Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Incoming and Outgoing

When your children are no longer "children" but are full-fledged adults living out on their own going about their day-to-day in a manner similar to how you go about your own, you realize how much you miss the sound (a/k/a "noise") that was present in your home when they were there. It is perceptibly quieter at our home these days than it was prior to Suz's move to the land where the stars at night are big and bright. That is not intended as a jab at the "girl child". It is a statement of fact. There is one less human inhabiting the space than there was when Suz lived home. There are times when it is almost spookily quiet. Almost.

Suz called Margaret the other afternoon to tell her mother that she is coming home. No, not to stay. The Texas adventure is going swimmingly. But to visit. She shall be home for Mother's Day weekend. While the visit shall be brief - they always are - it has already had the effect on my wife of a B-12 shot. I noticed her Monday night eyeing the calendar on the side of the refrigerator and mentally speed-dialing her way through March and April just go get May here that much faster. Based upon the flight schedule that was communicated to me, I just might be the one who needs the B-12 shot simply to perform the airport pick-up.

It will seem like forever until it gets here and it will be over in an eye blink but in between there will be seventy-two glorious hours in which mother/daughter shall be together in one place. As I get older I appreciate more and more the notion of life's little victories....

....and the importance of the little things.

-AK

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

While You Were Sleeping....

....or perhaps otherwise engaged, happenings and goings-on here on the big blue marble that might have escaped your attention.

Spring Break is right around the corner for college kids nationwide. Presuming you - a collegian - have more disposable income than did I when I was your age, you might be planning on spending your break on vacation. I spent mine working but enough about me. You and your friends might be thinking, "Hey a cruise is a relatively inexpensive way to enjoy a full-service, all-inclusive week of fun and sun!" I suppose the only chance of any college-age kid in America voicing precisely that thought would be if he/she wandered into real life off of the set of a Frankie/Annette movie. Anyway, I digress.

A cruise can be an enjoyable way to vacation. The Missus and I went on one a number of years ago and had a terrific time. I might suggest though that if a cruise is on your list of vacation possibilities in 2012 - whether you are a Spring Breaker or not - you consider NOT going on Carnival Cruise Lines. Thus far this year, Carnival has appeared to be equally inept at keeping its passengers safe whether they are on board or have gone ashore on a paid-for excursion. Things have been so rough this far this year that even the crew members are jumping ship....literally.

This year, the people who run Purdue University just might have some difficulty getting their kids to leave West Lafayette and go anywhere. Over in Lafayette, collegians of legal drinking age (and anyone else brave enough to venture into this particular establishment) can enjoy beer and wine with their meal....at the White Castle. Yes indeed. Nothing says "mismatch" quite like the visual imagery associated with someone drinking a nice Merlot while scarfing down a 20-pack of sliders. Yet in this particular White Castle since December 2011, a customer has been able to do just that. How are sales of vino going at the Home of the Slider? Some days better than others apparently.

And finally a random item that might appeal only to my fellow Garden Staters - if it even does to them. For any and all who thought that the old saw about prisoners making license plates was something drawn up in a Hollywood studio, take a gander at the license plate-making factory at Bayside State Prison in southern New Jersey. They crank out license plates at a rate of 1 Million annually.

One million license plates a year. Thankfully those of us who live in the State of Concrete Gardens are so infatuated with our vehicles to keep this shop dedicated exclusively to the production of license plates. One hates to think what all that machinery and all those tools would be utilized to make if not license plates. How many lunch trays could one state's hospitals and schools possibly use? Given that there is not a great deal of enthusiasm from the Whamo folks for metal Frisbees or other flying objects, but for the need to crank out these plates, this particular segment of the workforce would have a lot of idle time on their hands.

Now that the Ledger has confirmed where our license plates are produced, I opted to reverse my stance on vanity plates and I ordered a set for Skate. I wanted to ensure that the workmanship was top-notch and that my plates were manufactured with skill and love so I opted for a vanity plate near and dear to the heart of the person making it: NTGLTY.

They are supposed to arrive in four to six weeks. I hope like Hell that they are not hand-delivered.

-AK

Monday, February 27, 2012

Some Things Just Stink

This will be a tough week at the shop. Sadly, work pressure has nothing to do with it.

I have had the pleasure of working with Lucia since she first joined the Firm in the middle of November 2010. I am not the easiest person with whom to work - not so much because of my generally disagreeable disposition as much as I tend to generate a great deal of work. In the world of litigation, which is the world in which I work, more often than not the work that needs to be completed needs to be completed as soon as possible.

As an assistant Lucia is top-notch. As a person she is considerably more. And this week shall be a simply brutal one for her mother, her family and her. They do not deserve it. Nevertheless they shall have to endure it.

Friday night - after battling hard against illnesses and ailments that had kept him hospitalized for the final month of his life- Lucia's dad died. I never had the pleasure of meeting him. I take on faith however - having the pleasure of spending eight hours a day five days a week with one of his greatest accomplishments - that he was one hell of a man. I know too that Lucia adored him.

I do not like those things that I cannot fix. This is one of those things. All I can do is all that anyone can do, which is think a good thought and be there to offer support and comfort to those in need.

-AK

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Book of Propst

We have arrived at February's final Sunday. One could argue I suppose that considering February's first Sunday heralded the ascendancy of the Giants to the top of the NFL (at least for this year), each Sunday thereafter has been a bit of a letdown. Allow me to take a contrarian view.

As one who runs and as one whose running these days is tied in to his preparation for the New Jersey Marathon on the 6th of May, I would argue that each Sunday this month has been super. I shall today - as I have been able to on the three Sundays that came before it - be able to take my "long" preparatory run in the fresh air. Happiness is most certainly being able to run eleven miles outdoors as opposed to on a treadmill.

It is in fact, in my humble opinion, too nice a day to be spent on too many of my words. Boy - talk about setting a bar so low you are more likely to stub your toe than to strike your head upon it; eh? Especially so today when someone has provided us with far better ones:

Games require skill. Running requires endurance, character, pride, physical strength, and mental toughness. Running is a test, not a game. A test of faith, belief, will, and trust in one’s self. So hardcore that it needs a category all to itself to define the pain. When game players criticize, it's because they aren't willing to understand, not because they're stronger. Running is more than a sport; it's a lifestyle. If you have to ask us why we run, you'll never understand, so just accept.

I could not have said that any better myself. And yes, I know that you know to be true too. Keep your wise ass remarks to yourself....

....gotta run. See you tomorrow.

-AK

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Prince Albert in a Can

From afar, I have always been a fan of Albert Pujols. It bears mentioning -comfortably ensconced on my Throne of Hypocrisy - that Mr. Pujols' entire baseball career to date has taken place in a league about which I care little. However, since effective Opening Day 2012 his mailing address shall have an "AL" and not a "NL" zip code I am willing to admit that my opinion of him may decline in direct relationship to how much damage he inflicts upon the Yankees. Being Irish, I am by nature a pessimist. In my mind's eye I can already see Hughes turning his head to watch a Pujols bomb descend into Monument Park in an October game.

After helping the Cardinals win the World Series in 2011, Mr. Pujols signed a contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim that can, I think, fairly be described as jaw-dropping. During his eleven-year career in Saint Louis, Pujols was the most consistently dominant offensive player in the National League. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2001. He made the NL All-Star Team nine times. He won the NL MVP three times. He won the MVP of the 2004 NLCS. He won six Silver Slugger awards. He was voted the Major League Player of the Year three times.

His excellence off of the field is matched by his excellence off of it. In 2008 Major League Baseball honored him with the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given annually to a player who demonstrates the values Clemente displayed in his commitment to community and understanding the value of helping others. Each club nominates a player in September. The winner is selected from 30 nominees during the World Series.

Albert Pujols was many things in Saint Louis. One thing he chose not to be was "The Man". Why? Because in Saint Louis "The Man" is Stan Musial. During Pujols' career with the Cardinals, he and Musial became acquainted with one another. At some point in Pujols' Cardinals career, when fans and media tried to anoint him "The Man" Pujols told them to stop because he felt it was disrespectful to Musial. They stopped.

Apparently the Angels either knew nothing of Pujols' feelings on the issue or - if the public statements of their Vice-President for Communications (apparently with everbody EXCEPT for the guy they just signed to a guaranteed quarter of a Billion dollar contract) are to be taken at face value - cared not one rat's ass about them. This offseason the Angels' marketing campaign centered on Pujols. They purchased seventy billboards throughout southern California. Among the seventy are twenty "El Hombre" billboards.

