Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Quest For Peace Begins Anew

Although the weatherman is forecasting day-time temperatures that might seem better suited for the NFL playoffs than Opening Day, this afternoon the Yankees shall kick off (see the clever way I worked in the football stuff again?) the 2011 season against the Detroit Tigers at the House That George Built in the Bronx.  Even if the weather warms up to be a tad more temperate than it has been in these parts the past several days, Mother Nature just might decide to throw a bit of precipitation into the mix.  Sort of her way of reminding the Silver Spoon Twins that Daddy might have left them a shiny toy to play with, but she is the one very much in charge of all things atmospheric.

While I shall not be at the Stadium this afternoon, I hope that today's game and every Opening Day in every ballpark around the Major Leagues goes off without a hitch.  There is something inherently optimistic about Opening Day.  It is a day after all of new beginnings and with them untold possibilities.  We forget perhaps on occasion that every player who is known and recognized throughout baseball presently for his achievements - whether Big Papi in Boston or Derek Jeter in New York - is someone who is NOW known for what he has accomplished.  Once upon a lifetime ago, he was just a rookie with a dream.  A kid perhaps about whom much was known and had already been written or - then again - simply a name in the program and on a child's scorecard.  The most unknown of all quantities.  The journey that carried him here did not begin here after all.  It began there. 

And on Opening Day, you just might be lucky enough to be catching a kid whose own road is just starting to open up before him.  Or perhaps you are lucky enough to see a guy whose star once burned brightly and who now views the beginning of a brand new season as the dawning of a brand new day for him.  A guy who has been down the road a time or two and whose experiences have left him with a lifetime worth of memories and skin as tough as the cover of a properly scuffed game ball.  For him, Opening Day might not be the first act of a play that shall run unencumbered for years to come.  Rather, it might be the last act of a show on its last legs or something close to it that has had a bit of life breathed into it by the crispness of the air and the electricity found within it.

Not once in the rather compressed amount of time that Dad and I occupied space together here on the Big Blue Marble did we attend a baseball game together.  No need to cue the violins.  It is information I report without passion or regret.  It simply is what it is.  If you wish to strike a mournful chord over it, then please do it somewhere else.  Nobody truly mourns a lie.  Nor should they.  During our lifetime together there were countless things that we never did together.  Going to a baseball game is just a number on that list - although we saw enough New York Rangers games at MSG together to fill in the gap.

In my ceaseless quest to not become my father, I have jumped at every chance I have had to take in a ball game with Rob.  His first trip to Yankee Stadium was in 1996 - on Fan Appreciation Day.  A scrawny kid shortstop named Jeter beat the Red Sox in extra innings with an RBI single.  We were together at the Stadium for Ted Lilly's debut vs. the Sox on the Sunday of 61* weekend.  The first anniversary of 09/11 was spent watching the Yankees and the O's play.  Ronan Tynan sang God Bless America and the Yankees unveiled the 09/11 monument in Monument Park.  A few years ago when he was still in college, I bought him a partial season ticket plan.  It was the final season in the "old" Stadium.  Big spender I am - I bought him two seats in the left-field bleachers.  One of his games was a mid-week affair in April - Yankees vs. Red Sox. He and I spent a seasonably chilly April night in the bleachers enjoying the game together. 

A few months later, Rob migrated first south and then west to begin the full-time adult portion of his life.  In the Summer of '09 he was home for a week.  We took in our first game at the "new" Stadium together - watching Andy Pettitte hurl a gem against the Mariners.  I have not been back to the Stadium since.  No real reason why not.  Hopefully sooner rather than later, Rob's work will bring him east again and with it the chance for us to make the occasional trip or three to the Stadium.  One never knows. 

And therein lies the beauty of this day - of Opening Day.  One never knows what a season holds with any more certainty than one knows what it is life has in store for us at any particular moment in time.  Today, we begin anew our quest for peace - our search for calm in a world of tumult.  It is for that reason that people will come.....

....and we most certainly will continue to do so

-AK

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Life's a Beach.....

Belmar, New Jersey is - as far as I can tell - a very cool little Shore town.  It is not a place where I have spent a great deal of time but on the trips I have made there, I have enjoyed myself.  Its former mayor gained a bit of notoriety a few years ago for his rather candid and cutting assessment of some of his town's summer residents.  While he caught some flack for his comments, in some circles he was lauded for his candor

Mayor Pringle is not in fact the mayor of Belmar any longer.  He chose not to run for re-election the last time the office was up for grabs.  However even as he enjoys his retirement from public service, those he left behind to run Belmar have been busy tending to important business.  About a week or so ago, Belmar overturned an ordinance that required a person to get written permission from the town council "if they planned to build something out of the sand."  Yep, you read that correctly.  Prior to last week, Belmar had a law on its local books that required written permission from the town council be given to a person wanting to build a sand castle

All kidding aside, it does not appear as if the powers-that-be in Belmar expended much time or effort in the enforcement of this particular ordinance.  Apparently Belmar has sponsored a sand castle construction competition annually every summer for the past quarter-century.  While the town fathers and mothers of Belmar have loosened the rules, it is not as if anarchy is going to be permitted to become the order of the day on its beaches.  The newly revised ordinance requires he or she who "relocates" the sand to return it from whence it came prior to departing.  In other words, building a sand castle is fine just as long as you knock that sucker down at day's end.  Perhaps this will afford beach going parents an "in" to teaching their children about the vagaries and uncertainties of the housing market.

Castles in the sand.  They'll never, never stand.

-AK

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Roll Up A Mighty Score

Tonight the Missus and me have a meeting across the river.  We are off to Madison Square Garden to watch the Alma mater play in the NIT Semi-Finals against Alabama.  This is the first time since 1990-91 that the Buffs have made it this far in any iteration of college basketball's post-season.  A score ago, the last time they were here, I sat with Jill and Joe in their home in West Trenton and together we watched as Shaun Vandiver and his teammates lost to Oklahoma.  If memory serves correctly, the Buffs bounced back to win the 3rd place game against U. Mass.  The 3rd place game.  Yet another thing that separates the Big Dance from the not-quite-so Big Dance.  In the NIT, they play pretend that anyone gives a rat's ass who finishes in 3rd place.  The NCAA gave up that silliness more than a quarter-century ago.

Being a Buff alumni, I persuaded Margaret that if we were going to make a trip to NYC to see the Buffs play, we should make the trip tonight as opposed to waiting for Thursday's championship game.  At the risk of being a glass half-empty type of fellow, my concern in waiting until Thursday to make the journey is that by Thursday night there may not be any need to make it at all.  I do not spend Thursday night in Manhattan to take in a 3rd place game. And while I did not ask her what her position is on this particular subject, I presume that Margaret would be similarly disinclined.

It is almost comical that in the twenty-five plus years since I first became a member of the CU family - including four of which that I spent within walking distance of the Events Center in Boulder - tonight will mark the first time I have ever seen the Buffs men's hoops team play live.  I know not how many CU fans shall be in the building although from what I have read in the Daily Camera on-line this past week, I think there shall be a representative amount of black and gold in the building.

Last week, Joe, Margaret and me were slated to make a trip into Manhattan and the weather screwed us.  Tonight - weather be damned.  Margaret and I shall be in attendance at MSG regardless. I shall be rooting hard for my Buffs but I make the trip with no expectations whatsoever.  If they win tonight, then Thursday night I shall make a bit of time to watch them from the comfort of my den competing for the right to chant, "We're Number 69!  We're Number 69!"

Shoulder to shoulder boys.  Shoulder to shoulder.

-AK

Monday, March 28, 2011

Madness Methodology

I have organized and managed a March Madness Pool for most of - if not all of - the past fifteen years.  This year's edition of the Madness has been extraordinary.  For many of those folks participating in the Pool - including Yours truly - the hope of winning it all fell far short of falling victim to a buzzer-beater in Houston on April's first Monday.  For us, this year's Round of 16 proved to be not simply unsweetened, but sour.  If you are a Poolster whose choice to win the tournament was slightly off of the beaten path (such as my embrace of the Aztecs of SDSU) then the premature end to your dreams of glory - while disappointing - was certainly not surprising.  If however you were a player whose fingers are still covered in the dust of the chalk you played filling out your bracket, then the exits that first Pitt and thereafter Duke and Ohio State made from the festivities before even reaching the Regional Finals detonated any chance you had of winning and most assuredly took you by as much surprise as it did the kids on those respective teams.

With absolutely no chance of winning it all, I intend to enjoy next week's Final Four as a fan.  And as a fan I am rooting this year as I did last year for the Bulldogs of Butler.  Perhaps the soft spot in my heart for Butler has its genesis in the fact that in Hoosiers the Hickory High School team competed for the Indiana State High School Championship on the floor at the Butler Field House.  Perhaps it is the fact that their coach looks as if he is roughly thirteen and one half minutes old.  I do not doubt that not only does Coach Brad Stevens get asked for identification any time he attempts to purchase a beer but also any time he attends a movie at the Cineplex without either of his parents on his arm.  I also do not doubt for a moment that this young man can flat-out coach basketball.  His Horizon League Champions shall play this year once again in the Final Four.  I am not certain for how much longer the "Cinderella" label shall apply to Butler.  One might think that after this year, folks might have to come up with something new to call them. If they are able to make their weekend trip to Houston a successful one, "National Champs" will fit the bill quite nicely.

