Saturday, October 31, 2009

Crawling from the Wreckage

Hooray! Halloween is here....and it has fallen on a Saturday! Does it get any better than this? Well, this year 'NTSG it most assuredly does for the weatherman says that we shall experience the mercury rising (a damn sight more enjoyable than mercury poisoning and easier to treat) to an almost-balmy 70 degrees. There is nothing quite like weather that ensures a large turnout of costumed wanderers through my neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon to warm the cockles of that little charcoal briquette in my chest.

In case your sarcasm detector is on the fritz - or perhaps slept in an extra hour this morning in preparation for the transition from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time that shall occur effective tomorrow - it is not a stretch to say that Halloween is not among my favorite days of the year. It actually depresses me a bit to see how many little, age-appropriate trick-or-treaters (as opposed to the "not really into it but too lazy to get a part-time job to pay for my own Almond Joy jones" teenagers who will invariably end up outside of my front door) do their trick-or-treating in the daylight. Back in the day when I was a little boy, no one went door-to-door during the afternoon. All of the serious trick-or-treating was conducted at night and usually after dinner.

At some point apparently parents decided that it was simply safer to take our children trick-or-treating while the light of day was out and about as opposed to under the cover of darkness. I recall us doing it when Rob and Suz were of trick-or-treating age. I understand the rationale for doing it. It simply saddens me more than slightly to think that at some point along the way - as upright walking bipeds - we lost enough of our humanity to enable at least some of us to view a day on the calendar that is among the most kid-first you shall find as an opportunity to prey upon unsuspecting members of their rank and file.

I read something in the Boulder Daily Camera a couple of weeks ago regarding several people in town who intend this year to revive the Mall Crawl. When Jill, Joe and I were matriculating towards our degrees at CU in the mid-80's the Mall Crawl was Boulder's annual homage to Bacchanalia. Apparently the fine folks who run the City of Boulder and CU have less fond memories of the Crawl than do I (not to mention clearer memories of it as well) and have warned the would-be organizers that even on Halloween some things are better off left as dead.

Thankfully, October being a slow month for infringements upon civil liberties and fresh off of their triumph in protecting Linus Van Pelt's right to worship the Great Pumpkin, the ACLU has found time to weigh in and to criticize City and University officials for issuing the aforementioned warning. I know not if the ACLU has officially passed the marker on the interstate proclaiming, "Nothing Left For Which To Fight" but if this issue is actually getting their attention then maybe, just maybe, they should encourage whoever is piloting their vehicle of choice to ease off the accelerator just a touch.

Besides, they need to conserve their resources. Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Are there any civil liberties less respected in this country than those of the turkey? Particularly this year since they do not have Sarah Palin to champion their cause any longer.

-AK

Friday, October 30, 2009

Now for Some Very Unpleasing Sneezing and Wheezing

Forgive me - my age and lack of patience for all things inane are both showing I fear. While attempting to watch Game Two of the World Series last night, my baseball-watching tranquility was poached by a commercial for something called "DJ Hero". This is apparently the newest revelatory product brought to bear by the creative forces behind "Guitar Hero". If the actual game is as much of an assault on the senses as the commercial is, I hope that someone I know with children makes me angry enough between now and Christmas to know just what to buy his or her little darling. Perhaps DJ Hero is simply the latest incarnation of what will be a ceaselessly expansive concept as the makers of the series work their way through the band one instrument at a time. Rumor has it that DJ Hero replaced what had been slotted to be released in time for Christmas '09 - Calliope Hero. Plans to launch that project have crashed to the ground apparently. No release date is imminent.

I violated one of the few life lessons that my father ever taught me yesterday. Years and years ago he shared with me what I have come to embrace as his 1st rule of the schoolyard, which was "Never write a check with your mouth that your hands can't cover." Ironically, yesterday it was not my mouth that caused me trouble. Rather it was my hands.

Margaret handles most of the adult activity in our household, such as the actual paying of the bills. I do my part vis-a-vis the generation of the household income but, candidly, I have no idea what she does with both my pay and her own. In the morning, when I need to turn on a light I flick the switch and voila, Edison's master stroke comes to life. On Sunday mornings I go through the checkout line at the A&P and voila I am permitted to leave the store with the items I have selected. Thus, I presume that whatever she is doing, she is doing correctly. Those who need to be paid get paid and the wheels on the bus continue to roll on unobtrusively.

I think - although I know not for certain - that most of our household bills are paid on-line. It seems to me that I used to see Margaret spend at least a couple a nights a month with the checkbook out, writing out checks to various entities whereas now I see her spend those couple of nights with the laptop in front of her, paying those entities in a paperless manner. She might in fact simply be playing Spider Solitaire for all I know but as indicated above all evidence points to her actually paying the bills.

Yesterday I had to do something that I have not done since......I honestly have no idea when the last time is I had done it. I wrote a check. I wrote a check to the Manasquan Turkey Trot, which is a race that has been held annually (guess where - go ahead I'll wait) for the last twenty-seven years. For reasons not entirely clear to me, I have signed up to participate in the 5 mile run.

In the interests of full disclosure I must confess that I have never knowingly run 5 miles at any one time in my life. I throw in the caveat "knowingly" because quite a bit of college remains a mystery to me so it is possible I suppose that under the influence of some wondrous chemicals or some such thing I might have inadvertently done so. However, I doubt it. It strikes me as the type of activity that really would "harsh one's mellow" as it were and be avoided with all due speed.

Once upon a time (OK, three weeks ago) I had a plan of action for preparing for this event. Then a funny thing happened - I fell while running one morning and sprained my right ankle, which put me on the shelf as it were for about 10 days. My original plan called for me to be at or near running 3.5 to 4 miles every other morning by this time as I work my way up to the race distance. I am not there yet. And now, time is short and, sadly (at least when compared with men nationally) so am I.

With the dual gifts of a creaky knee and a cranky ankle I know not how either will react to running five miles. Hell, I know not how either will react to running every morning for the next couple of weeks in an effort to prepare to run a 5 mile race that will take place three weeks from tomorrow. I would ask my brother in law Russ or my sister Jill for guidance but since both run in marathons for sh*ts and giggles I suspect that neither really has the ability to grasp the depth and breadth of my situation.

There I sat yesterday, writing out a check and then dropping my entry form in the mailbox. Really, what do my hands care? Other than their likely involvement as the body parts I shall call upon to break my fall if/when I collapse at some point after the starting line but short of the finish line, their work here is done. I thought I heard them snickering at my heart, lungs and legs on the drive home last night and on this morning's jaunt through the neighborhood.

It has been well-established that turkeys cannot fly. I just hope that this one can actually trot.

-AK

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The View from the Sidelines

It is almost incomprehensible to consider what is alleged to have happened on Saturday night at Richmond High School in California. According to published reports, a 10th grade female student was gang raped and beaten in an attack that lasted for an indeterminate length of time after she left a Homecoming dance at the high school. There is at least one report that the attack upon her lasted for upwards of two hours. As of midday yesterday, five arrests had been made.

What takes this story from "almost" incomprehensible to "beyond the pale" of incomprehensible is the report that while multiple actors are alleged to have taken part in the attack, even more people are alleged to have - at a bare minimum - borne witness to the attack without doing anything to stop it. "I would say we're looking at four to seven active participants of sexual assault and extremely violent felonies. We're also suspecting there were up to a dozen people who witnessed what had happened and their involvement is unknown," says Richmond Police spokesperson Lt. Mark Gagan.

Clearly, local law enforcement in Richmond, which has already been busy, will continue to be so in its continuing efforts to investigate the matter and to bring to justice whoever is responsible. Presuming that the reports about the bystanders are accurate - at least in part - they are a bit bracing are they not? Reports of gang violence are - sadly -no longer surprising. Reports of mass indifference are always more than a bit depressing.

Police are looking for potentially as many as a dozen spectators and between four and seven actual rapists in this case. Police say some people walked by and actually participated in this crime. No one called police and to make matters worse, authorities told ABC7 some of these people may have recorded this entire rape on their cell phone cameras. Whether the police apprehend all of those who were responsible for the rape and assault of the young girl and whether those responsible are ultimately prosecuted and made to answer for what they have done, it is certain that not all of those who are alleged to have stood around and watched will be made to answer for what they did. Or more properly what they failed to do.

At least not in the criminal justice system anyway. Whether the rest of their lives treats them kindly remains to be seen. If what is alleged to have happened on Saturday night did indeed occur, then the bystanders may want to make a deposit in Ye Olde Karma Bank in the not-too-distant future. Just to be safe.

-AK

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Four Horsemen of East 161st Street

At some point this evening (weather permitting - man would it be nice to have a baseball game played in New York City this autumn without that disclaimer) in the Bronx - for the very first time since Josh Beckett defeated the Yankees in Game Six of the 2003 World Series to secure the 2nd championship in the history of the Florida Marlins - the New York Yankees shall take the field in a World Series game. Among the stalwarts for the boys from Steinbrenner Tech this season are the "Core of Four". Four players who as much younger men represented the hopes and dreams and bottom line for His Majesty Boss George in the World Series in what seemed then to be an annual autumnal celebration akin to Halloween and Thanksgiving.

