Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Simple Life, Well-Lived

Shortly before the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, a good gent known as The Mighty Quinn pointed me in the direction of a very worthwhile endeavor called Project 2,996. Its purpose is to honor the lives of those who were murdered that day. I contributed a little something to it this year, which I hope at least scratched the surface of honoring the individual for whom I wrote it.

Not too long after I wrote what I wrote, a very dear friend of mine e-mailed me to tell me that he had read what I had written and that it made him think of his cousin. She too had been murdered at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. In our exchange of e-mails I told him a bit about Project 2,996. I also checked the site to see if his cousin was among the list of people for whom a tribute had been written. She was not.

Antoinette Duger was an anomaly in early 21st Century America - in the best possible sense of the word - in that she spent her entire professional life working for the same company. First Union hired her at age 18 - right after she graduated from Barringer High School in Newark. A career that started in an office on Broad Street in Newark continued to grow upward and uninterrupted until it reached the 47th floor of One World Trade Center. At age 44, she had already logged twenty-six years as a First Union employee. In an age where the ties that bind one to one's employer are often tenuous to the point of fragility, Antoinette's were unbreakable.

Who she was is even more extraordinary than what she did. She was forty-four years young in the Fall of 2001. A wife. A mother. One of her daily rites was to make it home by 6:30 every night in order to do something she loved - prepare a traditional Italian dinner for her husband Raymond, her daughter Megan and her to enjoy and to share. Among her other joys? Every year she would get together with her mother and her sisters so that they could press their own tomatoes and make a year's worth of sauce for each of their households.

She was more than a mother and a wife. She was a sister and a daughter. And she was also the cousin of my friend Gerard Gonnella. Tonight, those who loved Antoinette and those she loved shall mark the 11th consecutive turn from one year to the next without her. She shall be missed of course. But more importantly she shall be remembered. As she has always been. As she always shall.

Her sister Silvia Defilippo put it best, "It was a simple life. But it was a good life."

....One might in fact say that it was a wonderful life.

-AK

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Geldofian Principle of Inevitability

I don't care if Monday's blue
Tuesday's gray and Wednesday too
Thursday I don't care about you
It's Friday, I'm in love

Monday you can fall apart
Tuesday, Wednesday break my heart
Oh, Thursday doesn't even start
It's Friday I'm in love

Saturday, wait
And Sunday always comes too late
But Friday, never hesitate...


Except on Samoa. Except this week. You might have missed the news item from earlier this week but in 2011 on Samoa December 30th shall be known as "Never Day". As in, it never happened. Yesterday was the 29th of December and today (on Samoa at least....as well as in the New Zealand territory of Tokelau) is New Year's Eve. How time flies when you are moving from THIS side of the International Date Line to THAT side of it.

Here's the skinny (as reported on msnbc.com):

Just this once, Samoa is making Dec. 30 disappear.

It's the key step in the Pacific island nation's plan to move from the eastern to the western side of the International Date Line and mesh its work week with two of its primary trading partners, New Zealand and Australia. The New Zealand territory of Tokelau is making the switch as well.

"In doing business with New Zealand and Australia, we're losing out on two working days a week," Stuff.co.nz quoted Samoan Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele as saying. "While it's Friday here, it's Saturday in New Zealand, and when we're at church Sunday, they're already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane."

Samoa will go directly from 11:59 p.m. Thursday, through midnight to 12:01 a.m. Saturday.


I suppose that if you are not one who has ever worshipped at the Church of the Old Demon Alcohol then this example will not serve you well. For those of you (OK - "us") who have, consider for a moment that you miss the memo regarding the day drop, tie one on but good on Thursday night and come to only to learn that it is Saturday morning. One of two things would happen. You would swear off alcohol for the 1,000,000th and final time or....you would go back to the pub where you got schnockered on Thursday night and request that each and every time you were there they served you exactly what they served you that made a whole day disappear. Come to think of it, I think I have actually consumed just such a concoction on at least a couple dozen occasions. If memory serves anyway.

Given the historical animus towards Monday, I had long suspected that if there was a day that would be the intended target of a calendar bypass, it would be Monday. No one likes Monday; right? Alas, it is poor Friday that has bitten turf.

The good news is that Friday's banishment is a one-time only affair. It shall return to its appointed place on the Samoan calendar next week. The bad news? While the powers-that-be have figured out how to make the day disappear, their efforts to eradicate other evidence of its existence have been entirely unsuccessful.

-AK

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Always Delicious Taste of Irony

Perhaps it is an affliction with which only I suffer but sometimes the line between irony and coincidence blurs. At least to my eye. I have a hard time telling one from the other. Are they a single coin's dual - and dueling - sides? I know not. I am certain that someone smarter than I am can answer that question. That line of folks is particularly long but if you would like to join, be my guest. It might be some time before we reach you and we thank you in advance for your patience.

I spent a piece of my Christmas Eve morning at the office. My purpose was two-fold: finish up some work I had left unfinished when I skedaddled on Friday and grab up my stash of Christmas stuff for Margaret, the kids and Joe. I trust no one so the items I purchase for Christmas, whether on-line or in a store, get hidden away in my office until Christmas Eve. Then and only then do I wrap them and bring them home, at which time I stash them under the tree without saying a word to anyone about what they are or for whom they have been placed there.

The Firm's building has an elevator, which is a necessity for those among our number who due to one ailment or another, simply cannot climb up and down the stairs. I am not an elevator person. First, being more than mildly claustrophobic I always attempt to limit my "man inside a shiny metal box" time whenever I can. I adhere to that so firmly that when I die I shall be cremated. Ashes in an urn seems far less confining for some reason than spending eternity as "man (or diminishing amounts thereof) inside a shiny metal box". Second, given that I am a runner it strikes me that it would be more than slightly hypocritical if I opted out of walking up/down the stairs. I can run 26.2 miles (well, kind of/sort of to be fair) and I cannot walk up 48-52 stairs to get from the lobby to the 3rd floor?

Saturday morning I actually rode in the elevator since riding down carrying packages made more sense than attempting to carry a couple of trips' worth of stuff down the stairs. When I entered the elevator on the 3rd floor with my arms full, it occurred to me for not more than a moment that on Friday afternoon the elevator had been out of service while the mechanic performed routine service on it. I had seen the sign taped to the door in the lobby prior to hoofing it up the stairs upon my return from the bank. Although I could not recall as I got into it on the 3rd floor whether he had finished doing whatever it was he had been doing, I pushed the button to open the door and after it did, I hopped aboard and pushed the "L" button without giving it another thought.

No additional thought proved to be necessary for the car descended to the lobby and its door opened automatically, permitting me to cart my stuff out to my car without any difficulty at all. However, when I re-entered the building the combination of laziness and immunity from self-loathing overwhelmed my heretofore good judgment. I eschewed the stairs for a quick ride up in the elevator. Or so I thought.

I mimicked my earlier actions for they had worked so well: depress button to open door, step through open door into car and as door closes behind you, depress button for desired floor and wait for the ride to begin. When "it" (the ride) did not begin within a couple of seconds of the door's closing, I thought that a bit odd. When all of the buttons on the wall panel inside the elevator began to light up in a random, non-specific way I thought that might be even more odd. But when all of the buttons on the panel went out and nothing I did or pushed caused any of them to light and - more importantly - did NOTHING to suggest to the car that moving was indeed the next agenda item, I thought it not good. Especially since my cell phone was not on my person but rather on my desk....up on the 3rd floor.

I did what any right-thinking person would do. I laughed. I laughed because among the pieces of business that I had been able to wrap up almost completely a day earlier was the settlement of an elevator case in which I represent the entity that owns the office building where the elevator is alleged to have malfunctioned. Better still is the fact that the company that services the elevator in my client's building is the same company that services the Firm's elevator AND is a defendant in the lawsuit arising out of the alleged accident at my client's property AND under the terms of the settlement is paying 100% of the settlement on behalf of all defendants.