The inherent appeal to me of this tournament (from the perspective of a person who watches perhaps 11 minutes of college basketball all season leading up to the NCAA tournament) is that there is something uniquely American about it.  At least kinda, sorta.  The NCAA does not invite every team to play.  The Missus and me shall spend Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden cheering hard for one such snubbed bunch in the NIT Final Four.  But once the invitations are handed out, the competition is structured in such a way that whenever David encounters Goliath, he is carrying a full complement of flat stones.  Aim and courage are his responsibility.  And while more often than not it is Goliath who survives the encounter and who lives to tell the tale, it is not always the case.  And David emerges victorious from enough of them that those of us watching at home believe in the possibility of it happening.  It is the desire to bear witness to such an event that - at least in part - puts eyeballs in front of television screens for a few weeks every spring. 

What will happen on the court in Houston in the final three games of the men's college hoops season?  Other than knowing that ultimately only one of the four teams presently standing will still be doing so by the time the final horn sounds on Monday's Championship Game, I cannot hope to hazard a guess.  And that is what makes real-life events far superior to reality television.  The best drama is that which is unscripted, which unfolds in front of the eyes of the audience at the same time as it does in front of the eyes of those taking part in it.  Irrespective of your rooting interest - if any - it is simply great stuff. 

-AK

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Trailblazing

While one certainly cannot blame her for those who have followed - or who contemplate following - in her path, it is likely not a stretch to say that without Geraldine Ferraro having started to clear that path a quarter century ago, a certain former Governor from Alaska would not have been able to walk as far along it as she did in 2008. Ditto for a certain former First Lady and Senator from New York. I fear that sooner rather than later we shall be adding the name of a certain Congresswoman from Minnesota to that list as well. Perhaps it will seem as if the circle has been completed if Congresswoman Michelle Bachman from Minnesota opts in to the 2012 race for the Republican nomination for President. After all, Geraldine Ferraro's spot as the #2 on the Democrat's Presidential ticket in 1984 was the complement to the #1 spot held by Minnesota's own Walter "Fritz" Mondale. It likely says all that needs to be said about the state of the Democratic Party in the mid-1980's that its candidate to run against the incumbent Republican Ronald Reagan in '84 was the guy who four years earlier had been the incumbent Democrat Vice-President who became unemployed following the voting that occurred on the first Tuesday following the first Monday that November courtesy of an almost-historic ass-kicking that Reagan administered to Jimmy Carter. Having been walloped by Reagan in '80, Mondale worked hard to put himself in a position where he could be the Democrat best suited to absorb another beat down in '84. I was a senior in high school during the '84 campaign. It was clear well in advance of Election Day that President Reagan was going to be re-elected - and by a comfortable margin. 1984 was the year that Los Angeles played host to the Summer Olympics. As payback for President Carter's decision to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow as our protest of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, in 1984 the Soviets and most of their comrades from the Soviet Bloc kept their athletes home. Their absence opened the door for American domination of the Games. Their absence actually helped Reagan. Lots of people watched the Olympics on TV that summer and just about every time you turned on the coverage you saw an American doing something extraordinary. Americans began to feel better about being Americans. It is good to be the incumbent preparing for re-election when an outbreak of good feeling starts sweeping your citizenry. I recall there being a bit of a bump for the Democrats immediately following Mondale's announcement at their convention in San Francisco of Ferraro, a Congresswoman from Queens, New York, as his running mate. The bump did not last. While Ferraro ran hard - as did Mondale - the media reported on a nightly basis that by early October, Democratic candidates on local and state levels nationwide were doing all they could to avoid being seen with the party's national candidate. In furtherance of that goal, local politicians stayed away from campaign stops in their neck of the woods in droves. On Election Day, Mondale captured Minnesota and the District of Columbia. Reagan captured every other state. Geraldine Ferraro never held national office again after 1984. She and her family had their struggles - including some of a legal nature - in the years that followed, which makes them pretty much the typical American family as far as I can tell. I did not realize until I read it in an article yesterday that reported her death that more than ten years ago - when she was only in her early 60's - she was diagnosed with myeloma (blood cancer). Yesterday, at age 75, the disease took her life. Success is something that is subject to measurement both by subjective and objective means. One whose run for national office falls short of capturing the competed-for position cannot - applying objective means - consider that run successful. However if that run changes everything for those who come after you and makes possible the achievement of certain positions that prior to your trip around the track were at best improbable if not impossible for others to ever realize, then a compelling case can be made for the success of your campaign - irrespective of the outcome. There is an old line from sports, "You miss 100% of the shots you fail to take." Geraldine Ferraro went down firing. At day's end, not a hell of a bad way to go. -AK

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wheels Up in 30

Interstate travel is not a major component of my work day-to-day. Being admitted to the Bar in only one state, rare is the occasion that work requires me to travel somewhere outside of the geographic boundaries of the State of Concrete Gardens. Home is not just where the heart is apparently but, also, where the work is.

Thursday past was an exception to the rule. I actually spent a portion of my day in three different states- flying from Newark to Charlotte, North Carolina and thereafter Charlotte, North Carolina to Richmond, Virginia before driving a bit more than an hour west of Richmond to conduct my client's de bene esse deposition as my way of preserving his trial testimony. From the time I left my house in the wee small hours of Thursday morning until I pulled into the driveway in the very early hours of Friday morning, I had been on the go for more than twenty hours. 'Tis an accomplishment I know that would be so much more impressive had I not spent most of it either being flown from place to place or waiting to be. It is not after all as if I spent any time piloting any of the four airplanes on which I flew (or more properly "in which I flew"; right?) Hell, on the final leg of my journey I got to spend a bit of the time doing something that I occasionally do when I drive my car: I napped. I am kidding, of course. At least you hope I am.

I do not fly often although experience has taught me that unless it is unavoidable one should not ever check luggage. Or if one must, one should be resigned to the fact that one's bag, much like a roach at the infamous Roach Motel, might never check out after checking in. Thursday I carried all that I needed for the day in a messenger's bag that I carried on to each of my flights. Only one of the flights - the day's final one, which took me from Charlotte home to Newark - was filled to the gunwales. Yet on each flight there were at least a handful of passengers who expressed surprise, anger and chagrin at not being permitted to carry on a parcel, bag or item of some sort or another that took two grown men and a medium-sized machine to move from Point A to Point B. I went to law school to stay away from hard math but even I know something the approximate size of an 11-year-old boy is likely to be bigger than 45" and weigh more than 40 pounds. My thanks to the twits on each flight who held up the rest of us in our effort to get from where we were to where we next either needed or wanted to be by choosing to play, "They'll Never Reject My Bag!" on our dime. May each of you experience the joy of making your next flight through Denver International Airport.....on Continental.

A lot of interesting things to see at the airport and on the airplane - at least if my admittedly highly concentrated sample is any indication. I had never seen a full body scanner in use until I got to Richmond Thursday afternoon to begin my journey home. Apparently, "Beam me up Scotty!" is something that the TSA security personnel have heard on more than one occasion - judging from the less than lukewarm reaction that line got at the checkpoint. Much funnier - at least to me - was the woman from TSA who had a near heart attack at the expense of the young woman in front of me who had "snuck" two beverages in clear plastic bottles through security.

Of course in the "all the protection that the lowest bid can buy" protection detail's vernacular, "sneaking through" is defined as putting one bottle in each of a backpack's two prominent and clearly visible outer pockets. The fact that the TSA agent who was the initial line of defense was the one who had failed to direct that those items be removed prior to going through the checkpoint was lost on his comrade on the far side of the x-ray machine, whose gasket was blown entirely in the direction of the woman to whom the backpack belonged. I laughed aloud when the agent told the woman she had one of two choices: (a) consume the entire contents of both bottles, which would have necessitated her going back to the end of the security line and going through the scanner again; or (b) permit the agent to throw them out.

Having copious faith in you, the reader, I will not tell you which option she elected (think Hamlet) but let your own innate intelligence and common sense guide you to the answer. While no one beset upon me with cudgels of any type for laughing at the absurdity of the choices presented, I was reminded a short while later why one should never laugh in the face of authority. As I was waiting in line to board the flight to Charlotte, I noticed that a trio of TSA agents had set up a random security checkpoint at our gate. I was happy to play my part in the agency's efforts to prove that it does not engage in racial profiling. What is a dress shirt and tie-wearing white guy to do if not his part to promote equality? I was thinking of refusing to comply with the request when I was pulled out of line.....until I noticed the big, somewhat dim-looking agent manning the checkpoint and the fact this he was already wearing some type of latex or surgical gloves. I do not know about you but I tread lightly around a guy who comes to work dressed up for the cavity search.

Again, as an infrequent flyer, which Continental Airlines and I both appreciate more than I can express adequately here, I was surprised to hear repeated on each flight the directive for those passengers seated in the rows of the plane adjacent to the emergency exits regarding assisting others. Apparently if you are in one of those seats you have to pinky swear that in the event of an emergency you will assist the crew in assisting others. According to the announcement I heard over and over and over (and over), "If you are unwilling or unable to fulfill that obligation, then please contact us now to let us know and we fill re-seat you." Conspicuous by its absence was (a) where one would be directed to sit after walking away from the duties associated with the Seat of Selflessness; and (b) whether the other passengers - having just seen you acknowledge that you care not one rat's ass about their welfare - are permitted to vote as to just where you might be re-seated.

