is not your big boy. It is not a full 12 or 13 stepper. Rather it is a flight of perhaps 4 or 5 steps. I know not for what reason it was removed or from where but it was dispatched from its former home with such care and precision that it now stands perfectly upright in that little grassy strip that runs between the sidewalk and the curb.

The sight of a flight of stairs - irrespective of its size - at curbside is a bit disarming. Stairs are not the first item that jumps to the forefront of my mind when I think home remodeling. I would think - in fact - that within the four walls of any home, any staircase is a pretty cocky fella. Walls go up, they go down, they get painted on and they get paneling put over them. Floors get carpeted, tiled, pulled up and replaced, etc. But stairs? They tend to stay fixed in space and time, having a good chuckle at the other elements. You cannot swing a stick without seeing - whether in a Sunday insert or on the radio or TV - an advertisement for replacement windows. You see scant few for replacement stairs - or for options to replace them altogether ("Look kids it's Ron Popeil with his amazing "Insta-Fire pole". Just drill your own hole and you're ready to go.") We are a species that likes to roam by nature. We go up, we go down and we intend not to stay in either place any longer than necessary.

Yet, there they stand (sit? I am not sure what a flight of stairs does in the abstract - having never seen one previously looking so vulnerable and naked) at the curb, knowing not what fate awaits but likely realizing that it shall not be pretty. Perhaps a clemency call will arrive in the form of intervention from the Hazelwood School drama teacher, who has decided to put on Romeo & Juliet as this year's 7th grade play and has a part for which this flight of stairs was born. Or perhaps a crueler fate awaits the stairway to nowhere.

Maybe, just maybe, someone will drive by and each will catch the other's eye. It is an uncommon connection, 'tis true, but stranger things have happened and might happen yet again. You and me, babe, how 'bout it?

-AK

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Soles of the Departed

Under the snow globe, we live in a neighborhood that sprung from the earth about thirty years ago, which in "snow globe" time is lovingly referred to as "T.B.A." - Time Before Adam (or not quite so nicely by some of my neighbors - and no I don't know who you are not having bothered to ever learn most of your names - as "the Good Old Days" - before it got ruined by folks like me, no doubt.)

We are the second owners of our house - having purchased it about 8 years ago from the woman for whom the builder of this particular development had built it. While it is a lovely home and we have been very happy there - and we look forward to being happy there for years to come (sorry people who live around me whose names I do not know but no moving vans in my future!) - a home is always a "work in progress". At least that is what my wife tells me. And anyone who has peeked thru my little window on the world knows there are certain maxims by which I live my life - with "Margaret is right" at the top of the list in bold type and underlined. Margaret has any number of things that at one time or another move to the top of her "to do" list or her "must go" list. Being not particularly handy - which is an understatement not dissimilar to describing the late Mama Cass Elliott as having been not particularly thin - I rarely make an appearance on the former (other than for impossible to screw up tasks like cutting grass, carrying recycling to the curb and putting out the garbage) and I scrupulously try to avoid inclusion on the latter. So far so good 15 years in and counting by the way.

When we moved into our home it was covered by wall-to-wall carpet. Once upon a time that likely seemed to be a swell idea - upon building a new home with beautiful hardwood flooring to cover up the flooring with wall-to-wall carpet - but wall-to-wall carpet that is two decades old is like anything else of a similar vintage that lays prone in the middle of a room doing nothing - after a while it is annoying to look at. At your next opportunity check it out for yourself. If you do not have wall-to-wall carpet, then try the experiment with one of your college-age children. If he/she lies on the floor long enough - apparently doing nothing - eventually the state you will enter is that of annoyance.

Anyway, I digress. We have been on a mission over the past several months to excise the carpet from our home so that we can reveal the simply gorgeous hardwood floor buried beneath it. I know less about color than any human being alive but I have on good information, which is to say my wife and daughter have told me repeatedly, that the carpet throughout our home is "sea foam green". I suppose - given that description - that if I had maintained the same intimate relationship with 'shrooms post-college that I did while I was an undergrad, I would have passed hours over the course of the past eight years waiting for schools of swordfish or pods of dolphins to leap from it in formation. I did not so I have not. The danger of a life unfulfilled I suppose.

About a month and a half ago, on a Saturday when Margaret was down the Shore, I decided to surprise her and take the carpet out of our bedroom. Much to her surprise - and more than I care to admit to mine as well - it came up without an incident and without me incurring any self-inflicted permanent injury (the doctor assures me that my fingernail will grow back). It looks quite fetching - our hardwood floor - if I do say so myself. It remains a bit of an odd feel when i drop my size 9 1/2 feeties upon it at 3:15 in the morning because even when it is hot outside, the wood retains a bit of coolness, which I reasonably anticipate will morph into coldness as summer gives way to fall and fall to winter.

