Monday, October 31, 2011

A Long Time Ago

Twenty-four years ago today, Jill and Joe were married. It was a simply gorgeous, snow-free Halloween. Almost a quarter of a century ago. I know that this Halloween - unlike that one - the two of them shall be in separate postal codes. Jill is tending to Mom as she recuperates down in Florida while Joe is here in the hopefully temporarily wintry climes of New Jersey.

The three of us all graduated from CU. When I finished up in '89, Jill and Joe (both class of '87) came out with Mom and Stel for graduation. Stel took a picture of our Trinity of Buffs standing outside after the ceremony


I smile looking at that photo. Back then, my hair was gray-free, Jill's hair was more brown than blonde and Joe's hair was still atop his head. A lot can change in a quarter-century I reckon.

But not everything changes. Sometimes the good stuff remains inviolate. Time passes but it neither weakens nor erodes that which it touches.


Happy Anniversary Wilma and Joe.

-AK

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pictures Taken and Stories Told

This time next week we who live in the Eastern Time Zone shall note that our time is not designated any longer as "E.D.T." but rather "E.S.T.", which signifies the end of Daylight Savings Time for another year. If your work habits are anything akin to my own, it signifies not simply the return of Standard Time but something far more depressing - the return of Mole Time. Beginning one week from tomorrow I shall descend into a period of several months during which for five days out of every seven I shall not see my house in the daylight. I shall leave for and return from work in the darkness Monday through Friday until we spring forward in the Spring of 2012.

Usually it is the Sunday that harkens the return to Standard Time that is my least favorite Sunday of the autumn for it serves as winter's herald. The joyous part of the fall is over. Leaves no longer change colors. They simply fall off of the trees and die, leaving the trees bareboned in the face of winter's onslaught. Cool, crisp days are replaced by cold ones. The sun is in the sky for considerably less than half of the day and for at least 50% of the time that it is aloft, it offers light without the pretense of heat. I think November served as Yeats' inspiration when he wrote, "Being Irish he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy."

This fall, next Sunday shall not occupy its usual place on the gold medal platform in the competition of Sundays I loathe. Nope. This year that honor is reserved for November's final Sunday. For it is on that date that Suz shall begin her own great migration west (southwest actually) to life in Texas. I am more proud of her than I can adequately express in words and at least twice as happy for her as I am proud of her. None of that takes away from the fact that in our little corner of the world, that day is going to royally stink. At day's end, she will no longer be here - in it - with us but someplace altogether different.

The Missus and I have some experience at the bon voyage party. Suz's departure for Texas follows Rob's for Wyoming by just about three years. One of my favorite photographs of the four of us is one that has top shelf status on one of the bookcases in my office. I do not know who took it but I know it was taken at Rob's going-away party:


He pulled up stakes and headed out at the beginning of Thanksgiving week in '08. He and Margaret made it to Wyoming in time for Thanksgiving morning. Margaret will not be riding shotgun on Suz's journey. Ryan - who set up shop in Houston himself just a few months ago and who is serving as the other half of the Texas Dream Team - shall serve as Suz's co-pilot and travel partner. Rob will not be in New Jersey for Suz's farewell bash. The plan - as I understand it - is for both of them to be in the State of Concrete Gardens for Christmas.

And although the four of us will not be in the same place on Suz's final day under the familial roof, I shall make it a point to get an updated group shot when both of them are visiting at Christmas. I have an empty spot on the top shelf of my bookcase that I am itching to fill.

Because every picture does indeed tell a story. And some stories are worth reading time and again even if they bring put a tear in your eye and a smile on your face at the same exact moment. Tears dry. The wrinkles made by smiles? They last forever.

-AK

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Treating Tricks

It has finally arrived. Today is the 5th and final Saturday of October 2011. If you are not - as I am - an alumni of the University of Colorado and a fan of the Buffaloes - then you are forgiven for not recognizing that this has been the longest October EVER on the Front Range. CU's "Welcome To The PAC-12 As We Kick Your B*lls Thru The Top Of Your Head Tour" arrives in Tempe, Arizona today. So far this month the Buffs have been brutalized by teams from California, Washington (two separate occasions) and Oregon (FYI - if anyone asks, "Who would win in a battle between a Duck and a Buffalo?" recognize it as a trick question and run away like the wind).

Today presents an opportunity for annihilation in the desert. In two weeks, when the Missus and I go to Colorado for a few days, Rob and Jess are bopping down to Boulder so that the four of us can watch the Buffs play Arizona. Just to be prepared, I am contacting the NCAA Clearingouse on Monday to confirm just how much eligibility I have left. Forget sitting in the stands, by November's second Saturday I may get to see some playing time. Did I fail to mention that between this Saturday and that Saturday USC comes to town? Depending on what harm SC inflicts upon the Buffs' already dangerously-depleted roster, all four of us may get to play against U of A. Even Jess - and she is a CSU alum.

The last time Margaret and I were in Boulder to watch a football game was a decade ago. We flew out there in 2001 for Homecoming. That year was the year in which the Buffs won their only BIG XII Championship in football (I have the t-shirt to prove it). On the Friday of Homecoming weekend, we participated in a genuinely silly Homecoming activity: we raced tricycles down the street. Someone - I know not who - took a picture of us while we engaged in competition. I know I am biased but does not my wife have kick-ass tricycle-riding form?


Pictures do not lie. She crushed me pretty good that afternoon. Given that the opporunity at a rematch shall never likely present itself, her undefeated streak will last pretty much forever.

Snow is actually in the forecast here in the State of Concrete Gardens this afternoon and tonight. Snow. In October. That sound you hear is Suz laughing at her mom and me as she packs her life up in preparation for her impending move to Houston, Texas. According to Wikipedia:

Snow is extremely unusual in Houston. Light snow has fallen approximately 35 times since 1895, more recently on December 4, 2009 and February 23, 2010. Freezing rain, also known as ice storms, are slightly less rare. The most recent ice storms occurred in 1997 and 2007 as well as on February 4, 2011. These storms can be very disruptive since road crews are not equipped to handle such rare events (and motorists are entirely unfamiliar with ice). When ice occurs, road and schools are usually closed."

I am quite confident that in spite of the weatherdudes' prognostications, we the people of the State of Concrete Gardens will come through this unexpected White Halloween just fine. It ought to add a little excitement to the trick or treating festivities on Monday. If we get measurable snow in our particular part of heaven, then I am going to gather up enough of it to make into 100 or so snowballs, which I will then store until Monday night in the freezer in my garage (I shall have to relocate a severed head or two but they should fit). On Monday, I shall have them at my disposal for crowd control in the event that any of the costumed beggars get unruly. "OCCUPY FRONT PORCH!" shall not be permitted at my house.

Poor segue perhaps - as I delve for a moment into something I rarely discuss here or anywhere else for that matter (which might seem odd considering I majored in Political Science at CU). While I am not as intrigued or impressed by the Occupy Wall Street movement and its progeny as either my brother Bill or my nephew Patrick (two of the smartest human beans I know by the way so perhaps my absence of enthusiasm is reflective of my abundance of ignorance?), it nevertheless really chaps my hide (see, I'm learning to talk Texan!) to hear one of the most intellectually dishonest attacks upon it and those participating in it, which is that it and they are "Un-American".

For historical accuracy, it is worth noting that people spilled blood for the right of citizens of these United States to peacefully assemble for a multitude of purposes - including protest - since before those of us who occupied this continent were in fact citizens of these United States. Do not feel compelled to trust me on this point. Simply lift your dragging knuckles from the pavement long enough to type the name "Crispus Attucks" into your computer's search engine. I shall give you a hint in the likely event you know not what awaits you when you click "ENTER". Ready? It ain't a menu item at Popeye's or KFC.

I have never been called upon to pick up a weapon and man a post or to serve in the Armed Forces of these United States whether in peace time or during a time of war. Scott Thomas Olsen has. Olsen is a veteran of the Iraq War. Olsen was seriously injured earlier this week while participating in the "OCCUPY OAKLAND" protest when he was apparently struck in the head by a tear gas canister. I know not what his politics are. I know not what he was doing at the moment or two immediately before he was injured. To me, it matters not. He most assuredly is not "un-American".

Finally, courtesy of Professor Peabody, one more brief trip in the WABAC Machine is in order. It is timely given (a) what this weekend is; and (b) my female adult-offspring's upcoming change of postal codes. This time last year Margaret, Suz, Joe and I were in Washington D.C. with Lynne and Gidg. Gidg and I ran in the Marine Corps 10K, which is part of the Corps' Marathon weekend. I was beyond happy to have had a chance to show my bride, my daughter and my father-in-law a place that is among my favorite places anywhere. While we were at the World War II Memorial I took a picture of the three of them, bathed in sunlight:


Had Rob been with us - and in the frame as well - then the shot would have been perfect, irrespective of my limitations as a bug who shutters. Under the circumstances, it was as close to perfect as it - or I - could get.

And at day's end, I shall take that every time.