After I finished laughing I noticed that the elevator still appeared to be dead or - in the words of the great I.M. Fletcher, "extremely sleepy." I realized that it was not going to take me to the 3rd floor. Of concern to me was my realization that (a) the office was closed; (b) on Christmas Eve I was not expecting to see anyone else; and (c) my ability to tell my wife of my predicament was non-existent. Cell phone was on the 3rd floor; remember?

I thought to myself "WWTPD" (What Would The Plaintiff Do?) and I did what he told us at his deposition he did when the elevator in which he was riding allegedly malfunctioned: I pried the door open and stepped out of the car. I am less proud that I figured out what to do than I am than embarrassed that it took me close to two minutes to arrive at that solution. Perhaps I should have spent less time laughing....

....I suspect however that you shall not.

-AK

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Laughing a Little Slower

Again, presuming that the calendar on the wall of my office is correct - and I offer this as neither an endorsement nor an indictment of the folks who put on the Spring Lake 5 annually but the calendar is their creation and not mine - today marks the end of Hanukkah. I hope that all of my friends in whose families Hanukkah is celebrated it has been a happy one, spent in the company of those with whom you wanted to spend it. I am singing "The Dreidel Song" as I write this and my Hanukkah gift to you on this - Day Eight of Eight - is NO link to an audio file of my warbling. No thanks necessary.

I do not pretend to know whether this winter shall be any better or worse than its 2010-11 predecessor. While there are many things every day that I deal with and about which I pretend to know something, the winter weather forecast is not among them. Sadly, neither is the stupefying - to me anyway - longevity of the Family Kardashian's Fame and Fortune Carpet Ride. The latter is in fact a far greater source of consternation than the former.

But I digress. My apologies.

My point (such as it is) regarding "Winter Upon Us" vs. "Winter Past" is that we are already incrementally ahead of the game. This time last year we were all digging out from the Great Boxing Day Blizzard of 2010. Yesterday, it rained. While last winter (and the one that preceded it if memory serves)Mother Nature kicked us in our boys so hard and so often all winter that by early March it felt as if we were walking through our day-to-day with a couple of peach pits embedded in our jaws that I want to do and say nothing that could be interpreted as taunting her....so far, so good. The only precipitation in the forecast through year's end is rain. I am neither a farmer nor a duck. Thus I have less use for large amounts of rain than either of the aforementioned. But as my great-grandpappy Phineas was quite fond of saying, "It beats the snot out of snow!"

Quite a wordsmith he was. In case you have ever wondered where I get it from, you can now move on to the next of your life's great Unsolved Mysteries....

....and turn the page on one more day up in the canyon.

-AK

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Across A Smooth Surface

This year for the first time in at least the past twenty years, Christmas Eve at 113 Howard Avenue was a subterranean affair. Family size (as well as the size of certain of the family's component parts) necessitated it. Less than an hour after the festivities started, I wondered why we had not simply always done it. And I sensed that I was not alone in my enthusiasm.

Once upon a lifetime ago, all of Joe and Suzy B's grandchildren were...well - children. Time passes. Children grow. This year Megan (Frank's oldest) and her husband Adam brought Joe's first great-grandchildren to the party. Halle and Nicholas celebrated their first Christmas Eve. A whole new generation representing. Great stuff.

And as the family grows vertically, it grows horizontally. Not only did Rob come home from Colorado for Christmas, Jess came with him. Tillie did not. Suz came home from Houston and of course Ryan was with her. It was the first Christmas Eve for each of them too. And while we did not know it on Saturday night, by the time Christmas weekend ended the cornerstone had been set on another familial horizontal expansion. Nicole (Frank's second oldest) and Jason got engaged on Christmas Day.

The poem says, "And to all a good night." This year it most certainly was.




Monday, December 26, 2011

TKO

At some point today - about a dozen hours or so from now - Suz and Ryan will board the plane that will take them home. I use the lower case 'h' not only to remain on the good side of the grammar police but to cast my protest vote. Nice to draw a distinction between home and Home.

Nicer still that Suz came home looking terrific and sounding completely at ease not only with the new gig but with her new hometown. When the birds leave the nest you never know how they are going to fare on their own. So far, so good. The distance between you and them gets shortened somehow when you know that they are well-settled where they are.

Tomorrow shall be a return to normalcy for me. Today I am milking a bit more out of the holiday weekend. I suppose that somewhere - Canada for instance - today is in fact a holiday. Good enough for me. Once upon a lifetime ago I consumed enough Molson and Labatt's beer to have earned honorary Canadian citizenship. Even if that would not be enough in and of itself that fact, coupled with my appraeciation for the music of RUSH and my love of ice hockey, is enough to earn me another "free from work" day. I intend to enjoy it.

I do not know about everyday but today, at least, can be Boxing Day.

-AK

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Bringing Tidings of Great Joy

At some point in the not-too-distant future the smell of bacon frying, coffee brewing and pancakes doing whatever the heck it is pancakes do (I need a consult with my nephew Kelly - the ace chef), shall stir the still-sleeping members of my household on this Christmas morning. And for those keeping score at home that would be all of the bi-peds save for Yours truly. For present purposes, Rosie, Dempsey and Boo are serving as my company....with at two of the three paying particularly close attention to when bacon starts frying, coffee starts brewing and pancakes start doing whatever the heck it is they do. Meanwhile, Boo is looking for an inroad to trouble. If history is any indicator, she will find it soon.

Nothing profound or (if history is any indicator) masquerading as such emanating from this spot on the information superhighway on this Christmas morning. Just a momentary interruption of your day-to-day to share two messages of Christmas that I, myself, never tire of hearing and that serve to remind me what it is about this day that is important.

The first is courtesy of a little boy, whose trademark blanket has always suggested he is insecure but whose words suggest he is anything but. I am not a religious man. However, I appreciate the message that Linus is sharing, which is that this is a day about STUFF and not a day about THINGS.

The second is courtesy of a larger-than-life man, whose trademark was not his blanket of blue but his horn of gold. Clarence Clemons died approximately six and a half months after this performance. As a long-time Springsteen fan I eagerly await the 2012 tour although I know that nothing shall ever be the same on E Street. In December 2010 none of the musicians on stage at The Carousel House likely suspected that "Blue Christmas" would be an answer to the question, "What is the last song that Clarence Clemons performed live with the E Street Band?" Yet it is.

The great Pete Hamill wrote in Downtown: My Manhattan, "Time itself is long, even if the time of man is short." Embrace the moment in which you live as you are living it. Embrace those you love with whom you are living it. A "lifetime" and an "eyeblink" appear to represent two distinctly different periods of time. But a point will arrive in your life, as it shall in mine, at which those two concepts intersect. And when they do, their relationship shall be both brief and everlasting. Live each moment as if it is the moment immediately preceding that point of intersection.

It is Christmas. May it be Merry for you, for those you love and for those who love you.

Merry Christmas....

-AK

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Boys of the NYPD Choir were singing "Galway Bay"

I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true....


For you and yours, this simple man's simple wish (impossibly naive as it is) is that this Christmas brings you not simply merriment but joy and peace as well. Merriment is a fleeting thing. Sadly, far too often so is joy and so is peace. But the latter two have substance to them. There is meat on their bones. It gives them better staying power....or at the very least the possibility of same.

You need only turn on the news for an eyeblink or scan the headlines of a newspaper to be reminded of just how messed-up a place this planet can be. Joy and peace are not given. They are not bestowed upon us. They are earned. We must mork hard to attain them. My wish for you this Christmas is that you be surrounded by those you love and those who love you so that the collective strength necessary to achieve joy and peace is channeled through each of you - for all of you.

It is Christmas Eve. I stop for a moment this day to think not only of those whose lives ended at some point between last Christmas and this one and how hard this Christmas shall be for those who remained here in the wake of their passing. I hope that for them amidst what will be a difficult holiday there is an opportunity to come up for air long enough to not dwell upon the loss but instead to reflect upon the life. And I hope that gives them a reason to smile.