The most disarming thing about the floor is not how it looks or how it feels but rather how it sounds. I am up and out of my house at an hour when dawn is still on the day's "to do" list. I make as little noise as possible in an effort to flee the scene without waking up my wife. Margaret tells me she loves me and I believe her....but at 3:30 or so in the morning, not so much.

In the post-carpet era, it is a bit more difficult to escape without waking her up. Between the natural creak of my knees and the natural creak of the hardwood floor, there are mornings when our bedroom sounds as if it has been visited by East Compton cholos. The first morning it happened, reflexively I dropped down onto the floor - forgetting it was no longer cushioned by thick carpet. I had a bump on my forehead for about two weeks.

My adjustment has been seamless in comparison to our dog's. Poor Rosie relied upon the carpet as a natural braking mechanism when she would haul ass up the stairs chasing one of the cats. Now? When she makes the transition from the carpet of the upstairs hallway to the floor of our room she resembles a big hairy bowling ball hurtling down the lane in a vain attempt to pick up the 7-10 split. Worse than the tumbling is her reaction to it. She was home the day I pulled up the carpet. While she knows nothing and remembers less, the image of me doing my Vlad the Impaler routine on "her" carpet is apparently imprinted on her memory forever. Upon picking herself up off of the floor and after doing a systems check to make sure everything is where it is supposed to be, she will glare at me with that "Best Friend? My Ass!" look on her face and I know - something I value is about to be chewed.

Norm Peterson was right - it's a dog eat dog world. I do not want to be the one who ends up wearing the Milk-bone underwear.

-AK

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

We Really Did It This Time...

Last Friday was an extraordinarily interesting day - at least in the little cubicle of the world that I call my own. Events involving people of whom I know but who I do not know and their commentary about them allowed me to conjure up thoughts of one of my favorite writers, Pete Hamill, and one of my favorite people - my brother Bill. Any day that permits consumption of such a concoction is one to savor.

Last Thursday evening, the story broke all over the New York media that the very successful radio team of Mike Francesca and Chris Russo, whose "Mike and the Mad Dog" Program aired weekday afternoons on WFAN in New York was kaput. Russo left WFAN. While the story was plastered all over the papers Friday morning, it broke too late in the day on Thursday for Francesca to talk about it on air....until Friday afternoon. When he came 0n-air on Friday shortly after 1:00 p.m. he spoke with the solemnity one traditionally reserves for an occasion such as Walter Cronkite's advising a national audience that President Kennedy had died due to his wounds sustained on that fateful November day in Dealey Plaza.


After fifteen minutes or so of reassuring his audience (and himself perhaps) that despite the break-up of a show that had dominated its time slot for 19 years the Earth would continue to rotate on its axis and the oceans would not be reduced to large repositories of Castor oil, Francesca told the audience that after a commercial break, "Mad Dog" would be on the air to say his final goodbye.


True to his word - or delivering upon his threat depending upon one's perspective I suppose - when the show returned from its first commercial break there was Chris Russo - now a caller on what had been his own call-in show for 19 years. The two men spent 15 or 20 minutes reminding the audience (or perhaps attempting to convince it and themselves) of the fact that - in spite all of their well-publicized feuds - they had a lot of respect for one another, on a number of levels are actually fond of one another and could have kept working together if only.....


And there it was - the little "shh, don't tell 'em" part of the bit that brought Hamill racing to the forefront of my mind. His observation in Downtown - My Manhattan that, "Sentimentality is always about a lie" fit the moment far better than that darn bloody glove ever could have fit on Orenthal James' hand. Francesca and Russo painted a picture replete with tears - Russo blubbering on the phone - about how sorry they were that they would not be working together any longer (a sentiment that seems far-fetched based upon their contentious history) and acting as if the reason for the schism was that Russo had been diagnosed with life-threatening illness, had a family issue that was taking priority over his career or had been recruited into the French Foreign Legion. Of course, it is none of those.

The best things in life may be free but - as the song says - Mad Dog will leave them to the birds and bees. He left in pursuit of the almighty dollar and the happiness he hopes it brings with it - in its change purse perhaps. There is not a damn thing wrong about what he did and, in his position, I submit it would have taken me about half a second to have made the same decision. Russo - earning a paltry $1.3 Million to talk sports on the radio 27.5 hours a week - is leaving terrestrial radio to pursue life among the stars on Sirius. Reportedly, Mel Karmizan of Sirius and Russo have negotiated a deal that will pay him $3 Million a year for 5 years to talk sports on satellite.

