Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crumpled Bits of Paper

I awoke this morning a forty-four year-old man.  I awakened on this very date thirty years ago as a fourteen year-old boy.  I woke up that day to the sound of one of my sisters telling me that our father had died.  All these years later I cannot recall whether the messenger was Kara or Jill.  I know it was not Evan solely because she had already flown from the nest and blazed her own path in the adult world.  I also cannot recall all these years later the look on the face of the messenger when I replied, "I know." 

The final night of my father's life I did something that I rarely did by the time I was a boy of fourteen.  I said good night to him as he shuffled off to bed and even went so far as to give him a hug and a kiss.  Something in his eyes told me that when he disappeared down the hallway into the master bedroom I would never see him alive again.  I was right.

In sports, reference is made often to the "fallacy of the pre-determined outcome".  For example, in baseball a runner gets thrown out trying to steal third base.  On the very next pitch, the batter hits a double into the corner in right field.  Inevitably an announcer will observe that if the base runner had not been thrown out trying to steal then he would have scored when the double was struck on the very next pitch.  The danger in that assertion is that it assumes that all other factors would have remained status quo and only that one thing - the runner being thrown out trying to steal - would have changed. 

In reality, a changed circumstance rarely occurs in a vacuum.  It is impossible for me to say whether I would have lived the life I have lived to date had my father lived.  I know that I would not have lived the life I have lived to date but for my mother.  When both of my parents were alive, I always considered Mom amazing in that she could actually live with Dad.  After he died, I considered her even more amazing for her ability to adapt, to overcome and to live without him.  My father was my father.  My mother is my hero.

And as a forty-four year-old man I know something that was not so readily apparent to the angry, grieving fourteen year-old version of me.  I am forever indebted to both of them.  I belong to them but my mistakes belong to me and to me alone. 

Say it loud.  Say it clear

-AK

Monday, May 30, 2011

It's Memorial Day in America

"It's Memorial Day in America....Y'all be sure and drive slow."  Sage advice from Mr. McMurtry.  If yours is a journey requiring you to migrate north on the Garden State Parkway at some point this afternoon or this evening here in the State of Concrete Gardens, then you might find yourself having no alternative but to heed his words.  For on the Parkway, on a holiday weekend, slow is but one of two options.  Stopped is the other.

If we put on our Caps O' Metaphor for just a moment however, then perhaps we can open our minds to the possibility that the plea to slow down addressed not merely all things automotive but rather all things about this day.  We the people of these United States have long equated Memorial Day with summer's arrival.  There is not a damn thing wrong with doing so.  However, we cannot permit to be lost in all the hoopla about blockbuster movies, backyard BBQs and four-day work weeks the reason why this day exists on the calendar. 

People have died for this nation prior to its existence on any map.  From the American Revolution forward to present day, we have been blessed to count among our number men and women who have been willing to trade their lives for the enduring freedom of all Americans.  Consider that for a moment.  The willingness not only to die so that your loved ones might live but to die so that countless people you will never meet - including at least some who you would not like if you did meet them - can live.  And not simply live but live in a nation that - for all of its flaws and foibles - makes a better, more legitimate run at providing an environment in which all of us within certain limits and boundaries of course have the right to live freely. 

Ambrose Redmoon once wrote, "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear."   Today we honor the memory of all of those whose selflessness took from them the one thing they had about which they had an innate right to be selfish:  life.  At some point late this morning, our little town's Memorial Day parade will pass right by our front door.  The Missus and I shall be among the throng gathered to stand and cheer in appreciation of the members of the American Legion and the VFW as they march past.  It is not an exaggeration to say it is the least we can do.  Our debt to them will never be paid in full.

So nigh is grandeur to our dust, so near to God is Man,
when Duty whispers low, "Thou must", the Youth replies, "I can". - Emerson

....and a grateful nation thanks you for it.

It’s Memorial Day in America
This is how it’s supposed to be
Let’s remember our fallen heroes
In the land of the free.

-AK

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Socks and other Triumphs

My wife - who I love with all of my little charcoal briquette of a heart - has but one flaw.  She is married to an idiot.  While I suspect that Margaret spends no part of her day popping by here to check on the idle ramblings of her lesser half, my self-propelled hurl 'neath the wheels of a popular public conveyance in this space does not rise to the level of either (a) a confession; or (b) a mystery unearthed.  We will celebrate (my word though I suspect sometimes Margaret prefers "mark") our 18th wedding anniversary in about three weeks.  I assure you that the cat and the bag overcame separation anxiety on this particular point quite some time ago.

I should be embarrassed to admit (but am not of course) that I often become whetted to a particular notion or a specific way of doing something that while countless "better ways" of accomplishing the same task exist, I might never open my eyes wide enough to see them.  For instance, let us consider the curious case of my sock drawer.  I actually have two of them.  I have amassed enough pairs of "dress socks" (a/k/a socks worn for work purposes and/or with bye-bye clothes) over the years that the two top drawers in my dresser are home to my sock collection.  The population should have been winnowed out years ago but for reasons known only to me (and the jury is out on that actually) it never has been.  I have become the Statue of Liberty when it comes to socks.  I gather, accumulate and protect from any harm all socks once they come into my possession. 

I have faith in little - except for the presumed ability that a sock possesses to repair its own injuries.  Hole in the toe?  A mere flesh wound.  Bleach stain in the shin region?  No cause for concern.  The only offense that is punishable by banishment is loss of elasticity.  I have zero use for a sock who cannot say where he is initially placed.  If I wanted to wear my dress socks bunched up in a ball around my ankles, I would be an 11 year old girl named Clarissa. I am not and thus I do not.

Margaret has for years simply suffered in silence regarding my stance on my socks - one that makes me something akin to a PETA-approved animal shelter.  I was reminded on Friday morning that her silence is not to be mistaken for acquiescence.  Apparently a week or two ago while she was doing some other work in our room, she decided to color code my sock drawers.  I have an inordinate number of pairs of black dress socks.  She bunked them together in one drawer.  She assigned the "non black" socks to their own drawer.  In doing so, she made life easier for me of course.  Since I own only dark-colored suits, none of which are brown, I rarely have occasion to open that drawer. 

Friday was an "office" day.  After spending at least a part of every other day during the week either in court or out at an appearance (with varying degrees of success), the segue into the long holiday weekend was spent at my desk catching up - or trying to - on a million different things.  The Firm as a "business casual" dress code (talk about your primer on elasticity.....but I digress) so Friday was a khaki pants day (coming soon to a Hallmark store near you). 

In my simple little brain, the wearing of khakis necessitates the wearing of brown socks.  For longer than I probably should admit that has meant the wearing of one of two pairs of brown socks whose existence I was aware of.  The former looks like the Purina checkerboard logo but in a brown on brown color scheme.  The latter pair is solid chocolate......with a small hole in the top of the sock at or about the middle toe.  Apparently all of that roast beef consumption makes that particular toe stronger than its neighbors on both sides. Not strong enough to permit a complete break out.  At least not yet.

Imagine my surprise (when you are not weighted down by intellect, surprises come quite easily I assure you) when I opened my drawer in the wee small hours of Friday morning in search of a pair of brown socks and came across a pair that I do not believe I had ever seen before.  Neither quite as loud and garish looking as my checkerboards nor quite as well ventilated as my holy chocolates.  In the immortal words of Goldilocks, they were just right.


I had a rough week last week - especially Tuesday.  One takes a victory wherever one can find one sometimes.  Friday morning, courtesy of Margaret, I found one neatly tucked away in my sock drawer.

The road to victory is often walked in baby steps.  Always good to have a pair a socks upon which you can rely to get you there.

-AK
 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rumbling Through This Promised Land

When I was a boy and rock and roll music used to be heard on the FM dial in New York City at 102.7, my favorite DJ was Dave Herman.  I drove to high school listening to the "Rock N' Roll Morning Show" five days a week, which featured his daily shots of "Bruce Juice" (which given how Herman was not among the folks in New York who initially believed all of the "I have seen the future of rock and roll and his name is Bruce Springsteen" hype until a night at the Bottom Line changed his mind forever).  Every year as spring ceded its starring role on the calendar to summer, a morning's shot of Bruce Juice would invariably feature "Racing in the Street".