The four who once were young men are not so much so any longer. Gray hair has appeared as the reservoir of hair has ebbed on each of them. Each now possesses a face longer on character than boyish charm (admittedly Jeter might be an exception to that rule). And each prepares this evening to take a ride that they none of them has ever taken - except in the company of all of the others - and that none has taken in a long time.

Outlined against a dark, artificially illuminated October sky, the Four Horsemen tonight shall ride again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Jeter, Pettitte, Posada and Rivera. Each has earned four World Series rings as a member of the Yankees. This marks the seventh World Series that each has played in as a Yankee. It is the eighth of Pettitte's career, having been a member of the Astros team that lost the '05 Series to the White Sox. 'Round Yankee land we talk rarely - if at all - about Andy's time in exile when he was inexplicably banished from the Kingdom of George in favor of Kevin Brown and Javy Vasquez. We shall talk no more about it here.

Unlike the pundits on television, in the newspapers and on the radio, I do not pretend to know how good, bad or indifferent a chance the whiz-bang gang from Uptown has of winning the Series. I know that every time I have seen the Phillies play since the playoffs started, they are beating the living tar out of someone. I suspect that they are quite good and seeing that they are attempting to win back-to-back World Championships for a franchise whose history of success is significantly shorter than its history, I suspect that they will be damned hard to beat - if they can be beaten at all.

I do know that as much as I am looking forward to the first Yankee advancement to the season's final game since 2003, I am not looking forward to it as much as the four Yankee veterans who have made this journey together a half-dozen times. Regardless of which team you are rooting for (or even if you are a desperately sad citizen of Red Sox Nation), Steve Politi's column from Monday's Star-Ledger is a worthwhile read. The "Core of Four" has been down this road before and they have clearly learned as much from all of the years in which they have taken a journey similar to the one that they begin tonight as they have from the years in which they failed to earn the right to take it.

When we are young, our steps are easy and even and our strides are long and purposeful. There is a cocktail that pulsates through us in our youth - a combination of exuberance and confidence that as often as not results in us being called "arrogant" when what we really are is "self-assured". Age brings with it steps that are often strained and uneven, taken in choppy, uncertain strides. We fear nothing until we are old enough and experienced enough to understand the significance of fear. And of loss. And of failure.

The "Core of Four" understands the significance of all of those things. Whereas as young men they seemed to be destined to experience nothing but success, time has proven to be a fickle friend to all of them and the autumn of their baseball years has seen more than its share of less than happy endings. Tonight they begin again, taking what may be the final journey this quartet takes together as they begin the final leg of the race for their 5th World Championship. Win or lose it has been one hell of a ride.

In the unscripted drama that is sports, all that remains to be written is the most important part - the ending. But that is always the way it is. And that is always the way it has been for this group. It is in the uncertainty that the magic gets made.

Just ask anyone who has ever tackled a cyclone.

-AK

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Trick Candles Not Included

It is not an exaggeration to say that Margaret is the best thing that ever happened to my life. In fact, not only is she the clear-cut winner but while I know not what occupies the silver medal platform I know that the distance between her and whatever is my #2 makes Secretariat's 1973 Belmont Stakes win look like a photo finish.

It is also not an exaggeration to say that without a point of intersection having occurred between the trajectories of our respective lives, I know not where I would be today. I know however that it would be a damn sight colder and a damn sight darker. I suspect that the view would look eerily similar to that seen from the bottom of an empty vodka bottle.

The soothing thing about my life is that unless and until she throws me out I need not concern myself with such apocalyptic visions. Years ago she took me for better or for worse. Some day I shall have the courage to ask her to assess the ride thus far. Today is not that day.

Today is the day to wish my beautiful wife the happiest of birthdays. She is an anomaly in my experience in that she is a woman who relishes her birthday, who embraces it and who enjoys it. It is not that I have never heard her lie about or misstate her age. I have because she does it constantly. The oddity is that she never lies "down" to a lower number. She has an alarming tendency to round up and to so immediately after her most recent birthday. I suspect that by the time trick-or-treaters appear on our doorstep (and they better have lots of good candy for me to eat) on Saturday, she will have morphed into answering, "I'm almost....." when asked, "How old are you?"

My wish for Margaret on this birthday is the same as it is for her on each and every birthday. I wish simply that she feels as I feel when I see her and when I think of her: Happy.

Having waited as I always do to go shopping, all I have for you on your birthday is the gift of all of my love. Its value may or may not be negligible. At least - all these years later and counting - it is the one gift I have given you that you have not yet attempted to exchange or to turn back for a refund......

....and it does fit you quite well - even if you have noticed (and have learned to forgive) its tendency throughout the years to clash with everything around it.

Happy Birthday Honey - I love you.

-AK

Monday, October 26, 2009

Under the Big Top at the Flying Circus

Mercifully we have reached the final week of October. Even better is that this year November begins on a Sunday. Why is that nice? It is nice because it ensures that we will speed without hesitation to the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November, which is Election Day. I wonder when we are not electing a President whether Election Day should be uppercase or lowercase. Is it as important when we are not choosing a new man at the top?

The answer to that question is found, of course, in the immortal words of that great Irishman Tip O'Neill. It was O'Neill who taught us all that all politics are, indeed, local. Thus, even when 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is not an address whose resident is on the ballot, it is Election Day. Lucky us, eh?

Here in New Jersey we have suffered through an interminably tedious gubernatorial campaign. Our incumbent - who has done scant little with his first four-year term in office, an office that he spent astronomical amounts of his own money to win and now, in spite of his apparent lack of interest in doing anything resembling governing since, desperately wants to win again. His lack of accomplishment would seem to have assured certain defeat, right? Well, if only his Republican challenger had given anyone - including his fellow registered Republicans like yours truly - anything to be remotely excited about then perhaps that would be so. Since he has failed to do so, we have ourselves what amounts to a flat-footed tie one week from the finish. I would refer to it as a horse race but it something closer in spirit and in practical application to the 100 yard dash for people with no sense of direction.

And how I wish we were heading towards something completely different. We are not. Destination? Same as it ever was.

-AK

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Tale of the Tiger

It had been twenty-five years or so since Kara, Jill and I had been on campus at our high school Alma mater together. For that reason alone, from my wholly selfish perspective (as if I ever view the world from a perspective other than that right?) last night was something special. Sure, I could have lived without the monsoon but then again how often does one see three squirrels playing rock, paper & scissors for seats on Noah's big boat.

Last night Jill joined a group in which her place was earned more than twenty-five years ago. She was enshrined in the Wardlaw-Hartridge School Athletic Hall-of-Fame. At last night's ceremony she was joined in the Class of 2009 by a young woman named Valerie Pate - a member of the class of '92 whose prowess clearly extends beyond all things athletic. Valerie was introduced last night as "Dr." Valerie Pate, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Maryland. The 1975 Boys Soccer team, which is the only boys soccer team in the school's history to win outright the state championship. was enshrined as well. It was interesting to me to watch the members of that team, all now men in their 50's interact with one another. They were apparently a fairly close-knit team and their bond has clearly not been broken.

Among the other honorees last night was a man who I have had the pleasure of knowing since he and I first tormented each other on the soccer field when I was a 9th grader. Howard Freeman recently retired from W-H, an institution that had been graced by his presence for almost 40 years. He was the coach of the 1975 State Champions and he was - slightly less than a decade later - my head coach. He was passionate about the game and was an excellent teacher of it. I hope that his retirement is a long and enjoyable one. He and his lovely wife have certainly earned it - having spent a lifetime in the service of others.

It was wonderful last evening to see a number of old friends - including those who I had not seen since we were all kids. Ah, those halcyon days of life before I had laugh lines etched into my face like stone and gray hair overrunning my beard and my hair. It was quite nice to hear more than a few of them say that they had come to campus - in the case of more than one of them for the first time in a lifetime - because they wanted to be present to see Jill get honored.

And weather notwithstanding, it was simply a wonderful evening. Kudos to the folks who are in charge of such things at W-H these days including Bill Jenkins, Rudy Brandl and Rob Rizzo. A place that people like me only view as a place to which we pay an occasional visit is a place that is in their blood and in their bones every day. And W-H is well-served by the passion that they bring to what they do and the compassion with which they do it.