It was at some point during this cry fest that Francesca evoked the imagery that made Bill shove Pete Hamill aside in my mind's eye. He told his audience that some unnamed person earlier that day had told him, Francesca, that the break up of Mike and the Mad Dog was an event akin to the break-up of the Beatles. Bill might well have better working knowledge of all things Beatles than Sir Paul himself. And given that knowledge and his love for not only their music but for what they did and what they meant to the world around them, I do not have to try hard to imagine the look on my brother's face upon hearing Francesca (a) making that comparison, and (b) further commenting that in addition to telling him that the unnamed person told Francesca that in the break-up, he was John Lennon.

I do not want to give the wrong impression: I enjoy sports a great deal. And I have spent the past 19 years listening to Mike Francesca and Chris Russo on the radio and getting entertained more often than not by what I have heard. That being said - to equate the ending of their radio show to (a) a death of a loved one; and thereafter (b) the breakup of the Beatles would have been funny had not Francesca and Russo believed every word of they spoke. The truly great Jerry Izenberg - who retired about a year ago from his full-time gig at The Star-Ledger after spending decades there as an award-winning sportswriter and sports columnist, often referred to sports as "the kiddie pool" - not to be confused with the "adult swim" world of news and other grown-up things. His perspective would have been welcome on Friday afternoon but it was nowhere to be found....or to be heard.

For the sake of both of them, I hope their new solo endeavors go as well for them as their partnership worked out for them during the course of the past two decades. Each man has a wife and several children. At their core, each seems to be a decent person. But on Friday, each did a disservice to themselves - in my opinion. The incessant fawning and weeping rang hollow because neither would discuss why it was that their show is no more. They spoke euphemistically of "new opportunities" and "wanting to do something else" as Russo's reasons for asking to be released from his contract. All they had to do was speak honestly - he's leaving because he is taking a job that will pay him twice what he made at WFAN. More power to him. His decision to do so does not cheapen what they did together for 19 years. Their refusal to acknowledge it as the reason for their demise, however, does. If you do not trust me to love you when you reveal yourself to me - warts and all - then you never loved me in the first place.

All of us have either left a job or had people with whom we work suddenly become a person with whom we used to work as he/she leaves to take a job someplace else. Here - at my firm - the "bon voyage" party has turned into something of a ritual. Not for me. I do not attend them when they are given for others and should the opportunity ever present itself for one to be given in my honor - I'll not attend that one either. Candidly I have never subscribed to the "co-workers as extended family" metaphor. I view fellow employees sort of like fellow passengers on the plane - while it is true that we are all together in this particular place and at this particular time, that is largely a product of coincidence. And something over which neither you nor I exercised any control. Therefore, I place no significance in it. And I do not equate those of us on the 3rd floor south to Dick Winters and the boys of Easy Company. We are not taking hills but merely marking time. When our time together is concluded, it is over. Nothing more, nothing less. I have had friends with whom I have worked who have left one job for another job and with whom I remain in contact because we are friends - not merely co-workers.

Francesca and Russo spent the better part of 19 years showing their audience that while they were partners on-air, they were not really friends off-air. There's was a marriage of convenience, not of spirit, flesh and bone. It is human nature perhaps to try to elevate something ended to a status it had not achieved while it was vital and ongoing. It is an exercise in futility. The tail we end up chasing is our own and while we stalk it relentlessly, we never catch it.

We simply live out our time here in Never Never Land. We can't grow up. We're much too old now.


-AK

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Conventional Wisdom

I am a creature of habit. I am retentive enough to admit that I qualify as a "everything in its appointed place" type of guy. Today - work obligations intruded on ceaseless - and pointless - efforts to win the Pulitzer Prize for silliness produced prior to sun-up, which is why I am here now and was not here earlier. For those of you who hoped for a more nefarious explanation for my Tuesday tardiness, I am sorry for serving up your hopes - just in time for dinner pretty much - with a healthy sprig of dash.

This time next week the Games of the XXIX Olympiad will cede the spotlight to the first of the back-to-back National Political Conventions. Thankfully by Thursday night a fortnight or so from now, neither Senator Obama nor Senator McCain will be the "presumptive" nominee. Each will be the official nominee of his respective party. The Dems are up first - starting next week - in the Mile High City of Denver. There is apparently no truth to the rumor that John Edwards suggested Denver so that he would have the opportunity to renew membership in the "mile high club".

