Friday, December 31, 2010

Booking Seats on Time's Flight

My first sin was the fear that made me old. The world turns at a different pace for each of us. Every one of us celebrates the completion of a lap around the Orb on our own special day. Yet today is a day that marks time for all of us. It is after all the culmination of a calendar year. It is a day - perhaps the only day of the year - on which it seems as if each of us grows a bit older at exactly the same time. Maybe it is because we take a moment to contemplate the fact that we are not the only ones who complete an annual journey. In much the same way as we all take our lap around the Earth once a year, the Earth makes its own trek as well. No matter who we are or when our birthday falls, annually we are all pretty much simultaneously accompany the Earth as it wraps up one lap and starts anew on the next.

Today marks the end of yet another year. I know not whether time flies or I just move so slowly that from my perspective it simply appears to fly. Whether it does or not I know not for certain. Tonight Margaret and I shall usher in the New Year in the company of several good friends. Last year, I ushered 2010 onto the stage in the company of my trusty sidekick Rosalita. Truth be told we were both asleep by the time 2010 arrived. Being children of deep, spiritual faith Rosie and I both accepted the likelihood of 2010's arrival whether we bore witness to it or not. Since Margaret was out in Colorado with Rob and Suzanne was in Vegas with a group of her friends, upon my return home after dinner with Joe, Rosie and I watched as much of whatever college bowl game was on that we could tolerate and then ambled on up the stairs. I went to bed and she went to where she spends a lot of her nights - on the floor next to our bed on my side. Our faith was indeed rewarded. Although neither of us witnessed it firsthand, when my alarm clock sounded in the morning, we awakened to 2010.

And so tonight the journey of this year ends. Life's journey continues. Some days it seems like a longer, stranger trip than it does on others. Life is forever a source of teachable moments. Recently it seems I have been doing quite a bit of learning - having been ignorant for such a long, long time. Not all of it has been easy. Quite a bit of it has been less than fun. All of it has been necessary. You get a good appreciation of both the heights you have reached and the depths to which you can fall when you press your toes right up to the edge of the abyss and look down. It is an experience that can be utterly terrifying. At moments, it has been.

Tonight, the collective sets aside thoughts of the one-way journey that is life and the fact that every moment lived is one less moment left to be lived. Many of us gather together, whether with friends or with loved ones or (in the case of the millions who shall stand in the cold in Times Square awaiting either Dick Clark or a lighted sphere to drop) strangers who have driven East from the Midwest to check an item off of a bucket list, and await midnight's arrival with childlike anticipation. It is a fascinating bit of human behavior to observe - the decision to elevate the passage of time at midnight's stroke on New Year's Eve to a level like no other. Perhaps it makes us feel empowered. Time controls all of us to varying degrees. On this singular occasion annually, we the people allow ourselves to feel as if we control it. We have made this moment into THE moment. And just then - just for a second - we are a bit less like a cog in the machine.

It is a fool's errand of course. We no more control this particular moment in time than we do any other. Time runs us. It dictates what we do and what we do not. At journey's end, we are all Dave Raymond, jamming on stage with our band mates at our wedding reception, negotiating with our new bride, "One more song. Give me one more song."

Wherever you are this evening and whatever you do, adhere to the admonishment of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus.

.....and have a Happy New Year.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Little Things of Varying Sizes and Degrees

If you have ever happened past this little piece of virtual paradise then you know that my love of humankind is equalled only by my concern for all of my fellow travelers on our little blue marble. Even allowing for the fact that you could fit all of the things globally about which I would in fact tender you my beloved rat's a## neatly into a thimble and still have space aplenty for your thumb, there are certain depths to which not even I shall descend.

Memo to all of the other folks occupying the luge runs and ski jumps presently standing in for our secondary roads and less-than-major highways here in the State of Concrete Gardens. We do in fact have a law in this State requiring the driver of a vehicle that has snow all over it to remove the snow from the aforementioned vehicle prior to driving that vehicle on one of those above roadways (Who else received Roget's Thesaurus for Xmas?). In answer to the question, "How close to this is rocket science?" the answer appears to be, "Not very close at all."

It appears to be until one makes the trek north on Route 287 to one's office two-plus days after all recorded snowfall activity in Jersey has ceased and makes that trek in the pre-dawn hours of the morning. If it helps set the scene, then picture Route 287 northbound between Exit 30 and Exit 35 at or about 4:25 to 4;35 a.m. All set? Good.

Now picture some ass wipe motoring northbound on Route 287 in an inconspicuous, difficult to describe vehicle that has not less than a solid foot of snow pack on its roof. Again, in the interest of setting the scene correctly, picture this particular vehicle as a box truck with hardly any identifying markings on for the picture of Freschetta Frozen Pizza across its rear roll-up door and the picture of Tony's Frozen Pizza on the length of its driver's side. Oh yes, let us not forget the insipid, "How's my driving? Call blah blah blah and let me know......" that was also prominently displayed on its rear roll-up door. One would think that as either the (a) operator of this particular vehicle; or (b) the owner of the company for whom it is being operated, it would be in my self-interest to ensure that this vehicle - and all of my vehicles - comply with State law.

One might think that but - in the event of this particular miscreant it appeared as if the repeated scraping along the pavement that his knuckles do, while approving the toughness of the top of his hands considerably, has weakened his ability to fully extend his arms above his head. What other logical explanation could there be for this moron to operate his commercial vehicle in the dark of night with an amount of snow that I would conservatively estimate at being in excess of a couple of hundred pounds affixed to his roof much like a catapult awaiting flight? None. There is simply no logical explanation.

While avoiding being a douche should be - at a bare minimum - one's stated goal for the day, the operator of this particular pizza delivery vehicle failed to attain it and did so in a fashion that might be fairly considered epic. I can blow off steam about it now - and perhaps start laughing about it soon enough - because at 4:30 a.m. (a) a large mound of something that appears to be white in color moving through the air towards you in a downward trajectory shows up quite nicely against the tableau of a blackened sky; and (b) the relative lack of other vehicles on the road at that time permits you to do some things that a State Trooper might otherwise label "creative" in order to avoid the oncoming projectile.

In the interest of fairness, but for the bump/pothole that the truck was forced to pass through as it moved from the center lane and into the right lane in an effort to hasten its departure at a fast-approaching exit, the rather enormous mound of "snice" (the mixture of snow and ice in percentages beyond my ability to calculate) that had been comfortably piled atop his roof might not have otherwise done a bit of sleepwalking, which caused it and his box truck's roof to be torn asunder from one another and led it to look for love in the most wrong of all possible places - the hood and windshield of my car.

Screw fairness. That a-hole could have killed me and/or anyone else who happened to be driving near him yesterday morning. I actually do not know what happened to the large chunk of snice once it made contact with the macadam in the spot that moments earlier had been occupied by Skate and me. From my vantage point - looking through my rear-view mirror - it appeared as if it went forth and multiplied upon contact. Admittedly, I was more concerned about other issues at that point, such as where to buy a set of replacement garments to replace those I had worn to work (at least those from my waist down) and who I could call to confirm for me the precise temperature at which blood boils, to give much consideration to it.

One wonders perhaps how such a potential mishap might have been avoided. I never presume to be the smartest person involved in any conversation but I think even I know the answer to this one. And I hope like hell, given that there are more drivers crammed per square inch into the State of Concrete Gardens than any other place on Earth or so it seems, I am not paddling around alone in the pool of knowledge.

And while I wish like hell there was some great dramatic finish to this story, such as me pulling over on the side of the highway and gathering up all of the smaller pieces of snice before pursuing this vehicular Hooligan to his destination at which time I alighted from my vehicle hurling shards of snice at him in retribution. There is not. By the time Skate and I completed our impression of the Falcon and Han Solo slaloming through the asteroid field, the offender had skedaddled off of the interstate via one of the exit ramps.

There I was, as I often am, alone with my anger. Fortunately, having the crap scared out of me beats having it knocked out of me ten times out of ten. While it took me a little while to arrive at that realization (ask the idiots who operate Continental Airlines just how long I can hold a grudge), once I did I resumed breathing at normal intervals as I contemplated the potential irony of my fate: a stranger killed at the hands of Tony the Pizza Guy while across the Hudson River a stranger's car was rescued from a fate worse than becoming part of the West Village's permafrost by Tony Soprano.

Someone much smarter and wealthier than I once warbled that, "It's the little things that count." Note to all other motorists using our highways and byways here in the Great White Northeast, while a couple of hundred pounds of snice seemingly anchored to your vehicle's roof is not in and of itself a little thing, making sure that it is not on your vehicle's roof prior to putting said vehicle into motion is. And it is most sincerely appreciated.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Grip On Moments Passing By

If there was any doubt before Boxing Day, then the "Blizzard of 2010" effectively ended the discussion (at least in my neck of the woods) as to the length of December - and for that matter as to the length of the year for which it provides the final act. Is there still reason to believe? Man I hope so. Absent it, there seems not to be much reason to marry feet to floor in the morning's wee small hours.

2010 will assume its rightful place in the rear-view mirror less than forty-eight hours from now. Once it does, neither we nor it shall ever pass this way again. While the evaluation of events in the immediate aftermath of their occurrence is usually pretty dicey business - given the relationship between familiarity and contempt and as juxtaposed against the relationship between time and perspective - it certainly appears to me as if this particular year was a mixed bag. Much like those that came before it. And I presume much like the one that shall arrive on Saturday. And the one to follow that one as well.

