Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Caps and Big Finishes

Happy 11/12th Day! What? You did not realize that today was yet another in the seemingly eternal parade of made up, pseudo holidays? In fact is is not although it could be. If you wander through a Hallmark store next autumn and happen to see cards celebrating "HAPPY 11/12TH DAY 2012!" on a shelf, throw a shout-out my direction. And send me an e-mail to let me know the name of the store and its location. I shall be suing those bastards for stealing my idea.

The absence of a formal, designated holiday to honor November's end notwithstanding it is nevertheless a bit frightening to me that mere moments after I finally remembered to write 2011 and not 2010 on correspondence and such, 2011 has rounded the clubhouse turn and is churning down the homestretch. In an eye blink 2012 will be upon us. And lucky us - we the people of these United States - for 2012 will bring with it the pure unadulterated joy that is a Presidential election. I thought that dreadful John Cusack flick of a couple of years ago was a work of fiction. Turns out it was actually a documentary.

A lot has happened in my little corner of the world this year. 2011 has been unique in certain respects. It has of course also shared certain characteristics with its brothers in arms that went before it. It is comprised of the same core ingredient after all: time. An ingredient although equally distributed across the year's component parts - its days - that always seems to grow scarcer as the year grows shorter.

Time. It is said that it waits for no one. It is also rumored to heal all wounds. I believe fervently in the former but not so much in the latter. If you do not believe me about its elixir-like abilities, then ask Joe Kapp.

Just be sure to ask him nicely.

-AK

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Just Another American Saturday Night...

As I suspected it would, the Republic survived Suzanne's move from our State of Concrete Gardens to the State of "Related By Blood Or By Marriage What Difference Does It Make Anyway?". More importantly, Suz and Ryan made the journey safe and sound. They left civilization early Sunday morning and arrived in Houston in the late afternoon/early evening on Monday.

It was profound how quiet our home seemed to me to be as I padded around it on Sunday evening. The quiet was more theoretical than practical I suppose. Suz is but one person after all and it is not as if she spent her evenings practicing on her drum kit or with her tuba or some such thing. My perception of the depth of the quiet grew out of the practical recognition that but for the Missus and me our house is now an empty house. It likely was not as quiet as it seemed to be. Perception became reality I reckon. It happens.

In an odd way the best part of the extended holiday weekend for me was Saturday night. Not that I have been in any hurry to kick either of my kids to the curb (in spite of any representations I ever made to the contrary vis-a-vis Suz or Rob) but that fact did not prevent me from really enjoying Suz's send-off. She spent the evening surrounded by her cousins and a coterie of close friends from as far back in her own life experience as grammar school (it was as it always is a pleasure to see Gabe Hurley and Dan Byrnes within the four walls of our home) to as recent in time as college and graduate school. Even those who did not really know one another appeared at ease in one another's company - given the spirit of the evening. There were tears spilled - to be sure - including those of the evening's honoree and my other #1 girl. But laughter was the night's most prevalent sound. Although judging by our recycling bins in the garage, the opening of beer bottles was the night's SECOND most prevalent sound.


Laughter is a sound that never gets old. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand. That Mr. Twain was a pretty smart fellow. At least in my experience.

On her way from Point A to Point B, the Missus and I did what we could do to help prepare Suz for her journey. And as it turned out the final order or business (well, the second-to-last as it turned out given the last-minute items we stuffed into the car's nooks and crannies on Sunday morning) was giving her a send-off that let her know just how we feel about her in the off chance that we had not stated our case with certainty all these years. And how her friends and family feel as well. I know not whether I shall live long enough to trip across the dawning of a pitch-perfect day. If I come no closer than I did Saturday, I shall die a contented man.

Not to mention I have another photo to add to the top shelf of the bookcase in my office. My girls. Same as they ever were. Same as they shall forever be...


You know everywhere has somethin' they're known for
Although usually it washes up on our shores
My great-great-great-granddaddy stepped off of that ship
I bet he never ever dreamed we'd have all this

You know everywhere has somethin' they're known for
Although usually it washes up on our shores
Little Italy and Chinatown sittin' there side by side
Live from New York
(It's Saturday Night!)


Monday, November 28, 2011

The Running of the Turkeys

I spent the early part of Thanksgiving in Green Brook, running in an inaugural 5K Turkey Trot. We had an unseasonably warm Thanksgiving weekend in the State of Concrete Gardens. That unseasonable weather did not roll in until the middle part of the day on Thursday. When the gun sounded to start the race Thursday morning at a touch or two past 8:00 a.m. it was not visions of sugar plums that were dancing in the air in front of me. It was my own breath.

As is the case with any "first-ever" event there were wrinkles that one hopes the folks who put on this Trot iron out by Turkey Day 2012. Wrinkles notwithstanding, it was a very nice event. And given that I spent more time running (a touch more than 25 minutes) than I did getting back and forth to the event, if there is a 2nd annual edition - and we are still living 'NTSG this time next year then I shall look forward to taking part in it. If you live in the Green Brook area and you are a runner who shall be home for Thanksgiving next year, then check this event out. A worthwhile way to spend a small slice of one's Thanksgiving Day. Eased the guilt associated with that slice of pumpkin pie as well.

Margaret and I ate Thanksgiving dinner with Joe at his house. The three of us watched the Packers-Lions game on FOX. The best part of the game? Certainly not the absurd cheap shot that Lions star defender Suh took that resulted in his ejection from the game. It was Pam Oliver's piece on the pre-game show on Packers receiver James Jones. I had no idea who he was before watching the piece. I think I shall root for him for the remainder of his career after seeing it. A remarkable story. And one that was well told.

-AK

Sunday, November 27, 2011

From The Driveway

If the decision was mine to make
and Time was mine to tether,
I'd take a picture of this moment now
and freeze this frame forever....



The decision is not mine to make. Nor is time mine to tether. Three years has not changed that at all. Confronted by the infirmities associated with my own inherent limitations, I shall do today nothing other than stand beside the Missus today and through tear-stained eyes (be they the result of joy, sadness or a combination platter their appearance is assured) stand on the driveway and wave goodbye to Suz.

Her next great adventure begins today. And as is the case with most "Next Great Adventures", it shall unfold in a locale different from the one that she has called home for the entirety of her life to date. My head tells me that it is a great thing. My heart needs a bit of convincing. Eventually it shall come around. Selflessness shall trump selfishness and parental pride shall overcome parental sadness. That day shall come. And its arrival shall be soon. But that day is not today.

Today the Missus and I become that which we have never been in two decades together: empty nesters. This day is not easy for me but it is worse for my wife, who perpetually envisions a world in which our adult children and their families shall reside within a hug's reach of us. Given the far-flung nature of the Kennys, it is a vision that is a tad difficult for me to wrap my head around. For Margaret, who has lived within walking distance of her parents and her only sibling for practically her whole life, it is not.

Suz heads out today to blaze a new trail. I know - as she does - that having learned at the knee of her mother all these years, she heads out well-prepared for what lies ahead. The two greatest testaments to the incredible character and strength of my wife are Suzanne and Rob. Suzanne shall succeed in Texas and anywhere else that life's journey may take her because she has been well-taught.


More than that though. She has opened up her heart and her mind to learning the lessons that Margaret has taught to her. Lessons Margaret learned from Suzy B. who in turn learned them from Nan. Nan lived so well and for so long that I suspect she was in fact the original teacher - and the original author of the Book of Life.


(I have this picture framed on a shelf in my office, as I have had since I took it standing in "the Pit" at Springsteen's 10/03/09 concert at Giants Stadium, the first Springsteen concert Suz had ever attended with Margaret and me. I suspect that both my wife and my daughter shall groan upon seeing its presence here. This is among my favorite photographs. In it, they are as they have always been: side by side, shoulder to shoulder and united in their purpose. A damned formidable duo....even before Suz developed the ability to deadlift two or three Backstreet Boys at once.)

As she heads off today, I know that Suz shall do well in Texas for she has never failed to do well in anything she has attempted. I wish that I could say that her success is owed in substantial part to my good efforts. I cannot. Two decades into it, I suspect highly that I have never quite gotten the complete gist of this whole Dad gig. I kept presuming that at some point I would figure it out. Tonight the only bedroom occupied in our home will be ours. I reckon the time for figuring it out has pretty much been used up completely.