This just in from Senator Edwards - who might be in the running for the office of Mouth-Breeding Hypocrite of the Year, even if his aspirations for public office have faded (hey John if you look real fast you'll be able to see your "career dissipation light" going off in the camera lens of your TV documentary mistress' handy cam). He wants everyone to know who is angry with him and disappointed in him for carrying on an affair while his wife Elizabeth is battling a potentially deadly form of cancer - he only carried on the affair while Elizabeth's cancer was in remission. Quick show of hands from my friends on the Democratic side of the aisle - how happy are you right now that your front lawn does not contain either (a) KERRY/EDWARDS '08 - WE WON IN '04 & WE'RE HUNGRY FOR MORE 0r; (b) EDWARDS '08 lawn signs? Wow, that would sure make for an interesting topic of conversation on the convention floor, do you not think?

At least the Dems' party will go on without sharing the stage with anything else. My greatest concern - as a Republican and more importantly a graduate of CU-Boulder - is that the field at Mile High Stadium, where Barack Obama shall accept his party's nomination, will be in good enough shape for the Buffs' '08 opener vs. CSU, which is slated for Sunday the 31. Senator Edwards' travails notwithstanding and the always threatened, never popular threat of Senator Clinton holding her breath till she passes out on national TV if she does not get whatever the hell she wants presumably under control, regardless of your personal politics and/or your party affiliation, Senator Obama's acceptance of the Democratic Party's nomination is a historical event in our nation's history. And it should be watched and absorbed by all who can.

As a Republican, I love the well thought out, advance planning that went into this year's Convention, which is in St. Paul Minnesota. Senator McCain will accept the party's nomination on prime-time TV on the evening of Thursday, September 4th. A slight problem has arisen - a roadblock if you will - to him getting an audience. September 4th is the opening night of the NFL season and in prime-time on NBC's 'Football Night in America' (which, apropos of nothing, really makes me yearn for Prince Spaghetti commercials of my youth that featured that little bastard Anthony running home thru the streets of Boston) the game shall pit the NEW YORK GIANTS and the WASHINGTON REDSKINS. Great programming move by the GOP - having McCain accept the nomination at a time where a significant portion of the viewing audience in two large Eastern markets will be otherwise engaged. The people who run national campaigns wonder aloud why voters are tuned out...and one wonders what part of how they run campaigns they think the voters enjoy.

It seems sometimes as if we have all turned in enough cans of COKE to have earned a season pass to the Theatre of Absurd. We need very much to pay attention though. Why? For starters - because September 2 is the first Tuesday after the first Monday of September, which means that Election Day is only one "first Tuesday after the First Monday" away.

We are to the point in the program where the rubber meets the road. Strap in - the door is open but it ain't free.

-AK

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Dream Police

While one would be hard-pressed (and likely subjected to a toxicology screen) to argue against Michael Phelps' historical performance as THE story of Week One of the Beijing Olympics, his was not the only feel-good story to emerge from the Water Cube. My personal favorite is Dara Torres - 41 y/o, mother of a 2 y/o daughter who also happens to be a 5-time Olympian. An Olympic career that began in 1984 in Los Angeles has now carried her around the world - all the way to China. While one presumes that at age 41, Dara Torres has competed in her last Olympics, one knows better than to bet against her. It is after all the classic sucker's bet.

Consider for a moment if you will that Dara Torres is eighteen years younger than 1972 Olympic Champion Mark Spitz....and 17 years older than 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist Britta Steffen of Germany - who defeated Torres by .01 of a second in the 50M Freestyle Final en route to winning one of her two individual gold medals. Much has been written about Torres since she un-retired following the birth of her daughter and resumed swimming competitively. One of the items that caught my eye was Dara Torres' willingness to be tested "anyplace, anytime" - as she described it - by the folks who monitor blood-doping and use of performance enhancing drugs in competitive swimming. Apparently, given her age, the testers have taken her up on her invitation and - much to the disappointment of cynics everywhere - have not turned up a single positive test result.

Not that absence of proof cannot be relied upon by those itching to take a shot at someone anyway. Case in point - today's New York Post, which includes an installment of the "Equal Time" column that Phil Mushnick writes. Mushnick is a man whose column critiques and criticizes that which he sees on TV and hears on the radio. He has been writing his column for more years than I can remember and irony aside - he works for one of the world's most famous (or notorious) tabloid newspapers and he comments upon all the dreck he sees broadcast elsewhere while never mentioning any of it that appears in his paper - his column is usually entertaining and often makes a salient observation or two.

