Saturday, March 31, 2012

Fools Rush In

Final Four Saturday! Can you feel the excitement? No? I bet you could if you were my wife and were preparing to root, root, root for (well not quite the) home team, which for today's purposes is her now-beloved Louisville.

I bet if you were a dialysis patient in Georgetown, Kentucky you would be feeling it too. Nothing like two dialysis-dependent senior citizens throwing down on one another in the midst of some college hoops trash talking. Especially when that trash is being talked while one of them is hooked up to the dialysis machine and the other is waiting his turn for it.

I always feared that if/when I read a story concerning one patient at a dialysis clinic opening a keg of whoop ass on another one that it would be my great friend Lonnie administering the whooping. Phew. On a perhaps not-entirely-unrelated topic she sent me an e-mail the other morning in which she mentioned that she might be moving to Kentucky.

The Missus and I are spending a bit of our day down in 'Squan. Today is the Fool's Run, so named because of its proximity annually to April Fools Day. It is not to be confused with the "Run for Fools", also known as the New Jersey Marathon, which is a bit more than a month away. Manasquan is a great town in which to run. It is essentially pancake flat (think Kansas with significantly better sights to see) and road races through its streets are always incredibly well-supported.

The Fool's Run is a 5K. Considering that my training run tomorrow morning for the Run for Fools will likely be 6K times longer than today's event, I am looking forward to this morning's race quite a lot. I am looking forward to tomorrow's training run considerably less so. As I continue on a path where angels fear to tread....

....as if an angel and I would ever be mistaken for one another.

-AK

Friday, March 30, 2012

Where Does That Highway Go?

Remember when you were a child? You probably do not have the ability to count the number of times you heard someone say, "Time flies when you are having fun!" At some point between short pants and the grave you peeled the shiny covering back from that old saw to expose the ugly truth hidden beneath it. Time whooshes right past you whether or not you are having fun. And the older you get, the faster it moves. Smiles not included.

By the time midnight announces its arrival tomorrow a full quarter of 2012 will be in the books. If you are a person who makes New Year's Resolutions (I am not) then it might be a good time to inquire of yourself just how well it/they are holding up....presuming of course that at the quarter pole you have at least started it/them (whatever).

Time's passage is both a good and a bad thing I reckon. My wife embraces the notion of her birthday with enthusiasm unmatched by any woman I have ever known. Margaret will be fifty this October. When anyone asks her now how old she is she does not answer, "49", but rather, "almost 50."

While my mother has never displayed the same zeal as my bride on the subject, she seems fairly immune to the ravages of time as well. Any time I have ever chatted with her about getting older she has responded the same way. She simply says, "It beats the alternative."

I suppose that both Mom and Margaret have the right outlook and have taken the correct approach on the subject. Intellectually I know they are right. Nevertheless I simply cannot embrace the concept. Time shall continue to rush by at a pace that borders occasionally on the uncomfortable. And I shall continue to rage against it.

Same as it ever was.

-AK

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Time is Now

Depending upon what time you read this silliness this morning you may or may not have time to catch at least a few innings of the second game of the 2012 Major League Baseball season. While most of the big league clubs, including the Yankees, shall not commence hostilities for real until next week, today the Seattle Mariners are wrapping up a season-opening two-game series with the Oakland A's, which series is being played in Tokyo.

Other than Ichiro, Jesus Montero and King Felix Hernandez I cannot name a single member of the Mariners. Unless Hideki Matsui is still an Athletic, I cannot name even one member of the Oakland team. It matters not. What matters is that it is baseball. It is Opening Day.

It matters not either that the season's first games shall be contested in an enclosed stadium and played on a field covered by artificial turf. It matters simply that the games are being played. For as a wise man once observed, when it is Opening Day, "We're born again, there's new grass on the field"....

....and not a moment too soon either. Hooray.

-AK

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Nathan's Famous....

Anyone expecting a missive about the most famous frankfurter to emerge from Coney Island is about to be (g)astronomically disappointed. Me? I am a Nedick's guy. My favorite thing to do as a little boy was take the NJ Transit train out of New Brunswick to Penn Station NYC with Dad so that we could watch the Rangers play. On the trip upstairs from the train platform to the Garden we would stop at the Nedick's hot dog stand. Happiness was Nedick's hot dog and a Rangers game. Bliss was whenever an Orange Julius was added to the mix. I smile still simply thinking about it.

The Nathan to which I refer is the late American writer and drama critic George Jean Nathan. He was the source of my senior quote in my high school yearbook, which quote I co-opted brazenly from my hero Matt Albano (who had used it as his quote four years earlier). His words stare me in the face every day as I work. Framed as they are on the wall next to my desk and slightly above and to the left of my computer screen.

I fear that while I do an adequate job of seeing them daily I do less so at adhering to them. I could use to do better. Perhaps you could too?

My code of life and conduct is simply this:
Work hard, play to the allowable limit,
Disregard equally the good and bad opinions of others
Never do a friend a dirty trick....
Never grow indignant of anything....
Live the moment to the utmost of its possibilities,
Treat one's enemies with polite inconsideration,
Avoid persons who are chronically in need,
And be satisfied with Life always,
But never with one's self.


I shall give it a shot today. It is still early. I might just have time to pull it off....at least for the day.

-AK

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hoop Dreams

The 2012 Edition of March Madness has been - in our home at least - the tale of two brackets. You see in addition to managing the Pool every year, I foolishly participate in it as well. In more than fifteen years of running a Pool of varying size I have never come close to winning it all. Not once. Not ever.

Margaret played for the first time last year and her maiden trip was so decidedly unspectacular that other than recalling that she finished far up the track (a/k/a where I always end up) I remember nothing at all about her picks. This year's tale, while its conclusion remains to be written, has been decidedly different.

Under the rules of the Pool, players are rewarded for picking upsets, which is to say selecting the team the the number closer to 16 to defeat the team with the number closer to 1 in each of the four Regions. A player earns "bonus points" equal to the numerical difference between the lower seed and the higher seed. This year Margaret earned 31 such bonus points through the first two rounds of the tournament. I know not whether anyone in all of the years I have been running the Pool has ever earned more but I sincerely doubt it, given that in Round One my wife picked two #11 seeds to knock off #6 seeds, a #10 over a #7, a #13 over a #4 and - for good measure - #15 Lehigh to knock out #2 Duke.

Her love of the underdog carried over to her selection of National Champion. Forty-five people entered the Pool this year. Only one chose the #4 seed Louisville Cardinals to win it all. Yep, Margaret was the one. How much does she know about her chosen team? Just about as much as I do, which is to say not much at all. Our lack of knowledge meant nothing on Saturday afternoon as we sat in our den letting loose with full-throated roars as Louisville erased a double-digit deficit to defeat the Florida Gators and advance to the Final Four. Other than perhaps at Col. Sanders' house, there was no home in the nation more pro-Pitino's kids on Saturday than ours.

Louisville's reward for making it to the Final Four is a date with its arch-nemesis. The Kentucky Wildcats are not only the overwhelming favorites to win the NCAA title, they are considered the principal threat to emerge from the NBA's Eastern Conference and play for the professional league's title come June. It shall be a tall order for Margaret's new (for the next week anyway) favorite college hoops team to vanquish Goliath on Saturday. A very tall order indeed. And complicating things for the Missus ever so much more is the fact that for her to win the Pool, the Cardinals need to not only defeat Kentucky on Saturday, they need to come back on Monday night and defeat the winner of Saturday's other National Semi-Final between Kansas and Ohio State.

If Louisville springs the upset on Saturday then Monday night might just mark the first time in her life that Margaret watches any portion of the NCAA Championship Game - although I suspect that we will likely flip back and forth between CBS and Fox since Monday night marks the return of Bones and one of the final remaining new episodes of House.

Religous I am not. Yet for one more week here in this Lenten season, I am rooting with all of my mortal might for the College of the Cardinals. And before you ask the question, you better believe that Margaret believes in miracles.

She will be sitting in front of the television on Saturday afternoon awaiting one's arrival.