When Pujols arrived in Arizona to begin Spring Training, he made it clear to the assembled media that he finds referring to him as "The Man" in Spanish in 2012 on billboards in SoCal to be as disrespectful to Stan Musial as he found it to be in English back in 2010 in Saint Loo. From Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times:

Albert Pujols is the focal point of the Angels' 2012 marketing campaign, which includes 70 billboards throughout Southern California, most featuring the new slugger and several that refer to the former St. Louis Cardinals star as "El Hombre," The Man.

Pujols, however, asked the St. Louis media and fans two years ago to refrain from calling him "El Hombre" because he felt it was disrespectful to Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan "The Man" Musial. And those feelings have not changed now that he's in Anaheim.

"I feel the same way," Pujols said before Wednesday morning's workout in Tempe Diablo Stadium. "I had nothing to do with [the Angels billboards]. They haven't talked to me about it."

Is Pujols OK with the Angels using the nickname in the future?

"I haven't made that decision, so I haven't talked to them about it," Pujols said, "but I prefer they not use that."


Pujols' stated reason for honoring Musial as "The Man" is not limited to the Hall-of-Fame career Musial had in Saint Louis. "I still have the same respect for him as I had, not just for what he's done in baseball but for what he did for his country [which includes having served in the Navy during World War II and has worked extensively with the United Service Organizations, as well as several other groups and charities. Last year, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor," Pujols said. "That's something you have to appreciate."

Unless you are the Vice-President for Communications of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Tim Mead. Mead apparently is the only V-P for Communications working for a Major League team who has a 10-year guaranteed contract that shall pay him in excess of $250 Million. If he does not in fact have such a contract, then he must be the most obtuse person currently working in the greater Los Angeles (or is it Anaheim) area. Again, from Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times:

Mead said the team is not required to seek approval for how a player might be portrayed in an advertising or marketing campaign, adding that "El Hombre" has a different meaning in Southern California than it does in St. Louis.

"The reason he had those sentiments in St. Louis is different -- they were out of respect and deference to someone else," Mead said. "He was saying, 'I'm not The Man, Stan Musial is.' We're marketing Albert Pujols, Angels baseball, and I just think there's a tremendous difference in context."


Albert, I must admit that I am not bi-lingual. I am in fact barely uni-lingual. I feel confident however that I can translate Mr. Mead's statement into Spanish so as to maintain the spirit of the off-season advertising campaign....

"Me Muerde"

-AK

Friday, February 24, 2012

All Four One

A number of years ago - not too long after I commenced this daily exercise I received an e-mail from an old friend of mine. He had popped by here once or twice. Apparently on the first visit, he came across what I had written that day, which was sports-themed. On the second visit, it was something completely different. After that visit he sent me an e-mail in which he expressed regret that I did not write about sports every day. He told me that he would enjoy reading it more if I did. I wrote back that while I suppose him deriving enjoyment in reading what appeared here was important, it paled in comparison to my deriving enjoyment in writing what appeared here. I do not know if he has ever come back.

Today is all about Margaret and her three best girlfriends: Carolyn, Lynne and Gidg. Over the course of the past seven to ten days they have shared an experience that serves to remind us that a family's principal ingredient is love irrespective of whether they share DNA. Blood brothers....even on the distaff side.

Now I'm out here on this road,
alone on this road tonight.
I close my eyes and feel so many friends around me,
in the early evening light.
In the miles we have come,
in the battles won and lost,
are just so many roads travelled,
so many rivers crossed.

Now I ask God for the strength,
and faith in one another.
'cos it's a good night for a ride,
cross this river to the other side,
my blood brother...


-AK

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The No Mo Better Blues

Good Catholic boy I am. Had I not read Bill's piece on Tuesday I would not have known that yesterday was Ash Wednesday. People think I kid when I say that the Lord and I have an understanding and it is predicated upon mutual apathy. I kid not. I suppose that if yesterday was Ash Wednesday, then Easter cannot be too very far away. It is a rite of Spring I enjoy. The bunny hibernates for three days, comes out of his hole and upon seeing his shadow declares it is only six weeks until Memorial Day weekend. Nailed it; huh? Upon further contemplation 'tis probably not the season to use "nailed it" to illustrate a point. Forget I did. I already have.

As a Yankees fan, the nascent 2012 season has already brought me some wonderful news and some that may be considerably less so. I shall not miss AJ Burnett. I was not in favor of paying him $85 Million - or whatever the hell it was they paid him - to cross the border from Toronto to the Bronx after the 2008 season. I realize that it is not entirely his afault that he proved not to be worth the big contract. He did not become better simply because the Yankees chose to overpay him.

Throwing excessive amounts of money at a player does not make him something that he is not. A lesson one would have presumed the Yankees learned in spades courtesy of their courtship of Jason Giambi. If looking within would have bummed them out too much, then they could have looked cross-town at their friendly rivals the Mets and asked them how well the whole Bobby Bonilla experience worked out for them. Hell, after this July the Mets will only owe him another 23 payments @ $1,193,248.20 each to finish paying off his contract.....that they inherited when they traded for him in the 1998 off-season so that he could have a second tour of duty in Flushing. The fact that his second go-round lasted but 60 games in 1999 merely underscores the enormity of their error. He is not exactly the gift who keeps on giving. Unless the gift you are thrilled to receive is agita.

I am keenly aware of Burnett's singular achievement while a member of the team: winning Game Two of the 2009 World Series. And if my signature Wayfarers had rose-colored lenses then I suppose I could look back on the Burnett years fondly. Fortunately, I live in this world. That is why I recall that his second start against the Phillies in Game Five made it possible for the Yankees to come home from Philly ahead 3-2 as opposed to celebrating their 27th World Series victory. Without Burnett getting shellacked in Game Five, the home fans would not have been able to watch Andy Pettitte win the clicher at the Stadium in Game Six. Gee, thanks AJ.

I have no idea how Burnett will do in Pittsburgh although I suspect that given the size of the pond in which he shall now be swimming he shall do quite nicely. I care not at all. I shall not go out of my way to root against him - becuase the Pirates have endured more than enough suffering for one lifetime already - but I shall not miss him. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.

I wish the same could be said for Mariano Rivera. Mo showed up at Spring Training earlier this week dropping not-too-subtle hints that once 2012 is resigned to history's dustheap, he shall hang up his glove and spikes for the final time. When you watch Mo pitch, you sometimes forget that while his motion has never changed and his weaponry remains limited yet lethal - the same as it ever was - his is no longer the body of a young man. It was Rivera after all who burst on the scene even before either Jeter or Posada did - mowing down the Mariners in the classic 1995 ALDS. We forget - or at least I do - that when October is utilized as the unit of measurement - just how many Octobers removed we are from that one.

Time indeed marches on. It moves forward under its own weight and of its own accord. Would one call that "Mo-mentum"? Perhaps....

....here is to hoping that it continues to pulsate through the Bronx for at least one more October.

-AK

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Carrying On

Monday while many of us enjoyed a respite from work and luxuriated in the glory that was the final day of the long President's Day holiday weekend, the De Oca family said farewell to one of their twenty-year-old twin sons. Both sons are United States Marines. Both were deployed in Afghanistan. On February 10, Lance Corporal Osbrany Montes De Oca, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, was killed in action. His twin brother Osmany and their older brother Sandro Moreta (who is all of 22 years of age) were among the United States Marines who formed the honor guard that carried their brother's casket into Queen of Peace Church in Mount Arlington for his funeral mass.

How much is one family to sacrifice in the name of service to this country? This one family in a little town in northern New Jersey has already given more than its share. Yet, it has another son, Osmany, who shall likely soon return to a situation as tenuous as the one that confronted his twin brother. Hopefully, by the time Sandro is ready to be deployed we will not have a war zone anywhere in the world to which to deploy him.

When a family known and loved by those in its community suffers a loss, those in the community do what they can to ease their pain. This week, the good folks of North Arlington did all they could do to salve the wound the De Oca family sustained. It takes a special type of person to come to the assistance of his neighbor in the latter's time of need. This week, the people of North Arlington used their collective grief as a bond to protect the De Oco family and to remind them that while their beautiful boy is gone, he is not now and shall never be forgotten. And they, they are not now and never shall be alone.