Today - candidly - was not one of those days. Not allowing a little thing like zero evidence that her amazing performance is the direct result of anything other than good genes, innate ability and exceptionally hard work, he fired a shot across the bow of Dara Torres: Not to suggest that 41-year-old Dara Torres appears unusually muscled for a woman of any age, but after winning a silver medal in swimming, Saturday, she won a bronze in men's weightlifting. Setting aside for a moment the fact that a middle-aged man who earns his living at a computer or a word processor, commenting upon what he watches on TV and hears on the radio, has little firsthand experience with the type of physical regimen to which Dara Torres and her swimming teammates subscribe, he does not suggest that he is in possession of any evidence upon which to base his assault.

The only thing we do with more rapidity in this country than build someone up is attempt to tear them down. It is an exercise in self-defeat. We acknowledge and appreciate your success - for a while, but then we renew our commitment to keeping a busy schedule in order to fit in all seven deadly sins - or at least as much envy as we can muster, questioning your success and the means by which you achieved it.

Dara Torres was asked - on the pool deck post-final race what if anything she would tell her 2 y/o daughter about all she has experienced in this most unexpected of Olympic success stories - and without hesitating she said, "That there is no age limit on your dreams."

She did not add that she will also tell her little girl that no matter what you do, there is always someone out there willing to tear you down. And that whether there is evidence to support their efforts matters little. Dara Torres likely realizes that is a lesson her daughter will have to learn firsthand....And, sadly, she likely will not have to wait until she is forty-one to do so.

-AK

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I Meant What I Said

I am - admittedly - a bit of a curmudgeon. In a competition of "Who Would You Most Like To Hug" I am not on the medal platform. In fact, I likely am pretty far up the track - ahead of Dick Cheney but behind a wolverine. Thus I realize that my list of "environmental" irritants and yours likely look dissimilar. By environmental I mean things that one encounters in the day-to-day of life and not the environment. While I have more interest in the latter than the Chinese apparently do (who would have suspected all of these years that the thing that is "forbidden" in the Forbidden City is deep breathing?), it is not the subject of today's rant.

If we - humans - would remember with greater frequency that monkeys, chimps, gorillas and the rest of their primate brethren sit on the wrong side of parallel bars staring out at us as we stroll by cursing their damn thumbs, then perhaps we would be more respectful of our position in the Animal Kingdom. Every day, sadly, there is less evidence of us being so.

We marvel at the fact that other animals use a language - whether it is sounds, clicks, whistles or gestures - to communicate with others of their kind while we commit Hari-Kari on our own language. Case in point is the adoption of the word 'way' as an adjective. The Wendy's hamburger chain has advertisements that run on TV and radio in the New York metro area advertising the fact that "IT IS WAY BETTER HERE" and that their drive-thru windows are open "WAY, WAY LATE". "Way better", "Way later"? Are you kidding me? There is a whole universe of actual, acceptable words out there boys and girls one can use as adjectives. Do not take my word for it - ask Roget. Is it really necessary for us to all be treated for perpetually scraped knuckles? I am sure that the good folks who make Neosporin appreciate the business.

How about we fight back a little against the dumbing down of....well, all of us and the society in which we live? Take this simple at-home quiz. Say aloud the two phrases in the preceding paragraph as written. Feel the little cringe detector in your brain activate? It is the part of your brain that makes you furl your brow a bit and make that "Yuck - who brought the really stinky cheese to the party" facial expression and involuntarily it went on - upon hearing words strung together masquerading as language. Now say the two phrases aloud substituting the word "MUCH" for "WAY" in the first example and ''VERY" for "WAY" in the second. No "stinky cheese" face right? Whether sounding intelligent really makes us intelligent, I know not. But it has to be a step in the right direction.

I mean not to pick on the good capitalists on Madison Avenue and their claims to fame - whether still wearing training bras or not - as it is not only the "for profit" part of our culture that has taken language for granted. The Fire Department of the City of New York - the FDNY - is running a public service spot reminding people of the importance of keeping fresh batteries in our smoke detectors and smoke alarms. A laudable goal? Absolutely.

However, whoever wrote the copy for the spot has taken liberties with language to the point where - if one listens carefully - one realizes that the language makes no sense. We are told that the FDNY wants to remind us that 60% of fires start because people have not taken the time to make sure that their smoke alarms work. I am willing to wager that significantly less than 60% of fires start because one's battery operated smoke alarm has a dead battery. Unless your house is protected by the Psychic Friend's Network smoke alarm, I would wager that 0% of all fires start because of dead batteries in smoke alarms. After all, does not the smoke alarm need something about which to become agitated - if not fully alarmed - before it starts doing its thing? How much longer would it have taken to write a PSA that actually made sense?

Somewhere along the line we opted for the Mad Libs approach to communication among us bipeds. You no longer need to be precise in what you say. How important could that possibly be anyway right? After all, here in 21st century America, it is after all the thought that counts.