-AK

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Birthday Boy

Today is my father-in-law's birthday. Joe is 79 years young today. I used to kid him that he will outlive me. The older we both get, the more I realize that joke contains more than a mere kernel of truth.

I have known Joe only for about 1/4 of his life, having met him when I started dating Margaret slightly more than two decades ago. While we have not always seen eye-to-eye, we have always been able to deal with each other man-to-man. I admire the hell out of him. I admire him because while he is not always right, he always possesses a good-faith basis for his decision. You might not agree with the result but you develop an appreciation for the process. He has been as much a father to me as he has been a father-in-law, if not more so.

More pointedly I admire the hell out of him for how easily and effortlessly he handles his role as patriarch. Life has been less than kind to Joe these past few years, stealing from him first his mother-in-law with whom me was incredibly close and then Suzy B., his best girl and the love of his life. Yet he has kept on keeping on and in doing so has set an example for the rest of us to follow.

In anticipation of an as yet unscheduled but nevertheless planned move, Margaret has spent copious amounts of time over the past few months culling through boxes and closets in our home and in Joe's to get a better handle on what "treasures" really are and what are something considerably less so. Several nights last week she came home with boxes in her car, which boxes contained mementos from various eras. Among the mementos she unearthed is a photograph that was taken almost a half-century ago. It was in fact taken so long ago that Margaret - while present - is not visible in it. Taken in the Summer of '62 on the carousel on the boardwalk at Seaside Heights, Margaret was still comfortably riding along inside of Suzy B - waiting almost until Halloween to announce her arrival. Although she is unseen in the frame, make no mistake as to her presence and her completion of the Dream Quartet:


It is among the most beautiful photographs I have ever seen. It is evidence of love. It is proof of happiness. Most important of all, it is the best evidence of peace (and its importance) that anyone shall ever see.

It is more than that however. It is a testament to the promise of those things yet to come. It is a testament to the belief that as long as the bond between those present and accounted for in that photo remained unbroken, anything was possible and not a damn thing was unattainable.

I did not know my father-in-law then but I know that face. And I know those eyes. What he believed as a young husband and father fifty summers ago he believes still as a father, grandfather and in the year-plus since Nicholas and Halle joined the tribe a great-grandfather. Not only does he believe it still, he lives it every day.

It has been my great pleasure and privilege to have had a chance to hitch a ride with him these past twenty years or so. It has been a hell of a journey so far. I am very much looking forward to the next twenty years.

Thanks Joe. Happy Birthday.

-AK

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Maid Marian on Her Tiptoed Feet

I did something on Friday that I rarely do: I bugged out of the office early. On rare occasion it hits me that since my work day starts at 4:30 a.m. it is not heresy for me to head for the exit now and again on a Friday by the middle of the afternoon. So by the time the clock struck 3:00 p.m. on Friday I decided I had had enough.

In retrospect the itch to hit the road early stemmed from the fact that I spent more time on Friday than I do in my typical work day outside enjoying the weather. As an attorney who does a fair amount of premises liability work, one of the things that I do is visit firsthand the site of the accident so that I have a better understanding of what happened, whether it occurred within the four walls of my client's building or outside on the grounds somewhere. It is merely one man's opinion but it seems to me that if you are an attorney who earns his/her living defending personal injury actions arising out of either automobile or premises accidents and you do not make it part of your day-to-day to visit the scene in order to familiarize yourself with it, then you are doing your client a disservice. Then again, do not feel compelled to take my word for it. I also think attorneys should begin their work day before 9:00 am and work (at least) to 5:00 p.m. more often than not. I wish I had $1.00 for every time that does not happen. I could afford to sleep through the alarm at least one time or two times a month.

So, anyway, I spent most of my Friday enjoying the gorgeous weather while I was actually working - a treat so rare that when I returned to the office in the middle of the afternoon I found myself aghast at the thought of spending the next several hours cooped up inside. Aghast I tell you. Aghast.

I sent the Missus an e-mail entitled, "It is Friday. It is Lent." Now as anyone who has ever happened past this space knows there are two things that make my hair hurt with equal fervor: the notion of God and the money-grab that is organized religion. So by now you have suspected - as Margaret did upon reading the subject line of the e-mail - that I manufactured a reason to get something I really wanted. I knew that she would respond well to the ruse because what it was I wanted was something that she wanted too.

We honored the "do not eat meat because it is a Friday in Lent!" nonsense by going to eat dinner at a place we both love but frequent infequently. Uncle Vinnie's Clam Bar in Raritan Boro, New Jersey is a little neighborhood joint that consistently cranks out the best, tastiest fish dishes. We have eaten there a number of times and have never had a bad meal. Truth be told, if it was socially acceptable we would go there, grab two seats at the bar and order five or six dozen of their Littleneck clams oreganato appetizer. In the words of my Italian father-in-law, they are so good that, "You will want to throw yourself down the cellar stairs."

I am constrained at this point to acknowledge that we first stumbled upon Uncle Vinnie's a number of years ago thanks to a tip from Margaret's ex-husband Bob. Other than proving to be so incompatible enough with the Missus that he moved from "husband" to "ex-husband" status thereby creating an opening for Yours truly, his tip regarding Uncle Vinnie's is the single best thing he has done for me. And we have known each other for more than two decades.

If your day-to-day does not take you to the Raritan Boro area, then create an excuse to get there. Spend a few minutes visiting the John Basilone Memorial and then, once you have worked up your appetite, head on over to Uncle Vinnie's. Be prepared to wait - it is a small place and it is always crowded. It is worth it.

Besides, how often do you get the opportunity to feel like William Tell?

-AK

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Forests and Trees

Here in the State of Concrete Gardens - specifically in bucolic Monmouth County - 18 year old Brookdale Community College freshman (a/k/a the county college for Monmouth County) Cedric Calero appeared destined to make an appearance in Municipal Court next week to defend himself against a disorderly persons offense. What was his transgression? According to a manager at the college's cafeteria, Calero stole a cup of ice. Go ahead, feel free to go back and read that sentence again while I whisper reassuringly in your ear, "You read it correctly - he is charged with stealing a cup of ice." I say "appeared" because after close to sixty days' worth of time wasted and who knows how many taxpayer dollars in hot pursuit (it is after all a County college) yesterday the charges against him were dropped. I was going to say that they "melted away" but decided against going for the cheap belly laugh.

According to Calero, on January 31 he purchased french fries in the cafeteria, walked to the register to pay for them and before he could ask the cashier for a cup of ice the cashier stepped away from the register. According to Calero he presumed that both cups and ice were free so he helped himself to a cup, filled it with ice and sat down at a table to eat his fries. His apparent ploy - hiding in plain sight in an obvious homage to James Caan - did not fool the cafeteria's manager.

Whether it is in the college's course catalog I know not but Brookdale's area of expertise appears to be making mountains out of mole hills. From the Asbury Park Press:

According to the police report, Calero reached over the food service counter when the cashier was not present and took an empty soda cup. He “then filled the cup at the self-service station with ice and possibly a beverage and left the area without paying for the product.” The beverage would have cost $1.80.

Calero, a first-year student at Brookdale, told the Asbury Park Press that he had paid for an order of french fries but the cashier had walked away before he could ask her for a cup. So he took the cup, filled it with ice and sat down with his friends. A few minutes later, the manager approached Calero’s table and asked Calero to follow him. Calero said he offered to pay for the cup after the manager accused him of stealing but the manager said he already called the police.


Think is gets no sillier? Think again. In the words of the much-maligned Captain Smith of the HMS Titanic, "We have seen but the tip of the iceberg." Again, from the Asbury Park Press:

Calero had an initial hearing with Christopher Jeune, Brookdale’s administrator for judicial affairs and student information, on Feb. 20. Calero apparently broke the student conduct code and was charged with theft and interference with the performance of duties of a college employee. He was supposed to submit to five hours of community service and pay 50 cents in restitution.

Joseph Calero, Cedric’s uncle, said Jeune agreed to scratch the interference offense if Cedric immediately signed an admission of guilt for the theft charge, but Joseph Calero and his sister-in-law wouldn't let the young man sign it because the theft charge would have been added to Cedric’s school record. They claim Jeune told him he had to sign immediately, but then couldn’t produce any written policy backing up that claim. The family said Jeune gave them 24 hours to sign. They drove straight to a lawyer’s office.