History exists in the mind of the teller, which is fascinating if for no other reason than to consider the proliferation of "Ten Best" and "Ten Worst" lists that either have already been released or shall be between now and 2010's dying breath on Friday. We are a nation of lists - or so it seems - this time of the year - ranking everything we love and everything we loathe, from movies to music, from novels to news stories. We go to incredible lengths to list, classify and categorize the trivial. Perhaps because it keeps us from devoting time and attention to those things that need it. Avoidance is the elixir of the masses; right? Do not misunderstand. I do not utter those words from high atop my soapbox but rather after swallowing my allotted portion of the elixir.

This year has been - as it seems all of them turn out to be - one in which euphoria and despair engaged in a foot race that lasted from first minute of the year to its last with neither having yet broken the tape. The race shall spill over into 2011 and if we are here at this time next year then it shall do likewise into 2012. It seems to me - in my life anyway - that one never breaks completely free of the other. There are times when one might seem tantalizingly far ahead but almost as soon as I recognize that to be the case, it is no longer. Truth be told, I only pay particular attention to the brevity associated with euphoria. When despair arrives at my doorstep, I certainly do all I can to hasten its departure. As I am confident you do as well. Over the course of the past twelve months there were times when my execution did not always equal my effort in that regard. Bad news lingered on the doorstep longer than I would have preferred.

And it's been a long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass.

We all choose our own resolution. I have chosen mine. I hope you choose well....

....and wisely.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An Overloaded Silicon Chip

Yesterday did not exactly go according to Hoyle in our 'hood. Rather than kicking off a shortened four-day work week, I spent most of the day channeling my inner snow remover - first at our house and then at Joe's. I went to law school to stay away from hard math. I have no idea just how much snow we received 'NTSG. I do know that when I was out shoveling snow yesterday morning the snow in some spots was so deep that it came up above my knees. Shaquille O'Neal and I are not often confused for being twin sons of different mothers. Still, knee deep is knee deep.

While typically I rely upon the hardest-working eighteen-year-old I have ever known to free me from the grip of the evil white frozen precipitation, yesterday Frank was unavailable. Poor kid spent the entirety of Sunday night into the wee small hours of Monday morning plowing various parking lots and clearing mountains of snow from multiple locations. Among the few things he cannot do is make himself appear simultaneously in two places at once. The long and short of it? I spent a lot of time yesterday morning clearing snow from my driveway and my sidewalk with my trusty shovel. Once upon a time I could clear snow at a much brisker pace than I can now. Yesterday morning I likely spent three hours doing something that ten years ago might have taken about half as long.

The goal yesterday was to do the snow removal voodoo and then devote the remainder of the day to work stuff. Candidly, since the former did not get completed until close to one p.m., the enthusiasm for the latter never quite manifested itself. Happiness is an impromptu vacation day? Under certain circumstances perhaps. Yesterday not so much. The upside I suppose it that now I have to pace myself for three consecutive work days before yet another long weekend is upon me.

The only thing worse than having to spend the day dealing with an obnoxious amount of snow is having to watch the wall-to-wall coverage of it thereafter. One would think that no snow had ever fallen in the New York metropolitan area prior to the past couple of days. Did we not all endure this in February on what felt like a daily basis? And what exactly was the bulletin yesterday? A lot of snow fell and once it stopped falling it had to be cleaned up. Tomorrow's lead shall be what exactly - the sun's ascent in the East. Stay tuned.

A whole new appreciation for the genius of Bob Geldof. That is what I took from yesterday's events. Perhaps it was not a total loss after all.


Monday, December 27, 2010


Question for all of those folks (and you know who you are) who walked around for the past couple of weeks wondering aloud if we were going to have a White Christmas, "Are you happy now?" Hopefully dawn this morning will bring if not a cessation of precipitation then at least a slowing down of the fun. In our neck of the woods it started snowing yesterday in the early afternoon. I was unaware of the fact - until I read it for the first time yesterday morning - that the National Weather Service issued "blizzard warnings" for New Jersey. Silly me, I always thought that blizzard warnings were reserved for places that endured really lousy, snowy weather on a regular basis. Places like Newfoundland and Alaska. And then my mind flashed back to last February, when we received ninety days' worth of snow in twenty-eight. Suddenly the blizzard warning seemed less anomalous. Not any less annoying of course. But less anomalous nonetheless.

There is one final event I am running in here in 2010, which is the Twilight Run in Lake Como on New Year's Eve. The race starts at 5:45 p.m. Apparently the race time here in New Jersey is intended to coincide with the beginning of the new year in Ireland. Silly me. I thought it was scheduled as early as it is to permit New Year's Eve revelers - a number that traditionally does not include me - to engage in an activity that is good for them while not interfering with their desire to engage in an activity that is less so for the remainder of the evening. I never had given a moment's thought to the fact that for years I have not been falling asleep in advance of the ringing in of the new year. I have simply been celebrating the New Year's arrival in Dublin.....and then retiring for the night. Who knew?

For a while earlier this fall I contemplated participating in the Polar Bear 5-Mile Race in Asbury Park. Considering that race time was 1:00 pm on Sunday, I am not unhappy that after leaning towards participating in it, I ultimately decided not to. Happiness is not driving close to an hour in the snow, spending forty-plus minutes running during a snowstorm and then spending another hour or two just trying to make it home. Whether the 110 hardy individuals who completed the race (scaled back to three miles to try to allow those who ran the chance to finish prior to the brunt of the blizzard hitting Asbury Park) are braver than I, more foolhardy than I or a combination of the above, I know not. I know that they likely are as happy that they took part in the event as I am that I did not.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow? How about, "Bite me" and call us square.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxes and Bows

I hope that Christmas in your part of the world was indeed merry. Mine certainly was. I must confess that I am not looking forward to Boxing Day as much as I did Christmas. It has nothing to do with me being on some sort of anti-corrugated cardboard jag. Well, perhaps it has a bit to do with that but it has much more to do with the fact that everyone who walked around all week whistling White Christmas may wonder at some point today why Santa did not bring Mother Nature a calendar for Christmas. You can buy something close to one million varieties of calendars at a kiosk at Bridgewater Commons for crying out loud.

If the fearless weather forecasters are right, 'round these parts today it may begin looking a lot like Santa's Workshop. The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning for portions of the State of Concrete Gardens advising that certain areas could end up with anywhere from eight to sixteen inches of snow. Somewhere my crackerjack landscaping entrepreneur Frank is trying hard to contain his enthusiasm. But for the fact that I know that irrespective of how much snow we get Frank and his gang will be able to relocate it from my driveway and sidewalk to.......well, truth be told I do not really give a rat's ass where it ends up as long as it is elsewhere - I would have no problem containing mine. There are scant few things I hate as much as snow.

Perhaps hate is too strong a word. It has after all been a terrific couple of days. It will take a lot of snow and other shit weather to harsh my Yuletide mellow. Not that I am trying to poke Mother Nature in the eye with a pointed stick mind you. I enjoyed very much being able to take a four-mile run through my little town yesterday morning to work off some of the forty-seven and one half pounds of food I consumed between six o'clock Christmas Eve and nine o'clock Christmas morning. Considering that it is quite a bit harder to run outside in inclement weather (I am simply atrocious at hurdling snowbanks), I hope that I do not have to endure doing so. I so loathe adversity....

....but not as much as snow. Not even close.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Of Pancakes and Panavision

Merry Christmas to my bride who I love with all my heart and to whom I probably do a truly dreadful job of expressing just that sentiment and to my young adults f/k/a my children. I am happy more than I can ever adequately express that even though the overwhelming majority of the year's mornings find us not all under the same roof, this morning does. Merry Christmas as well to Joe and the rest of the Bozzomo clan. Merry Christmas to one and all of the various and sundry branches of the Kenny family from our matriarch enjoying Christmas "Joanie Style" (no snow in the forecast and 80+ degrees on the thermometer) in Jupiter, Florida to my eldest brother and his crew occupying our Northernmost point in Connecticut to my sibs and their respective offshoots of the family tree planted near and far: Merry Christmas. I hope that Christmas finds you well and at peace. If you can make some time for a bit of merriment, then so be it.

It was once written, "If the decision was mine to make and time was mine to tether, then I would take a picture of this moment now.....and freeze this frame forever." The decision is never our though; right? And among the innumerable things we cannot do to time is tether it. It marches on - as relentless as the rain.

This morning I shall - as I have done for as many years as I can remember - put on my chef's hat (OK, it will be a baseball cap and this year it shall likely be the cap I purchased to remind me of my participation in the 5th Annual Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski Run that happened on November's first Sunday) and prepare Christmas morning breakfast. It is the only day all year that I cook breakfast. Other than grilling throughout the parts of the year that are considerably warmer than this particular part of the year, breakfast on Christmas morning is the only meal I cook all year. In the interest of full disclosure, it is not as if I oppose preparing breakfast for my family. It is that I leave for work six days a week at least an hour and a half before anyone else in my household has to be up for the day. I long ago realized that no one among my crew values quality time with the old man more than sleep. And candidly, theirs is a position that is both easy to understand and easy to defend.

No one has ever died eating my Christmas morning breakfast - or even gotten ill from doing so (at least as far as I know). Then again, no one has ever asked aloud why I do not cook breakfast more often. Perhaps a tradition is best preserved when done in moderation.