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. And trust me, it's way hotter there than it is here - even in August.

-AK

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Why Must Everything Old Be New Again?

Here in the Summer of 2008, we have slipped thru a hole in the time-space continuum and - just like the time-traveling tag team of Marty McFly and Emmett Brown - we have gone back in time. Much like Marty and Doc, we have revved our DeLorean up to 88 MPH to bridge the gap between present day and the mid-1980's. At best, it has been a hit or miss proposition. Here, in the summer of the Games of the "Who the Hell Can Read Roman Numerals Anyway?" Olympiad, we have 1984 revisited in the person of Dara Torres. Olympic swimmer then at 17, Olympic swimmer now at 41.

We also had the opportunity during the course of the past year or so to reacquaint ourselves with the music of The Police - a trio atop the music world in the mid-1980's when they decided they were simply happier apart than together. Apart they remained for more than two decades - and having recently concluded their "You're So Happy To See Us, You'll Pay Any Amount for Tickets" Reunion Tour - apart they are again. But for just a minute there, while they were on stage together this past year, you closed your eyes and heard the opening notes of "King of Pain" and you were twenty years removed from where you stood.

Like the ill-advised and ultimately unsatisfying trips Marty and Doc embarked on in Part II and III of the Back to the Future trilogy, not all of our sojourns down memory lane during the Summer of Aught Eight have been good. In recent days, sabre-rattling has taken its place next to badminton and trampoline as an Olympian-sized event.

In the Summer of '84, when most of the athletic world descended on the City of Angels for the Summer Olympics, the athletes of the USSR stayed home - a direct payback for the decision of President Carter in 1980 to not RSVP our invitation to the '80 Summer Olympics in Moscow, which we boycotted to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In the Summer of '08, with most of the athletic world gathered - oxygen masks in tow - in Beijing, China for this year's edition of the Summer Olympics, and the USSR no longer alive and kicking, while the athletes of Russia participate in all things sporting, the soldiers of Russia are participating in a game of winner take all nationicide at the expense of their neighbors in Georgia.

While initially the little battle over what Steven Lee Myers refers to in today's New York Times as "an obscure territorial dispute in the Caucasus" appeared to be of little concern to most Americans (and one could joke about President Bush - at the Olympics when fighting broke out - responding to questions about Georgia being invaded by noting how well Georgia and Florida had gotten along when Jeb was Governor and he was sorry to hear that interstate relations had broken down), the global game of chicken has gotten very serious, very fast. And once again, the good people of Poland find themselves front and center.

It is likely an overstatement to say that if - in 1939 - the French had 1% of the Poles' courage and the Poles had 1% of the French's manpower and munitions, Adolf and the Reich's Excellent Adventure would have been short-lived, but it is not completely so. The French - with the largest standing army in the world at the start of WW II - lasted 39 days before surrendering unconditionally. The Poles - outgunned and undermanned - fought valiantly for as long as they could against first German invaders and thereafter Soviet invaders. While the French folded up their tents and honed the fine art of simultaneous ducking and running, right before stopping to adjust their berets and practice ordering croissants in German, Polish citizens picked up rifles, pitchforks, rocks and whatever else they could manage to get their hands on defend their homeland. It seems that one is most likely to hear a reference to the Polish in the context of a Polish joke more than in any other context. That is unfortunate. If they are not the historically bravest occupants of the European continent, then they are pretty damn close.

As the "gee this sounds a lot like the Cold War" rhetoric ratchets up between the United States and Russia, the attention of the Russian bear has turned from Georgia to Poland. The Poles - having seen this film before and therefore having a fundamentally sound understanding of what is likely to happen next in our story - signed an agreement with the United States on Thursday that will base American antimissile interceptors - including Patriot missiles - on Polish soil. On Friday, a senior Russian defense official, Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, (aka "Mr. Subtle") suggested that Poland was making itself a target by agreeing to host the anti-missile system. Such an action “cannot go unpunished,” he said.

President Bush - home from the Olympics and checking in at the office before a vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas (I have got to get a job in the Federal Government - if the health insurance is half as good as the vacation time, it's a cant-miss opportunity) - minced no words as he issued a statement on Friday reminding his former soul-mate (or perhaps it was eye-mate) - Russian Prime Minister (because "Dictator" is so last week) Putin that, "bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century." Irony notwithstanding, the statement was issued to underscore what is set forth in the American-Polish agreement, which, according to Mssrs. Shanker and Kulish in The Times, is that the United States would be obliged to defend Poland in case of an attack with greater speed than required under NATO, of which Poland is a member.