I meant to ask a member of any of the four flight crews I met in my travels if any of them had ever encountered a passenger who raised his or her hand in response to that inquiry. Sadly, I forgot. It boggles the mind to think that one among our number on a plane would be so stupid as to admit such a thing, thus ensuring that a primo location adjacent to an emergency exit would be taken from him or her and awarded to another. One all hell breaks loose, it is every man for himself. Until that time if you need to hear me channel my inner Mother Theresa to guarantee that I have a seat that enhances my chances of making it out alive once the captain has turned on the "Run for Your Life" light, I will gladly say whatever you want me to say in that regard. Talk about Social Darwinism in practical application. If you are not smart enough to lie to keep that seat on the plane, then you have no business being between me and sweet freedom once the shit.....

....Mr. Zevon, if you would be so kind.

-AK

Friday, March 25, 2011

Down to an Indian Blanket on a Pony

Mother Nature is a fickle mistress. On Wednesday, she through a king-sized kibosh on our plan to spend the day prowling around Manhattan. Being that the trip into the City was designed to be part of Joe's birthday present, Margaret and I entrusted him with veto power and - given that he wanted the day to be about what we were doing and not the elements in which we were attempting to do it - he exercised it. While I do not envision much difficulty in getting back onto the ticket list and getting to see the show from a comfy seat in the audience (sorry - "courtroom"), it was a disappointment all the way around that we did not end up where we intended to end up on Wednesday.

Instead of taking the day off, I made a later than usual drive to the office. People think I am crazy for commuting at 4:00 a.m. Respectfully, I think anyone who chooses to drive from his/her home to place of employment between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. is the one who needs some couch time with a mental health professional. Acknowledging that the weather played a role in slowing my pursuit north on 287 - at least to a degree - I arrived at the office wondering how and why anyone opts to make that silliness part of their daily grind. Happiness is open road on which to drive - even if it is happiness found only in the pre, pre-dawn hours of the morning. Wednesday's drive to work was the antithesis of happiness.

From what I saw on television - before nodding off altogether - Tuesday night Boulder Colorado was a pretty happy place to be. The Buffs defeated Kent State in the NIT (a/k/a "the other tournament") quarterfinals. Thus, next Tuesday they will travel east to NYC for the final Four - NCAA regulations require me to acknowledge that since scant few outside of the participating schools give a rat's ass who shall play next week in Madison Square Garden the "f" in final must be lowercase. While ours is neither a distinguished nor noteworthy hoops history, this year's edition of the BasketBuffs has set a school record for wins.

They have also shown themselves to be a group of kids with wonderfully thick skin. On March 13 they gathered at Coach Boyle's home in anticipation of learning who their first-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament was to be. It turned out that the answer to that question was, "No one." It could have been worse I suppose in that it could have been VCU. Rather than sulk about it, Coach Boyle's players have made the most of their invitation to the National Invitation Tournament. While I hope they can win their next two games, I am a jaundiced enough alumni to admit that I do not anticipate that they shall.

But who knows. Perhaps just this once, instead of going out like a lamb, March can go out like a buffalo. The difference between the two species (particularly when viewed from space through a GAF Viewmaster) is negligible. And if it does, for this one year at least, then we just might view the Hudson as our buffalo river home.

-AK

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Payment for the Tolling

At or about the four mile mark of my five-mile run in the pre-dawn hours on Tuesday morning, it occurred to me. What has been obvious probably to all those around me finally dawned on me (lighting conditions then and there existing notwithstanding). While my life has been pockmarked by decisions made for my benefit and to the detriment or discomfort of others, the decision to run in a marathon has been the single-most selfish decision I have ever made. And I assure you, my list of contenders for the top spot is noteworthy both for its quality and for its quantity.

I know not how people I know and love, such as my sister Jill and my brother-in-law Russ, are able to do it. While I must confess that I do not know when Jill last ran a marathon, I believe that Russ runs in at least one or two a year. The training required for them is extraordinary. And while my knees are starting to creak a bit from the stress and strain of the training-related running, which for me anyway represents a significant uptick over the type of mileage I typically run in a week's time, it is not the physical toll that has been the source of the majority of the strain. Not at all. I have gotten to the point - having run a new personal best distance of 16 miles (actually 16.4 on the course I mapped out for myself) - of preparing myself physically and mentally to complete the race in less than four hours. This past Sunday, I covered the required mileage at the pace I intend to run on race day and at the end of the exercise, while tired I was not a limp rag or a shell of myself. I was tired but not wiped out. I could have run more. I have a handle on the internal mental and physical strains of the assignment.

What I failed to calculate - because I am at my core a shallow, superficial a##hole I suppose (stop nodding in agreement) - was the stress and strain that my commitment to this exercise would have on my household. I tend to not spend a tremendous amount of time at home to begin with - making the trek to work six mornings a week at 4:00 and commencing its homeward companion five nights a week at 6:00 or later (I do come home on Saturdays - and much earlier to boot). Since the first of the year, when I started adhering to my 16-week marathon training program, I spend a significant portion of the limited amount of time I spend at home engaged in training to run this race. This past Sunday, while I was very happy with the time I achieved in running sixteen miles, it must be noted that it still took me slightly less than two and one half hours to run that distance. This Sunday the distance increases slightly to seventeen miles. On April 10 I reach the outer limit of the distance that is part of this training program: twenty miles. If I run well, then I will spend roughly three hours running that day.

I have friends who have run in a marathon before who - when I tell them that this year's New Jersey Marathon is the only one I foresee myself running - tell me that I am crazy because the rush or the high associated with completing something as mentally and physically draining as a 26.2 mile run is tough to replicate in other endeavors, which means that upon completing a first one you crave the opportunity to run a second. Candidly, while I recognize the likelihood of experiencing that very experience firsthand, their observations on this issue miss the mark. For me, anyway. I will not do this again - not because of the race that awaits at the end of the training - but because the costs associated with preparation are steeper than I am willing to pay again. Everything comes at a cost. To do something, you usually forego doing something else. I know now what the cost of preparing properly to do this specific thing is. It is a cost I have little interest in incurring again.

Abraham Lincoln was not only significantly taller than I am but wiser as well. Thus, disagreement with Honest Abe does not come easy for me. On my desk I have one of his bon mots, "Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing." It is not a sentiment with which I take issue entirely - save for the fact that it reads a bit like an absolute - but it is certainly a piece of advice that (much like every other piece of advice) needs always to be placed in context.

Or perhaps it needs simply to be placed in juxtaposition. "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent; a part of the main"....

....and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls.

-AK

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Power to the People

As a prelude perhaps to doing something that shall take long to do but not necessarily be gobs of fun in the doing tomorrow, today I am spending the day in an opposite pursuit. Joe, my father-in-law, loves Judge Judy (the TV program - not the woman. I do not want to bring some sort of stalking charges to bear on him). Sadly, America's favorite doily-wearing jurist tapes her show in Burbank, California, which sort of makes it inaccessible to him and her East Coast fan base.

Fortunately, The People's Court tapes its episodes (sorry, its "cases") in Manhattan. Joe's birthday is this month. A couple of months back, at my wife's urging, I sent an e-mail to The People's Court inquiring about how one might get tickets to watch a day's worth of taping. As it turns out, it is a one-step process. You send an e-mail requesting tickets. When they have an opening in their studio audience, they contact you and send you tickets. Pretty complicated stuff; eh? Our tickets arrived about ten days ago. We are attending today's taping. So instead of spending my day at work, I shall spend it with Margaret and Joe in Manhattan. He is quite excited about it. While neither Margaret nor I watch The People's Court on a regular basis (crazy little thing called work gets in the way of my afternoon TV viewing habits), we are excited about it simply because he is really looking forward to it. I do not know if science recognizes the principle of anticipation through osmosis but if it does, then that is the name for what we are feeling.

Hopefully the weather, which as been consistently inconsistent thus far this week, responds favorably to the three of us and gives us sunshine to accompany us on our most excellent adventure. Although Joe was born and raised in Brooklyn, he does not get into Manhattan very much at this point in his life. It is not a place that Margaret and I frequent either. All three of us are looking forward to not simply being part of television history (too much? I concur) but of sharing a mental health day.

I am hedging my bet. I am bringing a pocketful of business cards with me - just in case. One never knows when and where opportunity might knock. Sometimes the sound of a hand rapping on a door and that of a gavel rapping on a bench are indistinguishable from one another.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Swim at Your Own Risk

Somber business on tap this week. I shall fly to Richmond, Virginia on Thursday (and from there to home as well). I am heading south of the Mason-Dixon Line for the day but not because I want to shake the hand of the coach and players I correctly picked through to the Round of 16 (where by the way I have them losing to Kansas so if Coach Mooney and his kids could give one final assist to my bracket on their way to the off-season I would appreciate it very much). I shall of course keep my betting interest in Friday night's regional semi-final to myself. No sense making enemies of folks I have not even met yet.

I represent a gentleman in a motor vehicle vs. pedestrian case (I always bet on the motor vehicle in that matchup. I find the couple of additional tons of weight really makes a difference), which case is scheduled for trial in May in Essex County. My client is a nice older gentleman who moved to Virginia about a year ago in order to care for his elderly mother. Now, confronted with some rather dire health issues of his own, he is physically unable to make the trip to New Jersey. He will not be able to come north in May and assist in his own defense at trial.