-AK

Saturday, October 24, 2009

On the Borderline with the Big Man

Last night the Missus and me eschewed eating dinner at a reasonable hour in order to make the short trip to the Borders bookstore in Bridgewater. There we waited in line - along with a surprisingly large number of other folks - to meet Clarence Clemons and to have him (and his co-author Don Reo) autograph a copy of his just-released book, "BIG MAN: Real Life & Tall Tales". Proving that Walt Disney was right and that the world is remarkably cozy regardless of how it appears from space, while we were waiting in line we ran into Laura (of the Sisters Kizis) and her daughter Olivia (of the May 23, 2009 duet with Mr. Springsteen on "Waiting on a Sunny Day" at the Meadowlands.)

Having had the pleasure of seeing the Big Man do his thing in numerous arenas, halls and stadiums over the course of the past two and a half decades, I enjoyed the chance to see him - however briefly - from a much closer vantage point. Whether the book will make any 2009 Top Ten lists or emerge as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize I know not - although as a betting man I can think of better things upon which to wager next month's mortgage payments.

That being said, it is an entertaining read. I know because we were in line long enough to permit me time to read most of it (well, the "real life" part of it) by the time we reached the Big Man. It is a series of stand-alone anecdotal stories that pays no regard to chronology. He is in print as I have always suspected he would be: passionate and very direct. He does not mince words when he discusses his dislike for the E Street Band's original drummer, Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez. He does not sugarcoat his own limitations and failings. And he does not dispel the notion that for as long as he and Springsteen have been friends and band mates, neither has seen color. Rather, each has simply seen the qualities he admires and loves in the other, which has enabled him to understand and to forgive the other's shortcomings.

After spending slightly more than two hours in line, we reached the table where the Big Man and Don Reo were seated signing the book. Although the rules that were distributed to all who attended specifically stated that no pictures were to be taken with the authors Clarence kinda, sorta honored that rule in the breach. With a smile on his face, he allowed fan after fan to lean his or her face down towards him so that someone could take a picture of that person with him. We had a chance to observe him from close up for about 5 minutes before we reached him and not once did he shoo someone away from him.

That being said, the Big Man being the Big Man his eyes lit up when he saw Olivia. She is about as big as Margaret is, which is to say she is not big at all, and she and Clarence are fellow saxophone aficionados. He spent a minute or two talking to her about her playing, including how long she has been playing for and he gave her some very humorous and useful career advice. He posed for a photo with her (although I suspected that if she had wanted one or two (or a dozen) more he would have gladly obliged) and was still smiling and talking to Don Reo about her and her saxophone playing as he signed my book.

After signing his name to my book he briefly made eye contact with me as he slid the book over to Reo to sign. Not knowing what else to say (and only having had three decades and two-plus hours to prepare for it) I simply said, "Thank you for all of it." He smiled, nodded his head and thanked me as well. And that was it. After two hours in line and thirty seconds in his immediate proximity our business there was completed. Laura and Olivia headed off to their car and Margaret and I headed off to ours - not regretting a single moment of the time we had spent inside of the store.

In the "From the Massive Desk of Clarence Clemons" introduction he writes, "My heart will always be filled with gratitude to Bruce for one simple reason: without Scooter, there is no Big Man."

And as someone who has enjoyed and embraced their music for most of my life and someone who has had the pleasure of being in more than one of those cities that they have busted in half, I too am thankful that one found the other and that - as the saying goes - the rest is (and has been) history.

-AK

Friday, October 23, 2009

November Reign

In 2001 - when the murderous and tragic events of September 11th necessitated that day-to-day life take a time out - the World Series that the Yankees and the Diamondbacks played rolled over from October into November. In the tenth inning of Game Four, shortly after October was in the rear view mirror Derek Jeter hit a home run that won that game and earned Jeter the moniker "Mr. November".

What was borne out of necessity has now transgressed into a convenience for the fine folks who run Major League Baseball. A convenience that has now ensured that four of the seven scheduled games in this year's World Series will be played in November. November baseball by deliberate design? Indeed it is. It is not inconceivable that the World Series this year will not be over until AFTER Election Day. Well, as long as they wrap it up in time to avoid any conflict with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The Phillies have already clinched their spot in the Fall Classic, which guarantees that at least three of the Series' seven games will be played in the climatic splendor that is Philadelphia in November. I had hoped that by this morning the Yankees would have clinched their spot in the Series as the AL champions. Unfortunately, the team's traveling secretary apparently packed the '08 version of Phil Hughes instead of the '09 version on the charter to Los Angeles. Thus, the Yankees and the Angels shall battle on this weekend in the Bronx with Game Six scheduled for Saturday night.

As a Yankees fan I want to see them in the World Series, regardless of the date on the calendar. As a baseball fan I want to see the World Series played without weather-related interruptions such as sleet, freezing rain or - God forbid - snow. And just for fun I would like to see the guys on the field who are playing for the championship of the sport in which they earn their living be able to play without needing mukluks and fur-lined parkas.

By the time the World Series starts on the 28th, the Phillies will have had one week off since their pennant-clinching win over the Dodgers. If it struck you as illogical that both the National League Championship Series and the American League Championship Series included an off-day between Games Four and Five even though there was no travel involved for any of the four teams, then the decision to structure the schedule for the Series so as to ensure that no baseball will be played for at least three days and - perhaps - as many as six will provide you with the opportunity to scratch a different part of your head.

Just make sure you take off your wool cap and your ski gloves first. When you have an itch that you simply must scratch, skin-to-skin contact is of paramount importance.

-AK

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Coming Home

Yesterday morning as I sat in the office of a lawyer I know waiting to take a deposition, I picked up an issue of Sports Illustrated off of the coffee table in his firm's reception area (I am a sucker for any sports magazine that has Mariano Rivera on its cover. Jinx be damned.) In the Letters to the Editor section of the magazine (at gun point I could not tell you the issue's date although for some reason October 4, 2009 is competing for space at the front of my brain with all of the other useless crap floating around up there), a couple of readers commented favorably upon a piece that ran in an issue of SI a month or so ago.

The piece in question was written by Richard Hoffer. It graced the pages of the September 14, 2009 issue of SI and its subject? The creator of the most famous of all flops: Dick Fosbury. In the piece, in a use of language that to my eye and ear is simply stunning in its beauty, its accuracy and its precision, Hoffer wrote of Fosbury's motivation for creating his revolutionary high-jumping technique:

All athletes recognize a performance imperative, a drive to exceed their limits, to explore upper boundaries. It's why they train and tweak. But Fosbury had the additional impetus of being a teenager. There is no swifter, more terrible saber-toothed tiger than the ritual humiliation of adolescence.

The "ritual humiliation of adolescence". I thought of the power of those words as I sat in that reception area yesterday reading and re-reading the brief letter to the editor. And I was so taken by them that I did more than just read them over and over. As is my tendency to do, I grabbed something on which to write (a business reply card insert buried deeper inside of the issue) and I wrote them down so I would not forget them.

I thought about them quite a bit last evening and again this morning in the context of this Saturday. Saturday is the Fall Fair/Homecoming at The Wardlaw-Hartridge School. It is an event that as a child of the school - someone who attended it from 5th grade through high school graduation - I looked forward to annually. At that time the school's student body was large enough to support a number of varsity athletic teams for boys and girls. It seemed that from 12:00 p.m. or so every year, the younger student-athletes finished up their contests and ceded the stage to the cross-country team, the girls' tennis and field hockey teams and the boys' soccer and football teams. Turf was protected, bragging rights were earned and school honor was upheld on all four corners of the campus all afternoon long. It did not matter whether you won or lost just as long as you won.

As time has passed, and as my class has now reached the point in time where 2010 will represent the 25th anniversary of our shared sunshine moment as the Class of '85, while I try to get to school for Homecoming, I do not always make it. And when I do return to campus I am always surprised by how much things have changed. Not nearly as many students roam the hallways as did when I went to school there and a large number of the kids who do roam the hallways are little kids, who "back in the day" would have been matriculating around the Plainfield Avenue Campus in Plainfield. A number of years ago, the school consolidated its two campuses into one. Voila! Just add water and you have instant rug rats as far as the eye can see.

I shall be there for at least part of the day on Saturday as my sister Jill - two years my senior and one of three Kenny kids who graduated from W-H (Kara, two years older than Jill, was the first leg of the trifecta that I completed), is going to be inducted into the 2009 Class of the W-H Athletic Hall of Fame. Schedule permitting, Kara is going to be there for the ceremony and to add another voice of support and congratulations to her full-time sister and one-time tag-team partner on a number of extremely successful lacrosse and field hockey teams. I am very pleased that I shall have the honor of presenting Jill at the ceremony for her induction/enshrinement.

I know not how many fellow travellers from our time at W-H shall be present on Saturday afternoon for the Alumni Reception at 4:00 pm and the Hall of Fame Ceremony that is scheduled to start at 5:00 p.m. but it is nice that all three of us will be in the same place at the same time - at least for a little while. Especially since it is a place where, once upon a time, we not only attended school but, also, we grew up. At least it seemed and felt that way quite often.