"Racing" has been my favorite Springsteen song since I first heard it, which I believe was on my cassette copy of Darkness on The Edge of Town, which remains (in this one man's opinion) the best Springsteen album ever made three decades after its release.  While it is my favorite Springsteen track, its length and its tone do not lend easily to radio play, particularly during morning drive.  It is somber-sounding enough that one could easily envision a program director and an on-air personality ending up as defendants in a wrongful death suit arising out of a motorist's decision to run his car into a bridge abutment due to the unrelenting sadness of the melody emanating from his car's radio.  Yet faithfully every year Herman dropped the needle on it and played it - traffic accidents be damned!  I loved him for doing it then and lo these many years later I love him for providing me with that particular piece of grist for the memory mill.

This morning the Missus and I shall awaken at the Shore.  Today, for the first time I am participating in a race known as the Spring Lake 5.  Gidg is running in it too.  But for the preachings and teachings of my law partner and running guru Mr. Gerst I would not have ever known a damn thing about it.  Thanks to him, this morning the three of us (Gidg, Arnie and me) will be accompanied by 10,000 runners or so through the streets of Spring Lake, which is the Irish Riviera at the Shore.  This morning - under what is supposed to be a mostly sunny and fairly warm sky (happy we start at 8:30 with a high temperature of 85 degrees in the forecast), we shall be doing a bit of racing in the street.  Looking forward to it?  You better believe it.  In order to be certain that we had a spot in the field, we signed up in February. 

February?  Yep, February.  Way back then, it was the dead of winter.  But this morning?  Summer is here. And the time is most certainly right.

-AK

Friday, May 27, 2011

A State of Missery

As we the people of these United States get ready to celebrate the first extended weekend of the summer season - including the observance of Memorial Day on Monday in which we honor all of those men and women whose lives have been lost in preservation of the freedoms that those of us who are Americans hold so dear and yet sometimes are guilty of taking for granted - let us take a moment to consider the lives lost on our own soil thus far this year.  Lives lost as a result of the incredibly violent series of tornadoes that have rampaged throughout the American South and - just this past week or so - the Midwest.  I had thought that the news footage from Alabama several weeks ago had steeled me from being stunned or left heartsick from any similar footage from any other place.  I had thought that right up until the point the other evening when I saw the video of what is left - and more pointedly what is not left - of large sections of Joplin, Missouri.  Incredible stuff.  A stark reminder that nature can be as violent as it can be beautiful. 

I have a fair amount of fun in this space with the whole notion of organized religion and the related notion of spirituality.  I appreciate that there are those who believe in such things and I wish no ill to anyone who does.  I tend to fall on the other side of the line on that issue - not a huge believer in the notion of a celestial scorekeeper - and every time I think that I might be wrong and perhaps should reconsider my position, some a**hole masquerading as a "Man of God" does something to remind me of the correctness of it. 

The old coot who predicted the end of the world as we know it as recently as this past Saturday, Harold Camping, is just that:  an old coot.  I am sure there are purple sweatsuit-wearing, lemonade-drinking followers of him out there but I think as a general rule most of the rest of us view him as being here with us to provide us with the occasional piece of entertainment.  No harm, no foul. 

On the other hand, Fred Phelps and the rest of the cowards who follow his "preachings" under the guise of the Wasteboro Bastards Klan are not simply old coots.  They are malevolent forces.  Phelps is not a good human being.  I care not that the United States Supreme Court recently upheld the right of these wastes of our collective oxygen supply to protest at the funerals of service members killed in combat.  Being guaranteed the right to behave like an a**hole does not change one inalienable fact:  you are still an a**hole. 

Sunday, President Obama shall spend a portion of his Memorial Day weekend in Joplin, Missouri, viewing the scene of the storm damage firsthand and doing what a President does in times like this, which is attempting to reassure those who have lost everything, including in the case of far too many one or more family members.  On Wednesday, the jagoffs from WBC announced their intention to protest the President's visit.  Phelps and his cretins actually posted on their website on Wednesday, "Thank God for 125 dead in Joplin" (except on their website the proclamation is written in all caps and in huge, oversized typeface).  If he and his flock are on God's side, I shall continue to take my chances out here alone. 

If there is any sense of divine justice in this world, on Sunday when however many of Phelps' hate-fomenting followers descend on Joplin to spread their particular brand of venom, the good people of Missouri will honor their state motto and "show" the Wasteboro crowd what happens to those who arrive in a disaster area for no reason other than to hurl insult at those already up to their eye teeth in injury.  Or maybe the good folks of Kansas can lend a hand to their usually heated rivals - and next-door neighbors - to the east.  Somewhere the Kansas State Museum has to have at least a couple of Beecher's Bibles lying around in good, working order.  Once upon a lifetime ago, they were considered to be a wonderful deterrent to the spread of slavery. 

Sunday seems to be as good a time as any to see if they work equally as well deterring hatred's insidious onslaught.

-AK

Thursday, May 26, 2011

By the Light of an Invisible Sun

Did you see the item yesterday (I do not what media site had it first as I read it off of a link to it that my brother Bill provided) from Captain Crazy - the right Reverend Harold Camping?  Asked - in the aftermath of the Rapture that was not on May 21 - what had happened, Rev. Ha-C explained that May 21 was an "invisible judgment day".   The actual day of reckoning is coming on October 21st after all.  May 21 was a spiritual - and not a physical - event. 

Ah, the old "invisible judgment day".  A concept just Huckleberry enough to make a jaded old cynic such as a certain person I see when I look in the mirror every morning hearken back to my days of youth.  My friend Doug Carroll and I used to play marathon Wiffle Ball games on summer afternoons.  We lived about five miles beyond the edge of nowhere - an area so sparsely populated that it was not even wired for cable television.  A good time as a kid was sleeping over at the house of one of my friends who lived in civilization where channels such as MTV and HBO existed.  That world was never to be confused with Wertsville Road in Neshanic Station.

Anyway, I owe a great big thank you to Hollerin' Harold and his "invisible judgment day".  Back in the day, the only two people who Doug and I had to play Wiffle Ball with (and against) were each other.  To complete our rosters, we drafted an army of invisible men.  Each was a specialist of whom the late, great Charles O. Finley would have been proud:  he was exclusively used to run the bases.  We always suspected that somewhere, someplace Herb Washington - who in is 105 game major league career that spanned the 1974 season and a brief snippet of the 1975 season - never once had an official at-bat - was smiling. 

I never suspected that our concept of invisibility, which was critical to game play, would be taken wider and higher by Reverend Camping.  I hope it is a trend that continues to spread.  Who would not enjoy breaking up the monotony of paying one's mortgage for real every month with an "invisible mortgage payment day" every 3rd month or so?  Think of the confusion it might create for law enforcement though if thieves and shoplifters could advance an affirmative defense of "invisible payment" to the charges against them. 

The anticipation of my first chance to put this newly accepted universal concept into action is almost too much to bear.  I intend to rely upon it tonight when I participate in The Legal Runaround 5K in Somerville.  Regardless of my finishing time, I know I shall run my best time ever.  Care to try to prove me wrong?  Sucker's bet - of course. Blink and you'll miss me.....

.....told you!  I am already gone.

-AK

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Bug's Life

A number of years ago Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits recorded a song called, "The Bug".  While Knopfler is among my favorite singers and songwriters and under his stewardship Dire Straits contributed quite a representative share of memorable songs to the rock n' roll catalog, "The Bug" is not among his better efforts and is essentially forgettable. 

But there is a song for every occasion.  And late yesterday afternoon - shortly before five o'clock - the jury on the case I had spent the past week trying in Jersey City did what I had spent the entirety of the trial fearing that they were going to do.  They crafted an occasion that suited that particular song to a "T".  Actually I had not spent the entirety of the trial fearing the verdict.  It was something that I had been dreading for close to a year - since the first time the case was listed for trial. 

Having spent a year anticipating a bad result, I take no pleasure from the fact that my prognostication skills kick Harold Camping's from here to the Rapture and beyond.  It is far more fun when a trial ends to be the windshield than it is to be the bug.  Sometimes unfortunately it does not work out that way.

Splatter happens.  Fortunately the sun continues to rise in the East and life goes on. 

-AK

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Making Progress

In case you missed it - what with all the coverage devoted to the Rapture and to the Subway Series - police in Los Angeles announced over the weekend that they had arrested at least one of the pieces of human garbage who assaulted Bryan Stow in a parking lot outside Dodgers Stadium on the Opening Night of the 2011 baseball season.  Stow apparently had the audacity to wear San Francisco Giants garb to the game that night.  As a Giants fan, whatever the hell could have been thinking?  What cheek.  What nerve.  After the game ended, as Stow was walking through the lot - and by all accounts minding his own business - he was attacked and brutally beaten by the several members of the Dodgers fan base that one suspects the team feels most fortunate to have on its side. 