Last night - at the traditional Christmas Eve celebration at Joe's home - Joe, Frank and Margaret added a wrinkle to the festivities. Apparently years ago, when Margaret and Frank were small children (in some cases not more than 1 and 2 years old respectively), Joe and Suzy B. had a 8 mm film camera. They used it to make home movies. I never knew that had done such a thing. I had never seen any of the film until last night. Simply extraordinary stuff.

A view back in time courtesy of a black-and-white photograph is a wonderful look in its own right. However, having been extended the privilege and pleasure of seeing Margaret and Frank as small children enjoying Christmas morning under the loving gaze of their parents - my in-laws - was nothing short of extraordinary. Last night we were all given the chance to do something spectacular. We were given permission to see things not from a historical perspective often associated with still frame imagery but, instead, from an "in the moment" perspective. For as we watched Margaret and Frank and Joe and Suzy B in action, for a moment they were back in that place in time. And for a moment we were there as well.

Only for a moment to be sure. And once that moment passed, we were reminded just how many frames have passed through the film projector that is our mind since that moment occurred. But its brevity did not lessen the experience. Far from it. What an extraordinary trip it was.

And one that I hope we take again this time next Christmas.

Merry Christmas.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Adeste Fideles

At the risk of spoiling the mood, let me say something that some might consider to be unkind.

I am a registered Republican. This shout out goes to those members of the Republican Party who occupy seats in the United States Senate. Do not risk tearing rotator cuffs patting yourselves on the back for finally unwedging your heads from your asses in time to pass the multi-billion dollar aid bill for those whose heroic actions on September 11, 2001 have been actions they have paid for in the decade since.

Those in public office are presumed to be imbued with the DNA necessary to do what is right and what is necessary to protect those who they have taken an oath to serve. You should not have to be dragged kicking and screaming across the street to do it. I know not your take on this but nothing makes me reach for the in-flight vomit bag faster than a member of Congress who is opposed to a particular piece of legislation playing the "fiscal responsibility" card. For those who came to the aid of strangers on that most dreadful of September mornings almost ten years ago and whose bodies absorbed incomprehensible damage for their efforts, hopefully this legislation shall afford a measure of comfort to their families and to them. They most certainly deserve it.

If Senator Tom Coburn really wants a platform to preach the benefits of fiscally responsible government, then maybe he should relocate here to the State of Concrete Gardens. It appears as if the good people who run the municipal government in Bridgewater Township could use his help. Or perhaps just a lecture on perspective - having spent more than $17,000 to defend a lawsuit filed by an individual who sued the Township over the amount of money the Township demanded to provide a CD of a Township Council meeting.

At the heart of this controversy? The Township demanded $5.00 for a CD recording. The individual alleged that he should only have to pay the cost of making the recording, which it turns out is ninety-six cents. That is $0.96 for those of you keeping score at home. He sued. The Township paid the law firm that defended it $14,000. When it lost, it not only was out that money of course but also had to pay the individual's legal fees, which were $3500 and.......the cherry atop this particular sundae of stupidity - had to refund the individual $4.04. Why a refund of $4.04? That was the difference between what they charged him and what it was determined was all he should have had to pay. No kids, I have not been taking wee nips from the spiked egg nog early on this Christmas Eve morning. I am not making any of this up. Oh how I wish I was.

It shall be a pleasure this evening to cast off all of the silliness and the shenanigans of the outside world and spend Christmas Eve at Joe's with my little quartet, Frank and C's bunch and the patriarch of the whole crew. I am a fortunate man. I am reminded of that fact on a far more regular basis than simply once a year but it really resonates with me on this particular night annually. Margaret is Italian and we gather at the home where her parents raised Frank and her to celebrate Christmas Eve as the four of them did long before C appeared on the scene, long before any of the grandchildren arrived and certainly long before I did. I look forward to it every year.

These past couple of years it has been an event marked by decidedly fluctuating emotions. Two years ago we gathered and toasted in remembrance of Margaret's grandmother. Nanny died in early August 2008. Last year marked the first Christmas without the familial glue. The indomitable Suzy B lost her battle with cancer in June 2009. While her absence was felt last year, her presence (as well as that of Nan's) was felt even more so. Looking around the room at the faces of all who were gathered I could not help but see her in each of them.

Over the past twelve months, while we have assigned the days that have passed between last Christmas and this one to the dust heap of history, the presence and the impact that Suzy B had on the family she loved has not dissipated at all. Tonight more than one tear shall be shed in her memory. And more than one glass shall be raised in it as well. And while there have been times throughout this past year where things have not gone according to Hoyle and it might have seemed as if one or more of us had misstepped or lost our bearings, we have persevered. We have successfully navigated our way to where we want to be. Where we need to be.

We are home. And I hope that as this evening falls in your particular corner of the world, you are as well. And if you are still on your way there, keep going. You are in all likelihood much closer to home than you realize......

Keep the faith.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

For many folks in these United States, today marks the end of this particular work week. Even at the Firm - where we take what can fairly be described as a "minimalist" approach to the number of "Firm Holidays" tomorrow is a day on which the office lights shall be dimmed. Thus today will likely morph into one of those days where the powers that be at my J-O-B and likely those at yours too will spend a bit of time looking the other way as folks who now shall not see each other again until Monday spend a bit of time exchanging presents and sharing some Christmas cheer. Let us all hope they do anyway. Nothing wrong with a bit of conviviality in the workplace; right?

Barring a last-minute cancellation (always a possibility when some prick of misery defense lawyer schedules a deposition for the afternoon of the last work day before Christmas) I will spend the latter half of my work day in Trenton taking a plaintiff's deposition. I am in fact the aforementioned prick of misery. Goo goo g'joob. To my credit, if you glance your eye back towards the top of the page you will see that I did write - on two separate occasions mind you - "Christmas" and not "Xmas". Somewhere at this very moment in Montclair, New Jersey the Legion of Decency is singing my praises. My little own Hallelujah chorus.

The best part of my day shall be spent after work. Barring any change in plans brought about by adverse weather or other factors (last year it was a ferocious snowstorm on the Front Range of Colorado), at shortly after six o'clock tonight I shall be able to look directly at Rob's smiling face. It shall be the first time I have seen him since June 1st. You develop a keen appreciation as a parent for just how much you miss your kid when you go a long stretch of time without seeing him. His time home will be brief and having been raised by a mother who raised crazy children but not stupid ones, I know that little of it will be spent in the company of the Missus and me, which is perfectly fine. It is the knowledge of both of those things that makes me happy that I am the designated "airport" guy. I am the one who picks him up every time he travels East for a visit. I realize that our time together in the car might be the single longest block of time that we spend together by ourselves during his stay. I savor every second of it.

And I savor the knowledge that while he is now a grown man making his way in the world - and doing a damn fine job of it if I might be permitted one wholly and admittedly biased observation - the moment that he opens the door leading into the den from the garage and sees his mother with that ear-to-ear grin she reserves for occasions such as this one, he is for a moment at least a little boy again. All that matters to him - and to her - for that brief moment in time is that each is then and there occupying a space also occupied by the other.

A reunion. And a damn fine day for one. Joy to the world or at least to my little corner of it, which is quite simply the best present one can give or receive.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

From Small Steps to Giant Leaps

I was amazed to read yesterday morning the surprisingly high number of people (surprisingly high to me anyway) who decided to get up in the wee small hours of the morning (I like to think of it as "my time") to witness the lunar eclipse. I suppose if I had a better sense of history - the combination of the Winter Solstice and a lunar eclipse had not happened apparently since 1638 and is not scheduled again until 2094 - or perhaps considered it to be something unusual to be up for the day at a time that most of the world considers unseemly then I would have been less so. Or perhaps if I lived in a place where professionally-captured images of the event are not freely available - and available for free no less, then I would have embraced it more. I did not. My loss I suppose. In order to make amends I am going to have to live to be at least 128 years old. Talk about your Old Man Winter. No one is rooting for that I assure you.

While this was not an event that buttered my biscuit as it were it certainly did countless others and since their enjoyment of it did not encroach at all upon my abstention from it (and vice versa) I hope that those who did want to see it as it happened had the chance to do so. Those who - as amateur shutterbugs - set up expensive camera equipment in the dead of winter and the dark of night simply to capture their own images of it I understand less than those who relied simply upon the camera equipment with which we were born to capture the moment. Again, at day's end while it amuses me and perhaps even bemuses me, it does not adversely affect me.

I have become sort of a live and let live type of fella as I have aged. I no longer seek out confrontation at every turn. Ah the glorious combination of youth and vodka. Neither resides in my bones any longer I fear. Proof of my mellowing with age came just the other day when after violating my first rule of social networking - which is to avoid all direct communication with the others doing it (no comments, etc) - by wishing a friend a happy birthday and an obligatory, "Merry Xmas", I was chastised by a third party for my greeting. It seems that her particular faction of the Legion of Decency is charged with the duty of calling out every lazy bastard like me who types, "Xmas" instead of "Christmas". She did so by responding to what I had written - on this gent's birthday greeting mind you - and advising me, "Do not "X" Christ out of Christmas. Write Christmas. Not Xmas. That is the thought for the morning."

