Saturday, January 31, 2009


Is it deja vu if a scene that you had played out in your head previously actually unreels before your eyes but not in the context in which you had imagined it? When the young adults who are my kids were merely children (boy, they have sure gotten older have they not? I am glad that I am not aging at a similar pace - what do you mean, that is not how it works? Who the hell asked you anyway?) I hoped that at least one of them would follow in my nimble footsteps and matriculate all the way to Boulder, Colorado for their college experience. Alas, neither did. In fact, neither went to college more than an hour from home - Suzanne in South Orange and Rob went right across the river into Manhattan.

Once the collegiate die had been cast for each of them, I presumed that my vision of strolling the campus at CU-Boulder with one of them was to exist only in my mind's eye. Yet, this very weekend I have had the chance to show Rob my alma mater and the town in which I spent some of my life's most adventurous years, which candidly I do not recall as well as I wish I did. Instead of walking around the campus with my college freshman on Parent's Weekend, I am doing it with my son - taking a break from his job and his adult life - to take a gander at the place alongside the old man.

To the great surprise of no one - me included - it turns out that Mom was right. When I was young and had one of the gazillion "How will I ever get thru this?" life events that all of us is forced to endure, Mom would remind me simply that "everything happens for a reason" and "you never know where your next opportunity will come from". Who knew that all those years, Mom had her own business writing fortune cookies? The somewhat homespun advice was easy to pooh-pooh as a rambunctious teenager for, after all, what could my adult parent have possibly known about the world that I, her worldly-wise child of 17 to 21, did not already know?

I realized long ago that the answer to my riddle is, "quite a hell of a lot actually". I ceased being amazed by her fearless forecasting years ago. I do not pretend to understand from whence the source of all her known has sprung - I just mine it and when the opportunity presents itself I put it into action. And I sit back and enjoy the results.

They are as satisfying as a slice of 'za from Abo's on the Hill, which was both a favorite haunt and an employer while I was a student at CU, enjoyed in the company of my son who I had long ago - and prematurely as it turned out - given up hoping would ever see this place - or me in it.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Sixteen Candles (Plus Eight)

It is inconceivable to me that today Suzanne is 24 years old. Twenty-four already? At times it does not seem possible because just yesterday she was a little girl. And at times it does not seem possible because she appears often to be wise beyond her years - as if she has been at least 24 for 24 years or so. But I take on faith what appears on the calendar and today is, in fact, the 30th of January Aught-Nine. While my math skills are limited at best, I can do basic arithmetic.

I do not have "when she was a baby" story for Suzanne - or for Rob for that matter. I am the guy with the "Chia" family. I woke up on the morning of June 19, 1993 as a single man with no children and by 12:01 that afternoon I was a married man with two small kids. I first entered into Suzanne's life when she was about six and a half years old. But despite the absence of that time spent together, we have crammed a lifetime's worth of memories into the seventeen plus years we have shared thus far.

Suzanne was a remarkable little girl and - being her mother's daughter - she has grown into a remarkable young woman. She has elected as her life's pursuit working with people to whom life has presented more than just the usual array of challenges that bedevil the rest of us. And to my never-ending amazement, the same young lady who often lacks the patience to wait for microwave popcorn to fully pop, has an endless reservoir of patience for those she helps daily. She comes home at night and shares with Margaret and me her day's worth of triumphs witnessed - in a thousand different ways.

Today is her day. And while I shall be 2000 miles and 2 time zones away while she celebrates it, I hope she knows that I am there with her for it -as is her brother - even while we are in Wyoming. And more than just today, I hope she knows that I am there for her - regardless of where she is and where I am - because that is how it is for fathers and daughters.

And that is how it is for us. Happy birthday Suz - I love you very much. Enjoy the day. You certainly deserve it.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

When a Day Off Is Not an "Off" Day.....

It's an odd feeling for me - waking up on a "work" day and not having a job to which to go. It is not a permanent situation thankfully. I am simply vegetating for a couple of days prior to starting as "the new guy" for the first time in eleven years when I arrive for work on Monday morning. While the original plan for how to spend a Thursday and Friday of this week called for nothing particularly exciting, about two weeks ago or so I called an audible. Thus, instead of getting up this morning and searching for things to do, I am off to Newark Airport - gateway to the West.

Well, technically speaking, I think the residents of St. Louis have laid claim to the whole "Gateway to the West" moniker. No matter - one's gateway is a somewhat personal thing I suppose. For me, this morning, Newark Airport is the stepping-off point for my flight to Denver, which will then lead me on a drive north to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Cheyenne, Wyoming is Rob's home. Thus, while this trip is both ordinary - a simple trip from East to West to see my son, it is also a bit extraordinary. It marks the first time in my life that I, the parent, shall visit one of my adult child - my son - in his home. I went into New York City a few times while he lived in Manhattan as a college student. But while those trips were to the New Yorker Hotel he called home, they kind of, sort of felt like visits to a dorm - as opposed to an apartment or a house.

I am intrigued not only by the journey West to see the new - my son's home and his life in Wyoming - but also to let him see a glimpse into my past - my life in Boulder, Colorado. In the couple of months since he moved to Cheyenne he has not had the opportunity to explore the remnants of the old man's past. I am sincerely looking forward to showing him a little bit of my history.

Not a bad way to spend a Thursday, eh?


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jesus, John Wayne and Me......

This morning my intrepid little automobile, which I affectionately refer to as "Skate" because it has about as many fancy options as your average pair of roller skates (and I am referring to the traditional double wheeled variety and not those fancy-schmancy in-line kind), carried me one last time as an employee to the parking lot at 629 Parsippany Road. We slid thru the ice and snow of the unpaved lot (my fault - not the landscaper - as my day begins significantly earlier than his does) and safely into the cozy confines of my reserved spot. So noted by the impressive "AK" painted onto the macadam. I have made the journey to the Firm an average of six days a week for slightly more than eleven years, including the past past nine and a half years of my adventure during which time we have called this particular location home.

When I arrived here on January 5, 1998, neither the hair on my head nor the hair in my beard had begun to whiten or to gray. Eleven years later both have done so perceptibly - particularly the whiskers on my chin. In fairness to my fellow employees however I attribute that much more to the passage of my kids from "childhood" to "adulthood" by the regular route - the teenage years - than I do to anything related to work. I arrived here younger, less experienced and less knowledgeable than I am today. I hope when I exit the parking lot for the final time this evening that it is more than just my age that has increased over the span of my career here. I suspect that is the case but at day's end, it is not for me to say I suppose.

The reaction throughout the Firm to my announcement - exactly four weeks ago - of my departure has been mixed. I know that there are those among my colleagues who are disappointed by my decision and perhaps fell somewhere in their heart of hearts as if I have betrayed them or let them down by moving on. It would be easy to quickly dismiss such a position as absurd or perhaps unreasonable but, in fairness, while the former might be true I do not think either is. An opinion is simply that - an expression of one's own personal belief about a particular person, place or thing. I may disagree with it but as long as it is stated as opinion and not fact, it cannot be dismissed as wrong.

I disagree with those here - and you know who you are (and sadly so do I) - who feel as if my decision has given them or the Firm short shrift. I would point out to you what you know to be true - even if you have temporarily chosen to ignore it - which is that at the end of the day none of us owes a greater responsibility to those who are on the outside when we pull our front door closed at day's end than we do to those who are with us on the inside. If anyone here who has expressed surprise, anger or disappointment at my decision to leave here did not come to understand that I will choose Margaret and my children over the rest of the world each time and every time then all I can say is that, regrettably for you perhaps, you never knew me at all. Or perhaps you need what all of need when confronted with news we consider to be unpleasant - just a bit of time and distance. With those in our hip pocket, perspective is inevitably gained.

Work is work - it is not "fun for pay" no matter how much we wish that were the case. And as "work" goes, I have enjoyed a most hospitable place to work for these past eleven years. Human beings are like snakes (wow - a built in lawyer joke on my last day here) in that we leave a trace of ourself - we shed a little skin - every place we go. So, as is the case with everyone, I leave a bit of myself here. And here it shall remain for as long as there is a "here". And I hope that is for a very, very long time indeed.

Me? Time to go. They just called "all aboard" for the 3:10 to Yuma.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

So, you must be Leonard.....

It is a dicey business - the celebration of birthdays and other such events - during the winter season here in the northeastern part of these United States. One wonders if in the entire recorded history of San Diego, California a celebration has ever been postponed or cancelled due to inclement weather? I suspect not.

Here 'neath the snow globe however weather plays an important role in winter time event-planning. Bad weather can manifest itself in any one of a number of ways. We can of course get so much snow that getting from Point A to Point B without Yukon Cornelius to drive you and Rudolph's incandescent beacon to guide you is a fool's errand. We can get the dreaded "wintry mix" of ice, freezing rain and sleet which turns our highways and byways into a surface better suited for the NHL All-Star Game than driving (except that much more hitting occurs on our roads than on All-Star ice). We can even get the indescribable cold that pushes the mercury so low that your teeth do not even chatter - they cannot as they have frozen into one solid block of Chicklet look-alikes.