And of course the epic saga of Cedric Calero, Ice Pirate was STILL not over. On March 2 - a day unique in recorded history because there was absolutely NOTHING OF CONSEQUENCE happening, which afforded the "educators" (stretching that word to its definitional limits in an effort to honor Einstein's rules regarding relativity)ample opportunity to conduct a disciplinary hearing, the inmates running this particular asylum did so. Why not? After all nothing is more sacrosanct on an American college campus than instilling discipline in that school's students. Once more, from the Asbury Park Press:

William Bajohr, the Woodbridge attorney representing Calero, worked with the school’s attorney during the disciplinary hearing March 2 to get the offenses downgraded. Calero ultimately signed a statement that he interfered with a school employee. He was required to write a 500-word essay about the importance of following the rules.

No indication as to whether the disciplinary board ordered Mr. Jeune to author an essay of similar length on the importance of distinguishing those things that are important from those that are not. There is as much likelihood of that happening as there is of BCC offering a program to earn an Associate's Degree in Logic. Do not look for it in the course catalog. 'Tis not there.

Truth be told it does not appear to be obtainable anywhere on campus. Maybe they should add it. Hell, if they did they could charge a fee for it. Something reasonable of course. How does a buck-eighty sound?

-AK

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hunger and Service

To steal a line from Dave Grohl if I might - I've got another confession to make. Until I was subjected along with the rest of the English-speaking world to the relentless advertising campaign for The Hunger Games I had never heard of it - in any form - and still have no goddamn idea what all the bother is about regarding this movie. Then again, until hearing her name associated with this film, which I think opens this weekend, I had no idea who Jennifer Lawrence was either. Perhaps the information superhighway will make its way to my house someday? Perhaps. Perhaps a team of wild horses sufficiently big and strong enough to drag me to the theatre to see this film will also appear at my front door? Considerably less likely. I think I shall beat the crowds and save eight bucks by ordering The Running Man from Netflix and call it an evening. Richard Dawson! Richard Freakin' Dawson! 'Nuff said.

While it is slightly more than a week away I am already looking forward to how the Missus and I shall spend next Saturday night. I do not pretend to be the most learned consumer of live theatre (be it plays or musicals) but I know what I like. One of my favorite plays is "Twelve Angry Men". A production of it, which has received rave reviews for whatever that is worth, is playing at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick through April 8. Margaret is excited to see it too. I hope that seeing a play about a jury will assuage some of the hurt she recently experienced firsthand regarding jury duty.

We live in Middlesex County. Approximately six weeks ago she received a Jury Duty Notice from the Superior Court for Monday March 19. The Notice instructed her to call a particular phone number at any time after 5:00 p.m. on Friday the 16th to confirm whether she had to report. She was excused. And she was crushed. While you and I might view jury duty as an interminable chore, my wife enjoys it. She has no ax to grind one way or another (Hell I can say with total confidence that if she was on a jury of mine and thought that based upon the evidence my client deserved to be gored, she would lead the charge) but simply views jury service as an honorable, worthwhile endeavor. Simply put, my bride and Susan Cole shall never be mistaken for each other.

Cole should be happy that we live in New Jersey. She certainly would not want to see Margaret on the jury determining her fate. The phrase "Frontier justice" might make a comeback in the criminal justice parlance in Colorado's state court system if Mrs. Kenny ever got her hands on Ms. Cole....

....poor sucker would never know what hit her.

-AK

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Blades of Grass in Fields of Green

Whether the two are nothing more than coincidences or whether there is a causal connection between them I know not. I do know however that as I have gotten older I have consumed less alcohol. Once upon a time I viewed my "limit" and my body weight as flip sides of the same coin. I liked to drink and I fancied myself fairly good at it. As the song says, "Decide what to be and go be it."

Generally speaking, by the time I had matured enough to consider spending my life in the company of another adult, my tendency towards excessive drinking had been curbed. There were occasions however when without warning or provocation that particular demon would appear. And when it happened, less than delightful things came along with it. Being my father's son, I was the type of drunk whose emotions would run the entire spectrum as the evening progressed - starting off at the intersection of humorous/good-natured and ending up at the corner of incensed and enraged.

Occasionally life presents us with an opportunity to assess our personal growth. Monday was just such a day for me. In the realm of my day-to-day work world something was done (or more correctly not done) that really, really angered me. It did so on too many levels and for too many reasons to discuss in mixed company. It was the type of thing - being disclosed as it was before the lunch hour - that at one time would have been all that was needed for me to have taken a Mental Health Day and wandered off to a local watering hole for a Guinness or six. I am not sure what part of my brain talked the rest of me out of exploring that possibility. It might well have been the part of my brain that recognized that at some point that afternoon or perhaps that early evening I would have had to call Margaret to come get me, which would not have made her particularly happy.

Or it might have been the part of my brain that recognizes that irrespective of education, achievement and whatever third candidate you want to slot in there to complete our alliteration trifecta I am what many of us are: a cog in someone else's machine. The most exciting realization ever? Nope. Worth getting shitfaced at 1:25 on a Monday afternoon? Not even close to worth it. At one time perhaps but not now.

I feel like just another
Spoke in a great big wheel
Like a tiny blade of grass
In a great big field....


-AK

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

American Skin

I fancy myself to not be a member of the "rush to judgment" crowd. While I am horribly unskilled in all things related to carpentry, I try to live by the creed of Norm Abram: Measure twice, cut once. Experience has taught me that it has practical application far outside the cozy confines of The New Yankee Workshop.

Therefore, I do not even pretend to know all the facts and circumstances surrounding the death of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin. However, based upon the news accounts I have read and the audio transmissions of emergency and non-emergency calls to the Sanford Florida Police on the night he was killed, those facts and those circumstances certainly warrant an inquiry above and beyond that which the Sanford Police Department has conducted or thus far seemed willing to conduct.

These facts are not in dispute: On the night of February 26th a 17 y/o African-American boy named Trayvon Martin was killed by a single gunshot. George Zimmerman, a man in his late twenties, fired the shot that killed him. Zimmerman is not a law enforcement officer. He is a member of a Neighborhood Watch group in his town. Prior to February 26, 2012 Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman had no connection. Now, theirs is an inexorable link.

According to various news reports, Martin spent the evening of February 26 at the home of his father's fiance watching the NBA All-Star Game. At some point, he left the house to walk to a nearby 7-Eleven store to buy himself a snack. He ended up purchasing Skittles and iced tea. It was apparently upon leaving the store and starting his walk back to the home of his father's fiance that he attracted Zimmerman's attention. The attraction proved to be both intense and tragic.

Zimmerman made a non-emergency telephone call to the Sanford Police Department and reported to the dispatcher that Martin appeared to be intoxicated as he - Zimmerman - watched the teenager, "cut through from the main street in the tidy Retreat at Twin Lakes, onto a path between two blocks of townhouses, and decided to gave chase." According to the tape of the conversation, after reporting this information to the dispatcher Zimmerman proclaimed that, "These assholes, they always get away."

The dispatcher did not ask Zimmerman just what type of asshole to which he was referring (apparently intoxicated individuals, Skittle eating/iced tea drinking individuals or youthful African-American ones). However a very direct question - and an equally direct direction - were communicated to Zimmerman by the dispatcher:

Dispatcher: "Are you following him?"

Zimmerman: "Yes."

Dispatcher: "OK, we don't need you to do that."


While George apparently has mad forensic chemistry skills - he was after all able to detect intoxication on a young man an indeterminate distance away from him after simply looking at him - his listening skills are less well-honed. He ignored the direction to NOT follow Martin and instead continued his pursuit. It was a pursuit of which Martin at some point became aware. It was a pursuit that he disclosed to a young female friend with whom he was speaking on his cell phone at the moment his path and Zimmerman's intersected.

Zimmerman shot and killed Martin. He told local law enforcement that he acted in self-defense. According to ABC News he was not required to submit to either an alcohol or drug test that night although such a requirement in a homicide investigation would not be extraordinary. Zimmerman was never tested. As of this date, he has not been arrested.