I am no genius. Yet, I was smart enough however to know that which I did not know, which led to me standing off to the side a lot so as to not screw up whatever it was Suz was in the process of achieving while she was achieving it. I am happy that in spite of my limitations, I never turned into an obstacle she could not overcome. Truth be told, the obstacle that Suzanne cannot overcome has not been invented yet and it is not likely to appear on the horizon any time soon.

Tomorrow morning Suzanne shall awaken somewhere very far from here. Yet, even with New Jersey squarely in her rear-view mirror, the road she will travel on will be the one that carries her home. And that will never change. No matter where she goes. There shall always be a road that leads her home....

....and Margaret and I shall be here to welcome her. Always.

Suz, Mom and I shall miss you more than we can adequately express. Your absence from our day-to-day shall be painful. The love we have for you and the pride we feel in you for all that you have done and all that you shall do shall ease it. We shall be better than fine. So shall you.

Always.

-AK

Saturday, November 26, 2011

One More Sleep

It hit me yesterday afternoon. The fact that Suzanne is moving to Texas tomorrow. Up until yesterday afternoon it was something of a conversation item. Something to talk about. It existed only in the deepest corners of my mind. Not in the forefront of it.

All of that changed yesterday afternoon. I spent about thirty minutes - ably assisted by the Missus - packing Suz's car. About halfway through the process it occurred to me that what I was doing was not simply packing her car. I was making her life transportable. All of it - but for Ryan and her - is now neatly stored within the cozy confines of her trusty little Dodge Neon, at rest in our garage. It awaits the commencement of the great migration southwest. It is now only twenty-four hours away.

Our kids grew up in a household where their mother taught them to measure things in terms of "sleeps". Suz has lived a lifetime's worth of sleeps under our roof - including the past eleven-plus years' worth in her room at the top of the stairs. Tonight shall be her final sleep at least for the foreseeable future. Quite possibly forever.

In my head, I have been prepared for this day for years. Now that it has arrived on my doorstep I realize that I am woefully unprepared for it. But I also realize that whether I am matters not at all. All that matters is that the formerly little girl who grew to adulthood under her mother's watchful eye is ready. And she is.

One more sleep.

-AK

Friday, November 25, 2011

Yogi Berra Super Genius

Lawrence Peter Berra is arguably the greatest to play his position in the 100+ year history of Major League Baseball and he is one of the all-time best clutch hitters the game has ever known. He is undeniably an American treasure. And in case you started the Dance of the Giblets a bit early during this abbreviated holiday week or are simply having difficulty arising from your Tryptophan-heightened daze on this morning after Turkey Day, you might have missed a couple of things that happened right before Thanksgiving that reinforced his status as a Super Genius.

Wednesday was a tough day to be a prosecutor anywhere within the jurisdictional boundaries of Newark, New Jersey. Whether your beat was the Federal Courthouse or the Superior Court of New Jersey, it mattered not. First, in the Federal Courthouse the United States Attorney's Office - having spent five and one-half weeks trying one of its own former brethren for murder - ended up with no better than a draw. A jury of twelve deliberated for more than five days in the murder trial of Paul Bergrin. Bergrin is a well-known criminal defense lawyer (and former Asst. United States Attorney) who was on trial for murder and for conspiracy to commit the murder of a witness. He eschewed the maxim that, "An attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client" and acted as his own counsel.

On Wednesday, after five-plus days of considering the evidence presented, the jury informed the judge that it was hopelessly deadlocked, which prompted him to declare a mistrial. Bergrin's faith in himself was rewarded. Bergrin is not out of the woods yet in terms of either these two charges or the other charges still pending against him. However, after Round One, he appears to be ahead on points on all scorecards. It shall be interesting to see how the government chooses to proceed. I reckon that we shall know the answer to that question sooner rather than later.

On a typical Wednesday, the mistrial in Bergrin's murder trial might have been the most scintillating legal story of the day. Not on this Wednesday. For on the Wednesday that just sped past us as we were stuffing turkeys and saucing cranberries, something even more atypical occurred in the Superior Court. In 1978, five teenage boys disappeared from the streets of Newark. They had last been seen together, shooting hoops or some such thing. For three decades, no trace of them was ever discovered. They were simply gone.

Dedicated detectives never gave up the investigation altogether. In 2008 a man named Philander Hampton confessed to having had a role in the quintet's disappearance and - as he told the story - murder. He not only implicated himself in the crime but he laid the lion's share of the responsibility at the feet of his cousin Lee Evans. In March 2010, Evans and Hampton were formally charged with five counts of murder five counts of murder and five counts of felony murder in the deaths of Michael McDowell, Randy Johnson and Alvin Turner, all 16, and Melvin Pittman and Ernest Taylor, both 17.

Hampton entered a plea of guilty to felony murder in exchange for a reduced sentence and testified against Evans at trial. In relying upon Hampton, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office did something that it would have preferred not to have had to do: it went "all in" with him. No DNA evidence surfaced to link Evans to the crimes. Prosecutors had no fingerprint evidence either.

Evans proclaimed his innocence from the time of his arrest. At trial, he took a page out of the Paul Bergrin playbook and represented himself. Unlike Bergrin, Evans is not a well-regarded, experienced criminal defense lawyer. He is a mason.

Wednesday, after having spent more than a dozen hours over four days deliberating the evidence that had been presented at trial, the jury acquitted Lee Evans on all charges. He was found "not guilty" on all ten counts. According to the Star-Ledger:

Although Evans displayed no emotion in court as the verdict was read, he requested that the judge tell him, “You’re dismissed.” And she did. On the short elevator ride down from the courtroom to the courthouse lobby, Evans hung his head in his hands and cried..


What actually happened to the five young boys who went out one evening in the summer of 1978 and never came home to their families I do not pretend to know. I do know that a jury of twelve seated in a courtroom in Newark, New Jersey determined that the State was not able to meet its considerable burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Lee Evans had killed them.

One of the best lawyers I know is a former classmate of mine from Seton Hall Law. Ed McElroy is a sharp, quick-witted dude not to mention a damn fine trial attorney and an even better human being. On Wednesday afternoon, he and I exchanged e-mails about all the goings-on in Newark. I mentioned the fact that Evans, a mason, had represented himself at trial. Ed, never one to miss a beat, replied that Evans had himself disproven the not-quite-as-well-known axiom of, "A mason who represents himself has a tool for a client." Quite true.

For the State, the investigation into the disappearance and presumed murder of those five young souls is now over. For Lee Evans, it is over too. Tragically, more than thirty years after the fact it appears to be further from over than it has ever been before for the families of the five youngsters.

Some heavy sh*t hit the fan right before the holiday. But not all that was heavy was bad as well. Some of it was just heavy even if it was a feat performed by a woman who is anything but. Tip for anyone struggling with what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers: Call Sonya Thomas.

In case you were wondering, Yogi was right of course....

....for today anyway.

-AK

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happiness in a Big Brown Shoe

Whether I deserved it or not (if you are wagering, put your money on the latter), slightly more than twenty years Life landed me at Margaret's doorstep. But for her, I would have nothing. I do an unsatisfactory job of conveying it to them more often than not, but I am beyond thankful every day for her and for Suz and for Rob. With them, I have all I need and more than I could have ever hoped to have. Without them, I would have nothing.

I know not where you awakened this morning. I know not where those who you love the most of all awakened. Whether it was in the same place or in different ones, do not let today fade into tomorrow without telling them that you love them and that you are thankful for their presence in your life. You will be happy you did. So will they.

I hope that Thanksgiving brings you more than just happiness. I hope it brings you peace. Happiness is good. Peace is better.

Happy Thanksgiving.

To you too Jimmy Walker....still Dy-No-Mite after all these years.

-AK

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Paint It Black

If I recall my history correctly, then today is the busiest day of the entire year on which to travel. A lot of folks are on their way over the river and through the woods apparently. If you are among them - or if someone you love is, then I hope that you/they make it from Point A to Point B in as uneventful and boring a fashion as possible.

Admittely, my information could be wrong. Most of my Thanksgiving Eve-related travel - actually all of it I think - occurred while I was matriculating my way towards my degree at CU, which matriculation took place (as Don McLean once sang), "A long, long time ago."

I note now, looking at my CU Alumni Association Calendar on my office wall that CU students have been off all week for Fall break. No such animal existed on the Boulder campus whilst I was there - unless it did and I was in too much of drunken stupor to realize it. I cannot pretend to know (a) how many years it has been in existence; and/or (b) whether the school's implementation of it had anything to do with shutting down the tension convention associated with Thanksgiving travel.