I think as well of those who have joined the cast of characters in the longest-running show on Earth since last Christmas. Margaret's niece Megan and her husband Adam had twins in January (although to hear Meg tell it you would think she did all the work!). They shall spend their first Christmas as "mom" and "dad" as their beautiful babies Halle and Nicholas make their maiden Yuletide voyage. My nephew Kelly just welcomed a new addition to his family earlier this Autumn and she will be part of the Christmas festivities for the first time and (if the pictures he shared from Thanksgiving are any indication) much doting and fawning over by her Grandpa. And I think as well of my long-time friend Dave and his wife Tessa who just three weeks ago celebrated the birth of their first child. I certainly hope that this Christmas shall be a joyous one for them and their son. Merry Christmas Indy.

Wherever you are, wherever you are going and with whomever you are sharing it, may Christmas bring you and yours that for which you wish. And if it could somehow include a win by the Giants this afternoon over the J-E-T-S, then all the better. And apropos of nothing, before you open a single present (be it tonight or tomorrow morning) say a prayer that yours were delivered by this guy....and not by this guy.

And for my bride, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas not with a couple of new arrivals but instead with a couple returnees who we miss very much. Merry Christmas Baby....

-AK

Friday, December 23, 2011

Reasons to Believe

At some point today both of the adults F/K/A children who resided with the Missus and me here in the State of Concrete Gardens shall be here again. I refer to it still as "home" when I think about their arrival fully confident that the only one fooled even momentarily by my euphemism is the cragged reflection that stares back at me from my bathroom mirror every morning. And candidly, not even he is immersed that deeply in self-denial. The guy on this side of the glass? Another story completely.

Tonight Rob shall fly east from Colorado - in the company of Jess (but not Tillie) - and Suz shall trek northeast from Texas - accompanied by Ryan. As far as I know, my daughter has not yet become a Pet Parent. I suppose I will know for certain by 10:00 p.m. or so. Their respective stays shall be far too brief. Experience has taught me that the time one's adult child spends "home" when he or she comes to visit seems to grow shorter and shorter with each trip. But they shall be here. They shall be here for Christmas Eve. They shall be here for Christmas morning. And because of that, Margaret could not be happier.

All my wife wanted this year for Christmas is that which she wants every year: those she loves the most gathered in the same place. Tomorrow night we shall convene at 113 Howard for our traditional Christmas Eve. The joint will be packed. And all of those who are capable of being there in the flesh shall be. And those whose presence is felt only in the sense that their spirit fills the space between and around those assembled shall be there too.

They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin's birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winters light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
'till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
'till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
Hallelujah Noel be it heaven or hell
The Christmas you get you deserve....


I certainly hope that Margaret does. There is not a soul more deserving than my wife of having her Christmas wish granted. I shall do my level best to see that it is.

-AK

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Saving Tillie

Before any fellow Springsteen fan happening past this space gets too excited, I am not talking about this one:


I am however speaking of this one:


Jess and Rob are now the proud adoptive parents of that beautiful little amalgam of fur, spunk and bones. Inasmuch as she was a shelter pup, inasmuch as they saved her and inasmuch as Rob is a longstanding Springsteen fan (the boy has taste....just sayin'), they have named the new addition to their lives....Tillie.

It is my bias soaking through to be sure but given her beautiful coat of black and her heart of gold, I think that young Tillie - although a canine - is the quintessential buffalo. Colorado Buffalo that is. And I am quite certain that Jess agrees with me. If you look in the general direction of Colorado as you read this and focus your eyes really hard, you can see her nodding her head in agreement. Or maybe she is waving. Although if she is waving, how come only finger on her hand is raised? Questions to ponder and mysteries to solve on another day.

Rob telephoned Tuesday night to let us know that he and Jess had formally adopted Tillie. The excitement in his voice was palpable. I am someone who considers himself to be a dog person so it was very cool to hear. Tillie is not going to make this trip East with her parents so it will be a little while before those of us here in the State of Concrete Gardens make her acquaintance person to pooch as it were. For present purposes, we shall do it via Kodachrome:


I hope that the three of them are taking the first few steps on a very happy journey. Jess and Rob "saved" Tillie to be sure. But if there is one thing that is a universal truth - or as close to such a thing as one can get - about people and pets is that the role of savior suits both quite well. Each rescues and is rescued by the other. A mutual aid society I suppose.

She marked our trail
Up the back bone ridge
How many times can one dog pee
She keeps me high as an eagle
When i'm on the skids
I guess you gotta come down eventually

Buddy i coulda gone that extra mile
For an extra bark or an extra smile
'Cause i never felt so free
It was just my dog and me

Then she gives me that look
Like she'd lay down her life
No doubt she would in a minute, man
She'd face the bullet
Oh she'd face the knife
Just to keep my butt from the fryin' pan

Now she's runnin' up ahead to chase some deer
Comes back to tell that coast is clear
It's a different world i see
When it's just my dog and me

There's a rabbit on the run
Man and beast ans sky and sun
Who's talking to the birds in the trees
Why its just my dog and me

Now it looks like we've been makin' tracks
From the crack of dawn
To the end of the day
So its nice and easy down the devil's back
She wouldn't know
Any other was

So its over that ridge for one last mile
'Til we're fast asleep by the fire side
Dreamin' these dreams for free
Just my dog and me

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Promise Made, A Promise Kept

For a number of years I have subscribed to what I refer to as the "Phil Collins Rule" with regard to how I dress for non-court appearances, such as depositions. I sometimes refer to my rule of thumb as, "No Judge, No Jacket". Experience has taught me that the willingness of a witness to embellish, exaggerate or flatly lie while under oath at a deposition has little to do with my ensemble. I have a closet full of quite fetching ties. I am committed to extending their lives for as long as I can. I am a softie for silk worms. I shall not apologize for it.

A number of Decembers ago when Rob was still a boy and I had far less snow in my beard and on my head than I now do, the two of us were in the Stern's Department Store at the Middlesex Mall doing a bit of Christmas shopping. As we stood in line at the register waiting our turn to pay, his eyes fell upon a rack of ties strategically placed immediately adjacent to it. At that time, a tie was part of my day-to-day work uniform so when he beseeched me to purchase one it was not as if I could use the excuse of, "But when will I ever wear have a chance to wear it?"

He seemed to sense my reluctance to make the purchase - in spite of my daily tie consumption. Thus, even after I relented and agreed to purchase the one that he picked out, he made me promise that I would wear it. And I did. I promised him that it would be the tie I wore for my final pre-Christmas appearance that year and every year thereafter


Rob has not been a boy for quite some time. He is a man in his mid-twenties who has lived two time zones away for the past three years, building a career and a life. His day-to-day is filled with far more important considerations than my neckwear. At this point in his life, given all that he has to think about, I would wager that his recollection of my purchase and my promise is far less clear than mine.

Presuming I am correct does not vitiate my responsibility to honor my promise. Yesterday afternoon I made my final "Pre-Christmas appearance" for 2011. I was in the Monmouth County Court House in Freehold appearing before Judge Kapalko on a Settlement Conference. I do not know His Honor especially well, having only appeared before him on a handful of occasions over the years, so I know not what he thought - if he thought anything at all - about my tie.

Whether he did candidly matters not. It matters - to me at least - that sometimes a tie is more than simply neckwear. It is what its name suggests, which is something that holds one to another.

A tie that binds.

-AK

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Paging David Lee Roth to the Big White Courtesy Menorah

I hope like Hell that my office-issued desk calendar is right about two things today. First that Hanukkah - the Festival of Lights celebrated by those of the Jewish faith - begins begins tonight at sundown. Second, that it (and now by extension me) spelled "Hanukkah" correctly.

