Sunday, October 31, 2010

Treat or Treat

Observation apropos of nothing else: Happy Anniversary to my sis Jill and my brother-in-law Joe,celebrating today their 23rd anniversary. Proof positive that sometimes school days romances actually do lead to happily ever after. Two of my favorite people and here's to hoping that the next 23 years are as beautiful as the first 23.

This morning Gidg and I shall take part - with a reported several thousand other runners - in the 10K that is part of the Marine Corps Marathon weekend. If this day goes as well as yesterday, then regardless of how we run it shall be a success. We spent the entirety of yesterday touring all around our nation's capital. I have had the pleasure of visiting DC on a few other occasions - including one time slightly less than two years ago with Rob - and was thrilled to be present for the maiden voyage that Margaret, Suzanne and Joe all made here. It saddens me still a bit to think that I should have taken them all here earlier than this weekend - and should have done it before Suzy B got too sick to make the trip. I was thinking of my mother-in-law yesterday when we were seeing the sights. I thought of how much she would have enjoyed seeing what we saw. It is a bell I cannot unring.

Yesterday we enjoyed the hell out of ourselves while managing to spend most of the day in parts of the city separate and apart from the rally that Messrs. Colbert and Stewart held for what appeared to be several hundred thousand of their fans. We did wander through a part of it towards its end late yesterday afternoon and were reminded - regardless of personal political views - of all that is good about this country of ours. The party was not ours but those who were throwing it and those who were attending it could not have been nicer to those of us who - when we encountered the event - were simply trying to walk from Point A to Point B on opposite sides of the Mall.

I hope this morning goes well. I do not usually spend my Sunday mornings running 6.2 miles and I spend even fewer Sundays running in 10K races. Yet this morning I shall do both. Everything about this weekend has been terrific. To a certain extent this morning is about holding up my end. It is - after all - the stated reason why we came.

-AK

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Giant Steps

My father's baseball team - the New York Giants - departed the earthy confines of the Polo Grounds approximately one decade prior to me taking out a full page ad in the trades to announce my arrival. Among the many phases of Dad's life that had been played out completely by the time I got here was his passionate support of his Giants. I knew him solely as a two-fisted fan: on his right hand he tattooed the words "Yankee Hater" and on his left hand "Red Sox Fan". As a small boy I never quite understood how a lifelong New York City kid had become such a fan of a team from Boston (or for that matter why my godfather was a man who I think was from Boston and who I have no recollection of ever having met). I must confess that having been born into an era when New York was simply a two-team town, I never fully understood either the source or the limitless depth of his hatred of the Yankees. When you get to the movie late, you miss a lot. It can be hard to catch up. Especially when the film features sparse dialogue.

A great deal of light was shone for me a few years back when I read Thomas Oliphant's book, "Praying For Gil Hodges". Oliphant chronicled the story of his parents and him - die-hard Brooklyn Dodgers fans all - and the glorious fall of 1955. It was that October when the Dodgers emerged victorious in the World Series against the Yankees. While the two teams where neighbors in the Big Apple they matched up in the Series on a number of occasions. '55 was the only year in which the Dodgers won. That autumn, Oliphant was a 5th grader at the Browning School for Boys in Manhattan. His teacher? My father. In the book, Oliphant describes a young, energetic man passionate about many things - including baseball. He also describes a man who believed in the adage "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". Dad was a Giants fan. Coded into his DNA was a dislike for the Dodgers. Yet, according to Oliphant Dad rooted hard for the Dodgers in the '55 Series. It has been said that there is a fine line between love and hate. Apparently there is an equally fine distinction to be drawn between dislike and hate.

After the 1957 season ended, the Giants and the Dodgers made a joint great migration west, hopping on a couple of coast-to-coasters and flying clear over Levelland to California. In the fifty-three seasons since, during which the Giants have played their home games in San Francisco, the Giants have never won the World Series. It has in fact been fifty-six seasons since the Giants last won the Series, when a young man named Willie Mays outran a bomb launched by a fella named Vic Wertz and made a play that is as extraordinary to see now as it must have been on an October afternoon more than five and one-half decades ago.

Dad's Giants have made it to the World Series since they moved to California all those years ago. They have yet to win a title from their home on the streets of San Francisco. This year, two games into the Series they are halfway home. They shall play tonight in Texas against the Rangers up two games to none off of back-to-back performances in their ballpark by the Bay that were as dominating as the beat-down the Rangers put on the Yankees in the ALCS.

Somewhere, someplace the old man is smiling. And I hope for his sake - and for Giants' fans everywhere - that Scott Ostler has not poked fate in their collective eye.

Halfway home Dad. Halfway home.

-AK

Friday, October 29, 2010

Esprit de Corps

Today is travel day in our house. As opposed to doing something that Suzanne, Margaret and I all do with metronomic-like consistency, which is hop into our respective vehicles and go to work (albeit at varying times of the morning and to different destinations) the three of us are road-tripping south - together. For fun we are taking Joe along with us. The four of us are playing hooky today so that we can travel to Washington DC. Once there we shall be joined by our friends the Sisters Kizis - Lynne and Sue. Halloween weekend in Washington DC.

With apologies to John Stewart for not really giving a rat's ass about the masses he has promised to assemble on the Mall tomorrow (although as a runner I am really jazzed about the number of porta-potties he has apparently paid to rent. Race organizers everywhere take note.) we are descending upon the Nation's capital this weekend for two purposes. The first is to let Joe, Margaret and Suzanne all spend a couple of days prowling around a place that is simply fascinating. Too often it seems we morph a discussion of "history" into a diatribe on politics. I care not what your personal politics are. If you live in these United States you owe it to yourself and to anyone else in your family who has never been to make a trip to Washington DC. The life of a nation is a journey, not a destination. You cannot help but have a better and fuller understanding of how we have reached the point in our journey where we are presently than knowing the steps we walked to get here. I am looking forward to spending this evening, tomorrow and as much time as the traveling party wants to devote to it on Sunday late morning/early afternoon to prowling around DC and letting all of them soak in every moment of it that they can.

The second purpose of the trip (kind of, sort of lost in the excitement of going) is the Marine Corps 10K, which is part of the 35th Annual Marine Corps Marathon. Gidg and I are running in it. The race is Sunday morning starting at 8:00 a.m. I do not recall where it starts but I know that the finish line is at the Marine Corps Memorial. How much better does it get than that? I have a bit of trepidation in that I do not run 6.2 miles on a regular basis but that anxiety is secondary to the excitement I have knowing that we are going to be running in the presence of countless members of our armed forces. But for me ever having gotten my over sized a** off of the couch and off on the road as fast as my little legs could carry me, I would not have known such an event existed. I would never have known that its existence would permit me to bring a number of people I love to a place that I enjoy very much to enjoy with them the sights and sounds of American history.

I know not if there is any TV coverage of this event. If there is, feel free to not look for Gidg and me among the leaders at the finish line. Sunday is - to me - more of an event than a race. I look forward to enjoying every minute of it. As I look forward to enjoying every minute of this weekend. The last time I paid attention to this weekend's weather for DC the forecast seemed pretty damn autumnal - and wonderfully so.

And we are off......

-AK

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Digital Display

Among the many things I have never bothered to learn (an ever-growing list I might add) is whether toes are called by names similar to their cousins the fingers. Thanks to Harold Ramis and Bill Murray I know that the "big toe" is called Sgt. Hulka (as opposed to the "foot thumb" or some such thing) but I am at a loss as to the others. Do we have an index toe? A ring toe? A middle toe? I know not.

At the risk of misidentifying them, which seems incredibly cruel because our toes have suffered enough after all (athlete's foot, clogs, walking into the corners of desks, mud puddles), for purposes of illustration I will refer to them for purposes of this piece by their nom de piggy. For those of us who either slept through kindergarten or have never seen a Geico commercial, the fab five are: the one who went to the market, the one who stayed home, the one who ate roast beef, the one who had none and.......Max. Man I do love that commercial - although I wish my attempted reenactment of it on the Parkway had worked out a bit better for Margaret and me - and my pinwheel.

I head off to work by about 4:00 a.m. every morning. It likely sounds far more impressive than it actually is. As the song says, "You get used to anything. Sooner or later it becomes your life." One of the things I have gotten used to is getting dressed in limited light. I like to think (or hope anyway) that far more often than not what I wear out in public does not look like it was put together by someone in the dark. Often the trickiest part of the dressing process is finding the right pair of socks. Sounds simple but as my experience this week reminded me it is not always necessarily so.

Tuesday morning I had to go to Warren County to finish my trial. Seeing that the last piece of work to be completed was summations by the attorneys, I wanted to make sure that I looked as presentable as possible. Apparently however while dressing Tuesday morning I got a little bit sloppy. I opted for a pair of socks that - as luck would have it - had a small hole in the left one (slightly closer to the one who stayed home than the one who ate roast beef). I must confess that I did not notice it either while I was putting them on - or on the ride to the office for that matter. I think in fact that the first time I noticed that I had dual piggies dueling for freedom from a thin layer of a cotton/poly blend was when I stood up in the courtroom to begin my summation.