There are no more words to write
The Hero is now gone.
We gotta pull together, stand and fight,
For we must carry on....

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Staying in Stride

Referring to Suz and Rob as my kids is - in fact - an inccurate statement. Point in fact, both of them are adults. They are adults who at present have full, active lives at least one time zone removed from where they were raised, which is where the Missus and I still hang our hats. I should no better than to refer to either of them as a "kid". Without intending to, it might somehow undercut the significance of their own achievements to date, which are considerable, and cast doubt on the certainty of their respective futures, which are bright. That is most assuredly not my intention as I am beyond proud of the two of them. However, I shall endeavor to be less sloppy in my characterization of them moving forward.

Sunday morning I was thinking about the Dynamic Duo a bit. Each of them is a wonder to me. In significant part, my appreciation of them stems from the size of the heart that each one possesses. The world is filled with bright people....even if it seems now and again that it is nothing more than a cavalcade of idiots. Being bright is not enough. You need more than just intellect or aptitude. You need grit. The willingness to keep going when someone of a less steely disposition will not.

Both Suz and Rob possess that quality in spades. It has always seemed to me that it comes to both of them from two sources: inside of themselves and from their mother. I am fortunate that each has it in abundance. Their excess comes in handy when those of us lacking in it need a little extra to see us through.

I am waist-deep in training for this year's edition of the New Jersey Marathon (I use waist-deep as the current point of reference with the understanding that by the time race day rolls around I shall yet again be in over my head), because my first attempt at it went so well. Also, because I apparently was absent the day we all learned that wisdom and age are travelling companions. I enjoy running. It is not relaxing per se but it is soothing or cleansing. It is a pursuit that - while I am engaged in it - permits me to wash away a lot of the stress and silliness that I encounter - as we all do - in my day-to-day.

Yet, marathon training turns the notion of running on its ear. For me, anyway. It converts an activity I enjoy into one in which I must engage. I have a schedule that I adhere to in an effort to maximize the likelihood of not just finishing the damn race but doing so in a time that pleases me rather than infuriates me. The schedule called for a 10-mile run on Sunday. I was not terribly excited about it. My legs felt a bit stiff from running in the Beach Run in 'Squan on Saturday morning and I had a lot of difficulty wrapping my head around this particular task.

I seriously contemplated blowing it off, manufacturing some excuse why I could not do it. And then I looked at the little stack of clean clothes that Margaret had left for me on my dresser, complete with the unwritten note, "Hey lazy bones, I washed, dried and folded them. The least you could do is put them away." Staring up at me was a t-shirt that I had bought for Rob slightly less than 1,000,000 years ago - when I took him to see Springsteen for the very first time.

I scored truly awful tickets to two separate shows at the Byrne Arena in August, 1999 and ended up taking Rob to both of them. Only the blimp crew had worse seats than we did. And it mattered not at all. From the time the band took the stage on August 9 (the first of his two shows), Rob was a fan. By the time the house lights came up at the conclusion of the August 11 show, he was hooked for life. On the way out of Byrne Arena on one of those two evenings, we stopped at one of the "sanctioned junk" stands to buy him a t-shirt. The smallest size they had was "Adult Large". Being (I think) 13 at the time, we chalked up its purchase as an investment, presuming that some day he would grow into it.

I honestly have no idea if he ever wore it. Candidly, until Margaret brought its continuing existence to my attention a few weeks ago as she was cleaning Rob's room in preparation of our move (Eisenhower had nothing on my wife in the planning department), I had not thought about it in at least a dozen years. It turns out that one of the benefits of running - for me - has been a marked decrease in the amount of me. My walking around weight is 25-30 pounds less than it was this time two years ago. I "un-grew" my way into it. Once upon a time that shirt would have fit me as poorly as it would have my then-13 year-old son. Now? It fits just fine.

Seeing it on Sunday morning made me think of Rob. Thinking of Rob - and the distance that I did not want to run that day - made me think of the final task that Rob and his classmates were required to successfully complete in order to advance from Georgia to the great wide open. Their final mission? A ten-mile run. Complete it and go through graduation and onto the rest of your life. Fail to complete it and go home. In much the same way he does everything - without fanfare and with a quiet, steely purpose - Rob completed it. It was not easy. But it was necessary. And because it was necessary he did it.

I ran Sunday morning wearing that old Springsteen concert t-shirt. And I clipped through my ten-mile run in ninety minutes, which will not make anyone confuse me for Meb but will help me continue to build a base towards making the mark I intend to make this May, which I missed by almost thirty minutes last May.

A helping hand - even from two time zones away. Comes in handy. Especially when one falls behind.

-AK

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Ascendancy of Mercury

Happy President's Day! Once upon a time in America we honored individually the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The duo are two of the most important men this nation has ever known. The former was the leader of the Continental Army in the War of Independence and is commonly referred to as "the Father of His Country". The latter an Illinois railsplitter who did nothing less than (a) save the Union; and (b) emancipate the slaves....and did so in what amounted to slightly more than a single term in office.

However, in 21st Century America the concept of the National Holiday and the concept of the "participation medal" (a/k/a the "Thank you for playing our game" award) have run headlong into one another. Thus, instead of recognizing Washington's birthday and/or Lincoln's birthday, we have created one catch-all day. Presumably it honors not only those two men and the others whose time in office was viewed as positive but also those lesser lights who either harbored the delusion that they were bigger than the office (I am talking to you Mr. Harding....and most especially you Milhous) or who proved to be completely overmatched by the gig upon winning it (Yes Mr. Hoover I am referring now to you....and feel free to tap Mr. Carter on the shoulder for I am most assuredly speaking of him also).

Truth be told, if you are enjoying a day off from either work or school today because this is the day marked on the calendar to acknowledge the generally nondescript Presidencies of gentlemen such as Van Buren, Tyler, Grant, Harrison (either one), McKinley or Fillmore - the last one of whom the official White House web site's biographical information begins with this paragraph, "In his rise from a log cabin to wealth and the White House, Millard Fillmore demonstrated that through methodical industry and some competence an uninspiring man could make the American dream come true", you care not at all about the dumbing down of this holiday. Too bad Fillmore held the office several generations before Henry Ford invented the Model T. That description would have made one hell of a bumper sticker. I know, I know. You have the day off. Got it.

He was never an American President but John Glenn has long been an American hero. Glenn served the people of Ohio for a quarter-century in the United States Senate. Long before he first sought election to public office, Glenn earned his living in the most rarified of air.

Fifty years ago today, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. On February 20, 1962 Glenn - in his capsule named Friendship 7 orbited the Earth three times during a five-hour flight. By the end of the decade Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would walk on the Moon. Steps that likely would not have been possible had earlier legs of the journey - such as Glenn's - not been successful.

John Glenn is 92 years old now. This weekend he and his wife Annie - to whom he has been married for sixty-eight years - were in Florida as NASA celebrated the 50th anniversary of his flight with a reunion of its Mercury team. Glenn is one of the last two surviving Mercury astronauts. He was joined in Florida by the other, Scott Carpenter (that would be the University of Colorado's own Scott Carpenter). In saluting his long-time friend and former fellow astronaut and all of the other members of the Mercury program who were together again Carpenter remarked, "John, thank you for your heroic effort and all of you for your heroic effort. But we stand here waiting to be outdone."

Ain't that just like a couple of old astronauts....always planning for the NEXT mission.

-AK

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Mid Winter Morning's Run on the Beach

If Bill Murray's February in "Groundhog Day" had been blessed with weather anything close to that which we have enjoyed in the State of Concrete Gardens this month, then he might not have minded living the same February day over and over and over. Jinx be damned. We have had an extraordinary number of "not crappy" days in these parts this month. Yesterday was yet another.

While yesterday morning the Missus oversaw the relocation of Carolyn "Soon to Be a Dancing Machine Because I Have Always Had Rhythm & Now I Have a New Hip Bitches" Jones from the cozy confines of Jersey Shore Medical Center to the rehabilitation facility where she will be luxuriating the next several days, I headed a tad bit further south down the Parkway. I spent my Saturday morning with the Sisters Kizis and a whole cluster of new running friends in the Manasquan Mid-Winter Beach Run.