Normally, I am not a wintertime party sort of fellow so the vagaries and predilections of Big Momma Nature tend to affect me minimally. This week, however that might not in fact be the case. Tomorrow is my final day of employment at the law firm where I have practiced law (and one day I'll get it right daggummit!) for the past eleven years. And for reasons unbeknownst to me, the nice folks with whom I have worked throughout the span of my time here have decided to get together tomorrow night after work for some sort of bon voyage shindig. While I suspect it is to ensure that I am actually leaving - and not simply perpetrating the world's greatest practical joke on them - regardless of the sentiment or the justification for what seems to me to be a colossal waste of their time and resources, an indeterminate number of us are supposed to matriculate up the road from the office tomorrow night for one final drink.

We shall set aside for a moment that in the eleven years in which I have worked where I shall work thru day's end tomorrow, I have on exactly two occasions gone out with any of my co-workers for a cocktail. Once upon a time (it is a better opening line than "from 1985 thru 1993") I had a fairly serious alcohol problem. I loved it and it loved me. It was the rest of the world that misunderstood us. Having awakened one morning to the very real fear that I was morphing into my father, I weaned myself off of everything except for the occasional beer. Thus, it is not simply the fact that I am an anti-social SOB that has kept me off of the after-work happy hour circuit with my fellow employees all these years, it is fear. And it is the worst kind of fear - the fear of the known.

Anyway, tomorrow night's festivities (using that term under permission granted by the Institute of Hyperbole) might not be able to go forward. Mother Nature is one bad a** mutha and has apparently ordered up a bit of winter fun for thus of us here in the State of Gardens - beginning tonight and continuing thru into tomorrow. Yesterday, there was a move afoot to change the date - just in case - a move that I quickly applied the ever-popular kibosh to in order to stop it. As I explained to Theresa, my secretary/assistant who has suffered thru almost four years of listening to me jabber away on dictation tapes from wherever I might be at the time I start talking into my Dictaphone, there may in fact be "make-up" date. If the plans are scrapped due to the weather, then so be it. I shall exit this firm as I entered it eleven years ago - by myself and under the cover of darkness.

Thinking of all the angst being generated by the impending meteorological doom reminded me of my birthday party when I was in kindergarten (my birthday is one day next week). When I was in kindergarten at St. Paul's Catholic School in Princeton, New Jersey (known not too affectionately by its attendees as "St. Paul's Prison Camp") I was not exactly the most popular kid in class. Not only was I not discernibly more charming than I am now, but just for sh*ts and giggles I was dealing with childhood epilepsy, a condition for which I took (at that time) 4 tablespoons of Phenobarbital daily. Some pretty funky stuff used to happen to me - even when I took my medicine - such as the occasional seizure. I remember one that broke loose in school when I was in kindergarten. One minute I am digging thru the jumbo box of toys at the back of Mrs. Spaeth's classroom and the next I am sitting up from a prone position in the middle of the cold linoleum floor looking at a circle of classmates with their mouths agape having the sinking feeling that I has just blown my shot with Joanie DeTuro. Apparently, moshing in a pit while listening to Smashing Pumpkins is cool. Moshing by oneself during play time in kindergarten is something else altogether.

There were 30 kids or so in my kindergarten class and as if being a whirling dervish was not enough to freak out my classmates, I was also ahead of most of them academically (except for Michael Kim), which necessitated Michael and I going to take part in the first-grade math and English classes. In the vanilla melting pot that was SPPC in the 1972-73 school year, the big-headed kid whose head spun around and the Asian kid with the bi-focals were not exactly the playground equivalent of Starsky and Hutch.

Mom - for reasons not entirely clear to me (because I cannot recall ever having had another party) - permitted me to have a birthday party. While I cannot recall whether my birthday fell on a Saturday that year or not, my party was on for a Saturday afternoon. Mom allowed me to go to the bakery with her and choose the type of cake we were going to have and the decorations on it - I still remember the cowboys, the Indians and the fence pieces that adorned it. Mom sent me to school with an invitation for each one of my classmates. And then we waited for the big day to arrive.

When I was a little boy, my folks lived in one of the 8 million homes in which George Washington allegedly slept during the Revolutionary War. Apparently, if one believes the placards and other indicia scattered thru central New Jersey, the Father of our country slept a lot. One wonders how long it would have taken us to win our freedom from the Brits had Papa George not suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. We lived on Canal Road in Belle Mead, which was roughly 5 to 8 miles from Princeton, which was where my school was located and where most of my friends lived. We did not even live in what could be considered the middle of nowhere. Rather we were exploring the frontier of nowhere's outer boundaries.

To this day, I do not know how many - if any - of my classmates RVSP'ed that they were coming to my party. All I know is that overnight - from Friday into Saturday - it snowed a lot. It snowed so much that we did not think anyone would make it to the party. And almost no one did. In fact, only one boy did - Leonard. For the life of me I cannot recall that he and I were actually friends. I tend to think of him in my mind's eye as one of the invitees by virtue of the fact that he was a classmate. And yet in spite of it all - and in spite of having to drive to Belle Mead from Kendall Park - he made it. And he stayed for however long the invitation said the party was to last. I do not recall us doing anything other than maybe playing a board game or two, watching some TV and eating a piece or two of birthday cake. We were two little kids who had nothing in common except for Mrs. Spaeth's kindergarten class, which we learned on that long, cold Saturday afternoon made us classmates, but not necessarily friends.

And for the life of me, while I am certain that he/I had conversations after the day of the party-killing snowfall, I cannot recall a single one of them. And I cannot recall him - other than in my parent's house on Canal Road - on that one particular day.

Even as a kid, any get-together for my benefit went forward irrespective of weather. I do not live my life with "make up" dates. If the weather forces us to cancel, then I suppose we shall and I will say my goodbyes how I intended to all along - at 5:00 p.m. with a warm handshake for one and all. For when the show is over, it is over. And sitting in your seat after the credits roll will not keep them from turning up the house lights and clearing the theatre.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Just Gonna Have to be a Different Man

This time next week will be my first day of work at a law firm other than Weiner Lesniak for the first time since 1997. Wow - when one realizes how the world has changed since I last changed jobs, it seems as if I was where I was for longer than 11 years.

Yesterday, I started making the transition to my place of employment. I drove to the new gig in order to start the process of moving a lot of my personal effects (a/k/a "my junk") into my new digs. And at some point, while I was making the trek from my car to the building, carting in my treasures, it finally hit me. It finally occurred to me what this week is all about - what it means to me and to my life.

While I have never embraced change during my life, this is a change to which I am looking forward very much - and not because of anything bad that has ever occurred during my time at my present job. Nothing could be further from the truth. This change has come because it has to - nothing more and nothing less.

There was a time in my professional life when I could not imagine practicing law anywhere but the firm where I have spent the past eleven years. Clearly that is no longer the case. Not having anticipated this change's arrival, I am nevertheless excited about it and in fact feel re energized by it.

Changes are indeed taking the pace I'm going through.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Two Queens and Their Courts

Kay Yow and Sybil Moses were women who each achieved staggering success in their chosen profession.

Yow spent more than thirty-five years as the Varsity Women's Basketball Coach at North Carolina State University and along the way earned more than twenty 20-win seasons, multiple NCAA bids, several Sweet 16 slots and once - a trip to the Final Four. Oh, and for good measure in 1988 she coached the U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball team to the Gold Medal in Seoul, South Korea after having been an assistant coach on the 1984 squad that won gold in the Los Angeles Olympics.

Moses spent approximately thirty-five years in the practice of law. After she graduated from Rutgers School of Law-Newark in 1974, she spent five years as an Assistant Prosecutor in the Office of the Bergen County Prosecutor and thereafter seven years as an Administrative Law Judge. In 1987, she was appointed to the Superior Court of New Jersey in Bergen County. Then, in 1997, she was named to serve as the Assignment Judge of the Superior Court in Bergen County. She was the first woman ever appointed to fill the position of Assignment Judge in any of this state's judicial vicinages.

Kay Yow and Sybil Moses shared another unfortunate and ultimately tragic distinction - each was attacked by and ultimately killed by the insidious bastard that is breast cancer. Yow, originally diagnosed in 1987 and then again in 2004 and 2006 kept coaching in spite of the ravages of her illness - until this season when she had to take one final leave of absence due to it. On Saturday, January 24, 2009, twenty-two years after first invading her life, breast cancer took it.

A day earlier, breast cancer had taken Judge Moses. While there were stories throughout the Bergen County Courthouse the past few years of Her Honor's health travails, it is unclear to me from looking at the various articles about her life and her death when the disease was initially diagnosed. It had advanced to the stage, however, where it made it impossible for her to do her job. In New Jersey all Superior Court judges - including the seven Justices who comprise our court of last resort (the Supreme Court) - are subject to mandatory retirement at age 70. Judge Moses retired at age 69.

Two women in two different parts of the country who made their careers and their professional marks in fields that have little to do with one another bound together by a common defining characteristic - courage. In the face of overwhelming odds and an always-advancing enemy, both Coach Yow and Judge Moses played hard and argued strong and did so with dignity and with passion. Neither lost. Both simply ran out of time and lacked a higher court before which to further argue the case.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

One Last Saturday Morning....

I am a creature of habit. One of my habits - grown in part out of job-related necessity but in larger part, sadly, out of genetically-created neurosis - is that I work a lot. I am leaving the law firm where I have practiced law for the past eleven years this Wednesday. Yet, today - as has been the case for at least 50 out of 52 Saturdays a year for the past eleven years - I am at work. As I write this in the pre-dawn hours of what is projected to be a bitter cold Saturday (wow, bitter cold weather in New Jersey in January, who knew?) I am home doing some work prior to taking my car for its 3000 mile service check. Thereafter I will make the pilgrimage north to work, which will likely occupy my day thru today's early afternoon hours.