Thursday, in what shall likely be the final time I shall see him, we shall spend a bit of time together as his trial testimony is preserved via the magic of video tape to be played for a jury that shall never meet him face-to-face. Talk about a party no one should ever have to host: two attorneys, a stenographer and a videographer inside of the four walls of your home. In the interest of full disclosure, the latter two are fine. It is the first half of the quartet no one should ever have to entertain.

With any luck by the time Thursday arrives Mother Nature will have decided that she really wants it to be Spring here in the State of Concrete Gardens. It is going to be a long enough travel day without adding inclement weather into the mix.

What a shallow f*ck I am. A trip necessitated by the terminal condition of my client's health and my principal concern is whether the weather will impede my efforts to get in and out of the terminal at Newark Airport. Not simply a man am I but a prince.

I tend to think of what I do to earn my living as ham 'n egger stuff. One needs not to be a rocket scientist to do what I do. Truth is, any idiot can do it......and quite a few of us do. It is rarely if ever a matter of anything other than money. It most assuredly usually does NOT implicate matters of life and death. This week it does. I hope for my client's sake that his lawyer proves not to be out of his depth.

-AK

Monday, March 21, 2011

Upstream

The intriguing - albeit terrifying - thing about life is just when you think you have it all figured out, something happens that reveals to you that you are not quite as all together as you might have believed yourself to be. A truly humbling experience - finding out just how little you actually know about everything....especially those things that you may have felt you knew best of all. No, that is not correct. Finding out how little you know about yourself and how little resemblance you might bear to the person you have believed yourself to be is the most humbling and terrifying thing of all.

Once doubt creeps in and takes up residence inside of your head, you are confronted with the realization that what you believed to be true may be inaccurate. Let the fun commence. For if you are not who you believed yourself to be and your day-to-day is not what you thought it was, then who you are and what you are doing in your life and with it are fair questions to ask.

And while you are being self-reflective, and if you are feeling especially brave, then ask this one: Is a dream a lie if it don't come true or is it something worse?

And just for sh*ts and giggles, try your hand at swimming in concrete.....

.....where breathing shall not come easy whether by nose or by mouth.

-AK

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Strange Allies with Warring Hearts

We have all seen it. On what certainly seems to be every passenger's side mirror of every car made within the past two decades or so, etched in the glass is "Objects may be closer than they appear." I have never seen that etching in the glass - even one time - of a driver's side mirror. Why is it on one and not the other? Are objects seen through the driver's side mirror never closer than they appear to be, which would render the warning unnecessary? Are car manufacturers all in cahoots to keep us from knowing that said objects are indeed closer than they appear? They have decided perhaps that making drivers aware of that fact would only make people fret over one more thing over which they have little to no control. Better to keep us in the dark. Ignorance is rumored to be blissful.

The thing of it is that more often than we realize the distance that separates us from something or someone we love is different than we think it is. We can be seemingly well-connected to something - right next to it as it were - and be so far removed from it that our ignorance over our situation might not make us happy but most assuredly provides entertainment and water cooler conversation to those around us whose spatial recognition is superior to our own.

Miscalculation of distance between a fixed object and us can be humorous. Miscalculation of the distance between one we love and us never is. In fact, it can be something decidedly blacker than humorous. And proof of the fact that ignorance is not always bliss....

....but merely a repository for fickle, fuddled words.

-AK

Saturday, March 19, 2011

On the Eve of the Equinox

I grasp the notion that tomorrow is the first day of spring but forgive me and the rest of us here in the State of Concrete Gardens if we believe that we channeled our inner Oklahomans yesterday and got a jump on the start of the new season. It was simply extraordinary everywhere I looked and everywhere I went on Friday. Blue sky. Bright sunshine. A nice breeze moving around warm - but not too warm - air. It was the type of day that you would kick yourself in the ass for missing. And you would be justified in doing so.

Perhaps Mother Nature believed in her heart of hearts that since winter in these parts seemed to have lasted eleven times longer than usual this year, we were entitled to an early parole. She sprung us from the winter doldrums a day or two ahead of schedule. I assure though that the squeals and screams you heard on playgrounds and bike paths and on tennis courts and golf courses Statewide yesterday were not uttered in dismay. There is no noise like joyful noise.

At the risk of spitting squarely in the face of fate, I am constrained to admit that I really have no clue what this weekend's forecast is - although at first glance out the window this morning I saw no trios of animals playing rock, paper & scissors for a spot of Noah's big boat - and I have a vague recollection (the peril of going through life only half-listening to those around you) of either Margaret or Suz telling me that it is supposed to be pretty nice both today and tomorrow. I hope they are right. Considering that most of the conversations in my house with either of them end with one or the other pointing out to me the correctness of her position on a particular issue, I presume that they shall be proven so.

Time moves at us and past us pretty quickly. That can often be a daunting thing but every now and then it is a good thing. Today is March's nineteenth day and the penultimate Saturday of the month. By the time we reach April's first Saturday - only fourteen short days away - we will not only be celebrating Rob's birthday (or more correctly hoping that he came through the celebration of his birthday unscathed) but also the impending arrival of Opening Day of the 2011 baseball season. Good things happens when Spring springs; right?

Especially when it arrives a day or two ahead of schedule.

-AK

Friday, March 18, 2011

Riding the Escalator of Madness

The Madness of March is upon us. I am again this year the organizer of a March Madness Pool. I could be wrong but I think that I have run a pool for the NCAA Tournament in one form or another for the past decade and a half or so. I certainly do not do it to show off my prognostication skills. In all of the years in which I have organized one, I have never gotten close to winning. This year I have ratcheted up the possibility of inflicting embarrassment upon my own self. Annually I finish in second place - well in my own family anyway - in the pool, somewhere in the pack significantly behind Rob. Margaret and Suz both decided to give it a whirl this March. All that means for me is I likely have traded my second place familial finish for a fourth-place one.

I was considering picking my Alma mater to win the title on my bracket. NCAA Committee be damned! That would have been foolhardy of course seeing as they are not even in the tournament, which greatly enhances the likelihood of them not losing any games but also unfortunately makes them worse than a zillion to one shot of making it to the Final Four. I was pleased that they won a game in the NIT on Wednesday night and I care not that it was against that long-time hoops powerhouse Texas Southern. The Buffs play again tonight against the University of California. If they win this evening, then this year's team will establish a new school record for victories in a season. The achievement is significant to the kids and the coaches in the program - and to those of us who root for them from afar......even if a win tonight will establish a new high-water mark of 23 wins, which is a total that teams such as Duke and Kansas and Kentucky aspire to attain annually by the end of February and not the end of the season. Relativity is a wonderful thing.

Picking CU to win the NCAA title would have been idiotic in view of their non-participation in this year's tournament. Being crazy but not an idiot, I shied away from picking them of course. Instead I chose San Diego State to win it all. Other than knowing that (a) NFL Hall-of-Famer Marshall Faulk played college football at San Diego State; (b) Steve Fisher who coached Michigan to the NCAA Championship in 1989 (when Seton Hall got royally screwed at game's end) is the coach; (c) the school's nickname is the Aztecs; and (d) San Diego is not actually a state, I know nothing else about my new favorite team. I could not, even if my life and his life depended upon it, name a single player. I have never seen them play - and I am not limiting that response to this year's team. I have NEVER seen a basketball game in my life in which one of the two combatants wore either SDSU or AZTECS across his chest.

Why wager an Andrew Jackson on what is clearly such a well thought out and informed choice? Why not? The pool I run rewards only the player who finishes first. Last night, while perusing the sheets of all of this year's participants, I found scant little love for San Diego State on anyone's bracket but mine. If they flame out early, then I end up this year where I end up every year, which is out of the money. But if they win, then my faith will have been rewarded.

And besides, what is the sense of engaging in madness if you cannot bring a bit of silliness along for the ride? It is certainly not impossible for San Diego State to win it all. Their record at the time I selected them was 32-2. Other than losing two games to the Stormin' Mormons of BYU, they were unscathed. They entered the NCAA tournament on a five-game winning streak and undefeated in the month of March. Basketball is a sport in which coaches love to speak to death about the importance of the "big mo". The Aztecs have that covered.

You may want to bring your own water to the victory parade however. One never can be too safe.

-AK

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Return of the Hurting Hair

I was a junior at CU when on this very date in 1988, my brother Kelly telephoned me out in Boulder to tell me that his wife Linda had just delivered their third child. Katie is a St. Patrick's Day baby, which seems appropriate given that her family history on her father's side is Irish. What is remarkable to me is not that Katie was born on St. Patrick's Day but rather that the St. Patrick's Day on which she arrived was twenty-three years ago already. Boy has she gotten old; huh?

My favorite thing about righteous indignation is its selective application. Case in point? My two favorite civil rights charlatans Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. It was slightly less than four years ago when Don Imus uttered his infamous remarks about the members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team, which utterance cost him his job. At the forefront of the movement advocating for Imus's removal from his gig (at the time his morning radio show was aired on WFAN in New York and simulcast on MSNBC) were Messrs. Jackson and Sharpton. On April 12, 2007, their wish was granted. CBS President Les Moonves fired Imus.