By the time the jury's verdict was read by the foreperson two hours later, the hole in my sock had been given rise to an all-out jailbreak and the one who stayed home and the one who ate roast beef had escaped completely. While the jury's verdict was 6-0 in favor of my client, inside of my left shoe the vote was much closer: 3 stayed put while 2 attempted to run for it.

I managed to make it through the rest of my Tuesday without ending up wearing a garter where my left sock once was. Upon arriving home Tuesday night, I promptly disposed of them......

.....which is why it seemed so improbable that I would wake up yesterday morning and manage to pluck from my seemingly endless sock drawer yet another pair of slightly defective dark-colored dress socks. Yet I did. Again - in my defense - these two were rather stealthy little bastards. Well at least the right one was. And once again it was those two troublemaking little piggies - the homebody and the roast beef eater - who conspired to screw me. At some point after I arrived at the office but before I had headed off to Jersey City for court what had been an indiscernible little sliver had exploded into a full-fledged levee break. By day's end, yet another pair of socks had been retired to that big sock drawer in the sky.

Man am I ready for spring already. I love flip flop weather. Not a sock to be worn.

-AK

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

For the Queen of the Kingdom

There is - among sports announcers - a tendency to give voice to the "fallacy of the predetermined outcome". Simply put (and in the timely context of an example from baseball), a runner will get thrown out attempting to steal second base. On the very next pitch the batter lines a single into right field. Almost reflexively the announcer will say, "Had [insert name here] not gotten thrown out, then there would be runners on first and third." The fallacy inherent in that declaration is that it presupposes that had the runner who was just thrown out at second remained on first base that the pitcher would have pitched to the hitter in the same way and that the defense would have been similarly aligned. It is as if no sports announcer has ever watched "It's A Wonderful Life" and learned the lesson of just how profoundly the life of one may impact the lives of countless others. Everything changes everything else.

I was thinking of that proposition last evening as I was driving home from the office. And I was thinking of how it has no applicability whatsoever to my life. It is not a fallacy to say that but for Margaret, the life I now know and the life I would have known would bear zero resemblance to one another.

I met Margaret at a time in my life when I was even less user-friendly and cuddly than I am now. At least presently I do not drink too often or too much. Once upon a time - way back in the day when I first met the woman who was to become my wife - neither of those statements contained even a kernel of truth. I met Margaret when we both worked for a collection agency. For a short time in fact she was my immediate supervisor. I so enjoyed what I did - and life in general - that I (the ultimate morning person) set up my schedule so I could work 12:00 noon to 9:00 pm four days a week. Why? It ensured that every Monday through Thursday I could head to Pizzeria Uno at the Hadley Center at 5:00 pm for dinner. And every night of the week - for those four nights anyway - dinner consisted of however many Absolut screwdrivers I could throw back in one hour prior to heading back to the job for the completion of my shift. I reached the point where I could - especially if I took up no space inside of my belly with unnecessary stuff such as dinner - drink a half-dozen and then amble on back up the road to work.

In the interest of full disclosure I do not mention that now seeking to channel my inner "Jersey Shore" or some such other nonsense. Asinine behavior is what it is. Once upon a lifetime ago, I was guilty of it in spades. But since there is no present without a past, it has never made any sense to me to run from it. I am who I am in part because I was who I was.

In the middle of my death spiral, I met Margaret. It is neither an exaggeration nor an understatement to say that she saved my life. It is also accurate to point out that prior to saving it, she made me cognizant of the fact that it was indeed a life worth saving. Before her, the jury was very much out on that issue.

Margaret is by far the best part of me. I am aware of the fact that she deserves much better than me and I remain ever hopeful of the fact that while I am sure she is aware of that as well, she chooses to not act upon it. For that - almost as much as having found her in the first place - I am and shall remain forever thankful.

Today is my bride's birthday. There is nothing I can give her as a gift that comes close to equalling all that she has given to me. She is extraordinary. And I am most fortunate.

Happy Birthday Honey and much love.

And I count my blessings that you're mine for always,
We laugh beneath the covers and count the wrinkles and the grays
Sing away, sing away, sing away, sing away
Sing away, sing away, my darling, we'll sing away
This is our kingdom of days
This is our kingdom of days
This is our kingdom of days

-AK

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

So Sayeth The Tuna

The journey ends today. This morning my adversary and I shall take one final stab at doing the voodoo that we do so well (or at least that we hope we do well) and present our closing arguments to the jury. Trial is an interesting concept. It is for me very much like an athletic competition. In this matter, which is a fairly straightforward, uncomplicated case it has been a one vs. one battle. I happen to like my adversary a great deal. He has done an excellent job prosecuting his clients' case for them and to the extent that he and I have gotten to know one another over the life cycle of a case, he has consistently impressed me as a good man.

It is funny the way it works for me with some of the matters I try. When I try a case far from home - as I have been on this case working out in the western confines of Warren County (and anyone who thinks that New Jersey is nothing more than what one sees on the Turnpike while your flight is approaching Newark Airport should on your next trip to our State rent yourself a car and drive west until you reach the sign on Route 80 that says, "Warren County" to correct that misconception) - I usually encounter an attorney who I did not know prior to making the great migration West and who I shall likely not encounter again. He and I have seen an inordinate amount of one another over the course of the past couple of months - these past seven days notwithstanding - after having never known each other. I suspect that once the verdict is returned in this case and whatever post-verdict work remains to be completed (whether a motion for a new trial, an appeal, etc) we shall likely not see one another again. I have no more matters on my Warren County dance card and he rarely ventures further east than Belvidere.

There is a lot of down time while you are on trial. For instance, I live in fear of dropping mustard on my tie or having a caraway seed lodged between my two front teeth so I do not eat lunch while I am on trial. While I have dropped a fair amount of weight over the course of the past ninety days or so, once again this year I am not going dressed for Halloween as "the man most likely to blow away in a stiff breeze". Costume simply does not fit me either literally or figuratively. Thus, going a few days without lunch is not going to adversely impact me. I usually spend that hour during the middle of the court day contemplating what lies ahead that afternoon and replaying in my mind all that went on that morning, trying to be objective as I play back the movie in my head and not opting solely for the highlight package.

While I am on trial, I try to assert control over the courtroom. I want the jury to pay attention to what I am saying and what I am doing since I am doing and saying all of that stuff hoping to persuade them that it is my client's position that is correct and not the position of my adversary. Nothing revelatory there I know. What I hope to do is what every lawyer who tries a case hopes to do. For all of the confidence that I hope to project, I must confess that I try cases infrequently enough to never be certain whether the people I hope I am reaching are in fact programmed to receive the message.

This morning, all the control in the courtroom shifts from the attorneys to the jurors. By the time they are ready for their mid-morning break, they likely will have heard the final arguments that each of us has to make on behalf of our respective clients. Thereafter, Judge O'Connor shall charge them as to the law they are to follow when they retire to deliberate. Once that has been completed, they shall deliberate until they reach a verdict. Their verdict shall be announced, they shall be thanked for their service and the matter shall be concluded. After hurtling towards one another will all due speed and being engaged in the combat of trial, the parties in the case will see their time together end neither with a whimper nor a bang but rather with a pronouncement made by six strangers. This sextet shall speak but one time. And their words mean everything.

One of my favorite people in sports is Bill Parcells. I have been a fan of Coach Parcells since he was the Giants' defensive coordinator under Ray Perkins way back in the day when Lawrence Taylor was but a NFL rookie and the Giants were making their first playoff appearance since the early 1960's. Among the things I have always loved about Coach Parcells is his candor. Both players and coaches tend to speak endlessly about a team being "better than its record" when it is having or has had a less than hoped for season. Not Coach Parcells. Among the things he is noted for saying is that, "You are what your record says you are." Save the sugarcoating for your holiday cookies. So sayeth the Tuna.

Throughout trial, people in my office asked me how the case was going and my clients - who have been beside me since the beginning of jury selection this time last week - have repeatedly expressed to me how well they believe we are doing. At day's end, neither my best guess nor theirs matters. At day's end - and specifically at this day's end, what matters is what the jury tells us. I receive but one report card per trial. As of this morning, all of my marks are incomplete. By day's end I hope that what my record says I am is something that shall justify the faith that the nice folks I represent have displayed in me throughout.

I shall know soon enough.

-AK

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Viking Funeral

Heard an oddly sad piece of news last evening. Affected me more than I would have anticipated. Both of my kids graduated from the local Catholic elementary school here 'NTSG. Truth be told I have not been in the building since Rob graduated 8th grade in 2000. Yet, there will always be a little part of me there. I spent more than my share of Saturdays as the Dad-in-charge of the scorer's table during basketball season sitting atop the radiator in the gym. I still have the cramps in my ass to prove it.

When Rob was in the Boy Scouts his Eagle Scout project was a fairly extensive landscaping project that we undertook in two of the grassy medians in the school parking lot. Although we did the work close to ten years ago, it still looks damn good. For two non-landscapers we did pretty nice work. We planted trees and shrubs of varying species and sizes utilizing very limited assistance - Rob's #1 pal Danny worked with us both days - but got our task completed on-time and on-budget. A short while after we completed our work, Rob passed muster at the Eagle Scout Review Board and earned his final rank.