The beating Stow received was brutal.  Almost two months after he was attacked, he remains hospitalized.  On at least one occasion during the time that has passed since the assault, his doctors have placed him into a medically induced coma to help prevent seizures.  Stow is forty-two years old and a father of two.  He earns his living as a paramedic.  Hell of a reward for a life spent in the service of others; eh?  Almost getting beaten to death for wearing a baseball cap and a jersey....at a baseball game.  

Arrested Sunday was Giovanni Ramirez, who the LAPD has described as the leader of the attack on Stow.  Always good to know who is in the role of Coward #1.  Giovanni appears to be the one here.  Here is to hoping that if Giovanni is indeed the one whose malevolence has forever altered the life trajectory of Stow and his family that when it is time for him to pay his debt to society,  he is incarcerated in one of California's northern state prisons......and required to spend his days and nights with a Dodgers cap stapled to his head and a jersey crazy glued to his body.  

After all, should he not have the opportunity to experience the thrill of opening night himself?  Over and over and over.

-AK

Monday, May 23, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Although the Summer Solstice is essentially thirty days away, this is - by popular acclaim - the final week of Spring....at least unofficially.  This time next week a whole lot of us shall be off for the day.  Whether we take the time to reflect upon the fact that our three-day weekend's place on the calendar is actually a day denoted as "Memorial Day" and what that truly means is - sadly - a personal choice.  I hope that however you spend Monday next, you take a moment to recall what the day is all about.

I will spend a little piece of the long weekend running in a couple of races - my first such ventures wearing a bib since I crossed the finish line at the New Jersey Marathon on May 1.  Thursday night Suzanne is going to join Gidg and me in taking another crack at The Legal Runaround.  The Runaround is a 5K race that takes place in Somerville - beginning and ending in the immediate vicinity of the Somerset County Courthouse.  All three of us ran in it last year.  It was a race that began in sunlight and ended under pitch black skies belching torrents of rain as a companion to claps of thunder and flashes of lightning.  Not fun.  It has been said that lightning does not strike in the same place.  Thus far the long-term forecast for Thursday looks pretty spotty at best.  Here is to hoping that we do not have to run on Thursday night hoping that cliche contains more than just a kernel of truth.

Last Memorial Day weekend was spent in Colorado with Rob.  Not this year.  Friday night the Missus and me shall head down the Shore.  Saturday morning Gidg and I running in the Spring Lake Five - a five-mile race that is apparently an intimate gathering of ten thousand runners or so.  I have never participated in it before and am looking forward to doing so very much.  As of last night, the forecast for Saturday looked fairly lousy also.  Here is to hoping that the outlook gets better as the week goes on.  Happiness is not running five miles in the pouring rain. 

Then again, considering that Saturday May 21 was - in some circles - supposed to be the End of Days, if Saturday May 28 dawns rainy all in all it will not be that big a deal; right?

-AK

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Submitted for Your Reconsideration

Perhaps another reason why I am a Yankees fan who - while being incredibly pissed off initially over Jorge Posada's decision to opt out of the game against the Red Sox last Saturday night - has had little difficulty getting over it, is because my personal, professional experience is a case study in the significance of the second chance.  Perhaps when I look in the mirror, I see what Posada sees.  He has bigger ears than I do but then again I have significantly more gray hair.  We are not looking to revise The Patty Duke Show so not quite identical is close enough, thank you very much.

Two-plus years ago - on January 28, 2009 - I exited the Firm for what at that time I believed would be the final time as an employee.  The lure of greener grass, coupled with was an ever-increasing and ever more palpable feeling of frustration over what I was doing and where my career as a lawyer was going, led me out the door.  Moments after it closed behind me and the new door opened before me I realized that I had made a mistake.  Fortunately, having been at the Firm since January 5, 1998 and having done work that I can say immodestly was at least serviceable for those eleven-plus years, when I realized that I needed to be there and the Firm - to a lesser degree - realized that it was better served by my presence than my absence, when an opportunity presented itself to reconnect we did. 

My final day at my "other job" was May 22, 2009.  Two years ago, Memorial Day came early.  My final day there was the Friday leading into the Memorial Day weekend.  But for the willingness of my Partner Howard - who manages the department in which I work - and Paul - the Firm's Managing Partner - to extend me a second chance, while I know that I would not have lasted two more years at the other place I do not know where Skate would be parked these days (although I suspect in a ravine off of the side of a deserted stretch of highway somewhere). 

On this, the second anniversary of my final day of my "Winter at the Reservoir", please join me in a toast.  Let us raise our glasses - or coffee cups - to forgotten bygones.  They are, after all, the very best kind.

-AK

Saturday, May 21, 2011

After The Earthquake

I stopped on the way home last night from work and bought myself a fancy new vehicle.  Can we really afford a $72,000 car?  Who knows.  Not a question I asked when I slapped down my old reliable Amex Gold Card to take it off the lot.  How much are the monthly payments?  Who cares.  I have it on pretty good information that the point is moot.  I do not foresee having to make any. 

And even if I am left uncaptured by the Rapture today - and given the life I have lived to date the likelihood of boarding an elevator that goes up after the doors close is probably not very good - I still do not intend to make a single payment.  Again, I have it on pretty good information that the five months between Rapture Day and Doomsday are going to be chock full of some pretty funky sh*t.  Will the dealer from whom I "bought" my luxury ride have the time to devote to chasing me for the vehicle?  Not bloody likely! For once anarchy arrives, concerns over mundane things such as vehicle repossession take a back seat.  Pun intended - just in case you were curious.

Not even a person anticipating the end of the world as he knows it places all of his eggs in one basket.  In the event that all of the snickerers are wrong and the perceived crank Harold Camping is right, the sinners among us are going to need a place to live to wait out the bitter end.  I do not know what your plan is but this fella is channeling his inner mole and going under.  Underground that is.  Be it ever so humble there is no place like a doomsday bunker.  In keeping with my new found economic status, I have spared no expense building the little hole in the ground that shall keep our family safe and sound.  Money is no object when it comes to the protection of one's family....

....especially when one pays for one's doomsday bunker with a check dated October 22, 2011.  A boy can never be too prepared; right? 

In the off chance that Mr. Camping and his particular brand of jumpsuit-wearing, Kool-Aid swilling miscreants are wrong and the sun rises tomorrow, then perhaps we shall indeed meet again right back here.  I hope we do.  And if you know anyone looking for an almost brand-new luxury sedan, do me a favor and send him my direction.  Thanks.

-AK

Friday, May 20, 2011

Porcine Surprise

Proof that I am indeed my father's son arrived on my door step electronically the other morning.  Some time ago in this space I told the story that my first recollection of seeing the World Trade Center was driving with my Dad when I was just a sprout and watching him point across the Hudson River at them and saying, "See those two buildings.  I taught the sons of the man who built those buildings."  To this day I have no idea how much of that statement was truth and how much was a Dad-ism.  I love it though because it reinforced my old man's efforts to channel his inner Zelig.  From his unique perspective, that was what the Twin Towers were.....two colossal buildings built by the father of (apparently) at least two of his students. 

How well did I take that lesson to heart?  Well enough, I am embarrassed to admit that among the things I thought about on September 11, 2001 was how pissed off my old man must have been to have seen the destruction of the Twin Towers for - after all -they were buildings built by a man whose sons he had taught. 

Earlier this week the Boulder Daily Camera reported on the demise of a store on the Pearl Street Mall called "Paper Dolls".  I do not believe that it existed when I was a student at CU a lifetime ago - although given that unique gifts and knick-knacks are things that I had even less need to purchase then than I do now, it very well might have without my knowledge.  Regardless of its sketchy relationship with me, it is closing its doors forever - and quite soon. 

My interest in the story was not about the demise of the store.  Rather it was the reference to the festive fiberglass pig that sits outside of its front door on Pearl Street.  The story included a picture of a child sitting on the pig.  Cute kid to be sure.  But not even close to being the best photo - or even the second best photo ever taken of someone sitting upon it. 

Two summers ago, shortly after Suzy B died, Joe decided to accompany Margaret and me on our great Western adventure to visit Rob - who at that time lived in Cheyenne Wyoming.  The last full day we spent out West we took Joe to Boulder to check out where I went to school and to check out the Flatirons.  On the way out of town, we stopped downtown so we could walk around on Pearl Street.  And with the soul of the child that is contained within his grandfatherly frame, he was drawn to the pig outside of Paper Dolls like a moth to the flame. 