Wow. Fairly profound observations for early on a Saturday morning. Initially I laughed. And then the more I thought about it, the more it torqued me off. Why Person C would comment upon a greeting written by Person A to Person B ("I hope you and your family have a merry Xmas") when she was neither the author nor the audience speaks to me of an utter absence of really important things to fill her early morning hours. So, after some consideration I popped back up onto where I had written the original greeting and wrote, "Gee I thought the controversial part of my original message was the use of the lowercase "m" in merry. Perhaps that is the thought for the afternoon."

No response received. Oh well. If only the Winter Solstice had fallen on Saturday morning. Then she would have had something important to occupy her day. If only......

......2094 cannot get here soon enough.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tempus Fugit.....

Today is the shortest day of the year - at least in the Northern Hemisphere - although I shall bet you $1.00 that it will not necessarily feel that way to you. While length of a particular day is subject to the vagaries and whims of Einstein's family (Is that not what is meant by "relativity"?), the amount of daylight is not. Today is the Winter Solstice.

The bad news for anyone and everyone who has been freezing his or her natural-born ornaments off for the past three weeks or so is that today heralds the arrival of winter. What, you thought it had been here since at least the beginning of December? Nope. We have experienced nothing thus far except the clamor and tumult of the final, half in the bag, obnoxious party guests winding down Autumn's annual going-away party. If the final few weeks of Autumn have indeed served as a peek into our immediate meteorological future, then we may find ourselves bundled up against the elements for another ninety days or so.

The good news? Today is the shortest day of the year - the day on which there is less daylight than the year's worth of days that preceded it and the day on which - mercifully - there shall be less daylight than on the year's worth of days that succeed it. While it is probably not necessary to set the alarm an hour earlier than usual tomorrow in order to beat the Shore traffic heading south on the Parkway, it shall be daylight tomorrow for a minute or two longer than it was today. And so shall it be the next day. And the next.

While this is a time of year that many people enjoy and many have a keen interest in not rushing through any faster than we must, we nevertheless must not lose sight of the fact that what lies ahead for us after December's end. Winter. There is nothing "holiday" or "seasonal" feeling about the typical Jersey January or February. All it usually feels is f***ing cold. One takes a victory anywhere one can find one. Me? I take one in the fact that the dawning of every day brings us that much closer to the Spring.

See you tomorrow. Much to do today.....

....and so little time.


Monday, December 20, 2010

From Fribbles To Fezziwigs

If you held a gun to my head and asked me to tell you when the last time was that Margaret and I went to the movies, my best guess would be almost two years ago. For some reason I am thinking that it either Gran Torino or The Wrestler. We had an action-packed February 2008 - cinematically speaking. Since then not so much.

Saturday night we went to the Theatre. No jumbo popcorn/soda combos. No dancing Jujyfruits. No coming attractions. We went to Princeton to McCarter Theatre to see A Christmas Carol. My wife gets all the credit in the world for not giving up on her culturally stunted spouse. But for her love of the movie version of the Dickens classic I never would have thought to get tickets to it. We are not a couple that spends our Saturday nights at a play or musical. I am truly glad that we spent this last one there.

There are some Decembers in which it is harder for me - for whatever reason - to get acquainted with the "spirit of the season" as it were. This December has been one of them. Saturday night helped matriculate the ball towards the goal line as it were in terms of "seasonal spirit acquisition". We had a simply unforgettable night. My bride is such a good sport. Our "plan" (giving that word the broadest permissible definition allowed by the Einstein Estate) did not include dinner and with Joe recently having retired from operating the single finest eatery in Princeton, we realized that we really did not know where to eat.

Nothing says, "Adult Date Night" quite as traditionally as does the time-honored chestnut of dinner and a show. I am quite confident that Margaret and I were the only couple at Saturday night's performance of A Christmas Carol at McCarter Theatre whose pre-theatre meal was eaten at Friendly's at the Montgomery Shopping Center on Route 206. From Fribbles to the Fezziwigs in one evening. A true Christmas miracle.

Dickens wrote a work of fiction. Yet his creation leaps off of the page, the screen and the stage to touch upon real life and those of us who live it. Of the many lessons to be learned from Ebenezer Scrooge, one of them is this: one night can change our life......and if not our life then at the very least our outlook.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Voice Through A Chained Door

In "Downtown: My Manhattan", the great Pete Hamill wrote, "Time itself is long, even if the time of man is short." I am reminded of that this morning. This day - had he lived to see it - would have been my father's 87th birthday. He did not. He died two hundred and two days short of his 58th.

I know not how it is for anyone else although given the decidedly ordinary trajectory of my life to date I suppose it is much the same in other households as it was in mine when I was a boy in my early teens. Mine was a household in which Dad and I spent quite a bit of time in one another's company - but little to no time together. As the youngest of a tribe of six I had watched the metamorphosis in terms of the relationship he had with certain of my older siblings as they transitioned through their teenage years. There is enough of a gap in age between Bill and I (he graduated Rutgers the year I was in kindergarten.......for the first time) that I was not present to witness his relationship with Dad as anything other than adult-to-adult. I had full possession of my faculties however by the time it was Kel's turn to run the gauntlet and I probably did - as younger siblings (particularly those of the same gender) do - went to school a bit on what worked and what did not.

When I was a little kid I was certainly among the apples of Dad's eye. It reached the point where it was embarrassingly so - and as the youngest and (at that time at least) the smallest - I did not grow taller than Evan or Jill until I was at least eleven or twelve - not always the best thing for my health. Suffice it to say that when I was in elementary school and Kel was in high school, the extent of my horse racing knowledge was that according to my older brother, "Charlie Horse" was the answer to the question, "Who won the Kentucky Derby?" Oddly, there is never any mention of the mythical Charlie Horse during the pre-race coverage of the Derby every May and not one word was spoken of him on-screen in Secretariat. Hmm......

The bruises I received as a child were well-earned, I assure you. I milked my status as "the baby" of the family for all it was worth vis-a-vis Dad. And then, much like everything else, it all changed. Perhaps it was when we moved into the house in Neshanic Station that Mom and Dad built ("This is where we are going to retire" was the first lie they told to one another as they watched it being built, knowing that my father would retire upon death and not a minute sooner), which had but three bedrooms. It symbolized the shrinking - if not the emptying of the nest - and further symbolized that none of the chicks still left in it was actually a baby. We were simply not quite ready to take off on our own.

We moved to Neshanic Station several years before Dad died - at some point in early 1978 if memory serves me correctly. Mom sold the house in the Summer of '85 immediately after I graduated from high school. A woman in her mid-fifties living alone, as Mom was then, had little need or use for a 3-bedroom ranch house with a basement dropped smack dab in the middle of a 3+ acre plot of land that was located in what could only fairly be described as the outskirts of nowhere - for it was far too desolate to be considered nowhere's heart or its middle. By the Summer of '85 there were most assuredly no babies left in the house. It had been built to be lived in forever only to discover that "forever" is a unit of time measured on a sliding scale.

I turned forty-three in February of this year. I am the age now that my father was when I was born. I wonder if he had any inkling, any suspicion at all that the arrival of his sixth and final child heralded the arrival of the final quarter of his life. This time two years ago, I could not run from here to the end of this sentence without stopping for oxygen and water. This time last year, while I could make it from this point to sentence's end without stopping, no rest breaks between here and the end of the paragraph would have been more of a hope than an expectation. For the past twelve months or so I have been like a man possessed. And in the process I have dragged my long-suffering bride to places close and not so close on an almost weekly basis (actually from the week before Labor Day until the week before Thanksgiving it was on a weekly basis) so that I can run in a race. 2011 shall bring less insanity in that regard. It simply has to.

The same corner of my brain that once craved vodka as ferociously as it craved oxygen now has been ignited by the need to run. My sister Jill - who is the one who initially got me interested in running - when I told her of my somewhat late-in-the-day realization that I have been more than slightly obsessive this year, told me to consider my answer to a question I had never bothered to ask myself. Jill said to me that everyone who runs is either running towards something or running from something and I needed to engage in a bit of self-examination as to which I was doing and why.

And then it struck me. I am now the age that my father was when I arrived here. And only fourteen years after my arrival, he was dead. Fourteen years may seem like a long time. Fourteen years may seem like a short time. For Dad and me, it was both - and it was something more as well. It was a lifetime.

I have much hope that I have not in fact started the final quarter of my life. I know not one way or the other - much as I suspect my father did not know when he was the age that I am now. But I know that there are things I can do to try to ensure that it is not. Things that for reasons known only to him Dad made no effort to do. I run towards something. I run towards 58 and towards the years beyond it.....

.....towards that beacon shining across this dark highway.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

An Update From The Chop Shop

This Thursday, two months to the day after the on-field accident that has left him thus far paralyzed from the neck down, the injured Knight Eric LeGrand was reported to have had some feeling in his hands. Those who know about such things - a group whose membership roster most assuredly does not include me - responded to the news with an appropriately cautious tone. Appropriate not only because of the science involved, which is explained far more clearly and intelligently here than is possible here, but also because too often in everyday life the line between hope and false hope gets blurred. Even worse, occasionally it gets crossed. Hope is a powerful elixir. False hope is an immeasurably cruel beast. The question, "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true or is it something worse?" is not only rhetorical but one to which the answer is immediate and obvious.