Perhaps the University higher-ups simply wanted their students to be home -wherever that may be - so that they could spend their Thanksgiving night on the road to their favorite retail outlet to kick off their Christmas shopping? As we are being reminded of this year, 'tis never too early to hit the mall. Or the big box store.

Americans fascinate me. We are after all the same bunch of ornery, whiny little bags who shall complain until the cows come home over the length of lines at security checkpoints at airports or public arenas. Yet we shall spend the night in sleeping bags and pup tents for the opportunity to be the first one across the threshold of a Wal-Mart, Best Buy or Costco to purchase all of the "must have" items on our Christmas shopping lists. Require me to spend a half-hour in line in order to better protect me from someone with bad intentions? F*** You Roy - and Trigger too. Permit me to spend twelve hours in line, outside, overnight and in the cold for first crack at Betsy Wetsy or some such other bullsh*t? G*d Bless America!

Should retailers be commended or condemned this year for formally giving in to the inevitable and opening as early at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving night ("I'll take my mince pie to go Grandma, the Apple Store opens in fifteen minutes") in anticipation of the Black Friday insanity? Margaret and I were watching TV on Monday night and a spot came on for Wal-Mart, which is opening its stores (at least in the New York area) at 10:00 P.M. on Thanksgiving night to get a jump on Black Friday, in which Wal-Mart sold the concept as one designed to enable you the shopper to beat the crowds without having to first spend the night outside waiting for the store to open.

We the people of the United States grow fatter and unhealthier by the year. We can not pry our ever-expanding asses (this poor woman is exempted from this particular list this year) from the couch to go to the gym, for walks or to change the channel on our televisions. Yet dangle the promise of being the first moron on our block to have the hottest sh*t this Christmas (sorry, I am not "PC" so "Holiday" just does not exist in my vernacular), and we break into a national salute to Jesse Owens.

One might think that either we the retailing public or they the retailers would be ashamed of the heights - or are they the depths - to which our crassness has reached this year. No chance. That train jumped the tracks a long time ago. Thankfully, at least some got off before it did.

Here in the New York metropolitan area there are almost as many electronics retailers as there are nail salons and Chinese take-out joints. A lot of them are here today, gone tomorrow. One of them, which is still owned by the same family that started it, has been in business for more than a century. When asked about the bum's rush to the start of the shopping season - including moving up the starting time for Black Friday to Thanksgiving itself P.C. Richard & Son President Gregg Richard said, "A lot of people are opening at midnight now and we may do that one day. But we will still choose to not be open on Thanksgiving. It's disrespectful to family values."

Considering that his family's business has been in business for more than 100 years, his point of view might be more than simply refreshing. It might be right.

Just saying.

I wanna see it painted black, painted black
Black as night, black as coal
I wanna see the sun, blotted out from the sky
I wanna see it painted, painted, painted, painted black


-AK

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Day Worth Shooting Down....

The most advantageous thing about being a moron is that the bar is lowered just about to shin level regarding things that delight, shock and amaze me. It is as if the remote control I hold in my hand is programmed to channel surf nothing but good stuff (speaking of which, I hope everyone else is as excited as I am by the promise of Friday night's show on Nat Geo WILD: Shark Attack Experiment LIVE).

I spent a bit of my Sunday out and about. Skate and I made our usual jaunt up the mountain to the A&P for the weekly grocery shopping. During that portion of Sunday, the sky was sunny and blue. It really was a quite gorgeous late November morning. At some point later on that afternoon - while I was apparently otherwise engaged - the weather turned. Slate gray replaced azure blue as the sky's Crayola of choice. Where only a few hours earlier not even a whiff of rain could be detected, its impending arrival was announced in broad brush strokes.

It was at or about this point that a reasonable man might have asked himself, "Self - while I was out running around this morning and it was so bright, sunny and warm that I had the window down in my car, did I ever remember to go back out onto the driveway and shut it?" Had said man asked said question, then a stupid man - and one whose resemblance to my mirror's reflection is uncanny - might not have needed scuba fins and a regulator to drive to work Monday morning.

A generation ago Geldof posed the question, "Tell me why I don't like Mondays?" to which almost everyone has an answer or two. Add "swamp ass" to the compilation under my photo. Thanks.

Actually, I am kidding about the swamp ass. Having walked out onto our driveway yesterday morning (in the still-teeming rain) and been confronted by an open space where my driver's side window would have been - had it been rolled up - I did a quick inspection of Skate to see just how bad things were inside the car. Much to my chagrin and in response to the query, "How much water did the car's cloth driver's seat absorb?", the answer proved to be, "All of it." Fortunately we have a large box full of what Costco sells as "Contractor-size garbage bags". Judging by the size of them, I presume that the name suggests a method of disposal for a plumber or handyman who really pisses you off while working at your home. Whether you can lift him off of the ground is your issue I suppose but there is clearly enough space within this garbage bag to place the body of an average-sized adult. No question about it.

Its jumbo size came in very handy on my morning commute seeing as driving to the surface of the sun for the purpose of flash-drying Skate's interior was not available to me as a remedy. I admit that I felt like a character from a Tarantino movie, driving while seated on a large plastic bag that completely covered the driver's seat - as if I was attempting to avoid leaving any trace evidence behind at a crime scene. Nothing quite like starting the work week by giving off the impression of being a human-flavored fruit roll-up.

Ignorance may be bliss but stupidity is ecstasy....

....while providing yet another reason not to like Mondays.

-AK

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lessons Taught and Learned

A portion of yesterday at our house was spent yesterday in a sacred exercise. This time next week Suzanne shall be Texas-bound. At some point after she arrives in Texas and sets up her home, no doubt a Sunday shall arrive when Suz continues the finest of family traditions: Sunday macaroni. During the course of the past several years - as she has flirted with the idea of moving from home to one location or another - she had discussed with Margaret on more than one occasion doing precisely what they did yesterday.

Yesterday was the day on which Margaret revealed to Suz the "secret of the sauce". I stayed out of the way while the "how to" session took place. I did get to hear the sounds of questions being asked, answers being given and laughter being shared.

Fortunately I was among the quartet who got to test the fruits of their labor. Suzanne proved to be a quick study. Given her track record for learning, not really much of a surprise there. None of us made mention of the fact that last night's dinner was not simply symbolic but also more than a tad bittersweet. Left unspoken was now that the lesson had been learned, Suz was ready to take it on the road with her to Texas.

I have only been to Texas one time in my life. I was not there long enough to know just how well-developed the Eye-Talian population is (and I was in Dallas which is a considerable distance from Houston) so in an effort to ensure that my young chef can replicate in the Lone Star State the kitchen magic she pulled off here in the State of Concrete Gardens, I did a bit of 21st Century detective work. Even if she is unable to locate Tuttorosso tomatoes anywhere in the greater Houston area, we can bring the "old country" to her. Man, do I love the Internet.

Although not as much as I love Sunday macaroni and sauce. I have a hunch that Texas is going to learn to love it as much as I do.....

....and the chef as well.

-AK

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saturday in 'Squan

This time next week Margaret and I shall spend the day saying goodbye to Suzanne. Yesterday, the three of us spent a simply fantastic day together in Manasquan. Suz and I ran in the Turkey Trot. It was held - as it has been for a number of years - on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Yesterday marked the third time I have participated in it.

Next Saturday will not be a banner day in our home for the Missus and me. While Margaret and I are happy for Suz and hope Texas is even better to her than she hopes it shall be, it would be untrue to say that we are looking forward to her move. This time next week, ours shall be an empty nest.

Yesterday Suz and I ran the five-mile route through the streets of Manasquan accompanied by 2,000 or so other runners. Afterwards, the three of us joined Gidg, Lynne and other members of the Family Kizis, Carolyn and Ryan and various and sundry other folks for a post-race celebration at Leggett's. On a simply beautiful, sunny, fifty-plus degree November day, we had a wonderful time. Manasquan is a great place to run. People lined the street for most of the course, including the folks who had the beer stop in their driveway shortly after we passed the 3 mile mark. It is always great when you are running in a race to see and hear people on the side of the course waving, clapping and cheering. It is energizing.