I remember how festive the final week prior to Winter Break always seemed to be at W-H. That last week of classes seemed like less work than other weeks because the overwhelming majority of the students were preparing to celebrate either Christmas or Hanukkah. In fact, if memory serves me correctly there were years on which Hanukkah came early enough that my Jewish friends had already lit a candle or two (or three) on the Menorah by the time Winter Break began....not to mention received a present or two or three.

I smile thinking of the friends of mine with whom I went to school preparing to celebrate Hanukkah this year. Hopefully this Hanukkah finds them and theirs safe and sound.

So grab your friend Ronnie. And tell her to remember to bring her mouth harp. There are presents to be opened, menorahs to be lighted and dreidels to be spun.

Happy Hanukkah!

-AK

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Piano Man

My father died on May 31, 1981. On the day he died he was fifty-seven years old. Had he lived to see the 19th of December that year, we would have celebrated his 58th birthday. Today, had he lived to see it, would have been his eighty-eighth birthday.

By the time of his death, Dad and I had a relationship that could fairly be described as strained. Perhaps it had at least a bit to do with the fact that I was the youngest of his six children. I turned fourteen three and a half months before he died. At some point in time prior to what became the last of my birthdays he lived to see, he and I had a parting of the ways. We became "people who lived under the same roof". Nothing more. Nothing less. When it happened, I was at a bit of a loss trying to understand what had happened. Prior to our entry into the woods by way of divergent paths, we had been thick as thieves. Once we got into them, we never found our way out. Would we have? I know not. Time did not allow us that chance.

I am slightly older now than Dad was when I was born. In the years that have passed since a son of fourteen buried his father, the son has married and raised two children of his own. Perhaps at this stage in the son's life, he has lived almost long enough to have a bit better understanding of the issues that confronted his father in his father's day-to-day than he did thirty years ago. Perhaps.

Or perhaps the son has lived long enough - and run far enough himself - to know that no matter the direction you head you are always running against the wind....

....Happy Birthday Dad.

-AK

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Twas the Night Before the Week Before Christmas

And I wonder which song they're going to play when we go
I hope it's something quiet, mannered, peaceful, and slow
When we float out into the ether into the everlasting arms
I hope we don't hear Marley's chains we forged in life


I find myself filled with a bit more of the Christmas spirit today than I did yesterday. Last night Margaret and I took a ride down to Princeton to take in McCarter Theatre's production of "A Christmas Carol". Last year we saw it for the first time and so enjoyed the experience that as soon as McCarter sent me the promotional e-mail for this year's edition, which I think they did back in August, I purchased our tickets.

In the couple of years since her mom died, this time of year has been a decidedly mixed bag emotionally for my bride. It is not uncommon - if I happen to catch a glimpse of her when she is unaware of my glimpsing - to see in her eyes the battle that is still being waged in her heart and in her head. Christmas was among my mother-in-law's favorite times of the year because she had the people she loved the most gathered together in one place. Even if it was just for a moment, it was a moment capable of producing memories that last a lifetime.

Margaret has taken on the role of being the family's emotional center since Suzy B.'s death. While she has filled those big shoes without seeming to miss a beat, I have borne witness to the toll it has taken and shall continue to take upon her.

Which is why a night such as last night is so important for Margaret and for me. An evening spent doing something that my bride is reticent to do, which is doing something for herself. It is my sincere hope that for as long as McCarter puts on its production and for as long as we are able to get to Princeton to enjoy it, what has been a highlight of this Christmas season and last year's as well will continue to be a "date" that we make and that we keep....

....well into the days of Christmases yet to come.

-AK

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Vacancy at the Marriott

"Faith is the surrender of the mind; it's the surrender of reason, it's the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It's our need to believe and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated."

Before you shoot the messenger - admittedly a low-risk endeavor for me given the virtual nature of our relationship - know that while I tend to favor the sentiment expressed the words are not mine. Not on my best day. They belong to the always fascinating Christopher Hitchens. He died on Thursday. He had been diagnosed with esophegeal cancer in 2010. At the time he was diagnosed he rather matter-of-factly acknowledged that a lifetime of heavy smoking and drinking had likely played a role in his having been stricken.

He was most assuredly not everyone's cup of tea. In yesterday's Los Angeles Times Elaine Woo wrote, "A swashbuckling opinionator, he loved few things better than a good argument — and he knew how to pick one." Based upon nothing more than anything I have read by him or about him and/or watched about him, I always had the impression that he cared not at all whether you thought him a god or a devil, a sinner or a saint, a genius or a fool. He cared not what you thought but rather that you thought. Thinking, after all, is a good thing.

"It will happen to all of us that at some point, you get tapped on the shoulder and told not just that the party's over, but slightly worse: The party's going on, but you have to leave."

....eventually everyone purchases a ticket for the 3:10 to Yuma.

-AK

Friday, December 16, 2011

So This is Christmas....

Let me be clear: Iraq will be tested in the days ahead — by terrorism, and by those who would seek to divide, by economic and social issues, by the demands of democracy itself,” Mr. Panetta said. “Challenges remain, but the U.S. will be there to stand by the Iraqi people as they navigate those challenges to build a stronger and more prosperous nation.”

So said the United States Secretary of Defense in a speech yesterday in Baghdad, Iraq, during the ceremony that formally marked the official end to the American military mission in Iraq, which mission lasted nine years. Nine years. Billions of dollars. Too many American lives.

I care not what one's opinion is on this war. I do not pretend to have an opinion better grounded than anyone else's so when I say I care not to hear yours, it is not because I lack respect for it. Rather it is because you are entitled to it - as I am to mine - and neither of us owes the other the courtesy of an explanation.

Today is not a day to preach of the politics of this conflict. At least not here. Not in this space. Today - here at least - is simply a day to say to all of the servicemen and servicewomen who served, to say, "Thank you." Thank you to all of your families who lived here while you were there, each of you hoping and praying for the day on which you would safely return and the night on which you would all sleep again under the same roof. "Thank you" to all of the service members whose lives were lost in this conflict and to offer sympathies and condolences to the loved ones whose prayers for your safe return went unanswered. "Thank you" to all of those who survived injuries that can fairly be called catastrophic and whose incredibly difficult post-war lives will continue to be aided and assisted by the good works of countless organizations such as the people at the Fallen Heroes Fund and the Wounded Warrior Project.

For me, all I can competently say to any of you is, "Thank you." I have never walked a single step - much less a mile - in the shoes that each of you wears every day. If you tell me how this experience has impacted you, I cannot tell you that I understand. That would be a lie.

I suppose that even with my limited ability to comprehend I can say one thing in addition to simply saying thanks. "Welcome home"....

....War is over.

-AK

Thursday, December 15, 2011

beat the BULLY to a PULP IT....

Proof that two separate and distinct half-assed, full-throated endeavors of hate - when combined - do indeed add up to a complete ASS(W)HOLE are brought to us once again this morning courtesy of the mouth-breeding miscreantic sheep who follow the teachings of Fred Phelps and the Wasteboro Bastards Church.

As a much younger man I was fairly chock full of hate. In retrospect I have come to understand that spending most of my days and nights chock full of liquor contributed mightily to my generally anti-social bent. As I have aged, apathy has replaced anger in large part. There are of course now - as there were then - a number of persons and things for which I have a deep-seated love. However, over time the list of people and things I hate has been pared down considerably, many of its members having defected to the list of things about which I simply do not give a rat's ass.

Not everything has made that transition. Perhaps it is because the line of duty killing of a NYPD Police Officer has been splashed across the newspaper front pages and television sets in the New York metropolitan area these past several days and perhaps because his death hits a bit closer to home than I typically permit myself to think, but I find myself particularly filled with venom this morning about the events at which Phelps and his hate-mongering disciples intend to occupy themselves on this day, less than one week to the start of Hanukkah and ten days from Christmas. Then again, considering what an assemblage of human deritus Freddie and his followers are, neither recent events nor the time of year may have a damn thing to do with it.