We attended W-H under the enormous shadow thrown by our father's presence, both while he was alive and thereafter - Jill's final two years and my final four years -in death. We survived the experience. I of course had the pure unadulterated pleasure of not only driving back and forth with the old man every day to school. And as a bonus - because Dad and I enjoyed one another's company so much - also as his wingman as we drove all over Central and North Jersey in pursuit of what admittedly felt at times like an endless number of lacrosse and field hockey games.

In my most immodest moments, I like to think that we not only survived it but that we made it through to the other side in quite fine stead. When I think of all that both Jill and Kara have accomplished in the time that has passed since they made the transition from student to alumni - both professionally and personally - it makes me smile. And it makes me damned proud to have both of them as my sister. Each is an amazing woman.

And each has spent a lifetime grabbing Dick Fosbury's dreaded tiger by the tail and beating the living tar out of it.

-AK

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Marking the Twain with C.C.

I am a somewhat jaundiced human being I suppose but I tend to remember those things that impact me adversely more vividly than those that benefit me. Thus, I have a very stark recollection of how quickly and completely the Yankees season collapsed immediately after they last stood but one win away from the World Series. Forgive me please if I shall delay my joy-jumping until they win five more games before they put their bats and balls away and go home for Aught-Nine.

Once a long, long time ago Mark Twain wrote something to the effect of (paraphrasing here) being a boy of fourteen and perplexed by just how dumb his father was and then, upon becoming a young man of twenty-one, being surprised to discover just how much his father had apparently learned in seven years. In the past forty-eight hours Joe Girardi of the Yankees has reduced Twain's already impressive learning curve to rubble. In Monday's Game Two he was the Reincarnation of Clueless Joe - skewered for decisions that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. However, in the wake of the masterpiece that C.C. Sabathia pitched in Game Four on three days' rest, his head is now apparently being measured for the bust that shall be installed on Friday morning in the "John McGraw & Other Geniuses" wing at Cooperstown.

I think Girardi neither a genius nor a rube. I think though that he has done one hell of a job thus far with this team this season. Has '09 been a success from the Bombers of the Bronx? Too early to tell. Let's table that discussion until after they win five more games.

Apparently given the distance between the Yankees' hotel, the homes of the Angels' players and the stadium at which Game Five will be contested, the combatants have a day of rest today. It is a hiatus I understand almost as much as the one imposed upon the Dodgers and the Phillies between their Game Four and Five (both slated for Philadelphia), which at least allowed Joe Torre to take in the final concert of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's four-show farewell to the Spectrum last night. Hypothetical question: if Bruce and the Band played at Yankee Stadium, would the Silver Spoon Twins allow Torre into the building, seeing as they have thrown up every other conceivable obstacle to his mere presence there?

Various members of the New York and national media are supposedly preparing to position themselves around the dining room of the hotel where the Yankees are staying to see if how Girardi manages breakfast gives them any insight into his mindset for Game Five. I cannot wait to hear how that turns out.

-AK

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

57 Channels and 14 Stations

In the interests of full disclosure, I must acknowledge that even when - as a child - I attended Catholic elementary school, which I did through the fourth grade, and church on Sundays, which I did through the twelfth grade, I was not what one might call the most attentive stink in the pew. Actually, other than when the choir would break out the great-sounding music in and around Christmas I had little interest in - and paid the corresponding amount of attention to - what was happening around me.

I mention that - upfront as I did - because it is possible that I am the one failing to comprehend the natural order of things. I was wondering that yesterday afternoon as I was bailing out of work early so that I could meet up with my brother-in-law Russ and head into Philly to watch Night #3 of Springsteen at the Spectrum. As I drove south from my office in Morris County, I was listening to caller after caller to WFAN's Mike Francesca express a combination of outrage, dismay and - in some cases - something akin to betrayal over the play of Mark Sanchez. He is - of course - the #1 pick of the Jets in this year's NFL draft and the anointed one at quarterback, having won the job left vacant when Brett Fraud took his traveling lotions and potions show and moved back to the great American heartland.

Another true confession: I am not now and have never been a Jets fan. I do not root against the Jets but they are in football what the Mets are to me in baseball, which is a second New York-based team that competes in the same professional sport as a team about which I truly care. Other than when Parcells ran things for Gang Green they have never done anything to capture or to hold my attention. I do not dislike them but my feeling towards them is one of pure ambivalence.

It was with some amusement that I heard caller after caller to Francesca's radio show sound as if each was on his way to Ye Olde Torch Shoppe to make sure there was a wide selection of slow-burning lumber left to choose from before heading over to Sanchez's place for the lynching. Clearly I misunderstood the progression of all things Roman Catholic as a boy. I thought that Crucifixion occurred prior to canonization. In Sanchez's case, it has been just the opposite.

In fairness to the kid, he did not show up in New York and declare himself (a) God's gift to professional football; and (b) the greatest thing to happen to the franchise since Sonny Werblin's titanic purchase of it from from Harry Wismer way back in the day. Rather the media and the team's fans did. No less of an authority than Joe Namath pronounced Sanchez the real deal. Apparently when Namath does something that pleases the franchise, they conveniently forget (and ask all of us to do likewise) that the last time we saw Tanqueray Joe he was trying to pull an Erin Andrews on Suzy Kolber during a live TV feed on Monday Night Football.

So what does the future hold for Sanchez? I do not pretend to know. I do know that it never ceases to amaze me that human nature being what it is the only thing we do more zealously than root for someone else to succeed is root for that same someone else to fail.

Can I get an "Amen"?

-AK

Monday, October 19, 2009

Again....

You would think that I would know better by now. You would think that given the number of times in the past year and a half that I have had to say goodbye to Rob - an occurrence that seems to take place more often than not at one airport or another - the act of doing so would bother me less and less. It does not. Rather it carries with it a sensation akin to pulling a band-aid off of a fresh cut. Even if you bleed like Vito Antuofermo and have more experience putting on and pulling off band-aids than the normal fella, it still hurts every time you have to do it.

I was less prepared for one of my kids to move a million miles away than I should have been I suppose. Candidly, I have not yet adjusted to it very well. I think perhaps part of my reticence to sign off wholeheartedly on it is that I am not sure Rob has done so yet himself. It is as if you are never too young - or too old - to learn that life is not simply about the good stuff. A hell of a lot of it is simply doing all that you must do to survive the day-to-day.

There is no day I look forward to more these days than the day before Rob arrives. All of us enjoy the time he spends in this time zone. For just a little while, the house resonates with a sound that we do not get too much in these parts these days: the sound of Rob and Suz laughing, whether at one another's stories or at some joint-participation adventure that they have undertaken while in each other's company. And their laughter is contagious, which means that once it infiltrates the homestead it permeates throughout, infecting all of us with a most welcome affliction: joy.

Conversely there is no day I dread more than today - the day after he leaves. There is always great uncertainty after a visit regarding when we shall see him next. The smart money is on Christmas. When you say it fast, it does not sound too far away.

If only it passed as quickly as it sounds. In my experience, it never does.

-AK

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Skinny on the Double-Dip

The missus and me spent a quiet night at home last night. Neither of us is as young as we used to be - although for whatever it is worth I am a bit grayer and she is a bit shorter - and since we spent our Friday night/early Saturday morning participating in the celebration of Dave/Lindsay's wedding we decided to throttle back quite a bit yesterday. In theory it was a wonderful idea.

I am a fairly passionate follower of both the Yankees and my alma mater. As you may be aware, both of them had a game last night and both games were on-air where I could watch them for the warmth and comfort of my own den. They are teams that have been on two different trajectories during their respective seasons. In Boulder - way back when in December 2008 - our old ball coach (coming off a 5 and 7 campaign) predicted that the '09 season would include "ten wins and no excuses" for the Buffs. Unfortunately for Coach Hawkins - whose mad math skills are apparently a match for my own - going into last night's home game against the
#15 Kansas Jayhawks - the Buffs had played five of their scheduled twelve games and won only one of them.

It has been a tough autumn on the Front Range. As his team has struggled, Hawkins has had his "guarantee" thrown back in his face by fans and media alike. After last week's debacle at Austin - where the Buffs magically converted a 14-10 halftime lead into a 38-14 final deficit against Texas - he benched his starting quarterback - who also happens to be his son. Last night, the Buffs were led by their new starter, a young man named Tyler Hansen, and although they almost spit the bit after intermission, they pulled the upset. Trailing 30-27 in the middle of the fourth quarter (having given up every bit of a 24-10 halftime lead), Hansen led them down the field to score the go-ahead touchdown. In the waning moments of the game, the defense did something it has not done since 2001, which was make a stop when it had to. Mere seconds after the final pass into the end zone was knocked away by one of the Buffs' defensive backs, fans poured out onto the field. And in a nice change of pace, they were not carrying lighted torches and pitchforks looking for the head coach. It was an honest to goodness on-field celebration.