But the road to recovery is built one tiny little paving stone at a time. Thursday's news was certainly not bad. And it came on what has perhaps been the best day the LeGrand family has enjoyed these past couple of months. The Football Writers Association of America announced Thursday that Eric Legrand is the winner of the 2010 Orange Bowl Courage Award. According to the FWAA, the award is presented to a student-athlete for displaying courage on or off the field, including overcoming an injury or a physical handicap, preventing a disaster or living through hardship. I know not who the other candidates were for this year's award, which will be presented to LeGrand's family at the Orange Bowl on January 3rd but it certainly appears as if the FWAA has made an excellent choice. His coach, Greg Schiano, certainly thinks so.

RU's mantra the past several seasons has been, "Keep Choppin'", which symbolizes their intent to play to the whistle and to never stop trying. Outcome is beyond one's exclusive control. Effort is not. Like him - as I do quite a bit - or not it is an inarguable point that Coach Schiano's kids play hard game in and game out. They did so this season even after watching Eric LeGrand - one of their leaders - sustain a season-ending and life-altering injury. They won exactly zero games following their overtime win against Army on October 16. On December 16 they were reminded -as were we all - that football is after all just a game. Far bigger things are out there to be conquered and to be overcome than an opponent on a field.

Abraham Lincoln said to, "Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing." Sage advice from a wise man who - if memory serves me correctly - knew very well just how important it was to keep chopping.

In the timeless words of Mary Lou, "Man the dope is that there's still hope." And right here, right now that is all that matters.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Where Absurdity Meets Reality

History is in the mind of the teller. Perhaps that is why for the rest of my life I shall not look back on the route that the New York Giants (and no I am not going to say "football" Giants. The New York "baseball" Giants have existed only in the hearts and memories of their fans for more than a half-century now. I think the distinction is no longer needed) took to get from their home base of operation here in the State of Concrete Gardens to their last game, which was played on a day other than had been originally scheduled in a state other than had been originally scheduled as one of mankind's great undertakings to relocate men and material. The manner in which the team's journey was chronicled both in the print media and on the FOX pre-game show on Monday night might have created the mistaken impression that they had been the group trapped more than a mile beneath the Earth's surface for an extended period of time. As it turns out, that distinction belonged to a wholly different group of giants.

As it turns out, the Giants' journey through hell was actually a weekend in Kansas City, Missouri, which contrary to popular mythology is not a frontier outpost along the Pony Express Route. Instead it is an established city in the Midwest with running water, electricity, paved roads and cable television. It also apparently has enough of a population base to serve as the home to two separate professional sports franchises: the Chiefs of the National Football League and the Royals of the American League. Was it just me or was anyone fighting hard to suppress the gag reflex listening to the talking heads on ESPN, CBS and FOX prattle on about the "hardship" the Giants were going through? I am quite confident that the G-Men do not spend their weeks away from home hunkered down at the Motel 6 by the airport and would be stunned to learn that they spent their time in Kansas City in anything other than a 4 or 5 star hotel.....before boarding a chartered bus to be driven to the airport where they flew to Detroit Michigan to play a football game.

Let me see if I understand what transpired: a group of business travelers from New Jersey were supposed to have a 12:00 p.m. meeting on Sunday in Minneapolis for which they flew out of New Jersey on Saturday. Weather conditions in Minneapolis required their flight to be re-routed to Kansas City Missouri where they were put up for the night in a hotel (at no cost to any of the individual employees in the traveling party). On Sunday morning they learned that the meeting in Minneapolis had been relocated to Detroit Michigan and the time of the meeting had been changed to 7:00 p.m. on Monday night. They were driven by chartered bus (again at no expense to any of the individual employees making this particular trip), to the airport in Kansas City where they boarded a plane and flew to Detroit. They were put up in a hotel in Detroit Michigan on Sunday night (yet again at no out-of-pocket cost to the individual employees making the trip) and then on Monday night - in Detroit - they had the meeting that had been originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis.

If this group of business travelers had been lawyers, police officers, physical therapists, jugglers, saw salesmen or any other of a million different professions, then this journey would have been a blip on the screen. The fact that it involved a team of professional athletes should not have resulted in an effort by the sports media to raise the Giants' journey to something akin to the rescue at Dunkirk or the Bataan Death March. The journey was not "epic". The men who made it - the football players and coaches - are not warriors......regardless of how often someone might try to persuade us otherwise.

And the last time I checked, staying in luxury hotels, being chauffeured from Point A to Point B and being flown wherever one needs to go on someone else's dime and with someone else doing all of the leg work to ensure that everything you need when you reach Point B is there awaiting your arrival does not qualify as a "hardship". If this past weekend's excellent adventure is the most adversity that any current member of the Giants faces for the remainder of his life, then he is a man who has fortune the rest of us are left to envy.

Nor do I worry about having to explain to my as-yet-unborn grandson Declan twenty-five years from now how it was that Cliff Lee won neither the Cy Young Award nor the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 in spite of his performance on the field during the season and his historical selflessness off the field during his free agency. Lee after all did something that athletes rarely do - he "left money on the table" in order to sign a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. He rejected longer-term offers from the Yankees and the Rangers in accepting the deal with the Phillies.

The sports media's collective reaction was to swoon over Lee. In one day he not only signed a contract that shall over the next five seasons pay him $120 Million but was revealed to be the long lost love child of Mother Theresa and Gandhi. From the coverage of the story one might have misunderstood what direction the $120 Million is going to flow these next five seasons and might have thought that Lee was paying the Phillies that money just to have the chance to pitch for them again. Nope.

To his credit at his news conference on Wednesday Lee did something that I did not hear a single Giants coach or player do earlier this week. He put what he had done in deciding to come to Philly in perspective and in doing so slowed down at least to a degree the Diocese of Philadelphia's efforts to secure canonization for him between now and Opening Day 2011. Apparently reports of the Lee family worrying now how to feed their children in view of Cliff's decision to sign a contract on the cheap were greatly exaggerated. Lee told the media that, "It's plenty of money. When you hit a certain point, enough's enough." He is right. On both counts.

Things are tough all over. They have been for a couple of Christmases now. For those among us earning a living playing professional sports it has likely been less so. Perspective is important. Character counts. Kudos to Lee for keeping the former and exhibiting the latter and in doing so rejecting the fawning-a-thon being thrust upon him and perpetuated upon the rest of us.......

......although what would Lee know about hardship. The only time he is likely to have to spend time in Kansas City Missouri during the next five years is if the Phillies play the Royals in inter-league play.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Nine Days Out

Is it just me or do you get a kick out of Target's version of the Doomsday Clock that has been popping up on television every night this week? If you have not seen it yet, it is a testament to the belief in "direct sell" advertising for it is absolutely short on subtlety. The screen shows a calendar in its center with the pages flying off at breakneck speed until it reaches whatever the present date is, declaring in a loud voice and large type, "THERE ARE ONLY [FILL IN THE #] SHOPPING DAYS LEFT!" Since presumably everyone alive in their target audience knows the deadline to which they are referring without them even saying it, they do not bother to add "UNTIL CHRISTMAS!". Clearly that would be overkill. And most assuredly less than tasteful. Thank goodness for those earthy, homespun Midwesterners at the helm of this particular retail behemoth.

Their tactic apparently has some merit - at least judging by the reaction it elicits from both Margaret and Suzanne each and every time they see it, which is a combination of anxiety and anger. I long ago gave up trying to talk my bride off of the ledge in terms of worrying about what to buy and for whom it "needs" to be bought every Christmas. I try to do my part by removing myself from her "to buy for" list - reminding her that one of the neat things about being an adult and being employed is that if I really want and/or need something I can purchase it for myself. I also offer my suggestions in terms of tackling the rest of the list but in the interest of not burning simultaneously every bridge that connects me to the rest of the world, I will not share that suggestion here. If you are at a loss as to what it might be, then add "An Imagination" to your holiday wish list and if you were indeed nice this year, you will be ready to conquer this exam this time next year.

It is decidedly easier in any marriage to be the husband when approaching events such as Christmas for before we were husbands and fathers we were sons and brothers, which means that the family we have known our entire lives and to whom our spouse has only become acquainted after making one regrettable decision already knows well what truly incompetent individuals we are. Having set the bar so low that jamming a toe is a real occupational hazard through a lifetime's worth of bad, ill-conceived Christmas gifts, we have eradicated the tree of expectation from the orchard altogether. Our family knows we suck. They are secretly - and perhaps not always so secretly - amazed that you still have not figured it out.

Even better for us is that our spouse's family, never having been able to fathom what their perfect angel sees in a wretch like the one we most assuredly are, sets the bar even lower for us than does our own. They grew up watching our wife dazzle them annually with her always smart and just so presents for all creatures great and small. Us? We have added nothing to the mix in their eyes. Perfection existed before we arrived on scene. All they want from us is to not screw it up.

Whether I want to admit it or not, having come to the dance floor carrying all of that with me, once our kids grew out of the age where every Christmas was something akin to "Christmas on Crack" at our house (Margaret and I used to take a "before" and "after" picture on Christmas morning to document the carnage), I lost more than a bit of my zeal for the frenetic pursuit of all things Yuletide. Margaret remains convinced that I will get my Merry Mojo back if and when we become grandparents. She is certain that I shall attack toy stores with the same gusto for the Next Gen as I did for this one. While I presume she is right (I have learned something during all the years we are married) I know not for certain. As of this Christmas it is a discussion that remains purely hypothetical.