The Mid-Winter Beach Run is only a two-mile race. But its genius and its challenge comes from the fact that after one runs slightly more than one mile on macadam one then must cover the next quarter mile on sand. Yep, the course takes runners south (heading from Sea Girt towards Point Pleasant for those of you watching from the International Space Station). After the quarter-mile jaunt through Hell, you and your now-screaming calves return to the blacktop. The remaining portion of the race is run either on the boardwalk or on a street until you ultimately end up almost back where you started...near the front door of Leggett's. There are worse places to find yourself I assure you.

I think there were eight runners in our group in total. Lynne performed the most selfless gesture of the day - securing a prime spot at the bar in Leggett's while our octet frolicked on the beach. By honoring the first rule of real estate, which is that the most important thing is location, location, location, Lynne guaranteed one and all a place to call home while basking in the post-race glow of Leggett's neon lights.

I last ran in this race in February '10 and the weather that day bore little resemblance to that which we enjoyed yesterday. Having found yesterday's far more palatable than I found '10's, you shall have to forgive me if I do not wax sentimental about the good old days. All of us in our group ran representative times, led by a young man who works at Gidg's office. I think Byron was born during the Clinton Presidency and - perhaps not surprisingly - he was the pacesetter for our crew. Well, in the interest of full disclosure he did not actually serve as the pacesetter. He was too far ahead of the rest of us for any of us to see him. Maybe next year. He will likely lose a step or two....

....once he turns 25.

-AK

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Henley on Our Times

This morning in Newark a funeral mass shall be held for Whitney Houston, whose death in a California hotel room last weekend has been above-the-fold news nationwide for the past week. The joy/curse of being a not very bright man is the never-ending parade of things that the world presents to me for consideration that are wholly beyond my ability to comprehend. Case in point, the aforementioned funeral.

Earlier this week, Ms. Houston's family announced that the funeral shall be a private affair. Not only is that a position I understand completely but it is one that I endorse - and not just for this family and not just for this funeral. Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio was quoted in the Star-Ledger the other day, "I think anybody who does have any love or any care for Whitney Houston should respect the wishes of the family and allow them to grieve without interruption. They are requesting a private service and people should respect the wishes of the family."

Yet, shortly after the family's "Please Respect Our Privacy" decree was issued, Ms. Houston's publicist Kristen Foster ("Wringing every remaining minute out of that job; eh?" one might observe) issued this one:

The Associated Press will be the only video camera allowed inside at Saturday's funeral in Newark. The AP will stream the service on http://livestream.com/aplive. The event also will be available to broadcasters via satellite.

But of course it shall. Here in 21st Century America we need to make sure our priorities are in order and our insatiable appetite for voyeuristic behavior is satisfied. Besides, with all of the ways in which one can watch programming and all of the channels out there, there is a lot of time that must be filled. With Blind Midget Tag-Team Wrestling not bringing the eyeballs to the sets on a Saturday morning the way it once did, the need for alternative programming needed to be filled. For one week at least, mission accomplished.

I mean not to pick on or single out Ms. Houston's family or the people who shall determine that part of their day today must be spent viewing her funeral. One cannot help but recall that on the day that Princess Diana was buried, the world came to a de facto stop, figuratively speaking. What shall happen today is nothing new. It is but a familiar movie. It has played in these parts before. No doubt after this run closes it shall reappear at some point in the not-too-distant future.

After all, the heart wants what the heart wants. This is the Gospel according to Don....

....can I get an "AMEN"?

-AK

Friday, February 17, 2012

People Are Strange

Random thoughts - in no particular order of importance - from one whose randomness underscores his acutely unimportant place in the Universe. What the hell. It is Friday after all.

I love sports. I have played a variety of them - both team and individual - for most of my life, although at present the only "organized" sport in which I participate is running. I have teams on the collegiate and professional level for which I root ardently. And there are sports, such as English Premier League Soccer, I enjoy watching even if I have no particular rooting interest in any one team. One sport of which I have never really been a fan is NBA basketball. As a kid I loved - as everyone with a pulse did - the almost-annual showdowns between Bird's Celtics and Magic's Lakers in the NBA Finals. But while I would watch every minute of those matchups from first game to last game, in the months that led up to the Finals I watched ZERO minutes of pro hoops. Simply not my thing.

This week however I have been drawn by the flame-like aura surrounding Jeremy Lin and the New York Knickerbockers. Whether he is living right now what shall be the apogeee of his professional basketball life or simply the extraordinary first act of what shall be an extended, brilliant career I would not pretend to know. With the Missus out and about Wednesday night, I spent a few minutes watching the Knicks dismantle the Sacramento Kings (oh how I miss the days when they too were a hyphenate as the Kansas City-Omaha Kings) in a game played at Madison Square Garden. It was damn entertaining. Lin was fun to watch. Moreover, so were his teammates. They moved up and down the court with an energy and enthusiasm that I for one tend to associate with college basketball and not the pro version. Kudos to them. And kudos as well to the always ignorant, always venomous Floyd Mayweather for showing off his digital dexterity this past week in his comments about Lin. Not everyone can type while his knuckles drag along the ground. Well done, Pretty Boy. What shall your next trick be I wonder? Pay your taxes? Go ninety days without assaulting a girlfriend? I will eagerly monitor your Twitter feed to see what singularly amazing feat you pull off as a sequel to this most recent one.

If Floyd Mayweather thinks Jeremy Lin is over-exposed, here is to hoping he never hones his attention in on Taylor Burnham. Life can be a pretty complicated affair. It is not always easy to know what to do - and what not to do. For you youngsters at home let me point out that some things are NOT all that difficult to figure out. Case in point. You never want to end up as the subject of a news report entitled, "NUDE COWGIRL LEADS POLICE ON CHASE" as young Ms. Burnham did earlier this week. According to one of the news items I saw on-line, when the police initially encountered her, Ms. Burnham was leaning up against her Jeep - naked save for her cowboy boots. It was that sight that caught the officers' attention but when the police approached her and asked if she was feeling okay, she hopped into her Jeep and drove off at 30 miles per hour. She made it 1.5 miles before crashing her car.

Two things come to mind reading of her exploits. First, I suppose that pursuing a naked suspect (right down to her cowboy boots anyway - Hooray for Texas!) must alleviate a police officer's concerns at least a little about searching for weapons and contraband. It should at least expedite the "pat down". Second, I hope her Jeep has cloth seats. No one needs a case of waffle ass on top of the indignity of being arrested while driving naked.

As a kid who subscribed to Sports Illustrated, this week's issue was always the one I looked forward to the most. See, when I was a boy the Giants were not in the Super Bowl - EVER - so I paid no particular attention to the Super Bowl recap issue of the magazine. But the following week? On the SI calendar, football season segued quite nicely into swimsuit season. Truth be told, it has been close to thirty years since my subscription to SI lapsed and it has been at least a quarter century since I purchased a copy of the SI Swimsuit issue at the newsstand. I do peruse the SI website, which is free to the public, on a daily basis. This week, the site has been awash in all things related to young Kate Upton and her band of Merry Mermaids. I suppose my question for anyone who actually stopped to purchase a copy of this issue at the newsstand is, "Why?" There is an old saw about the lack of logic associated with purchasing a cow when the farmer who owns it provides you with its milk for free. Whether that applies here is a determination you are better equipped to make for yourself than I am for you.

Final thoughts (or reasonable facsimiles thereof I suppose) and both of them deal with the amblings and ramblings of our Governor. I voted for the big fella the first time he ran. Being generally pleased with his work to date I anticipate voting for him if he runs for re-election. That being said, I really, really wish he would do two things and do them without further delay. First, stop wasting time and energy on a non-issue. Second, rethink his position on a legitimate, important issue and sign the legislation that will be sent to him by this time next week legalizing gay marriage here in the State of Concrete Gardens.

The Governor needs to ask simply, "WWJD", which stands for (of course) "What Would Josey [Wales] Do"? And we all know the answer to that question; right?

My work here is completed. Enjoy your day. And whether it is beautiful on this February Friday in your neck of the woods or not, spend a moment or two here and here and here. You will be happy you did.

I always am.

-AK

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Diamond Bits & Bright Red Bows

I hope that your Valentine's Day was a "happy" one, by whatever standard of measurement you use to assess such things. We are all imbued with the right to pursue happiness but since it means different things to different folks there is no hard and fast route to follow in its pursuit. Nor is there but one fixed, neon sign located somewhere off the interstate on which "HAPPINESS" serves like a beacon in the night for lost souls, guiding them to a singular destination. It is whatever it is and much like pornography, you shall know it when you see it.