I do not pretend to know all that unfolded in the only, ultimately fatal moments that Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman shared. I reckon that only one person does and he, Gorgeous George, has told his story and is sticking to it. What a full, impartial investigation into Trayvon Martin's death shall ultimately reveal I know not either. But the manner in which the Sanford Police have to date signed off on the "George Said So" version of events without conducting any apparent investigation whatsoever is unjust. To be kind, at least in the opinion of this one man, it is shameful.

It happens too goddamn often to count in these United States. We think we have come so far only to find out that we have in fact come not very far at all....

....and we still have our boots caked in this mud.

-AK

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It Has Sprung

I have heeded the good advice of my brother Kelly these past several weeks and have not poked Mother Nature in the eye by making too much out of the fact that this winter has great weather-wise. Today is different. Today I can act with impunity.

Today is the first day of Spring. Vernal Equinox - Autumnal's twin brother - is here. Whether Momma Nature will back up the beautiful winter to which she treated us in these parts with a spring to match I know not. One can only hope.

If the weather gods (and my favorite weather dude Lonnie Quinn) are right, then Spring shall get off to a pretty nice start today with mostly sunny skies and temperatures approaching seventy degrees. Not a bad way to start a season. Not too damn bad at all.

Spring has sprung. Enjoy it.

-AK

Monday, March 19, 2012

Miles Gone. Miles to Go.

My beloved Alma mater's run to the National Championship came to an unceremonious end Saturday night at "The Pit" in New Mexico. Considering that I had (a) not expected them to make the tournament; and (b) expected after they earned their way in by winning four games on four consecutive days in the Pac-12 tournament for their stay to last only one game, I was bummed out for a moment by the result of Saturday night's game. Only for a moment. Hell of a year for Coach Boyle and his Buffaloes. Well done gentlemen. Well done indeed.

Sunday is "long distance run" day in my marathon training regimen. Yesterday I went for a robust sixteen-mile run. While I was running I was thinking about Jess and Rob and the fact that they spent a portion of their St. Patrick's Day taking part in a 5K race in Fort Collins. It was the first such race in which Jess had participated. Judging by the post-race photos I saw (we refer to them in the trade as "Proof of Life" photos), I would say it was a success.

I was about 12.5 or 13 miles into my 16 mile run when I thought of the kids and their race. It occurred to me that having only started running slightly more than two years ago that at one time the thought of running 3.1 miles terrified me. Now the depth of my running insanity being what it is, when Gidg was over last night after dinner hanging out with Margaret she and I chatted about the logic inherent in altering the marathon training schedule to bump up to at least 20 mile runs starting next Sunday. What the hell has happened to me? I know not.

I have no idea how well or not this year's edition of the marathon shall go. I do know that the extraordinary weather we enjoyed all winter has made it a damn sight easier to prepare thus far then it was last year. I reckon I will find out on May's first Sunday whether the miles compiled on the sixteen Sundays leading up to it have been worth the wear and tear.

Or perhaps that is a question to which I already know the answer.

-AK

Sunday, March 18, 2012

An American Tragedy

Friday afternoon in a courtroom in the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey a jury handed up its verdict in what had been dubbed "the Rutgers Web-Cam Case". The defendant, former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi, was convicted on fifteen counts spanning offenses ranging from invasion of privacy to bias intimidation. When sentenced in May he could face up to ten years in state prison. Worse yet, he could face deportation to India.

Ravi and his parents were interviewed on Friday while the jury was still deliberating and asked about their decision to reject an offer the State made several months ago, which had Ravi accepted it would have kept him out of prison altogether. They had their reasons for turning down the deal, which reasons might seem to be fairly illogical in light of the verdict.

Having not spent any time in the courtroom or reviewing the evidence in the case I am not competent to comment upon the verdict. Ravi shall appeal of course and our Appellate Division, which is our intermediate appellate court, will conduct its own review of the verdict. Liars and fools will tell you that they know now what that court shall do at that as yet to be determined date. As one who tries to be neither, I shall pass.

It seems to me that it is not an overstatement to describe the story of the relationship of two college freshmen, Messrs. Clementi and Ravi, as a tragedy. The news accounts I read of the trial discussed Twitter, text messaging, e-mails and a million different ways in which these two kids communicated with one another. I saw little to no mention of them ever actually talking to one another directly about the obviously serious issues that existed right under the surface. One wonders what might have happened had they done so.

Actions have consequences. And not simply those that we can see immediately. One life lost. One life derailed. Too many others to count irrevocably altered.

-AK

Saturday, March 17, 2012

In Sunshine or in Shadow

Happy St. Patrick's Day! 'Tis the day for the Wearing of the Green! I double dog dare you (it is a double dog dare so you know that I mean it) to find a fella anywhere who wears it better than he does. I am very happy that my longtime friend Dave Lackland has now created a blog through which he can share with the world at large the adventures of Carl, Handsome Steve and the rest of the gang. If you are at least an occasional reader of the tripe served here on a daily basis, then you might very well have already been introduced to Dave and Carl. You no longer have to rely upon my poor skills to stay abreast of their adventures.

It is my most sincere hope that Dave writes about life on his dock on a regular basis although with a new baby in the house and the attendant pulls and responsibilities of his day-to-day he may not be able to do so. While I have never set foot on it, it surely looks like a beautiful, cool place to spend a bit of time.

In the immortal words of Sgt. Esterhaus and Doctor Leslie Rudnyanszky, "Be careful out there." The taverns and roadways shall both see a veritable explosion in the cretin population today. Do your best to not be included in that number. Most of all, do not let them harsh your mellow. The pipes are calling. Answer them.

For Rob and Jess good luck and enjoy your St. Paddy's Day 5K race this morning in Fort Collins. For Jess, it is her first such endeavor and for her today an Irish Blessing:

May the road rise to meet you.
May the Wind be always at your back

And in honor of the story my brother Bill shared a couple of weeks back about meeting and interviewing the great Johnny Cash, here is a link to the Man in Black and Jimmie Rodgers performing a duet on "Danny Boy".

Spend no more time here today. 'Tis a holiday after all. Enjoy it.

Stay safe....

-AK

Friday, March 16, 2012

Infinite Wisdom?

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity. And I'm not sure about the former." - Albert Einstein

And away we go....

The longest-running road show in modern American political history continued its national stagger tour this week. Thanks to the people in Alabama and Mississippi casting their votes for Rick Santorum it appears as if the GOP shall select its nominee at some point between Columbus Day and Halloween. How anyone can actually vote for Santorum is mind-boggling to me. Perhaps his appeal among the party faithful is that he is the only quasi-legitimate candidate who has an actual adult-sounding name. He is running against "Mitt" and "Newt" for crying out loud. I am aware that Congressman Ron Paul remains in the Republican field but considering that Les Paul had a better chance of becoming President than Ron Paul ever has, he does not really count for purposes of this analysis. Hell, even dead Les Paul still has a better chance of getting elected President than does Ron Paul.

Speaking of the Republican primary election death march, did you see where just the other day the Romney campaign asked Bruce Springsteen for permission to use one of his songs at his rallies and other gatherings? In keeping with the prevalent theme of his candidacy Romney asked not for "We Take Care of Our Own" or "Land of Hope and Dreams" (both of which are tracks on Springsteen's new Wrecking Ball CD). He asked instead for permission to use a song from the Tunnel of Love record. His folks feel that "One Step Up" not only resonates with Romney's supporters but accurately captures the spirit of the campaign.

Closer to home, our State capital has a bridge that is known to many as the "Trenton Makes" bridge due to the large neon letters attached to it declaring, "TRENTON MAKE - THE WORLD TAKES". Apparently among the things that it came percariously close to being impossible to take in certain City buildings - such as City Hall, the Police Department and senior centers - was a good old #2. Yep. The Trenton City Council apparently refused to vote on three separate occasions last year on the contract to furnish paper supplies - such as toilet paper - to City buildings. Presumably since the product in question is paper-based those in the know in Trenton city government figured it grew on trees or some such thing.