-AK

Friday, October 28, 2011

For Those Who Remember Laughter

The Missus and I spent a portion of her birthday evening at one of our favorite places, Vinnie Brand's Stress Factory in New Brunswick. Befitting an evening spent at a comedy club, what actually unfolded last night is in and of itself a pretty humorous yarn.

Margaret and I love the Stress Factory and have been there too many times to count - although given my limited math skills I realize that might not seem to be the best indicator. About six weeks ago we received one of their promotional cards in the mail, which advertised among other things that Richard Belzer was going to be there for one night only. The one night? Last night, of course. We bought tickets for the show.

About two weeks ago, Marissa from the Stress Factory telephoned me to let me know that due to scheduling issues, Richard Belzer had to cancel his appearance. But, in place of "the Belz" the club had booked Jim Breuer and if we wanted to see him instead the tickets we purchased for Belzer were good for Breuer. I told her we would do just that.

Then in the early afternoon on Wednesday (a/k/a "T Minus 1 to Margaret's Birthday") Marissa called me yet again. Due to scheduling issues with Jim Breuer - a movie commitment apparently - Breuer's October 27 show had been moved to November 2. I feared that the "let's have a few laughs" portion of Margaret's birthday celebration had taken a hit from which it could not recover. Marissa quickly quashed my concern (just for fun try and say that three times fast). She told me that her boss - the joint's proprietor and very funny stand-up comic - Mr. Brand was going to headline the October 27 lineup and that because we had purchased tickets to see (first) Richard Belzer and (second) Jim Breuer, our invitation to the 10/27 Version 3.0 gig was on the house.

I do not know if either of us laughed any longer or harder last evening sitting in our "comp" seats. I know that we had - as we always do - a very funny time while within the four walls of Mr. Brand's abode. As Mark Twain observed, "Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand." Of all the things by which one can be assaulted in this world, that is really not a bad way to go. Not at all.

And in New Brunswick at least, you can experience it without having to ascend a Stairway to Heaven. You simply have to descend a short flight of steps from street level on Church Street.

It is worth the trip.

-AK

Thursday, October 27, 2011

No Maybe About It

....but twenty years or so on up the road, I remain amazed. I remain not only amazed by my wife on a daily basis but also by the fact that a point existed all those many years ago at which her life intersected with my life and became our life. Today is Margaret's birthday. While today the gifts are hers to receive, I cannot help but feel as if I am the one who has received a gift each and every day from that day way back when hers and mine became ours.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the Birthday Girl saved my life. Not only is that not an exaggeration, it is not even the entire story. For she more than simply saved my life, she gave me life. My "master plan" in the year or so after I graduated from CU was of the first-person singular variety. All "I". No "We". Margaret changed all that. Had you bet me 24 hours before I went out with her for the first time that I was ever going to (a) marry; and (b) become a father, I would have put all the money and stuff I had then on "No". Fifteen minutes after I dropped her off from our first date in June 1991, you could have come by to collect your winnings.

I knew then what I know now and what I have known every minute of every day since then. There is a profound difference between merely living and being alive. Once you are fortunate enough to have experienced the latter, you have zero interest in the former. It is not enough for you. It never can be.

I am my mother's son. Thus I recognize that the three most important elements/components of my life are Margaret, Suzanne and Rob. I am my father's son as well. Thus I recognize that I often times do a poor job - sometimes descending to the depths of ineptitude - of communicating that to them. The key to it all is Margaret. For without her, there would be no Suzanne and no Rob. I know not whether I would have nothing. I know for certain that whatever I would have would be nothing compared to that which I have had and have loved since that first dinner date way back when in June 1991. A gift to enjoy every day.

Happy Birthday to my beautiful bride. Everyday she gives me the greatest gift I could ever get: Peace. Without that in in head and in my soul, I would have nothing. Not a damn thing. With it, I have everything I need.

-AK

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A True Bill

I do not usually spend a great deal of time trying to fish those e-mails that are trapped in our spam filter/net out of it. I did so on Saturday morning and I am glad that I did.

Caught in the filter was an e-mail from Rudy Brandl, who is the Director of Alumni Relations (and probably has a half-dozen other job titles and responsiblities I am simply never going to remember to list) at W-H circulated an e-mail to all alums announcing that W-H's Director of Development Bill Jenkins is leaving school. According to the information Rudy provided, Bill is leaving at month's end to pursue his next, very laudable challenge, which is becoming the Vice-President of Development for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Jersey.

I chatted with Bill via e-mail upon learning of the news from Rudy and he told me, much to my chagrin, that no matter how much money I donate to the Foundation, it is beyond the Foundation's scope to make me (a) taller; or (b) better-looking. He did not have to go so far as to remind me that the Foundation is called "Make-A-Wish" and not "Making the Impossible Possible", but he did. Since he is my friend and moreover since his point is wholly supported by the truth, I accepted the barb with a smile.

In the past couple of years, the bridge between W-H's present and its past, which had been obliterated in a fashion much like that envisioned for the span at Remagen, has been repaired and re-opened for traffic. Bill Jenkins is one of the architects of that success. Under a previous regime, W-H had become a school with no sense of its own history and had, whether intentionally or through inadvertent neglect alienated many of us who called ourselves alumni. I remember how bad things were when Bill arrived. And in spite of the fact that his first introduction to the Kenny family was the oh-so-popular tag team of first Jill and then me, he not only opted to become better acquainted with us, he became a man who I am fortunate to call my friend.

It was slightly more than three years ago - at Homecoming 2008 - when Bill - having encountered Margaret and me at a very sparsely attended Alumni Reception on campus - asked my input regarding how to get alumni to come back home. I mentioned to him - in the most general possible terms - the notion of reconnection through the honoring of teams and individuals who had garnered athletic success and notoriety for the school and tossed out the idea of having a day to pay tribute to the 1983 Boys' Basketball State Champs. All I did was give Bill a suggestion and a few days thereafter an e-mail or two to start the ball rolling vis-a-vis communication.

Approximately three months after Bill and I had that conversation - on a cold January Saturday - W-H honored not only its '83 Boys' State Champs but the '84 Girls' Basketball State Champs as well with a halftime ceremony during a varsity game and a very nice on-campus cocktail reception afterwards. It is from small things that big things one day come. The gathering in January 2009 became the acorn from which the All-80's Reunion this month - attended by more than one hundred W-H alumni - sprung forth. But for what Bill Jenkins did then, this most recent event never would have happened.

We hope for nothing more I guess than to leave a place - when it is our time to leave - a better place than it was when we encountered it. Bill Jenkins has most certainly done that and then some. I shall miss him. As shall all who had the chance to get to know him.

Safe journey Bill. Best of luck in the new endeavor. Stay well. And thanks again for everything.

-AK

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SPAM Killed the Cat

It was on this date in 1986 that the Colorado Buffaloes accomplished something that they had not accomplished since Dwight Eisenhower had occupied the White House. They defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Boulder. On a chilly, somewhat overcast late October afternoon during what was my second year in the land of the Flatirons, the Buffs upset the nationally-ranked Huskers 20-10. Watching my Alma mater get eviscerated by the Quack Attack of the University of Oregon this past Saturday (to the tune of 45-2 in a game that could have been two to three times as lopsided if Chip Kelly of Oregon was truly mean) it struck me just how long ago 1986 seems. A quarter-century further on up the road. A lot has changed since then.

A couple of weeks ago, Margaret unearthed for me in our basement an envelope of photographs that I have apparently been toting around since college. Pictures that I am constrained to admit I had forgotten I had. Actually I had not only forgotten that I possessed them. I had forgotten that they ever existed in the first place. Looking at them brought a smile to my face. Given that smiles are sometimes in short supply on my face - and perhaps on yours as well - I was happy to find them. Better stated, I was happy to be present when Margaret located them and wanted to entrust them to me.

My junior year I lived off campus in a cool little apartment on the main floor of a house located at 943 Broadway in Boulder. Six of us lived there including several of the usual suspects (Alex, John and Jay). At some point early on in the school year, coming to grips with the reality of feeding our fat faces with limited funds, the majority of which had been earmarked for alcohol, a couple of us (Yours truly leading the charge) broke down and bought SPAM. Yep, SPAM.

If you have never experienced SPAM, then may you continue to live a life full of luck and good fortune. If you have experienced it - especially if you have been the one responsible for extricating it from the metal container in which it is entombed - then you have had a glimpse into what it is like to be a domesticated dog. And the quality of the food inside the container? It is probably not a coincidence that ALPO and SPAM are words of identical length. Just sayin'.

Our foray into the world of SPAM was brief but not without its complications, most of which were medical in nature. SPAM does things to a person's insides that simply should not be permitted. Rumor has it that at Gitmo the final form of torture utilized on suspected terrorists was force-feeding them SPAM. No secret to this fella why waterboarding worked as well as it did.