Life is what you make of it I suppose and the calculus of the exercise is such that a million decisions - of varying degrees of significance - are made by each of us every day. And lost in the rhythms of our own crazy E Street shuffle is the fact that every decision made - regardless of its size or apparent significance - moves us in a particular direction. It moves us towards something and, inevitably, it moves us away from something else.

Margaret and I were married when I was in my mid-20's. Prior to meeting and falling in love with the woman who would become my wife, I never seriously contemplated either marriage or parenthood. Candidly, given the less-than-stellar relationship I had with my father at the time of his death and my adoption - consciously or otherwise - of many of his habits and mannerisms and the struggle to not adopt any of his more destructive (self or otherwise) tendencies - there are only a handful of people on this planet who I presumed were less well-suited than I to be a parent. And on one glorious (if one defines "glorious" as a day so stifling hot that all involved thought we might spontaneously combust on the way to the altar - I cannot recall whether it was my idea or Margaret's to get married outdoors at 12:00 noon on a June day in Jersey but I suspect that when the blame is finally doled out it shall have been mine) day everything changed for me. I went from single guy to husband and father of two.

And with a family of four now on the docket, the need for the relentless pursuit of capital was self-evident. And pursue it I have. Along the way, I have achieved what I would consider (immodestly perhaps but if you are surprised by that then you really need to start reading some of the older, archived posts) a good amount of professional success and thru the hard work of Margaret and of me, we have secured financial stability for our little unit as well.

But everything comes with a price. And there is a cost for it. Jackson Browne was right. The only question is whether the price is one that you are willing to pay.

And over the course of the past fifteen-plus years as our kids have grown from children to adulthood, there have been many days - including Saturdays - when the growth process took place while I was somewhere other than here. It took place while I was at work. I suppose if one has a "vice" that it is most convenient to have it be a bill-paying vice as opposed to gambling or some such thing.

Convenient? Yes. Better? That I fear is a question that I am ill-equipped to answer. For through it all, for better and at times for worse, I am my father's son.


Friday, January 23, 2009

A Little Elfen Magic

Marriage is a funny thing - unless your relationship follows the trajectory of the Turners, the Bobbitts or the Roses I suppose, which makes it something much less so. Actually marriage is not one single thing - funny or otherwise. It is the perpetual accrual and disbursement of a million little things - constantly filling and then vacating space along the time-space continuum in order to take the place of and then make room for the things preceding and following them.

Margaret and I are married more than fifteen and one-half years. I think our relationship works - to the extent that any of these things work - because she is exceptionally understanding of my many faults and I spend just enough time out of the house at work during the week to cap my "fault-making time" at an allowable limit. We have lived in the home in which we presently reside for almost eight years. I was happy with it - generally speaking - when we moved into it. However, over the course of the past eight years we have undertaken ourselves and/or paid contractors to perform a variety of "home improvement" projects, some the need for which was readily apparent to even my unskilled eye (such as replacing the windows and the roof and replacing the cedar shake shingles with vinyl siding) and others for which candidly I saw neither the need nor the purpose.

Universally speaking though, while several have stumped me going into them, the tangible improvement that undertaking them has brought to our home is unmistakable. All of which makes Margaret smile the smile of one who knows in her head what the end result will be before the project is started and who forgives the stupidity of her teammate in the three-legged race that is marriage for not being able to visualize it.

One such project kicked off yesterday. Apparently "we" were in need of bigger closets in our bedroom, which having been married for some time now I immediately understood to mean Margaret was in need of a bigger closet. Left unsaid was that my options were (a) hiring a guy to make a bigger closet for each of us; (b) risk embarrassment and (in certain seasons) hypothermia running out into the backyard every morning in the darkness wearing nothing other than my uniform I was issued when I arrived here to retrieve my clothes. Being slow on the uptake but not brain dead, I opted for the former - although as she explained to me that we were now each going to have more than six feet of room for clothing I sat and wondered if in the totality of my four-plus decades here whether every article of clothing I have ever owned would fill such a space.

Upon arriving home last night I discovered the gaping twelve-foot plus hole in the wall on one side of our room - where our two apparently horribly inadequate closets once stood. And I smiled. While I would be lying if I said that I can envision what the end result will look like, I have more than a little faith. Faith in the process. And a lot of faith in the mad scientist to whom I am married - who looks into the detail of things with an eye I do not possess, forgives me my own infirmities and then acts decisively to make life better for both of us.

I suspect for some odd reason that within a day or two of my clothes being moved into their new digs, they and I both will wonder how we ever lived under the old system.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Relentless as the Rain

While there are any number of things, both tangible and intangible, which overwhelm my brain (the curse of the simple mind I suppose) there are few with which I struggle more mightily than time. I am not alone in my struggle to comprehend it I suppose and its maddeningly fleeting nature. When one is bored, one speaks of having "too much time on my hands". When one is harried, one frets over "so much to do, so little time". And when we are out of it - and have no more of it to spend, then we note simply that "time's up!"

Perhaps the genesis of my confusion arises in part out of the multitude of units of measure used to gage it. We have a unit for all occasions it seems - ranging from an instant to an eternity and making every stop in between on the time-space continuum. And inevitably it leads all of us to the same place. A certain element of my day-to-day has very much taken on the appearance of marking time. I am leaving my present place of employment ,where I have worked for eleven years, on January 28th. I am off to pursue a new challenge. It is where I have plied my craft for eleven years and when I told them I was leaving, I provided them with one month's notice.

Almost immediately the unit of measurement for the remainder of my tenure was reduced from a "month" to "weeks". For most of this countdown period in fact weeks has been the preferred unit of measurement. Until today. Today is Thursday the 22nd of January. My final day here is Wednesday the 28th of January. "Weeks" no longer applies. The unit of measurement du jour is in fact - the day. For where once there were a seemingly endless number of them, there are but six on the calendar - of which probably only five shall be spent working.

Is it my time here that is running out or is it me? I reckon that depends upon who one asks. But do not ask me. I am outta here. Gotta go, no time to talk.

It's always that way at the end isn't it?


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

And So It Begins.....

In a little while, dawn will break on the first full day of the Obama Administration. I am saddened by the fact that I missed yesterday's events because I was camped out in the Warren County Courthouse in Belvidere, New Jersey, assigned out to begin trial on a matter and could not get to either a television, radio or computer to witness the Inauguration of our nation's first African-American President (an event, which as a white male in his early 40's I must admit I did not think I would live to see in my lifetime).

And I am annoyed at the fact that not only did I miss the entirety of the day's events as they unfolded but I wasted an entire day in court as at or about 3:15 p.m. yesterday afternoon the matter I was there to try settled for a pittance - as the woman suing my client decided that she really did not want to try her case. Had she had that epiphany at some point earlier than yesterday, I would have been able to watch Chief Justice Roberts administer the oath (and here is to hoping that four years hence, whether to President Obama as he begins his second term or to whoever else may be standing before him, the Chief Justice masters the trickerations of prepositions ("President to the United States"?) and the rest of the Oath's language.)

It was amazing to see the sea of humanity packed into the Mall in D.C. on a frigid January day. I heard on the radio last night as I drove home from work that the police estimated more than 2 million people occupied the 3 miles of space on the Mall that separates the Capitol Building from the Lincoln Memorial and that it was so cold ("How cold was it?") that the water in the Reflecting Pool was frozen. More than the sheer number of people in attendance, impressive to me and refreshing to see was the diversity of the crowd. It was a mix of ages, genders, nationalities and races.

Looking at the footage last night of the tapestry of faces, all smiling (and some with tears frozen on their cheeks), it made me think back to the last time I had seen such an emotionally charged - and diversified - crowd of Americans together all pulling in the same direction. And it seemed to me that it has been more than seven years. It seems to me - in my mind's eye - that I can see innumerable such gatherings in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001. It was then - just for a moment regrettably - that we saw no colors, politically or otherwise, and stood together.

Historians and others will argue over what caused the reservoir of good feeling that appeared ready to overflow in the late Autumn of Aught-One to reach drought levels in less than a decade but regardless of the reasons, what has been done has been done. Absent a breakthrough with the blasted way-back machine, life will continue to move in but one direction - and that direction is not backwards.

Perhaps that yesterday's show of support, unity and whatever else one wishes to call it arose out of joy - and not out of tragedy - will give it sturdier footings upon which to grow than its predecessor? I know not the answer to that question. And while I do not know whether President Obama knows the answer to that question either - or knows the answers to all of the really tough questions that confront him for that matter - I know that having seen the results of what happens when we cease acting as if we actually give a damn about someone other than the reflection we see in the bathroom mirror, it appears to be in our self-interest (both as individuals and as a nation) to do what we can to keep the feelings of yesterday alive today - and into tomorrow.

It makes as much sense to declare a Presidency a success based upon Inauguration Day as it does to measure a marriage's success by the Wedding Day. There is a lot of life to be lived after the bouquet is tossed and the last drunken guest is removed from the premises. Likewise, there is quite a lot of work to be done after the final balloon is popped and the last of the confetti is swept up.