On the day Imus was fired, Jackson expressed his satisfaction over Imus's termination by calling the firing, "a victory for public decency. No one should use the public airwaves to transmit racial or sexual degradation." Sharpton - again on the day that the axe fell - added that, "We cannot afford a precedent established that the airwaves can commercialize and mainstream sexism and racism." Imus's firing culminated a week-long firestorm, during which Jackson and Sharpton repeatedly called for him to be terminated and led protests calling for his ouster. Their position was seemingly clear: utter something racially offensive and irrespective of one's history (good, bad or indifferent) pay for it with one's job. It appeared at least as if these two dim wits had positioned themselves on a bright line.

If you still believe that to be true and if you still believe that there is not at least a double standard in this society when it comes to race-related comments, then do what I did. Run a Google search. Search for Messrs. Sharpton and Jackson and either's condemnation of Cappie Pondexter. It will not take you too very long at all. Of that you can be certain. You cannot find what does not exist.

Pondexter - who either ironically or coincidentally played her college hoops at Rutgers (she graduated in 2006) - earns her living playing professional basketball for the New York Liberty of the WNBA. While I am not a fan of professional hoops irrespective of the gender of the participants, Pondexter is apparently quite an excellent player. On Saturday, as the world was assessing just how screwed the Japanese are in view of all that had befallen them in the preceding twenty-four hours and sympathy for the fate of the Japanese people was pouring in from all over the world (including 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue), Pondexter used her Tweeter account to express her beliefs that.....well that perhaps the Japanese had gotten what they deserved and had deserved what they had gotten.

Pondexter initially used her Twitter account to share this gem, "What if God was tired of the way they treated their own people in there own country! Idk guys he makes no mistakes." Later, realizing that she had more to say on the subject, she posted this little nugget of racial and ethnic sensitivity, "u jst never knw! They did Pearl Harbor so u can't expect anything less."

As the reaction to her inane comments spread, Pondexter did what everyone (including Imus) does after they step in a big steaming pile of shit, she apologized. Her apology (also via Twitter) was interesting in that it was really a kinda/sorta apology. She apologized not for what she said but for not realizing that some people out "there" who do not know her might interpret them as being racially or ethnically insensitive or just incredibly stupid and inappropriate. In other words, she apologized for the ignorance of those who read her words and misunderstood them. She did not apologize for writing them.

But even had she simply stepped up and apologized, in the Gospel according to Rev. Al and Rev. Jesse, it would not have been enough. The public airwaves cannot after all be permitted to be used sexual or racial degradation. Right? Who knows. The Dumbnamic Duo has been conspicuously silent. Perhaps they are unaware of (a) the crisis in Japan; and (b) Pondexter's comments on it. Or perhaps they are simply revealing their own true colors.

A fraud is a fraud. Skin color does not have a damn thing to do with it. It has never been a viable means for measuring the content of one's character.

Righteous indignation. I so love it. Don't you?

-AK

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Vanishing Steps

Margaret and I have been together for so long that often times it seems to me as if I have known her all of our adult lives. That is revisionist history of course. In fact, at the time I arrived on the scene she was the mother of two small children.

Nevertheless I have gotten used to - over time - seeing pictures of my wife from one of two phases of her life B.M. (before me): her childhood or the early childhood of either Suzanne or Rob. I must confess that I have little understanding of the years in between her transition from the role of someone's daughter to that of someone's wife and mother. I have a general understanding of the process of life, getting older and all that jazz. I knew those days existed for Margaret as they do for all of us who are fortunate enough to reach adulthood. I just never knew how they were filled.

She spent a portion of this past weekend at Joe's house, cleaning up some things for her father and organizing the basement. Joe and Suzy B moved into their home on Howard Avenue more than a half-century ago. My mother-in-law (may she rest in the peace that she well earned) was a saver. A lifetime's worth of memories are all neatly stored in a drawer or upon a shelf in that basement. Looking through it is like viewing a documentary about the history of the United States in the latter half of the 20th Century as seen through the eyes of a rather remarkable, middle-class, suburban family. The photographs at times border on the spectacular. The items Suzy B saved - such as a now-forty-year-old menu from Joe's diner - serve as living proof of a time when a cup of coffee was a nickel and a steak dinner was only a couple or three dollars. Remarkable stuff.

In most of the items that I have ever seen unearthed from that treasure trove, Margaret and Frank are children. Some of them are pictures of the two of them as babies. There are also those that documented their lives in Kodachromatic detail through high school. But until this past weekend I had never seen one of my wife that captured her in the space between.

Apparently after graduating from high school, Margaret worked at a bank in the area (United National Bank on Washington Avenue across from the Medemerge in case you were wondering). United National was one of the front-runners (at least in our neck of the woods) in the installation of an ATM machine for its customers. This past weekend I found my self looking directly into the eyes of my bride - all of 18 or 19 years old - standing in front of the bank's first ATM, in an 8" x 10" black and white photo that the bank used as part of its advertising campaign. She was about as big as a minute (huge surprise that she has not sprouted up much these past three decades; huh?) with a smile on her face that would melt your heart.

Had I known her when she was working her first full-time gig after high school, I would have fallen in love with her a decade or so sooner than I did. Of course, since I was only fourteen at the time, Mom would have had to drive to her house when I wanted to see her, which is a development that likely would have certainly cramped my ability to utilize my full repertoire of Lance Romance moves.

It is an extraordinary photo. It is extraordinary because I have had the opportunity to spend the past two decades knowing and loving the young woman whose smiling eyes were frozen in time at that particular moment three decades ago. Those eyes have seen a lot (and not all of it has been good) in traveling the route from there to here. They belong to a young woman with the whole world open at her feet, ready to take her wherever it was she wanted to go. Her journey and my journey became our journey a long time ago. But yet no so long ago that the young woman in that picture had any idea of who I was or whether I in fact existed. The two children who she would bring into this world and raise to adulthood were themselves, at that particular moment in time, images so far out on the horizon line that they had not yet even taken a particular form or shape in her mind's eye.

Is the life that has unfurled before those eyes at least a reasonable approximation of the one that they had hoped to see? I know what I hope the answer to that question is. Yet I also know that the answer to that question does not belong to me....

....not even if I close my eyes and try with all my might.

-AK

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

ReBuffed

Ah, the Madness. Tonight this year's edition of "Why March is the Least Productive Month in the American Workplace" kicks off with two "play-in games" (I meant to say "first round" games - sorry). Those two tonight, followed by two more tomorrow, will determine which four schools out of the eight who were initially assigned to the kids' table - shall be permitted to dance with the other five dozen adults already in the field when the real part of the tournament commences on St. Patrick's Day.

My Alma mater has a basketball history as long as the average newborn baby's arm......if measured only from the wrist to the tip of the pinky. During the four years that I was on campus at Boulder I went to see exactly one hoops game at the Events Center. My senior year the women's team hosted UNLV in the NCAA tournament. We lost. The men's team was not just bad while I was in Boulder, it was dreadful. This year's team has won twenty-one games so far. That victory total was representative of two to three years' work when I was an undergrad.

The hoops history of the Buffs - at least the last three decades' worth or so - essentially begins and ends with Chauncey Billups. Billups grew up in Denver and although he was far and away the best high school player in Colorado, the Buffs managed to persuade him to make the short hop to Boulder for college. He was only on campus for two years - before embarking on an NBA career that just might end up with him enshrined in the Hall of Fame - but in the decade and a half since he began his professional career, he has remained very involved in the program. He has donated copious amounts of his time and his money to the University. His brother is on the coaching staff.

I cannot pretend to care at all about professional basketball. If the Lakers played the Celtics in my backyard, I would not open the blinds in my den to watch. But given that Billups is now plying his trade for the New York Knickerbockers, I find myself doing something I have not done in about a decade, which is at least paying minimal attention to how the Knicks are doing. I am not a Knicks fan. I am a Chauncey fan. He is a credit to and a great ambassador for the University of Colorado.

Sunday was "Selection Sunday", which is the day when the Selection Committee announces from Kansas City, Missouri the at-large teams that have been invited to play in the tournament and reveals the brackets for the field (who will play and where they will play). This Sunday, for the first time in a long time, there was reason for the Buff Nation to foster hope that we too would be invited to dance. Since 1997, CU has been a part of March Madness exactly two times. In those two trips, we won exactly one game. Our hoops history is so bad that this recent "success" actually represents an uptick. In the twenty-eight seasons prior to 1997, the Buffs garnered precisely zero Dance invitations.

This year's team is coached by Tad Boyle. Coach Boyle was hired after last season when our coach bolted Boulder to become the coach at Wake Forest. Coach Boyle came south to us - all the way down I-25 from Greeley Colorado, where he did a hell of a job transforming the University of Northern Colorado Bears from a Division II program into a Division I program, which transformation culminated this year in UNC winning the Big Sky Conference tournament and earning an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Coach Boyle hoped that his current team would be accompanying his former team onto the Dance floor. However, on Sunday evening as the brackets filled up and the field of 68 inched closer and closer to capacity, Colorado did not appear on a single line. Many of the commentators on television expressed outrage over the Buffs not making the field (props to Seth Davis, my new favorite guy at CBS!). I know that we won more games (21) than we lost (13). I know that we defeated Kansas State all three times we played them and that K-State is in the field as a #5 seed. I know that among our twenty-one wins is one over Missouri (when Mizzou was ranked in the Top Ten) and one over Texas when the Longhorns were ranked #3. I also know though that among our thirteen losses was a loss at Harvard in December and a loss at the University of San Francisco, the latter having last been relevant in college basketball when a young man named Bill Russell played there six decades or so ago.