I do not drive down Drake Avenue very often these days, which is where Our Lady of Mount Virgin School is located. So, I do not even see my kids' Alma mater from the outside on anything more than an occasional basis. Yet I was saddened to read that the Diocese of Metuchen shall be closing OLMV at the end of this school year. It is but one of three Catholic elementary schools in the area that is being closed and consolidated into the Catholic elementary school presently known as Sacred Heart that is located about fifteen minutes away in South Plainfield.

The closing of a school is sad. The closing of a school where your kids grew up is especially so. It is as if a chapter of their lives - and of your life - is being closed forever. And regardless of why it is being done or whether there is something that could have been done to prevent it matters not once the decision is made.

For a lot of years, for a lot of families OLMV has been a little school that could. Sadly, when this school year ends, it will mark the end of an era. It may be true that all good things must come to an end. Knowing that does not make it any less said when in fact they do.

-AK

Sunday, October 24, 2010

An American Tragedy?

If life was as well-scripted as the usual "reality" show, then Eric LeGrand's teammates would have delivered their fallen brother the best feel-good gift he could hope to receive in what has most certainly been the longest week of his young life. However, because there "ain't no storybook story", Rutgers watched a 14-14 halftime tie on the road at Pittsburgh disintegrate into a 20-point defeat at the hands of the Panthers. His teammates do not play again until November 3rd. Here is to hoping that the next time they take the field produces better news to report. More importantly though is the hope that between now and then, good news emanates from LeGrand's hospital room at Hackensack University Medical Center. In case you missed it, Rutgers has established the "Eric LeGrand Believe Fund" to help raise money for the medical treatment he is going to need and which is going to be very expensive.

Who knows where the 2010 Rutgers football season goes from here. While one hopes that the team continues to play relatively well and finds itself playing in a bowl game come December, among the many uncertainties in this life is the manner in which this season shall play itself out. If good guys do indeed get to finish somewhere other than last, then Coach Schiano and his kids will have success the rest of the way.

Their season at least remains a work in progress. Driving to the office on Saturday morning, I thought that not only had the 2010 season ended for the Yankees the night before in Texas but that the players had all been kidnapped into a Central American slavery ring or some such thing judging by the comments of the callers to WFAN. Note to my fellow Yankees fans: they lost a playoff series. Nothing more. Nothing less. Get over it. No one died. A baseball team lost a game. Be honest and admit that but for a five-run eighth inning in Game One, the series they lost in six games would have been over in four.

I enjoy rooting for the Yankees. Last November Margaret and I had a blast in the cold environs known as the Canyon of Heroes lending our voices to the hundreds of thousands of others who celebrated the 28th World Series title that Matsui, Damon and the rest of the Yankees captured last year. Was I happy to watch their season end as it did this year - with Alex Rodriguez staring at a called third strike as the Texas home crowd exploded in joy? Of course not - although I must confess that his recognition of the fact that having the ALCS end with him making the final out probably made the victory that much sweeter for the Rangers fans revealed a level of self-awareness that I did not realize A-Rod possessed. Their loss did not materially impact my life. Did I mention that I was listening to the anguished cries of other Yankees fans on WFAN as I headed to the office on Saturday morning? Whether they win the World Series or not, the mortgage at my house still needs to get paid.

As I suspect it needs to be paid at your house and at the houses of all of the other well-meaning but overwrought folks who called an overnight sports talk radio host as if he is their only lifeline in the wee small hours of Saturday morning. It will all be OK folks. Breathe deep. If the worst thing that happens to you this year - or any year for that matter - is that the baseball team you cheer for disappoints you by not doing as well as you had hoped, then you are having a pretty good year.

Even if it takes a moment or two for you to realize it.

-AK

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Ballad of the Boat Rocker

I am at my core a simple-minded little rube. I say - only in a half-joking manner - that among the reasons I went to law school was that I had absolutely no gift for either mathematics or any of the sciences and being an attorney appeared to present me the best possible opportunity to marry something I possessed the ability to do with something at which I could earn a living. I suppose that in a perfect world, where money concerns do not exist, I would be teaching United States History and Constitutional Law somewhere - preferably to children of no younger than junior high school age and no older than high school. The familial patriarch was a teacher after all. It is in the genes I suppose.

Being a man of limited skills, I aspire every day to simply maximum the return on my investment by working as hard as I can to maintain a level of performance that is not only professionally satisfying to me but also satisfactory to my employer. Having been married for close to two decades I readily understand the difference between my opinion and the opinion of certain others. One of them counts. The other one? The other one is mine. So far, so good.

One of the parts of my job that is equal parts exhilarating and nerve-wracking is trying cases. There are attorneys who seem to be on trial perpetually. I have friends of mine - professional acquaintances fits the relationship better I suppose - who try a dozen cases a year. Me? In the busiest twelve-month trial period I ever had I tried three. Granted that two of them were significant injury cases and the trials of each case took upwards of ten trial days (two weeks) to complete but nevertheless there were only three of them. I spend far more time not being on trial than I do being on trial.

I have spent the past week on trial, which marks the first case I have tried since I came back in from the cold a year ago May. While I did spend the better part of a week in September camped out on a case in Bergen County, that matter resolved in the middle of jury selection so no witnesses were called, no arguments were made and no verdict was needed. This past week has been an honest to goodness trial. After crawling through the process of jury selection from Tuesday afternoon through mid-morning Thursday, my adversary (who is a genuinely good man and an effective advocate for his clients as I hope I have been for mine) and I kicked it into high gear. From about 10:00 a.m. on Thursday through 4:00 p.m. on that very same day we opened to the jury and then put on our respective cases in their entirety. There are a couple of very big pieces of business to be taken care of on Tuesday (no trial on Friday or on Monday - the joy of trying a case in a one-judge vicinage) - namely our respective summations, the Judge's charge to the jury (instruction as to the governing law) and the jury's deliberations resulting in a verdict - but for the most part the heavy lifting is behind us.

Having been out of practice trying a case I had forgotten how tiring it is. It is mentally a very draining process. I came home each night this past week feeling completely worn out -as if I had walked the forty-eight miles that separate the Warren County Courthouse from my office at the end of every day as opposed to covering them in my car. Most nights when I arrived home, I felt too spent even to run, which is usually a part of my day-to-day. It was as if my little brain, which really seems puny when juxtaposed against the over-sized carrying case in which I cart it, was fried.

Yet it is nothing more or less than an occupational hazard. I knew the job when I elected to pursue it. I knew what I was getting myself into when I stood up in the jury assembly room in the Middlesex County Courthouse all those years ago and took my oath as an attorney. The job has not changed. I have perhaps. It has not.

I suppose I started thinking about all of this silliness when I first saw the story all over the news last week about a professional football player named Harrison (I do not know his first name and taking the time to look it up would imply caring enough to do so) who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers threatening to retire in response to the NFL's directive imposing significant penalties against players who launch themselves at other players as if the former is a ballistic missile and the latter is a clapboard house on a test range in the Nevada desert. I had to chuckle at the thought of just how obtuse this particular member of the tribe of man has to be. Talk about just not getting it.

In the interest of full disclosure I am forced to confess that I did break down and learn his full name - although I did so only because one of my favorite writers, Rick Reilly, wrote a piece about him. Reilly is a fellow member of the ever-expanding herd of Buffaloes, which I am certain does not hurt him in my evaluation of him, and has been for as long as I have been a reader of such work, one of the pre-eminent sports journalists/essayists around. As is his custom and practice, Reilly squarely captured the essence of Harrison, who was quoted in the piece as saying that while he does not want to see any other player get injured, "I am not opposed to hurting anyone." A true Renaissance man.

It must be a real delight for the other several hundred men who earn their living playing professional football to know that at least one among their number cannot even fake giving a rat's a** if he hurts them on purpose and who when called to account for his actions, threw a man-sized temper tantrum and threatened to take his helmet and his shoulder pads and go home. Show of hands of everyone who thinks that once he realized that the Earth would keep right on rotating irrespective of his decision and that if he opted out of his profession the only difference would be in his ability to keep enjoying the view from his mansion on the hill, he decided to reconsider his decision? Who ordered the reality check? That would be Mr. Harrison at table seven.

There is enough bad shit that happens in this world, which attacks us indiscriminately, without there being a need for one of us seated in the canoe to start attempting to paddle it in a different direction in a deliberate effort to scuttle the rest of us. Walt Kelly was right after all. We have seen the enemy and the enemy is indeed us. Hopefully upon further reflection - and the writing of a high five figure check or two, Harrison will remember the old adage about no one winning unless we all win. And even better, perhaps he will come to understand that the "win" of which we speak bears little to no relationship to the numbers on the scoreboard at game's end......

....or even the verdict rendered by the jury at the end of a trial. Well, let us not go too far too soon; right? Then again, perhaps we all could benefit by playing nicely nicely with one another.