The action from Folsom Field concluded at some point after 11:00 p.m. my time, which meant that by game's end I was laying in bed upstairs as opposed to sitting in the den downstairs. At my core, I might be the laziest person you know (I am certainly the laziest one I know) and the thought of falling asleep in the den only to wake up and make the walk upstairs to bed simply annoys me. It requires the expenditure of effort I would rather hold onto for a rainy day, which given the weather pattern we have been locked into here 'NTSG for the past several days probably means today.

Once the Buffs game ended I focused all of my attention on the Yankees. I wondered - as I watched A.J. Burnett - a signing I was opposed to months in advance of him revealing himself to be a complete douche whining to anyone who would listen to him about his stated preference for his catcher. Burnett - every inch the little girl with the curl (regardless of what type of prison-buzz cut he gives himself) was both brilliant and bewildering last night. When he uncorked a 55 foot wild pitch that plated the tying run in the top of the fifth inning, an inning in which he threw 38 pitches, I waited for the explanation post-game as to why throwing the ball only as far as the cutout around home plate was - somehow - the catcher's fault. He called the pitch perhaps? And then I remembered - it was Molina and not Posada behind the plate, which meant that the mistake had to have been Burnett's.

Clearly, the foul weather prevented my text message to Joe Girardi from reaching the Yankees skipper. I distinctly requested a quick, tidy, relaxing victory - to be completed within the confines of the duly-appropriated nine innings. Instead, I got one that ended shortly after 1:00 a.m. this morning and thirteen innings of baseball. An ending made possible by another edition of the Alex Rodriguez Road to Post-Season Redemption Chronicles. Thus far in the playoffs, Rodriguez has been remarkably clutch. It is early yet - only two games through round two - and as a Yankees fan I have a still-vivid memory of how the season ended the last time they held a 2-0 lead in the League Championship Series. Yet, it is impossible to not be happy with the results to date thus far this October as five games played have resulted in five wins.

Maybe it will prove - in the long run - to be beneficial for me that I awakened this morning running on more fumes than fuel. Today is the day the Rob leaves to return to his temporary residence 'neath the lights of Cheyenne. I think I would prefer to deal with that while firing on something less than all cylinders. That way, the realization of what I have just done will likely not fully hit me until after I have returned home from Newark Airport.

It makes for a safer drive home - much more so.

-AK

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hard to be Wild about Harry

If I had access to Lee Iacocca's phone number I would call him. After forcing him to explain why precisely he signed off on the mass-production of the Dodge Omni and the Plymouth Horizon (the ugliest twins you have seen this side of this dynamic duo), I would present him with my idea for improving fuel efficiency of all vehicles - regardless of their body type, their horsepower or the level to which they ratchet up the average male's feeling of inadequacy simply by sitting in the driver's seat.

It is a simple notion really. Apply to vehicle design the same laws of aerodynamics that are applicable to each and every visit Rob makes to his childhood home 'neath the snow globe from his present residence 'neath Cheyenne's lights and even cumbersome lugs such as Hummers will knife through the air with minimal resistance. Miles per gallon will increase perceptibly, which might not make everyone around the world happy but I do not consider the shareefs' level of contentment to be my principal (or secondary or even tertiary) concern.

It is almost inconceivable to me how quickly the time passes once Rob's feet feel the familiarity surface of Jersey asphalt beneath them. Margaret and I picked him up at Newark Airport an hour ago, right? Wrong. It was eight days ago. And on the ninth day, we will drop him off there. Nine days passed in an eye blink.

You would think that I would be used to this by now. I know not whether it is a direct reflection on my shot glass-sized intellectual capacity or my limitless hardheadedness that always catches me a bit short when it comes to the whiz bang nature of these visits. I have read that - among other things - an acceptable definition of insanity is, "doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." I do not think I am insane but then again - if I would not be the last one to be alerted to such a development, then who would?

When Rob is wheels up tomorrow he will be out of sight for a while. I presume that at some point in or about Christmas he will be home again. Given all that has transpired since Xmas '08, I hope like hell that his plan is to be here as opposed to elsewhere. Time will tell I suppose.

Those of us who are parents and whose children have reached a certain point in their lives - in terms of age and experience - speak of the phenomenon of "empty nest" syndrome. Margaret and I are not yet empty-nesters (Suzanne is living at home while she is in graduate school) but, inevitably, we shall be someday soon I suppose. I wonder though if "empty nest" is really the best description of where we are at this point in time. Ours feels less like a nest than it does a cradle.

And the man in the moon just does not come around here any more.

-AK

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Reading from the Book of Dreams

This evening a gentleman who it has been my pleasure and privilege to call my friend for the better part of the past decade and a young lady whose friendship I have enjoyed the benefit of for about half as long shall be married. At some point shortly after 6:00 p.m. tonight Dave and Lindsay, considerably more than simply two lawyers in love, will walk as two down the aisle at the commencement of the festivities and will walk as one up the aisle at their conclusion.

I actually met Dave several years before we were formally introduced to one another. We had the good fortune of sitting together in the little pseudo-steno pool that the Bar Examiners forged out of a vacant hallway at the Ukranian Center in Somerset, New Jersey for the July 1994 New Jersey Bar Examination. I thought I was the only one whose handwriting resembled the random scratchings of a demented person. Nope. As I learned in late July 1994 at least two dozen other similarly-afflicted souls existed who had also signed up for the Bar Exam. Among our number - at opposite ends of the room - strangers to one another sat Dave and me.

At some point during the morning session of the test, with all of us banging away on our typewriters, waking up echoes of the newsroom in All the President's Men, Dave ran out of ribbon for his machine. While I am not the most observant member of the tribe, he uttered aloud a few choice words that immediately transported back to the home where I was raised and which I immediately recognized as something other than the alternate version of Kool and the Gang's signature jam.

Being married to the world's most retentive woman has its advantages - as Dave would soon come to learn and to appreciate. Margaret had insisted upon me bringing with me to the test - roughly speaking - a gross of replacement ribbon cartridges for my electric typewriter. If the testers in New Jersey used a testing format similar to that favored at Le Mans, I would have had more than enough ribbon to type with impunity. I certainly had enough to spare to help out a fellow sufferer - who happened to have an electric typewriter identical to my own. And I did. At some point in mid-afternoon I finished my exam and at some point - I cannot recall whether it was before or after I did - Dave completed his. We left the building at separate times and headed off in different directions.

Proving that even blind squirrels find nuts, Dave and I both passed the Bar Exam in July 1994, which represented our first attempt at it. It used to be vogue to point out that it took JFK, Jr. at least three tries to pass the New York Bar Exam but once, tragically, he was revealed to be an even worse pilot than he was standardized test taker, it ceased to be so. Several years after we sat for the test - in either 1999 or perhaps 2000, a bunch of us got together to play in a single-day charity softball tournament that was being held in Middlesex. Diego arrived the morning of the tournament at my house with a few faces I did not know in his car. One of those faces was Dave's. As they all got out and we got to talking, someone mentioned "weird bar exam stories", which prompted Dave to tell the story of the stranger who helped him out several years earlier by providing him with replacement ribbon cartridges for his typewriter when he had none. At that point, I introduced myself to him as the aforementioned stranger. We have been good friends ever since.

Dave used to - when he would have a particularly lousy day at work - send me the occasional e-mail or text message blaming me for getting him into this mess of a career we call the practice of law. I would receive a lot of stuff from him that started, "but for......." and he would go on to set forth his theory regarding my culpability for his misery. I did notice however that those, "Dear Adam - I hate you for tossing me that F****ing ribbon cartridge!" I had grown to love so much came to a grinding halt several years ago. He ceased sending them without any explanation. The well apparently had simply run dry.

And then, way back when in April 2006, Margaret and I were introduced to Lindsay. And without further need for visual cues, it became obvious to me why my pal Dave no longer voiced a syllable of regret about his career choice. My introduction to Lindsay came when the four of us drove together to Asbury Park to watch one of Springsteen's rehearsal shows for his Seeger Sessions Band. If memory serves me correctly, Lindsay had never been to a Springsteen show before that night. I remember Margaret commenting to me - after we had all driven back to our house together and Dave/Lindsay drove off together from there - that she had seen "that look" in Dave's eyes all evening when he looked at Lindsay, when he spoke to her and when he listened to her talk. It was my wife's educated guess that love was afoot and at some point thereafter Dave was going to ask Lindsay to marry him.

Hell of a prognosticator my wife, eh? Do not be too impressed. On her recommendation I took the Pats and laid the points in the Super Bowl two years ago. At some point, I hope to grow to miss my weekly meetings with Knuckles and the fellas.

Margaret might have been wrong about that one but, happily, she was spot-on accurate about Dave and Lindsay. Tonight we are among those who they have invited to share the first big event of their life together with them. And we look forward to being there tonight to watch them exchange their vows and to dance their first dance and to bask in the joy of taking those first precious steps together.