I know that one week from today I shall make my happiest pick-up of the season. And it is not to be found on the shelves of any store. At some point on the evening of the 23rd, I shall see Rob's smiling face as he walks towards me in the arrival area in Terminal C at Newark Airport - having traveled from his home in Colorado to his once-and-future (I say hopefully) in the State of Concrete Gardens. The time he shall spend here shall be - as it always is - far too brief. But knowing that it shall be over before I know it does not dampen the enthusiasm associated with seeing him when I pick him up at the airport or - immeasurably more so than that - Margaret's reaction when he walks into our kitchen.

The song says, "The Christmas we get we deserve." We shall see.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Making A List & Checking It Twice

Dear Santa:

Please accept this as an amendment and a codicil to my most recently submitted Christmas list. I submit it to you with the understanding that any and all lists submitted prior to this one are and shall forever be null and void. I understand if at first blush you might think that this list is a might ambitious and that if you start scrolling through your "Naughty" and "Nice" lists, I might not seem like a candidate for such Noel largess. But I ask only that you give it fair and full consideration you fat bast*rd. Hell, it is not like you do not owe me.

Remember way back when as a little boy, I topped my wish list four or five years running with the Army men I saw advertised on the inside rear cover of every comic book I ever read. They were cheap - something like $2.99 plus shipping and handling - and they were plentiful as both armies (the green and the gray) came with 100 pieces including men, tanks and airplanes. Every year for four or five years running I tore open my presents looking for my soldiers. It was a fool's errand every year. They never arrived. Apparently Peacenik Claus delivered at our house. Talk about your Ho-Ho-Hose Job.

Anyway Fats, I digress. I think you get my point; right? I have paid my dues. I have bided my time. Now it is time to pay up. So while you may feel free to double up on the coal next year, this time round here is what I want to see 'neath the tree ten days from now.

First, I want accountability to be delivered in equal shares and proportionate doses to all adult humans worldwide so that people better understand that there are consequences to their actions prior to choosing to engage in them so that after they do something they are deprived of the opportunity of claiming, "I did not know I was doing anything wrong" or my favorite faux rhetorical bit of self-examination, "I ask myself now what was I thinking?" No more dodging bullets with bullshit back-pedaling. A man (or a woman) stands up. And he or she does so immediately.....not more than twenty-four hours after the fact. The suggestion that the men who run the New York Jets acted "swiftly" and "decisively" vis-a-vis Sal The Tripper - their strength coach who decided to hip check a Miami Dolphins player during Sunday's debacle at the Swamp - is laughable. Presumably Woody Johnson's owner's box is equipped with a television monitor. Presumably General Manager Mike Tannenbaum's seat - wherever it is in the new PSL Stadium - is also. Presumably both men were actually watching the game live on Sunday afternoon, which means they had access to the same crystal clear view (courtesy of CBS) that Margaret, Joe and I had sitting in our den. It took the Jets more than twenty-four hours to issue a public proclamation as to the propriety of one of their employee's actions, which actions occurred in front of an audience of millions? Ridiculous. Right is right and wrong is wrong and the dawning of a new day is often not an elixir that transforms the latter into the former. Willie the Shakes observed that a fish stinks from the head down. So does a professional sports franchise.

Second, Jolly Old Nicky, continuing my theme of unfettered selflessness, I would like you to deliver to Sal Alosi - who presumably will have a lot of free time on his hands in which to catch up on his reading - a copy of "Strange But True Football Stories", which I read as a child. See Santa, one of the advantages of living in the middle of nowhere and having a built-in friend repellent like epilepsy as a little boy was it gave me a lot of quality time to spend by myself so I read everything I could get my hands on - including "Strange But True Football Stories". Actually Sal does not even have to read it. He can simply glance at the illustration on the front cover. Maybe now in the aftermath of his own brain cramp he recognizes what is depicted there? Probably not. Having read Zander Hollander's book as a boy, I can enlighten him. The illustration depicts a moment in the 1954 Cotton Bowl between Rice and Alabama - a game in which Rice defeated 'Bama fairly decisively. The star of the game was the Rice running back Dicky Moegle, described in the account of the game that ran in the Dallas Morning News on January 2, 1954 as, "a pink cheeked teenager equipped with jet propulsion and a one-track mind" who ran for three touchdowns ranging in length from thirty-four yards to ninety-five yards.

It is the ninety-five yard touchdown run that is depicted, Sal, on the cover of Mr. Hollander's opus for it was during that play that something extraordinary happened. Alabama back Tommy Lewis leaped up off of the bench and as Moegle streaked up the sideline on his way to the end zone, Lewis launched himself onto the field (sans helmet) and tackled him. He then got up - stunned by his own actions - and went back and sat on the bench. Moegle was awarded the touchdown. It has been said that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Maybe next year in lieu of "Hard Knocks" on HBO the Jets can ensure that all of their rooms at their training camp have a copy of one of my favorite childhood books on each nightstand.

Third, Papa Christmas, please deliver to FOX broadcaster Jimmy Johnson a clue. During the FOX pre-game show on Monday night prior to the Giants/Vikings game in Detroit, FOX's Jay Glazer reported on the punishment meted out to Alosi for his actions. All of the talking heads on the panel - including three former NFL players - thought that the punishment was appropriate and (in the case of Howie Long at least) that Alosi was fortunate that he was not terminated immediately. Johnson's reaction? He expressed disappointment that Alosi was suspended without pay, pointing out that as an assistant coach Alosi does not earn nearly the kind of money that the players in the NFL earn......including presumably the Dolphins player who he deliberately kneed and who he could have injured. To the credit of the rest of the members of the panel, none of them seconded Johnson's position. Apparently JJ is still feeling the effects of the extreme conditions he encountered in Nicaragua as a cast member on Survivor.

Last but certainly not least O Great Denizen of the Frozen North, I want Carl Pavano to be signed to a the Philadelphia Phillies. The only way it seems to screw up the Fighting Phils' chances of winning the World Series in 2011 - with a pitching staff on which either Roy Oswalt or Cole Hamels is the #4 starter - is to hire Prince Carl the Albatross to be their #5 starter. It has been a great off-season thus far for the Yankees; eh? Other than the addition by subtraction of Javy Vazquez signing with the Florida Marlins not a damn thing has gone well for the Silver Spoon Twins. Since the Phillies have taken the time to assemble the most formidable starting rotation I have seen in all of my years of watching baseball, it is only fair that they be forced to sign Pavano.....if for no other reason than to prevent the Yankees from panicking completely and throwing money at him for a second tour of duty in the Bronx.

Well that is all Santa. If you think I have asked for too much then how about dropping Pavano down the Phillies' chimney and my soldier dudes down mine and we shall call it even? I will even throw in an extra box of Thin Mints and a carrot stick.....


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Soul Survivors

Proving that what is in a name is indeed subject to a rather broad interpretation at times, once again this year I am - along with countless others - taking part in Operation Santa. This particular operation is the brainchild and labor of love of an organization called Democrats for the Soul, Inc., of which the Firm's Senior Partner (and one of my two ultimate work bosses) is the President. Neither the President nor the organization appears to be taken aback by the fact that (a) I am a registered Republican; and (b) I am utterly devoid of a soul. Good thing I have both of my feet for it makes to keep score: Soles 2, Soul 0.

In spite of my political affiliations and innate shortcomings - or perhaps because of at least the latter - again this year I am one of the folks assuming the role of Santa for children in Union County who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, abandonment and/or neglect and a number of whom will spend this Christmas in a foster home or a shelter or in some place other than home. While I am not ever mistaken with the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer even I am astute enough to recognize that while it is the children who receive the presents, it is us who gives them who really receive something through this program.

This year I was designated to be Santa for a young man named Elmer - age 13. I hope that the presents he receives tickle his fancy as much when he opens them as they did mine when I purchased them. I hope he also takes a moment or two to appreciate the sensational way in which all of his gifts are wrapped, which I had zero to do with again this year. I am married to a woman whose endless array of mad skills includes being able to wrap any parcel - regardless of shape or size - and make it appear to be ready for the window display at Macy's Herald Square. What I do to package-wrapping borders on the criminal. What Margaret does borders on the sensational. As the great American philosopher Josey Wales taught us, "A man's got to know his limitations." I know mine.

I cannot fathom for a moment what these children of Union County, including my man Elmer, experience in the run-up to Christmas this year or any year for that matter. I know that Christmas has been turned into an insanely overproduced and overly commercialized affair. Yet at its core it is about family and it is - or should be from my way of thinking at least - about children. Every year all over this state, this country and the world there are kids who close the book on December without even tasting a sip of what Christmas is supposed to be all about. I know not whether that feeling - that knowledge of having gone without something so basic and apparently so readily accessible for countless others - ever goes away. There is a cliche about wounds and the curative power of time. Me? I remain skeptical. The notion of a magic elixir remains a difficult one for me to swallow.

Taking advantage of an opportunity to play a bit part in Operation Santa is far easier for me to do. Perhaps it is my ever-whitening beard and my lifelong battle with my weight that makes it a role with such tremendous appeal for me. Or perhaps it is something else altogether....

....either/or matters not to Elmer and to the other children who this year are the recipients of the presents collected by Operation Santa. What matters is that for them this year, Santa Claus is coming to town.