Based upon her reaction to it, the Missus appears to be very, very happy with the Valentine's Day present I gave her this year. What was it? Being the die-hard romantic that I am I gave her a diamond. Well, kinda sorta. I bought her what she had asked for: a household Shredder that reduces paper - 7 sheets at a time - into imperceptible scraps of paper. Its secret? It does not simply cut the paper as it shreds it. It reduces it into diamond-shaped bits. In our home, a diamond may be a girl's best friend but a paper shredder that produces diamond-shaped remnants is not too damn far behind.

Oh the looks I received on Monday night as I weaved my way through that fancy store of French origin by way of Minnesota - Target - carrying Margaret's paper shredder in one hand and a big red bow in the other. The unsophisticated among us might think its name is pronounced "Tar - Get", an error no doubt reinforced by the Bullseye symbol the store uses in its advertising. How provincial. Those of us in the knew show off our knowledge by calling this oasis by its correct name, which is pronounced "Tar - Jay". How envious those silly fools lined up looking at jewelry, cards and the like were as I breezed past them. I was in and out of the store in less than ten minutes.

Laugh if you want at my selection. I shall point out only this. Long after your sweetheart has deposited her dead bouquet in the "outgoing receptacle" (and if you bought them at the train station on the way home Tuesday night those damn roses are already compost) and long after your baby has cursed you a blue streak for the candy that has caused her to (a) get two cavities; and (b) gain half a pound in her left shin, my wife shall be using and enjoying her diamond-cut paper shredder. Who says romance is dead? It is alive and well. It has simply moved....from the bedroom to the home office.

And I did not neglect my other girl. Margaret received the shredder. Rosie received the bow. Truth be told her reaction was considerably less enthusiastic than Margaret's was.


Sorry Rosie. I shall try to do better next year.

-AK

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sadie Hawkins and Lima Beans

Thanks to that precocious minx Sadie Hawkins today is the day on which we officially push the needle past the halfway point of February. Just one more reason to celebrate Leap Year - an additional day of Winter. The calendar equivalent of receiving an extra helping of lima beans or liver.

Thus far - and I know that I run the risk of incurring the wrath of Meteorologus, the God of Weather simply by saying this - Winter 2012 has been survivable. My running partner Gidg and I are in the throes of training for our second go-round at the New Jersey Marathon (she is back for more because she enjoyed the first attempt while I am back because....because sad to say that I am in fact much dumber than I look). At this point last winter I think I had been able to run once outside. So far this winter, the long, weekend training runs have all been logged in the fresh air.

That might seem like a little thing - or perhaps nothing at all - to you but as a runner one's mental health is as important as one's physical well-being. If/when I am required to spend too many miles on a treadmill at one time, I begin to feel as if I am running towards a big piece of cheese, which is forever dangling just ahead of me and out of my reach. It makes me even surlier and less user-friendly than I otherwise am.

It was cold 'NTSG this past weekend. Gidg and I participated in a 5K run on Saturday morning as light snow fell around those of us running in New Brunswick's Buccleuch Park. Although it was a little bit uncomfortable Saturday morning, it was significantly colder and windier on Sunday morning. The elements initially forced me inside as I ran the first half of my scheduled eight-mile run on the treadmill. However, by Mile 4 I wanted to hang myself with the laces on my running shoes. So I threw on a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and my trust knit cap and ran the final four miles in the great outdoors. Fresh air is good. Freezing cold air being inhaled into your lungs is less so.

The calendar's relentless advance towards Marathon Sunday is both good and bad. It is good in that it contains but two more February weekends and I presume - based upon a lifetime's worth of experience living here in the State of Concrete Gardens - that March (and April after it) shall bring weather that is more suitable for running outside than normally is found in January and February. It is bad in that as those last couple of February weekends are peeled off of the calendar, I am reminded that the gap between me and Marathon Sunday gets smaller and smaller every day. Once Ms. Hawkins packs her "Happy Quadrennial!" gown away, Marathon Month will be but sixty-one days away.

Perhaps just this one time, Ms. Hawkins can be persuaded to stick around longer than just one day. After all, liver is good for you. Lima beans too....

....at least that is what Mom always told me to make me eat them.

-AK

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Road is Dark

Margaret and I shall be married 19 years this June. We have actually been together for more than two decades. We got married in June, 1993 on the Saturday of the weekend that marked the 2nd anniversary of our first date. I figured that as I aged, I was unlikely to get any smarter and the combination of advancing age and diminishing mental faculties would make it impossible to recall two separate, distinct "anniversaries". There is a reason I awaken at 3:00 a.m. each morning. It cuts down significantly on the number of folks who can actually get up early enough to sneak one past me.

I had not met my wife - and in fact would not meet her for another four years or so - when Bruce Springsteen released the Tunnel of Love record in the late 1980's. Tunnel of Love was the record that followed the worldwide phenomenon that was Born in the U.S.A. It remains a quarter-century after he released it one of my favorite Springsteen records. It remains so in large part because it contains a type of music that Springsteen himself admits he had been reluctant to ever pen....the love song.

While Margaret was not known to me the first time I dropped the needle on Tunnel of Love or the first time I heard "Tougher Than the Rest", it is the Springsteen song that - without hesitation - I think of first when I think of my bride. I consider it an "adult" love song. A song chockful of emotion but firmly grounded as well. This is not a story book story. It is a song telling a story not about a fairy-tale, fanciful, overly romanticized version of love but rather the version of love found in the non-fiction section of Life's big bookstore....

....that is after all, the section of the bookstore that contains all of the best-written works....

The road is dark
and it's a thin thin line
But I want you to know I'll walk it for you any time
Maybe your other boyfriends
couldn't pass the test
Well if you're rough and ready for love
honey I'm tougher than the rest


-AK

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Cautionary Tale

I heard the news Saturday night that Whitney Houston had been found dead earlier on Saturday in a hotel room in Beverly Hills, California. The news report - I think it was on CBS - stated that she was only forty-eight years young.

I am not someone who was ever especially familiar with Ms. Houston's music. She rose to prominence in the latter half of the 1980's - while I was in college - and she was an inescapable presence on the radio and on television (once upon a time kids the "M" in MTV stood for "Music"). Other than the songs that received radio airplay and the videos that accompanied them, I knew nothing of her music. I knew just enough of her backstory to know that she was a Jersey girl from a family of musical renown. And I knew enough to know that when she opened her mouth, the sound that she produced was simply gorgeous.

The image that shall remain forever frozen in my mind's eye regarding her is that of her on the field at Tampa Stadium in January 1991, performing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the Giants and the Buffalo Bills played Super Bowl XXV. The game followed by days the commencement of hostilities in what was then referred to as "Operation Desert Storm" but now is noted historically as the "First Gulf War". It was a tense time in these United States. And there she stood, resplendent in an outfit arguably chosen more for its color scheme than for its style, giving a performance for the ages. Whether she sang it live or lip synched along to a virtuoso rendition she had performed a day or two earlier matters little. At that moment, on that stage and in that setting, she caused Americans around the country to forget political affiliation, to set aside rooting interest in the game itself and to think and feel in one voice. One color. One people. One purpose.

By all accounts - including her own words in interviews given sporadically over the last decade of her life - the damage inflicted upon her health, her well-being and that beautiful voice was principally self-inflicted. Why we the humans do to ourselves the things that we do to ourselves shall remain the single greatest mystery of the species - right up to the point in time when we blow each other to Kingdom Come....or one of the other clever ways we shall satify our appetite for self-destruction. She was not the first to do so. She shall not be the last.

In yesterday's New York Times Jon Caramanica wrote a piece on Ms. Houston that is absolutely worth reading, which piece began with this beautiful, prescient observation, "Whitney Houston died a cautionary tale, but all cautionary tales were heroes once."

Indeed.

-AK

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lincoln Logic

Happy Birthday Abraham Lincoln. As someone who is a registered Republican, I take comfort in the fact that the Republican Party is the "Party of Lincoln". Considering the cast of nitwits currently jousting for the party's nomination to fill Honest Abe's old gig, one takes comfort wherever one can find it.