There is a lot of bullshit in this world. It has always been out there. It will always be out there. Its presence does not stop us from living our life however. Happiness is out there as well. We simply have to be willing to endure the tough stuff in order to find it. That which does not kill us makes us stronger right?

The scars we carry remain but the pain slips away it seems. This evening it shall be but a memory.......as it should be.

-AK

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Planet of the Monkey Men

A generation ago - in the 80's - for just a brief moment in time the Traveling Wilburys emerged above the hustle and bustle (can you ever have one without the other?) of the hedgerow. The hodgepodge of talent that united under the Wilbury banner included George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty. Sadly, while they experienced a considerable amount of success with their debut effort, The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. I, by the time they released their follow-up album two years later the quintet had lost 20% of its star power. Roy Orbison - a man whose life story was so sad that he should have sung it himself with that mournful voice of his - died at age 52 in December 1989.

For reasons logical probably only to me, the recent news on the political home front here in the State of Jersey Gardens and too many other damn shopping malls to count has brought the Wilburys to the forefront of my mind again. This year, New Jersey has the distinction of being one of two states whose gubernatorial election has been dressed in the trapping of national significance (in case you are keeping score at home, Virginia is the other). One might have anticipated that given our turn at a soliloquy on the national stage, we would have made ourselves all pretty like. Had one anticipated that, one would have been - by mid October - nineteen days out from Election Day - awakened this morning (and every other morning since this dreadful campaign started) wholly disappointed.

An election that could have been replete with a robust exchange of ideas between the standard-bearers of the two major parties has deteriorated into a slap fight between the stoppable force and the movable object. For good measure, Jiminy Cricket has been invited to serve as the special guest referee. Considering that Ralph Nader lives elsewhere and, sadly, as of yesterday Captain Lou Albano lives not at all, who else were we going to get to play the part? Professional gadfly does not pay as well as you might suspect or, perhaps, hope.

Instead of getting an issue-driven race, we have been treated (again, using the most expansive, accordion-like definition of that term permitted by the laws of (a) language; and (b) physics) to one in which the two principal combatants' positions have morphed into nothing more of less than an incessant chorus of, "I know you are but what am I?" as they have hurled inane accusations across the aisle at one another. The cherry on top has been when one is not advancing the cause of why he should be elected, usually by uttering something substantive such as, "Because my opponent is a poopy head", he is firing his biggest guns directly into his own feet.

For instance, having spent weeks dealing with charges that while he drives he pays scant attention to the speed limit, the challenger has been confronted this week with records obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act request (one made by his opponent by the way) that document what can fairly be called somewhat egregious overspending for his official travel while he was the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. Of course, his incumbent opponent immediately seized upon the issue to point out that because he (our current governor) is really, really rich he neither takes a salary for doing his job nor bills any of his official travel costs to us, the really, really not rich taxpayers.

A suggestion for official spokesperson Darcy if I may? Add those two things (working for nothing and paying his own way) to the list that all of our State Cabinet heads have been directed by the Guv's Deputy Chief of Staff to formulate. The marching order from on high is simple: come up with (in the next week or so) an event or two or three, "that show job creation or economic development in the private sector." The memo's author, ever a realist, acknowledged that the foot soldiers in the army of fluff might have a bit of a problem completing this particular mission. He wrote, "I know that this might be a stretch for some of you, but please be creative." If one is going to cast aspersions on the challenger's presumptively creative bookkeeping for his official travel, then I would submit that it is eminently reasonable to cast aspersions on the incumbent's Deputy Chief of Staff's exhortation to members of the Cabinet (a/k/a public employees) to do that which is necessary to schedule events at which one's admission price includes at least a bit of smoke and multiple mirrors. With a straight face, the incumbent defended the memo.

Voters elsewhere might very well be outraged or even surprised by what passes for S.O.P. here in the Land of the Meadows. Not us. We shall, on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November do in the voting booth what we do when we drive on the Turnpike north of Exit 12 on a hot, sultry summer day. We will hold our breath, do what we have to do and get the hell out there as fast as we can. 'Cause in Jersey, anything's legal as long as you don't get caught.

And apparently it is worth doing as long as it gets you elected. A fellow from Freehold once observed that, "in the end, nobody wins unless everybody wins." A sentiment that has not seen the light of day at all during this campaign.

And now we stand just around the corner until Election Day. Can't hardly wait.

-AK

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

She is Electric. I am Not Wired Right.

While normally not the most socially mobile humans presently holding fast to the terra firma we all share, this month seems as if it has been an extraordinarily busy one for the Missus and me. Our dance card has been full enough that our quality time on the couch watching Court TV has taken a serious hit since September took its final bow and gave way to The Great Pumpkin's moment in the moonlight.

Friday night we shall be in attendance when two friends of ours are married. I do not know of an easier gig in the world than being a wedding guest. We get dressed up, we do a little bit of driving and from the moment of arrival, our work is done (unless one counts that ever-so-annoying clinking of champagne glasses to coerce a smooch out of the bride and groom to be work). We sit back, relax and enjoy the evening.

I am always a bit surprised when we receive an invitation to a wedding that does not involve a family member since I presume those related by blood and/or marriage feel some sense of obligation to extend the invitation. I have never been mistaken for one of those folks whose presence brightens a room - absence perhaps but never presence - so I marvel at the thought that someone who knows me but has no familial connection to me has invited me to be in attendance when he or she takes an extraordinarily significant step.

Upon further reflection, I presume that what they really want is Margaret there - given her almost non-stop presence on the dance floor during any reception. They presume correctly that the principal function I have fulfilled in almost two decades together is that I drive the car. For the life of me, I know not where my wife learned the steps to every dance ever danced that involves a large group of participants - as opposed to couples - but she knows them all: the Macarena, the Chicken Dance, the Electric Slide all jump immediately to mind. I often think that Margaret would have made a great Fascist for no reason other than her uncanny ability to move in a synchronized fashion to some sort of musical accompaniment with an unlimited number of others. I know not how great the distance is between a duck walk and a goosestep but I would wager that my wife can cover it in an effortless, rhythmic fashion.

Me? Huge surprise I am sure that I am not much of a dancer - either in amount of enthusiasm or level of ability. As I am fond of pointing out to Margaret, once upon a time I could dance a little. Well, in the interests of full disclosure, I would dance a little. Whether what I did actually passed for either dancing or a reasonable facsimile thereof I shall leave to more learned eyes than mine. Whatever the hell you want to call it, I did it. And I did it with aplomb! Presuming of course that aplomb - like beauty - is in the eye of the beholder.

Foolishly (or perhaps wisely), my wife passed up a chance to see me cutting rugs with impunity when she respectfully suggested years ago that I embrace sobriety - as opposed to giving it an occasional, knowing wink and nod. Then, freed of my senses at occasions such as proms, holiday parties and wedding receptions, I would succumb to my impulse to trip the light fantastic. Now I merely trip over the occasional pothole while taking my early morning run. Considering that there is almost always someone at a prom, a holiday party or a wedding reception with a video camera and there is never anyone present with one during my early morning run, there is less long-term fallout and discomfort associated with the latter than there ever was with the former.

I think that she thinks that my tumble Monday morning that resulted in me spraining my right ankle was a bit convenient. As if I would stoop so low. After all, we have been together a long time. I long since learned that it is never the size that matters - it is deceit she can't abide.

Besides running around in circles, chasing my own tail sounds an awful lot like my signature dance move. If you do not believe me, then wait until you see the video.

-AK

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another Round for the Whiz-Bang Gang from Uptown

Within one week of the end of baseball's marathon regular season, lights had been dimmed and organs wrapped for the long winter's nap at the home ballparks of a trio of teams who had been included among the original octet invited to the post-season. And on the eighth day, a fourth team's home environs joined the list of quiet places.

The early departures of the Cardinals of Saint Louis and the Red Sox of Boston - if for no other reason than both teams ended up going out without winning a single game in its first round series - seemed to surprise most baseball insiders. The early jump on deer season (or whatever the hell it is people in Minnesota do when they are not inside a climate-controlled stadium in early fall watching baseball) for the Twins was not so much so, given that they had earned their ticket on "T +1" day by winning the 163rd game of their regular season against the Tigers and because the "reward" for their hard work was a date with the Yankees.

Baseball is both a great game and a maddeningly heartbreaking game to watch principally because the issue is neither joined nor settled in the best guesses dressed in the trappings of expert prognostication one finds in newspapers and on-line columns. Rather, it is joined and settled between the white lines. And while it is a game played by men who are the best in the world at what they do, it is still played, after all, only by men. We the people are a fiercely proud species and in the theatre of our mind's eye perhaps we never blink and we never fail. However, in the documentary that is our real life, sometimes we come up a bit short. To err is human after all. To do it in front of thousands of paying customers with countless more watching on television - while perhaps inevitable given the limits of our biology - makes the one who erred want to book passage on Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet. Even when the one who did so is one who has previously soared to dizzying heights; perhaps especially so. For those who fell short this year, there is always next year. However, in the immediate aftermath of disappointment is there anything that seems further away than a shot at redemption?