What seemed "Ha ha! Funny funny!" in the fall was far less so in early March. Thankfully, just before the sh*t hit the fan - and countless other objects - the crisis was averted. I would like to disagree with City Council President McBride's assessment of her performance and that of her colleagues but I cannot. She was quoted in Wednesday's paper, "Today all over the world we are the laughingstock not only of this nation but of the world and that, in and of itself, should send us a message that we need to get our act together because today was just an example of how the rest of the world views us."

Perhaps had that epiphany occurred to Council President McBride and her fellow Council members way back when in the fall they could have avoided laughingstock status - or at least achieved it through other means. There is always next time.

Einstein was right. Madness may be seasonal but stupidity? Stupidity shall go on forever. We the people are here to see that it does.

-AK

Thursday, March 15, 2012

We Are Alive

Given that I reasonably anticipate that my Alma mater's stay in the NCAA Tournament shall last no longer than the time it takes to complete the game tonight against UNLV, this shall likely be the final time until next year (presuming that there is anything about which to cheer) that I shall devote this space to them. While I am here, please note that not only are the Buffaloes the Pac-12 champions in Mens' Basketball and the 3rd place finisher in the recently-completed NCAA Skiing Championships but they are kicking ass and taking names off of the field of play as well. Not less than ten of CU's graduate school programs earned Top Ten rankings in the 2013 Edition of U.S. News & World Report's "Top Graduate Schools" including the CU Boulder atomic/molecular/optical physics program, which is ranked No. 1, tied with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And while I have not seen MIT's hoops team in action, I am fairly confident that the Buffs would pummel them. After all, how tall is the average 11 year-old physics prodigy anyway?

The one and only time I checked the point spread for tonight's game was Tuesday morning. Danny Sheridan of USA Today listed the Runnin' Rebels as a 4 1/2 point favorite. Prior to yesterday afternoon, I knew nothing about this year's UNLV team other than during the regular season they defeated the University of North Carolina (a/k/a the #1 Seed in the Midwest Region). While we did not play UNC this season - and I have a hard time constructing the scenario under which we could defeat them if we did - we vanquished UNO in late December. For the uninitiated, UNO is the University of New Orleans. A team not often confused for UNC. If ever. However after reviewing President Obama's bracket I learned that while he is a (D), for purposes of CU v. UNLV he is on (R) side, which is to say he is not on OUR side. Perhaps he is still sore that I voted for McCain in 2008? Dude, let it go already. Everybody else voted for you.

If the Buffs live to fight another day I shall be quite happy. Candidly, if their season ends tonight I shall be disappointed for the kids and the coaches but will otherwise be just fine. They fought their way into the March Madness sandbox this year by winning games on four consecutive days, which ensured that the great snubbing of 2011 would not have an encore performance - a sentiment captured in one of the best sports editorial cartoons I have seen in a long time (drawn by Drew Litton of the Boulder Daily Camera for the March 11, 2012 edition of the paper):


As Julius Caesar himself learned, the key to the Ides of March is not being alive when the day begins but rather when it ends. Will the Buffs still be standing when today is deposited into history's dustheap? I know not. But for now they are. Standing shoulder to shoulder....

....and heart to heart.

-AK

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Beauty of Youth

I spend a fair amount of my work time reviewing official documents such as medical records, witness statements and police reports. I have been doing what I do for close to twenty years now and it is not too often that I review a police report the contents of which actually brings a smile to my face. In the interest of full disclosure I must confess however that more than a decade ago I defended a case in Monmouth County involving my client's horse, which had broken free from a cart it had been pulling and decided to leap to freedom from my client's hilly yard and down onto the road below. Unfortunately his "Run for the Macadam" was interrupted by a passing motorist. The horse went through the windshield of the car, kicking the woman who was the front-seat passenger in the shoulder area and injuring her. While what happened to the horse was not funny - he had to be put down on the scene due to his injuries - the narrative description of the incident on the local cop's police report was outstanding. All these years later, I wish I had a copy of it.

Tuesday morning I awoke to see that my sister Kara had sent me an e-mail. The e-mail had an attachment. The attachment was a police report. As I tried to focus my eyes, which is not always easy to do at 3:30 in the morning, the only word I could make out initially was "Randy". He is the middle member of the Brothers Forsythe. I presumed that there was a relationship between Randy's name in the text of Kara's e-mail and the police report attached to it. I was right.

But I was also wrong. I was wrong because I assumed that Randy's involvement (not because he is not a terrific kid - which he is - but simply because his mom had forwarded it to his uncle the lawyer) was as one of the principals such as a driver of a vehicle that had been involved in an accident. His was in fact a much cooler and much nobler role. His was the role of rescuer.

Randy attends college at Delaware Valley College and is a freshman pitcher on the baseball team. He and his Aggies teammates (I know the nickname because I looked it up on the web site) are in Florida this week playing their first regular-season games. On Sunday night, he and one of his teammates were the first ones on the scene to assist the occupant(s) of a car involved in a single-vehicle accident in Port. St. Lucie. If you are a New York Mets fan you might have heard of this accident as the driver involved is the Mets bullpen catcher.

The driver flipped his car, which if the readings noted in the report of Deputy Sheriff Hayford of the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Department regarding the driver's blood alcohol content are accurate, might be fairly easy to explain. Randy apparently heard the crash, and ran over to see if he could be of any assistance. He directed one of his teammates to call 9-1-1 while he set to the task of trying to get the driver out of the car. He was unable to get him out of the vehicle through the driver's side so Randy moved around to the passenger's side, opened the passenger's door and got him to safety. Apparently once rescued from the vehicle Mr. Langill realized he might have some 'splaining to do to the police and to his employer so he attempted to remove himself from the area. Randy "persuaded" him to sit tight and wait for the police.

Hell of a good effort by Randy on two fronts. First, saving Langill from his most recent act of stupidity by getting him out of his car. Second, saving all of the good folks in the Port St. Lucie area from Langill's next hoped-for act of stupidity by not allowing him to run away from the scene before the police arrived.

His college baseball career is in its nascent stages. He has not yet earned his first decision on the mound. Yet, he has already notched his first save.

-AK

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Grillin' and Chillin'

For a day that had only twenty-three hours in it, Sunday certainly turned out to be chock full of good stuff. I had such a good time in fact that I did not even miss those sixty minutes.

The morning dawned bright and truth be told a tad chilly. Gidg and I participated in the first-ever Miles for Music 20K race, which was held on a closed loop course through Johnson Park in Piscataway/Highland Park (I think the park actually is located in both towns). Both of us are training for our second attempt at the New Jersey Marathon, which is now fifty-eight days away. As we have been training neither of us has spent a lot of time running in the company of others, which made Sunday's event a real treat.

Although it was a first-time event and was at something of an unusual distance (I at least had never competed in a 20K race before) it was very well attended. There were 460 people who competed. And it was a field full of quite serious runners. There were thirty-three men in my age group (45-49). I ran a time with which I was thrilled - 1:46.52, which worked out to an 8:36 per mile pace. In my age group I finished twenty-ninth out of thirty-three. Overall, I finished in 269th place. The good news is that I was very happy with my time and the fact that at the end of 12.4 miles I felt very good. My effort in the marathon last May was hampered by brutal leg cramps. So far, so good this training season. And my running partner Gidg in spite of some illness issues that made it hard for her to inhale/exhale properly at certain points was able to bring it home in less than her target time, which made her feel good as well as she continues on down the road towards Marathon Sunday.

As much enjoyment as I derived from a good, hard run on Sunday morning the best part of the day was the afternoon/early evening. I am not a cook. Other than breakfast on Christmas morning I do exactly 0% of the food preparation in our home. It is horribly unfair of me inasmuch as I do significantly more than 50% of the food consumption.

While I do not like to cook, I love to grill. Having seen the forecast for Sunday I told Margaret on Friday evening that I was going to roll the grill out of the garage where it has been hibernating all winter and into its appointed place in the back yard. Sunday afternoon Rosie and I spent the better part of an hour and a half just relaxing in the sun as I grilled pork ribs that I had prepared Saturday evening. Having spent twelve hours soaking up the marinade, I am not lying when I tell you that the smells in our yard Sunday afternoon were mouth-watering. Happiness is ribs grilled slow and low.