Do not believe for a moment that I am the only one in our family who enjoys those two shots.  Margaret made Joe a scrapbook of his trip out West almost immediately after we arrived home in late July.  Both of these shots were among that collection's conversation pieces.

R.I.P. Paper Dolls.  In my case, I never knew ye.  Thank you though for your fiberglass pig.  It provided a few minutes of amusement and a lifetime of good memories to my father-in-law, my wife, my son and me during a summer in which amusement and good memories were both in dangerously short supply....

.....that's all folks.

-AK

Thursday, May 19, 2011

As You Like It

While attempting to escape from Jersey City last night I heard something on the radio that reinforced my belief that chimps cry themselves to sleep at night cursing their spot on the food chain.  In the interests of full disclosure I was not so much attempting to escape from Jersey City as I was just trying to get home after the first day of trial.  Unfortunately the combination of the relentless rain and Jersey City's utter lack of elevation (it appears to be located either at or below sea level) made getting out of town seemingly a fool's errand.  In the car a block away from the Brennan Courthouse at 4:30. Out of the car in our driveway 'NTSG at 7:00.  It was about as much fun as it sounds.

Sitting in traffic somewhere in Newark whatever station I was listening to had a DJ on who apparently just had a baby.  I know that only because he used his experience picking out a name to set up a story he had read about another couple and their naming efforts.  According to the DJ, this other couple just had a little girl - their first child.  And the name of choice?  "Like". 

You read that correctly.  Parents in these United States named their daughter, "Like".  Their inspiration?  The button on Facebook.  You read that correctly too.  Her parents named her after the "like" button on Facebook.  Here's to hoping that all three of them live nice long lives....long enough for Like to be responsible for making Mom and Dad's end-of-life medical decisions.  Revenge is a dish best served cold; right?

Then again, maybe George Costanza was simply a man ahead of his time.

-AK

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Outcomes and Other Endings

I approach every "issue" that surfaces in the world-at-large from the same perspective.  Namely, that I am such a cantankerous, underdeveloped, disconnected tool that it is entirely possible that my point of view is not shared - even a little - by any other person.  I have no issue with that at all.  I accept it as not only plausible but - on more than an occasional basis - likely to be the case.  I sleep soundly.  I assure you. 

Therefore, perhaps it is just me who fails to comprehend why the sexual orientation of a gentleman who earns his living in the front office of a professional sports franchise is (a) news; and (b) the business of anyone alive other than the gentleman in question.  I sort of understood the hue and cry when twenty years ago or so Magic Johnson disclosed to the world at large that he had HIV, which disclosure he made at the press conference announcing his retirement from the NBA.  He had earned his living playing a sport in which physical contact is inevitable, injury is not infrequent and the possibility of one player's blood landing and/or ending up on another player was something more than just remote. 

To me, that necessity is absent from Rick Welts' line of work.  Not to mention the fact that Johnson announced not a personal sexual orientation but rather that he had contracted a disease that most of us consider to be a death sentence - and twenty years further on up the road Magic Johnson continues to confound science I reckon.  Welts' personal sexual orientation is as much my business or yours as is his political affiliation, his religion and his place on the meat-eater/vegetarian/vegan continuum.  That it to say that it is not our business at all.

We like to pat ourselves on the back in these United States.  We live for the opportunity to feel better about ourselves - irrespective of whether we have in fact done anything praiseworthy.  To that end, note the number of people associated with the NBA (the league in which Mr. Welts earns his living) from league officials to owners, from players to broadcasters lining up to announce that they "applaud" and "support" his decision to "come out".  How presumptuous of them - and of us - to act as if he was shilling for the approval of others.  And how screwed up are all of us - to a degree at least - if either he was or if we interpreted his announcement in such a manner?  All of us does not - these days at least - include New York Rangers agitator Sean Avery.  As a lifelong Rangers fan I hope that the rest of the Blueshirts have at least half as worthwhile an off-season as #16 has had thus far.

One would hope that those who know Mr. Welts feel the same about him now as they did prior to his announcement.  And one would hope that those of us who do not know him - and who (present company included) could not have named at gunpoint the President of the Phoenix Suns prior to his announcement - do not permit our perception of him to be colored solely by his announcement.  Is he an honorable man?  Is he an honest man?  Is he a capable man?  Is he good at his job?  All of these things seem to be how one would take the measure of this man in the position in which he earns his living.  The other stuff?  Important to him no doubt and rightly so.  Yet, wholly irrelevant to the discussion of his job and the manner in which he performs it. 

Maybe it is just me.  Who knows.  I might very well be the only English-speaking person in the Western Hemisphere who does not "get" Lady Gaga as a force of nature in the world of music (and please do not get me started on the laugh out loud irony of her "anthem" Born This Way, a song that blithely ignores the fact that she is about as packaged as a Hungry-Man frozen dinner) so my powers of perception are not exactly....powerful.  It remains - and I suppose it always shall - a mystery to me why we as a collective act as if we have the right to examine and stick our noses in the business of each member of the hive. 

I am just a dinosaur I suppose.  Rarely surprised but consistently disappointed by the fact that here in the first quarter of the 21st Century there is no such thing as too much information.  Knowledge is in short supply.  But information?  Information is there for the having.   

-AK

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On the Hood of a Cadillac

Pete Hamill - in his exquisite work "Downtown:  My Manhattan" wrote that, "Time itself is long, even if the time of man in short."   If you are even a casual follower of the American League baseball team that calls Manhattan's northern neighbor home, then you know that thus far this season time has seemed to be closing in with ever-increasing rapidity on certain of its players.  The fact that those for whom the footsteps sound the loudest are those whose stars have shone the brightest for the past decade and a half underscores the quickness with which the curtain closes.  Opening Night seems so, so far away now.  The famous final scene?  It feels as if it shall be upon us any time now.  Any time at all.

Jorge Posada has been my favorite member of the Yankees for a long time.  I think the fact that he spent most of his years - every one until this one in fact - behind the plate wearing "the tools of ignorance" has much to do with my affection for him.  Undoubtedly his attitude has a lot to do with it too.  I remember years ago - when the Yankees of the latter half were in the midst of their tango approach to October baseball ("One! Two! Three! We're Done!) - reading somewhere that one of former teammates from the World Series teams of the late 1990's described Posada as the team's Sergeant-at-Arms.  By that he meant that while Jeter is the Captain and the face of the franchise, Posada is the guy in the clubhouse who his teammates both respected and feared.  He was the one who maintained order and who injected himself into the sometimes messy business of teammate relations with which Jeter - publicly at least - has never seemed to be too comfortable.

This past weekend Posada did something extraordinary.....and not in a good way.  He is struggling through the worst season of his life in the final year of his contract and what is likely the final year of his Yankees career.  He has been brutal at the plate thus far this year.  And this year, unlikely every other year, he earns his living 100% with his bat.  The Yankees decided after last season that Posada could not catch any more.  According to a number of reports, GM Brian Cashman told Posada in November not to pack his catcher's gear when he reported to Spring Training in February.  He would not need it.

Considering that Posada has been the #1 catcher on six World Series teams, including four of which won the World Series - including the World Series way back when against the Phillies in 2009, he bristled at the manner in which he felt the Yankees were treating him.  Once upon an earlier time, when Jorge had no gray hair in his head, the Yankees had a #1 catcher whose name was not Jorge Posada.  His name was Joe Girardi.  Girardi once held Posada's old job.  Now he holds Joe Torre's old job.  Over the years writers have written many words about the lack of any semblance of a close relationship between Joe G. and Jorge P.  They have known one another a long time.  Long enough I suppose to realize that they are never going to get any closer than they are presently.

Posada was embarrassed on Saturday afternoon to have Girardi tell him of his decision to bat Posada in the #9 spot for that night's nationally televised game against the Red Sox.  Candidly, Girardi only intended to bat him 9th because there are no lower spots in a Major League batting order.  Had 14th been an option available to the skipper, he likely would have pursued it.  And given Posada's buck forty five batting average, an argument could have been made......that 14th was still too high.

Posada reacted in a manner that seemed so foreign to him and to what he has appeared to be about his entire career that when I first heard the news of it, I checked every source I could think of on-line before I could accept it as true.  It was - and still is - utterly incomprehensible to me that he did what he did.  Two hours or so after his manager told him where he was to bat, Posada asked out of the lineup.  What followed was an extremely terse, personal and at times uncomfortable exchange of words between Posada (represented in some of the exchanges by his fiercely protective wife Laura) and the Yankees - in the person of the Silver Spoon Twins' designated hatchet man, GM Brian Cashman.  Saturday night was indeed all right for fighting in the Bronx.....except for on the field where they were waxed 6-0 by Josh Beckett (who every time I turn around - regardless of uniform - appears to be pitching a shutout against the Yankees on a Saturday night in the Bronx) and the Sox.