Monday, December 13, 2010

The Warmth Of The Big Chill

I had the chance on Saturday to participate in what has become an annual rite of the season for me. In 2008, my sister Jill asked me if I wanted to run with her in a 5K race that the Rutgers University Recreation Department puts on every December for children for whom Christmas would otherwise be something not at all merry. While I thought that first effort in December 2008 was going to be the death of me, it was not. The Big Chill 5K has grown more into simply a race I run - it has become part of Christmas for me. A wonderful, absolutely indispensable part.

This year's edition was held on Saturday. This was the first year in the three years I have participated in it that it was not brutally cold at race time. Do not misunderstand for it was most assuredly not warm at race time. Nor would anyone expect it to be. After all: (a) it is December; (b) it is Jersey; and (c) it is a race that starts at 9:00 in the morning. But unlike last year, when all of the participants practically had to be forced out of the College Avenue Gym and onto the street just to start the race, this year most of those who came to run and to walk were outside and ready to go with ten minutes to spare.

The Big Chill is an exceptionally high-energy affair - undoubtedly due in large part to the involvement of the RU community. There are countless volunteers present at "the Barn" (as the College Avenue Gym is affectionately known) on Friday afternoon/evening and early Saturday morning to help those of us who have signed up to run and/or to walk pick up our stuff and drop off our toy. This is after all a race for which the registration fee is paid not in cash but with a toy. Friday night on the way home from the office I swung past the Barn to pick up my race bib and to drop off my toy. When I got there Friday night there were already thousands of toys lined up from one baseline to the other.

And Saturday morning, toys and participants arrived in jaw-dropping numbers. By thirty minutes to race time, the gym was filled to its gunwales with both. And it was this year as it has been the past couple of years - a simply beautiful sight to see. I am not a human being who has a sterling history of doing unto others so I steal my sips of good karma wherever and whenever I can. Being a part of this event annually affords me a chance to take a full, hearty swig. And for as long as they do it and for as long as I can take part in it, I intend to drink from this particular well.

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Indeed it is.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Where Nothin' Moves But The Wind

For the life of me, I cannot fathom why anyone pops by this particular rest stop on the information superhighway. Ask anyone who knows the author to provide you with a short list of the most selfish people he or she knows and while I shall not guarantee a first-place finish on each and every list (I do possess a modicum of modesty after all), you may be assured that a spot can be found for me on every respondent's medal stand. I do this for me. Once upon a lifetime ago I derived pleasure from trying to consume daily my body weight in vodka. Having but one liver, I have moved on to other pursuits. One takes catharsis wherever one can get it I suppose. I know that is true at least in my case.

The things about which I know nothing at all are legion. And while as someone who knows me fairly well, I am hesitant (with good reason) as a general rule to take my own counsel, I am living proof of the axiom that even a blind squirrel can trip over a nut on occasion.

No matter who you are, no matter what you do it seems to me that a fundamental precept by which you live your life is that you should not ever take for granted those who mean the most to you. Not everyone in his or her life has someone who is indispensable. Someone who is as critically important to you as the air you breath. If you are one of the lucky ones whose path in life leads you to such a person, then when you reach the point of intersection between your two paths and the horizon line, intertwine your hand with theirs and do not let go.

Once intertwined, remember that while the journey should be enjoyable and comfortable neither it nor your traveling companion should ever be taken for granted. Irrespective of one's grip strength, we are in fact held together by a thin, fine thread. Do not assume its durability. Do not presume that it is so strong that it can hold together under any set of circumstances. Do not be an asshole. Do not test its limits. Never -under any circumstances - take the one you love for granted. Hang on tooth and nail.

The intersection of luck and fate. Not a place where you want to set down roots. Nothing grows there. It is no place at all like home.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Taking The Pulpit Away From The Bully

While it is not a popular position to espouse this time of year and while I am a deeply flawed human being (perhaps even irredeemably so if recent history is any indication), I am not a hypocrite. Thus while I appreciate the fact that countless individuals - including many who I love and respect - have faith in and believe in the existence of God, I respectfully dissent from that position. Too much bad shit has played on the screens of the multiplex of my mind. On my best days, I battle as perhaps we all do to have enough faith in myself to get out and do what I have to do to survive. I am the sole repository of whatever faith I have in anything or anyone. Why? Not because I am wholly reliable. Far from it. But by placing all of my faith in me and on me I can immediately hold accountable the person most likely to disappoint me - the person most likely to let me down. I have never been a fan of the middleman.

That being said, I am hard-pressed to think of a day when I have wished and hoped more fervently that I am wrong on this issue than this morning. Today, the family of Elizabeth Edwards shall bury her. While the burial shall be private, the funeral preceding it shall be open to the public. Mrs. Edwards bravely fought a very public battle against breast cancer, which diagnosis was announced to the world in the final breaths of the 2004 Presidential campaign. A campaign in which her now-estranged husband John occupied the #2 spot on the ticket for the Democrats. Mrs. Edwards died earlier this week, having succumbed to the cancer that spread into her liver from her breast. She was sixty-one years old. In addition to her dog of a husband, she is survived by three children ranging in age from twenty-eight to ten. She shall be buried next to her son Wade who died in a 1996 car accident.

Presuming that they carry through on their threat, the mouth-breeding miscreants who lap up the offensive, repugnant bullshit spewed at them by their leader Reverend Fred Phelps, wrap themselves in the name of God and exist under the banner of the Westboro Baptist Church, shall spend approximately ninety minutes prior to the funeral protesting against Mrs. Edwards. Westboro - when it announced its intent to picket - declared that it was doing so because God hated Mrs. Edwards and she is dead not because of her cancer but because she thought she could control God.

It is at this point that I would say to all those I know who believe in the existence of a higher power merely this: if Phelps and the rest of his band of hate-mongering douche bags really are people of God and are doing the Lord's work, then I shall gladly take my chances playing for the other team. Just call it in the air Freddie and buckle up your chin strap because once the whistle blows, it is absolutely game on. Presumably Phelps and his flock (And I'll take "Type of Animal that Travels in a Flock" for $1000 Alex and answer, "What are Sheep?") had not yet congregated in Kansas when that epic twister tore young Dottie and Toto away from Hank and Em's farm and landed them in Oz for if the Westboro bunch was already there methinks that our young Jayhawk expatriate would have opened up some type of business right there on the green in Oz and lived there happily ever after.

If the names Fred Phelps and Westboro ring a familiar chord in your memory, then perhaps it is because you have read or heard of their lengths to which this group of cowards will go to disrupt the funeral services of our servicemen and servicewomen killed in combat. During this Fall's term the United States Supreme Court heard argument in the matter of Snyder v. Phelps, a lawsuit filed by the father of a United States Marine killed in combat whose funeral was disrupted by the vile conduct of Phelps and his followers. Mr. Snyder won a $5M judgment against Phelps and Westboro, which judgment was vacated on appeal.

Apparently Phelps and his clan (sorry, his congregation) are not content to spread hate solely at the funerals of military personnel. Thus today they shall do what they can to disrupt the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards and to interfere with the efforts of those who love her to bid her farewell. Phelps' act is so time-worn and predictable it would almost be funny if he was not himself such a fear-inducing human being. He is what he is: a loudmouth and a bully. No one ever obtained permanent relief and lasting peace running away from a bully. It is only achieved by kicking his teeth through the back of his face and after he picks himself up off of the ground, doing it to him again. And then doing it again and again and again until at some point he either loses the ability to get up off of the ground or when he does, he slithers away into the ether. I suppose credit should be given for branding his particular type of hate under the auspices of something he calls a "church" - a word that presumably conjures up a visual image that ultimately resembles what Westboro actually is not at all.

If there is some sort of celestial scorekeeper up there watching over all of us, then today is a day I would like him to show us (OK, just me) a sign. While I am hoping for something Biblical such as a round of spontaneous combustion for Rev. Phelps and his fanatics (sorry again, his congregation), I would settle for something of a less-eternal nature. I shall leave it up to the imagination of the Almighty. Of the two of us, who do you think has more creativity?

One of us created the narwhal for crying out loud. Before you are inclined to give him too much credit for that, remember that the one who created the narwhal is the same one who created Phelps....... not look at me - my hands are as clean as my conscience.


Friday, December 10, 2010

The Continuing Adventures of Adam Oop

The process of discovering just how little I know about absolutely everything has been going full force truth be told for the entirety of my life. It has undergone a veritable explosion however in the past two weeks.

Two Sundays ago, Suz, the Missus and I wandered over to a nearby Verizon Wireless store to get "upgrades" on our cell phones. Last year at Christmas Rob upgraded to a Droid. Suz wanted to do likewise and I - knuckling dragging defiantly on the ground of the last century - finally acknowledged that for work purposes having access to e-mail while out of the office whether via Blackberry or other means was no longer a "luxury". It is, sadly perhaps, a necessity.

For the past few years I had been toting around my little Verizon flip phone. At gun point I could not tell you who made it. I am certain that at some point I bothered to look at the name plate but then again maybe not. I know that it was reliable, durable and as anyone who has perused any of the hundreds of photographs I used it to take can attest it took damn fine pictures. For those of you who have never seen any of them, I suppose you will have to simply take my word for it. Or not. Your call.