-AK

Friday, October 22, 2010

I Choose To Believe

Tomorrow the Rutgers University football team will play its first game since Eric LeGrand suffered a spinal cord injury. As of now, LeGrand's prognosis remains unknown. He has been paralyzed from the neck down since he was injured. While the world knows his present, it is his future that remains a mystery. Hope abounds. Definitive answers are hard to come by.

Answers are in short supply but good wishes are not. Mark Dionno had a terrific piece in yesterday's Star-Ledger on efforts being made on several fronts to support Eric LeGrand and his family. Steve Ostergren, the owner of Scarlet Fever on Somerset Street in New Brunswick, has received approval from the university to start manufacturing No. 52 T-shirts that will say Rutgers on the front and "Keep Chopping" on the back. According to Ostergen, all of the proceeds from the sale of the shirts will be given to whatever fund the University establishes for the LeGrand family.

As Dionno pointed out, Ostergen is not the only t-shirt designer going to bat for the LeGrand family. While the article did not disclose the child's name, apparently on scarletnation.com an 8 year old fan submitted. The design is a water color drawing of the words "Believe" with the letters "el" in black for LeGrand and the number 52. The article actually has a photo of the little one's t-shirt design, which is simply terrific. I know that at age 8 I could not have produced anything as cool. In her kitchen in Florida, Mom has the hotplate I made for her when I was in second grade. Not evn close.

And kudos to the University of Pittsburgh. Rutgers plays at Pitt tomorrow. The Pitt community has responded to LeGrand's injury by voicing its support for him, for Coach Schiano and for his teammates. In doing so, Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt and his players have reminded one and all that some things transcend wins and losses. That is not to say that the Panthers and the Knights will not get after each other full throttle tomorrow but just to say that the kids on both teams and the men who coach them appear to have their heads on straight and a laudable sense of perspective.

Providing all of us with a reason to believe if we choose to. Count me in.

-AK

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Cookie for the Fat Lady

Kudos to the Yankees. For a day at least they averted disaster. Wow, talk about hyperbole. They averted the earlier-than-hoped for end of their 2010 season. A disappointment? Yes. A disaster? Not bloody likely. Apologies for confusing the two. It is only sports after all.

For an afternoon/early evening in the Bronx, the Yankees remembered that if you jam the fat lady's mouth full of food it is impossible for the old broad to sing. And the guys they pay to swing the bats pretended that every inning yesterday was Inning Eight of Game One, which until yesterday was the only inning of this American League Championship Series for which the Yankees had shown up offensively. For a day at least they managed to successfully tip-toe through the minefield.

Their reward was an all-expenses paid trip to Dallas, Texas, which under normal circumstances would not seem like too much of a reward (after all who the hell wants to go to Dallas any time for any reason) but for present purposes made the men in pinstripes quite happy. They shall play the Texas Rangers there on Friday night in Game Six of the ALCS with their backs pressed as firmly against the wall as they were yesterday afternoon. Lose and their season is over. The reward for a win? A date with the game's most dominant pitcher Cliff Lee in Game Seven. Lee is the Yankees' 800 pound gorilla. Presuming they make it to Game Seven, dealing with Lee will be no simple task.

They remain one win away from worrying about how to win a Game Seven. They shall attack their task the same way in which you and I attack our daily tasks: day-by-day. The result is far from certain but at least as of this morning the opportunity remains squarely in front of them. And at the end of the day one cannot ask for much more than that.

-AK

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Simply The Best

Margaret is not a runner. Hell, I am not really a runner either. I think one has to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency at something before speaking in the declarative. Me? I have achieved a certain level of consistent and repetitive mediocrity. Nothing more. The fact that I run often makes me a person who runs a lot. I hope to work my way to the point where I consider myself a runner. That is the goal. It is very much a work in progress.

Anyway, I digress. My wife is most assuredly not only a runner but she is someone who infrequently runs. She has participated in the Race for the Cure 5K in Jackson each of the past two years as a member of Sue's Crew. If memory serves me correctly, last November she participated in the 1 Mile race that is part of the annual Manasquan Turkey Trot (there is a 5 Mile race as well). Other than those three occasions she has not to my knowledge ever responded to the sound of a gun firing, a whistle blowing or a horn sounding by taking off and running as fast as she could.

What she is though is an unparalleled "Race Mom". On most Sundays I drag her off somewhere for a race of some distance. More often than not, our pal Gidg comes with us and she and I comprise the 'running' sect of our little cache of friends. Margaret makes sure that Gidg and I have absolutely everything we need from iPods to water, from towels to sunglasses, from Advil (for me) to tissues (for Gidg). In addition to being our own crew chief, she also leads the cheers for us and captures the proof-of-life photos. She makes a point of taking a "before" shot and an "after" shot at every race.

This past Sunday Gidg and I ran in Livingston at 1st Annual Livingston 5K that one of my law partners - and one of the world's truly good souls - Arnold Gerst organized and oversaw. Several months ago he had confided to me that while putting the event together was a labor of love (and it showed in everything that was provided and done for the runners of all ages on Sunday morning) it had become for him a second full-time job. Margaret has met him once or twice and has heard me speak of him often. I affectionately refer to him as my running guru. To be clear, the poor results are mine. The motivation to get out there and run and the positive reinforcement at every step of the way are all his. Margaret told me to tell Arnie that if he needed an extra set of hands for his 5K race, she was happy to volunteer. Being a wise man, he took her up on her offer.

Thus, on Sunday morning Gidg and I were race orphans. Our "Mom" was off assisting strangers through the registration process. From my vantage point, she did what she does so well - assessed where help was needed and without fanfare slid herself into place to be able to help and then did so without complaint and without difficulty. I was not the only one who noticed how well she did what it is she does. When I saw the still-exhausted Race Director on Monday morning at the office he told me that his wife Denise - who Margaret worked with in the registration tent - told him that she (Denise) will not return for Year #2 unless Arnie gets a commitment from Margaret to man the tent with her. When I communicated the terms of Denise's negotiation to my wife, without hesitation she told me, "I am in."

I hope that I do not - but being an utter jackass I am certain that I do - ever take for granted the amazing force of nature to whom I am fortunate to be married. I may in fact be her "taller" half but there is little doubt that she is indeed my "better more than half". Size be damned.

From small things........

-AK

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Depth Perception

Is it just me? Am I the only one who finds it impossible to root for either side in the great Fox v. Cablevision imbroglio that screwed New York-area New York Giants fans who subscribe to Cablevision out of watching the G-Men play the Lions on Sunday afternoon or out of watching the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants play Sunday night in Game Two of the National League Championship Series? When one billionaire accuses another of not playing fair and not sharing space within the confines of the sandbox, there is more than just a little part of me that wants to jam a pacifier in each of their mouths, pick one up the the scruff of the neck and order him off to go find another sandbox to buy.

As a lifelong New York Rangers fan I have my own list of grievances with James Dolan and the geniuses who run Cablevision. Nowhere on it is their willingness or lack thereof to permit American Idol, Glee or House, M.D. on their cable system - especially since I have only actually ever seen a complete episode of the final member of that particular trinity and could not foresee a scenario under which (absent the present of large horses or automatic weapons) I could be forced to endure either of the first two. My beef with Mr. Dolan is that he is significantly less talented in his role as an owner of a professional hockey team than he is in his role as the frontman for a country blues band. As a musician, he is an atrocious hockey owner. I hope he and his band make it big and to celebrate his success he sells the Rangers. I am prepared to buy a significant number of his compact discs to help that occur. Talk about your miracle on ice.

Watching this clash of corporate titans unfold these past several days - with the accompanying print media and television ad campaigns focused on revealing that one believes the other to be Lucifer's handmaiden or some such thing - reminds me of the old joke about the two guys on the dock at night. Each goes out onto the dock under the cover of darkness in order to pee. One says, "Boy that water sure is cold" to which the other replies, "Yep......and deep too."

Maybe just maybe the powers that be at Fox and at Cablevision have lost sight of a simple truth, which is that the person who pays money to Cablevision in order to watch Fox programming does not give a rat's a## which one is telling the truth or whether the truth lies somewhere in between. All the paying customer wants is what he or she has paid for - nothing more and most assuredly nothing less. Hmm, I wonder which one of these corporate buffoons will be cutting refund checks to Cablevision's customers after the dispute has been resolved. If you are a Cablevision customer and your monthly fee includes programming on Fox-owned networks (although whether anyone actually watches UPN 9 in New York is a question best left for another day), then arguably you should have some of your monthly fee refunded to you since Cablevision's decision to deny you access to programming you contracted with them to provide to you is now preventing you for realizing the full benefit of the bargain.

If you are a Cablevision subscriber, then I have but two words for you: Direct TV. Make the switch and do not look back. If you an executive at Fox or Cablevision who has been engaged in a daily hissy fit over this stupidity, then I have two words for you: Eric LeGrand. While you have been busy taunting each other in the darkness on the dock, real life has continued all around you, including some of it that has not been very good news at all.