One can readily understand the Poles' desire to have an alliance with a militarily-superior ally that might actually serve to protect them. They have been the unfortunate signatories to agreements in the not-too-distant past that have theoretically protected them but have proven to be worth little more than the paper on which they are written when the niceties of diplomacy have been confronted by the harsh realities of armed conflict. Taking to heart that those who ignore history's lessons are doomed to repeat them, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that, "Poland and the Poles do not want to be in alliances in which assistance comes at some point later — it is no good when assistance comes to dead people." Let us all hope that none of us has to test our response time.

Sting and his old comrades in amps have shaken hands, divvied up their earnings and gone on their merry ways again. Twenty-three years ago, when The Police broke up, Sting's first solo album included "Russians". In 1984 and 1985, I am not sure how many of us who were living thru it knew that the end of the Cold War was not too far away. I certainly did not.

I believed then what I believe now, which is that Ambrose Bierce was spot on when he observed that, "Politics is the strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles." And I hope that the Russians do indeed love their children too.

-AK

Friday, August 15, 2008

Jaws of Life

While whatever plates are located deep in the earth's core in the area of Glynco Georgia have not shifted to any perceptible degree since Rob's arrival there, it is clear that there are days for my son when where he is presently seems to be further from home and further from where he wants to be than it seems to be at other times. Yesterday was one of those days. It is one thing to say at the beginning of any endeavor that you know will challenge you physically, emotionally or both "it is going to be tough". It is quite another to endure the toughness of that challenge every day - as it comes after you in unrelenting fashion.

I marvel at any number of abilities my wife possesses. Chief among her powers is the ability to detect a disturbance in the familial force. It is as if she channels Obi-Wan, Yoda or some other mysterious member of the Jedi fraternity. Last night while sitting watching TV she detected such a disturbance. She realized apparently that Rob had not called her back nor sent her a text message in reply to either a voice message she had left for him or a text message she had sent to him. Unapparent to me, Margaret has some type of deadline for responding to the first contact before the bombardment of follow up contacts commences. It appears to be somewhere around the 87 minute mark (although I do not know if there is flexibility built in once one accounts for (a) geographical remoteness; (b) time of day at which initial contact was made; and (c) environmental, atmospheric and weather conditions).

At minute 88, having received no return contact, Margaret strapped on her "MOM" hat and made the follow-up call. All kidding aside, I am happy that she did. Her sense that Rob was having one of those days in which life was simply grinding on him was absolutely correct. She spent about 20 minutes or so on the phone with him, doing more listening than talking (which is no small achievement when engaged in conversation with my son - who takes what can fairly be described as a "minimalist" approach to the art of conversation. Suffice it to say, he has to become considerably more chatty just to be defined as taciturn.) While I only heard her end of the conversation, I presume that the elixir of Mom's voice did its trick. There was palpably less stress in her voice at call's end than had been present at its beginning. I'd wager that was true for Rob's end of things as well.

When we send them off into the world - our kids that is - we must be mindful of reminding them that they need not be hesitant to call for any reason - good, bad or indifferent. Ours is a job for which we volunteered and for which we shall reject all overtures to force early retirement upon us.

It has been a rough couple of weeks for us under the snow globe, as Margaret's family has dealt with the the back-to-back deaths of her grandmother and her great aunt. If it is true that misery loves company, then these past couple of weeks have been of incalculable difficulty for Rob. His entire life he enjoyed an extraordinary relationship with Nanny - his great-grandmother. He of course was not able to come home for her funeral, nor for the one that followed sadly thereafter for Aunt Meni.

As a practical matter therefore my son had to face alone the one thing that scares us almost as much as dying alone does: grieving the death of someone we love. No one was there for him to lean on and, frustrating him no doubt, he was not here for his mother and his grandmother to lean on as they grieved. While his logic center, his brain, knows that his absence was unavoidable and that not spending 5 minutes staring at an open coffin in a funeral home does not undo the 22 wonderful years he had with Nanny, for present purposes his emotional center, his heart, is trying to wreak havoc upon him. It is not totally unexpected. And it will not last forever. And me telling him that is of little consolation to him as he is struggling thru it.

He will be OK. He is a strong-willed, determined young man who is wise enough to know that being brave and being fearless are not the same and that courage and fear are not mutually exclusive concepts. In short, he is his mother's son. In his perpetual battle to "Win Today!", he has but 10 more to win before relief arrives. He shall be home for the shortest long weekend in recorded history over Labor Day. We will help him recharge. And then send him back to finish what he has started.

Margaret reminded Rob last night to simply do what he has been doing. Just to stay alive inside. The folks back home? We are here. And here we shall remain. We got your back so you can keep your eyes focused on the road ahead.