At some point in time while you are reading this piece the thought shall likely occur to you that Phelps and his cronies have the legal right to do what it is they do, which is show up to protest at funerals of servicemen and servicewomen killed in combat, law enforcement officers and public figures such was Steve Jobs and Elizabeth Edwards. The Supreme Court of the United States said so earlier this year. I am an attorney. I not only recognize the authority of the SCOTUS, I am a member of its Bar and have been for more than eleven years.

The mere fact that something is legal neither makes it (a) right; nor (b) something that good, upstanding members of society should tolerate meekly. Legality aside, Phelps is a bully. Nothing more. Nothing less. His followers share that singular characteristic with their leader. It is abject foolishness to stake out a position that the best way to deal with a bully is to ignore him. A bully ignored shall not go away. He shall advance. He shall continue to take liberties with and from those who lack the courage to make him stand down. Do not believe me? Stop reading this and read this. Once you have read the latter, come back here if you wish. I shall still be here.

This morning the pricks of misery who call themselves the Wasteboro Bastards Church intend to assert their Constitutional right to assemble and express themselves on their home turf in Kansas. This morning a memorial service shall be held at Benedictine College in Atchinson, Kansas for a police officer. Sgt. David Enzbrenner was killed in the line of duty last Friday morning while serving a warrant. This morning, the WBC bunch shall picket Sgt. Enzbrenner's memorial service. If for even a moment you harbor the delusion that they have a legitimate reason for doing so, then avail yourself of a review of their declared basis for doing it.

This afternoon, a contingent of WBC imbeciles shall congregate at one of this nation's most sacred places, Arlington National Cemetery, in order to picket the service for Army Sgt. 1st Class Johnathan B. McCain. Sgt. McCain was killed in action in Afghanistan. He died on November 13 from injuries sustained when he encountered an IED while on patrol. McCain was 38 years old. He first enlisted in the Army in 1992. The WBC press release announcing the group's intention to appear today at Arlington closes with this salutation, "THANK GOD FOR IEDs".

While it would be satisfying on a visceral level for those assembled to pay their respects to the fallen and to express support for their families to simply set upon the WBC jagoffs and assail them physically, doing so would in fact play right into the WBC's warped little hands. And it would put law enforcement in the wholly unwelcome position of having to arrest those who were doing the assailing. After all, WBC does have the Constitutional right to picket.

They do not however have the Constitutional right to be seen or heard by the family whose loss is the subject of the service. Today at Benedictine College and Arlington National Cemetery alike, those who are able to get there - whether they have a connection to the deceased or not - should get there and should peacefully assemble. Their peaceful assembly should take place at a point between the WBC crew and those attending the service so that the family who has already suffered so much shall not be required to suffer the indignity of having this day besmirched by these assholes. Assemble in a location and in such a manner that the effect the WBC hopes to have on these services is blunted in its entirety. And your efforts are precisely the efforts that should without exception be duplicated in each and every place where Phelps' whelps attempt to sow their particular brand of hate.

I am not a religious man. However if I were, the Reverend whose teaching I would follow is most assuredly not Freddie Phelps. It is the late, great Robert Marley....

Get up! Stand up!

-AK

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Snowfall in the Sunshine State

The most interesting thing about being in Florida in early December was examining the zeal with which the locals embrace Christmas imagery that this jaded Jerseyan associates with colder climes such as....well, such as New Jersey. Evergreens decorated for Christmas in an area where shorts and t-shirts abound? Priceless.


We were in central Florida - a mile or two from the various Disney properties, Sea World and Universal Studios - and during the week we were there we spent time at Universal and at Epcot Center, both of which were all dolled up for Christmas. Hearing Nat King Cole crooning about roasting chestnuts over a park's P.A. system is always welcome - irrespective of the weather - but seeing animated figures such as polar bears and penguins on the front lawns of homes and businesses alike in a region in which the average daytime temperature in December is north of the 70 degree pole was a tad jarring. For me at least.


The single most intriguing thing to me though was the nightly snowfall in the town of Celebration. Celebration, Florida is a town that very well may have served as the inspiration for the town in Jim Carrey's "The Truman Show". Not only is the town named Celebration but we counted at least four different thoroughfares that had Celebration in their names as well (Boulevard, Drive, Street and Way) although curiously when I asked for directions to Kool and the Gang Court, the man behind the counter at the Information Desk told me he had never heard of such a street. Odd, right? He turned out to be utterly useless for when I asked him what was the quickest way to get from Celebration to Stepford, he told me that he had never heard of my proffered destination.

Celebration simulates a snowfall every night - at least (according to the sign prominently displayed on Route 192) between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day (since having it snow nightly in central Florida in mid-April would be silly). While it sounds insane as an abstract concept, it was actually pretty cool to see:



I wish I had gotten a better picture of her for as Margaret, Joe and I were taking in the man-made snowstorm (talk about living 'NTSG), there was the tiniest little moppet of a girl standing in the middle of it all. She said nothing for the several minutes while we were there near her and her parents. She simply stood, eyes wide open, mouth fixed in a smile looking up at the flakes tumbling down out of the sky.


Proof once again perhaps that the answer to Virginia's question is now as it has always been, "Yes". Santa Claus is alive and well. Even in central Florida. And even in a town where December's nightly snowfalls are but memories by the following dawn in spite of the dearth of plow equipment or rock salt.

-AK

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A New York Minute

Lying here in the darkness
I hear the sirens wail
Somebody going to emergency
Somebody's going to jail
If you find somebody to love in this world
You better hang on tooth and nail
The wolf is always at the door


Yesterday morning NYPD Police Officer Peter Figoski - a 22 year veteran of the NYPD - and his partner Glenn Estrada responded to a call of a "burglary in progress" shortly after 2:00 a.m. According to what Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told the Post:

Officer Peter Figoski, a 22-year veteran, responded to a “burglary in progress” at 25 Pine Street in Cypress Hills at 2:15 a.m. and was confronted by career criminal Lamont Pride, 27, police said.

After the landlord called 911, Pride, 27, and his cohort initially hid from the first responding officers and were attempting to make their escape when Figoski and his partner surprised the thugs. Without hesitation, Pride allegedly shot Figoski, 47, once in the face and took off on foot.

Meanwhile, Figoski’s partner, Glenn Estrada, 42, was tussling with Pride’s unidentified cohort nearby. Estrada broke away and chased after Pride, slapping the cuffs on him several blocks away on Chestnut Street and Fulton Street, police said.


Officer Figoski was the father of four daughters, ranging in age from 14 to 20 - the oldest two of whom are both college students and all four of whom shall now live the remainder of their life without their dad. Four young ladies who - should they marry - shall have to be walked down the aisle by someone other than their father.

Anyone who has a loved one in law enforcement lives every day hoping that each and every day on the job for the one you love is uneventful, routine and (if one is feeling a little greedy) perhaps even a little dull. Those who earn their living in law enforcement accept that there is risk inherent in all that they do and that danger lurks around every corner. And yet they do the jobs that they have sworn to do. They do it in spite their knowledge of its risks. They do it because it has to be done. Actions and consequences are now what they have always been - different sides of the same coin.

And in these days
When darkness falls early
And people rush home
To the ones they love
You better take a fool's advice
And take care of your own
One day they're here;
Next day they're gone.


Sadly and almost incomprehensibly, yesterday proved to be the "next day" for NYPD Officer Peter Figoski, those he loved and those who love him.

-AK

Monday, December 12, 2011

That Familiar Look

If previous experience is any indication, the "era of good feeling" associated with having been on vacation last week will be merely a memory by - approximately - 9:11 this morning. It is for that reason that my work day starts at 4:30 a.m. I might as well keep the dream alive for as long as possible; right?

The economy has ravaged every industry it seems and whether your collar is white or blue you have sweated through it too many times to count. Therefore, being busy is a very good thing. Having too much to do at times is not only nothing about which to complain, it certainly beats the alternative. A lot of good people have been put out of work these past few years. Musical chairs is a game that was mildly entertaining when we were children. As adults, not so much.