As a Yankees fan I am pleased that they have won all of their games to date. I am also a realist. No credit shall be given in the next round for that which happened in the last one. Do not take my word for it - ask Alex Rodriguez. Lost in the aftermath of his extraordinary performance in the '09 ALDS vs. the Twins was any hearkening back to the only other "A-Rod-esque" performance he has had while a Yankee. It too occurred in the ALDS - in '04 and it also occurred against the very same Minnesota Twins. But the signature image of A-Rod from that postseason is not whaling the ball off of the baggie in the Metrodome is it?

Friday night in the Bronx, Steinbrenner's best apostles will stand with their hands on their own hardware - working like hell to write an unhappy ending to one L.A. Story while keeping an eye on another still-evolving one. All the while hoping to eventually stand awash in champagne.

And hoping like hell not to get lost in the flood.

-AK

Monday, October 12, 2009

Truth Is Stranger Than Pulp Fiction

Every morning, in the wee small hours when all the world (OK, not all but an overwhelming majority of it) is still asleep, I sit at my desk in my office and enjoy my breakfast: black coffee, yogurt and a grapefruit. As anyone who has read anything written in this space before knows ("why?" would seem to be a fair question to ask yourself right now) I am what some might call a creature of habit. I am also what some - less charitable souls no doubt - might call a crazy person. I chalk that divergence of opinion up to the whole "you say to-may-to, I say to-ma-to" debate and give it not a moment's further contemplation.

Last weekend, things were very hectic for us 'NTSG - between two nights at Giants Stadium enjoying Springsteen and a Sunday morning Racing in the Park f/k/a Great Adventure. With all of the places I had to be last weekend, I could not make it to one where I spend an important portion of every Sunday morning: the grocery store. Thus, I lived life last week grapefruit-free (or grapefruit-less, depending on how one view's the omnipresent glass). A week's worth of "change" in my morning diet did not make me a happy camper, which is surprising I am sure given my generally free-spirited approach to life.

Yesterday morning I tore like a man possessed through the A&P in search of quality grapefruit. Alas, I found none. I mean to say that the store had no grapefruit at all, quality or otherwise. There were a lot of oranges, tangerines, clementines and even something identified by their sign as "blood" oranges (good thing I left my Crips-colored hoodie at home for there is nothing quite as embarrassing as having citrus fruit bust a cap in your ass as you are on the stroll in the produce section) but not a single grapefruit anywhere.

A lesser man (allow that to wash over your skull cap for a moment before uttering "as if" to yourself quietly) might have given up the pursuit right then and there. Not I. At some point early yesterday afternoon I drove over to the Pathmark on Lincoln Boulevard, which was also awash in quite nice-looking fruit - none of which was grapefruit.

In desperation, I went to the little Farmer's Market that opened a few years ago (cue "irony") in the space at the Shopping Center formerly occupied by an A&P store. Margaret loves the prices in there, which I must admit are excellent. I do not share her enthusiasm for the quality of the fruit typically for sale there. If one accepts as true that you get what you pay for, then it should come as no surprise that I located grapefruit there yesterday afternoon. The price was excellent: 3 for $1.00. The fact that they more closely resemble water-retaining white grapes than grapefruit was not. However, having climbed up on my fences and made two unsuccessful trips in pursuit of them already, I gave in to my desperation and purchased $2.00 worth of them.

Surprisingly the one I just finished eating a few minutes ago not only had a great deal of taste but also a significant amount of juice, which is to me the mark of a quality grapefruit. I still cannot get over how small it was. And I could not help but think that the one I ate this morning was smaller than the one that appears temporarily to have swallowed my right ankle. I violated a cardinal rule of running (or walking for that matter) this morning: I took my eyes off of where I was going. I did it only for a second. In that brief amount of time, parts of my body that should not make contact with the ground while running did. And in that brief amount of time, I either stepped onto or stepped into something that caused my right ankle to turn and snap a bit. The nice thing about having sprained my ankles so much during my high school soccer-playing days is that I recognized the injury as soon as I bit turf. It will be fine in a few days - it always has been in the past. It did put the kibosh on the morning run this morning, however, since it hurt too damn much to put any weight on and I lack the strength in my left leg to hop on it for 3+ miles.

And this morning, as I was walking through the parking lot from my space to the front door of the office, I developed a new appreciation for my grapefuitette. It weighs significantly less than an actual, full-sized grapefruit. And this morning, every little bit helps.

-AK

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Safe at Home

This week, which those of us on the New Jersey end of the two-way lifeline have looked forward to for as long as those of us on the Wyoming terminus, is already slipping away too quickly for my taste. While it seemed as if it was only fifteen minutes ago that Margaret and I stopped at Newark Airport to pick up Rob en route to the final night of Springsteen at Giants Stadium, it was not. It is already Sunday, which means that as of this point in the day one week from this very day, Rob will be gearing up to make the trek back to Wyoming. I wanted to write "home" there as opposed to "back to Wyoming" but for the life of me, I could not.

Last night - with Margaret off with Joe in Staten Island for one of his semi-regular visits with his brothers and sister - and Suzanne and Ryan cheering on RU along the banks of the Old Rar-i-tan, this old man imposed upon my visitor from the Great American West for dinner. We ended up at what is one of our family's favorite places to eat. Originally - with Margaret otherwise engaged and Suz cheering hard for Rutgers at a game in which they hardly needed her investment of sweat equity - I presumed that Rob and I would be dining alone.

We did not. Rob's best friend for as long as I can remember, Dan, came with us (Fogelberg & Weisberg had nothing on these two). About ten minutes after we arrived and sat down, Rob's cell phone rang. Although it was only the third quarter at the RU game, they were already pounding the bejeebers out of this year's paycheck/Homecoming opponent, Texas Southern, to the point where the game held little interest for the home fans. Apparently, once Coach Schiano confirmed for them that neither Ryan nor Suzanne would be permitted to play - regardless of their performance last Sunday at the Race for the Cure - Suz and Ryan found themselves with empty bellies and free time on their dance card. Given that they were only about ten minutes away from where we were, they stopped heading home and came to join us.

The only thing missing last night - and had I suspected for a moment that the evening would have ended up as it did we would have waited for her to return home with Joe from Staten Island - was Margaret. Dan and Rob have been brothers for so long that Suz's relationship with him long ago morphed past friends and into familial as well, which means that the three of them - long familiar with one another - will and do say anything on any topic. And given the easy nature of the give and take between them and the content of the banter back and forth, Ryan slipped right into the stream alongside of them and let himself be taken by the current as well. What I half-expected to be a fairly quiet evening when the kernel of the idea popped into my brain yesterday afternoon turned into a night of a lot of laughs and any number of good stories being shared one of four ways around the table.

And as I was shaking off the day last night, and climbing into bed, I thought about what a terrific job Margaret did raising our two young adults. There was a time in the kids' young lives - during and after Margaret and their father divorced but before I popped my head above the tree line - when the challenges of day-to-day life could have overwhelmed the three of them. But they did not. Hell, they did not come close to swamping their little Kon-Tiki. Well, perhaps on more than one occasion they took a bit of water over the bow but they never capsized. And they never got moved off-course.

Me? I have had a pretty easy gig for these past two decades. I have been charged with the duty of not upsetting the apple cart. I would like to claim that it is more difficult than it appears from afar but - given the strength of character of the woman I married - I cannot credibly pull that off. We all have our mantra. Mine is, "I ain't gonna f*ck it up this time." And while I must confess that from time-to-time I am less than certain if I am successfully handling the admittedly limited responsibilities that have been entrusted to me, I stumble across a night such as last night. And I see not only Rob and Suz in action but also I see those with whom they choose to share their lives and I smile. They are both every inch their mother's child. And Margaret's height deprivation issues notwithstanding, there is not a higher hope that I would have for either of them.

If you only get to have one wish in this god forsaken world, then choose it wisely. And once you do, sit back and enjoy the rewards.

-AK

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Last Time

For approximately three and one-half hours last night, Bruce Springsteen and his cohorts from E Street rocked the hell out of Giants Stadium. Rain had been in the forecast all day and all night but whether due to sheer coincidence or some sort of concert karma, not a single drop fell until all of the paying customers were trying to exit the building at show's end. Of course, the rain's volume proved equal to its impeccable sense of timing, which made for a rather bone-drenching stroll back to the cozy confines of Lot 16.

It is true that attempting to exit Giants Stadium last night proved to be an exercise in futility, which is why a concert that ended at or about 11:40 pm gave way to a drive home that ended at or about 2:20 am. It is a good thing that the Race for the Cure was last Sunday and not this morning. If had been today as opposed to last week, the State Police could have conducted a seminar in "How to Make a Chalk Outline" using my carcass as the teaching tool.