Not only was yesterday Suz's maiden voyage in the Turkey Trot, it marked her maiden voyage at the five-mile distance. She did a great job. And she did so at a less than eleven minute mile pace. Gidg ran her best time ever in this event. Gidg's niece, Liv, who is all of thirteen ran her personal best for five miles by close to five minutes. Even this old man did something that I had never done before in a five-mile race. I broke the 40 minute barrier.

Hell of a way to spend a Saturday.

-AK

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Keep the Change

Once upon a lifetime ago - at some point before the Federal Government got into the automobile business - there was a saying, "As GM Goes, So Goes the Nation." As Mr. Dylan once observed the times they are indeed a-changin'. The observation regarding GM appears to be one of historical perspective as opposed to present case analysis.

Not all is lost in America's Heartland, mind you. Not by a longshot. This Thursday, Detroit's Lions shall host the first of the NFL's Thanksgiving Day games as they have done for more years than I have been alive. In a nice change of pace, the Lions are still actually playing meaningful games as the NFL schedule reaches November's final full week. That does not happen very often. I am at a loss to recall when the last time - prior to this year - that it was such a year.

Thanksgiving Day in Detroit means football. This year's opponent is the defending Super Bowl Champion - and long-time rival - Green Bay Packers. Since the game is on Thanksgiving Day, it shall be nationally televised on FOX. National TV game on a holiday means also that the NFL and the TV people will do all that they can do to entice non-football fans to the set to watch the game. How do they do that? A number of ways I suppose. One of them is to arrange to have a popular recording artist (solo or group) provide the halftime entertainment.

This year's halftime act in Detroit? Nickelback. I consider myself to be a fan of many different types of music. Nickelback is not among them. I do not know any of the folks in the band and have little interest here in maligning them personally. Suffice it to say that to my ear, their success remains a mystery. No accounting for taste I suppose.

Apparently I am not the only one who shall not be spending $10.00 and a stamp to enroll in the Nickelback Fan Club. Courtesy of the earnest efforts of Dennis Guttman of Ann Arbor Michigan (he is, I believe, a student at the University of Michigan, where he is clearly learning how to effectively present an argument from a certain stalwart at the U of M law school. For anyone out there concerned that Mr. Guttman is a close-minded xenophobe, fear not. He has a far more substantive reason for not wanting Nickelback to perform on the most American of all holidays. He thinks they stink:

This game is nationally televised, do we really want the rest of the US to associate Detroit with Nickelback? Detroit is home to so many great musicians and they chose Nickelback?!?!?! Does anyone even like Nickelback? Is this some sort of ploy to get people to leave their seats during halftime to spend money on alcoholic beverages and concessions? This is completely unfair to those of us who purchased tickets to the game. At least the people watching at home can mute their TVs. The Lions ought to think about their fans before choosing such an awful band to play at halftime.

Following along with Mr. Guttman's reasoning, Rush or Neil Young would be acceptable halftime performers, their Maple Leaf heritage notwithstanding. Frankly, I like his argument. And presumably at least some of the more than 40,000 people who have signed his petition do as well. I would care not if halftime consisted of nothing other than a high school or college marching band. The pop/rock mini-concerts are always train wrecks (if you disagree Google "The Who" and "Super Bowl Half-Time Show"). Hell, if Janet Jackson had been wearing a pasty, no one would have any recollection at all of her otherwise completely unforgettable performance.

I do not know whether the efforts of Guttman and his fellow Lions fans will prove successful. I applaud the undertaking and thank them for it. For too long have we the viewers of televised sporting events sat idly by and let the powers that be cram any and all pre-packaged crap from the musical automat down our throats while we are just trying to watch a football game. If Guttman and his fellow signees are successful, then they will have given the rest of us yet one more reason to be thankful....

....and a Thanksgiving actually worth looking forward to.

-AK

Friday, November 18, 2011

From the Desk of the Devil's Workshop

First things first. Three years ago on this very day Margaret and I sat in a chapel in Georgia and watched Rob graduate from FLETC. It was as happy a day as I have ever spent in my life. Having just seen the boy child (as I - and no one else - like to refer to him) just last weekend, it is almost mind-boggling to me how much more grown up he seems now than he did even then. In my mind's eye I can see him on the phone in his dorm room after the ceremony - still dressed in his suit - talking to Nona and filling her in on the morning's events. Three years ago today.

I have no idea for how many seasons Dancing with the Stars has been on television for I have never watched an episode. I do know however that this season there is yet another member of the America's first family of ceaseless self-promotion participating in it. I saw on-line the other morning that Rob Kardashian (ostensibly the "star" in his pairing) and his partner are one of three teams still standing. I presume that the show started airing in September in accordance with the beginning of the new television season. Presuming that is true, then his relationship with his partner (dance) has lasted longer than his sister Kim's relationship with her partner (marital). That is a sad commentary to be certain. Whether it is a sad commentary on the Kardashians or on the rest of us I know not.

Last Friday when the Missus and I were temporarily home on the Front Range, one of the things that we were not able to do was drive up to the summit of Flagstaff Mountain, which is just outside of Boulder. When Margaret saw Colorado for the first time in the Fall of 2001 and again when we were there with Joe in July of 2009, I took my wife's picture standing next to the elevation sign at the summit. We like to think of it as Margaret's retort to all of those inane, "This Car Climbed Mt. Washington" bumper stickers that have polluted the landscape seemingly forever. Our efforts to complete the pictorial trifecta were rebuffed last week.

We presumed that the reason for the road closure was weather-related. Now, we think it might have been for something altogether different. Apparently a young fellow visiting from Missouri thought that climbing the First Flatiron while hallucinating on 'shrooms was a really clever thing to do. A thought that undoubtedly seemed much funnier (and safer) while he was on the ground staring up at the Flatiron as opposed to actually climbing upon it. His climbing partner called for assistance and little Petey PCP Head had to be rescued by the Sheriff's Department and the Fire Department. Thanks for harshing our mellow, slacker dudes. Much obliged.

Sadly, these two are neither the dumbest nor (mercifully) the most sadistic members of the Boulder community to allegedly run afoul of the law out there recently. Not even close. That ignominious honor belongs to the power trio of Nicholas Philip Foti, Lucas Holton and August Quinn Noble. These three - all 19 years of age - were arrested by Boulder police earlier this week, "after they admitted to officers they killed a raccoon with a baseball bat and a machete."

I know not what is more curious to me: the fact that it took three of them to apply this beatdown to a raccoon or that at least one of them was able to put his hands on a machete to use in the attack. It is always nice to know that some knuckle-dragging miscreant who lives in your neighborhood has access to something as fun for all to play with as a machete. For their trouble, all three could be charged with felony aggravated cruelty to an animal. I know what part of their tale sickens me the most. Foti and Noble are CU students. If they plead guilty or are convicted of a crime arising out of this incident, then count this Alum as one who hopes that CU kicks these two little asshats to the curb....or ties them by their ankles to a rope affixed to Ralphie's back legs and then permits our beloved mascot to drag them behind her as she makes her pre-game jaunt during every home game in 2012.

Here at home, we are not growing them any brighter - or any less offensive. Last Friday afternoon, while mourners were gathered at the Ewing Cemetery for a 2:00 funeral, Carol Cimino was rifling through at least one of the mourner's cars from which she pilfered a pocketbook. She was interrupted in mid-purloin after which she immediately fled the scene in a red Dodge Charger (you have to love a thief who (a) works cemeteries; and (b) drives a cool getaway car). The police were able to arrest her only a few hours later, courtesy of the fact that the person who put the kibosh on her one-woman crime spree jotted down the Charger's license plate number. Perhaps next time around, Carol will use a less high-profile ride as her escape vehicle. Something a tad less easy to remember perhaps?

Then again, perhaps there shall be no next time for Carol Cimino. She is after all 65 years old. Perhaps getting nabbed this one time will be enough to get her back on the straight and narrow? I know not. And for all we know, she may end up being able to bet this rap yet. She is 65. Keep your eyes peeled for a filing by her attorney of his/her intent to use the "Uncle Leo Defense".

Remember - whether it works or not, you still say "Hello".