I did my best to resist the temptation of eating them after I finished making them but before I brought them inside for dinner. Rosie? Not so much. Our unwritten compact when I am manning the grill is that she gets a sample of whatever is going to be served before we present it to the rest of the humans. I enjoy the company. She enjoys the food. Symbiosis in its most elementary form.

Last year we enjoyed good enough weather on weekends here in the State of Concrete Gardens that I think I spent just about every Saturday and Sunday in the back yard grilling something. But last year we did not kick off the grilling season until Mother's Day. This year we did so prior to St. Patrick's Day, which was a wonderful thing. I mean not to be greedy but if Mother Nature could put together another two dozen or so Sundays just like this one back to back (and belly to belly), it would be much appreciated. By me....

....and by Rosie.


-AK

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Determined Herd

Apologies to those of you who pop by this space on a regular basis. Today's subject matter may very well be of no interest to any of you. Feel free to read no further. See you tomorrow? As if I would know.

Saturday evening in Los Angeles something extraordinary happened. It had been more than two decades since the mens' basketball team at the University of Colorado had played for a conference championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. On that March afternoon in 1990 the Buffs came up short, losing to the Oklahoma Sooners 92-80 in the Big Eight Conference Championship Game. In Los Angeles on Saturday evening, this year's team made amends. The Buffs defeated Arizona 53-51 to capture the automatic bid from the Pac-12 Conference.

This season was Colorado's first in the Pac-12. Although last year, Coach Boyle's crew set a school record for victories with 24, in this season's pre-season coaches' poll the Buffs were picked to finish 11th. Better than 12th I suppose. Not by much. They finished sixth.

By virtue of their sixth place finish the Buffs did not earn one of the Pac-12's four first-round byes. In order to earn their ticket to March Madness the Buffs had to do something that has not been done in school history in at least the past eighty years - if ever, which was win four games in four days. That is precisely what they did. They vanquished Utah on Wednesday night and then came back on Thursday night to upset the Cal Bears. They continued their assault on Nature's creatures on Friday night when they defeated the Ducks of Oregon. Saturday when they captured the conference title in their very first attempt the road kill du jour were the Wildcats of Arizona.

When I attended CU a quarter-century ago the hoops team was historically bad. It is almost mind-boggling to me how little time it took - once the school did something it tried very hard not to do for a long, long time, which was hire a top-notch coach for that coach to turn the Buffs into a winning team. Coach Tad Boyle made the short trek south on I-25 after the 2010 season from Greeley (where he coached the University of Northern Colorado) to Boulder. In the two seasons he has been on the CU bench the Buffs have won 47 games. It is the best two-year period in school history.

Last season the Buffs were among the teams for whom an invitation to the Big Dance never arrived. Coach Boyle thought his kids had earned one and in anticipation of its arrival he had his squad gathered at his home to watch the NCAA field get filled. When CU's name was never called, it put a bit of a damper on the Sunday afternoon party. This past weekend as his team was preparing to play in the conference finals against Arizona, Coach Boyle sent a text message to the half-dozen players who graduated (or in the case of Alec Burks left school for the NBA) off of his 2010-11 team to tell him that this year's team intended to win the tournament title for them.

I know not how long the Buffs shall be among the teams actually competing for this year's National Championship. They are the #11 seed in the South Region and will play #6 seed UNLV on Thursday night in New Mexico. I simply intend to enjoy the ride for however long it lasts be it forty minutes, six games or something in between.

And I hope like Hell that Coach Boyle's stay in Boulder lasts for a number of seasons beyond this one. A school that wandered about aimlessly looking far and wide for a leader for its basketball program found that man - finally - less than one hour from its front doorstep. Now that he is there how about we try to get him to stick around for a while?

Shoulder to Shoulder Baby! Shoulder to Shoulder!

-AK

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Way You Do The Things You Do

Here is to hoping that my guy Lonnie Quinn is right. The forecast for those of us who reside in the State of Concrete Gardens today calls for temperatures in the low 60s and bright, sun-soaked skies. Not too shabby a way to celebrate the first day of extended daylight. My running buddy Gidg and I shall spend at least a portion of our morning participating in the first-ever Miles for Music 20K. While the distance those of us who are running shall cover is fairly long (20K = 12.4 miles) the distance those of us coming to the race from 'NTSG is considerably less so. This event is being run in Johnson Park, which is slightly more than a 5K and slightly less than a 10K from my home.

The champion of today's race is Anne McCarthy. McCarthy is both a runner and a music teacher. As an adult who works with children she appreciates the importance of kids being physically fit. As a teacher whose area of expertise is music education she appreciates the fact that - whether fair or not - in tough economic times the programs that tend to get the hardest when school districts pare down their budgets are "non-essential" programs such as music. She is a woman on a mission:

Our mission is to get kids and their families engaged – in physical activity, music and learning the important lesson of contributing to their community. The goal is for children to develop a love and habit of running, music and community engagement.

Admittedly, I am a man of decidedly limited musical skills. Granted, I play a mean kazoo and can whistle a bit but other than that not so much. The world of musical theatre did survive my stint as Oliver Twist in W-H's 1981 production of "Oliver!" but once 8th grade ended so did my career as a leading man. That being said, I like music a great deal and I have no difficulty accepting the notion that it plays an important part in shaping our children, which seems to me to support the notion that is is an essential part of every school's curriculum.

That fact, coupled with my own love of running and my need to stay on schedule in my training for the New Jersey Marathon, which is only eight Sundays away now, is what shall lead me to Johnson Park this morning. I am very much looking forward to it.

And speaking of music - and to a lesser degree running - it was nice to see/hear Mr. Springsteen and his band of merry men and women get the "Wrecking Ball" tour off to such a rollicking start on Friday night. Springteen and the E Street Band played a show at Harlem's Apollo Theatre in celebration of the 10th anniversary of SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

I do not have SiriusXM radio so I did not listen to the show as it unfurled live on Friday night. I have enjoyed the video clips that I have seen on-line. "Death To My Hometown" is one of my favorite tracks from the new record and is something that I expect will be a staple of each concert on this tour. But it was while watching this video that I was struck by two things.

First, should I live to see age 62 I hope that I am half as physically fit then as he is now. Second, on Friday night there were more Caucasians in Harlem than have been there on any single Friday night since the repeal of Prohibition. And it certainly appeared as if they all had one hell of a good time.

The power of music. That Anne McCarthy is one smart cookie.

-AK

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lost between Tomorrow and Yesterday

This time next week is St. Patrick's Day. Rah. 'Tis amateur hour the Spring Edition....not to be confused with the banality that is New Year's Eve (although given the resemblance between the two any error is understandable). I have been Irish every day of the forty-five years and counting I have spent on this Earth. I have imbibed an adult beverage (or in some cases far more than just one) on a reasonably high number of those days. Yet the first thing that comes to mind when I think of St. Patrick's Day is the way in which people co-opt it into an excuse to not simply celebrate and have a good time but to act like unbridled, stupefied morons. Free piece of legal advice to this year's crop of CTB (Cretins To Be), "But it's Saint Paddy's Day" is NOT a viable defense to a public intoxication and/or driving while intoxicated charge. Just sayin'.

Tomorrow is Selection Sunday. At or about 6:00 Eastern Daylight Time (remember to set those clocks ahead one hour tonight before going "night night" - and in honor of the impending tweaking of the time-space continuum and for Rob and Margaret a little something from the Brothers Davies) tomorrow evening the field will be announced for the 2012 Mens' Basketball Championship Tournament. I look forward to this event every year. Not because I watch a lot of college hoops. I do not. Even as my Alma mater has actually morphed into a respectable, representative team under the guidance of Coach Tad Boyle, whose feet should be glued to the floor of the Events Center if need be to prevent him from ever leaving Boulder, I have watched less than 30 minutes of college basketball all season.

I love March Madness because Selection Sunday heralds the arrival of the annual Office Pool. With the exception of the first year I was here at WL (the first time around way back when in '98) I have run a pool every year for the past fifteen or sixteen years. I have never come close to winning and if history is any guide, whichever team I select as my winner will be back on campus watching the final two weeks of the tournament on television.