Put on your big boy pants and resolve your dispute with one another. When arrogance and ignorance run headlong into one another at full speed, the outside world does not care who started it. Perspective would be a wonderful lesson for both sides to learn - or perhaps learn again - here. Maybe they have been standing on that dock in the darkness for so long bullsh*tting one another that they have lost it. Here is to hoping that they get it back.....

.....depth perception, that is.

-AK

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Knight's Long Journey

Football is not a contact sport. It is a violence sport. I say that not judgmentally. Hell, I am an enormous fan of football. It is not even an original observation but something I have heard said on too many occasions to count by the commentators who are paid to broadcast both NFL and NCAA games. Thankfully for those who play it the violence comes most frequently in staccato bursts and more often than not appear to leave the players none the worse for wear.

We have had season tickets to Rutgers football for the past four seasons. While I do not make every home game, I have seen enough of them during that time to develop not simply a rooting interest in Coach Schiano's troops but an appreciation for the way in which he, his coaches and his players have a relationship that appears to be more familial than professional. Win or lose, from my perspective as a fan the manner in which he relates to his kids and the manner in which his kids carry themselves on the field and off makes them a group that is extremely easy to cheer.

Saturday afternoon, while playing against Army, Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand sustained a spinal cord injury. As of last night, the medical reports out of Hackensack University Medical Center were that LeGrand had undergone emergency surgery and was paralyzed from the neck down. The prognosis for him as of this moment is uncertain. Hopes are high. Prayers are plentiful. Good wishes abound.

In the past several years the motto of Coach Schiano's program - his mantra - in fact has been, "Keep Choppin'" He preaches it to his kids and they preach it to each other. From our vantage point up in Section 221, we have seen that they practice what he preaches. Now Eric LeGrand needs all of the help we can muster. To summon his inner Paul Bunyan and ours.

The woods are deep and thick these days. The easiest way to clear them is to chop one tree at a time. Keep choppin' Eric. Keep choppin'.

-AK

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Recapturing the Space Between

I suspect that most of my old classmates are sleeping in a bit this morning. The reunion that Karen organized was - it would seem to me in spite of my lack of personal experience in the undertaking - a success. Twenty-five years further on up the road from where we had last been together, at least 1/3 of our class reassembled. And to my surprise - and to my relief as well - it was a night long on laughter and short on awkward pauses.

People used the word "reconnecting" a lot last night. I do not know whether I would go that far or use that as my watchword for the evening. To me that implies something with staying power and - to drop a reference to how I earn my daily bread - I think the jury is out on that. A lot of faces once familiar to one another reassembled last evening. Many of those faces - at least in my case - belonged to people I had not seen in close to a quarter-century. Whether any of those faces belong to folks who I shall see again at some point sooner than 2035 I know not. And it matters not. It does not take away from last evening at all. Not even a little.

Presuming William Joel is right and life is indeed a series of hellos and goodbyes, last night a number of very good human beings had a chance to get together and say both of those things. For an evening at least, time receded and distance disappeared.

Well done Karen. Congratulations for pullng off such a terrific event. And thanks.

-AK

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Memories in Black & White

Today is one of those "through the looking glass" days that pops up in the day-to-day of most (if not all of) us from time to time. It is a day that shall be spent at least in part with one eye on the past while the other remains affixed upon the future.

This evening a fairly significant number of those of us who a quarter-century ago constituted the Class of '85 from the Wardlaw-Hartridge School shall come together in one of society's great crap shoot inventions: the reunion. To my knowledge my class has never had one of these before although I promise in advance of learning to the contrary that if it is disclosed tonight that they get together for these things on a regular basis but have not until this year decided to let me on it, no umbrage will be taken. All are forgiven.

I think the catchphrase of the evening for me will be "interesting". I am famously inept at most social gatherings, especially when I am not under the watchful eye of my better half. Margaret will not be in attendance tonight. We have been married a long time and if there is one thing I have learned over close to two decades together - in addition to making "Yes, dear" my default response to most questions - is that marriage is a negotiation. Margaret's class is having its 30th reunion on Thanksgiving weekend. If she came with me this evening, then quid pro quo I would have to attend hers with her next month. While the only two members of her class who I actually know - Lynne and Carolyn - are among the best people I know, I have little desire to become acquainted with the rest of Margaret's classmates. Absent Santa bringing a team of wild horses 'NTSG in mid-November as an early Xmas gift, there is no chance that I am enduring that evening. Thus, she tonight is permitted to exercise her "get out of reunion" free card.

I hope to see among the faces of the people I once knew when we were young and know hardly - if at all - now, the faces of happiness and contentment. In my mind's eye this group to which I once belonged and to which I reckon we all sort of forever belong was comprised of good individuals. The quarter-century further on up the road I have traveled since that Thursday evening in early June twenty-five years ago when we graduated has not been without its pitfalls and potholes to be sure. Nevertheless I have no complaints about the journey. I do something I enjoy and at which I possess more than a little bit of skill. I am married to a woman I love with all of my heart and because I stayed out of the way enough to avoid screwing up all the good she did when they were young, I am a father of two exceptionally talented, well-adjusted and simply terrific young adults. In the interest of full disclosure, I did little more than drive the car and make sure we had enough money to pay the bills but I shall not apologize for recognizing the rather low ceiling on my own talents.

While I hope that one and all are happy and that life has treated them well (a hope I presume they shall reciprocate towards me as I cannot recall leaving any old debts unpaid or any old slights unresolved) I suspect that most of - if not all of my former school chums - are experiencing at least some of what I am experiencing heading into this evening, which is a bit of a combination platter of emotions: happiness at seeing faces not seen (in some cases) in twenty-five years and anxiety at arriving at the realization at some point after arrival that small talk and awkward pauses may become the unintended theme of the evening. Whether they shall or not, I know not. I reckon that I shall find out soon enough.

This much I know - regardless of whether this evening is one buoyed by nostalgia or one merely awash in sentimentality (ask Pete Hamill to explain the difference), the work of my former classmate Karen Leach in setting this whole shindig up has been nothing short of extraordinary. Sixty days ago, I would have wagered that we could have held this event in a phone booth and have had no worries about sufficiency of elbow room. I hope she has a moment to smile and to breath in this evening all that her hard work has wrought. She has created the evening for all of us. It rests with each of us what we make of it.

Not all of us who walked across the front soccer field diplomas in hand twenty-five Junes ago will be present this evening. Some are absent by choice, some by distance and some by eternity. Among our numbers, which were small to start with only fifty-seven of us to start, we have lost three (at least three of whom I am aware). Randy Horn died when we were only a few years out of school. If memory serves me correctly we were still winding our way through college or perhaps a year or so past it when Randy died. Then, slightly more than thirteen years ago the greatest athlete whose handiwork I have ever witnessed in person and one of the nicest people I have ever known, Dwight Giles, passed away suddenly. In early February 2009, Stu Solomon the gentle giant of our class and a man whose heart's frailty eventually betrayed him, died. Of those three I will be thinking this evening - as I suspect at least most of us assembled shall. Without intending to, they serve as markers of time and as reminders of the miles passed between youth and middle age.

A reminder of the difference, physical and otherwise, between the person each of us was then and the person each of us is now. And of the space between, which may be something less than a quarter-century's trip but will likely remain something greater than an evening's.....

......even if it is one down memory lane. Drive safely. And slowly. Take time to enjoy the sights. For none of us knows whether we shall pass this way again. 2035 is a long, long way from here and now.

-AK

Friday, October 15, 2010

Trunks of Memories Still to Come

I have been bitten by a bug. No, mercifully not a bed bug. Apparently the magic spell Mom cast about me when I was a little boy (OK until I was 11) when she tucked me in at night, "Sleep tight. Don't let the bed bugs bite", came with if not a lifetime warranty at least one of the 43-year variety. So far, so good.

No, the bug that has bitten me is the running bug. As of mid-October 2009 I had run in exactly two races in my life: The Big Chill in December 2008 and the Race for the Cure in early October, 2009. In the twelve months since then I have run in more races than I count and in races of a variety of distances ranging from the Two-Mile Manasquan Mid-Winter Beach Run in February to the 13.1 Mile Unite for Charity Half-Marathon at Rutgers in April. In between I have run 5K, 8K, 10K, Special K (I have not - just a test to assess whether you were paying attention), 4 Mile, 5 Mile and 10 Mile races.

One of the great things about this whole running jag I have been on is not only that I feel better (other than my lower left leg, which hates me) and that my clothing fits better (apparently shedding body weight the equivalent of a toddler helps both the heart and the haberdasher) but that from time-to-time I get to turn running events into father/daughter or father/son affairs. To think, when they were younger the most likely place for me to spend time with either of my kids was at counsel table in Municipal Court. These days, it at the starting line of a race. Suz and I have been Crew mates the past two Octobers (actually I have been merely a member while she has been the Captain) and we dodged lightning bolts successfully and raindrops less so in May on a Thursday evening in Somerville. Rob and I have run together a couple of times too - the first time in Manasquan in late March in a 5K race and then on Memorial Day in the Bolder Boulder 10K.