At some point during my junior year, a group of us - including Jay and I - decided to enter the campus-wide trivia contest, which I think was known as the Varsity Trivia Bowl. If memory serves, it took place at some point during the fall semester but the likelihood of me being wrong about that it is 50%. We were a mighty quartet! Our team including not only Messrs. Bauer and Kenny but the quiet man from Fort Collins - Gregg Osterhout - and the Rangely Rifle (a/k/a "The Knowledgable (K)Nepali") Lokendra Upadhyay. We prepared for each round of the single-elimination tournament rigorously, which meant consuming a fair amount of alcohol at 943 Broadway before walking the block or two to the UMC. The competition took place in the Glenn Miller (yes - THE Glenn Miller) Ballroom.

The best thing about our team - other than our preparation - was our name. We were, "SPAM Killed the Cat, I'm Sick as a Dog". The games were emceed so everytime one of us buzzed in to answer a question, the announcer said, "SPAM" and then identified the team member attempting to answer the question by name. I know not whether the people in the crowd laughed when that happened but we surely did. Try it yourself. Say the word "SPAM" aloud and then your last name immediately therafter. You are lying if you say you did not at least crack a smile. SPAM is just one goddamned funny word.

We were actually pretty good at the whole Trivia Bowl thing. We won three rounds in a row before being vanquished in the Semi-Finals. We kicked around the idea of getting back together and trying again the following year but the idea never got off the ground. Our first attempt at it became our final attempt. It was our only attempt.

Fortunately someone served as the official photographer for the Varsity Trivia Bowl. I recall someone coming to our apartment at 943 Broadway several weeks (at least) after it ended with proofs of photographs for each member of our team and a breakdown on the cost of purchasing them ourselves. None of us bought any of them. If memory serves, the guy who peddled them wanted payment for the proofs he left with us. I presume that twenty-plus years later, he has given up any hope of receiving it.

As for us, we no longer have the sunglasses (although they came in damn handy in enabling us to hide our red eyes from the judges) and - in my case - anyway we no longer have the clean, baby-smooth faces. But through the wonders of Kodachrome we still have SPAM -or at least the signage anyway. And at day's end, what more does one really need?


-AK

Monday, October 24, 2011

Happy Returns

Mom's discharge from the hospital was bumped back one day from yesterday to this morning. From this point forward for her the fun really starts. At least effetive today she will be home to wage the war. Home-field advantage is worth something right? Unless you are the Miami Dolphins. Then, not so much.

My hunch is that Mom will make excellent use of hers. She is too damn tough and too much of a survivor to do anything else but that which she needs to do. The entirety of my life she has been the toughest, bravest woman I know.

Yesterday was simply a glorious day here in the State of Concrete Gardens. My law partner Arnie's 5K race in Livingston went off without a hitch. The Missus repeated her sterling work as a volunteer. Mother Nature provided Arnie with a day that was a carbon copy of last year's inaugural edition weather-wise, which is to say it was a beautiful late October Sunday. Ideal weather in which to run.

It made my legs so happy that I ran the second-fastest 5K time I have ever run, which considering the dizzying heights of mediocrity I have achieved in the couple of years since I started running on a regular basis is not something that the rest of the world might deem noteworthy. I wonder if that is what is meant by history being in the mind of the teller.

We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.

-AK

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bridge Crossings

It is supposed to be another gorgeous autumn Sunday here in the State of Concrete Gardens. An excellent day for a road race - especially since the road to be travelled is far less lengthy this morning than it was this time two weeks ago. My law partner Arnold Gerst - as if he does not have enough on his plate -has put together again this year a 5K race in Livingston, New Jersey (where he lives).

This year - as was the case last year - he and his crew, which includes Margaret, have received simply terrific weather. It is a cliche perhaps but it really could not happen to a nicer man. This was a very nice event last year with a ton of activities and attractions for small children in addition to the 5K race. If you are a runner or a parent of a little one and you are anywhere near Livingston New Jersey this morning, head on over to the high school and take part in today's festivities. You will be happy you did.

Presuming everything in the Sunshine State is proceeding according to Hoyle (and who the heck is/was Hoyle exactly and did he/she ever complete a task with something less than 100% precision?), today is the day that Mom swaps the delightful surroundings of one of Palm Beach County's Institutions of Higher Medicine for her own home. She has been in the hospital for the past couple of weeks secondary to heart surgery (and yes, I am aware that in the event I ever require heart surgery other than the time associated with probing to locate it, the procedure shall require scant little time or resources). Today is her Homecoming.

Jill is manning the local well of good wishes in Jupiter while the rest of us are doing so from our various postal zones. There are things in the world I presume that make one feel more powerless and more emasculated than one's elderly mother being hospitalized in order to have invasive surgery. I simply cannot call any up to the forefront of my mind at present.

Final thought (giving that term its broadest possible meaning) for the day. A million years ago, when we both attended W-H as members of the Class of '85 I counted among my friends one of my soccer teammates George Hagstoz. In the quarter-century plus that has passed between the day of our high school graduation and the present, we fell out of touch. In fact, until I saw George last October at the 25th Year reunion for our class I do not think we had seen one another since we were still in college.

I attended W-H during the era that saw all three Hagstoz siblings go to school there. George has two younger sisters. Lisa was a couple of years behind us and Kirsten was (I think) a year behind Lisa. Back in the day, the Hagstozs lived in Plainfield - right on Woodland Avenue. A great home in which to host teenage/college-age parties. And they did.

Well before us lawyers got involved and created the legal concept of social host liability, Mr. and Mrs. Hagstoz ensured that while the friends of their children were welcome in their home to enjoy themselves - recognizing that enjoyment might include imbibing an adult beverage or two - from the moment any of us entered their home we became their children. That meant if upon entry you told either Mr. Hagstoz or Mrs. Hagstoz that you were going to have a beer or a cocktail - or either saw you having one - your car keys were surrendered to one of them. The Hagstoz home became - for an evening anyway - the Hotel California.

They did what they did - not for fear of social host liability - but because as parents who loved the hell out of their kids they realized that all of their friends and all of the parents of all of their kids' friends felt the same. Mr. and Mrs. Hagstoz simply would take on the role of being everybody's Mom/Dad when you were at George's for a party. You were the beneficiary of their hospitality. You lived by their rules. It was a perfect operating system.

Just a couple of days ago, I saw something Lisa posted on her Facebook page regarding her Dad and the fact that he had died only a day or two earlier. Mr. Hagstoz - from what I read - waged a spirited but unsuccessful battle against cancer the past couple of years. I am constrained to admit that upon reading what Lisa wrote I rewound the tape in my own head from our class reunion one year ago. I searched it for the audio clip during which I asked George how his parents were doing. It does not exist.

I bore witness to my bride's Mom's own epic battle against breast cancer and the toll it took not only on Suzy B but on Margaret. I do not pretend to know exactly how any of the Hagstoz family is feeling today for while I have observed the path being walked, I have not walked a single step in those shoes. I offer my condolences and my regrets. And the wish that there was something better to offer. Something more to give.

There is a Land of the Living and a Land of the Dead,
and the bridge is Love, the only survival, the only meaning.

-Thorton Wilder

-AK

Saturday, October 22, 2011

While Somewhere George Carlin Smiles....

I am among the worst people in the world for keeping track of things such as birthdays of siblings, nieces/nephews (forget cousins - I gave up hoping to know them by name about 25 years ago and since names are not known to me, dates of significance in their lives are not even a hopeful goal) and anniversaries of my brothers and sisters and their respective spouses. However, I do know how to read. Thus I know that just yesterday the oldest of us Kenny sibs celebrated an anniversary for I read mention of it earlier this week here. Happy Anniversary Bill and Sigrid!

While I am confident that George Carlin would indeed smile at knowing that someone who was a great fan of his is celebrating an anniverary this week, it is not Bill/Sigrid's good news - or the positive results of Suz's Texas campaign or even Mom's ever-improving medical condition - that served as the grist for todays' titular mill. If only that was the case. Instead, what caught my eye today is something I read in the newspaper several days ago that reminded me of an old Carlin bit.

It was a Carlin bit that illustrated both his comfortably casual use of profanity and his love of language. Often people speak of someting about which they have no firm opinion one way or another as something they could take or leave. While we might think of them as interchangeable concepts, Carlin demonstrated that in certain circumstances, the quirky nature of English might just be enough to confuse someone unfamiliar with the language and its assorted tics, wrinkles and idiosyncracies.

I speak of course of the Carlin classic, "Take A Shit". In slightly more than one minute, he demonstrated the difference between what we say and what we mean. He left alone what it means when it is all f*cked up. Thankfully, we had Warren Zevon to handle that part of the presentation.

In the bucolic Turnpike-neighboring of the Borough of Carteret, 18 year-old Hadith Caesar has taken the teachings of wise old Professor Carlin to heart. Young Mr. Caesar was apprehended by the Carteret Police on Saturday after allegedly burglarizing a parked car on a Borough street. Mr. Caesar took several items of personal property from the vehicle but it was the one item that he left behind - although grammarians will point out he "took" it - that was noteworthy. He dropped a deuce on the vehicle's back seat. Fair trade right? He did not really steal the vehicle owner's Garmin GPS, he merely traded it for a pile of steamy goodness.