Saturday - even if only for a little while - Posada quit on his teammates.  A man whose paycheck for 2011 has eight numbers to the left of the decimal point ($13,100,000.00) declared that he would not do his job that day because he was upset over the position in the batting order from which his boss wanted him to play it.  Sunday, Posada returned to Yankee Stadium and - his words - "sort of apologized" to Girardi for his actions on Saturday night.  Girardi - who is another one of my Pinstripe favorites and who spent the weekend doing and saying all of the right things so as to avoid dropping a safe on his player - publicly declared the matter closed.  Posada - again using his words - expressed his regret over having let the fans down and his teammates down and offered to apologize to his teammates if any of them needed him to do so.  Water under bridges now; anyone

Among those who declared that Posada had not a thing for which to apologize?  Derek Jeter.  Jeter told the media on Sunday that, "If I thought he [Posada] had done something wrong, I would be the first one to tell him" and also told them for good measure that he did not think Posada had anything for which he had to apologize.  In case one was not certain of which side of the pinstriped battle lines Jeter stood, he referred to Posada as someone he thinks of as his brother. 

On Monday, the Silver Spoon Twins made it known through various media outlets that they were less than enthralled with Jeter's very public siding with Posada.  Several hours later, the Yankees announced that Jeter had spent a portion of Monday on a conference call with Cashman, Hal Steinbrenner and team know-nothing Randy Levine discussing the issue and that all parties were "on the same page".  And in related 100% factual news, NASA announced that the moon is indeed made of cheese while the FBI disclosed that its research proved that one really can spot a liar simply by looking for flaming pants. 

War has broken out in the Bronx.  And while it is being waged between various members of the Yankees organization, it is hardly civil.  Jeter and Posada represent two-thirds of the remaining bridge to Joe Torre.  Mariano Rivera is the third and final musketeer.  To date, Mo has remained essentially immune to criticism, especially when he appears to be the only reliever whose entry into a game these days is not a harbinger of really, really bad things to come.  It is not yet Mo's turn in the line of fire.  He is such a remarkable physical specimen and such a pitching aberration (he has essentially gotten hitters out at Hall-of-Fame rate for fifteen years throwing one pitch) that it may never arrive.  I hope it does not.  For while Torre is long gone, he most assuredly is not forgotten among the men with whom he descended into emnity prior to making his own great migration West.  Nor is he forgotten among the men who played for him and who have remained Yankees in the aftermath of his departure.

While the criticism of Jeter's performance and the criticism of Posada's performance to date this year has been well-deserved, it is difficult to argue at times that the words emanating from the home office about them have often appeared to have been written with a poison pen.  Both Jeter and Posada represent a link to what the Yankees once were.  And while the successes that they have been a part of are the kind that one might presume the boys in charge of the kingdom would extol and celebrate, the fact of the matter is that those running the show now had scant little to do with those successes.  And worse yet, they know that you know and I know it.  These emperors have no clothes.  And in a castle made of glass that is not something that is easy to hide.

It worries me more than a bit that both Jeter and Posada might also represent a link to what the Yankees are now:  a team laden with players being paid more for their past than their present whose future may not require sunglasses.  It is only the middle of May but as a former Yankee catcher once observed around these parts it gets late early.

And at closing time it matters not where you go....

....it matters only that you cannot stay here.

-AK

Monday, May 16, 2011

May Days

If you pay attention to - and are often befuddled by - the seemingly helter-skelter manner in which time moves, then you might be intrigued to know that yesterday marked a couple of noteworthy anniversaries.  It was on May 15 last year that Suzanne graduated from Seton Hall University's Masters Program.  Roughly one month later she started work at a job she loves and in a field she hopes to spend her her entire professional life working in - and knowing Suz one day taking over no doubt.  Her life to date has been marked by one achievement after another.  This past year has been no exception.  Par for the course in fact. 

Seventy years ago yesterday Joe DiMaggio's first inning single did little to help the Yankees win their game on that Thursday afternoon.  They lost 13-1.  Hard to imagine that anyone in attendance at the game or the great DiMag himself in the loser's clubhouse afterwards had any inkling that something very big had just started.  DiMaggio followed up that game with fifty-five more games in which he got at least one hit.  Seventy years later his fifty-six game streak still stands as a record.  What started on May 15, 1941 did not stop until July 17, 1941.  Over the course of those two calendar months, DiMaggio hit .408 and drove in more than fifty runs.

The second longest hitting streak in the history of Major League Baseball belongs to Wee Willie ("Hit 'Em Where They Ain't") Keeler.  He owned the record for almost a half-century until DiMaggio broke it in '41.  In the seven decades since, no one has gotten closer to DiMag than Pete Rose did in 1978.  Rose's streak ended at forty-four games.  

Seventy years old and still going strong.  We shall have to wait until we get either to the season's end or at least close to it to see if baseball's other seventy year old standard survives to see 2012.  That mark belongs to Red Sox immortal Ted Williams.   1941.  A year of profound significance to those on both sides of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.  Something in common?  Who would have thunk it possible? 

And in view of the events in the Bronx these past few days, not a bad thing to hang one's hat on.

-AK

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Against The Wind

We are half of the way through May already; eh?  It will be summer before you know it.  Weather-wise summer can be a bit of a mixed bag in these parts.  I do not want to appear greedy but I would sign up right now for a summer's worth of weather at least similar - if not identical - to that which we have experienced 'NTSG for the lion's share of the past couple of weeks.  Sun-drenched days and cool, comfortable nights.  I comment here occasionally that if often appears to me as if weather has no memory.  A beautiful day may dawn on the heels of a simply brutal one.  So far this May I wonder if that is indeed the case.  Or if perhaps Mother Nature is revealing just how clear a recollection she has of what life was like in these parts meteorologically speaking from Boxing Day through February.  Either way, I am certainly not complaining.  I know not how long it shall last but I shall appreciate every moment of it while it does.

Friday was the 13th.  Some among us - such as Yours truly - tend towards the superstitious.  Laugh if you like but I still recall Friday, February 13th a lifetime ago when our car flooded out while attempting to drive home from a charity basketball game at W-H and Dad, Mom, Kara, Jill and I had to impose upon the hospitality of the Brown family for a place to spend the night.  Mrs. Brown worked with Dad at W-H.  She taught history at the Lower School.  She was my teacher.  It took her less than four minutes on Monday the 16th to share with my fellow aspiring historians the fact that her home had been temporarily converted into a bunkhouse for stranded motorists the previous Friday.  Talk about the gift that kept on giving.  I think I was in 6th grade at the time.  Good thing for me that my classmates, true to form for 12 and 13 year old kids worldwide, tended to pass up such an obvious comedic target.  Sure they did. 

Kids being kids is an almost universal axiom.  Tough to be a kid these days in Ohio (and not just because the President at TOSU is a snarky little nerd and the football coach at TOSU is on the medal stand in the 2011 Edition of World's Most Disappointing Adult).  A seventh-grader named Anthony Nichols and another boy were apparently suspended from school last week because either (or both) of them farted on the school bus.  The school they attend - the Canal Winchester Middle School - whose administration's mailing address is presumably Utopia since they have no actual issues of significance to occupy their time - has a code of conduct and a provision of the code forbids farting on the school bus.  Someone alert Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo.  Tell them their search is over.  We have found the perfect place

The school justified its decision to suspend the two boys by pointing out that each is a "repeat offender", by which they meant that each has a history of farting on the school bus.  Good to know too that the bus driver is not distracted by less important things such as safe operation of the bus and all the kids are off at the end of the trip so as to prevent him or her to play the role of Gas Ventura, Methane Detective.  

And the good people of Ohio will no doubt be relieved to know that their state is not the only one willing to fight the good fight against middle school boys and their gas attacks.  Florida takes this issue very seriously as well.  Kids have been suspended for ripping one on the school bus and in one case in which the concept of marrying the punishment to the crime has never been better matched a 12 year-old boy was arrested for farting in the classroom.