-AK

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Amazing Mr. Hurley

I am fortunate enough to be able to lay claim to the fact that I have known Gabriel Hurley for most of his life. He and Suzanne have been friends seemingly forever. They attended and graduated together from Our Lady of Mount Virgin School right here 'NTSG. A couple of years later, when Gabe was matriculating at St. Joe's High School, he and Chris Bieksha (another OLMV alum), served as volunteer assistants for me when I coached Rob's OLMV 7th/8th grade basketball team. Once upon a lifetime ago, Gabe and his folks lived just around the corner from us. I was apt to find him in the backyard and/or in the kitchen, playing guitar with Rob or hanging with Suz, or blazing past me on his daily run through the neighborhood. I am a notoriously tough grader when it comes to other people's children. Gabe has long been among my favorites - and in the interest of full disclosure his running buddy Chris B. is on that list too.

In the late spring/early summer of 2009 Gabe was involved in a motor vehicle accident. I earn my daily bread attempting to pooh-pooh the significance of injuries that individuals claim to have sustained due to my client's negligence. Based upon what I do to earn my living I do not toss around lightly the term "catastrophic" when discussing one's accident-related injuries. I would not use the term catastrophic to describe the injuries Gabe suffered either.

I would not use it in Gabe's case because catastrophic does not come close to describing them. I like to think that I know a fairly wide array of words - at least in English. I know not of one that paints an accurate picture of Gabe's although "numbing", "life-altering" and "horrific" seem as partially descriptive - and therefore as fatally flawed - as catastrophic.

What happened to Gabe would have killed me. I say that without reservation because I lack the steely spine this young man has displayed without exception in the two-plus years since his accident. Before his accident he was an extremely talented guitar player and his band was just starting to get noticed. He might be better now than he was then. Given that among the injuries he sustained was the complete loss of vision, his chops are not simply excellent they are miraculous.

In the course of the past couple of weeks, people far better at describing such things have written about young Mr. Hurley. One of the articles spoke to his musical prowess. I have to confess that until I read the piece on Gabe and his band, I did not realize that The Aquarian still existed. Talk about your nice surprises.

Even better than the piece regarding his mad guitar-playing skills is one that appears in Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital's, "Breakthroughs Magazine". To have a full appreciation of just how much this amazing young man has overcome, consider the words of his plastic surgeon Dr. Tushar Patel, "When he arrived both globes (eyes) were ruptured and the tissue in his face was completely destabilized."

And less than two and one-half years after an accident that could have killed him and - were he a lesser man - would have destroyed, it has done neither. Kudos to my young friend for the good press. Every word of praise is deserved. Every one of them has been well-earned.

A truly remarkable young man. One who I am very happy and very privileged to know. One for whom undoubtedly better days lie ahead. And one who - should I ever grow up - I would very much like to be just like.

-AK

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Queen & Her Rooftop Spaceship

Today is the birthday of the "Queen of the Next Gen". My niece Jessica - who is the oldest child of my oldest sister Evan (is it just me or are we working on a Dylan lyric) - celebrates her birthday today. I remember being a fairly young fellow when Jessica was born. In my mind's eye I suppose that she will be forever young. I know better than that. She herself became a mom for the first time not too terribly long ago. Her daughter is - based upon all photographic evidence I have seen - simply adorable. One cannot help but notice the striking resemblance between that little girl and her youngest great-uncle on her mother's side although I am at a loss as to why no one other than me seems to see the resemblance.

Jessica is not only the tip of the spear of the next generation of Kennys, she is unique among her cousins in that the life of her maternal grandfather actually overlapped hers at least for a little while. For most - if not all - of her first cousins, he exists only in pictures seen and stories recounted by parents and others of my generation. She was not just a baby in her shared existence with him. She was a walking, talking little human being and by my memory very much the apple of Grandpa's eye. It takes a strong backbone and an iron will to serve as a bridge. She has both.

I smiled thinking about my eldest niece this morning on the occasion of her birthday because I thought of silliness such as the infamous spaceship on the roof of Mom/Dad's house in Neshanic Station. For years when she was a very little girl I told her that there was a spaceship parked on the roof of the house. I also told her of course that she was too young to be allowed to go up on the roof and see it for herself.

Why I settled on "spaceship on the roof" as the ruse of choice I know not. It was likely my half-assed attempt to carry on the tradition in our family of age-based restrictions that older siblings created out of whole cloth to torture those of us at the younger end of the chain. Unlike Canal Road, the house in Neshanic Station did not have a full-sized attic - (accessible only by way of a staircase secreted from view behind a heavy door in an upstairs bathroom) - to serve as the "Age 10 and Older" Shangri-La. That glaring design flaw necessitated the creation of the spaceship on the roof scenario. Also, I had no younger brother or sister upon whom to inflict such inanity. That too was a glaring design flaw that I lacked the ability to remedy. Jessica was the best available option/target.

She handled her end of the bargain with aplomb. I suspect now that she never suspected then that Grandma and Grandpa had a spaceship atop the roof of their house - although we lived so far out beyond Nowhere's middle that the aliens from Independence Day could have parked their entire expeditionary force in our back yard quite comfortably. I suspect that she simply humored her dopey uncle.

Whether her belief in the existence of the rooftop spaceship was genuine or simply her way of humoring me I know not. And all these years later it matters not. Rooftop spaceships always make me smile. And in that regard, they are not only priceless but timeless as well.

-AK

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November Remembrances

We are halfway through November. Already. It shall likely be a forty-five day sprint to year's end from this point forward for a lot of us. The stress and anxiety normally associated with the "holiday season" in the best of times is amplified and multiplied during times like these. My advice? Take deep breaths, slow your stride a pace or two and enjoy what is happening around you to the extent that you can. It is not always easy. I am as likely to violate this maxim as anyone I know but try to find a moment or two to embrace that which you have while spending a moment or two less pining over that which you lack. Easier said than done? Surely. Worth the attempt? Absolutely.

The Missus begins her newest work adventure today. About six weeks ago, she left what had been her professional home for several years to take on a new challenge. Sadly, the challenge became trying to balance that which had been told to her when she interviewed for the gig with what the gig actually was when she started working there. What it was represented to be turned out to be something significantly different from what it actually was. The dichotomy was not something she could reconcile. Thus she has moved on to something new. Bigger and better? We shall see. I hope only that it makes her happy. Being married to me should be the most stressful part of her day-to-day. Believe me when I say keeping an eye on an idiot is in and of itself a full-time gig for Margaret.

Margaret took advantage of her final "vacation" day to bring our old man Milo home. Milo was cremated. Yesterday Margaret went to the office of the doctor who put him to sleep to pick up his remains. He is now where he shall stay until we bid farewell to 57 Delaware, which is on a shelf in the den next to the fireplace. For an eyelash short of two decades, he lived as an integral part of the fabric of our family. That bond shall not be broken.

Much has been written in the past ten days about the atrocities that are alleged to have been committed against multiple youngsters at the hands of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. I am compelled at this moment - before going further - to say two things. First, I have read the entire Grand Jury report/presentment in this matter. If you have voiced an opinion on the case and its peripheral issues (such as the firing of Joe Paterno) without having read it, then do so. Second, it is the lawyer in me that mandated that I use the phrase "alleged to have been committed". The case laid out in the Grand Jury report is damning but Sandusky has to date denied any and all wrongdoing. Until such time as he pleads guilty to any or all of the charges and/or is found guilty after a trial, the phrase "alleged to have been committed" applies.

Disclaimer notwithstanding, I weep not at all for Joe Paterno or for anyone else at Penn State who has paid for his role in this whole affair with his job. Gene Wojciechowski writes for espn.com and (I think) the network's magazine also. On Friday last he wrote a piece that included the following remark, "Success without honor is an unseasoned fish. It will satisfy your hunger, but it won't taste good."

The words were Coach Paterno's, given as part of his Commencement Address to the Penn State University Class of 1973. As true today as they were when he spoke them almost thirty years ago. Am I alone left to wonder if they mean anything to him today and if they meant anything to him when he uttered them? Were they words to live by or merely something to say? I know not. I wonder if he does.

I doubt it.

-AK

Monday, November 14, 2011

Air Travail

A Monday that follows on the heels of a shortened work week seems especially cruel. One that follows a great vacation seems doubly so. I will try to keep my "back to work and less than happy about it" mojo to myself today. After all when you are the one returning to the office on Monday after not simply a weekend but an extended one at that, your fellow workers are less than sympathetic to your angst. And with good reason.

Yesterday was a bit of a dead day for the Missus and me. We headed down from Boulder to Denver early in the morning in order to catch our 10:15 flight to Newark. Our flight was - as they say in the trade - "oversold". The good news was that Continental found enough people who were willing to give up their seat on the flight in exchange for a travel voucher. The bad news was that every one of the flight's seats was occupied.