My favorite part of this story ("What? We have not gotten there yet", you ask. "No loyal reader but hold fast for it is fast approaching", I say in response) is that the Carteret Police suspect Caesar is a "serial defecator". No s***, well no "you know" that is indeed what they suspect. Apparently, since mid-September at least two other vehicles have been burglarized in Carteret by someone who has taken several items from each vehicle and left behind a #2 as a "remember me always" token. The newspaper story about this case is laugh out loud funny, especially this portion of it:

And while police charged him [Caesar] for breaking into the car and leaving behind the excrement, further investigation is needed to determine if the man is a serial defecator connected to two similar incidents last month.

"Further investigation". Boy that sounds fun. "Hey Tony you got corn niblets in your stack of poo? Me too. If you find tater tots and Chinese food, let me know. We will have this little bastard by the short hairs for sure." Happiness is being the members in the Carteret PD or the Middlesex County Crime Lab tasked to this investigation; eh? I know not how their investigation will turn out. However I would be quite surprised to see Ted Danson and the folks from CSI tackling a case just like this one during one of the critical May Sweeps episodes.

Somewhere today George Carlin smiles. And if for just a moment or two, you did as well, then our work here is finished. Remember - before you go to bed tonight - lock all your car's doors, roll up all the windows and put a roll of plastic down on the back seat. You can never be too safe.

See you tomorrow.

-AK

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Stars at Night are Big & Bright

....and soon it appears the older of the two adult/former children of mine shall be sleeping under them. Well, with a roof between her and them of course but be a good lad and resist the temptation to screw up my metaphor; OK? Thank you very much.

Proving that although their governor is "All Hat and No Cattle" not everyone in the Lone Star State needs ye olde "checkup from the neck up". It took the good people with whom Suz interviewed on Wednesday less than 24 hours to offer her the job she went to Houston to get. I presume that there was internal debate among their decision-making hierarchy whether to wait until her plane actually landed in California (where she is enjoying a well-earned vacation) before making her a formal offer. No sense appearing too eager I reckon. Other than ruminating over when to make it, the decision to offer the best candidate they shall ever interview for any gig was probably the easiest they have ever had to make - and that they likely shall ever have to make.

If all goes according to Hoyle, the Missus and I shall be flying an empty nest before 2011 cedes the stage to 2012. Anyone who is a parent knows the struggle you have in your stomach's pit when one of your "kids" reaches a point where Suz is now. The point of divergence geographically between her life and your life. And it is helpful to think back for a moment and to reflect on where you have come from as opposed to where she is going.

There was a moment in your life where you stood in the shoes that your child now wears and your parent(s) stood wearing those now warming your little feeties. And in that moment, you did then what she must do now. You ventured off to make your own way in the world. Whether you did it 1800 miles away or within walking distance of the home where you were raised, you made your own way. You blazed your own trail.

And you survived. You did more than that in fact. You thrived. You took the lessons learned at the knee of those who raised you and you paid them forward, bestowing them upon your own children like the gifts they are and like the traveling companions they shall always be. For that is what they shall always be for her - constant traveling companions. Reminders of the fact that geography be damned, there is not a place on the planet that is not connected to Home - and vice versa.

Thinking back on where you were when you wore the shoes of the child, you realize that not only did you thrive after going off on your own, but so did your parents. Their lives did not stop when the children they raised reached a fork in the road and took it. They went on. And at some point their lives reached the point where they were not simply parents any longer, but something grander still.

And if there is enough luck in the world and magic in the moonlight that those who raised you have lived to see you raise your children, then they know now what you - what we - will come to know eventually. We were their greatest gift, much in the same way that the no-longer-a child of ours who is about to leave the nest behind is ours. Same as it ever was. Same as it will always be.

At least as long as there is luck in the world and at least a little bit of magic in the moonlight.

There she goes....

....and love shall go with her. Even as we stand on the driveway waving goodbye.

-AK

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Where Old Champ's Still on the Guitar

Based on early returns, the older of the two gifted children who my wife raised while I drove the car and otherwise tried to stay the hell out of the way, did yesterday what she flew to Texas to do: she blew the doors off of the people who interviewed her. Even a non-agrarian like me knows enough not to count chickens pre-hatching but....at the risk of skipping forward through a few commercial breaks and the always too-long second act, methinks this film ends with Suz changing time zones and postal codes. Not to mention learning how to end all of her sentences with, "Y'all."

Hearing (figuratively speaking as I was actually reading text messages on my phone) how the day transpired caused me to think about one of the things I like most of all about Texas: Lyle Lovett. Another one of those things is James McMurtry - for the unfamiliar, Google McMurtry and once you locate him on-line buy as much of his music as you can afford. You will not be sorry....y'all. (Man is it fun to end a sentence that way.)

Lovett is a musical genius - a man whose innate ability to marry words and music is second to none. And in case you are wondering I care not one whit that Katy Perry sells more records in a month than Lovett does in five years. Popularity and ability are sometimes mutually exclusive concepts. In Ms. Perry's case, to quote the immortal (or at least they should be) words of Joe Jackson, "there goes your proof."

Among my favorite Lovett songs is one that leapt into the forefront of my mind upon learning of Suz's initial successes in Texas. I realize that he did not write it for her (the reference to his girl coming from down in Georgia suggests that he had a Pretty Woman in mind in at least one of its verses), but it certainly appears to fit Suz to a "T"....

....as in "Texas". Where she is not from, but where - as the song says - they certainly appear to want her anyway.

And who can blame them?

-AK

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Dream Follower

First game of the 2011 World Series is tonight. I will probably watch little to none of this game or however many follow it. It is not because I am a Yankees fan moping about still regarding the end of their season. Well, perhaps a little bit. But mostly it is because I have no rooting interest in either club still standing. I rooted for Milwaukee to beat St. Louis and for Detroit to defeat Texas. Happy to see that my support was the difference maker.

I am intrigued by this factoid I read in the newspaper on Monday: since interleague play began no two teams have played fewer games against one another than the Cardinals and the Rangers. In 2004, they played a single, three-game series. Only the Mets and the White Sox have squared off across league boundaries as infrequently as have the Cards and the Rangers.

One other great factoid: NL is the "home" team for this year's Series by virtue of having won the All-Star Game. Who was the NL's offensive star? Prince Fielder of the Brewers (a/k/a "Blood Enemies of the Cardinals"), whose three-run home run propelled the NL to a 5-1 win.

The Missus and I are staring squarely in the face the prospect of being empty nesters. After years of comfortably residing at the top of the stairs, Suz shall awaken this morning in Houston, Texas for not one - but two - job interviews. Life is lived forward - but not necessarily in a straight line. My daughter is proof positive of that fact. I have little doubt in my mind that one - if not both - of the two suitors with whom she is meeting today shall hire her. She is exceptionally good at what she does - speech language pathologist - and hers is a field that is very hot in terms of job growth.

Kids grow from the seeds you have sown as parents. You help them where you can but a lot of the heavy lifting they do themselves. They have to. Just as we had to when we were where they are now. The road ahead belongs to them. Not to us. To travel it they have to make their own way upon it.

Suz has been doing that in fits and spurts thus far from a local postal code. Today, she is taking an important first step on plotting a course in a whole new direction. It is frightening, exciting, terrifying and exhilirating all at once. And those are my emotions. I cannot imagine how she feels.

I am happy - having missed the chance to do so last year due to my rather selfish behavior - that Margaret, Suz and I got to spend this Sunday taking in the gorgeous autumn weather by doing a bit of pumpkin picking. At the insistence of my daughter, when she selected "THE" one she would purchase (check that, which I would purchase) a picture was taken to preserve the moment for posterity


If the decision were mine to make and time were mine to tether, I'd snap a picture of this moment now and freeze this frame forever.

It is not of course. Nor should it be. You own only your own dreams, not anyone else's. Yours are yours. Theirs are theirs. To follow wherever they may lead....

....even to Houston, Texas.

-AK

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mother's Day

Brevity is the watchword today. Damn long day yesterday. Ultimately productive but long nonetheless. That's OK. Under the guise of doing more with less, now for something completely different.

Mom has been scraping and scrapping lately. She has been enjoying the hospitality of one of Palm Beach County's finest medical establishments for more than the past week, having undergone the pure unadulterated joy of a valve transplant/double bypass a week ago yesterday. Happiness may take many forms but one of them is most assuredly NOT being an 82 year old woman having your chest cracked open so that heart surgery can be performed.