Should the Buffaloes have been invited to the NCAA Tournament? My heart says "Yes" but my head admits that I have no idea. I know that Greg Anthony earns his living analyzing college basketball and in the aftermath of the Buffs not getting a bid he offered some thoughts (both pro and con) on the subject. You can check out what he said here. (If you are like me and you find him visually disconcerting - his head seems so much larger than his neck that it is like watching a balloon speak - then turn the audio up so you can hear him clearly without having to look at him.)

The season is not yet over in Boulder. The NIT (a/k/a "The Post-Season Scrap Heap") invited Colorado to participate in its tournament. The Buffs accepted the invitation and shall host Texas Southern on Wednesday night. We shall see if Coach Boyle and his guys shake off Sunday's disappointment to win a game that presumably they shall be heavily favored to win. If they win three games in the NIT, then they shall be rewarded with a trip to the NIT Final Four. The NIT Final Four will be played this year - as it is every year - at Madison Square Garden, which would give this year's bunch of Buffs a chance to play a game or two on the court that Chauncey Billups calls home.

Irony or coincidence? I know not. And as of this morning, they are a long way away from Madison Square Garden. It is a destination that can be reached. It is up to them to reach it.

-AK

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lessons Learned

It was a bit chillier than I had expected it to be yesterday morning in Asbury Park. I ran - as did Gidg - in a half-marathon set up by the New Jersey Road Runners Club, which organization is (I think) the one that organizes the New Jersey Marathon (a/k/a "my date with death"). In spite of the mercury not reaching the heights that I had expected it would (an expectation shared not at all by the majority of the several hundred other participants given the number of folks other than me wearing sleeveless shirts and shorts (I will give you a hint - the number rhymes with "hero"), it turned out to be quite a pleasant morning.

I have spent most of this winter running inside on a treadmill. It was nice yesterday morning to get out in the company of others and run. It was actually nice to feel the wind in my face - although in the interests of full disclosure when it was blasting me pretty good at or about the 11 mile mark - the words I was saying only half under my breath were not bon mots.

The best part of the morning was that it served its purpose. My goal/delusion is to be able to complete the New Jersey Marathon in less than four hours. Yesterday, my goal was to run the half marathon in something less than two hours - and to average 8:40 miles in the process. I actually did better than I had hoped to do. I completed the race in 1:50:47 and in doing so averaged better than 8:40 per mile. Best of all, when I reached the finish line while my legs were sore and I was tired, I was not tapped. I had plenty of fuel in the tank. And with fuel now upwards of $3.50 a gallon - just for regular - having a reserve on hand is not insignificant.

Whether running 13.1 miles at that pace in March will translate into being able to run 26.2 miles at that pace on May 1 I know not. I shall find out the answer to that question soon enough. But at least on March 13, I did not learn anything that would make me think that the answer to that question is, "No."

And for present purposes, a "maybe" is good enough.

-AK

Sunday, March 13, 2011

On a Leave of Absence From Any Resemblance to Reality

Is there any public figure with a worse sense of timing than Tiki Barber? If you, like me, are a fan of the New York Giants and you are older than the age of six, then chances are you recall Barber as a rather productive running back for the Giants for a number of years. If you are like me, though, even when Barber was performing good works on the field for the Giants, you had difficulty quelling the reflex of throwing up in your own mouth every time he opened his. From the comfort of my living room, he always struck me as being too cute by half. When midway through his final season, he announced his retirement - just in time to launch some sentiment-soaked farewell tour, I laughed out loud. Although my eyesight is not now what it once was, I can still see a fraud from a mile away. Barber's farewell tour reinforced the genius of Pete Hamill, "Sentimentality is always about a lie. Nostalgia is about real things gone. Nobody truly mourns a lie."

Barber retired from football after the 2006 season to become a television broadcaster. As I understand it, NBC hired him and he served as a correspondent/host on the Today show and as a panelist on their Sunday night Football Night in America pre-game show. I do not watch either program. I never saw Barber on TV performing either of these gigs although I understand - based upon information I have read in various newspapers - that NBC no longer employs him.

I remember the stink that Barber raised early in the 2007 season when he rather harshly criticized Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning (the Head Coach and Quarterback of the Giants) and painted both of them with the "no leadership ability" brush. 2007 was - of course - the season that Coughlin and Manning demonstrated just how right Barber was by rallying the Giants from an 0-2 start of the season to a last-minute win in the Super Bowl over the undefeated New England Patriots. ("Eighteen wins. One Giant loss." Every time I think of Mom's t-shirt with that emblazoned on it I smile.)

During his on-air career at NBC Barber apparently said enough things about his former employer that members of the team's fan base considered to be obnoxious that when the Giants inducted him into their Ring of Honor (or whatever the hell they call it) at The Stadium That Greed Built during the 2010 season, Barber received more boos than cheers. Well played Tiki. Well played indeed.

When he was not alienating the people who used to cheer for him, Barber apparently devoted a considerable amount of time during the past four years wreaking havoc on his personal life. A couple of years ago when his then-wife was pregnant with twins, Barber left her for another woman. One would have presumed that during the time he spent matriculating at the university that Thomas Jefferson created, he would have taken a course or two that addressed the whole "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" thing. Apparently not. I presumed for years that "Cavalier" did nothing more than identify his Alma mater's sports teams. Judging by the manner in which he has conducted himself these past four years, I know appreciate just how wrong I was.

Presumably in need of cash, Barber last week filed papers with the NFL announcing his intention to come out of retirement. He will be thirty-six years old on his next birthday, which is April 7. To the extent I can recall thirty-six at all, my memory of it is generally favorable. I was able to work a lot and be productive in my job. Then again, at age thirty-six I was simply earning my living doing what I do now, which is practicing law. I was not strapping on a helmet and shoulder pads and trying to run for my life from kids who - in some instances - were a decade and a half younger than I. When he retired after the 2006 season, Barber was noted for his candor in acknowledging that, "You come to realize that this is a young man's game." He apparently believes himself to be an anomaly - he is younger now than he was four years ago when he retired.

Barber retired from the Giants. NFL rules state that in order for him to come out of retirement and play for another team (one can still see the red-hot embers that represent all that is left of the bridge connecting Barber to Mara Tech), the Giants have to release him. It took the Giants all of about eleven seconds, upon learning of Barber's intention to come back to the NFL, to announce that they would release him - as soon as they are able to - to leave him free to seek employment elsewhere. "As soon as they are able to" proved to be the key words in the team's announcement.

The irony of all of this is - of course - that less than one week after Tiki Barber announced that he wanted back into the NFL, the NFL's owners voted to lock ALL of the league's players out. While it is utterly incomprehensible to me that the two sides have apparently figured out a way to screw up a nine billion dollar a year industry that makes all of them heaps of money - all the while not even faking as if they give a rat's ass about the players who earned their living in the NFL prior to the dawning of multi-million dollar contracts and who now in retirement are often overwhelmed by mental and physical health issues related to their football careers (Google "Dave Duerson", "Wally Hilgenberg" or "Mike Webster" if you know not of what I speak) - it would not surprise me if the "who can hold his breath the longest" contest drags on for some time.

Time. Something that Mr. Barber has raised "the wasting of" to an art form in the four years since he did his Cher impression. With apologies for crapping all over his grand re-entry, closing time may have already arrived. Approaching from a distance - far away - it may look as if the torch still shines but in fact the Tiki bar may already be closed.

And even if he can no longer go home, he still cannot stay here.

-AK

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Making You Feel Nine Feet Tall

Today is the final day of Standard Time until the fall. We "spring ahead" late tonight/early tomorrow morning and commence Daylight Savings Time. When I was a child I wondered whose bright idea it was to set the time for leaping forward and thereafter falling backward at 2:00 a.m. As an adult I realize that the tavern keepers' lobby has more influence than I could have readily imagined.

Being Americans, a nation whose very foundation was built upon our inability to get along with and to play well with others, not every corner of these United States has agreed to embrace Daylight Savings Time. With the exception of the Navajo Nation, it is not observed in Arizona. Neither is it observed in Hawaii. Considering the amount of sunlight that happens in those two places on a regular basis, their decision to opt out can likely be viewed as an act of selflessness. They are allotting more sunshine to the rest of us. Besides when one lives in a place where during the summer the daily temperature is "INFERNO" does anyone really sit around bemoaning the fact that there is not one more hour of sunlight? Likely not.

Until fairly recently, the State of Indiana had a somewhat uncomfortable and flexible relationship with Daylight Savings Time. The Hoosier State only agreed to observe it statewide in or about 2005. Imagine the fun it was traveling and/or trying to conduct business in Indiana prior to the enactment of that particular state law. Indiana has 92 counties, which are split (courtesy of its location in America's heartland) between the Eastern Time Zone and the Central Time Zone. While telling time in Indiana was apparently a pretty chaotic undertaking prior to the state's embrace of Daylight Savings Time for all of its residents, it does not sound as if it is much of a picnic these days either. Given the division in the state between counties in the Eastern Time Zone and those in the Central Time Zone, when the clocks are set ahead overnight in Indiana, tomorrow morning residents in 74 of its 92 counties will awaken to Eastern Daylight Time while those in the remaining 18 counties will arise to Central Daylight Time. Mercifully, everywhere in Indiana it is still 1952.