I enjoy the Pool for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that in the past several years I have enveloped my family in it so that not only does Rob play (he finished 2nd several years ago) but Suz and Margaret have both started to as well. Last year I know not where I finished in the overall standings but I finished fourth out of four in our familial mini-bracket. The "Road to the Encore" begins Thursday afternoon I suppose.

My single favorite thing about overseeing the pool is that a significant number of people at the Firm play. It is set up as is the tournament itself in that it is a winner-take-all affair. My role as the organizer is to keep track of the results, provide terribly witty (or simply terrible) weekly updates and at the end of the festivities present the victor with his/her spoils. I enjoy overhearing the good-natured ribbing that invariably pops up in the office during the latter half of March as co-workers critique each other's selections and have some fun at one another's expense. A law firm can be a fairly high-stress environment in which to work - or so I have been told. It is nice that for a couple of weeks anyway, those who opt in to participating in the madness that is March have something to discuss with one another that is entirely unrelated to work.

May the descent into Madness begin....

-AK

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sometimes Tomorrow Comes Soaked in Treasure and Blood

A wise person once observed that opinions and one's nether orifice have a stark, keen similarity. Everybody has one, which is not of course the same thing as everybody wanting one. It is not even the same as everybody wanting some. Do not take my word for that last point. Ask Eddie and Diamond Dave. I have my own variation on that piece of ancient wisdom, which is that there is a resemblance between an "unsolicited" opinion and a person's nether orifice: I am aware that everybody has one but unless I expressly tell you otherwise I do not want to be exposed to yours.

I have been thinking about that a lot this week - in significant part because I find it so damn amusing. I have also been thinking about it a bit in view of Tuesday's release of the new Springsteen disc, "Wrecking Ball". The world of Springsteen fans is comprised principally of three types of fans - all of whom live together on-line under the same roof.

First, there are the fans who know more about Springsteen than not just anyone they know but anyone ANYONE knows and based upon that unparalleled knowledge are uniquely qualified to tell you why the latest project (whatever it might be) is the most unredeemable piece of dreck he has ever foisted upon his fans.

Second, there are the fans who know more about Springsteen than not just anyone they know but anyone ANYONE knows and based upon that unparalleled knowledge are uniquely qualified to tell you why the latest project (whatever it might be) is the most singularly important piece of art ever produced in any format at any time in the history of the world.

Finally, there are the fans who have enjoyed and paid attention to Springsteen's music with a certain degree of passion and who do not feel they are the world's foremost authority on what is proper for everyone else to think and feel about it. It is my most sincere hope that I fall into that third and final category. Given that my love of Springsteen comes to me courtesy of my oldest brother Bill (and he actually does know as much - if not more - about music than any person I have ever known), who I would place squarely in the third group, I hope that I have continued to honor that legacy. And I hope that I have paid it forward as it were or passed it on to Rob. I am fairly confident that I have.

The on-line world of Springsteen fans is probably a great deal like the on-line world everywhere and very much like our brick and mortar real world in that much that is merely opinion is expressed in the guise of fact. People not only enjoy expressing their opinions, often times strongly and sometimes obnoxiously (Ah the bravery of on-line anonymity!) but they really enjoy presenting them not for what they are but as something else altogether. Simply put, you are entitled to believe whatever it is you want to believe. Your belief in it may or may not make it a fact. The two terms are not interchangeable. How about an example to help makes things clearer? You may believe that Rick Santorum is a swell guy and would make a great President of the United States. In fact, he is not and he would not. See the distinction?

I have read with more than a little amusement the number of threads on BTX this week seeking the opinion of others regarding the record (as if my opinion needs your opinion to be validated) as well as analyzing to the point of distraction the reviews from various magazines, newspapers and on-line sites. A critic who wrote a glowing review was lauded for his insight and aptitude by the denizens of the Second Circle while being dismissed as a sycophant by those in the First Circle. A critic who wrote an unfavorable review endured the flip side of the same experience. Check out the thread responding to Jim Farber of the New York Daily News' review and see the phenomenon for yourself.

My .02? I do not care what your opinion is of "Wrecking Ball". I say that not because I think that if (a) your opinion matches my own we are automatically in the finals of the "World's Smartest Human" contest; or (b) if your opinion disagrees with my own then we can not continue the charade of treating you as a person who possesses a reasonable intellect. I say that I do not care simply because your opinion has no influence at all on mine. Neither should mine on you. I happen to enjoy the record quite a bit. If you plunked your hard-earned money down on it and you similarly enjoy it then I am happy for you. If you do not enjoy it, then I hope you can get that scratch returned to your wallet from the retailer from whom you purchased it.

So you use what you’ve got and you learn to make do
You take the old, you make it new
If I had me a gun, I’d find the bastards and shoot ’em on sight
I’m a jack of all trades, we’ll be all right
I’m a jack of all trades, we’ll be all right


....whether everybody agrees with us or not.

-AK

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Knowledge is Good

....so sayeth Emil Faber.

I have a notoriously prickly relationship with time. I presume that we all do. As kids, it never seems to pass quickly enough. As adults, it disappears to a spot out on the horizon line with such pace and vigor that we find it hard to keep up. A happy medium? If there is one, then it has eluded me thus far. Candidly, the prospects for the next forty-five years are not terribly hopeful either.

It was thirty years ago this week that John Belushi died, felled by an overdose of cocaine and heroin at a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont Hotel in West Hollywood. He was only thirty-three. It seems almost inconceivable to me that by this point in time he has been dead for almost as long as he was alive.

I was fifteen when Belushi died and at the time of his death he was already a couple of seasons removed from his breakout work on Saturday Night Live. I cannot recall which of my older siblings (or what combination thereof) opened my eyes and ears to his genius when I was just a boy but I am glad they did. His work on "SNL" was tremendous - I think that to this day Joe Cocker believes that he is the one singing here. He also starred in what remain to this day two of my all-time favorite films. Whenever I am channel surfing and stumble upon either "Animal House" or "The Blues Brothers Movie", I put down the remote control.

Belushi's name was in the press this week a bit more than I am used to seeing it not only because of the sad anniversary but also because "Animal House" is apparently coming to Broadway. It is an idea that - to me at least - seems ill-conceived as it promises to deliver a finished product in which I cannot envision myself having any interest. I mean certain things should not be screwed with; right? But then again, it boggles my mind how many people plunked down good money to see "CATS" or "A Chorus Line" (not to mention "Les Miserables", which lasted roughly twenty-one times as long on Broadway as the French Revolution that inspired it did) so I freely admit that I may not be among the audience producers of this show shall look to target.

The great Pete Hamill wrote, "Time itself is long, even if the time of man is short." Belushi's time certainly was. But through the magic of video and film, the work he did outlives him. It enables us to look back and laugh....

....and in one instance to even look back and imagine that which he did not live long enough to allow any of us to see.

Hida-hey....

-AK

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

One of those nights when Sal Paradise was right

While the Missus was out and about on Sunday afternoon I spent a bit of time doing something that has been more enjoyable thus far this season than it has been in some time. I watched the New York Rangers play. Sunday afternoon they were on national television playing against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins. March was no kinder to Beantown in its First Sunday matchup against the Big Apple than February was (as a non-NBA fan I neither count nor acknowledge the outcome of the Knicks and Celtics game). There is a lot of hockey left to play this season - given that the NHL year begins shortly before Columbus Day and ends between Memorial Day and Father's Day but so far, so good for the Broadway Blueshirts.

Perhaps it was because I was still in a New York Rangers state of mind when I woke up on Monday morning that a particular item in the Daily News caught my eye. Apparently while performing his duty as the Zamboni operator during a Pee-Wee League team's practice on January 30, 34 year-old Joel Bruss was better lit than a goal lamp. Four times better lit actually. Bruss was arrested for and charged with DWI after he blew a .32 BAC....while operating the Zamboni at an arena near Minneapolis.