The twelve-year-old fessed up to what he had done.  In the Ohio case last week the suspected bombers denied that they were the perpetrators of the heinous act.  Is it just me or is anyone else hoping that Little Sir Fart-A-Lot's parents file suit against the school district over the alleged deprivation of their son's civil rights - not to mention all of the embarrassment that has been foisted upon him through the media coverage of the incident.  The Scopes Monkey Trial wrapped up decades before I arrived.  At its core was the classic dichotomy between Creationism and Evolution.  In Ohio, the battle lines have already been drawn.  After years of wondering, we may in fact be sitting on the cusp of answering the question as to which carries the day:  "Whoever smelt it, dealt it" or "Whoever denied it, supplied it."  Greta Van Susteren may have to go in for a tune up in preparation for the uptick in her on-air time. And has anyone seen Roger Cossack since the end of the O.J. Simpson murder trial?  I know I have missed him.

What a time to be alive; right?  Lucky us.  Go forth, embrace the day and breathe in all that is around you.
Just do not breathe in too deeply.  You never know who might be sitting or standing near you and what crimes he or she has just committed against humanity.  Well, against humanity's olfactory senses at least....

....with every breath you take.

-AK

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Talkin' To Myself Again

For the second Friday in a row, I found myself driving for work purposes and running backwards through the narrative of my life to a point about which I had not thought in a long, long time.  I spent a portion of the day in North Plainfield, only a mile or three removed from the corner of W. 7th and Park in Plainfield, which is where this great adventure in the law began close to two decades ago.  The firm at which I was first a clerk and later an associate has been gone for a long time now.  One of my former bosses went to prison.  Two of them have died.  Three of them either surrendered their licenses to practice law or were disbarred.  It was a hell of a place.  Someday, someone far more capable than I am will write its story.  While it shall be a work of non-fiction, upon reading it the reader will never be 100% certain that what happened there could have happened there.  I assure you it did. 

On my way to the Municipal Building in North Plainfield, I passed by what was once upon a time a National Westminster (Nat West) Bank branch on Somerset Street.  It is a Bank of America branch now.  Nat West is where my then-employer had its accounts.  Every two weeks when we got paid we would race as fast as we could to that bank to cash our checks.  Why?  Because pay day at our firm, while firmly etched upon the calendar, was a wholly theoretical proposition more often than not in the eyes of the two partners who (mis)managed the firm.  Last one to the bank more often than not was the holder of a completely worthless pay check.  Shortly before I left things had gotten so bad that it did not matter when you got to the bank to cash your check.  Timing was no longer everything.  It was nothing at all.  A considerable amount of time passed after I left that job before I no longer expected to hear a teller's voice crackling over the loudspeaker at the drive-thru window, "Mr. Kenny, please come inside.  There seems to be a problem with your pay check."

When I wrapped up my visit in North Plainfield, I headed up into Passaic County to do a bit of hands-on investigation in another case.  My route there took me down Valley Road in Watchung.  I smiled as I drove past the sign for "Sunbright Road".  My friend Dave, who was the Best Man in my wedding as I was in his, used to live up there.  I cannot count how many nights when we were in college that I spent - along with Andy, the third member of our little traveling band - crashed in the spare bedroom at his house.  Among two of my most favorite people on the planet of Dave's parents.  Stan and Mary morphed effortlessly into the role of "alternate" parent for me whenever I was out of Mom's jurisdiction.  Simply remarkable, wonderful people.

Dave and Christine have been married close to twenty years now - raising a family of their own in Maryland - and it has been close to a quarter-century I guess since my feet have felt the driveway at 92 Sunbright beneath them.  Yet in an eye blink yesterday, a million great memories came rushing back out of the far recesses of my little brain. 

And I passed the rest of my drive to Passaic County with the radio off in the car, just driving and thinking of the stories we could tell.....

....and smiling.

-AK

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ribbons and Other Binding Ties

Bill Gallo is being buried today.  For what seemed like forever, Gallo was a writer and cartoonist in the sports section of the New York Daily News.  He had been a member of the News for seven months or so, when he became a member of the United States Marine Corps.  Gallo was among the Marines who fought against the Japanese in the Pacific in World War II.  When HBO ran its splendid mini-series "The Pacific" a couple of years ago, Gallo wrote a column about each episode in the Daily News.  After World War II, Gallo returned to the News.  And stayed for roughly the next seventy years.  Even if you had never heard of Bill Gallo or had heard of him in passing but knew nothing of him or about him, you need know only this to appreciate the full measure of the man:  Pete Hamill shall deliver the eulogy at his funeral.  'Nuff said. 

Tomorrow, the Missus is having another go-round of the great American crap-o-teria:  the garage sale.  In anticipation of this blessed event (so called in our house because it gives us a basis for moving junk (I mean "treasures") out of the basement and up into the garage.  From that vantage point, the curb is visible.  You need not be a long-abandoned Mr. Potato Head to see your future from atop a folding table in the garage.  Bright it is not.  Nor is it long.  At one point I think the plan was to have the sale tomorrow but I believe now Margaret is eyeing a date in June.  My wife's patience for such endeavors is a source of much amazement to me and from this point forward - until the point at the end of the day on Saturday where this man's junk resumes its station in life as this man's junk and this man totes it out to the curb - it is her show. 

Leaving the house Thursday morning I noticed that among the items on its way to a better place is my old Brother electric typewriter.  To say that the machine helped me arrive at the point in my life where I am today is not an exaggeration.  I appreciate the fact that often what is written here is difficult to read - because of its porous content.  However, if it was handwritten it would be impossible to read.  My handwriting is so poor that after having all of my law school final exams returned to me as ungraded at the conclusion of the first semester of Year One, I typed each exam I took for the next five semesters.  I toted my Brother electric typewriter with me to Newark on each exam day and I was taken to a room apart from the other students to take my exam.  Same rules of engagement applied to me as to them in terms of time, use of materials (at Seton Hall Law a majority of the final exams were open book to my recollection), etc. 

Because my handwriting is so unbelievably poor, I applied for the right to take my State of New Jersey Bar Examination on my Brother electric typewriter.  The application was granted.  On the final Thursday of July in 1994 I trundled on in to the Ukrainian Center right off of Davidson Avenue in Somerset, New Jersey and right into the company of about fifteen or so other temporary members of the steno pool, sitting at desks arranged in two long rows, which rows' desks faced one another from a distance of approximately fifteen feet.  For several hours, we banged away at our respective keyboards like beat reporters trying to make the deadline for the early edition.  I would learn several months later just how well my old running buddy had served me that day when I received my letter from the Board of Bar Examiners congratulating me for passing and for my pending admission to the Bar.

I learned several years later just how well it served another member of my makeshift steno pool.  Less than forty-five minutes into the test I saw a man located at least seven or eight desks away from me - and in the other row to boot - react to the fact that he had just used up all of the demonstration ribbon that Brother included when one purchased this particular electric typewriter, that he had no other ribbons with him and that he was still in the middle of his answer to Question #1.  Considering that the exam - at that time at least  - required one to complete six essay questions, his reaction - while neither subtle nor understated - was both understandable and appropriate. 

Being married to the world's most organized human being, I was able to come to my fellow typist's assistance.  Margaret had insisted upon purchasing approximately one dozen ribbons for my typewriter so as to ensure that I had enough at test time.  When disaster struck at the other end of the room, I was able to immediately flip a package of ribbons (they were sold in a 3-pack format) down to him, which enabled him to complete his test. 

Having completed our exams at different times, I left the Ukrainian Center that afternoon knowing neither my colleague's name nor his fate.  One summer afternoon, five or six years later, a bunch of us decided to participate in a charity softball tournament that was being held 'NTSG.  Among the guys who came down with my friend Diego to play in the game was a colleague of his from the A.G.'s office.  While we were standing around on my driveway shooting the shit waiting for the rest of our roster to arrive, he began telling me his "Bar Exam" story.  A story involving an electric typewriter, a demonstration ribbon and an anonymous stranger stepping into the breach to provide him with the tools needed to complete the test. 

As he talked, I smiled.  When he finished, I introduced myself as "the guy with the extra ribbons."  Since his "Bar Exam" story was eerily akin to the one I had been telling Margaret since the day after the test, I introduced him to my wife so that she could put a name and a face to the man in need of ribbon.

Dave Puteska and I have been good friends since that first (well, really second I guess) meeting on my driveway all those summers ago.  We not only played softball together for many years, we have gone to Springsteen shows together and to Rangers games together.  A year ago last October, Margaret and I had the pleasure of being present when Dave and Lindsay got married.