The one-night/one-hour sleep deprivation notwithstanding (I smile just thinking of the good natured disputes I have had with Rob/Margaret for years over the impact - or lack thereof - that the time change has on one's person twice annually), I enjoy the forward leap. Much like you and the rest of the world, from early November until early March I never see my house in the daylight during the work week. While I have no plan to alter the departure portion of the equation - and shall be commuting to the office in the wee small hours of the morning for as long as they give me an electronic fob that unlocks the door, I get a bit of of a pick-me-up from the knowledge that starting Monday night I shall be home while it is still daylight more often than not for the next six months. Winter runs down my battery. This year has been worse than most given the harshness of the weather. A bit of additional daylight is akin to a B-12 shot.

And that ain't no jumpin' jive.

-AK

Friday, March 11, 2011

Me and Go-cart Mozart Checking Out the Weather Chart

Doing something this Sunday that I do not typically do on a Sunday in March. I am spending the day - hopefully only the morning - in Asbury Park. My hope is not intended as a slight towards Mr. Springsteen's geographic musical muse. Sunday morning I am running in a half-marathon in Asbury Park, which race is organized and overseen by the same sadists (sorry - fine folks) who organize and oversee the New Jersey Marathon. Speaking of the latter it continues to raise its profile out there on the horizon line. After this Sunday, only two more March Sundays and a quartet of April Sundays separate me from it. May 1 looms ahead like an iceberg. I only hope I have a better rudder man than Captain Smith did.

I am looking forward to Sunday for a couple of reasons. It has been a very rough winter in these parts so almost all of the training I have done for the New Jersey Marathon has been indoors. Sunday is a chance to run outside. While my enthusiasm for doing so will no doubt be affected if Sunday dawns as either a rainy or a snowy day, for present purposes the weatherman is predicting a day whose high temperature will creep into the low 50's and whose sky conditions are supposed to be nothing more ominous than partly cloudy. No blinding light in the forecast - although it is likely to be in my iPod.

The half-marathon in Asbury Park is scheduled to start at 9:00 a.m. (which is really 8:00 a.m. since we commence Daylight Savings Time on Sunday), which means that it will likely be nowhere close to 50 degrees at race time. I consider that to be a good thing. While I am likely in the best physical shape of my adult life these days, which all things considered is not nearly as impressive as I wish it was, I cannot run from here to the end of this sentence without sweating. I never worry about being warm enough when I run outside. I worry about overheating, which at the start of the race should not be too much of a problem.

I am also looking forward to Sunday because it will afford me only the second opportunity thus far this year to run in the company of others. I have been told that in years past the New Jersey Marathon has attracted a field of close to 10,000 runners. I have spent the winter running alone. Surprisingly enough, our treadmill is not a piece of equipment that two people can run on simultaneously and Margaret steadfastly refuses to carry me on her back while she runs. While running alone I have logged quite a lot of mileage. This past Sunday I ran the longest distance I have ever run at one time: fourteen miles. Prior to doing that last weekend, I had never run a distance longer than 13.1 miles, which I did for the first time last April. Now in my mind, I know that the distance I have to run this Sunday is one that I can.

I reasonably anticipate that the New Jersey Marathon in May shall be the only marathon (unless someone broadcasts a "Friday Night Lights" marathon) in which I shall participate. Thus, I not only want to take part in it, I want to complete it in the best possible time. Rightly or wrongly, I have planted the bug in my own ear that I am capable of running 26.2 miles in four hours or less. To date, on my longer training runs - distances of ten miles or greater - I have set my pace at 8:40 per mile, which pace would permit me to complete the marathon in less than four hours. This past Sunday, while I was pleased that I covered the fourteen mile distance in slightly more than two hours, I was disappointed at the conclusion of my run. I missed my targeted completion time. Not by a lot mind you - thirteen seconds to be precise - but I missed it.

My goal Sunday morning is to complete this 13.1 mile race in a time somewhere south of two hours and to be able to do so without feeling as if I want to die upon crossing the finish line. Will I accomplish either and/or both of those goals? I intend to but whether I shall remains to be seen. At day's end, talk counts for little. Action counts for much more.....

....which is of course as it should be, whether running a loop around the rehabbed section of Asbury Park or walking down the street in your town.

-AK

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Loss Prevention

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

On Tuesday morning, in an area of St. Louis where Albert Pujols will most assuredly not be looking to move to irrespective of the size of his next contract with the Cardinals, Deputy United States Marshal John Perry did something a great deal more than nothing. As part of a team comprised of Deputy Marshals and members of the St. Louis Police Department's Violent Offenders Unit, Deputy Perry arrived at the residence of Carlos Boles to arrest him. Mr. Boles, being despicable beyond his years, had managed to pack a lot of malevolence into his thirty-five years of life. Included among hs previous targets? Law enforcement officers. One of the newspaper articles I read on-line on Tuesday suggested that Mr. Boles had told either his sister or his girlfriend that the only way the police would get him out of his home was in a body bag. His prophecy was fulfilled on Tuesday.

Tragically for Deputy Perry, the job is what the job is and what the job is often is dangerous. When officers arrived at Mr. Boles' residence to arrest him, Boles barricaded himself inside - kept company apparently by the cache of weapons he had in the home. After safely getting two small children out of the residence, officers (including Deputy Perry) began searching the home for Boles. The job is what the job is. On Tuesday morning, the job was to effectuate the arrest of this particular serial miscreant. Apparently while Deputy Perry was moving through the residence looking for Boles, Boles ambushed Perry. Deputy Perry was shot in the head. Although he was rushed to an area hospital and all that could be done for him was most assuredly done, before Tuesday had faded into Wednesday, Deputy U.S. Marshal Perry succumbed to his injuries. He was forty-eight years old.

Deputy Perry is the second Deputy to be killed in the line of duty nationwide since this year began. For those of you keeping score at home, today is only Day 69 of 2011. Deputy Perry is the 252nd member of the United States Marshal's Service to die in the line of duty. While I know - having spoken to my favorite Deputy at length Tuesday night - that Rob never had the pleasure of making Deputy Perry's acquaintance, I also know that it matters not at a time like this. A loss of one is a loss felt by all. I could hear it in my son's voice.

It is also a grim reminder of the fact that irrespective of the route traveled to and from work daily, when one earns one's living in law enforcement, one's drive can include a detour directly into harm's way on any given day.

Preventing the triumph of evil comes at a price. Tuesday morning in St. Louis Deputy Perry paid it. In doing so he might very well have saved you or me from having had to do so.

-AK

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Aiming to Please

I never write about politics in this space. Well, I suppose that is not entirely accurate. I occasionally write on subjects that touch upon political issues - such as the continuing exploits of those mouth-breeding hate mongers from the Wasteboro Bastard Cult - but I tend not to dip my ink in the well of politics per se. I have my reasons, I assure you. At least one of them is practical, by which I mean work-related. The other is personal. By that I mean it is the result of a lesson learned at my father's table when I was a child.

The rancor that infects so much of the political debate in this country grows out - in least in part and at least in my opinion - from the fact that everyone shares too much information with everyone else. We blog, we tweet, we Facebook, we text, we e-mail and we call one another with a false sense of urgency that makes the fax machine seem so last century. People share - without being prompted - everything from photographs of newborn babies to present sense impressions of recent bowel movements. At some point in time, enough not only became enough but too much altogether.

I cannot speak for my older sibs but I recall to this day one very brief and very terse conversation Dad and I had following an Election Day. Sitting at the dinner table I asked him if he had voted, which he had and then I asked him for whom he had voted. In the tone of voice reserved usually for questions such as, "Do you want me to give you something to cry about?" he asked me why I believed his vote was any of my business. Before I could formulate an answer (unless, "Uhhhhhh" counts - Judges? No...) he answered his own question by assuring me that it was not. He then launched into some explanation that quickly morphed into a lecture before reaching its destination in the Land of Diatribe (Hooray for Three Feathers vermouth) about how a man's vote was his business and no one else's. If memory serves me correctly, the Election Day in question was the 1980 Presidential election. While I never confirmed it with him - if you would have had a follow-up conversation on this issue with him then mister you are a better man than I - I always suspected that he was one of the four hundred and eleven knuckleheads nationwide who voted in favor of President Carter's re-election.

Maybe it is because I am my father's son but I try - to this day - to steer clear of discussions that center on politics and the views of a particular candidate or office holder. In case you were wondering, my B.A. from the University of Colorado, Boulder has come in handy in the two-plus decades since I earned it. One can never have too many serving trays.

All kidding aside, given the zeal with which the collective jumped the track a while back and began embracing the notion that politics and governance are not issues set forth in so many shades of gray but are instead questions of black and white - and worse yet - of good and evil, I would rather not skip happily downward on this descent into madness. When two people yell over one another at the top of their respective voices, reiterating whatever their belief is on a particular issue, without ever listening to what the other person is saying about his/her belief on that same issue, that is not a political debate. It may be the wrap party for Two and a Half Men but it is most certainly not a political debate.

Having said all that, I must admit that I am equal parts fascinated and appalled by Mitt Romney. Once upon a time, Mr. Romney ran for the United States Senate against Edward Kennedy, only to find that the good people of the Commonwealth were not interested in hiring a replacement for Teddy. Thereafter, Mr. Romney hit electoral gold when those same good people elected him to govern the Commonwealth. The degree of success he had while he was the Governor is - as everything is - subject to interpretation (a/k/a "spin"). I never lived there. He never governed me. The closest I have ever come in my life to being a resident of the Bay State was having my paycheck issued from there for work I performed here during what was the longest four-month period of my life approximately two years ago. Romney was not the Governor by that time. Thus, I absolve him of all blame for the existence of them.