Among the occupied seats was the one in which young Spence was seated. Spence was on the plane with his big sister and his parents. Spence, as we all found out while sitting on the tarmac at DIA awaiting takeoff, is two. And young Spence has - as we all do - his list of favorite things. While I know not what items are on his, I learned right quick what is not. Flying. When - at some point over Ohio - Spence finally screamed himself into exhaustion we all smartly resisted the temptation to cheer. It was tough but we pulled it off....

....kudos to his mom and dad for setting an example all of us were happy to follow.

-AK

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Latest in the Series

No time passes more slowly than the time between when you decide to do something to which you are looking forward very much and its arrival. No time passes more quickly than the time spent between the commencement of that much-anticipated activity and its conclusion. This morning, after an eyeblink - or perhaps two - the Missus and I fly home from Colorado.

It was - as it always is - great to see Rob. The parent/adult child relationship was/is uncharted territory for me. My father died when I was fourteen. We were at best adversaries and at worst enemies who shared a roof atop our heads and a mailing address. He died before we ever made it to the next phase of our relationship. I know not what kind of relationship we would have had but for his death. Candidly, I have never given much thought to it. Has always struck me as an exercise in wasting time. Still does.

Given geographic limitations and the other limitations that pop up in everyone's day-to-day, I neither see Rob nor talk to him daily. In an odd way I think that is good for both of us. Among the many modern devices I loathe is the telephone. I do not enjoy using it to communicate with anyone. While I know not how chatty he is with anyone else on the phone, when it comes to our infrequent conversations via AGB's pride and joy, Rob is equally close-mouthed. I can spend a day or two in his company and talk with him non-stop about any number of things. I have no explanation as to the level of disconnect between one type of conversation and the other. It is what it is. I seek no explanation for it.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself these past few days. Boulder, Colorado is - and shall forever be - one of my favorite places on the planet. I smile at the mere mention of its name. I was a bit disappointed that when first Suz and then Rob went through the college selection process neither had any interest in migrating west to CU. Suz did apply there solely to make me happy. I still have her acceptance letter.

With neither of my kids wanting to go to college that far away from home, I presumed that the window of opportunity for me to return to Boulder had closed forever. Courtesy of Rob's work, it had not. I did wonder for a moment yesterday afternoon as we sat at Folsom watching the Buffs play Arizona and then again last night as we walked down Pearl Street whether I was seeing this place I love for the last time.

Rob's next work adventure may be just around the corner and it - when it commences - may take him miles away from Boulder. He is my connection now to this place. My tent peg as it were. I love the place and shall forever do so. But as I have grown older and my son has grown to be a man, I have come to realize that I enjoy the trips to Boulder now so much not because of it. I enjoy them so much because of him.

And wherever he is and wherever he goes, I shall enjoy any trip I get the chance to make there for precisely the same reason.

That is another story for another day however. As Mr. Joel once crooned, "Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes. I'm afraid it's time for goodbye again."

See you soon Rob. Til then, stay safe and be well.

-AK

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Light Blindness

With a boulder on my shoulder feelin' kinda older
I tripped the merry-go-round
With this very unpleasing sneezing and wheezing
the calliope crashed to the ground....

The Missus and I are spending the final full day of our excellent (albeit abbreviated) Colorado adventure enjoying Boulder in all of its splendor. And part of the day shall be spent doing something I did not think I would ever get to do, which is stand shoulder to shoulder with Rob at Folsom Field and watch my beloved Alma mater play. I wholly expect that this afternoon's game will go much the same way that ninety percent of this fall's tilts have gone for the Buffaloes, which is badly. While a victory would be nice, I believe that I win today simply by showing up. Selfish attitude? You bet. Apology forthcoming? Not likely.

Rob and I have hung out together in Folsom Field on one other occasion. On Memorial Day 2010 we ran the Bolder Boulder 10K race together. The race ends on the field at Folsom and post-race we hung out in the stands with about 45,000 other folks to watch, first, the professional runners race and, thereafter, a simply terrific Memorial Day celebration. Someone took a photo of us, which I still have in my office to serve as a reminder of one of the best days of my life


Today we shall be joined at Folsom Field by the Missus and Jess, whose Alma mater represents thus far this fall the "1" on the left side of the Buffs' won-loss record. Regardless of the final score, the four of us should have a terrific day....

....not that a "W" would not be appreciated. In the event that reading this space is part of Coach Embree's pre-game ritual (a scenario that I can readily envision....not) do not feel obligated to take it easy on 'Zona on my account Coach.

Shoulder to shoulder....

-AK

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Ballad of John McCrae

Today is Veterans Day. From one who has neither volunteered to serve nor been involuntarily summoned to do to all of those men and women who have, I offer my humblest thanks and appreciation. And thanks as well to the families of those presently in service of this Nation - especially those stationed in places where being a member of the American military is decidedly dangerous - and best wishes to one and all that at some point in the not-too-distant future your and your loved one are not required to partake in a "long-distance" romance.

I realize that today is not Memorial Day. In addition to being Veterans Day, it is in fact also Armistice Day, the day memorializing the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. You have no doubt heard of World War I a/k/a "the War to End All Wars". The mere presence of a Roman numeral at the end of its name reveals the tragic absurdity of that statement.

Over the course of the past several years, I have had the chance to take Margaret, Rob, Suz and Joe to Washington, D.C. - a place where none of the four of them had otherwise been. Among the sights we saw and experienced were the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the United States Marine Corps Memorial, the United States Air Force Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery. In lieu of original thoughts today, I wanted to simply share some of what we were fortunate enough to see. Regardless of the shape, size, color, placement or age of the memorial in the photographs, each is composed of the same materials: blood, heart and sacrifice.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.



World War II Memorial


Vietnam War Memorial



Korean War Memorial



United States Marine Corps Memorial



United States Air Force Memorial



Arlington National Cemetery including the Tomb of the Unknown



If you were to tell me that you think every day should be Veterans Day, I would not debate the point. In a way, given that every day each of us awakens and goes to sleep in this Republic is owed in no small part to the sacrifice of those who serve presently and those who served before them, every day really already is; right?

-AK

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Seeing Waddy in the Rattlesnake Cafe

First things first. Tonight at 7:30 p.m. Jackie MacLean and her W-H Varsity Girls Soccer Team shall play against Mater Dei in the NJSIAA Sectional Final for the Non-Public South B title. My admiration of Coach MacLean and the young ladies in her program is well-documented in this space. They go about their business on and off of the pitch that is a source of pride to their families and friends and to W-H alums everywhere. They have had one helluva season. Good luck to them this evening and congratulations on a fantastic year.

I will not be in Holmdel to watch them play Mater Dei. Today is "I Wanna Be Like Horace Greeley When I Grow Up" Day in the Kenny household. In fact, that is a lie. I know not whether such a Day exists but I know that we do not celebrate it. I apologize for my telling of tales.

It is however the day on which the Missus and I travel west....at least as far as Colorado. We are off to spend a couple of days in some of the nicest country in these United States, including some quality time in Fort Collins with Rob and the lovely Jess and some time in and around the ol' Alma mater in Boulder. Happiness is a slice of Abo's Pizza - from the Abo's on the Hill in Boulder. I anticipate making time to get happy while I am within the jurisdictional confines of my one-time home.

Saturday afternoon I shall no doubt test the patience of Margaret, Rob and Jess simultaneously by requiring them to accompany me to Folsom to watch the scrappy Buffs close out the home portion of their '11 schedule. It has been a long, long autumn for the home team. That will change Saturday. The Buffs have never lost when Margaret has been in attendance. A cynic might be constrained to point out that she has in fact only seen them play live on one occasion. A cynic might be further constrained to point out that the one occasion in question was ten years ago. To the cynic I say, "Who the hell asked you?"

And more importantly I say, "It's an opportunity to spend a Saturday afternoon in Boulder watching my Buffs with Rob, which is a damn fine way to spend a Saturday afternoon." Our team might be down this year but our mascot will stomp the sh*t out of any other mascot in college football:


Off we go. The last time I flew Continental they lost my luggage. Here is to hoping that Margaret makes it safely out and back without them somehow losing her on me. Thankfully, she is small enough to fit into the overhead compartment so I am taking her on the plane with me.....