We have had our first concerted effort at a winter uprising these past thirty-six hours or so here in the State of Concrete Gardens. Yesterday Gidg and I participated in our first organized race of 2012 - the Cupid's Chase 5K. We took part in the New Brunswick edition. The past two years we had run in the Princeton race. Changing venue this year allowed us to avoid a really big hill, which one ascends at the start of the race and descends shortly before reaching the finish line in Princeton (which is not necessarily a great deal of fun on a day when the running surface is slick and slippery). Of course, we traded that for a venue where the race is run on a gravel path. Again, not the optimal surface to encounter with one's feet on a snowy, slick, sloppy day.

Cupid's Chase 5K race is - according to its literature - a race that is held annually on the weekend preceding Valentine's Day at locations nationwide. It is hosted by Community Options, Inc., an organization that seems to be comprised of really good folks doing really good things for equally good but considerably less fortunate folks. All we who participated yesterday in New Brunswick were called upon to do was run a rather short distance in the light snow. I would say that we made out better than fine in that deal.

A wise, honest man once advised, "Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm." Good advice for one and all whether you are running through the snow....

....or seeking the nomination of Mr. Lincoln's party for the Presidency of the United States.

-AK

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Beauty of Youth

If one lives long enough, then one invariably begins to channel one's parents in what one says or does. Among the observations that moves effortlessly from one generation to the next - much like a hand-me-down winter coat - is the one regarding to the presumed shortcomings/failings of young people. No matter the era represented by "today", since time immemorial people of a certain age have put forth endless lamentations over "kids today". Lest one think I am speaking in an accusatory tone from atop my soapbox, I am not. I am speaking in a knowing tone...face to face with my reflection in the mirror.

You might have missed it but last night at Bernards High School in Bernardsville, New Jersey, the young women who play basketball for Bernards High School and their counterparts from Watchung Hills High School did something extraordinary. The two squads used their game - a competitive endeavor - to promote a common cause: 5 year-old Campbell Hoyt who, at age five, is braving her second battle with cancer. What the youngsters from the two teams - and the adults from their respective schools - did is nothing short of remarkable. Remarkable not for the amount of money it shall raise but for the amount of good it did and shall do for all who were involved in it and who bore witness to it. Ryan Dunleavy wrote a terrific piece on it here earlier this week. Read it and try not to smile. Or to cry.

Kids today....indeed.

-AK

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Pursuit of the Tattooed Demons

Today is going to suck. As Elvis Costello once crooned, "It's not open for discussion any more." Hopefully not for you and not in your part of the world. However, for me, in my part of the world, it most assuredly shall. For me, it is inevitable. For me, it is unavoidable. Above all else, it must be survivable. No other result is acceptable.

Today's arrival had been promised/threatened to me slightly more than three weeks ago. He who promised it shall be present today to ensure that I feel his presence when he delivers upon it. 'Tis the nature of the beast I suppose. For present purposes, there is not a thing I can do about it....other than stew over it a bit, which I have done. Today at least will bring a bit of closure on that front.

Earlier this week I must confess that I anticipated my theme for today was going to be something akin to, "Irish Alzheimer's Disease: You forget everything....except the grudges." The healthiest approach to take? Perhaps not. The most satisfying on an intense, visceral level? Undoubtedly. It is not however the approach I shall take.

Instead, I have adopted a Dickensian approach to getting through today, " Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. I am constrained to admit that until I came across that quote on the Facebook page of someone with whom I went to high school on Tuesday I had no idea that Dickens ever wrote it. I also did not know that Tuesday was Charles Dickens' 200th birthday. To Obes, I say thank you for the education. To Chuck, I say the card is in the mail.

Because today will in fact represent the closing scene of but one act in this drama - with more excitement to come later - I can do nothing other than discuss it in broad generalities. I cannot discuss specifics. At some point - as yet undefined out there on the horizon line - there shall be another "today" or two. Once the final "today" has come and gone, presuming I am still here and you are still there we can chat about then in considerable detail. That is a discussion however for another day.

Today is upon me. I have faith - while today is not one of them - that better days are indeed coming....

Excuse me please. I must be on my way. I've a train to catch.

-AK

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Roots and Branches

'Tis the Irish in me I suppose that is to blame for it but I realize that I do not spend a great deal of time - either in this space or in my day-to-day - dwelling on the positive. As much as I love Monty Python's Life of Brian (it featured one of all-time favorite tage lines for a movie, "If you never see another movie, then you'll never see Monty Python's Life of Brian")I am constrained to confess that I have not really adopted its theme song as my own. I do enjoy whistling though. I just enjoy Yeats more, "Being Irish he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy."

There certainly is enough mindless and depressing bullshit to slog through on a daily basis to keep Yeats in verse in perpetuity. Occasionally, however, it is nice to step back and heed the advice of Ferris Beuller*(*-the iconic character from the 1980's cinematic classic bearing his name and NOT the paunchy, middle-aged Honda pitchman foisted upon us during the Super Bowl.)

David Robinson was a standout student-athlete at the United States Naval Academy in the latter half of the 1980's, an Olympian, a member of NBA Championship-winning teams in San Antonio and a Hall-of-Famer. By all accounts, Robinson is a better person than he was a basketball player, which was no mean feat. The NBA went so far as to rename the trophy it awards annually for outstanding charitable efforts for Robinson. The only thing I ever had named in my honor was....well, was me.

The story that I stumbled across the other afternoon featured "The Admiral" but its star was his 16-year-old son, Corey. I came away with the impression after reading about Corey that while he is still a little shorter than his father, he is every inch his father's son. He is only 16 so one hopes that much of his life's narrative remains to be written. A lot lies ahead of him, including one presumes more than one thing that shall challenge him and perhaps scare him at least a little. Life teaches us that one knows better where one is going when one never loses sight of from where one has come. I came away from reading about Corey Robinson and his dad with a good feeling about the young man's internal GPS.

It should not surprise I suppose. If you cannot rely upon an old Navy man to teach you basic navigation skills, then to whom can you turn?

-AK

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Remember the Mayans

The Mayans, according to pie-eyed optimist Dee Finney, take a decidedly different approach than say Frank Sinatra might in contemplating life in 2012:

The Mayan calendar is divided into Seven Ages of Man. The fourth epoch ended in August 1987. The Mayan calendar comes to an end on Sunday, December 23, 2012. Only a few people will survive the catastrophe that ensues. In the fifth age, humanity will realize its spiritual destiny. In the sixth age, we will realize God within ourselves, and in the seventh age we will become so spiritual that we will be telepathic.

Are they right? Are they wrong? I have no idea. I would note parenthetically however that less than two months after the "fourth epoch" ended, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Minnesota Twins played a seven-game World Series in which the visiting team lost every game. That had never happened in the history of baseball. Full disclosure dictates that I mention that it has happened on two occasions since....for which I also blame the Mayans.

Perhaps the end of the world is fast approaching? It would explain the breathless way in which NBC is heralding the return of Meredith Vieira to its airwaves (Quick - show of hands of everyone who had no idea (a) she had been gone; and/or (b) what the heck it was she did before she went away) tonight on the news magazine "Rock Center" that Brian Williams hosts. [TANGENT ALERT: Full disclosure dictates that I confess that I am a big fan of Brian Williams. He is a Jersey guy, a Springsteen fanatic and (by all accounts) an actual person. Last summer when all three networks sent their anchors to England for the marriage of Will & Kate only hours before tornadoes did to the folks of Alabama what Sherman's troops had done to the folks of Georgia a century and a half earlier, only one anchor hopped an immediate return flight to the States. Williams not only anchored NBC's Nightly News from Alabama, he, Lester Holt and their crew rolled up their sleeves and helped the locals.]

In addition to hosting the Nightly News, Williams hosts "Rock Center", which to date has been faithfully viewed by most members of his immediate family and - sadly - scant others. NBC has an action plan. According to the promos I saw on Super Sunday and have heard on the radio since, tonight's episode shall feature Vieira's interview with Mimi Alford. Once upon a lifetime ago - more than a half-century to be precise - Alford was a White House intern. She was at the White House while John F. Kennedy was President and, surprise, surprise, she is one of the 1,932 women who slept with JFK while he was President, which proves if nothing else I suppose that Teddy Roosevelt was not the only Commander-in-Chief who knew the value of a big stick.