Romney ran for the Republican nomination for President in 2008. In January 2008, he was considered to be among the front runners for the nomination. On February 7, 2008 he withdrew from the race. Being that he still possesses both his wealth and his health, he has apparently decided to take another run at the nomination in 2012, which means of course that although the first caucuses are roughly nine months away, the Republican convention roughly fifteen months away and the 2012 election twenty months away, he is already on the campaign trail. No time like the present to start spending gobs of cash nationwide.

Personally I do not know enough about Mr. Romney to know whether I should applaud or be appalled by his not-too-subtle willingness to adopt any position on any issue as his own. I do know that I find it easier to make up my own mind about who I want to vote for when I have an opportunity to study that candidate's position on issues that are important to me and seeing whether the two of us share any common ground on them. That is an exercise that is decidedly more difficult to engage in when the candidate expresses a willingness to say anything to anyone in exchange for support. Say Anything was one of my favorite movies of my youth. Lloyd Dobler was the kind of fella I would have liked to hang out with back in the day. I would not have wanted him to be President of the United States......

...but then again maybe I am being too quick to judge. After all, Lloyd's dream was to live a life in which he did not have to sell anything. Not a bad dream. Albeit one that is certainly not universally shared.

Much in the same way that not everyone enjoys a good Garden party.

-AK

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hanging with Mr Cooper

For all I know he has been where he is presently situated since Boxing Day. So much snow has fallen here in the State of Concrete Gardens since Christmas that the likelihood of him having simply laid low and blended in with his surroundings for the past two-plus months is closer to probability than it is to possibility. He has lived a life of splendid, relentless anonymity.

No longer. As the daytime temperatures here in Parsippany have reached the dizzying heights of the 40's and 50's more often than not over the past couple of weeks, he has assumed a more prominent role in the Firm's parking lot. Perhaps it is simply the weather that has given him staying power. Rather, his longevity might in fact be the result of more than good breeding. His environment might have contributed to it as well.

By his environment I mean - of course - residency on a paved, relatively flat surface that winter in and winter out is entrusted for reasons that continue to boggle my mind to an outfit whose snow-removal efforts have never reached the level of a full moon. Nope. They are half-assed all the way. It is possible I suppose that matched up against a more worthy adversary he would have bid us adieu at or about Valentine's Day. He was not. Therefore he did not. St. Patrick's Day is less than ten days away and yet he remains.

He is plainly visible now. All of his comrades in frozen precipitate have deserted him. He evokes comparison to the locust who erroneously requests an 18 year wake-up call. He is now an army of one.

Considering that I have spent most mornings over the past two and one-half months devising clever ways to approach what little sliver of macadam remained available out of what had heretofore been my parking space, I cannot say that I shall lament his passing. Yet as all of his friends have abandoned him and as his rally cry, "Remember the Blizzard of '10!" has gone unanswered by those of his species, he has approached his certain fate with a calm and an air of quiet resignation that is almost majestic. He shall not beg. He shall not plead. He shall not negotiate. He shall simply stand and fight until he has nothing left with which to fight. He will die with his boots on. He shall never surrender.

As snow mounds go, this one has been in our parking lot long enough to have established residency and to have qualified for in-county tuition at CCM. He has been one brave little snow mound. But now the struggle is over.

His day has been too long.

-AK

Monday, March 7, 2011

Like A Breath Rippling By

If real-life had better writers (my preference would be Pete Hamill) then today's contribution to the clutter out here in cyberspace would be about Frank's triumphant weekend in Atlantic City. The former does not. Thus the latter is not.

A stellar season, which was in fact the final quarter of what had been from Day One a terrific high school career, ended a bit sooner than any of us hoped it would. Frank lost his preliminary round match Friday night 3-2. The defeat ended his senior season and with it his high-school career. And while Margaret's brother Frank and his beloved C have a sextet of kids, Joe and Frank are the only sons. With Frank's exit from the mat on Friday night, an era ended.

The collective spirit on Friday night was - not surprisingly - low. Everyone was disappointed and saddened for Frank, given how much work he had put in to make it to the State Championship. It is human nature of course and there is nothing wrong with that type of purely personalized reaction.....even when it fails to account for the fact that the young man against whom he competed Friday night had undoubtedly worked just as hard to earn his spot in the State Championship field as had Frank. For him, the dream was likely as consuming as it was for Frank.

Rational thought re-emerged Saturday morning. To the surprise of no one, the sun came up. To the delight of everyone, life went on. We forget sometimes because we are so close to a particular set of circumstances that disappointment and tragedy are not synonyms. Nor are they interchangeable terms. Falling short of a goal in high school athletics may be a disappointment. It is never a tragedy.

Over the past couple of days I thought - as I sometimes do - about Suzy B. My mother-in-law died two years ago this June. She battled gamely against a particularly virulent and sinister cancer for the final five and one-half years of her life. There were days that it was more than just a struggle for her to lift her head off of her pillow and get herself out of bed.

Yet because she lived where she and Joe lived for roughly the final half-century of her life, which is about one mile from both of her children, she was a very involved, hands on Nona. Illness took much from her but not her spirit and not her love of watching her grandchildren participate in absolutely everything. While I must confess that I myself never made it to any of the girls' events, I was part of Nona's road crew for too many football games and wrestling matches to count. Regardless of the size of the venue, Margaret always seemed to be able to find a seat for her mom down front, which was critically important at wrestling matches. While I do not think that Suzy B. ever acquired a tremendous amount of wrestling knowledge (I certainly possess none to share), her status as the #1 fan of her grandsons was unchallenged.

I thought about Suzy B. and her passion for the endeavors of her grandchildren over the course of the past couple of days. Over the course of the past eight years, her two grandsons did quite well for themselves on the wrestling mat. And because of the way Margaret's family works - having taken to heart the lessons learned from Suzy B. - all of us who wanted to had the chance to watch and root for them.

The song is over. Yet, the song goes on. Forever.

-AK

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Like a Ghost Into the Fog

A number of years ago, Counting Crows released a song that contained the lyric, "and between the moon and you the angels get a better view of the crumbling difference between wrong and right." While I would not pretend - in this lifetime or the next - to possess anything more than a scintilla of knowledge of constitutional law possessed by all nine Supremes, I must confess that last week the Court handed up a decision that parked Adam Duritz's words squarely in the forefront of my mind.

I am speaking of course of the Court's 8-1 decision that afforded First Amendment protection to the Westboro Bastards (oops - I meant to write Baptist) Church, which is the group of hate-mongering miscreants that barnstorm around the United States, showing up at funerals (principally those of soldiers) in order to spread their message of hate. Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the eight-member majority in Snyder v. Phelps, wrote that even hateful, distasteful speech such as that propagated by the Westboro bunch is protected speech. The Chief and the rest of the majority expressed much sympathy for the families whose moments of grieving a loved one's loss are exacerbated by the actions of the Westboro protesters. However, the Court held that even though what is said and what is done at the funerals by these jagoffs (in the interest of full disclosure, Chief Justice Roberts did not use that term to describe them. I took a bit of editorial license right there) is horrible and cringe-inducing, our Constitution gives them the right to express themselves in that manner.

The lone holdout from the Court's opinion was New Jersey's own Justice Samuel Alito. Maybe it is a Jersey thing? The willingness to confront a bully head-on and stand toe to toe with him until he gets the message that his brand of bullsh*t just does not play well around here. Justice Alito authored a dissent that the Washington Post described as "muscular". He referred to what the Wasteboro group did at Matthew Snyder's funeral as "brutalizing" the Snyder family. Justice Alito wrote that the Wasteboros had no right (and this time I take no editorial license), "to launch a malevolent verbal attack on Matthew and his family at a time of acute emotional vulnerability."

The joyous and perplexing thing about the Constitution is that it protects the right to do many things that many of us hold sacred while also protecting the right to do many things that many of us consider despicable. Justice Alito is considerably brighter than I am and has forgotten more about the Constitution than I shall ever learn. I suspect that his dissent was written as much from his heart as it was from his deep well of constitutional scholarship. His eight colleagues on the Court are not often noted for their like-mindedness. Yet, on this issue, even when confronted with this facially egregious fact pattern, they opted to see black and white instead of red.

Candidly, I neither find fault with nor take issue with either side of the argument. I have read enough about how the opinion-rendering process works at the Court to believe that prior to authoring his dissent Justice Alito had a firm understanding of the position of his colleagues. By eschewing unanimity, he assumed the role of Horton. He was free to say what he meant and leave little doubt that he meant what he said.

It is likely as little comfort to the Snyders today as it was on the day that their son died in combat and as it was on the day that they laid him to rest that the Wasteboro boobs and their right to behave as they behave remains inviolate because of Matthew and every other man and woman who has fought beside him at any time in this nation's history. The Phelpses would not and could not exist in any society that does not protect to the death one's personal freedoms. They are a uniquely American animal....

....and a glimpse perhaps of a better view of the crumbling difference between what is legal and what is right and which of the two our justice system is designed to protect.

'Round here.

-AK