Dry as a bone, Rob. Dry as a bone.

-AK

Thursday, August 14, 2008

...And I Believe

A quick glance at the calendar this morning reveals that we have essentially reached the halfway point of August, which means that by the time this week's Sunday newspapers slap against front porch steps or driveway macadam, for school-age kids across the country the quantity of summer remaining to be consumed can be measured in weeks - two - or days - fourteen. Some will notice I am certain that which I noticed when I was a school-age kid myself - how ridiculously big the "insert" part of this Sunday's newspaper is. It is as if every retailer - with the possible exception of folks who sell wicker and rattan furniture exclusively - has a "back-to-school" sale. It always struck me as particularly cruel that I - the designated retriever of my father's Sunday paper when I was a kid - should be forced to endure an elevated risk of paper cuts or of a slipped disc from carrying this journalistic behemoth when I was going to have little time left in which to recuperate from my injuries.

My kids are no longer school-age, unless one counts graduate school. The older of my two, Suzanne, having spent the past year recharging her batteries, saving up a little money and wreaking the occasional havoc on this old man's insurance rates, begins her Master's Program at Seton Hall University this semester. The ultimate goal - at least the last time I checked - is to become a licensed audiologist, which is a specialty that she wants to utilize to work with children and young adults who are deaf or extremely hard 0f hearing. Technically speaking, the Master's Program will render an advanced degree in Audiology/Speech Language Pathology. Or at least I think it will. Candidly, she is seeking a degree in a specialty whose description is too long and too complicated for this simple man's rapidly decreasing brain to remember upon request. At the University of Colorado, I majored in Political Science - and yes, I have attempted to bullshit someone this week. Thereafter, I went to law school and took a law degree. My two stabs at higher education netted two degrees with a total of three words in their description. That's a speed I can handle. What Suzanne is pursuing? Not so much.

The single most remarkable thing to me about where her interest lies is that it seems, at first glance, to be anomalous. Suzanne and Margaret time-share the same thimble of patience for most of the rest of the world. And at times - when the planets align just right - there is ample room in it for them to each place a thumb without displacing the little bit of residual patience congealing on the bottom. Thus, given Suz's apparent lack of interest in embracing those around her whose response time is too slow to suit her needs, her ardent passion for and love of those in genuine need might seem forced or inconsistent. It is neither.

Suzanne's greatest gift is her ability to distinguish a genuine need from an excuse. Thus, those she encounters who go thru their lives at half-speed - out of choice - and who devote more time and energy erecting obstacles to their own success than they do working towards that success are those who end up in her "zero patience" pile. On the other hand, those who go thru their lives at full speed and do all they can do, in spite of whatever obstacle was thrust upon them at birth or perhaps at some point thereafter are - I think - her heroes. I know they are her inspiration.

Her final year of college she worked as a teacher's aide/assistant at the Lakeview School in Edison, New Jersey, which is run by the Cerebral Palsy Association of Middlesex County as a school for children and young adults with a myriad of disabilities. In her day-to-day work at Lakeview, she performed tasks, which I am quite confident I would have difficulty performing for those I love the most dearly, for students and did so without complaint. She would come home from every day's work at Lakeview and tell Margaret and me the most amazing stories about one thing or another that one of "her kids" had accomplished. One's eyes burn no brighter than when they are lit by desire. Suz's eyes blazed every day.

In a number of ways - all of which are beneficial to her and will be of great benefit to those she shall spend her life caring for and helping - Suzanne is her mother's daughter. Among all of the sadness that darkened our doorstep the first half of this month, one thing happened that made me extraordinarily proud. I watched as my daughter - a young woman of 23 - grieving as she was the death of her great-grandmother, controlled her grief and allowed it to be subsumed by her need to be there as the primary support system for her mother, which in turn allowed Margaret - grieving the death of her grandmother - to control her own grief and allow it to be subsumed by her need to be there as the principal pillar of support for her mother, which in turn allowed Sue to grieve the death of her mother without having to give a moment's thought to what else was going on around her. Suzanne never wavered. And while her own heart was getting chewed up a bit by all that was happening, she never stopped being brave. It was remarkable to see and perhaps for those who do not know Suzanne - who is every inch her mother's daughter - it was a bit of a surprise. For those of us who know her, it was simply Suz being Suz.

I think I will hit one of those back-to-school sales this weekend to pick her up something special for her first day of graduate school. Hm - a lunch box or Stewie Griffin's Guide to World Domination? Tough call. I mean - a girl's gotta eat right? On the other hand....

I'll figure it out. Nobody say anything to her. I want her to be surprised. She has most certainly earned it.

-AK