Why is Alford coming forward now - at age 68 - to discuss the details of the intimate relationship she had with JFK when she was 19? She has a book to sell of course. Her memoir is written and primed for release. While I do not know her, I am quite confident that Caroline Kennedy is thrilled by both the memoir and the TV spot. It has been at least seven to ten days since someone tried to get rich and famous on the memory of one of the deceased members of her immediate family; right?

This whole tale leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Worse yet, it makes me doubt the Almighty. I said it. Sunday night I watched, you watched and another 110,999,998 Americans did as well when Clint Eastwood promised us that we are far from the world's end. He promised us that it is only halftime:

....I’ve seen a lot of tough eras, a lot of downturns in my life. And, times when we didn’t understand each other. It seems like we’ve lost our heart at times. When the fog of division, discord, and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead.

But after those trials, we all rallied around what was right, and acted as one. Because that’s what we do. We find a way through tough times, and if we can’t find a way, then we’ll make one....

....This country can’t be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do the world is going to hear the roar of our engines.

Yeah, it’s halftime America. And, our second half is about to begin.



That might have been the message NBC was selling Sunday night. A mere seventy-two hours later? Not so much. Is the end of the world bearing down upon us? Tonight the evidence in support of that hypothesis is offered not by Mayans but by the M n' M Girls, Meredith and Mimi, trading upon the belief that no matter its age, people love dirty laundry.

How about we all watch CSI or read a book instead? Anything but a memoir. Ask Caroline Kennedy for a title. The woman knows her way around a library.

-AK

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Twilight's Last Gleaming

There are those of you who scoffed (I know who you are because I heard you....and do not think that the unique pitch and tone of your scoff eluded me) when I wrote in this space several weeks back of the magical properties of a certain t-shirt. I hope that you learned your lesson. For this past Sunday, my magical t-shirt and I moved again in lockstep - as we had on three prior post-season Sundays - to guide Coach Coughlin, Eli Manning and the boys from Mara Tech to victory in the Super Bowl. To my fellow Giants fans everywhere, let me say simply this, "You are welcome." And to a certain eighth-grade class in Marysville, Ohio let me add, "Thank you for letting us borrow your substitute math teacher."

Look for us not in the Canyon of Heroes on this glorious February day (although I do think the Giants are tempting fate by having a parade on "the Day after Monday"). I have work commitments that shall keep me from being there. My mystical cotton companion? He does not like crowds.

I suppose - although I have not asked - that he is looking forward to his extended vacation. Given the somewhat topsy-turvy nature of mojo, he shall be off until next post-season. Presuming the Giants earn a spot in the NFL playoffs at the end of the 2012 season, then we shall again place the team on our backs and attempt to carry them to yet another NFL championship. You know that old adage about waiting 'til next year? It apparently does not apply in the hallowed halls of bookmaking. Those who know have already listed odds on winning the 2013 Super Bowl, which shall be played on February 3, 2013 in N'Awlins. The morning-line favorite? It just might surprise you.

I shall miss my lucky charm while he is away. I think perhaps that Rosie might miss him more. For not only has he displayed talismanic qualities but a softer side was well. A softer side that Rosie very much enjoyed using as a bed/blanket/pillow upon which to sleep....which she did on each of the four Sunday nights during the Giants' march to the Super Bowl.

One last look at a legend - until next season anyway:


-AK

Monday, February 6, 2012

Frayed Ribbons

While I long ago forgot the name of the case - and the name of the orthopedic surgeon from whom the testimony was elicited - on a cold, rainy winter Saturday a lifetime ago I was required to spend my morning at the office of a Board-certified orthopedic surgeon. The purpose of the get-together was not medical but legal. The doctor was the expert medical witness for the plaintiff in a case I was defending for a municipality in Passaic County. The plaintiff needed to preserve his trial testimony and since the doctor's schedule made it impossible for him to appear in court, that preservation was accomplished through the wonders of videotape.

On that rainy, cold Saturday morning a lifetime ago, I gathered with my adversary, his doctor and my two co-defendants. During his cross-examination (skillfully handled by one of my co-defendants on behalf of all three of us), the expert was asked whether the plaintiff's injury was "permanent". He responded by telling us that "permanent" means different things legally and medically. With respect to the former, his answer was "No" and he explained that in his opinion although his patient (the plaintiff) had fallen and broken her hip, she had been treated appropriately, had applied herself enthusiastically to the course of physical therapy he had prescribed for her post-operatively and had made a complete recovery. Thus, in his opinion, the injury had not left her with a permanent disability.

He then told us that with respect to the latter, the answer was "Yes". His explanation was simple. Her injury was a broken hip. Once a bone is broken, it is never the same. It may heal. It may heal completely and fully. But it will never be "unbroken" again. And since it shall never unbroken again, it shall never be that which it once was. Thus, medically speaking, it was a permanent injury.

I thought about that doctor, that case and that explanation quite a bit the latter half of last week as the people who run the Susan G. Komen Foundation tiptoed through the mine field of public opinion. Apparently towards the end of 2011 the Foundation decided that it would not extend any grant money in 2012 (and beyond presumably) to Planned Parenthood, which has been a recipient of Komen Foundation grant money in years past, including 2011. The stated reason for the change in the relationship between two of the most well-known champions of womens' health issues? An ongoing Federal investigation into Planned Parenthood.

The Komen Foundation declared publicly (after Planned Parenthood "outed" it and its decision to not award any 2012 grant money to Planned Parenthood) that its decision was not motivated by political pressure from the far right of the political spectrum. Rather its decision was politics-neutral and guided solely by the fact that Planned Parenthood is under Federal investigation. Whether its stated reason for its decision was legitimate or total bullshit mattered not in the court of public opinion. The Komen Foundation was pilloried from coast-to-coast.

And then something amazing happened. Much like America's most famous groundhog, the people at the Komen Foundation saw the light. Last Friday, again declaring that its decision was not the direct result of political pressure applied like a sleeper hold (as somewhere the late, great Chief Jay Strongbow smiles) - this time from the left side of the political spectrum the Foundation reversed field. Planned Parenthood was once again deemed worthy of applying for - and receiving - grant money from the Komen Foundation.

It has been said that any landing you can walk away from is a happy landing and using that as our guide, I suppose the folks from the Komen Foundation stuck the landing. Since June 2009 when Margaret's mom died our family has been out there on the front line of the war against breast cancer. We have - through the creation of Sue's Crew and its three incarnations to date that have competed in the South and Central Jersey chapter's Race for the Cure - raised thousands of dollars and donated countless hours. While I know that the decisions made and then unmade by the muckety mucks at the top of the Foundation's food chain were in fact NOT made by the good people who run the South and Central Jersey Chapter, it is impossible for me to look at them - to look at any of them - the same way.

Breaks heal. But they are not "never broken". Simply reaching the right result is not always good enough. More is expected. As it should be....

Where the sky begins, the horizon ends
Despite the best intentions.
And a big ol' man goes up for sale
He becomes his own invention.
Oh, the days go slow into the changing season
Oh, bought and sold, for all the wrong reasons....


-AK

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Not-Forgotten Giant

While I hope that by day's end the New York Giants have emerged victorious in this year's Super Bowl, I have it on good authority that whether they win or lose the sun shall indeed rise tomorrow in the East. How do I know? I have a groundhog on retainer and a red-headed prepubescent songstress staked to a pole in my backyard. Or is it the other way around? I know not. I am old now. I confuse easily.

The Giants are not the giants referred to in the title of today's piece. It was three years ago today that a truly good man with whom I had the pleasure of attending high school and being friends died. Stuart Solomon was but 41 years old. A true giant of a man with a heart to match. A heart that ironically - having been weakened by illness a couple of decades earlier - betrayed him.

Among his many attributes was his appreciation of the excellence of the Giants. Truth be told, when we were kids it was far more difficult to appreciate the Giants' excellence, considering how dreadful they were during the McVay and Arnsberger years. Fortunately in the late 1970's Phil Simms arrived. LT followed a couple of years later and by the mid-1980's the franchise's long-buried excellence was easily discernible.

Whether there is any significance at all to be drawn from the fact that Stu's Giants are playing for the Super Bowl title on the 3rd anniversary of his death I know not. The Patriots are an excellent team. They are led by a head coach and a quarterback who shall each have work commenced on their Hall of Fame busts within eleven seconds of announcing their retirement from the NFL. Perhaps in what is expected to be a tight, closely-contested contest the Giants will need a bit of magic or divine intervention to win. And perhaps, just perhaps, a certain Giant and his mojo will be there to provide it.