Here's to getting accomplished what needs to get accomplished - not just by our new President but by all of us. For if we are truly in this together, then we must recognize that nobody rides for free.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Off to Heaven on a Gyroscope

Today, while I am starting trial on the final case I shall try before I leave my present Firm and move just a bit further on up the road (both metaphorically and geographically), our Nation will watch with anticipation as United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (that was a free civics lesson kids in anticipation of a litany "Hey, who's the dude holding the Bible?" queries) administers the oath of office to the 44th President this grand land has known, Barack Obama.

It is appropriate or merely theatrical that our new President - an Illini - shall be sworn in using the same Bible as did our 16th President Abraham Lincoln - also an Illini? I know not but it does seem from here as if both arrived at their moment on the world's stage charged with similar missions - prevention of the division of the Union. Lincoln worked hard to ensure that the Union - while fractured - did not break completely or permanently and that our divided house eventually was repaired. As we transition today from the first Presidency of the 21st Century to the second we realize - or we should at least - that we stand in Aught-Nine in a markedly different place than we found way back when in Aught - Aught.

Many Americans embrace today's Inauguration as much for its symbolism as its substance - exhausted and embittered by the tenor and the tempo of the past eight years - and eager to support what they hope will not only be a change - but a change for the better.

At day's end, all of us want to be Mary Lou. We all just want to know that "the dope's that there's still hope."

And today there is. And so long as it is there today, it can exist tomorrow. And that should be enough to get us through.

Here's to hope.....


Monday, January 19, 2009

River Walk

Perhaps it is the Irish in me - we are after all a pessimistic people by nature - but I cannot escape the ever-rising level of unease I am feeling as the hype level for the Obama Presidency spills out and over the rim of the urn of hyperbole. I hope it is just me but the harder the sell, the more concerned I grow. I half-expected him, yesterday afternoon, at the beginning of "We Are One" to continue down the front steps of the Lincoln Memorial, walk across the water of the Reflecting Pool to its far end, then upon exiting the pool continue up the Mall to the Washington Monument, which he would then - for good measure - leap over in a single bound.

The more I see about the pre-inauguration canonization of our 44th President, the more that I am plagued by two nagging questions. First, is there any way he can do the job well enough to approximate "success" in the face of the ridiculous expectations that the adoring media has thrust upon him? Second, given that he is human and that all of the fine men and women who he shall call upon for assistance in performing the most impossible of all of this planet's impossible jobs, in the event that when the rubber meets the road, he turns out not to be Superhuman but rather - a super human or something less than that altogether - will the same gaggle of media types who have anointed him be able to accurately report on any failures or shortcomings he seems inevitably destined to experience, due to the job itself?

I know not what the answer is to Question #1 although regardless of what color state you reside in (from space our state looks principally green and brown, apparently), unless your own "to-do" list includes "Get elected President of the United States in 2012", we all hope it shall be "Yes". It is an "everybody wins" scenario because a successful Presidency for President Obama means success - to some degree - for all of us. I do have a real concern about the answer to Question #2. Given how much time and energy has been expended in this latest (and to my eye and ear unparalleled) exercise in king-making, it seems unrealistic to think that those who have fueled the hype machine can be counted upon by the rest of us to accurately report the events of the day. Call me skeptical but methinks that Maureen Dowd will spend significantly less space in her column over the course of the next four years railing against the tenant who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue than she has over the course of the past eight years - regardless of whether she should.

The excitement in this country is palpable. And while I have my issues with the hype masters, there is on denying that we stand on the verge of a historic day. A day that one wonders if the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ever really envisioned or imagined as he shared his own dreams with a crowd gathered in the Mall in Washington DC - between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument - on a balmy August day in 1963.

There is nothing wrong with working on a dream. It is helpful to remember, however, that which I hope we do not have to consider and think back upon four years from now. That is, whether a dream is a lie if it does not come true or is it something worse.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Day Well Spent

Yesterday afternoon - at a place that was once as much home to me as any house in which I had ever lived as a boy - an amazing thing happened. The rotation of the earth slowed just enough - for several hours anyway - to allow folks who have for the most part stepped out of one another's life over the passage of the past twenty-five years to slip back in seamlessly.

Time has of course advanced the ball up the field during the past quarter-century. A number of the attendees at yesterday's Reunion/Reception at W-H brought along spouses and children, accessories that I do not recall even the most fashionable of my female classmates toting thru the halls with them as they moved from class to class. For me, I spent the day with a number of people who I had thought of often but seen not at all in the quarter-century or so since we had all graduated high school. It was as wonderful to see classmates like Beth and Emilie - neither of whom I had seen since we were all in college - and it was quite amazing to realize that neither of them has aged more than about 11 seconds in twenty-five years. Rubbing the sleep out of my own eyes this morning at the commencement of this day's hostilities, looking at myself in the mirror, I could not help but wonder when they had become such accomplished liars as they both told me yesterday that I look now as I did then. Funny but I do not recall either the crow's legs (they grew from feet a long time ago) or the gray hair when I was 18.

It was an absolute treat for me yesterday to be able to sit back and watch the interaction between men and women who had not - in some cases - seen one another since all of us were much younger than we presently are. And it was of course both exciting and poignant to see the members of the 1983 boys basketball team who were able to get there for the ceremony in their honor - including Dana and Stacy, both of whom have stood in for their big brother Greg at events such as this one ever since his untimely death a number of years ago. As a guy who had a very small part in putting yesterday's events together, hearing from both sisters how happy she was that the school did it and how touched they were to have been a part of it, clinched the deal for me as to whether it was the right thing to do. And as a guy who twenty-five years ago was always dually struck by the beauty in Dana's face and the sadness in her eyes, I was thrilled yesterday to see the former and not even a trace of the latter. Having the pleasure of meeting her husband Mike and one of their daughters, I know that the sadness is gone and is not coming back. And that made me smile. And it makes me smile again this morning as I write this.

I know not whether it shall be another twenty years or so before the trajectory of my life's path crosses with that of one or more of my fellow congregants. While I suspect not, I know not and for what it is worth, it matters not. All the miles in between and all the calendar pages turned since we had last seen one another meant nothing yesterday afternoon. And they mean less this morning.

In this space I often cite to one of my favorite works of non-fiction - Downtown: My Manhattan by Pete Hamill. His work is an homage to his home, Manhattan, and principally to the parts of the City where he has lived for the past fifty years. There is a section in the book - early on - in which he writes:

The New York version of nostalgia....involves an almost fatalistic acceptance of the permanent presence of loss. Nothing will ever stay the same. Tuesday turns into Wednesday and something valuable is behind you forever. An "is" has become a "was". Whatever you have lost - you will not get it back: not that much-loved brother, not that ball club, not that splendid bar, not that place where you once went dancing with the person you later married. Irreversible change happens so often in New York that the experience affects character itself. New York toughens its people against sentimentality by allowing the truer emotion of nostalgia. Sentimentality is always about a lie. Nostalgia is about real things gone. Nobody truly mourns a lie.

Yesterday was all about nostalgia and not at all about sentimentality. And that is what made all of the difference. It was a day well spent. Indeed it was.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Time to Move the Flock Out of Here?

There are six of us - Kenny siblings. A generation + ago, the third-born child/second-born son - my older brother Kelly - matriculated his way through Immaculata High School in Somerville, New Jersey. Kelly graduated in the mid-1970's so "the Big Immac" as he and his pals called it had not yet morphed into the athletic juggernaut that it is presently, which is not surprising in view of the fact that Immaculata only opened its doors for business about seven or eight years before Kelly's class graduated.

Kelly graduated from Immaculata either in '75 or '76 (I think). Regardless of the year of his graduation, one of the things that is most memorable to me about it - thirty-plus years later - is his Senior Quote in his yearbook. His choice was an "Old Irish Proverb" - Act like a shepherd and get the flock out of here. It was a very obscure Proverb, of unknown origin perhaps, given that none of the priests or nuns - including the Irish ones - affiliated with Immaculata had ever heard it or read it. Mom was sick and was (if memory serves me correctly) an in-patient at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville the day of Kelly's graduation. I recall being in the hospital with him, visiting Mom, when one of the Diocesan priests popped in to see Mom. The priest had - for whatever reason - read the yearbook, including the quotes the seniors dropped 'neath their pictures. He was genuinely curious as to the origin of my brother's, which to Kelly's credit, he did a masterful job of masking from the priest while we were all standing around Mom's bed.

There shall no doubt be a move afoot to eradicate geese from the general vicinity of airports in the aftermath of the "bird strike" that befell US Airways Flight 1549 as it took off from LaGuardia Airport on Thursday, bound for Charlotte North Carolina but landed expertly and amazingly instead in the Hudson River. If the plane's pilot, Chelsey B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III did not exist, the freaks at the cryogenics lab where Walt Disney is rumored to reside would thaw Mickey Mouse's old pal out just to draw him up.

Between his heroics in landing the plane safely and the incredible efforts of First Responders and all others in getting those who had been on the plane off of the plane and out of the killing waters of the Hudson River in mid-January in less than five minutes after the plane made contact with the water, the events of Thursday afternoon were so extraordinary that surreal is miles back in the rear-view mirror.