I absolutely enjoyed every moment of our week in the Florida sun. Happiness as a runner is being able to run outside every morning - at sunrise mind you - wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and shorts. Margaret's plan to return home on Saturday - as opposed to Sunday - was pure genius. Rather than return home on Sunday and immediately transition into "back to work" mode today, we had the chance to relax a bit on Sunday. I know not whether "sea legs" is a term that translates into other scenarios (such as acclimating back into one's day-to-day following a vacation) but Margaret's foresight in giving us Sunday to do just that was...well it was genius. No other term adequately describes it.

We spent Sunday doing a bit of Christmas shopping (no time like the 11th of December to start the process). We also infused the house with a bit of the Christmas spirit. Over the years we have accrued a lot of Christmas "treasures" (a/k/a "Christmas-themed crap that Adam has purchased at one store or another"). It has been several years since we put any of it up. It has - in large part - lost its appeal. This year shall not represent a reversal of that trend. Less is more once again at the Kenny home.

I am allergic to live Christmas trees. Twenty years ago - when Margaret and the kids spent their first Christmas in what we refer to as "the flood house" we purchased an artificial tree. My recollection is that we bought it at Bradlee's. Margaret's is that we purchased it at Caldor's. The receipt was resigned to history's dustbin many years ago - as coincidentally were both Bradlee's and Caldor's. Our sturdy little tree is now twenty years old. And while I suppose I am biased as to its beauty, I think it has not only withstood Time's ravages but that it has aged gracefully


Hell, I wish that these past twenty years had treated me as well. Our tree still has all its original coloring and does not look its age. Sadly, I cannot say the same for me....on either count.

-AK

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Skin Shedding

One week ago today -as Joe, Margaret and I sat in Terminal A at Newark Airport awaiting the departure of our flight to sunny FLA, I perused Facebook. As I did, I came across my old pal Dave Lackland's announcement to the world of the brand-new addition to his and his wife Tessa's family. At some point during the previous evening, little Indigo Atoll Lackland arrived on the scene.

While I have not spoken to Dave since his first-born son was born, I have communicated with him via text message. If it is possible to gauge one's emotion from the written word, then I would be willing to wager that each text message I received from Dave this week was sent while he was sporting an ear-to-ear grin.

For each of us, life is a journey - not a destination. Just eight days ago, Dave's journey went headlong into uncharted waters, which given his area of expertise I expect he will handle with aplomb. He is one of the world's genuinely good souls. I have never met his bride. However, given the tendency of water to seek and find its own level I have no doubt that Tessa is at the very least his equal.

Twenty-plus years ago Bruce Springsteen became a father for the first time. Shortly after the birth of his son Evan he wrote "Living Proof", a song expressing his visceral reaction to that moment. It is a song that begins with this lyric:

Well now on a summer night in a dusky room
Come a little piece of the Lord's undying light
Crying like he swallowed the fiery moon
In his mother's arms it was all the beauty I could take
Like the missing words to some prayer that I could never make
In a world so hard and dirty so fouled and confused
Searching for a little bit of God's mercy
I found living proof....


....and I presume that my old friend has now as well. And shall continue to do so every day.

-AK

Saturday, December 10, 2011

All Good Things....

I do not vacation much so I am open to the possibility that I do not know as much about it as the next fellow. This morning we make the trek home from Florida. The past seven days have flown by. If you asked me what the best part of it, I would be hard-pressed to say just one thing. The whole trip was extraordinary from start to finish....

....although having had the chance to spend all of Wednesday in Jupiter with Mom and Jill made for a very special day. The five of us ate in Mom's favorite little joint after spending the afternoon hanging out by the pool.

The grindstone awaits. No worries. Fueled up and ready to go.

-AK

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chillin' in the Florida Sun

We are now just two full weeks from Christmas. I must confess that having spent This week in Florida it has not felt a great deal like Christmas, at least in terms of temperature. Florida is neat in that although the folks who live here presumably are here at.least as an expression of their lack of affinity for snow, they go to extraordinary lengths to incorporate the notion of snow into their Christmas celebrations. Funny stuff in a sweetly corny kind of way.

We shall make our journey home tomorrow, which means that for the first time in four years I will not be running in the Big Chill 5K race in New Brunswick. If you are a runer and can be in New Brunswick tomorrow morning bright and early, then grab your shoes and get over there. The entry fee? An unwrapped toy for a needy child. If not for children then who is Chistmas for? Figure it out on the way to the College Avenue Gym.

You shall be happy you did.

AK

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Day for Sinners and Saints

Vacation is in the homestretch. In forty-eight hours or so, we shall be a big old jet airliner flying home to the State of Concrete Gardens. While I could not imagine living in Florida until at least forty-five minutes after affixing of the toe tag, it has been a nice place to visit. Happiness is being able to run outside in a sleeveless t-shirt and shorts in the wee small hours of the morning.

Like a lot of good Irish families, the Kennys are Catholic. Fortunately for me, by the time I was matriculating my way through elementary school Dad's employer (Wardlaw), which was an all-boys' school had consummated its relationship with the nearby all-girls' school Hartridge to become a co-educational institution. Albeit one with an incredibly long, difficult to say aloud name. Eventually I got the hang of it.

I started at W-H in 5th grade. By staying active in school, I managed to escape the torture of CCD class. No CCD, no Confirmation. I was dancing the Texas Two-Step decades before Suzanne heard the siren's song of Houston. Time passed and neither Mom nor Dad pressed the issue. Being agnostic even at that young age, I certainly did not either. Thus, while I have been married for close to two decades, I have never been confirmed...unless being a confirmed A**hole counts. Occasionally my wife indicates to me that it is.

Today is a day of some significance on the Roman Catholic Church's calendar. It is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is not to be confused with the Feast of the Immaculate Reception celebrated annually in Pittsburgh and Oakland Pennsylvania but NOT in Oakland, California. I enjoyed this day the few years I went to catholic grammar school - at least when it fell during the school week. Happiness is day off from school. Religious beliefs be damned (or is that non-believers be damned?), I can never get that quite correct.

This day also always makes me think of one of my favorite Springsteen lyrics, which I presume is not on Pope Eggs Benedict's iPod playlist:

His countryside's burnin' with wolfman fairies dressed in drag for homicide
They hit and run, plead sanctuary, 'neath a holy stone they hide
They're breakin' beams and crosses with a spastic's reelin' perfection
nuns run bald through Vatican halls pregnant, pleadin' immaculate conception

-AK

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

From Eternity To Here

Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our secretary of state a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese government also launched as attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Wake Island.

And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us. . .


In late August there was a lot of discussion in a lot of places of whether those still affected by the events of September 11, 2001 needed to "get over it" as the 10th anniversary of that dreadful day approached. Regardless of your point of view on that particular issue, it bears remembering that nothing occurs in a vacuum. The events of a single day are not easy to forget because they are inexorably linked to the events of subsequent days.

Action necessitates reaction. If you have any trouble wrapping your head around that concept, take a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the World War II Memorial. The Memorial's Announcement Stone contains the following inscription:

HERE IN THE PRESENCE OF WASHINGTON AND LINCOLN, ONE THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY FATHER AND THE OTHER THE NINETEENTH CENTURY PRESERVER OF OUR NATION, WE HONOR THOSE TWENTIETH CENTURY AMERICANS WHO TOOK UP THE STRUGGLE DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR AND MADE THE SACRIFICES TO PERPETUATE THE GIFT OUR FOREFATHERS ENTRUSTED TO US:
A NATION CONCEIVED IN LIBERTY AND JUSTICE.


The notion of a "stand-alone day" is a fiction. History has taught us that time and again. Including seventy years ago on this very day in a little place called Pearl Harbor.