This Sunday two of us will be in action again - albeit far, far away from one another. I am making the short hop to Livingston to take part in the 1st Annual Livingston 5K Run for Health & Wellness. My connection to this event? My partner Arnold Gerst who is one of the world's truly good human beings. This is his baby. He organized it and has been all over every aspect of it. The least I can do is support him. Hell, I try to find a place to run every weekend anyway. This weekend Arnie's event is the natural choice.

Rob, being his mother's son, has far more drive and steel in him than I possess. On his agenda this weekend is something considerably more ambitious than what the old man has on his. Rob is running in his first-ever Half-Marathon. And just for fun, seeing how he lives in the Mountain Time Zone these days, he is taking his first shot at 13.1 mile race in a setting where every step he takes from starting line to finish line will be taken at least 1 mile above sea level. He shall run with at least one of his office mates in the Rock N' Roll Half-Marathon in Denver. The course will take him all over Denver, which is a beautiful city framed as it is against the backdrop of the Rockies. While I do not think he will sacrifice the breaths necessary to jump the turnstile at Coors Field and run around the bases where the Rockies play their home games, between miles two and three he will run right past the ballpark.

Any number of things my kids (sorry "young adults") do serve as a great source of joy and pride for me, not the least of which are the manner in which each earns a living both in terms of career chosen and manner in which they go about the day-to-day of that career. Sunday, more miles away from home than I prefer him to be, Rob is adding another one to the list. I hope that it takes me less time to complete my undertaking Sunday morning than it takes him to complete his for no reason other than he is running 10 miles further than I am. And I hope that he gets out of it as much as he has put into preparing for it. I am confident that he shall.

While I look forward to seeing the pictures that I am certain he will take of the event to give those of us who are not there a peek into what his day was all about I am looking forward most of all to being able to chat with him about it when he is home at Christmas. The things I learn from my two never cease to amaze me. Life as the never-ending lesson.

Rob has a bit of distance to cover Sunday. Here's to him and his trek. With his chrome heart shining in the sun.....

.....long may he run.

-AK

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Edge of the Skate

Not for a second. Not for a mere moment. Not for a fleeting, blink and you might miss it instant in my 43-plus years on this planet have I been a "car guy". I could take all I know about automobiles, place it in a thimble and still have sufficient room in which to comfortably ensconce my thumb. Considering that my thumbs - much like their 8 other members of the finger fraternity - are wider than they are long (Margaret refers to them as being "sausage-like") that is really quite an achievement. Yet regrettably it is true. Actually on both counts. I do have fat fingers and I do know diddly about cars.

Even worse - and perhaps an even more damning admission for one who pees standing up and can (as long as it is not too, too cold) write my name in the snow - is that my ignorance about cars is outweighed only by my apathy towards them. A couple of gentlemen I have known for most of our respective lives are very successful in the automobile business and while it should bother me I suppose that their success is not advanced at all - not an iota - by the "know little and care less" character that I am, I am neither repentant nor likely to change. I simply care little about cars. They are to me neither reflections of one's station in one life nor compensation for the perhaps diminutive nature of certain prized male attributes. They are tools. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Do not misunderstand. As someone who spends as much of his day in pursuit of that day's bread I do not minimize the importance of having a good set of tools. My car has a lot of intrinsic value to me. Admittedly however it is "way uncool" as the kids might say (do not ask me to name names just accept the proposition as true and move on). I reckon that by extension therefore so am I. If you are reading this and wondering how I might (a) console myself; or (b) remedy the situation, then allow me to say thank you for stopping by here today for the first time to check out this particular weigh station of insanity and enjoy your next stop on the old information superhighway. If you have ever been this way before, then you recognized immediately the MacGuffin and blazed right past it. Good for you.

I affectionately call my little Corolla "Skate", reflective of the fact that it is essentially a motorized roller skate - a car essentially devoid of any bells and whistles. Other than air conditioning and a CD player, Skate is your basic mode of transportation, which is all it has to be. In a bit more than four years, we have logged about 118,000 miles together. Skate does most of the hard stuff - I just sit behind the wheel and drive. But I do hold up my end, getting her serviced every 3,000 miles. It is not easy being me.

This week it has proven to be a tad difficult to be Skate. Saturday I took her in to get serviced and then celebrated her status as a well-maintained vehicle on Monday night by getting it towed home from the parking lot at my office. I feared it was the alternator. Nope. Apparently Skate has a computer (although considering the rather basic nature of Skate I would presume it is nothing more sophisticated than a Commodore 64) and the computer blew up or blew out or some such thing. Not a delight to be sure but it could have been worse. Apparently the computer issue is one that has dogged Toyota for some years on the Corolla -including Skate's year - so the replacement of the computer cost me nothing. The nice people at Crystal Toyota could not have been more pleasant. I suspect that they were happy to tackle a recall problem that did not involve having to extract the smashed chassis of a Prius from a concrete block wall.

Last night heading home from the office to pick Skate up - new computer and all - I could not help but notice the car next to me on Route 287 South. It was a Smart Car. When Shakespeare posed the question, "What's in a name?" he could not have ever anticipated the evolution of the automobile would produce this contraption. I drive a Corolla, which by comparison to the Smart Car is roughly the size of a Suburban. The Smart Car is the size of an apostrophe. It appeared from the adjoining lane to serve but one purpose: to make any man forced to drive a Prius feel less emasculated.

But what the hell do I know about it anyway. It is not like I am a car guy.....

Toro, toro, taxi - see 'ya tomorrow my son.

-AK

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Mantle Piece

Yesterday afternoon I was out of the office - a bit unexpectedly - as one of the other defendants in a case I have a client in called me to tell me that he and his liability expert wanted to have a chance to scope out the place where the plaintiff (a/k/a "the bad guy") fell. Just kidding, of course, about the whole "bad guy" tag. I love plaintiffs. I went to law school to stay away from math (and because I thought knowing a bit about the law might be handy after some of the shit the fellas and I pulled in college - Mom, I am kidding.....as far as you know) but even I know enough arithmetic to recognize the significance of this equation: no plaintiffs = no defendants = no work for Adam = no mortgage payments = no roof over head.

I am too old and too set in my ways to embrace the nobility of poverty (being decidedly middle class suits me fine thanks for asking) and cardboard boxes neither keep one dry on a rainy day, nor cool on a hot day nor warm on a cold day. Do not take my word for it. Next spring, go to your local appliance store (I recommend PC Richards) purchase a window air conditioner. Upon bringing it home, unpack it from its box, throw the air conditioner out, put the box in your bedroom window and let me know how cool it keeps you. So cool that you will not even notice the bug bites? I wager not.

While I was out driving to/from my meeting at the site of the plaintiff's accident (a/k/a "property my client owns") with my co-defendant and his expert I listened to Mike Francesca on WFAN. In case you could not discern from its clever call letters, WFAN is an all-sports in New York City and Francesca is their host in afternoon drive. I know not whether he has been there since the station started but I remember being a 22 y/o kid just out of college and listening to Francesca and his then-partner Chris Russo on rides home from Manhattan when I was working for Kelly. I have not been 22 (physically anyway) in quite some time so while I have changed addresses, jobs, professions and marital status since then, Francesca continues plugging away doing what he is doing.

I am the youngest of six children - three of whom are sons. My oldest sibling is my brother Bill. My oldest sister Evan is the creme filling in the sibling Oreo between Bill and Kelly, who is both child #3 and brother #2 (and who really hopes to do well when the first BCS poll is released for the 2010 season). All three of the Kenny sons are baseball fans. Actually I think all six of the Kenny sibs are baseball fans. Not surprising considering how passionately Dad followed the game and Mom still does.

While I am terrible with keeping track of my siblings' ages - I know they are all older than I am (I am taller than at least some of them and I do not know any of their heights either) -I believe that Bill began his life here on Earth shortly after Mickey Mantle began his career in pinstripes. I think (although I am not sure) that since Bill graduated from college two years before Kelly graduated from high school, there is roughly six or seven years between them. Presuming my math is close to right (and somewhere the late great Gladys Katrausky smiles at that thought as she calculates the odds of it being correct) Kelly would have been making his first rotation around the sun shortly before the second M Boy arrived from Kansas City to join Mantle in the Yankees lineup. Me? I did not get here until the winter of 1967. By the time I had arrived, all that was left for the Mick were a couple of seasons in which he hit poorly enough that it reduced his career average to .298.

I was thinking about my two brothers yesterday afternoon as Francesca spent more than an hour speaking with author Jane Leavy. Leavy's new book is a biography of Mickey Mantle. The book is entitled, "The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood". The reviews of the book that I glanced at after hearing her on air with Francesca are universally raves. Francesca gushed about it both while she was his on-air guest and after she had left the studio. Her stories, detailing information she had researched about Mantle the player and Mantle the man, were utterly fascinating.

And more than one of Leavy's stories was sad. She told the stories of a man who was incomparably gifted, immeasurably popular and eternally tortured. I was too young to see him play and have only ever seen highlights of him in action. If I remember to check out MLB Network for when it will be aired, then perhaps I will watch Mantle and his teammates in action in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates - courtesy of Bing Crosby's wine cellar.