Presumably, aggressive action shall now be taken against Canada Geese - including but not limited to the terror cell that lives near LaGuardia Airport - in view of their stubborn refusal to cease and desist from their "bird strikes". Sadly for the geese, while Americans once viewed Canadians as being just like us - only colder and strangely intrigued by ice hockey - our view of our northern neighbors has dimmed a bit since their less than enthusiastic response to our invitation to participate in the global war against terror, particularly the endless campaign in Iraq. The Canada Geese will find few friends here - particularly in the New York area.

Move the flock out of here? It shall be Job One - just wait and see.


Friday, January 16, 2009

I Still Don't Know If We Should Tell Mom About The Car.....

When I was a kid, today was a day worth noting for two separate, distinct but (in the spiteful mind of a little brother) equally important reasons. First, it was then as it is now (amazing how that works, huh? And to think that Mom worried all those years of formal education would be wasted upon me) my sister Jill's birthday. I am the anchor man in a family of six siblings and Jill was #5 chronologically. She is forty-four years young today.

Given the relative proximity we had to one another in terms of our dates of arrival, we spent a great deal of our youth in the same place. It occurred to me when I started the 11th grade that it marked the first time in my life that Jill and I did not attend the same school. Sure, while we were both at Wardlaw-Hartridge there were years when we were on different campuses (when I was in 6th/7th and she was in 8th/9th) but from the I had first eaten paste in kindergarten class she and I had belonged to the same student body. When my junior year of high school rolled around, she was matriculating her way thru her freshman year at Notre Dame.

Given our relative proximity to one another, we were kinda, sorta in the same place when our father died on May 31, 1981. Kara (#4 in the line-up) was about one week from graduating high school while Jill and I were wrapping up 10th and 8th grades respectively. I say we were "kinda, sorta in the same place" because at the time the old man tripped over the mortal coil for the final time, Jill and Dad had a significantly different relationship than Dad and I did.

I have commented to my older brothers separately over the years that I was amazed by the metamorphosis in my father - towards me - when I turned 12 or 13. Up until that point, I had been one of his favorites. From that point forward until the day he died, we had little relationship. It was as if once his sons reached a certain age, he wished that he could trade us in for daughters or something. When I played football in 7th/8th grade, I made a particularly great play on defense during our only home game that season. Seeing a couple of my female classmates standing watching the game - with my father - behind our sideline - I came off the field and took off my helmet to go over to them (figuring that being the big-time football hero (for the one and only time in my life might I add) might get me at least a smile) to bask in my moment. Upon reaching them, my father said something to me - in front of them - that I found humiliating and reflexively I struck back - uttering something completely disrespectful. That was it - game over. He died the following Spring. He died without ever having come to see another sporting event in which I participated. No more football games and none of my team's fourteen basketball games that winter.

Yet, he made it to all of Jill's games in every sport she played - we all did - and a lifetime later I am still happy I saw her in action (even if some days Wilma I bitched about getting dragged out to Neumann Prep to watch field hockey or some such thing). Jill was/is tiny but had great athletic skill and a motor that did not stop. Kara, Jill and I all graduated from W-H, which was at the time in the smallest group/classification for Private/Non-Public Schools in the State of New Jersey. I had 57 members of my graduating class and both of my sisters had similarly-sized classes.

Regardless of how tiny the school was, when Jill was a Senior, she and one of her teammates, Maria Wilson, were both named to the Star-Ledger First Team All-New Jersey Field Hockey Team. Mom, Jill and I went to a banquet somewhere in north Jersey that was held to honor the kids who made "All New Jersey" in field hockey and in various other sports. The only two athletes in the entire room from a little school like W-H were Maria and my sister. I know I had always suspected how good a player Jill was but seeing her honored as one of the best dozen or so players in the entire state made me realize that I had never really fully appreciated just how good she was.

Jill spent her freshman year in college at Notre Dame. While she and I have never discussed this, I think of her every time I watch "A Few Good Men". There is a scene in that movie - when Kaffee (Tom Cruise) encounters Ross (Kevin Bacon) in the bar to tell him that the defense has secured Jessup's former #2 to testify on the defendants' behalf - that culminates with Ross telling Kaffee that he was "bullied into that courtroom" and among the list of bullies was "the ghost of a dead lawyer", which is a reference of course to Kaffee's father who had been the Attorney General of the United States.

If not bullied, then I think Jill got pressured into attending Notre Dame by the ghost of our father. He was among the most fervent of Subway Alumni - so much so that until I stumbled across something buried in a box or at the bottom of his closet one day a few years before he died I did not realize he had graduated from Fordham University. I just assumed he had attended Notre Dame. It turns out, he never ever had seen in person nor set foot upon the campus. Somewhere in Jill's mind and in her heart, I think she felt as if Dad - who had talked up Notre Dame to her when she was a 9th and 10th grader - would have felt betrayed if she did not go there. So she did. And she did not enjoy it. And at the end of her freshman year, she transferred to the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Had Jill liked Notre Dame, I would have gone there. As it turned out, I needed not to apply once she left. She and I are similar enough in personality type that once it did not fit her, I did not need to take it into the dressing room and try it on for myself. Instead, having spent my final two years of high school without her, I took her suggestion, applied to CU and spent four wonderful years there.

Including the final two without her, which marked the only other time between kindergarten and college that she and I did not attend school together. My junior year at CU, my friends and I remained linked to Jill, my brother-in-law Joe and their friends - we leased the house at 943 Broadway in Boulder that they had leased the year before. It was not quite the same thing as having her there but it was a palatable substitute. And when I think of all of my great friends I made in college I think as well of how close I came to never meeting any of them for had my big sister not ended up in Boulder - with Joe - I would never have done so myself.

Oh yeah - the other notable event marked by the appearance of January 16 on the calendar? Well, when I was a kid, I learned that today is "National Nothing Day". And if you think that there is a better gift to receive on your big sister's birthday than it being designated as a day, "to provide Americans with one national day when they can just sit without celebrating, observing, or honoring anything", then you are either the first-born among your sibs or you are an only child.

I smile when I write this because, Wilma, it has never been a day on which your younger brother has celebrated "nothing" regardless of what I might have otherwise said. Happy Birthday to You. I love you.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Those Championship Seasons

On Saturday, January 17th (or as my Mom used to like to say, "the day after tomorrow" - but please call neither Dennis Quaid nor Jake Gyllenhaal as they are not on the guest list) a group of people who - for the most part - have not seen a great deal of one another in the past twenty to twenty-five years shall gather. This group - or these two smaller groups (in the interest of accuracy) shall assemble at the Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison, New Jersey for a purpose - that to anyone not familiar with either the institution or the individuals being feted - seems insignificant but that to those who shall be there is significant indeed.

In 1983, the Boys Basketball Team at W-H did something extraordinary (viewing life thru the prism of high school kids, of course). After having lost back-to-back State Championship games by razor thin margins in 1981 and 1982, they won the State title in '83. They did it as an underdog - defeating on the way to the title two teams who had defeated them in the '83 regular season and coincidentally who had vanquished them in the State Finals in '81 (Rutgers Prep) and '82 (Pennington). The core group of the team - who had played a bit as 10th graders, taken on expanded roles as 11th graders before growing into their role at the center of the action - was comprised of a bunch of kids who were thick as thieves - and when they won the title in what was their senior season, their joy was as palpable as it was contagious.

In 1984, the Girls Basketball Team at W-H accomplished something that no previous edition of the lady hoopsters in school history had ever accomplished - they won the State Championship. The girls did not have the recent history of heartbreak of their male counterparts to fuel their run to the title. They simply had cohesion, skill, heart, talent and luck - a combination that any coach will tell you is the recipe for success in team sports - and they relied upon those attributes to win the State title.

Time is a fickle being. Sometimes friend, sometimes foe but always moving. On Saturday, members of the 1983 and 1984 State Champions will gather (along with quite a few of us who played on neither team but were there as students when these moments occurred) at W-H and be honored during the half-times of the girl's varsity game (beginning at 1:00 p.m.) and the boy's varsity game (scheduled to tip at 3:00 p.m.) and thereafter at a reception that is supposed to start at some time between 4:00 and 4:30 p.m. I live twenty minutes from W-H and although I played on neither team (I was not good enough, truth be told. I was in fact so untalented and in need of such a handicap that when playing "HORSE" everyone else got HORSE and I got "LIPIZZANER STALLION" and would still lose) I am going to be there on Saturday afternoon - and I think at least Jill and possibly Kara shall attend as well. There are people associated with both teams who are flying in from as far away as Florida for the event. It goes to show I reckon that while there are gatherings that attract only a limited number of people, there are no small events. It is certainly not small to the women and men who are being celebrated for a day and honored for a lifetime for something they achieved when they were girls and boys.

Any time the men from the '83 State Champs get together it is a poignant affair. Far too soon after they won their title, and went their own directions in college and beyond, to become business owners, lawyers and doctors, the emotional heart of their little cadre was torn out of their chest. Greg Boff, a team captain, was killed in a motor vehicle accident less than ten years after a night that he had described as the best night of his life. When his old friends get together on Saturday afternoon, he will as always be on their minds and in their hearts. His attendance is impossible yet his presence shall be unmistakable. And on Saturday, in his stead will stand his two sisters - Stacy and Dana - to celebrate the achievement of their big brother.

Late in the evening or early into the following morning of the day that he and his teammates won their State Championship, Greg Boff sat down and wrote something of incredible power and grace about what they had all endured together and how he felt about it - having come thru it and out on the other side. And a quarter-century later, seeing most of his mates gathered together now - as men in their early to mid 40's, and seeing the girls of the '84 team together as well - as women in their (Hell, I've been married too long to post even an estimate on a woman's age. You can all be as old as you would like to be) what he wrote that night a generation ago that likely explains the importance of gathering to those who shall gather.....whether we are aware of it or not.