Maybe not all of the stuff lined up for extinction in our garage these days is junk after all.  Maybe some of it is good stuff that simply no longer has a purpose to serve or a niche to fill in our lives.  I do not think I ever needed to use my Brother electric typewriter again after July 1994.  Perhaps that explains why Margaret is selling not only it but a couple of packs of its replacement ribbon cartridges as well.  All of them have been waiting together in the silence and darkness for close to twenty years for one more opportunity to shine.  If they serve their next owner half as well as they served their original one, then he/she is getting a bargain regardless of the price.

The best they ever had?  Not for me to say I reckon.  But I would not be surprised at all if it was.

-AK

Thursday, May 12, 2011

On Bended Knees & With Broken Hearts

There are days on which I use this space to blow off steam.  There are days on which I use this space as a little laboratory in which to foment silliness.  Hell, if you have read or shall read what I wrote here yesterday you will come to discover that often times one piece wears two hats. 

Not today. 

I have mentioned in this space on occasion that in addition to having been born with a head whose circumference is Jupiter-like, I had the pure, unadulterated joy as a child of developing epilepsy.  To this day, I know not for certain how I contracted it.  All I know is that from as far back as I can remember and up until I was about fourteen or fifteen years old, I had to take multiple tablespoons of phenobarbital daily simply to control it.  While most days it worked, some days it did not.  When it did not, I was quite the sight to see.  Fortunately for me, I outgrew it by the time I was fourteen or fifteen. Apparently the majority of the children who are afflicted with it and affected by it do so.

Not all of them do.

Brayden Carr is the son of Jim and Natalie Carr.  Jim Carr is now - and has been for more than a decade - an Assistant Coach on the Men's Basketball team at Rutgers.  I have honestly lost count of how many head coaches RU has had during that time period (I think Mike Rice is #3) but through the years, Coach Carr has been a constant.  In spite of the program's struggles, failures and foibles, he is a man about whom no one has ever had a bad thing to say, either with regard to the aptitude of his coaching or the quality of his character.

On Monday morning, Brayden Carr died.  He was 2 1/2 years old.  Brayden spent the final two years or so of his all-too-short life battling against epilepsy.  In yesterday's papers, two columnists who earn their livings writing about many things sports - including Rutgers athletics - authored separate, distinct and equally poignant tributes to the Carr family.  I have no skin in the game with regard to either The Star Ledger or The Courier News.  If I might be so bold as to make a suggestion, read both Steve Politi  and Keith Sargeant.  Doing so will break your heart at least a little, but it will be time well spent nonetheless.

A parent's worst fear is outliving our child.  In a world full of dangers, both seen and unseen, both known and unknown, we refuse to accept our own impotence.  We refuse to acknowledge our own inability to keep them safe from everything out there that can do them harm.  It is not a matter of being insolent or ignorant.  It is what it means to be a parent.  It is encoded into our parental DNA.  Against impossible odds and with incredible strength, Natalie and Jim Carr did all they could do to protect Brayden.  In mourning his loss, they honor his life and reveal to those of us who do not know any of the three of them just how incredibly strong this family is.  And shall need to be in the days that lie ahead.

I had just finished typing the final sentence in the preceding paragaph when I glanced up towards the left side of my computer monitor and saw a Post-It taped to it that contains this quote from Dr. Seuss, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."  Here's to wishing the Carr Family not simply condolences but also a safe journey on the road from tears to smiles.  I reckon that they will not begin their trek today but with the memory of Brayden emblazoned in their minds and on their hearts, soon they shall.  And who deserves it more?

.....just beyond the door lies peace.

-AK

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Race of the Lemmings

Apropos of nothing, is the Republican Party so out of viable candidates for national office in this country that out of history's dust heap it has plucked Newt Gingrich?  Damn shame Strom Thurmond is dead; eh?  Actually, juxtaposed against the rest of the Republican candidates (real or presumed), Gingrich actually looms large.  I am a registered Republican and I have yet to decide whether that terrifies me or simply depresses me. 

Anyway, I digress.  If you have ever popped by this space prior to today's unfortunate visit, then you are well-versed at this juncture just how many things and people irritate the living snot out of me on a day in, day out basis.  Experience has taught me that two things help prevent me from exploding at arbitrary and most assuredly ill-timed intervals throughout the day:  running and writing.  Wow, a reflection upon just how far Newt and I have traveled since he became - for a brief moment anyway - America's Contractor.  Back then, the magic elixir for me was vodka and orange juice.  Now?  Running and writing.  Who, twenty years ago, would have thought that such a transition was possible?  Not me.  I assure you.

Yesterday morning as I was speeding along on Route 280 towards the Essex County Courthouse (I know sarcasm is sometimes difficult to appreciate in its spoken form.  To help you out here, let me say that the traffic was so onerous getting to Newark yesterday morning that Captain Crazy's Late-Night Hike seemed to present a palatable commuting alternative) I spent several quality moments directly behind a woman driving a mini-van, which is comfortably ensconced beside the Prius and the Smart Car as my least favorite four-wheeled conveyance, upon which she could not have affixed more ribbons and bumper stickers if she tried.  And judging by the amount of crap festooned to the ass end of her vehicle, she sure as hell appeared to be the trying type.  I gleaned from the quality time I spent behind her that she (a) supports our troops; (b) is aware of autism; and (c) favors a cure for breast cancer.  All of those are wonderful causes to support.  No argument from this guy on that issue.

Had those three been the sum and substance of the ribbons, then I would have been willing to overlook her violation of my "two ribbon limit".  In my view - and since I believe it you best believe that I know it to be true - no right-thinking person should have more than two ribbons on his/her car.  No one possesses the time, energy and resources necessary to vigorously and passionately support more than two causes simultaneously.  Pick those two and do all you can for them.  Once you add a third and beyond, you have deluded yourself into believing that the slapping on of the magnetic ribbon is its own reward.  You have become a ribbon whore. 

This woman had not three but six!  And the remaining three did not appear to be ribbon-worthy endeavors.  Since she was the type of nit who also affixes little magnetic figures of activities in which her children participate to her vehicle, I know that her son (or perhaps sons) is a baseball player while her daughter is a cheerleader.  Just in case the little baseball men on the rear door of the mini-van (one pitcher and one batter of course) did not alert other motorists to Junior's activity and Mom's support of it, she actually was sporting a ribbon that announced its support of his team.  Similarly, presuming that the little cheerleader figure AND the separate pom-poms were insufficient indicia of little Gretel's passion for rhythmic clapping and spelling, Mom had a multi-colored ribbon that announced its support of "CHEER!"  I am mortified to admit that I cannot recall what cause her sixth ribbon championed. 

Not only did she greatly exceed the recommended/if and when I am King for the Day will be required limit of ribbons on her vehicle, she cheapened them by having really cheesy ones in addition to the three cool, worthy ones.  Ribbons on cars have popped up like ragweed.  If we are not going to declare a moratorium on their existence, then the least we should do is regulate their presence.  No ribbons should be manufactured that - in lieu of an actual cause - endorse baseball or cheerleading or Papa John's Pizza or any other such nonsense.  Enough already. 

The cherry on top of my highway neighbor's rolling hot fudge sundae of fun was the frame around her rear license plate.  Across the top was enscribed, "GAME OVER!".  Across the bottom, "Final Score:  Boys 2, Girls 1".  Just when I thought we had reached the logical tipping point in the sharing of too much information with complete strangers, I was delighted to learn that her uterus is now closed for business....which metaphorically at least loops me back to the guy walking through the PATH tubes from Manhattan to Jersey City. 

Contestants in a suicidal race?  Perhaps that is all we are.  I wonder if they make a ribbon for it?  Actually, I need not wonder.  If they did, little Ms. Mini-Van would have had it crammed into the last remaining bit of available space on her rear.....

....and while I am confident that there is a ready-made joke in there when played against the frame around the rear license plate, I am equally confident that you can reach that destination without me holding your hand.  

-AK

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Million Miles Clocked Up By Our Vagabond Heels

I spent eight days post-marathon babying my creaky joints.  I ran not one step after Sunday May 1st until I laced up my running shoes and went for a little 3.5 mile jaunt through the 'hood in the wee small hours of Monday morning.  It was actually odd just going out for a run.  Every step I had run between January 1 and May 1 was either training for or participating in the New Jersey Marathon.  Yesterday morning?  I just went for a run.  Felt pretty good too. 

Everyone needs something or someplace that is uniquely and selfishly their own.  While being selfish to the detriment of others is not necessarily a good thing, being a little bit selfish is a wonderful thing.  It is an impossiblity of logic that one can be so selfless as to sustain all others above her or himself and still manage to have enough left in one's own tank to keep one's self going.  If you cannot sustain yourself, then everything else falls by the wayside.  It has to.  There is nothing nefarious about it.  It is simply logical. 