-AK

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Justice is In

This past weekend we the people of the State of New Jersey put the final bow on the 2011 high school football season. Included among the 1159 squads that earned "Sectional State Championships" were the Patriots of Wayne Hills. Wayne Hills rallied from a 12-0 halftime deficit to defeat Old Tappan 15-12 on a touchdown in game's final couple of minutes. The kids from Wayne Hills won without "The Wayne Hills Nine". Well done and well-earned. Perhaps now the Wayne Board of Education can cancel the Continuing Adult Education Winter Session lecture series, "Is Isn't Paranoia When Everyone Really Is Out To Get Me"? They might want to keep it on the calendar. Never can be too careful. Right?

A bit further south on Saturday night - on the turf at Rutgers Stadium - the kids from Matawan High School sprung a bit of an upset and captured their very own sectional title. Matawan defeated the kids from Springsteen's adopted hometown 3-0 and did so without its quintet of wayward boys, suspended not by their local school board but by their Head Coach for some as-of-yet undisclosed (publicly anyway) transgression. Congratulations to the kids from Matawan and to their parents who, unlike their neighbors to the north in Passaic County, kept their mouths shut when their sons received punishment that they had apparently earned.

And on the subject of receiving punishment that had been well-earned, no discussion of the weekend's events would be complete without mentioning the beat down Miguel Cotto put on Antonio Margarito in their fight at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Margarito is a cheater of the highest order in boxing. He was caught prior to a fight against Shane Mosley a couple of years ago illegally wrapping his hands pre-fight (packing on more wrapping to enhance the "shwallop" effect of each punch). Given that his fight against Mosley took place roughly one year after Margarito had inflicted a brutal beating on Cotto in their first fight, Cotto has repeatedly stated since that he believes Margarito cheated the first time around.

Cotto sought no recourse in our civil justice system. He simply continued to fight. As did Margarito. Eventually they found their way back to one another. And when they did, Cotto administered a form of retribution far more severe than anything that would have happened in a courtroom. It has been said that revenge is a dish best served cold. The first Saturday night of December in New York City proved to be precisely cold enough.

-AK

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Annexation of Puerto Rico

Time passes so quickly that Suz has been a Texan for a week already. Holy smokes. It is still so eerily quiet around the house that I wonder if and when I shall get used to it. I suppose I shall. It's like the song says, "You get used to anything. Sooner or later it just becomes your life."

It is a bit easier to take this week as not only is Suz not home. Neither are Margaret and I. More than a tad odd to wake up on a Monday morning AND not have to go to work. I could get used to it I suppose. Another thirty years or so and perhaps I shall have the opportunity to test my enthusiasm for it. Perhaps.

As we were in "pre-trip" mode on Saturday night I stumbled across a rather silly movie from a lifetime ago. "Little Giants" with Ed O'Neill and Rick Moranis was a moderate hit in the mid-1990's. I smiled when I flipped to the channel it was on because it made me smile. It focuses in large part on the relationships between kids, including those who comprise the rosters of the 'have' and the 'have not' pee-wee football teams. I remember first seeing it what seems now like a million years ago. A time when our kids were the same age as those on the screen.

The thing that separates real-life from make believe is that the latter is formulaic. The former rarely is. Time and again it is nice to get lost in the formulaic - even if just for ninety minutes or so.

-AK

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Changes in Latitudes

Ahoy mateys! Today playing the role of Captain Hooky is Yours truly. The Missus, Joe and I are off today to spend a week in (hopefully) sunny Florida. The notion of taking a week's break from work is more than slightly alien to me. The notion of spending that week in Florida is off the charts.

I might well be one of the few Americans born and raised on the East Coast and over the age of forty who can count the number of times I have been within the geographical boundaries of the State of Florida on one hand. Mom has lived there for close to fifteen years and I have been there to see her on two occasions - and both "visits" centered around her being in the hospital. Margaret and I went on a cruise a number of years ago and flew in and out of Miami. The harbor area was lovely. The airport less so. And slightly more than three years ago, Margaret and I flew into Jacksonville prior to making a brief jaunt north to Georgia for Rob's graduation.

This morning I embark on Trip #5. Presuming Mr. Doppler has not been telling a fib on all the weather reports I spent the past week watching, our time there should be spent under sun-splashed skies enjoying temperatures in the upper 70's. Not a bad gig given it is December's first full week. Not a bad gig at all.

Vacation makes me lazy. Need proof? That is all for now. Enjoy your Sunday. Wheels up in 30....

I took off for a weekend last month
Just to try and recall the whole year
All of the faces and all of the places
Wonderin where they all disappeared
I didn't ponder the question too long
I was hungry and went out for a bite
Ran into a chum with a bottle of rum
And we wound up drinkin all night

Its these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of our running and all of our cunning
If we couldnt laugh we would all go insane

Reading departure signs in some big airport
Reminds me of the places Ive been
Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
Makes me want to go back again
If it suddenly ended tomorrow
I could somehow adjust to the fall
Good times and riches and son of a bitches
Ive seen more than I can recall

These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
Through all of the islands and all of the highlands
If we couldnt laugh we would all go insane

I think about paris when Im high on red wine
I wish I could jump on a plane
So many nights I just dream of the ocean
God I wish I was sailin again
Oh, yesterdays over my shoulder
So I can't look back for too long
There's just too much to see waiting in front of me
And I know that I just can't go wrong

With these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of my running and all of my cunning
If I couldnt laugh I just would go insane
If we couldnt laugh we just would go insane
If we werent all crazy we would go insane....

....enjoy the trip. I intend to.

-AK

Saturday, December 3, 2011

While I Was Taking Those Old Records Off The Shelf....

I do not pretend to know whether it means something or nothing at all but a quick look at the sports page this morning revealed that Tiger Woods was atop the leader board in whatever golf tournament he is playing in this weekend. You can fit all I know about golf into a thimble with adequate space remaining available for a thumb but even I know that once upon a lifetime ago Mr. Woods was universally considered to be the best golfer in the world. And that it has been quite some time since the third round of a tournament began with him playing in the day's final grouping. Whether it is because people shall root against him or because people shall root for him, the people who make money from televising golf are thrilled to have Tiger back. Even if just for today.

Last night at Met Life Stadium (because "F***ing You Out of Your Money Without the Courtesy of Foreplay or the Pretense of Cuddling Afterwards" Stadium proved impossible to fit on the marquee) Don Bosco Prep played its arch-rival Bergen Catholic for the Non-Public Group 4 State Championship in high school football. Don Bosco Prep is ranked nationally (another great faux industry from where I sit is the national ranking of high school teams in various sports) either #1 or #2 and - as expected - defeated Bergen Catholic (and did so quite handily 42-14) to win its sixth consecutive state title. I cannot help but wonder though who schedules these games to be played at a stadium that holds more than 78,000 when yet again last night the joint was only filled to approximately 20% capacity. Nothing says playoff intensity quite as much as playing a game in front of thousands of fans all dressed alike....as empty seats. Ridiculous.

While poking the sacred cow that is high school football, why not go in whole hog? Parenthetically did anyone notice the sloppy mixing of animal metaphors in the preceding sentence? I hope so. It was quite deliberate. This weekend (today I think) the Wayne Hills football team will battle Old Tappan for one of the State of Concrete Gardens' 917 "Sectional" State Championships for which our public school football teams compete. There are more teenage boys walking around in New Jersey wearing a varsity jacket identifying each as a member of a "Sectional State Champion" in high school football then there are people related by both blood and marriage at the annual Polygamy Convention in Salt Lake City. It is beyond ridiculous.

Anyway, Wayne Hills will be short nine players for its championship game. Apparently in late October these kids were involved in an altercation either at or after a party with some kids from The Township of Wayne's other high school, Wayne Valley. Published reports stated that due to the altercation, the two Wayne Valley kids were left beaten pretty badly. Apparently in Wayne the relationship between the two schools is something akin to the Sharks and the Jets of West Side Story....although being suburban New Jersey the rumbles inevitably occur at a shopping center that delineates the boundary lines for each faction's turf. The police arrested the nine boys from Wayne Hills and charged all of them for their role in this assault.