LeRoy says there is something you should know
Not everybody has a place to go.
And home is just a place to hang your head
And dream of things to do in Denver when you're dead
.

....and while it is likely not a segue that shall bring a smile to her face, one final thing before I go today: Happy Birthday to my running companera Gidg. It delights me to no end that she is my "older" friend - by a grand total of eighty-five (85) days. Today is a milestone birthday for her as it is one that once upon a time (way back when she was young) was as associated with music as it was with age. Alas, the mp3, the CD and the DAT have rendered the 45 rpm obsolete. Not to worry though Gidg. Today also signals your membership into a new club for race purposes: Females 45 to 49. Way to go Newbie!

-AK

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

TGIW

Happy Pseudo-Friday to me! I realize that it is indeed only Wednesday (and wonder whether Wednesday is still Prince Spaghetti Day in Boston and whether Anthony has heeded his mother's call and made it home in time for dinner. I have confidence in that little kid. I never once saw him fail to make dinner on a Wednesday night) but I am playing hooky the rest of the week. Thus, what is mid-week to you is the start of the weekend to me. I thank you in advance for your sympathies. I shall try to remain strong.

Kudos to the good people of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. This past Sunday our little quartet spent the morning in Parsippany on what was a drop-dead gorgeous early November day on which to run (a touch cold perhaps but nothing worth getting one's knickers in a bunch about) participating in the PurpleStride New Jersey 2011 5K Run/Walk. In only their second year of having this event, their participation bumped up from approximately 900 to in the neighborhood of 1,300. Good people doing good works for other good people. It was a pleasure and a privilege to spend a piece of my day in their company. Pancreatic cancer is one bad mamma-jamma. The survival rates are staggeringly low. But the people from "PanCan" are undaunted. November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Do yourself the favor of spending a moment or two here to learn more about the disease and the work of this group.

Death came Monday night for Joe Frazier. It comes for all of us to be sure. Monday night it arrived - not wholly unexpected but nevertheless uninvited - at Smokin' Joe's doorstep. A few years ago HBO aired a documentary about his classic fight in Manila against Ali. The documentary was extraordinary in that it went far beyond what transpired in the ring that evening. It examined the relationship of the two men in stark and often unflattering detail. I learned things about the two of them that I did not know. I also received confirmation of something that even as a little boy (which is what I was when these two were going toe to toe in the ring) I suspected was the case: Frazier knew that Ali meant to be hurtful when he used terms such as "gorilla", "dumb" and "Uncle Tom" in speaking of Frazier. Frazier knew it. Ali knew that Frazier knew. Frazier hated him for doing it. And, according to that particular piece of filmmaking at least, Frazier never stopped hating him for it.

Apropos of nothing, I have a device on this blog that permits me to see who visits it and when they visit what it is they come past this space to read. On April 14, 2009 I wrote about my impressions of "Thrilla in Manila" after having watched it a couple of nights earlier on HBO and my impressions of both Frazier and Ali. Apparently I was not the only one upon whom Smokin' Joe's outgoing voice mail message on his cell phone left an impression. Probably not less than one time a month someone pops by here off of a Google search, "joe frazier's voice mail". In the immmediate aftermath of his death being announced Monday night, my little corner of the information superhighway lit up with visitors from a number of different places. All of them ended up in my 'hood courtesy of that very same Google search.

The night I watched the documentary and listened to the voice mail message on Frazier's phone (it is played right at the end of the movie and you the viewer are alerted to its existence not by Smokin' Joe but by his brother Tommy who seemed to me to be more than a bit distressed by it too) it struck me as one of the saddest things I had ever heard. Now, knowing that Frazier has reached the end of his life it seems even worse somehow.

From afar Frazier seemed to be a man who was not able to live in peace. Now that his time has indeed come, I hope he is able to rest peacefully. Peace seemed to be long overdue.

Understand, in the end, Ma, every man plays the game
If you know me one different then speak out his name
Ma, if my voice now you don't recognize
Then just open the door and look into your dark eyes
I ask of you nothin', not a kiss not a smile,
Just open the door and let me lie down for a while


-AK

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Ballad of the Melancholy Man

In his masterpiece "Downtown: My Manhattan" the great Pete Hamill wrote, "Sometimes no truth is more powerful than one expressed in anger by a melancholy man." Words to live by. Especially this morning. Especially at our house.

As you know if you popped by these parts the other day, we recently experienced a loss in our family. Sadly, Milo is not the first long-standing member of the tribe to whom we have bid farewell this year. I have written about Sparky in this space - the tree that Rob brought home to us a lifetime ago when neither was much bigger than a mere sprig. Sparky died a few months ago. A death that was as mysterious as it was sudden. I presumed - being my father's son - that something I had done to my tree killed it.

It appears as if I was not entirely incorrect. I unwittingly was a co-conspirator in Sparky's demise. And worse yet - I paid for my role. Literally. A couple of years back Margaret and I hired a firm to feed, fertilize and treat our lawn. I have little direct involvement with them. The Missus seemed generally satisfied with their work and Frank - our landscaping guru - also seemed to think that whatever the hell these guys were doing, they were doing well.

Less than a week after Sparky died and was removed from our front lawn, Margaret returned home from work to find a letter from our lawn dudes - Fairway Green - in our mailbox. The letter asked us to let them know if there was any problem with any of our trees or bushes. Apparently Fairway Green had started - just this season - using a DuPont manufactured herbicide Imprelis. Imprelis apparently has a slight problem - it kills everything it comes into contact whether or not it is something that it is supposed to kill. At our house that included Sparky.

We apparently did not acknowledge Fairway Green's first letter fast enough. On September 30th they wrote Margaret another letter inquiring as to any "unfavorable symptoms" we might have noticed any of our trees or shrubs experiencing due to their use of Imprelis. For whatever reason - but principally because they started their letter-writing campaign feigning an absence of knowledge as to the status of our tree only after we had been required to remove it from our lawn - the tone of their second letter legitimately pissed me off.

So I did what lawyers do: I wrote Fairway Green a letter laying out my case - including a pointed reference or two their own acknowledged negligence that they memorialized in their two letters to my wife - against them and against DuPont. And in an effort to ensure that I got both (a) immediate attention; and (b) an immediate response, I ended my letter by telling them that, "In view of your August 22, 2011 admission of negligence and your further communication of DuPont's tacit admission of its own - as set forth in your letter of September 30, 2011 we are considering our options. You may be assured that we shall keep you advised."

My letter elicited an immediate response from both Fairway Green and DuPont. And in less than thirty days from the date on which I informed my new favorite lawn service contractor and manufacturer of chemicals that kill all living things of my willingness to sue their asses, DuPont shall be at the house today talking to Margaret and hoping to sue for peace. Experience has taught me that my power of reincarnation is as ineffective with all things pine as it is with all things feline. At least today we are able to get a little something back for the former.

It is Election Day today. Get out there and vote.

-AK

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Long Walk Home

Someone much smarter than I am (talk about a line so long that both its beginning and its end are impossible to discern from whatever your location in it might be) observed that it is the exception that proves the rule. As a rule in this space I do not discuss politics. You have yours. I have mine. To each his own.

Time and again, I bend - if not break entirely - that rule. Today is one such occasion. I think it is warranted. You might disagree. Opinions, much like politics, belong to the holder. I might point out at this juncture to whom the byline on this little piece of real estate belongs. If you are looking for your name, then look harder. It is down in the lower right-hand corner, crosshairs and perpendicular to the box entitled, "Suggestions".

Tomorrow is Election Day. All throughout the State of Concrete Gardens people will go to the polls. In addition to statewide, countywide and local races, New Jersey's voters shall be asked to vote upon Public Question #1.

Public Question #1 on the ballot is "the New Jersey Sports Betting Amendment". Full disclosure dictates that you doing the reading be told by me doing the writing that the driving force behind this amendment - and the placement of this issue on the ballot as a public referendum - is the Firm's Senior Partner. He is a State Senator, a Democrat who represents a District in Union County. He is also my boss.

Here is Question #1 as it shall appear on the ballot:

"Shall the amendment to Article IV, Section VII, paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the State of New Jersey, agreed to by the Legislature, providing that it shall be lawful for the Legislature to authorize by law wagering at casinos or gambling houses in Atlantic City and at current or former running and harness horse racetracks on the results of professional, certain college, or amateur sport or athletic events, be approved?"