Is it possible to have a better wish on this Super Bowl Sunday?

They built the Titanic to be one of a kind,
but many ships have ruled the seas
They built the Eiffel tower to stand alone,
but they could build another, if they pleased
The Taj Mahal, the pyramids of Egypt are unique, I suppose,
but when the built you brother, they broke the mold

The world is filled with many wonders
under the passing sun
But sometimes something comes along
and you know, it's for sure the only one
The Mona Lisa, the David, the Sistine Chapel,
Jesus, Mary and Joe
and when they built you brother, they broke the mold

When they built you brother
they turned this dust to gold
When they built you brother
they broke the mold

They say you can't take it with you
but I think that they're wrong
All I know's I woke up this morning
and something big was gone
Gone in to that dark ether
Where you're still young n' hard and cold
Just like when they built you brother
and broke the mold

Now your death is upon us
And we'll return your ashes to the Earth
And I know you'll take comfort in knowin'
You've been roundly blessed and cursed
But love is a power
Greater than death
Just like the songs and stories told
And when she built you brother
She broke the mold

A bad attitude is a power stronger than death
Alive n' burnin' or stone cold
And when they built you brother ...



-AK

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Storm Fronts

Tough couple of days for the good folks of Colorado (including but not limited to two in the Fort Collins area of whom I am especially fond). Mother Nature has offloaded a tractor trailer's worth of kegs of whoop ass. In Boulder, the weather brought life to a screeching halt. Heck, CU even cancelled classes yesterday. I checked my Alumni calendar to see whether the cancellation was in honor of my birthday (as a couple of my wise-ass college friends intimated it might have been as the University finally caught up with me seeing as how I never went to class on my birthday - and had an admittedly liberal attendance policy on most other days as well). Far-fetched? CU does have a dining establishment at the UMC on campus named for "Colorado's Cannibal". If Alferd G. Packer can get an establishment named in his honor, is one lousy day in my honor so hard to believe? That question was rhetorical. You need not sit in front of your computer nodding your head and/or mouthing the word "Yes".

Boulder County was not the only part of the state to get pounded by snow. All along the Front Range - from Denver north to the Wyoming border - snow was being measured not in inches but in feet. Not a fun couple of days for the folks out there. Not at all.

Perhaps Mother Nature was simply trying to save them all from the gathering mass of hot air that has moved West from Florida in anticipation of Tuesday's Republican Caucuses. In an effort to keep the Four Dense Men of the Apocalypse away from its residents, Mother Nature amassed her forces at Colorado's eastern border. You cannot blame a girl for trying; right?

Too bad her timing was off. She was - as they say in the trades - a day late and a dollar short. Had she unleashed her fury a couple of days earlier, she might have been able to at least delay their arrival - if not prevent it completely. Hell, Santorum is so geographically challenged he never would have found the place. No such luck. He was already there before the weather hit.

Take solace good people of Colorado. This sudden influx of hot air - while foul-smelling - shall likely eradicate a considerable amount of the amassed snow, ice and other unpleasantness that Big Momma left behind. And better yet, once dawn breaks Wednesday, it shall take the unpleasant, overheated air with it. Well, at least until the Fall.

Hmmm, I bet in Colorado at least the rodent's prediction of six more weeks of Winter sounds pretty damn good right about now - all things considered.

-AK

Friday, February 3, 2012

Just Repeating History

Considering that he does not know me, John Eddie's decision to bestow a present upon me at or near the marking of my day of birth was an extraordinary gesture. And it is one for which I am - and shall forever be - appreciative. The fact that the song serves as nothing less than my biography (with music to which you can tap your toe) makes his generosity all the more remarkable.

I am not - and have not been since I was a child - a birthday celebrant. I appreciate the fact that growing older is more palatable than the only possible alternative. I have no qualms with getting older either. Fortunately my hearing is failing at a speed equal to that with which the apparent arthritis in my knees is increasing so the ever-louder sounds akin to small arms fire as I get out of bed in the morning have no greater effect upon me presently than they ever have. I simply do not view this day as any particular cause for celebration.

Life is a constant push-and-pull between the image we constructed for ourselves in the theatre of our mind's eye when we were young and strong and full of hope and the image that confronts us in the bathroom mirror every morning. Some days the space between the illusion of us and the reality of us is easier to bridge than others. It is always there. Nothing shall change that fact. Not even all the candles, all the cakes and all the well-intentioned wishes in the world.

-AK

Thursday, February 2, 2012

An Enduring Truth

Whatever happened to you and me?
Whatever happened to the way things were supposed to be?
We started out fast but eventually....
....whatever happened to you and me?

- The Ballad of The Can't Miss Kids

It was one week ago today that Greg Schiano announced he was leaving Rutgers University to accept the job as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL. Given that Coach Schiano's departure was less than one week prior to "National Signing Day" the touts who make their money projecting which high school athletes are going to be stars on the collegiate level (my favorite faux profession but a rant for another day) predicted heartache for Rutgers football fans. A mass exodus of the kids who had given non-binding verbal pledges to come to school on the Banks of the Raritan was inevitable. Do not take my word for it. Go online and check out what the "experts" were saying.

This morning we are at National Signing Day +1 and while I could not and would not pretend to know what the future holds for any of the kids who signed their binding Letters of Intent yesterday - whether for Rutgers, for Colorado or for any school - a trait I submit that I share with the experts, I know that the feeling at Rutgers was one in keeping with the weather on February's first day: Sunny and unseasonably warm.

While only time will tell whether the youngsters whose names appeared on the Letters of Intent that Rutgers received yesterday actually turn out to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, it appears based upon the presence of those names as if the rumors of Rutgers' demise were in fact greatly exaggerated.

If you have nothing but time to kill, then feel free to scour the virtual world over the course of the next two or three days to look for the admissions by the touts that their dying declarations made this time last week were based on nothing other than a belief in the 21st Century maxim that he who screams the loudest is most likely to get heard. Volume having replaced substance as the day's watchword, it mattered most who said what they said first. The veracity - or lack thereof - of their words? Sadly, that mattered not at all.

I hope that the young men who signed their names to pieces of paper - whether at RU, CU or Whatsamatta U - enjoy productive, positive college careers. Call me a pie-eyed optimist, but I hope more of them earn degrees than NFL paychecks.

And for those of you who like me, follow and enjoy college football, be careful not to declare a youngster sporting your team's colors for the next few seasons a "bust" irrespective of how he fares on the gridiron. Remember that life, much like football, is not a drama comprised of a single stanza. 'Tis not a sprint after all but an endurance race. As the great American philosopher Lawrence Peter Berra once observed, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

And when exactly it is "over" is not something that can always be predicted with certainty on Signing Day or on Opening Day for that matter. Again, do not feel compelled to take my word for it. Ask Bobby Sabelhaus. He knows all about making the proper halftime adjustments and coming back strong in Life's second act.

It is an enduring truth after all. Noise abates. Strength remains inviolate.

-AK

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Rush Into Spring

Hello February! Is it the unexpectedly warm, unseasonal weather that has been fearlessly forecasted for today that has me thinking that maybe, just maybe Spring might be today's object in the rear-view mirror? Perhaps. Well at least in part I suppose. But as the late, great Paul Harvey used to promise, there is of course "rest of the story".

Today at the user-friendly time of 5:00 a.m. (well, friendly I suppose of you are a user like me whose day starts well before the Sun has pulled Dawn's pants down far enough to reveal its ass crack) registration begins for the Spring Lake 5 Mile Run. The Spring Lake 5 is held annually on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. It attracts 10,000 entrants. It probably has three to four times as many applicants. Last year, Gidg and I each ran in it for the first time. This morning we shall be certain to participate in the "early" registration. This morning's registration is designed to be open only to those runners who took part in last year's race. Registration to the world at large opens on Thursday morning. All 10,000 spots in the field will likely be filled by the time Commissioner Goodell hands Tom Coughlin the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night.

My law partner Arnold has made this event part of his summer for the past two-plus decades. Me? I am just a Spring Lake 5 neophyte but given how much I enjoyed it last year, I am going to make damn sure not to miss it this year. For all intents and purposes my summer running schedule starts today - calendar be damned! You best believe that brings a smile to my face.

Meanwhile, somewhere north of here Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart smile as well....

....and they are not even signing up to run.

-AK