A lot of ink and video has been expended the past several weeks here in Joisey as to the goings-on in Wayne. Most of it has addressed the somewhat embarrassing lengths to which the head football coach/athletic director at Wayne Hills and the parents of his football players went in an effort to first intimidate the Wayne Board of Education (which does after all serve the residents of the Township who send their children to either high school) into letting the kids play in the team's State playoff games. The efforts were successful initially, until the Board of Education members realized their testicles had fully descended. Thereafter, once the Board of Education suspended all nine kids from playing football, the equally dubious lengths to which the parents went through the legal system in an effort to overturn the Board of Education's decision to ban them from this weekend's championship game against Old Tappan. Yesterday afternoon, the State Commissioner of Education upheld an Administrative Law Judge's ruling that the kids could not play.

Wayne Hills is not the only school participating in this weekend's football finals that shall be at less than full strength due to disciplinary issues. Matawan plays Rumson this afternoon at Rutgers Stadium for the (write this down because it is a bit of a mouthful) "Central Jersey, Group 2" Sectional State Championship. Five of Matawan's players are not playing today, having been suspended from the team by their head coach who is also the school's athletic director. In Matawan, the "OCCUPY THE BOARD OF EDUCATION" moment that is all the rage in up in certain community in Passaic County has apparently not trickled down the Parkway to Monmouth County. Matawan clearly has a better fundamental understanding of the concept of there being a consequence assoiciated with each and every action than Wayne Hills does.

The only people in these two "Mr. Touchdown" melodramas for whom I feel badly are the kids on the Wayne Hills team and on the Matawan team who had no role in either incident that resulted in certain of their teammates being sidelined. For a number of these kids, high school will mark the end of their formal, organized participation in sports, including of course members of each school's senior class. For those kids, who presumably worked as hard as the players who are not permitted to play did to reach this point, the selfishness of their teammates could cost them. Is that fair? It matters not. It is Life.

Final idle thought of the day from me is how great it must have been to be at MSG on Thursday night for the Bob Seger show and get, as an unexpected pre-Christmas present, a special guest shot of Bruce Juice. Old Time Rock and Roll indeed.

-AK

Friday, December 2, 2011

The View From Space

Ever wonder whether there is indeed life "out there"? And by "out there" I mean, of course, the Dakotas. I kid - of course. I reside each day in sufficiently deep hot water without making all 41 people who reside in those two states sore at me. Besides, North Dakota gave us Roger Maris. Tough not to love a place that produced the low-key half of the "M n' M Boys". South Dakota gave us the Battle of Little Big Horn. Tough not to love any place that effectively put the kibosh on American military leaders being seen in public with facial hair that would have made Rollie Fingers proud.

If one was looking down from space at one point or another during the period of the past seven days, one would have seen some pretty wild stuff. For instance, right around the corner in bucolic Rahway, New Jersey the good people at RWJUH had an unexpected visitor to the hospital's emergency room. A flying squirrel entered the facility somehow. Upon being told that the E/R could not treat him without proper proof of insurance, he screamed "OBAMA CARE! ROMNEY CARE! I DON'T CARE" to the top of his little varmint lungs and started flying all over the Emergency Department, much to the delight no doubt of all of the patients in the waiting room seeking medical assistance secondary to accidental overdoses of hallucinogenics.

After several minutes, the firefighters who were called to the scene to apprehend this little rat with wings did just that. In order to ensure that this new TV reality series has a longer life expectancy than Charlie's Angels or The Playboy Club, upon catching the flying squirrel the firefighters took him out into the woods and released him back into the wild.

Now that he has been freed, Rahway's wayward squirrel would be well-advised to steer clear of Utah. Lots of beautiful scenery and historically expansive views on polygamy to be sure but a very dangerous place to be a wild animal. Or a water fowl apparently. You need to fear not only the intrepid bipeds who pursue you but their canine companions as well. In at least one case, the latter has proven to be a more worrisome adversary than the former.

While duck hunting with two of his human friends, a dog decided not to wait until one of his companions had finished placing all of their decoy ducks in a row before engaging a target. Apparently the trio was hunting from a canoe and when one of the men got up and out of the boat in order to place duck decoys, he left his 12-gauge shotgun in the canoe. In hindsight (pun most assuredly intended) not such a great idea:

A Utah bird hunter was shot in the buttocks after his dog stepped on a shotgun laid across the bow of a boat.

Box Elder County Sheriff's Deputy Kevin Potter says the 46-year-old Brigham City man was duck hunting with a friend when he climbed out of the boat to move decoys.

Potter says the man left his 12-gauge shotgun in the boat and the dog stepped on it, causing it to fire. It wasn't clear whether the safety on the gun was on at the time.

Potter says the man was hit from about 10 feet away with 27 pellets of birdshot. He says the man wasn't seriously injured, in part because he was wearing waders. The man was treated at a nearby hospital.


If there is one thing to be learned from this story it is that one should adhere to the teachings of Lyle Lovett. A pony + a boat = a lifetime of contentment. A dog + a boat = an assful of birdshot.

Or to put it another way, a bird in hand might be worth two in the bush. But a bird in the water with a dog in a canoe is worth twenty-seven in the caboose.

-AK

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Magic Beans and Birthday Pony Rides

'Tis December. A month that ends with the ringing out of the present year begins with the ringing in of the commencement of another trip around the sun for my first-born sister Evan. I know not if she and my brother-in-law have a boat but I know she has a pony, which means that for her - unlike for my brother Bill - birthday pony rides are not mere wishes. Happy Birthday Ev and if you and Bentley (? - I think that is his name) end up spending a portion of your big day sailing the ocean blue, know that somewhere Lyle Lovett sits smiling.....and strumming upon his guitar.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call Tuesday afternoon from my recently-transplanted daughter. Suz was in Kroger's doing some grocery shopping and called to inquire of Yours truly about certain items and whether the price of them in her store comparable to the price in the A&P that I shop in weekly. It never ceases to amaze me how one's enthusiasm for something can be contagious. We spent just a couple of minutes on the phone, chatting not only about the importance of coupon-clipping but also about her first visit as an employee to her new gig. The excitement in her voice about all of it was palpable. I do not have a mirror in my office. I did not need one to confirm the presence of the ear-to-ear grin on my face as I listened. While I smile infrequently, I do it enough to recognize that pulling sensation on the corners of my mouth. I felt it.

The best part of the conversation was her telling me that she was shopping for what she needed to make dinner last night. Her entree? Lentils. As small children, Suz and Rob ate dinner every night with Joe, Suzy B. and Nanny. Lentils were a staple item at that table. Suz loves them. So much so that at the completion of her first full day in the heart of Texas, she made them as her first meal in her new home.

But the best part of the day for me was a part that involved me not at all - at least not directly. In the couple of years since Suzy B. died, Joe has become quite the chef. Truth be told, a lifetime ago he owned and operated a diner with at least two of his brothers and he did a lot of the cooking. He has not so much learned to cook in the past two-plus years as he has reacquainted himself with the art of doing it. Necessity is more than the mother of invention apparently. She is also the mother of rekindling.

Joe makes a mean dish of lentils. He knows that it is among Suz's favorite things that he makes so any night he makes them for himself, he sends a meal or two's worth home with Margaret for Suz. Tuesday night, Suz called him to tell him that she had introduced Houston to the dish she had grown to love as a child 'NTSG. He was thrilled. Not so much about the fact that Houston now has lentils among its charms but that she took the time to call him to tell him about it.

Life is comprised of scant few "big events". It is in fact a tapestry of day-to-day, seemingly ordinary events. Events that viewed separately might not seem to be too much at all but when seen for what they actually are - an integral part of a much bigger picture - take on a much more complete profile.

It is the little things that count. Proof that sometimes a hill of beans is not only valuable, it is priceless.

-AK