Well we did it. I can't believe it. This is really a dream come true; I am so happy. It was the one goal I have wanted so badly and the thing that makes it as great as it is, is that I did it with, for and in front of my family and best friends. It was the greatest feeling to go through four years, the best of my life, with these guys. I will never forget them or this season or team or night. February 26th should be declared a national holiday, well at least a school holiday. Well, you know how you set a goal and then you reach it and you realize it was not as good as you expected? Well this was better than expected.

It was the greatest achievement I will ever have, being part of a team. I will always love these guys for bringing me so much joy and happiness through my high school years and 10, 20, 30, 40 years from now when I read this and other newspaper articles, I will just break down and cry and think of those guys who made it possible. Another goal in my life is to never lose touch with these five guys and to be friends forever and to grow and maybe send our kids to school and win themselves a title.

Well, not much else to write, going to bed. Tonight I am the happiest guy in the world and thank God dreams come true, from here to eternity.
(Greg Boff - February 26, 1983 @ 2:30 A.M.)


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

And Then There Were Ten.....

After today, the number of days that I have left at the job that has been my home - and boy do I hear the ghost of my old man laughing at that admission - for the past eleven years shall be less than the number of fingers (thumbs included of course) I have on my two hands. The closer I get to "the final day" the more difficult it is becoming to get thru the day-to-day. Not for any emotional reasons, I assure you, for while I have been generally content to work where I have worked since January 1998 during the entirety of the time I have been here, I have a deliberate level of disconnect with those around me in the workplace. There is no growing feeling of sadness, remorse or melancholy at this point. There was none two weeks ago when I announced my decision to leave. And I suspect - much to the chagrin of those who occupy the space around me - that there shall be none two weeks from this very day when I exit the building for the final time as a "Member of the Firm". It is a job and while I have learned much here an earned much while I have been here as well, it remains just that - a job. Another job awaits me to take its place.

My ever-growing feeling is one of frustration. In the law, your time is your stock in trade. It is your value, particularly when one does work for clients who are charged for your services at an hourly rate. Often in the law we substitute rate of compensation for level of competency. I recall that when Mike Tyson was on trial in Indiana in the early 90's for the rape of the beauty pageant contest that much was made of the fact that his lead attorney - whose name escapes me - charged something like $500/hour for his time, which of course made the media think in the lead up to the trial that his trial counsel was the reincarnation of Clarence Darrow. As Iron Mike found out when he was spending his hour a day in "the Yard" for a few years after the trial's conclusion, that turned out not to be the case.

If an attorney's value is tied inherently to the amount of money he/she can charge for plying the craft, then I have been exposed in short order to how quickly one's time is devalued when those around you act as if your time is now - well - their time. There is much for me to do in the days remaining here - including the very real prospect of spending three days next week on my feet trying a case - and yet there is difficulty completing any task. The difficulty is that those around me - cognizant of the fact that very soon I shall be here nevermore - are all attempting to clog my mental in-box with things that each claims scream for my immediate attention.

Not surprisingly, the result of everyone needing every question answered "right away" is that no one's questions are being answered as quickly as they might like or as I might like to be able to answer them. And the more palpable result for me is an insatiable feeling that began as annoyance, swelled into frustration and has a very real possibility of exploding into anger over the next two weeks.

A hell of a way to go out, eh?


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dreaming and Working

I saw the commercial on HBO this past weekend for the Inaugural Celebration from the Lincoln Memorial that shall take place on Sunday evening. I read an item in the newspaper that HBO was discussing "opening its signal" (or something to that effect) and before I could pester my brother Bill for an explanation as to what the heck that meant exactly, the item explained it for me. If I understood the explanation correctly it means that on Sunday, HBO will make its broadcast available to all cable and satellite subscribers - even those who do not pay for its service - which means the broadcast will be capable of being seen by all except those remaining die-hards who do not receive their television signal via either cable or satellite. You know who you are - the type of person who is up churning butter or spinning silk while I am writing this.

I wanted to check my TiVo records to see whether the acts who are scheduled to appear on Sunday night are similar to those who played at this event in January 2005. Except I could not find any record of this event having occurred back then. Ditto for January 2001. And 1997. And so on. And so on.

And then I remembered - nothing like this has ever taken place before. And while it made me smile - hell, a free concert is a free concert and set in the front of the Lincoln Memorial with the reflecting pool, the World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument behind and the memorials to the Korean War and the Vietnam War flanking on either side, it should be visually spectacular and perhaps even moving to watch - it also made me cringe just a bit.

It concerns me that we may be putting the cart before the horse as it were. All of us, irrespective of race, color, creed, political affiliation, height (sorry - but I think height gets short shrift when people list cross-sectional factors) and age are rooting for the Presidency of Barack Obama to be at least 50% as successful as was the campaign that netted him the gig. Yet, at some point - somewhere between the bandstands and the grandstands I wonder if we remember just how impossible the job is for which he has been elected. As we applaud and stand slack-jawed in awe of every move our soon-to-be President makes - including his Saturday afternoon trip to Ben's Chili Bowl , which is, according to MSNBC a "landmark" D.C. restaurant in which he had never eaten during his four years in the Senate, (for whatever that's worth) on U Street - it may be worth pointing out that thus far he has not done anything. The fault is not his - he cannot do anything yet because the job is not yet his. Not that anyone seems to notice.

My concern is that somewhere along the arc from inauguration to canonization we may be setting up the Prez and ourselves for nothing but disappointment. I suppose it is refreshing that after too many Presidential campaigns based on the politics of WANT (We Are Not Them) the nation appears to be coming together behind its elected leader, whether he is the candidate for whom we voted or not. Yet, somewhere in the back of my mind I cannot shake the feeling that his successful campaign was predicated as much upon the politics of WANT as were the successful campaigns of his immediate predecessors. I hope that his presidency is less so.

For while WANT may have gotten him the gig, we all NEED him to do well now that he has it. We have been promised "change", "hope" and "cold beer at a reasonable price" (OK - it's like the whole "height" thing - it simply does not get enough air time as a thing of value and I am committed to doing what I can.) Will we get it? We shall see.

'Til then - enjoy the show.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Which way to the Beanstalk?

It was about eleven months ago that Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning and the Giants shocked the world and defeated the unbeatable New England Patriots to win Super Bowl XLII. Their improbable journey through the NFL's post-season tournament in '08 included no baby steps - they flew south to Tampa, Florida then southwest to Dallas, Texas then west to Green Bay, Wisconsin before going very far west to Phoenix, Arizona to claim their third Super Bowl title. The one place it did not take them was home. By staying away from it, they avoided going home before they wanted to do so.

This year, not so lucky. The "reward" for having the best record in the NFC was the top seed in the playoffs and a proposed route to the Super Bowl that did not require them to earn any frequent flyer miles. Well, the proposed route has unfortunately been converted into the road less traveled and upon packing up the locker room this week, the Giants will not have to do any business travel until training camp. Hosting their first playoff game since the 2006-07 playoffs (a game against the Carolina Panthers that they lost 23 - 0), the Giants were ushered out of this year's playoffs by the Philadelphia Eagles 23-11. (Maybe Jim Carrey was trying to tell all of us Giants fans something?)

The hand-wringing has commenced already on the New York sports talk radio stations as the same members of the fan base who have been naming their babies "Eli", "Osi" and "Tyree" for the past year now play turn back the clock to "hate" in their love/hate relationship with their head coach and starting quarterback. Nothing is as irrational as the sports fan when our favorite team lets "us" down right? How dare the Giants let all of us down and fail to defend their Super Bowl title. How dare they lose in the first round....and to G**damned Philadelphia to boot.

It will take a few days perhaps for some Giants fans here in the great megalopolis to come to grips with the fact that sometimes - well - sometimes sh*t happens. There was no great betrayal to anyone's core system of values or any other such nonsense that happened on the field in the Jersey swamps on Sunday afternoon. There was a football game. Someone won, someone lost. It is the way the game works.

In Hollywood, one can subscribe to the fiction of the happy ending. When we plunk down our $11.00 we can pick and choose the content of what it is we want to watch to ensure that we witness all of our celluloid heroes living happily ever after. The problem though with sports - like life - is that the drama is unscripted. And when the drama is unscripted, the outcome is always to be determined.

What is hard to imagine here in Levelland this morning is how the Giants will rebound from this loss. How will they be able to go on? Gee - I don't know. This is after all a franchise that has lost "The Greatest Game Ever Played", Super Bowl XXXV and "The Fumble" and managed to press on - in spite of itself, perhaps. One must play in order to win. And by playing, one risks defeat. Does that mean that one should simply not play? Does that mean that it is better to opt out and risk nothing than go all in and risk everything?

The answers to those questions may seem readily apparent if you consider that unlike in pro football in life there is only one season. And when it is over - it is a safe bet that you will know. Until then - keep playing.

And those who are successful, be always on your guard, success walks hand in hand with failure along Hollywood Boulevard.