In another six weeks or so, this tour shall end and then this rapidly-graying rock and roll brotherhood will take a break "for a little while". At 60, Springsteen seems too old to do 90% of the stuff he does - night after night after night - for upwards of three hours. When one considers that he is among the youngest members of his musical posse, it is fair to ask if and when we shall see them again as we have grown accustomed to seeing them for all of these years. For this morning - at least - it is a question I would rather not think about too much. I am enjoying the "post-show" good feeling and have no desire to harsh my buzz as it were.

Rumors flew around cyberspace and throughout the parking lots at Giants Stadium yesterday regarding all of the special guests who would be joining Bruce and the ESB on stage during the show. At one point, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Billy Joel, Elton John, John Bon Jovi and Southside Johnny were all "confirmed rumors" ("This is the oxymoron help desk, how may we assist you?") In the end, none of them made an appearance. The stage had all the musicians needed for once hell of a fine time - and for one tremendous send-off to "the last bastion of affordable sports seating in New Jersey" (or words - Springsteen's by the way, not mine - to that effect). Truth be told, it lacked one fellow that all of us - including those assembled on stage - would have loved to see.

As a concert venue, Giants Stadium is now gone. And as a living, breathing rock and roll band, it is not inconceivable that six weeks hence, Bruce and his E Street mates may be gone as well. Last night may very well have been the last time that I shall see them - as presently assembled - do what they have done so well for so many years. I simply do not know.

If it was, then it was one hell of a ride. And if it was not, then I am already looking forward to the next go-round. At a point in time yet to be determined but at a place further on up the road.

-AK

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bringing on the Wrecking Ball

Tonight we reach the end of the farewell stand of shows that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have played at Giants Stadium. We are not yet saying goodbye to Bruce and the boys. No, we the good people of New Jersey are saying goodbye to a perfectly functional football stadium. A stadium which only opened for business less than thirty-five years ago.

I have a difficult time accepting as true that a structure that is younger than I am is too old to live. Perhaps my difficulty accepting it is tied to the fact that as of night's end tonight I will have spent three nights out of the last eight on the floor of the old gal - in the company of my wife. I really do not need Margaret getting the idea that anything (or anyone) older than thirty-five can be easily replaced. I am too old to find a new gig. Age aside, I am seriously unskilled.

Once upon a time (OK, starting in 1976) I used to make a trip or two each football season to Giants Stadium. When Sonny Werblin helped put the deal together that moved the Jints across the river to the Jersey side he made a phone call to his old friend - my father - and jumped us past thirty-plus years of fans on the waiting list for season tickets and got us into the building. I have not sat in our seats for years - since Rob was a little boy and we sat through every endless minute of a meaningless pre-season game against the Steelers - but I can see them vividly in my mind's eye: Section 327, Row 8, Seats 8 and 9.

I have seen a lot of interesting things at Giants Stadium - separate and apart from Springsteen and his band mates (who I have had the pleasure of seeing at least one dozen times in this venue). Not all of the experiences have been pleasant. Kara and I bore witness to "the Fumble". Russ and I were present when Flipper Anderson burned Mark Collins deep in overtime, hauled in a long pass and then ran all the way through the end zone, up the tunnel and into the NFC Conference Championship in 1990. I was sitting by myself on the Monday night in 1982 when the Giants got thrashed by the Green Bay Packers in the final game played before the NFL went on strike.

But I have also been present for some pretty cool moments as well. Mike Koplowitz and I sat downstairs in his seats (his dad had seats on the fifty-yard line) on a Saturday afternoon in December that was so cold that his mom sent us to the game with sleeping bags.....that we sat inside of while in our seats and rooted the Giants to an overtime win over the Cowboys, which helped propel the G-Men into the playoffs in 1981. Russ and I were there - upstairs in our seats in January 1987 when the Giants annihilated Joe Montana and the 49ers on their way to winning their first Super Bowl.

Tonight will be the final night I spend in Giants Stadium. The too-young-to-die stadium that is being replaced by a behemoth that the Giants and the Jets will continue to share - and in which the super rich families who own the two franchises (the Johnsons, the Maras and the Tisches) are soaking their fans for Personal Seat Licenses. Other than the PSLs and the revenue they want to generate from them, there appears to be little reason for firing the kill shot at Giants Stadium - although I must confess that the prospect of 490 more urinals is exciting. One can never have enough choices when it comes to seeing a man about a horse.

At this venue, I have seen champions come and go. Tonight I shall again - one final time. Sleep well old gal. And thanks for the memories.

.....well, except for that damn Pisarcik fumble.

-AK

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Jockeying for Position in the Circle of Jerks

While I am not sure what each and every sign of the Apocalypse is, I am fairly confident that I have stumbled across one of them. And I found it in what is always one of my favorite places to look: within the four walls of the Kingdom of Springsteen.

Full disclosure time. There is not an artist whose music I enjoy more, whose music has meant more to me and whose live performances I love any better than Bruce Springsteen. If you have subjected yourself to popping your head into this space at any time prior to four minutes ago, then you have read me talk about him here at length and all that his music has meant to me. It is not an understatement to say that this week I am enjoying one of my best, all-time weeks as a dad: having spent Saturday night with Suzanne @ Bruce's 3rd Giants Stadium show and preparing to spend Friday night with Rob @ Bruce's 5th and final Giants Stadium show. As you may or may not know, during these shows Springsteen and the E Street Band has played an album in its original sequence as part of a particular evening's set. The first Giants Stadium included a track-by-track trip through Born To Run, from the opening notes of Thunder Road straight through to the final notes of Jungleland. Night #2 was Darkness on the Edge of Town night. Night #3 saw Born in the USA receive full-album treatment. The two shows this week will see a replay of Nights #1 and #3.

I was not there for Night #1 so I do not know how many songs the band played on Opening Night. However, on Nights #2 and #3 - when I was in attendance - I watched them play upwards of thirty songs both nights. For those of you keeping score at home that meant on Night #2 the audience heard 20+ songs in addition to those on the featured album while on Night #3 we were treated to 18 songs or so above and beyond those on BITUSA. I would be hard-pressed to say that anyone in or about our area of the crowd either night felt short-changed or cheated by the decision to feature a particular album. I would go as far as to say that while I am not sure what the best antonym for "short-changed" or "cheated" might be, whatever it is it is in fact the word that best fits what I saw on the faces of those around us at Giants Stadium.

Nevertheless, because Springsteen's fan base is composed in large part of those who fancy themselves as true champions of discontent, there are those out there who have expressed their displeasure about the decision to turn a number of this autumn's shows into 'album' shows. Fortunately for these sad souls, an outlet exists for them to expel their bad karma throughout the universe: http://www.backstreets.com/. Backstreets is a fan-operated Springsteen web site that consistently provides excellent information on all things Springsteen-related. Among its features is "BTX", which apparently once upon a time was (as its name suggests) a place where Springsteen fans got together to buy and sell tickets from one another to and for various shows. Over the years - courtesy of the advent of the Internet - it has morphed into a place of "boards". People from all over the world get together to discuss any number of things. A lot of them are related to Springsteen. A lot of them are not. A lot of them are serious, substantial discussions. Candidly, a lot of them (including a lot of them that I have read with much enjoyment and amusement) are not.

As mentioned above, they do provide an outlet for those who wish to bitch and moan about everything Springsteen-related. This week, one of the trendy topics has been whether people who bought tickets for shows in late October and later, which tickets were sold prior to the announcement of the 'album show' concept at those shows, are entitled to have those tickets refunded.

The "issue" (using that term in the broadest definitional sense permitted by the Einstein Estate and all other champions of the concept of relativity) arose in the context of the fact that at a lot of the shows that are still to come on this tour, Springsteen and Ticketmaster sold "paperless" tickets, which tickets appear to be impossible to resell because the buyer has to appear at the venue on the date of the show to get them and to have with him/her at that time whatever credit card was used to purchase the seats. Apparently, among the "Faithful" there are a number of folks who think that the fact that the band announced in advance of certain shows - but after the tickets for that show were sold - that it would be playing a particular album as part of that night's set list had defrauded the public.

Think I am kidding? Think I am making it up? I understand. It seems as if it would be a particularly insane and inane way for actual adults to pass their time. But I assure you, it is true. Check out "Refunds" and get a good laugh for yourself.

I cannot wait for the day in my life when there is absolutely nothing else of significance confronting me - or confronting those who I love - so that I can clear my docket for just a single day in order to pursue such an important cause of action as this one. Actually, I lie. If my life ever disintegrates to the point where something this asinine becomes a tent pole issue for me, consider this an open invitation to one and all to feel free to enter my home as I sleep and smother me. One favor please, if I might? Grab my copy of Darkness on the Edge of Town out of my CD cabinet, slip it into the CD player and press "PLAY".

If I must go, at least let it be with a smile on.

-AK