Saturday night was a night that I spent in the company of people who at one time in my life I knew very well. And because the Kenny imprint on W-H that began with my father was expanded to include not only Kara, Jill and me as students but Mom as a secretary in the Development Department, those who knew me a lifetime ago knew Mom also. I know what an effect she has had upon my life. I take for granted I suppose the effect she has upon the lives of those outside of the family unit. Saturday night I was reminded. Too many people to count - from old friends of mine to old friends of either of my sisters and from former faculty members to parents of friends of one of her children - all inquired of me how Mom was doing. When I related to them that at present she is doing less than tremendously, the good wishes/thoughts/prayers, etc. poured over me like a tidal wave. All asked me to convey to her that they were sending good wishes and positive thoughts to her to assist in her recovery.

When I talked to Jill on Sunday from her Sunshine State outpost I told her that a "few" people had sent Mom their love and good wishes on Saturday night - and then spent several minutes going through the list of names - neither of us could think to do anything other than laugh. In the halls of, first, Wardlaw and, later, W-H it was Dad who was the dominant force. Yet in her subtle, understated "Mom" way, Joanie K. more than held her own. She made an impression on those who came into contact with her - by doing nothing more or less than simply being herself and treating them as she has treated everyone her entire life - that resonates with them two decades later.

I have known for my entire life just how lucky I am to have her. Being reminded on Saturday night of how many folks out there in the world at large share that sentiment was not only touching, it was humbling.

And sincerely appreciated.

-AK

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Celebration of Real Things Gone

Sentimentality is always about a lie. Nostalgia is about real things gone. Nobody truly mourns a lie.

So wrote Pete Hamill in his masterpiece Downtown: My Manhattan. Saturday night, Margaret accompanied me to an evening with old friends, which was put together by my high school classmate Emilie Rinaldo Marvosa. Anyone who was there Saturday night bore witness to what a stellar job Em did of organizing an event that was pitch perfect. An even awash in nostalgia. With nary a whiff of sentimentality in the air.

In honor of one of the gentlemen who was enshrined into the W-H Athletic Hall of Fame, Saturday was something of a Texas two-step.


Evan Peterson and the 1977 Undefeated State Champion Football team were enshrined in the Hall of Fame on campus on Saturday afternoon - a ceremony that also saw Greg Casagrande earn this year's Distinguished Alumni Award and retired kindergarten teacher Daphne Willard win the Distinguished Faculty Award. After the festivities on campus wrapped, more than one hundred alumni (including Kara and me), faculty (present and retired) and spouses (including the Missus) headed over to the Plainfield Country Club for the "All 80's Reunion".

The Reunion was Em's brainchild, baby and labor of love. She had help of course and judging by the exhausted smile on her sister Karan's face as the guests poured into PCC at 7:00, Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin had nothing on the Sisters Rinaldo. Not a damn thing.

The Class of '85 was not nearly as well represented at this year's celebration of a decade as it was last year at our 25th class reunion. No matter. Those of us who were there enjoyed ourselves and we count among our number two dynamic women: Em - who gets you to do things you either otherwise do not want to do or things that you simply did not realize you wanted to do until she started working on you and Karen Leach Toomer - who is the President of the school's Alumni Association. In the picture that was taken at night's end of those of us from the Class of '85, they were where they should have been: side by side and front and center.


And as Em, Karan and their organizational dream team can attest, their efforts were assisted by the tireless work of W-H's in-house Alumni Guru Rudy Brandl. I have known Rudy most of my life I think as he started going to W-H with Jill when they were 7th graders. He has been at W-H as the Director of Alumni Affairs and Annual Giving for only three years or so but in the short amount of time he has spent in the gig he has owned it. And his energy is contagious. Five years ago, an event such as the one that took place Saturday night could not have happened. No one would have shown up. Saturday night people came from Texas, Colorado, Florida, California, Maryland, Massachusetts and Arizona. Something made it worth their while to make the trip.

Nostalgia? Perhaps. Whatever the reason, here's to hoping it represented not the final step of a journey started long ago but rather its next step.

-AK

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Be Still My Heart

I age by years at the mention of your name.

Aging is a process capable of being performed gracefully. Sometimes, however, you need assistance in making it so. As one who was more than simply skeptical when a couple of my high school classmates announced this time last year on the occasion of the one (and likely only) reunion of our class that they intended to mount this year a reunion that included every class from 1980 through 1989, I am constrained to give credit where credit is due. The "All 80's Reunion" was last night. And it was quite a nice night. Props to Em for pulling off this show. I presume she is sleeping in today. She earned it.

This morning I did something that I had not done since this time last week: I ran. Last Sunday I participated in the 18 Mile LBI Run, which kicked the living tar out of me. When one chooses to prepare improperly for an 18-mile road race, one gets what one deserves and one deserves what one gets. Consider Yours truly properly served. For the first couple of days this week, my legs were simply sore - indicative of the type of strain and stress one places on one's legs while completing an 18-mile run. However as the stiffness worked its way out by mid-week, I became more aware of the sharp pain behind my right kneecap, which I had first noticed at or about the 12 mile mark on Sunday.

My knee neither swelled on Sunday nor at any time thereafter but what it lacked in enlarged surface area it more than made up for in discomfort. It hurt like hell to walk on (especially down stairs) for the duration of the week. I did something I rarely do. I exercised a bit of caution and in doing so ended up not lacing up my running shoes all week.

Running is - much like this exercise here - a cathartic endeavor for me. I sweat off a lot of stress and strain when I run. It is physically taxing but mentally soothing all at the same time. Not feeling well enough to run for seven whole days really put a crimp on my mojo.

On the plus side, it made getting out and pounding the pavement this morning feel that much better. This is the best time of year to run in the State of Concrete Gardens. There is an autumnal crisp in the air (well, every day except for Sunday 10/09 apparently) and it is chilly but not uncomfortably cold. It allows you to heat up and work up a sweat from the activity itself and not from the temperature. The cool, dry air is an elixir. You are able to go a greater distance or a faster pace than perhaps you otherwise would because you are running in an environment that does not draw energy from you but instead replenishes it for you.

And it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive. Not today. Not at all.

-AK

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Prescription for Perception

Unless they have had a change in plans, at some point today my brother Bill and his son/my nephew Patrick will leave the Nutmeg State behind to descend upon Lower Manhattan and join those who have been a funky, ragtag occupying force for the past month or so. Everyone who is there has his or her reasons for being there. Neither my brother nor my nephew is any different. I admire their courage. Taking a stand for something in which you believe is done far more readily on screen than it is in real life. As someone whose track record of personal bravery is fairly light, I wish them well. I hope most of all that their trip is a safe one. I would wager that I am far more concerned about their safety than either of them.

I know that people are of many minds in these United States regarding these "Occupy" protests. There are those who support the positions espoused by those doing the protesting and those who proclaim their vehement opposition to those positions. I care not what your particular position is on the issue. I just know that I chuckle every time some talking head on TV (Mr. Hannity jumps immediately to mind) assails those doing the protesting as being "Un-American". Is there any more vacuous yet damning insult that we have learned to hurl at our political enemies during these past ten years that that one? When you and I disagree, my default position too often is, "You are being anti-American." Worse yet, it is your default position as well. Sad.

It is sad that our intellectual laziness has manifested itself not in apathy but in anger. Why bother to explore the validity of an adverse position? No need to as long as my voice holds out. Impossible to listen when I cannot hear your voice over the sound of my own. Best two out of three ear bleeds wins. We have become proof positive that Ambrose Bierce was right and that, "Politics is the strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles."

The two members of the Kenny Family who are joining the fray today are the best and the brightest our little bramble bush has to offer. Both will travel with open eyes, open ears and - most important of all - open minds. All of which are tools that will enable them to process all that is going on around them.

The great Pete Hamill, in Downtown: My Manhattan wrote, "Sometimes no truth is more powerful than one expressed in anger by a melancholy man." If there is one thing the Irish know, it is melancholy. We practically invented it. Perhaps the addition of two more Irishmen into this particular stew will make it make better sense to those of us who know enough to know that we do not know all there is to know about it.

Knowledge is good. But you need not take my word for it.

Ask Emil Faber.

-AK

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Lights in the Land of Plenty

Just a few random thoughts for Friday the 14th.

First, as someone who listened to Terry Francona's postmortem press conference fourteen days ago I was impressed at that briefing just how much of a players' manager he remained - right to the bitter end. He was peppered by questions regarding reports of members of his pitching staff drinking beer in the clubhouse during games (other than those they pitched of course - although given how Lackey's season went allowing him to down a cold one between hitters might not have had a measurable impact on performance) and regarding the general "We Don't Give a Crap" attitude of certain of his players. Francona held his tongue. He did not name names. He did not kick anyone in the balls on his way out the door.

A favor that has not been returned in kind by my favorite kind of person - "the unnamed source". In a front-page story that ran in the Boston Globe earlier this week, the band-aid was pulled off of Tito's various and sundry wounds - and with considerable force. I am not certain but I think that upon further review Terry Francona was not only culpable in the immolation of the 2011 Red Sox season but also in the Boston Tea Party and the Presidential campaigns of Dukakis and Kerry in '88 and '04 respectively. Amazing stuff.