To date the appeal of a "Smart Phone" eludes me. While Suz acquired a Droid X I opted for something called a Samsung Fascinate. It is a quite impressive-looking little gadget. And it does do what I wanted something to do, which is permit me to stay connected via e-mail to my office and to what is going on there when I am someplace else. That being said, almost two weeks into this relationship and I find that I am not yet a fan. My less-than-enthusiastic embrace likely stems in large part from the fact that I am not particularly technologically savvy and I loathe change. We have not reached this particular drama's final scene so perhaps in Act II romance shall blossom. I am not holding my breath. Why would I? You can really hurt yourself if you do that for too long. Blue eyes - OK. Blue skin.....not so much.

I suppose that for now I shall try to become smart enough to understand my new gadget. While I am not sure that my programming will permit such an upgrade, I am 100% certain that no amount of tweaking can make it dumb enough for me to understand it as (I am) presently constructed.....

....sadly that much I know from experience.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Because They Still Make Wooden Christmas Trees

Quick - how many shopping days remain until Christmas? Do not ask me for I matriculated to law school to escape the rigors of hard mathematics. More than one I gather but not as many as people seem to think they need. All of this buildup for one day. I should have paid more attention to how my Jewish friends and their parents did it when I was a kid in school. I wonder now did everyone's Mom/Dad emerge annually from Hanukkah emotionally unscathed or did they just hide the wounds well? According to the calendar on the wall of my office, today marks the end of this year's celebration of Hanukkah. I hope that one and all who celebrate it had a safe and happy one.

Tuesday night the Missus was out doing a bit of the Christmas shopping thing and doing a bit of visiting as well. A two-fisted approach: spreading Holiday stimulus and Holiday cheer simultaneously. Me? I came home from work and sat doing some work in the den while flipping around the dial looking for something to watch on TV. After watching a repeat of one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes at 7:30 ("Festivus - A Holiday for the Rest of Us") I stumbled across one of my all-time favorite Christmas specials. ABC aired "A Charlie Brown Christmas" at 8:00. And while I missed the beginning of it, once I came across it I set down the remote control and remained parked there for its duration.

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" was made forty-five years ago. All of my life I have been an enormous fan of Charles Schulz's Peanuts characters. I have had a particularly soft spot in my heart for Charlie Brown. Maybe it is because both of us were created (without any say in the matter I might add) with enormous, oversized heads. Maybe it is because while both of us participated enthusiastically and earnestly in a variety of sports as children, neither of us possessed what the kids today might refer to as "mad skills". Fortunately I never actually got struck hard enough with a baseball that it made of my clothing fall off. I speak not only for me but for anyone and everyone who has ever seen me fully-garbed when I say, "Thank you" to whoever or whatever it is controls such occurrences for not having such an event happen to me. There are not enough trees in all the forests in all of the world to produce the quantity of sticks needed to poke out minds' eyes were that to happen.

Maybe it was because for reasons I never understood as a boy - and having gotten heavier, taller and grayer but not wiser as a man in my mid-40's - and still do not understand today, Dad called me "Chuck". If my life and the lives of all of those I love depended on it I could not tell anyone why he did. I honestly have no idea. I have no recollection of ever knowing why he did it. I do recall, being the youngest of six and dealing with fun childhood stuff such as epilepsy for which I consumed multiple tablespoons of Phenobarbital daily, I never asked and I certainly never complained. As the only member of the Kenny sextet born sans a middle name and aware of Mom's explanation as to why that had happened, "We ran out of clever combinations", having a middle name -even if was of the faux variety - assigned to me by Dad was fantastic. I do recall writing my name on papers in school when I was in first or second (OK or tenth) grade, "Adam Chuck Kenny", as if it was my middle name and as if "ACK" was my officially recognized monogram (Here's to you Berkeley Breathed.)

Whatever the reason, Charlie Brown and I have been brothers from other mothers my entire life. So there I sat Tuesday night, alone in my den save for the company of our assorted animals, watching a program ostensibly created for children but really intended for all of us. And there it was - as it always is - shortly before the end of the show: the scene in which Linus steps out from behind the security blanket to front and center. Linus, the keeper of all that is righteous in the world of Peanuts. He steps to the center of the stage at the gang's rehearsal for the Christmas play to help out his friend Charlie Brown.

If you have seen it, and if you are old enough to find your way here and to have read to this point then you most assuredly have, then you know that Charlie Brown appears to be one his way to fumbling the job of Director of the Christmas play. A job given to him by Lucy as part of a prescribed course of psychiatric treatment (I noticed last night that Dr. Lucy charged a nickel a session for her services but her signage was light on issues of insurance plans accepted and whether her stated rate was in-network or out of network) and a job that included among its many responsibilities the task of selecting a Christmas tree. Not surprisingly Charlie Brown selects a tree whose charms - while obvious to him - are not quite so obvious to the rest of the gang and he hears it from all of them (including Snoopy) when he brings the tree to rehearsal for all of them to see.

Having taken quite a tongue-lashing from his peers, Charlie Brown begins anew questioning the meaning of Christmas and wondering whether it is really supposed to be about glitz, glamour and shiny things. And into the breach strides Linus, a little fellow so inherently insecure that he carries his blanket with him wherever he goes and he sucks his thumb. Yet, in a scene that was probably fairly daring at the time Schulz wrote it, Linus explained it all.

I am not a religious man. Not anything close to it. But in an era in which the bombardment of advertising for items to purchase for Christmas begins at Halloween and stops at 11:58 p.m. on Christmas Eve, it was nice to be reminded by a little boy with a blanket that it is not all about the bargains. And it never has been.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Long, Long Time Ago....

Being the tail gunner in a large family - especially when among your older sibs are brothers to show you the ropes on innumerable issues - has its advantages. I was likely the only kid on my 5th and 6th grade baseball team at W-H who had a Whitey Ford model baseball glove - a well-worn and wonderful piece of family athletic "artifactica" that likely graced the hand of at least one of my two older brothers prior to finding its way onto mine. I was also a child in the 1970's whose baseball card collection was simply jaw-dropping. I inherited cards that Bill and Kel had collected back in their respective "days" and mixed in with my own unspectacular collection of then-present day cards were some old beauties: Mickey Mantle, Brooks Robinson, Willie McCovey and Warren Spahn among others. At some point in time I passed them along to Kel's son without ever inquiring what he intended to do with them - if anything at all - since that was precisely the same way in which they had been given to me. Just cards and a faint smell of stale bubble gum. No strings.

Timing is everything of course. Thus by the time I arrived on the scene in the winter of '67, The Beatles were already rounding the clubhouse turn and heading down the homestretch of their time together. Everything I know about The Beatles and have ever learned about them was knowledge acquired after they had broken up. Mine is knowledge gleaned from a historical perspective and not from the perspective of one who lived through it and with it.

The latter perspective is one wholly embraced by my oldest brother Bill. He is too modest to say it (and modesty is not a trait that survived the descent from highest branch to lowest on the Kenny Family Tree) so I shall. His knowledge of all things music is encyclopedic. His knowledge of all things related to The Beatles is even more sharply honed and attuned. I am likely going to woefully oversimplify it here ("Long live the curse of the little brain!") but they were the game changers for Bill. Music - if it hits the listener in just the right way - has the ability to resonate not only in one's ear but in one's brain, in one's heart, in one's conscience and in one's soul. And the resonance continues long after the music stops. So it was - and so it is (at least as I have always understood it) for Bill and The Beatles. They - both as a group and as individuals - have continued to make a difference for Bill and to him - throughout the decades since they stopped making music together. And I reckon that as long as he is here, they shall continue to do so.

Thirty years ago on this very day, Dad and I were among those folks from W-H who went onto a bus trip into New York City to have dinner at Beefsteak Charlie's and to see a Broadway show. I think that this particular trip was to see "Evita!" but the margin for error in my memory is canyonesque. I do recall that it was damned cold and pitch dark when we stepped off of the charter bus in the parking lot of what used to be the Upper School campus on Inman Avenue and got into Dad's car. As we sat in the darkness waiting for the car to warm up a bit, Dad did what he always did - he turned on his car's radio. The radio was set that night - as it seemed it was every time the vehicle was turned on (save for Notre Dame Football Saturdays when it was tuned to Mutual Broadcasting's coverage of the game) - to NewsRadio 88. WCBS AM has never earned a higher audience rating anywhere than it did in Dad's car. If the car was on, then the radio was on. If the radio was on, then (11 Saturday afternoons a year notwithstanding) WCBS AM was on. Whether Dad never noticed or simply never cared that the station recycled the same news stories over and over every twenty minutes or so I never knew. I never grew a set of stones big enough to ask.

As we sat there in the darkness that night, the lead story on NewsRadio 88 (and on Monday Night Football apparently) was the shooting of John Lennon. The Beatles were most assuredly not Dad's thing and Lennon, spinning musical Scriptures advocating a brotherhood of man, was certainly not getting any airplay on the Fisher Console Hi-Fi Stereo that dominated an entire wall in our home's dining room. But hearing the news that Lennon had been murdered while doing nothing more extraordinary than walking into his home with his wife did something to Dad that not too many things did. It rendered him speechless. He could not explain to his 13 year-old son why someone who did not know Lennon had traveled to Manhattan from Hawaii to murder a human being who had never met.

In fairness to Dad, thirty years further on up the road it remains as utterly inexplicable as it did sitting there in the dark parking lot at W-H thirty years ago. And if I live long enough to see its sixtieth anniversary I wager that while much more shall be written about it between this date and that one, an explanation shall remain elusive.