I have never asked either Bill or Kelly if either was a Mickey Mantle fan. Given their life-long allegiance to the Yankees I suppose that I should know the answer to that question. I also never learned what Dad's feelings were on Mantle. I suppose given his status as a lifelong New York Giants fan I know where he came down on the question of Mays vs. Mantle but I do not know whether Dad had enough room in his baseball-rooting heart to root for Mantle's success as well.

There is more than a little part of me that believes that all of us Kenny men rooted hard for Mantle, both the player and the man. Kindred spirits - to a degree at least.

Maybe he was not the last boy after all. Maybe there is a bit of that boy in all of us. Deep down in that part of our soul where childhood never ceases to live.

-AK

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Channeling His Inner Bittinger

Buffalo, New York has unleashed an egotistical, ignorant boor on the rest of the world before, which means that this man's act is not only frightening but plagiarism. Well, not plagiarism exactly I must confess, but at the very least it is not very original. You see the last time Buffalo allowed to spring forth from its loins a being as toxic and virulent as the GOP candidate in New York for Governor, we only had to tolerate his behavior for 22 minutes a week. And soon after he arrived, he was gone. Wanna bet that twenty-five years from now, no one misses Carl nearly as much as some still miss Bill? It was a rhetorical wager folks. I would actually feel badly taking your money - even those of you I hardly know.

I suppose that reasonable minds (or the feckless idiots who dominate political talk in this country these days from Beck to Matthews, from O'Reilly to Olbermann) can disagree all day over who is responsible for the phenomenon of anger politics that is much the rage (pun intended) throughout the country. Frankly I care not who is to blame. Actually, I suspect that blame is a commodity present in such copious quantities that we have enough to share equally among those of all shapes, sizes and political affiliations. And perhaps we should. You stand and scream at one another and talk over one another long enough and you begin to manufacture an environment in which the lowest common denominator candidate emerges.

When the LCD candidate manifests himself or herself in fairly benign form (think object of ridicule as opposed to object of fear), then we the people tend to ride it out, have a chuckle or two at the poor dupe's expense and hope for better during the next election cycle. However, when the LCD candidate converts Howard Beale's rant into his or her stump speech, then crickets replace laughter as the soundtrack of the national discourse.

At some level, it is the people who run the Republican Party in the State of New York who we can blame for putting Darth Carl on the top of their ticket. They are after all the same gang who decided to give Rick Lazio the party line and to do all they could to squelch any "legitimate" opposition to Lazio for the party's nomination. After all, Lazio had done so much to earn his favored candidate status as the party's gubernatorial nominee. He wore his empty suit with such panache one supposes.

Long before he became part of what is arguably the most famously screwed up newspaper headline in the history of American politics, Thomas Dewey was the Governor of New York. Like Darth Carl and Young Rick, Dewey was a Republican. He served three terms as Governor of New York, retiring at the expiration of his third term in 1955.

Is it just me or does it seem as if - in New York anyway - 1955 was a hell of a lot longer ago than fifty-five years? The New York GOP has come a long way since then. The direction it is heading? Methinks that is not a newspaper headline that any Republican wants to read either.

Time to sign the petition to get Buffalo Bill back on the air. The rest of the Empire State is finally ready for him.

-AK

Monday, October 11, 2010

Walking Tall

Son, we're lucky in this town. It's a beautiful place to be born. It just wraps its arms around you. Nobody crowds you, nobody goes it alone. For too many Sundays to count - over the course of ten or twelve years - I spent a part of every Sunday from April through September in Nutley, New Jersey. There is a park there (the name of which escapes me) where we used to convene for softball practice. Actually for several years fairly early on in the great softball adventure we played in a men's league in that very same park. I would never disagree with a living legend such as Ernie Banks but as the catcher on our team - among my favorite things to do was NOT playing two every Sunday in the heat and humidity of a Jersey summer.

In addition to many years' of Sundays spent in Nutley, I have spent my share of evenings there as well. Not every post-game celebration took place at the Star Tavern after all. And those that did not more often than not convened at the Franklin Steakhouse on Franklin Avenue. Nutley is home to one of my favorite families too - the Rubinos.

Nutley is home to two young men who just last week made their way home from their most excellent summer adventure. Anthony Greco and Rob Bonora graduated from Montclair State University in May and apparently enjoyed the experience of walking in the ceremony so much that they put their walking Jones to good use. On June 1st, Greco and Bonora started walking East from California. Destination? Home. Reason for walking? To raise awareness for cancer.

Along the way the two young men walked a hairball less than 3,000 miles. They covered 2,912 miles in slightly more than four months. A journey that began on June 1 in California ended on October 7 in New Jersey. According to the Star-Ledger, during their four-month journey Greco and Bonora walked through twelve states during the 727 hours they spent walking. Along the way they destroyed eleven pairs of sneakers and raised $65,000 in donations. Donations will be given to Gail’s Angels, a nonprofit dedicated to helping families whose mothers have breast cancer and whose children have autism; Derek’s Dreams, a foundation for children with Ataxia Telangiectasia, and the St. Jude’s Foundation.

Today is Columbus Day. The day on which we celebrate and commemorate one man's discovery of America. Last Thursday two young men from Nutley reminded us all that there is still a lot of cool stuff to discover in America. And a lot of cool, interesting people too. Including a couple of Jersey boys who decided to do what they could do to lend a helping hand......

.....One step at a time.

-AK

Sunday, October 10, 2010

'Til We Drop

I thought of dressing up in formal wear this morning - given the funky, numerical significance of the day. Today is 10/10/10. I was not alive for the last one in 1910 and to the relief of all shall not be around for the next one in 2110, in spite of the best efforts of Ted Williams and the Disney family, so today seems like I should - You should - Hell we all should do something extraordinary; right? Then again maybe we should take a big sip of "Who the Hell Cares?" and get on with our Sunday as per our original action plan.

This is the first Sunday in the past three that Gidg and I are merely running in a 5K race. Two Sundays ago, we both participated in the Tunnel To Towers Run. Last Sunday we were among the coolest little Crew in the park at the Race For The Cure. Even for a human being such as me who is generally apathetic towards those around him and the events of the day, there was an emotional investment associated with those events. And while the scale of the latter might have been smaller than that of the former, given our status as "Sue's Crew" the emotional investment into it and reward realized from it was unarguably bigger.

Today? Today I hop in my hand-built Challenger and head south on Route 9 past the dead ends and all the bad scenes. Well, on my CD player perhaps. In reality, I hop into my purchased right out of the showroom Skate and head south on the GSP to 'Squan where the Missus and I will rendezvous with Gidg prior to heading to Deal. I must confess that I do not know exactly where Deal is located - other than somewhere down the Shore - but I have faith that we shall find it in a timely manner. And once there, Margaret will assume her role as the world's #1 Race Mom and Gidg and I shall participate in the Run Thru Deal.

We have been blessed by simply gorgeous weekend weather thus far this autumn and while I ask your forgiveness for any misspellings that may follow, I am typing this with my fingers crossed that the pattern holds both short-term (next Saturday is Homecoming/Reunion Day at W-H and Sunday brings the debut of my partner Arnold Gerst's baby, the Livingston 5K, which he has spent a great deal of time over the course of the past many months putting together) and a bit further as well. Halloween weekend is almost upon us. That weekend we shall descend upon Washington DC and Arlington Virginia as Gidg and I run for the first time in the Marine Corps 10K, which is part of the Marine Corps Marathon weekend. To say that I am wishing as hard as I am capable of doing for a dry, rain-free day is an understatement. After we first signed up to participate in it, I spent a bit of time wishing that the whole 6.2 mile course was downhill. Let us hope that this wish turns out better than that one (as if the United States Marine Corps would put on a race that was downhill).

Arlington will have to wait. That is Halloween's adventure. I plan to participate in that event in costume: dressed as a runner. I merely hope that it does not prove to be the best, most difficult to figure out costume of the day. Today's adventure is quite a bit closer to home (again presuming I am correct and Deal is indeed located someplace in Monmouth County or Ocean County) and quite a bit shorter (50% in fact). It is simply a nice day to run and by all accounts a very fun event in which to run.....

....Even for those of us who were not born to do it and have merely picked it up along the way.

-AK

Saturday, October 9, 2010

At The End of The Day

While it may not be Michigan vs. Ohio State or Texas vs. Oklahoma (I was going to add Colorado vs. Nebraska but not even I can pretend that game has meant anything in a decade), here along the banks of the Raritan quite a nice little football rivalry has sprung to life. Unless the Big East re-invites Temple to the Conference or extends an invite to Villanova to join, the closest Big East rival for ol' State U is Connecticut. Last night, the Missus and I were among the cast of characters who were in attendance at Rutgers Stadium to watch RU and U Conn get after one another in the Big East opener for each school.