Five words for the safe-droppers in the Sox organization: Joe Torre - The Yankee Years. You might want to pick up a copy at amazon.com. Francona sounded damn comfortable with a microphone in front of him during Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS, sitting in a broadcast booth and chatting with Joe Buck. I am confident that when Tom Verducci drops a like recording device in front of him, which will produce Terry Francona - The Conflagration of Red Sox Nation just in time for Xmas 2012, Francona will sound just as smooth and relaxed.

Second, when time permits go out and grab yourself a copy of The Wizard of Oz. You do not have to subject yourself to watching the entire film, which personally I hate (no surprise I suppose as one of the few people my age I know who has never endured a single frame of ET: The Extra-Terrestrial), but only the portions of the film set in Kansas. Notice please how little of Kansas is actually shown. Other than Dotty's farm where she and Toto live with Auntie Em and whatever the hell her Uncle's name is (Ben? No wait, he's the rice guy) and some non-descript farm road that the witch rides her bicycle on before Dot catches the last Cape Cod to Oz, we see no Kansas.

The older I get, the more I grasp the notion that was by deliberate design. Kansas is after all the home base of operation for Fred Phelps and the Wasteboro Bastards Church. Apropos of nothing, if you have not seen it then check out the video of Dave Grohl and his Foo Fighters serenading Freddie's F-tard followers last month when the latter showed up to protest at a Foo Fighters show.

The recent news out of Kansas suggests that Phelps and his band of knuckle-draggers might not even be the dumbest denizens of that particular postal code. Nope. That honor appears to rest with the people elected by the residents of Topeka, Kansas (coincidentally the home base for Westboro Baptist) to represent them on the Topeka City Council.

Presumably women vote in Topeka. I have never studied their voter registration statistics but presumably at least one woman makes it to the polling place on Election Day. If they have been reticent about showing up, the good people on the City Council might have just given them the ammunition for the best "Get Out the Vote" campaign ever:

On Tuesday night [October 11], the city council of Topeka repealed the local law that lists domestic violence as a crime, in turn making any actions that would have previously necessitated police involvement a matter of the state of Kansas, who the council says must rely on the county to enforce the charges. The county district attorney, however, has already stopped prosecuting would-be criminals citing budget shortfalls of their own.

It turns out that the Topeka City Council and the Shawnee County District Attorney's Office had been engaged in a high-stakes game of "Budgetary Chicken" for the past month. In September, with his office pared a bit due to budget cuts, D.A. Chad Taylor announced that his office would no longer prosecute misdemeanors including domestic violence cases, which placed the financial responsibility for furnishing the resources needed to prosecute D.V. cases on the Topeka City Council. It responded by decriminalizing those cases. If domestic violence is not a crime, then we do not have to pay for it! So there!

Such forward thinking resulted in the immediate release of 18 individuals who had been arrested for and were presumably going to be proscuted for domestic violence offenses, including one who upon being released committed the same offense and was rearrested only a few hours later. It also struck the world outside of the four walls of the offices of D.A. Taylor and the Topeka City Council as less of an example of forward thinking and more of an affront to thinking altogether. On Wednesday, D.A. Taylor cried, "Uncle" (and had he added the name of Dotty's uncle I would have been all the more pleased) and announced that his office will go back to prosecuting D.V. complaints. Taylor, in an incredible display of covering his own ass while talking out of his mouth, released the following statement:

"My office now retains sole authority to prosecute domestic battery misdemeanors and will take on this responsibility so as to better protect and serve our community," Taylor said in a statement. "We will do so with less staff, less resources, and severe constraints on our ability to effectively seek justice."


Remind me again why it was Dotty and Toto were in such a hurry to get home? They would have been better off living with the Flying Monkeys.

Final thought: tomorrow is the "All 80's Reunion" for alumni of the Wardlaw-Hartridge School. My former classmate Emilie Rinaldo Marvosa (now you know why I just call her "Em" - hey I wonder if she is an Aunt...) has done yeoman's work in putting it all together. If you are someone who pops by this space who graduated from W-H between 1980 and 1989 and want to attend this reunion, then go to this site and buy a ticket. And if you are there tomorrow night, I shall see you....

....unless you see me first. I will be easy to spot. I will be the fellow in the stylish three-piece suit, which shall have a carnation in its lapel.


-AK

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Visual Recognition

Traffic intruded upon my commute home Monday evening. So, instead of simply trundling due south on 287 from Parsippany to Exit 14, which deposits me on Route 22 East about three miles or so from home, I exited 287 about twelve miles or so farther north than usual. Doing so took me - at least for part of my jaunt - through Martinsville, which is a very nice little town. It is also now - and has been since at least 1984 or so - the home to The Pingry School, which campus I passed in my travels.

A lifetime ago when I attended W-H, Pingry was one of our principal rivals. I know (at least kinda, sorta), courtesy of Dad having worked at Wardlaw prior to its merger with Hartridge in the late 1970's that the rivalry between Wardlaw and Pingry pre-merger was considerably more fierce in the single-sex era than it was after Wardlaw took on its distaff side. I do not think the schools compete against one another in sports at all any more although I could not at gunpoint tell you when it was that they ceased being rivals and morphed into strangers.

Driving past Pingry made me think however briefly about Saturday's Homecoming/Fall Fair/Alumni Reception/Reunion at W-H. I flipped a coin when Margaret was out of the room and - surprise surprise - she lost the toss. So, she will come with me to the "All 80's Reunion" that my former high school classmate Emilie Rinaldo Marvosa (whose ability to stop the aging process completely is a source of great amazement and even greater jealousy for me) has organized, which is being held on the hallowed (to them anyway) grounds of the Plainfield Country Club on Saturday night. Margaret will have a good time - I hope. I am confident it will be interesting for her to spend a bit of time with people who can vouch to the fact that I was an assh*le a lifetime ago. For the two decades that we have been together, she has been exposed only to those who can attest to my present-tense assholiness. Saturday night will permit her to fill in some spaces that have heretofore been blank.

Among the people being honored at W-H on Saturday is Evan Peterson. While he was at school he wore a number of hats, serving initially in the Athletic Department (first as a coach and later as Athletic Director) and thereafter as the Associate Head of School/Dean of Discipline/"Brubaker". On Saturday evening, he shall don two hats once again. He is being inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame and he is presenting for induction the 1977 undefeated State Champion football team. Chuck Nelson, who was the Head Coach of that team, died earlier this year.

Evan Peterson and my father were friends. Dad was one of the people who urged him to pursue and attain the graduate degrees needed to make the move from the "athletic" side of the shop to running the whole damn joint. Had he commenced making that move a year or two earlier than he did, he might have been the sucessor to Prent Horne when Mr. Horne retired at the end of the 1980-81 school year. He did not. Thus, he was not.

He is a man for whom I have always had a great deal of admiration and affection. Dad died on May 31, 1981, which was a Sunday. We lived in the middle of nowhere. How he did it I know not but Evan Peterson (who lived with his family considerably closer to somewhere than did we) was at our home offering support to Mom, Kara, Jill and me by the middle of that morning. I know not who called him but, presuming that on a late Spring/early Summer Sunday morning he had something better to do, he dropped what he was doing and helped me out.

Evan Peterson helped me out again the following summer - perhaps even more than he had on that rather dark day. At the end of the 1981-82 school year the man who was not Evan Peterson who the school hired to replace the now-retired Prent Horne decided that among the students who would not be offered a place in school for the 1982-83 school year was Yours truly. I know not for certain the reason but - if I had to - I would wager that it was the second or third 'chat' we had in his office during which he said, "Now, I never got to work with your father" right before he would launch into some rant about something I had either done or failed to do and to which I said in response (paraphrasing), "Go F*** yourself" that sealed my fate. Apparently I had an "attitude"....albeit just not one that this particular asshat found to be "Wardlavian".

Somewhere among her many, many moves since the Summer of '82 I am quite confident that Mom discarded the letter that the aforementioned "hat" wrote her explaining why it was - with profound regret to be sure - that W-H was kicking her youngest child to the curb. She/I used to laugh about it. While Dad's ticket stub from Don Larsen's Perfect Game in the '56 Series and Matt Albano's Wardlaw soccer player (with the two left feet) have survived, the "Purge by Burge" epistle has not. No matter. For while he gave it to her, neither he nor W-H ever acted upon it.

No action was taken against me because Evan Peterson did not permit it to be. He went to bat for me. Simply put, he saved my ass. Three summers after my execution was stayed, I sat in the All-Purpose Room on a warm June evening and listened to the man who occupied the office that Mr. Peterson should have call out my name as the winner of the Senior Student Council Award, which was given to "the Best All-Around Senior". The last set of eyes on the stage with whom my own made contact belonged to Evan Peterson. A mere second or two after we made contact, I watched him mouth the words, "Shake his damn hand", a statement I took as both (a) one final order I was required to follow; and (b) one more example of him demonstrating an uncanny ability to read my thoughts. For as I climbed the steps to the stage that night to retrieve that particular piece of silliness from a man who had memorialized in writing all of the reasons why he considered me to be a vile piece of shit, the thought of leaving him hanging on the congratulatory handshake was in the forefront of my mind. I did not.