Indeed it does. Indeed it does.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Finding the Key to the Universe

A generation ago, my sisters who are closest to me in age (Kara and Jill) and I all graduated from the Wardlaw-Hartridge School. The three of us belong to an era at our alma mater that featured a school that adorned two campuses - the "Lower School" for kids in Kindergarten thru Grade 7 and the "Upper School" where 8th graders matriculated with high schoolers. The Lower School was located in Plainfield and the Upper School was in Edison, which meant that as a 7th grader who participated in after-school activities such as sports, there was a bus ride to the Inman Avenue campus to look forward to every day.

I graduated from high school 24 years ago - on an early June evening in 1985. Jill walked that same walk in 1983 and Kara - the one among the three youngest Kenny children whose incredibly benevolent spirit seems to be repeatedly tested by life's ups and downs at a level I cannot fathom - walked it in 1981, mere days after we buried our father.

Dad spent the final dozen years or so of his life at Wardlaw-Hartridge. Well, in the interest of historical accuracy, such an entity did not exist when he arrived there. Rather, Dad joined the faculty at the Wardlaw Country Day School - a school for boys and only boys - and a two-campus facility in its own right. Dad was the Associate Head (which has always struck me as fancy, prep-school speak for "Vice Principal") of the Lower School, which was located on Central Avenue in Plainfield. In the mid-1970's, when the neighboring all-girls school - The Hartridge School - faced the prospect of shuttering its doors due to a lack of "Benjamins" the men of Wardlaw rode to the rescue. The two schools "merged" (or as my father often told me "Wardlaw bought Hartridge") and the end result of the marriage was (a) a new Lower School campus in Plainfield - with the men of Wardlaw moving from Central Avenue to Plainfield Avenue to join the women of Hartridge - those Kindergarten thru Grade 7 anyway - on Hartridge's wholly effeminate campus adorned with buildings named "Acorn" and the like; and (b) an incredibly awkward sounding name for the new school - Wardlaw-Hartridge School.

In the two and a half decades since a Kenny last roamed the hallways of W-H (and no, I was not the final Kenny in the building - Mom was. She worked as a secretary in the Development Department (fancy, prep school-speak for "fundraising office") from the time I was in either 7th or 8th grade and continued to work there for a year or two after I graduated) a lot of things have changed at Ye Olde Alma Mater. Principal among them is the two-campus structure of the school no longer exists. Now, on the campus of what we knew as only "the Upper School" stands a rather spectacular physical plant, which houses all of the student body - from rug rat to licensed driver.

It is inevitable I suppose that the more time that fills the void between present and past tense attenuates the relationship with anything or anyone. So it has been for the past two decades between Wardlaw-Hartridge and its alums from what Kara, Jill and I somewhat self-centeredly refer to as "the Kenny Era" (OK - do not send angry e-mails to either of my sisters. I just anointed it by that title). There are people who do what I do, I presume, which is return to school for the occasional visit to Homecoming/Fall Fair in October. If they do like I do, they spend a fair amount of time admiring the infrastructure and otherwise feeling akin to a fish out of water - a stranger in a strange land. I am certainly not from here - I just went to school here.

It is a phenomenon that had for years struck me as strange. Why would an institution that has such a wonderful, decorated history project a public profile that suggested that the very space it occupied had stood undeveloped until its present inhabitants arrived? Thankfully - or regrettably - I am my father's son. Having spent just enough time over the past twenty-plus years to stay abreast of the comings/goings of those who have occupied the top spot on the school's masthead, I have learned that it was not Institutional blindness that caused the schism.

Rather, it was the ignorance and pettiness of one or two individuals who had been entrusted with moving the school forward while preserving its history and honoring its tradition, which caused the profound disconnect. (Sorry CW but once you removed the plaques that honored my old man from beneath the scoreboards in the gymnasium and left them to gather dust ina storage closet, it was game on. Actually, it was game on once you forced an absolute educational force of nature - Doc Rud - out of a school he loved - to what was once W-H's arch-rival - and then blew smoke up the a**es of the Board of Trustees about why Doc left but the decision thereafter to screw over my family sure did not help your case now did it?) Those who had been there are no longer there. And in the wake of their departure, it is as if an institution that had sashayed along oblivious to its own history for the better part of the past two decades has suddenly rediscovered it and embraced it.

Who knows only his own generation remains always a child. Here's to standing stone-like at midnight suspended in one's masquerade.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Clearing Up Those Gray Skies

This morning we here 'neath the snow globe await the arrival of the "Storm of the Century*" (* - January 2009 edition). I almost hope for the sake of the TV talking weather heads that we get at least half of the schmutz they have been breathlessly forecasting since mid-week.

Is there a state of mind more fragile than that of the guys and gals who are the weather speakers on local news broadcasts? Most nights, no one pays much attention to them - in part I suppose because no one accepts the premise that the telegenic young man or woman who is regaling us with stories of all thing cirrus - and not-so cirrus - is anything other than the mouthpiece as opposed to being the source of the information. We all know that genuine meteorologists exist and we also know that scant few of them are the ones who actually report the weather to the rest of us. Once Kelly Bundy - Weather Bunny becomes the fictionalized face of your profession, it is hard to get the genie back into the bottle.

Depending upon which newscast one watches, anywhere from three inches of snow to perhaps as much as a foot of the annoying white stuff is predicted to annoy the hell out of us today. At least the inclement weather is scheduled to arrive on a Saturday, which means fewer people on the roads than would be during a weekday and which should in turn make it easier for the men and women of the various Departments of Public Works (on the local level) and the Department of Transportation (on the State highways) to keep a handle on the snow and to keep the roads passable.

If the skies do indeed open up today and the January 2009 Edition of the Storm of the Century does affect us, one will be able to hear the palpable excitement in the voices and etched upon the faces of the local TV weather heads. For today is the day that they - and not the reporter at the scene of the double murder or the nineteen-car pileup or Giants Stadium (previewing the NFL playoffs) or Washington DC (previewing the BHO Inauguration) - shall be the star of the broadcast.

And if the skies do not open up today - or they do but just enough to give us a dusting of the flaky white stuff as opposed to what has been predicted - with looks of resignation and readily discernible sadness in their eyes - our local weather heads will explain to us all that they did not get the forecast wrong but something happened to impact the pattern of the storm. They will tell us in language they do not comprehend themselves, using words they did not write themselves to offer an alibi as to why the blame for creating the latest, greatest weather panic rests with something or someone other than themselves. And then they will skulk off to the weather desk, awaiting the next opportunity that Mother Nature presents to them to tell their stories and to peddle their wares on-air before both the hard news and the puff pieces.

And if we do get the weather that has been predicted, at or about 3:30 men all across New Jersey will stop shoveling and/or snow blowing and come inside to watch the Fox NFL Pre-Game Show in preparation for the start of the weekend's first of four playoff games, Carolina hosting Arizona, which kicks off at 4:15. When Curt Menefee throws the broadcast to the weather desk to inquire what the forecast is for the two sites where games are being played today, we shall smile and (if our wives are present in the room) watch closely while feigning the eminently qualified Jillian Barberie gives us her fearless forecast.

Now, back to you.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Thank Goodness for the Thumbs

Primates must - as they sit in caged areas in zoos worldwide - look down at their own paws/hands and curse their fate. "But for our damn thumbs", they no doubt say to themselves, "we could have been on the other side of these bars running the world and those dopey humans could have been.....well, let's just say Planet of the Apes runs as a documentary at our film festivals." Not a week goes by when at least one member of us humans does something that causes all of us - man and monkey alike - to scratch our head and stare quizzically off into the distance.

Take the good folks of the Illinois State Legislature, for instance. In the month or so since the story first broke regarding Governor Rod "Let's see what's behind Curtain #2" Blagojevich's efforts to sell Barack Obama's former seat in the United States Senate (among his many alleged misdeeds), the State Legislature had not pressed forward with its long-threatened plan to impeach him. Instead, the State's Attorney General filed one inane application after another in a somewhat backhanded attempt to strip the Gov (and maybe it's just me but facially he looks to me like the Abominable Snow Monster of the North) of his executive power. His executive power - inclusive of such things as appointing someone to fill the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he won the Presidential election in November - was in full effect several days ago when he exercised it to appoint Roland Burris to fill President-elect Obama's seat, a process that is still being bickered about and fought over both in Washington, D.C. and in Illinois.

So, proving that timing is indeed everything, yesterday a 21-member special committee of the Illinois State Legislature recommended that Blagojevich be impeached. One who is a bit cynical might wonder if the Legislature delayed in taking its action so that the Governor could, in fact, name someone to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat. One who is less cynical might chalk the whole thing up to coincidence. Either way, the timing involved makes the whole affair seem curiouser and curiouser does it not?

Closer to home, the tabloids have been having some fun with the soon-to-be ex-spouses who are apparently going to fight over custody.......of a kidney. As I understand it, she was very ill and/or dying and needed a kidney transplant. He donated one of his kidneys to her - at a time when their marriage was on the rocks - and while things at home presumably improved a bit after the organ transplant, she has now told him that she wants out and is divorcing him. He, understandably angry and down one organ, has demanded that she either return the kidney to him or pay him $1.5 Million.

His lawyer has stated publicly that his client - who is a medical doctor as is his soon-to-be ex-wife - does not really want the kidney back (after all, it is used - which makes one wonder what a brand spanking new kidney's asking price would be. Has Kelley's Blue Book ever tracked the depreciation rate for one of these suckers once it has been sold one time?). The demand is an attempt by the husband to call the court's attention to some issue that has apparently arisen in the couple's visitation agreement. They have three children - who at ages 8, 11 and 14 are sadly old enough to know exactly what sort of high-profile stupidity it is in which Mom and Dad are engaging. Lucky kids, huh?