It helps perhaps that each school's head coach appears to have ordered his profile from the "Seven Blocks of Granite" collection. Randy Edsall of Connecticut and Greg Schiano of Rutgers are at least on the watch list for "Man Least Likely To Be Screwed With" and actually bear sort of an eerie resemblance to one another. It no doubt helps as well that U Conn started playing Division I football at or about the time that Rutgers was annually the worst team in college football. In spite of RU's label as "the birthplace of college football", upon U Conn's entry into the Big East Conference in 2004 the Huskies commenced to doing to RU what every other team in the Conference did to them - beating them. Edsall's success at Schiano's expense did not go unnoticed.

Over the past several seasons though the proverbial worm has turned. In '08, after getting off to one of their traditionally slow starts, Rutgers started turning its season around by beating U Conn 12-10 on Homecoming. Last season, the two teams played on Halloween weekend in what was the Huskies' first game following the murder of one of their star players Jazz Howard. RU won the game in the final minute when Tom Savage threw a dart to Tim Brown who outran everyone to score. The fact that Brown was Howard's best friend was likely of little consolation to anyone wearing Connecticut colors.

Last evening RU and U Conn renewed their gridiron hostilities. Apparently last night was a "blackout game" for RU - at least for the student section. It appeared as if all of the kids seated there were wearing matching black t-shirts, which from our vantage point in Section 221 looked pretty cool. While Rutgers perplexes me from a football perspective with its incredible absence of offensive continuity (it is as if the coaches decide upon a particular play having success to never, ever call it again), they play spirited, tenacious defense which more often than not is enough to make up for it. Besides, last night was a great night to watch a bit of college football. Margaret and I made our first trip of the '10 season to watch the boys from State U do their thing and while it took them almost the entire game to get it accomplished, once again last night in the wee small moments of the final quarter Schiano's gang found a way to defeat Edsall's crew. Another season, another freshman RU quarterback poking the Huskies with a stick.

Even as a RU fan and season ticket holder, my aversion to Kool-Aid prevents me from envisioning the day when RU v. U Conn will be a game that carries with it "national championship implications" or some such nonsense. I simply do not ever see that happening. But for present purposes, with each school taking on the tenacious personality of its head coach, the annual get-together produces some mighty entertaining, highly competitive football. Rivalry is a good thing.......

.....Especially when you win. It gives you a reason to believe.

-AK

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Economics of Youth

While it may come as a surprise, given the relatively small size of my heart (in fairness to it, it had to try and grow in the shadow cast by my enormous head), one of my favorite films is It's A Wonderful Life. I laugh when I think of the first time I can recall watching it - with Dad - and upon sitting down with him (it had already started) I asked him what it was about, to which my father replied, "It is about being careful what you wish for." Huge surprise that Dad's second career as a greeting card writer never took off the way in which he and Mom had hoped it would; eh?

There is a scene in the film where a neighbor wonders aloud whether youth is wasted on the wrong people after watching the not-quite-romantic stylings of young Mr. Bailey and young Ms. Hatch. And while sometimes it may seem as if it is, that is certainly not true all of the time. It is most certainly not true today.

October is - of course - Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Today is National Denim Day. I smiled upon learning yesterday that the girls soccer team at Wardlaw-Hartridge, which is my high school Alma mater, shall be. much as they did last year. The girls actually do something a step beyond donating a few dollars to wear denim. This afternoon they shall host their Second Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Game. They shall this afternoon - as they did on an October afternoon last year - all don special jerseys and play using a pink soccer ball.

This appears to be quite an exceptional group of young women. This afternoon, they are showing off their "beyond the date on their birth certificate" wisdom. But this afternoon is hardly the first time that they have revealed the depth and breadth of their group chops. It was after all less than two weeks ago that they participated as a team in the Tunnel To Towers Run, not merely running in the event but raising $1,000 that they donated to Steven Siller Foundation. This year's participation in the Run - much like this year's Breast Cancer Awareness Game - was not this group's first time giving back. Last year - when the weather was far nastier than it was this year - they suited up and ran......and donated $1,000 to the Foundation.

A remarkable group of young women to be sure. But before you develop the mistaken notion that they have done good off the field to make up for any shortcomings on the field, think again. They carry a mark of 8-1 into this afternoon's contest against Dunellen. They are apparently as lethal on the pitch as they are benevolent off of it.

It's A Wonderful Life is noteworthy for one than just one memorable line. It was left to George's guardian angel-in-training Clarance Oddbody AS2 to make his charge understand the importance that the life of one may have on the lives of others and the hole left when one is not there. Kudos to a group of young women who know that irrespective of age, you are never too young or too old to grab a shovel and start the process of filling in a hole.

-AK

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The View from the Backseat of a Borrowed Car

In mid-November, Bruce Springsteen will release (I suppose the technical term is "re-issue") Darkness on the Edge of Town, which has always been my favorite Springsteen album, which surprisingly enough is not mentioned apparently at all in the liner notes of the re-issued record. We live in a world where everything is done bigger, which applies with full force and effect to the re-issue of thirty-plus year old albums much the same as it does to all other things. Thus, the album is not simply being re-issued in a re-mastered, super high-tech and jazzed-up form. Nope. One of the options to purchase is a six-disc box set (3 CD/3 DVD), which essentially provides you with enough Springsteen to ensure that you can watch and/or listen to him non-stop from date of purchase to end of world. Not that there is anything wrong with that. And not that that represents a radical departure from the way in which many of us who enjoy his music listen to it presently.

Tonight on HBO is the premiere of the 90-minute documentary film, "The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town", which comprises one of the three DVDs in the box set. With the Yankees on the tube fighting for their post-season lives, tonight 'NTSG happiness is spelled "DVR". While I tend not to be too much of a DVD watcher - we have an entire cabinet of them at home that I have purchased but never watched - particularly music/concert DVDs, I am very much looking forward to seeing this film. A few years back, when Born To Run was given the re-issued, box set treatment the most enjoyable of all of the enjoyable parts of it for me was the documentary film - "Wings for Wheels" - that was part of the package.

The remarkable thing about the first film and, by all accounts, this latest documentary as well is the manner in which the viewer is taken into the process by which Springsteen and his band created this music. Much of the footage was shot present tense - as the record was being made - by a friend of Springsteen's who hung around the recording studio with a hand-held video camera, which allows the viewer to see what was happening as it was happening and also to see, upon further reflection, what Springsteen and the E Streeters think now about what they were doing back then. It is almost like an exercise in non-malevolent voyeurism - allowing us to see the creative process through the mind's eye of the creator as it is being created. Peeping without fear of a police record. Nice.

Madness has its rewards — if in the end you don't destroy yourself. As someone who has been a big fan of Springsteen's music my whole life but whose knowledge of this period of his career came after the fact as opposed to while it was unfolding - I was only eleven years old after all when the Darkness album was released in 1978 - I find the ability to plumb the depths of his mind to hear from him what he was thinking about when he wrote the music he wrote, which music thirty-plus years later still resonates not only in the ears but in the hearts and in the minds of his fans.

Springsteen was all of twenty-six or twenty-seven years old when he became embroiled in the legal donnybrook with his manager Mike Appel that put the brakes on the recording part of his career at the most inopportune time - in the wake of his biggest success to date. At this point in time more than thirty-plus years further on up the road we have the luxury of seeing how the story has unfolded. But the Springsteen we see in this film did not have that luxury and the combination of anger, of fear and of mistrust - to a degree at least - of his own success. "We caught the band at a very pivotal moment — immediately post-success, and I'm in the throes of trying to figure out what I'm all about, trying to figure out what that success meant," he said.

Everyone has his or her favorite songs. Mine is now what it has been for as long as I can recall. It is "Racing in the Street". There is no such thing as a bad version of it and there is no greater example of its lasting power as a piece of music than listening to it as performed just one year at Giants Stadium. (I double-dog dare you to try to make it all the way through Roy Bittan's piano work without closing your eyes and getting lost in the moment entirely)

In the final verse of "Racing" Springsteen sings of a woman for whom three years has seemed to be an eternity (show of hands for everyone noticing the parallel between the time period in the song and the time period between Born To Run and Darkness) and for whom the ride has not only been long but rough:

I met her on the strip three years ago
In a Camaro with this dude from L.A.
I blew that Camaro off my back and drove that little girl away
But now there's wrinkles around my baby's eyes
And she cries herself to sleep at night
When I come home the house is dark
She sighs "Baby did you make it all right"
She sits on the porch of her daddy's house
But all her pretty dreams are torn
She stares off alone into the night
With the eyes of one who hates for just being born

The starkness of the imagery has never ceased to move me. I know not for certain what the eyes of one who hates for just being born look like but I know that I hope like hell never to see them on the face of the woman I love. Powerful stuff then. Powerful stuff now.

Thirty-plus years ago, uncertain as to the direction of his career and his own life but apparently bloodied more than a bit by the learning process, Springsteen wrote, "When the promise is broken you go on living/But it steals something from down in your soul/Like when the truth is spoken and it don't make no difference/Something in your heart goes cold." For those of us who have enjoyed his music and for whom his music has meant much, the promise has never been broken. And the journey thus far has been quite wonderful. Springsteen is indeed the soundtrack of the lives of some of us.....

.....time to drop the needle and pray.

-AK