In sports, announcers too often are seduced by the allure of the "pre-determined outcome" ("If the runner had not been thrown out trying to steal 2nd base, then he would have scored on the double that was hit on the very next pitch")as if changing one event in any timeline does not impact necessarily and inevitably on all of the events that follow it. As a rule, I try not to ever get seduced by it. I know not what course the stream of my life would have followed had Evan Peterson not taken it upon himself to set foot into that stream and redirect its flow. I am happy that I never had to find out.

It is funny - the things you remember. The things that sometimes lie dormant in your mind and you think you have forgotten them. Until something happens that brings them back to the forefront of your mind. Perhaps it is a big thing - a life-changing event....

....or perhaps it is an everyday, no big deal thing such as rush hour traffic on a Monday night. A thing that reminds you of something and someone about whom you may not have thought much recently but who you have never forgotten.

-AK

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fields of Gold

Many years have passed since those summer days
Among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down
Among the fields of gold


Apropos of nothing, before you read any further (or instead of reading any further), read this. I care not whether you are a Yankees fan, a Red Sox fan or even a Marlins fan, if you are a dad and/or a son and baseball has ever been a tie that binds you to your father or to your son, then this piece is kind of, sort of written in your voice. Simply beautiful stuff.

No matter how old we are, no matter whether we have ourselves become a parent, we never cease being our parents' child. I am in my mid-40's, married, a father of two young adults and fairly well established in what it is I do to earn my daily bread. Yet, I am forever my mother's son. And more than that sometimes, I am forever my mother's little boy.

A little boy whose ability to bring about any substantial change is almost non-existent. A child rendered impotent by the situation then and there facing him. It has been that sort of week in the lives of us Kenny children. By all accounts it shall continue to improve. Slowly. But it shall.

I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I've broken
But I swear in the days still left
We'll walk in fields of gold
We'll walk in fields of gold


-AK

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Stone's Throw

If only today was this day next year, then we could celebrate "Polish Countdown Day". Sorry, if I do not from time to time throw a harmless, juvenile barb in the direction of my pal Jolanta (with whom years ago I shared the secret with as to why all Polish names end in "-ski") she thinks I have forgotten about her. Or maybe she hopes I have. I have never been able to keep those two straight.

It is a real boon that the New York metropolitan area calls two NFL teams, is it not? But for the display put on first by the boys of Mara Tech getting their asses kicked all around the faux turf at Snoopy Seat License Stadium by Pete Carroll's USC Trojans (sorry, Seattle Seahawks although a number of Carroll's SC teams were better than his '12 Seahawks are), which was followed up by Wrecks Ryan's J-E-T-S doing their impersonation of a Gang Green group from the Kotite Era during which their play emitted a stench fairly described as gangrenous those of us who root for the Yankees would still be transfixed on how the baseball season ended in these parts. Talk about a Bloody Sunday.

Given that neither New York baseball team is still playing, comments that struck me as odd when I first read them over the weekend might have escaped your attention. Here in '11, the two teams in the National League who appear to loathe each other the most are the two who, quite deliciously, are left to beat each other's brains in for the NL pennant. The St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers are not simply rivals. They are enemies. One would think that being located in the two American cities that have done more to foist lousy, watered-down beer on the beer-drinking public through the use of media campaigns designed to mask just how much the product being sold sucks would bond them. Suds Brothers or some such thing. Nope.

It is against the backdrop of enmity that the young, talented Zack Greinke (who just completed his first year in Milwaukee and in the NL for that matter after coming over from Kansas City in a trade following the '10 season and who was the winning pitcher in Game 1 for the Brewers) shared with the assembled media his thoughts regarding Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter. Carpenter is the guy who outdueled Doc Halladay of the Phillies 1 to 0 - in Philadelphia - in the deciding game of the NLDS on Friday night. Greinke is clearly not a fan. He informed the media on Saturday that not only do many members of the Brewers not like Carpenter, but that he considers Carpenter to be a phony. According to Greinke, "They think his presence, his attitude out there sometimes is like a phony attitude. And then he yells at people. He just stares people down and stuff. And most pitchers just don't do that. And when guys do, I guess some hitters get mad. Some hitters do it to pitchers. But when you do that some people will get mad."

I suppose that the thing struck me the most regarding Greinke's comments about - and his slam of -Carpenter's attitude and his mentality is that Greinke himself is a player whose career was almost derailed early on by Social Anxiety Disorder and Depression. His battle back from his own issues is laudable. He was but a baby when he confronted his problems publicly and did so in a manner that could have cost him his career in the big leagues. He not only made his way back to the Bigs but in 2009 - as a member of the Royals - he won the Cy Young Award as the American League's best pitcher.

Perhaps it is just me - an overreaction on my part as someone who knows neither Chris Carpenter nor Zack Grienke - but it struck me as inappropriate as one whose shoes have logged the miles that Grienke's have to use a term as derogatory as "phony" when speaking of a competitor's mental composition. The cynic in me wonders (softly and to myself) whether Social Anxiety Disorder (note the acronym please) is right up there with Restless Leg Syndrome and every other nouveau ailment or condition designed to put a face on every person's day-to-day lamentations and complaints. It seems to fit the general description of those things that when I hear about them for the first time make me want to say, "Snarf" aloud. Just saying.

I am not the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer. I cannot be the only person who wonders such things. Anyway, perhaps I am just making too much of something said by a young athlete whose candor is apparently revered by those who make their living writing about him and his teammates on a day in/day out basis.

If the Brewers win the World Series, then maybe Greinke's home will be included in the tour of famous Milwaukee attractions. It is easy to spot from the tour bus - even without a sign in the front yard. It is the one made out of glass. Be careful not to throw a stone anywhere near it.

-AK

Monday, October 10, 2011

Survival Sunday

A bit less than six months ago, I ran in the New Jersey Marathon. It was not a fun day. Albeit it was one for which I had rather vigorously prepared. I embarked on a training program sixteen weeks before race day and between day one of the training program and race day I logged a lot of miles. Those miles included a number of long training runs as long as twenty miles.

Yesterday I ran in the LBI Run. A jaunt from the southern tip of LBI, which is Holgate, to the northern tip, which is Barnegat State Park. A hell of a lot of ground in between. Eighteen miles to be exact. On an October Sunday on which the actual temperature was twenty-plus degrees north of normal, it was not an easy eighteen miles. In hindsight, having not run more than five miles one time since the Marathon was probably not the smartest way to prepare.

But slightly more than three hours and ten minutes after I started (Gidg made it home approximately twenty five minutes later), the journey was complete. While I know not whether it is something I will sign up to do again, it was quite a cool experience. And having survived it, I will have to think long and hard about doing it again.

-AK

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bury Me Not on LBI....

Under the heading of "But it seemed like a good idea at the time" at or about 10:30 this morning, Gidg and I will join several hundred other runners at the southern tip of Long Beach Island for a run that finishes at the Barnegat Light House....which is located at the northern end of Long Beach Island.

In between its southernmost point and its northernmost point, lies eighteen miles worth of points. Yep, eighteen miles. I am constrained to point out at this juncture that when I signed up for this event I presumed that the temperature on October's second Sunday would be seasonal. The good news is it shall be. The bad news is that the season it shall emulate is summer. Today's projected high temperature in LBI? An autumnal 82 degrees. While I sought law school as a refuge from mathematics, even I possess the skills needed to do this equation: 18 miles @ 82 degrees = PAIN.

I have lived in Jersey my whole life and have spent my fair share of time at the Shore. That being said, today is to my memory only the second or third time in my life that I will have set foot on LBI. About four years ago, I had to make an appearance in the Ship Bottom Municipal Court for a client and (as it turned out) two of his friends (for reasons of confidentiality we shall refer to them simply as "Joe's Surf Posse").

Other than that morning on the Island, the only other time I recall spending at LBI was the week prior to my heading off to my freshman year at CU. A group of four or five of us rented a house there for a week in late August 1985. From that point forward to this very day I have always remembered that experience less than fondly. At some point this afternoon, it will likely assume status as the best time I have ever had while on LBI.

Today's event - while hard almost to the point of suicidal given the complete lack of "long run" training I have done for it - is one with a long and beautiful history. Its history is proof positive of the power that some people possess to make something wonderful out of something horrible:

In 1972, Bill Fitzpatrick, a Long Beach Island resident and Rutgers University track man, wanted to organize a race from one end of Long Beach Island to the other, just for fun.

That same year, 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by terrorists at the Munich Olympics. It was then, organizers decided to make it a commemorative race, dedicating it to the memory of the slain athletes. A mile-marker, in honor of each Israeli athlete, is posted approximately every two miles along the race route, which runs from Holgate to Barnegat Light.