Its interpretative statement reads as follows:

This constitutional amendment would authorize the Legislature to pass laws allowing sports wagering at Atlantic City casinos and at racetracks. Wagers could be placed on professional, certain college, or amateur sport or athletic events. However, wagers could not be placed on college games that take place in New Jersey or in which a New Jersey college team participates regardless of where the game takes place. A wager could be placed at a casino or racetrack either in-person or from any other location through an account wagering system that uses telephone, Internet or other means.


One could take the position that everything one needs to know about how important a "Yes" vote on this particular Question is can be gleaned from the fact that Governor Christie, a Republican who has waged some pretty heated battles with his Democratic counterparts in the State Legislature thus far in his term, has publicly declared his support for it. While it is true that at one time he did not support it, at a press conference last week Governor Christie confirmed his intention to vote "Yes" on Question #1:

“For those concerned what I’m going to do, I’m voting yes,” Christie said in advance of the statewide nonbinding referendum in Tuesday’s elections to allow sports betting.

“I think it’s important for New Jersey to have this option. I don’t think it’s fair that it’s restricted to just a few states. Gaming is surrounding us everywhere.”

Indeed it is. While the referendum on which we the people of the State of New Jersey is non-binding inasmuch as a federal law would have to be repealed or overturned in order to facilitate the plan, it is an essential first step. Pardon the dramatics here but absent this first step we shall take no further steps in support of this undertaking. And given the landscape around New Jersey and its ever tightening, noose-like quality, standing still is simply not an option. When the status quo will kill you, there is little risk in going forward. One could argue that it is our only option. And from where I am sitting, I believe that argument to be correct.

New Jersey has been - much like the other 49 states with whom we are united - turned into a State of Perpetual Bleeding these past few years. People are hurting everywhere you look - irrespective of the county they live in, the color of their skin or their political affiliation. The words Bruce Springsteen sang in "Long Walk Home" ring true statewide:

In town I pass Sal's grocery
Barber shop on South Street
I looked in their faces
They're all rank strangers to me
Well Veteran's Hall high upon the hill
Stood silent and alone
The diner was shuttered and boarded
With a sign that just said "gone"

It's gonna be a long walk home
Hey pretty darling, don't wait up for me
Gonna be a long walk home
Hey pretty darling, don't wait up for me
Gonna be a long walk home
It's gonna be a long walk home

Coincidentally, the Governor, the Senator and I share a devotion to Springsteen and his music. It is not however because of this common denominator (important as it may be under different circumstances) that I am voting, "Yes" to Question #1 tomorrow and urging all I know to do likewise. It is because of Tom Swales.

Tom Swales is a man I have known most of my life. Tom is many things, all of them are good. One thing he is not now and has never been is an alarmist. Chicken Little and Tom Swales shall never be mistaken for one another. Tom is a horseman. His family owns Tee-N-Jay Farms in Monroe Township and its thoroughbreds compete regularly and win (probably not as often as Tom would like) at Monmouth Park Racetrack.

Tom, the non-alarmist, educated me more than a little bit about what New Jersey gains from our horse racing industry. Educating me is always a challenge. I am not a bright man on most subjects, including horse racing. It is not unfair to say that I know nothing about it at all save for the number of races that comprise the Triple Crown.

Horse racing in New Jersey is responsible for more than 170,000 acres of open space. Perhaps more important than the industry's role in helping make sure that our children and grandchildren will be able to respirate without the use of equipment is its role in our state's economy. Horse racing generates more than $100 million in state and local tax revenue annually and generates over $1.1 billion per year for the state’s economy. Not too shabby.

So what does voting "Yes" on Question #1 have to do with the future of horse racing in New Jersey? According to Tom, everything. In a recent Letter to the Editor he wrote to the Star-Ledger, which appeared on November 2, he explained the cause and effect:

The final nail in New Jersey’s gaming coffin was hammered in on Oct. 28 when Genting Resorts World Casino officially opened its doors at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York. The new casino opened with 2,480 video lottery slot machines and electronic games, including baccarat, craps and roulette. They expect to expand to 5,000 machines by Dec. 1.

New Jersey legislators have sat on their hands while casinos in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York cannibalized Atlantic City and our state’s racetracks. How do we stop the bleeding?

New Jersey must pass Public Question 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot to allow sports betting at the Atlantic City casinos, the state’s racetracks and online. Then, our legislators must work arduously to overturn the federal ban on sports betting.

Most important, it is time to bring casino gaming to the Meadowlands. Atlantic City must become a gaming destination and, in order for that to happen, revenue from a casino in the Meadowlands would be funneled to clean up Atlantic City, expand the airport and make it a more secure place to visit.

Another piece of the pie would go to increase purses at the racetracks, along with a slice to the state’s breeders. Don’t do this and racing is finished in New Jersey, and along with it goes thousands of acres of farmland and more than $130 million in tax revenue.


Well now everything dies baby that's a fact But maybe everything that dies someday comes back. Is it worth gambling an important piece of our economic future on a "Maybe"? If you think the answer to that question is "No", then tomorrow be certain to vote "Yes" on Question #1. As the powers that be on both sides of the aisle in Trenton have demonstrated, this is not a Democrat thing or a Republican thing. It is a Jersey thing.

-AK

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Of Sanctity and Bullsh*t

Here's to hoping that if you live in a part of the United States that resides on the Standard side of the "Standard Time/Daylight Savings Time" fault line this time of year, you remembered to set your clock back an hour before you went to sleep last night. If you did not and right now you are standing around somewhere wondering aloud, "Where the hell is everybody?" take my advice: wait someplace warm. They will be along soon. Actually, in about 57 minutes or so.

This morning the Missus and I are off to Parsippany - because spending six days a week there on average inevitably leaves me wanting for more. Actually we are taking part in an event called PurpleStride New Jersey 2011, which this year includes both a 5K walk and a 5K run. This is the 2nd annual edition. Last year it was solely a walk so Margaret was the lone participant from our household. Having added a 5K race to the "things to do" list, I am catching a ride with her this time around.

This event grew - as so many of these laudable endeavors do - out of a terrible one. A friend of Margaret's from work lost her husband to pancreatic cancer in the summer of '09 at or about the same time that Suzy B. died. Rather than be irreversibly crushed by his death, Steve and Dolores' daughter Stephanie decided to do all she could do to raise awareness of this quick-striking, relentless form of cancer, including working hard to get increased funding for early testing and detection programs. An amazing young woman actually.

It is our pleasure - and we are of course going to be joined by Gidg on this morning's adventure - to give a bit of time to help advance the cause of something so worthwhile. If your early Sunday morning is free and/or you live anywhere near Parsippany, New Jersey it is not too late to participate, provided that you read this at some point before 9:00 a.m. That is Eastern Standard Time of course. Standard time or Daylight Savings Time - either way it is time well spent.

And it is nice to know that one can count on one of my all-time favorite actors/directors/movie star types to remind us in his not-too-subtle way just how important it is to spend our time on worthy pursuits. For anyone who may not be aware of his personal politics, Clint Eastwood is a fairly staunchly conservative individual. Once upon a lifetime ago, he served a couple of terms as mayor of Carmel, California, a beautiful little beach enclave so firmly entrenched on the Republican side of the aisle that there are no "left sides" of the street in Carmel. No, there are instead the "right" and the "far right". I just made that up but it might actually be true.

Eastwood, in an interview in the October issue of GQ, my copy of which - parenthetically speaking - has yet to make it to our mailbox, which is not in and of itself too surprising as NO issue of that magazine has ever made it to our mailbox, described himself as having initially been an "Eisenhower Republican" way back when he was 21. He then continued by noting that the philosophy of the party that had attracted him to it in the first place was something it had lost touch with over time. Eastwood now uses the term "social Libertarian" to describe himself.

My favorite part of the interview (in the interests of full disclosure that should read, "my favorite part of the excerpts of the interview I have read") is Eastwood's position on gay marriage. With the possible exception his outlaw Josey Wales' decree that, "Dying ain't much of a living boy" it might be his truest utterance ever.

I mention it here - and now - because I think it is important for all of us to not let the euphoria associated with having one extra hour to play with today go to our heads. Time has always been a precious commodity. Never more so than it is presently with all of the actual substantive issues confronting us in our day-to-day.

Well said Mr. Eastwood. Well said indeed.

-AK