And on my way to work this morning, I noticed that some big-thinker decided to dispose of his or her Christmas tree by tossing it into a grassy area, which is spotted with a few actual living evergreen trees, alongside the northbound lanes of Route 287. In the weeks after Christmas, suburbia takes on an eerie visual quality - sort of like a landscape shot after a neutron bomb explodes with everything left standing save for the evergreen tree carcasses stacked up at curb side. Some genius has taken it a step further and instead of disposing of the family Christmas tree by leaving it at the curb outside of the family home for removal by the garbage men of the DPW guys, this rocket scientist has tossed it into the grass near other trees.

The location selected is not particularly close to any entrance ramps and is not particularly well-lighted, which makes this cynic wonder how much time this particular individual spent casing the area for locations prior to dumping the tree. One would think that with that much time on one's hands, one could have simply made better use of it. Perhaps by dragging the tree to the curb or burning it in the fireplace. Nope.

And what of the decision to dump it - the dead tree - in an area populated by living trees. Is this some sort of attempt at a half-assed second chance? The Reincarnation of Peter Pine Tree as opposed to Peter Proud, perhaps? Or perhaps this miscreant is trying to simply start a trend by which human beings - after sucking all usable form and function out of something - return the remnants of the product back to its place of origin in tribute. Perhaps we can look forward enthusiastically to the day when our beaches shall be strewn with fish heads and our apple orchards with rotting cores!

If one accepts as true the axiom that all that separates Man from the rest of the animal kingdom are our thumbs and our ability to think, then it appears as if irrespective of the weather more than a few of us should wear mittens all winter......and even when the weather warms up come springtime. Just to be safe.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Have Pot - Looking For Kettle

Much of my education as a young man came courtesy of Looney Tunes. Bugs Bunny was a cartoon - to be sure - but was nevertheless an invaluable source of life lessons.

One of my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons was one that featured Bugs going mano-a-mano with one of his arch-enemies - Yosemite Sam. In an effort to bluff Yosemite Sam out of shooting at him, Bugs continues to draw lines in the dirt and dares Yosemite Sam to step over the line. As Yosemite Sam steps across, Bugs draws another line. And so on. And so on. And so on. One bluffs - the other calls. One bluffs - the other calls. And at day's end - neither wins. Neither accomplished anything.

For reasons that are not entirely clear (to me anyway), a few days ago the young man who ended the 2008 college football season as the head football coach of the Boston College Eagles, Jeff Jagodzinski, decided that he wanted to interview for the vacancy that the New York Jets created when they fired Eric Mangini. He either shared his desire with his boss at BC, Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo, or DeFilippo found out about his desire from another source. In response to finding out that his young coach had an itch that needed to be scratched, DeFilippo told him that if he interviewed for the Jets job, Boston College would fire him. This conversation apparently took place on Saturday.

On Tuesday night, Jagodzinski met with the Jets to discuss their vacancy and on Wednesday, DeFilippo fired him. Clearly, DeFilippo was well within his rights when he pulled the plug on his subordinate. He is - after all - the Director of Athletics at Boston College and, as the football coach, Jagodzinski reported to him.

Nevertheless, sometimes a person can do something he has every right to do and still come out looking like something other than a winner. Such is the case with Gene DeFilippo. In firing Jagodzinski, DeFilippo said that, "We will find somebody who really wants to be at Boston College and will be here for the length of their contract." Hearing Gene DeFilippo as the mouthpiece of the Boston College athletic department give an ad hoc lecture on the ethics of honoring one's commitments is an especially delicious irony for anyone in the Big East Conference who has a memory that has more than five and one-half years of capacity.

In 2003, afraid that the conference of which it had been a charter member was about to be eclipsed due to the defection of Miami and Virginia Tech, Boston College abandoned its fellow Big East members and joined the Atlantic Coast Conference. What's the exit off of Tobacco Road for Bunker Hill again?

On Gene DeFilippo's watch in 2003, Boston College strung along its fellow Big East members for a number of months - expressing to them its intention to remain in the Big East - while simultaneously negotiating a deal with the Atlantic Coast Conference to become its twelfth member. Presumably, while figuring out a way to scheme his university's way out of its obligations with its fellow Big East members, Mr. DeFilippo turned a blind eye to at least one of Boston College's contractual commitments. And he did so - as did BC - without appearing to care at all that the schools to which the proverbially less than pristine end of the stick was shown included BC's fellow charter members of the Big East Conference with which it had formed the Big East a quarter century earlier.

Instead of continuing to draw lines in the dirt and inviting him to keep stepping over them, DeFilippo drew a line in the dirt and once Jagodzinski stepped over it DeFilippo fired him. While the means were different though, the end was the same - both lost. A bright young coach threw away his job and a stubborn old man whose position some might consider just a tad hypocritical threw away a bright young coach. Who knows? Perhaps if DeFilippo had placed as much value on his own commitments five years ago, when Jagodzinski had been hired he would have become part of the Big East Conference's coaching fraternity. And perhaps had Jagodzinski known when he accepted the job that his boss's word was his bond, then he would have known better than to bluff his way out of his job.

At day's end, which man was the roughest, toughest meanest hombre west of the Rio Grande? Neither. And at day's end, M-U-D spelled backwards is still D-U-M. Just like the wascally wabbit always taught us.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Great American Game

If one wants an easy to follow example of the old adage that it is not how you start but how you finish, then one needs to look no further than the comings and goings in Major League Baseball that took place on Tuesday afternoon.

At Yankee Stadium the Yankees unveiled their third prized free-agent acquisition of the off-season and while the off-season was indeed productive for the Silver Spoon Twins' ball club, those of us who are Yankee fans hope that for the first time in a while the '09 "on-season" goes better than the off-season. While what happens in December and January often bears little relationship to what happens in September and October, there was no reason not to feel optimistic watching Mark Teixeira meet the assembled media. And it was hard not to agree with some of the post-meet and greet fan and media reaction to him - that he carries himself like one of Joe Torre's guys -a 21st Century incarnation of Tino Martinez and Paul O'Neill.

While hope springs eternal in the Hot Stove League '08-'09 and the Yankees had a full media contingent at the Stadium this afternoon to bask in the glow of their latest addition, many miles away - under much quieter circumstances - a couple of Ghosts of Off-Seasons Past surfaced in new places.

In the Fall of '01, in what will likely be viewed by baseball historians as one of the most gross overreactions that the game has ever known to a pitcher's errant throw into center field, in the aftermath of losing a seven-game classic to the Arizona Diamondbacks in which their offense was stymied by Messrs. Schilling and Johnson, the Yankees discarded Tino Martinez and picked up Jason Giambi. At the time, Giambi already had a reputation for being a terrific offensive player and a statue with a hat in the field. Over his Yankee career, his offensive productivity never met the public's unrealistic expectations and his defensive limitations were worse than advertised.

He spent seven long years in the Bronx - during which time the Yankees won zero World Series, one American League pennant, lost the 2004 ALCS courtesy of a choke of historical proportions to their arch nemesis and Giambi lost parts of a couple of seasons dealing with his various and sundry injuries and ailments. And lest we forget, in the middle of his Bronx Tale, he apologized - although he never actually explained why he was doing so (maybe a second, follow-up apology will eventually make its way to the surface - he shall apologize for the ambiguity surrounding his initial effort).

Tuesday afternoon the story broke across the wire that the Giambino and his first team - the Oakland A's - were close to a one-year deal that would bring Giambi back to the City by the Bay. In 2001 when he signed with the Yankees, the whole world took notice. Yesterday, when he appeared ready to land back in Oakland, no one seemed to pay particular attention.

In the wake of the pitching disaster that was the 2004 ALCS - with Kevin Brown imploding as the Game 7 starter and Javy Vasquez tossing gasoline onto the inferno an inning later ("Who ordered the first pitch grand slam? Was it you Mr. Damon?") - the Yankees signed Carl Pavano to a four year, free agent contract worth $39 million. In December 2004 - Signing Day - he was hailed. In November 2008 - on Non-Tender Day - he was discarded. In between, he made his way to the mound for only 26 starts over the course of four years.

From 2005 thru 2008, Pavano did everything but pitch for the Yankees. He ended up on the disabled list for an amazing number of maladies, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. In his first season with New York, Pavano pitched only 100 innings after injuring his right shoulder. He missed the entire 2006 season and his work ethic and willingness to get back were questioned by some teammates. During his rehab, Pavano broke two ribs in a car accident but initially neglected to inform the Yankees. He started just two games in 2007 before hurting his elbow and having elbow ligament replacement surgery.

Tuesday afternoon, one's trash became another's treasure. Or so the Cleveland Indians hope. Pavano signed a one-year contract with the Tribe, which is what is known in the trade as an "incentive laden" deal. Cleveland no doubt figures that at $1.5 Million, as long as Pavano stays upright and throws the ball over the plate more often than not during the '09 season, Prince Carl is a bargain.

Time will tell for Teixeira as it has once and shall again for Giambi and for Pavano. And Teixeira shall learn - as Giambi or Pavano could gladly tell him - it shall not wait for him. It waits for no one.