In remembrance of the events that occurred in the U.S. on September 11, 2001, the race is also dedicated to those who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attack on our country. There are three mile-markers bearing the names of L.B.I. residents who lost their lives that day. Both events will continue to be commemorated annually.

Each year, the winner is honored by having his or her name inscribed on the trophy which is donated by the Long Beach Island Jewish Community Center.


While enduring pain is not among my favorite things to do, given the history of this event and its stated purpose, no matter how today goes I shall endeavor to get through it with minimal whining....and crying. Presuming that I live to tell the tale, I shall - if not tomorrow then within the next couple of days. If I do not, then Margaret will simply ask the people who organize this event to weight me down and toss me into the ocean.

See you soon?

-AK

Saturday, October 8, 2011

More Crying Than Rallying

I was not 100% sure when I woke up yesterday morning that the sun would indeed rise in the East. My inherent cynicism coupled with the fact that the bell that tolls for me does so at 3:00 a.m. (a/k/a "pre-dawn") has taught me to take a bit of a wait and see approach as it comes to the sun's expected appearance. Sure enough, a couple of hours after I arrived at my office there it was. Given that the view out of my window does not include any (even when I set the lens in my mind's eye to panoramic) I can neither confirm nor deny that the sun did indeed appear to rise in a manner akin to a red ball over refinery towers. Given the manner in which the Yankees 2011 season came to a rather abrupt end on Thursday night in the Bronx, it was nice to see the sun. I thought that reports of the world's demise in response to the loss had been overstated. Happy to have received confirmation.

As a Yankees fan, I root for them to win every year. As a human being of reasonable intelligence who never as a child developed a taste for Kool-Aid, I do not believe that they shall end each season as the World Series winner. Given that they spent this entire season with two guys in their five-man rotation whose careers before they became Yankees in 2011 were so long that the back of each's baseball card is in fact double-sided - two guys they signed for nominal amounts of money prior to spring training and intended to have on hand "in case of emergency", I did not expect this season to end in a ticker-tape parade up the Canyon of Heroes. Bartolo Colon and Freddie Garcia both did an admirable job of using their minds to trick their bodies into believing it was 1999. That being said, the fact that an entire season went by and the Yankees found no better alternative for either in their rotation spoke volumes about their shortcomings.

While I wished for his final post-season in pinstripes to have lasted longer than it did - and with one more ride up the Canyon - Jorge Posada's likely last games in a Yankees uniform were a microcosm of his career. A number of his younger, more talented and more highly publicized teammates spent the past week choking the sawdust out of their bats as a residual effect of trying too hard. Their results were dreadful. Not Posada. He played in all five games. In Gave Five, he went 2 for 4. For the series he batted .429 (6 for 14). When three years from now, Q drops the question on you, "Which Yankees player led them in batting average in 2011 when they were eliminated in the ALDS by the Tigers?" (and he will - being a Sox fan - I assure you) you will answer with confidence, "Hip! Hip! Jorge!"

And in two separate moments that he will likely cherish for the rest of his days, he assumed what was once the spot on the diamond he owned unquestionably and squatted behind home plate to catch a ceremonial first pitch - first from Andy Pettitte and thereafter from Mariano Rivera. Three men linked inexorably by what they did together on the baseball field and what those efforts meant to those of us who watched them do it. Three-quarters of "The Core Four". It is reasonable to believe that when camp starts in the Spring of '12, Rivera and Derek Jeter will be the last two members of the Core still standing.

I have been watching Posada play - and rooting hard for him - since each of us was a much younger man than we are now. In 1995, when he and Jeter sat on the bench with the Yankees during their ALDS loss to Seattle, Posada had far less salt in his salt-and-pepper hair than he did pepper. Now, the spices have been reapportioned significantly. I know the struggle. He is at least smart enough to not wear a beard, which confines all of his "salt" to his head and keeps it off of his face. Me? Not so much.

Standing in front of his locker after the season ended Thursday night, Posada answered questions - including a number about his future - for as long as he could. Apparently after a few minutes he broke down, unable to continue, and politely excused himself from futher conversation.

In sports from time immemorial, fans and players alike of a team that falls short of achieiving a championship have rallied behind, "Wait 'Til Next Year!" For a fan, next year is always just a year away. You draw the next one from the bottomless reservoir of them that each of us - as fans - keeps within easy reach. Players do not have access to that reservoir. For each of them, a moment arrives for which "Wait 'Til Next Year!" no longer applies to them.

Sport is unscripted drama. In a team sport, an athlete may or may not be able to control what his team does. But as an individual he retains control over what he does. In what was likely the final week of what has been a glorious career as a New York Yankee, Jorge Posada did exactly that. And at day's end - at year's end - nothing else really matters after all.

-AK

Friday, October 7, 2011

Keeper of Good Thoughts

Short and - depending upon your definition of the word - perhaps sweet as well. I spend (OK - waste) a lot of time and space here railing on about all things trivial. Not today.

I am not a religious man. In fact, while I respect the intellect of those who believe in God - and in fact count among those I love most dearly a number of folks who do so - I am at best an agnostic. Too much bad shit in the world for me to buy the whole "higher power" jazz. But to each his own.

Being an agnostic, I do not grasp the whole "power of prayer" thing either. I do not pray. Thus, I do not ask another to do so. But today, rather than being the self-absorbed douche I am most days, my thoughts are a few hundred miles south. Perhaps a parent's declining health is an inevitable part of the aging process. I know not because Dad did not live to be old. Perhaps it is simply what happens to everyone as we age and it is, therefore, nothing much to worry about. Perhaps.

But when it is your Mom, you worry. Today, I worry. I worry because Mom is not chilling out at home - maxing and relaxing on the beach reading a book. Nope. She is spending a bit of time at a local hospital. It is not the comprehensive meal plan or the chance to watch TV from an almost upright position while in bed that brought her in. Wishful thinking.

It is her heart.

At some point in the next couple of days a surgeon will perform a procedure that he has performed flawlessly too many times to count, which procedure will greatly improve my mother's day-to-day. A procedure that - if it was about to be performed on someone else's mother - would perhaps be viewed as "routine". There is an old saying that routine surgery is surgery performed on someone other than you. There is a corollary to that old saying. Routine surgery is surgery performed on someone other than Mom.

It is what it is and being what it is, at some point in the next couple of three days, Mom and her surgeon shall spend some quality time together. I am biased of course - because Mom is Mom - but it strikes me as inherently unfair that a woman whose heart is as big as Mom's would be a heart prone to problems and one that requires a tune-up. If Life was fair, then she would not be spending the next several days where she is. Then again, if Life was fair, by this point in his my brother Bill would have at least one photo depicting him riding a pony while wearing a birthday hat.

From my vantage point here in the State of Concrete Gardens, I shall keep a good thought for Mom and her next Excellent Adventure, Medical Edition. It would be much obliged if you would do the same. Not for me. For her....

....she has most assuredly earned it.

-AK

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Bronx's Best Apostle....

Or so hope the Yankees and their fans, including the one whose face stares back at me in the bathroom mirror in the wee small hours each and every morning. One game removed from A.J. Burnett - for whom the expectations bar has been re-adjusted downward so far he is more likely to stub his toe than he is to strike his head upon it - having extended the ALDS to its fifth and deciding game, the Baby Bomber Ivan Nova will take the ball tonight with but one goal in mind: Just Win Baby. Nova wins and the Texas Rangers come to the Bronx on Saturday night to begin ALCS 2010 - The Sequel. Nova loses and the team of Girardi/Cashman enters the competition against the team of Francona/Epstein in Amazing Race: Chicago.

My favorite thing about baseball is that which makes it the most maddening. The team for which you root spends approximately six months completing a season that requires it - as a general rule - to play 162 games. Its goal is to finish either in first place in its division or to be the second place divisional finisher in its league with the best record of the second place teams so that can earn one of its league's four playoff spots. After a respite of a day - or perhaps two - it begins its journey into and hopefully through the post-season.

A journey that for half of the playof participants will end in not more than five games and could end in as few as three. One week ago yesterday (Wednesday September 28) the Tampa Bay Rays battled their way back from 7-0 deficit in their final regular season game to win the AL Wild-Card, having finally passed the Boston Red Sox - a team that had been 9.5 games ahead of the Rays in the standings at the beginning of September. Yesterday (Wednesday October 5) was "wrap up day" for the Rays, whose post-season journey lasted only four games. All that work, all that struggle and in an eye blink - "POOF". Yeah and it's over before you know it - It all goes by so fast - Yeah, the bad nights last forever - And the good nights don't ever seem to last.

It is no mystery which of the two (forever or fleeting) the home fans in the big ballpark in the Bronx are rooting for this evening. Whether this particular Bronx Tale has a happy ending remains to be seen - for its ending is as of yet unwritten.

Irrespective of the zip code in which it occurs, the journey for one team shall end as it always does, with someone (whether from the Bronx or elsewhere) standing with his hands on a particular piece of hardware. Certainly not lost in the flood....

....not lost at all.

-AK