In the time since I took it up, running has become that thing for me.  I run in races time and again so I can measure myself against other people, whether they are people who are my same age, gender, or whatever.  But principally, I run for me.  In the twenty-six minutes or so it took me to stumble and bumble my way through 3.5 miles in the darkness yesterday morning, I felt not only energized but also at peace.  Running is not relaxing but it is very much a soothing experience - for me anyway. 

Regardless of what it is you do, where you live or who you are, I firmly believe that there has to be a little piece of your soul and of your heart that is exclusively yours.  A part of you that you keep at arm's length from the rest of the world, not because you do not love those who you love but because you recognize the importance of taking care of yourself as being foremost among all of the things you have to do on a day in, day out basis.  It is what allows you to turn your attention outward to those who you love and who may need you. 

Running through the darkened streets of Tiny Town yesterday morning I heard the "woosh" of some stuff that had been cluttering my head and dulling my focus just disappearing 'neath my footsteps.  Whatever it is that does that for you, do not deprive yourself of it.  Do not eschew it.  Embrace it.

A million miles of vagabond sky
Clocked up above the clouds
I'm still your man for the roaming
For as long as there's roamin' allowed

-AK

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Good Night's Rest

Last night, after clearing away the dinner dishes from our Mother's Day celebration, the Missus and I watched the President on 60 Minutes.  The interview did not discuss his beloved Chicago White Sox or his thoughts on the NBA playoffs - in spite of his well-known penchant and passion for sports.  It discussed the subject of the day these days:  the removal of Osama Bin Laden from this planet. 

I know not how one could not come away from the President's conversation with Steve Kroft impressed by the plan to get our Public Enemy #1 or the decision-making process to implement the plan.  From my perspective - as someone who voted for "the other guy" in 2008, it was reassuring to hear him describe how what was done was done.  And most reassuring of all to me was to hear him say that the one part of the plan that caused him no loss of sleep was its goal:  the killing of Bin Laden.  To my eye and ear he gave credit where credit was due - to the intelligence folks who developed the information that became the framework of the plan and the members of the SEAL unit who executed it. 

Well done Mr. President. 

-AK

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Because It Is A Funny Old World

I am luckier than I have any right to be.  As people go, I am nothing special.  Physically, I am average-sized and that might very well represent the high-water mark of my attributes.  I expect that the mourning period upon news of my passing will be brief and its volume level will be quite subdued.  Reaping and sowing.  Reaping and sowing.  No one thrust my life upon me.  I have lived it according to my own terms.  Margaret has instructions to have me cremated when I croak.  Figure it makes sense to have my body get acclimated to the extreme heat.....just in case.

Who I am makes the fact of who I am fortunate enough to call my mother and who I am also fortunate enough to call my wife nothing short of astonishing.  I suppose way back when on a cold February evening many years ago, Mom had no way of knowing what she was signing up for.  Yet as I grew older - and no better - she refused to take me out into the woods in the middle of the night, tie me to a tree and let the animals have at me (although I did notice the Rand-McNally Map of State Parks and Forests she carried in her car as well as the roll of heavy cord and I tacitly understood).  The opportunity to make something out of myself and out of my life is the gift that Mom gave me.  If I had a thousand lifetimes to live, I would still have insufficient time to repay it.

Being my mother's son prepared me to be my wife's husband and my daughter's father.  Sadly, I fear history will show that I have no better record of performance in either of the latter two than I have had in the initial role.  I have wondered for close to two decades what it is that Margaret sees in me.  I have long suspected that she dodges the question when I ask it because she wonders herself.  My wife is one of the most singularly exceptional people I have ever known - and having had the pleasure of knowing her grandmother and her mother, both of whom have died within the past three years - I know that the blueprint is imprinted in her DNA.  I also know that this Mother's Day is difficult for Margaret - as the past couple have been - because her heart aches at the loss of Nan and Suzy B.  Today, this day set aside on the calendar to honor Mom only ratchets up the daily dosage of pain. 

So, to the woman who gave me life, to the woman who saved my life, to my sisters and nieces and to Moms everywhere, I say, "Happy Mother's Day".  May everything that you do for those you love be returned to you in kind a thousand times over. 

For you, that is my wish.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Retro Jam

Spent a bit of time yesterday afternoon jamming in traffic on Route 80 West, a highway that possesses the innate ability to turn a journey of less than thirty miles into an odyssey of more than ninety minutes seemingly irrespective of the time of day or the day of the week.  All was not lost though during my ass-sitting time.  Not even close.

Being stuck in traffic afforded me the time to spin for a bit of advice off of the wheel of Ferris.  Life may indeed move pretty fast but when your car is moving not at all, the opportunity presents itself to take a look around.  To open one's eyes and one's ears as well.

Restless, I turned on the radio to see what if anything was happening in the world beyond the left lane of travel between Exits 58 and 57.  Much to my delight, whatever station on the FM dial I settled on one of my favorite songs from my childhood (a/k/a "the 1980's").  While at gunpoint I could not name either (a) three songs this band ever recorded; or (b) a single member of the band other than Fee Waybill, I have always loved "She's A Beauty" by The Tubes.

It is a hair less than four minutes of pure pop puffery no doubt but I care not.  And the instant it came on the radio, I did what I have done in response to hearing it for the past quarter-century or so:  I started nodding my head up and down, tapping my hands on my steering wheel and singing along.  I have never been quick enough vocally to get through the, "'Cause if you do you'll find out she don't love you" lyric.  But I never stop trying.  Judging from the looks of the motorists who were sardined around me, it was clear that they wished that they too had stopped on whatever station I had (I think it was 95.5 but I know not for sure).  At least I told myself that was what the looks on their faces were trying to tell me.

Sadly, when "She's A Beauty" faded away into the ether, there was nothing that followed it that held my interest on the FM dial.  As if !  I flipped over to the AM side of life and ran into Mike Francesca on WFAN interviewing #53 from the New York Giants - Hall-of-Fame middle linebacker Harry Carson.  Apparently next month, from June 11 through June 14, the 1986 Giants team, which was the first Super-Bowl winning team in franchise history, is having a reunion.  Carson said that practically all of the players and the coaches are getting together - in some cases for the first time in a long time.  On Sunday the 12th of June there is going to be a breakfast for which fans can buy tickets and meet the several dozen members of the team who will be in attendance. 

There is no likelihood that I will be attending this function.  It matters not.  Listening to Carson talk about it on the radio and run through the list of his old teammates and coaches who will be there took me back to my youth (at least the latter stages of it).  I was a sophomore at CU Boulder when the Giants won Super Bowl XXI.  Considering that the team they squashed in Pasadena on that January afternoon (that is how you know it was a long time ago - the game actually was played in January) was the Denver Broncos, you can readily imagine how easy it was to find a Giants Super Bowl Party on campus. 

The G-Men trailed the Elwayians by a point at halftime, 10-9, and several of my neighbors in Farrand Hall who knew of my Jersey roots were giving me the business pretty hard.  In light of the fact that several of them happened to from the Boston area, they should have known better than to declare a New York team dead and buried a moment sooner than the commencement of the autopsy.  Game Six, Hello?  They did not.  By the time the game ended, the Giants had hung 39 points on the Donkeys and blown them out by close to three touchdowns

As a kid, I sat in Giants Stadium to witness some pretty miserable performances by the home team.  The nadir of my rooting existence was "the Fumble", which Kara and I watched unfold before us as we were beginning the trek down out of Section 327 to the Somerset Transit bus that was going to bring us home.  From that moment to the victory in Super Bowl XXI was a journey for the Giants of close to a decade.  It felt three times as long. To watch players who had been good players on really dreadful teams - players like Harry Carson and Phil Simms, guys who you had rooted for when common sense and logic dictated that you turn your attention elsewhere, suddenly emerge as the Kings of the pro football world was simply glorious. 

Carson spoke of a group that is twenty-five years further on up the road now.  The journey from there to here has not been easy for some of them.  Their number now includes a guy who is a Hall-of-Fame member and whose member got him placed on the sexual offenders' registry.  It includes another who makes the most irritating, intellectually offensive radio commercials for his business that I have ever heard.  Yet in my mind's eye I see them all as I saw them then:  players on my favorite team who delivered a championship that I wish my father had lived long enough to see. 

For just a moment anyway yesterday afternoon, I had a chance to not only slow down the world around me but to spin it around backwards a time or two.  Not a bad way to spend a traffic jam. 

-AK