No one was injured during Joel's excellent adventure. In fact, the video of the incident is not without its humorous elements. Specifically, the commentary by the little dudes who were waiting for him to finish cleaning the ice so they could resume play in the following period. Their critique of the generally poor job he did of cleaning up the ice is pretty funny. None of them seemed particularly insightful as to why he was going over the same areas over and over while failing to touch others yet all of them recognized the generally lousy job he was doing.

A newspaper article I read on-line mentioned that Bruss has had at least one prior conviction for drunk driving. The article did not mention whether on that occasion Bruss was behind the wheel of a Zamboni or something else altogether. Another article mentioned that once Bruss successfully completes his sentence, he hopes to catch on with an Italian cruise line as a ship's captain. One of the preceding sentences is nothing other than something I made up for my own amusement. I shall leave it to you to decide which one....

He was drunk and exhausted but he was critically acclaimed and respected
He loved the Golden Gophers but he hated all the drawn out winters
He likes the warm feeling but he's tired of all the dehydration
Most nights were kind of fuzzy but that last night he had total retention


-AK

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Just Sittin' Around Waitin' For My Life To Begin

Happy Birthday to one of the coolest chicks I know. Jill's name has appeared in this space before, and in case you feel the need to hunt down proof of her coolness you may turn here for it. Discretion being the better part of valor, I shall not name numbers as it were. That information belongs to her to share, not to me.

Unless the good folks from the CU Alumni Association are messing with my head, this coming Sunday heralds the arrival of Daylight Savings Time. Happiness is an extra hour of daylight. Its arrival means that we have made it through another winter's worth of "out and back" under the cover of darkness. The opportunity to see what one's home looks like in the light of day shall actually present itself again in only a few short days.

While "additional daylight Sunday" is enough of a present in and of itself, it is also this year "Selection Sunday" for the NCAA Mens' Basketball Championship (a/k/a "March Madness"). If you do - as I do - the oversight duties for one of the nine gazillion March Madness pools that shall pop up all over the place this month, then you shall appreciate that additional hour of daylight as much as I do. It is about to get damn busy in these parts.

Sadly, although I have managed a Pool for close to the past two decades I have never come close to winning the damn thing. Not once. Not ever. If history teaches us anything - and it often does - it is that this year shall be no different. I am in fact so bad at picking college basketball games that I do not view what I do as gambling. Rather, at the start of the tournament I am simply making a donation to as of yet to be determined charity.

The lengthening of days also always signals the fact that baseball season is right around the corner. Opening Day in MLB this year is Wednesday, April 4, which means as of today we are less than thirty days from first pitch. Of all the year's seasons, it is baseball that is my favorite.

Better days are shining through....

-AK

Monday, March 5, 2012

So Listen Up My Sonny Boy

In a nice change of pace, I actually was well-organized enough this weekend to hit the A&P on Saturday afternoon. While that might not sound like too big a deal, by handling that chore on Saturday I was able to get out and do my "long run" for my marathon training early Sunday morning. It was a nice enough morning on which to run that although 12 miles was what my training schedule called for I actually ran slightly more than 13.

Thanks to Margaret's super cool Christmas gift of my Garmin gadget, I have spent the past couple of months of Sundays running wherever the heck I feel like running. It has been liberating.

Yesterday it permitted me to spend a bit of time running through parts of our little time in which I tend not to spend too much time. I would love to report that I was jazzed by what I saw. I cannot. There was no shortage of "FOR SALE" signs on the front lawns of homes of varying styles and types. Worse yet was the veritable spate of "FOR RENT" signs and "VACANCY" signs in what were not too very long ago were functioning, vibrant active businesses. What I saw as I ran through town is a place that is dying.

Sadly here 'NTSG we live under a self-defeating form of government: the moronocracy. We have no shortage of self-important heroes affiliated on the local level with one of the two major parties who live to run in local elections. They really are sad iterations of the same model of actor. The one who mistakes electability for leadership. The one who mistakes holding office with governance. In a tiny town, we have a disportionately large amount of them.

And the worst thing of all is that ours is a little town inhabited by a lot of very fine people. Unfortunately we have turned the reins for running the joint over to two competing groups of folks more concerned about sitting in front of their computers - behind cleverly chosen user names - running down each other than they are about doing a single f***ing thing that they have in fact been elected to do.

I have lived here 'NTSG for close to two decades now. If the plan actually comes together, then the Missus and I shall be looking at it through the rear-view mirror in the not-too-distant future. It is not now - nor shall it ever be - my hometown. Yet is the place where my kids grew up. It is the place where Margaret's parents chose to settle and raise their family more than a half-century ago. Both Margaret and her big brother Frank have lived most of their respective lives here. Frank and his high school sweetheart Chrissy have raised their six kids here too.

A little town with an extended, noteworthy past and a decidedly uncertain future. If it fails, the toe tag will read, "Death by Ineptitude."

No cannonballs did fly
No rifles cut us down
No bombs fell from the sky
No blood soaked the ground
No powder flash blinded the eye
No deafening thunder sounded
But just as sure as the hand of god
They brought death to my hometown
They brought death to my hometown


-AK

Sunday, March 4, 2012

March Sadness

As we here in the State of Concrete Gardens head into winter's homestretch, it has been thus far a rather tame season. Given that each of the past two winters had been anything but, the sound you hear coming from Yours truly is NOT a sigh of regret. March thus far has been wet more than dry but nothing dire or extraordinary.

Sadly that has not been the case in other parts of the United States. People have been killed throughout the Midwest and the South by a swath of savage tornadoes. The southern part of Indiana was brutalized by the storms, particularly the little towns of Henryville and Marysville, each of which is home to approximately 2,000 people. Marysville is reported to have been totally obliterated. "That's the information we have, that Marysville is no longer," U.S. Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) said in an interview with CNN.

I have no intention today to go off on a jag about the effect human behavior has on weather or the absurdity of those who shall now invoke God's name in support of those who were the recipients of Mother Nature's body blow (I thought Sunday was his day off - not Friday). There may very well be a time and a place for that. It is not here. And it is most assuredly not today.

....for our fallen brothers and sisters.

-AK

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Adrift....

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the game in which Wilt Chamberlain hung 100 points on the New York Knickerbockers. It was a game that the Knicks lost 169-147 to Chamberlain's Philadelphia Warriors. 169 points? And Knicks fans think that the team's current coach has an aversion to defense; eh?

There was a nice piece on the Chamberlain 100-point game in yesterday's Star-Ledger, courtesy of Dave D'Allesandro, in which D'Allesandro told the story of Chamberlain's friendship with a fellow named Joe Ruklick. Ruklick played his college hoops at Northwestern and had the misfortune of being the guy against whom Wilt put up 52 points as a freshman at Kansas. Ruklick had the better fortune of being the Warriors teammate who assisted on the hoop that got Chamberlain his 99th and 100th points. And Chamberlain had the best fortune of all as he/Ruklick enjoyed a friendship that lasted the rest of Chamberlain's life. A good story, well-told by Dave D'Allesandro. Check it out here.

Work took me to the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick yesterday afternoon, where the State of New Jersey is currently prosecuting former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi. In the fall semester of 2010, Ravi was a freshman at RU and his roommate was a young man named Tyler Clementi, also a freshman. The synopsis of the crimes against Clementi with which Ravi has been charged and for which he is on trial can be found here.

I know nothing about this case or the principals involved in it other than what has been available in the media, whether newspaper, radio or television. Based on nothing more than the little bit I know, I am not convinced that what Ravi did is criminal. It was, at least to my way of thinking, awful. The Law does not necessarily recognize the two as interchangeable concepts, which is why when one is acquitted in a criminal matter the verdict entered is one of "not guilty" and not one of "innocent".

A lot of ground has been covered in the fifty-five years since Joe Ruklick and Wilt Chamberlain first met as college kids in Lawrence, Kansas. But has all the ground we have covered with all of the technological gadgets and toys and gizmos we have at our disposal - ostensibly for the purpose of making us smarter and better informed - been covered while moving forward? Ruklick and Chamberlain, kids of different races from decidedly different places who attended college in different states and whose first meeting was in the setting of a single event, might have very well never taken the time to get to know one another - it was 1950's middle America after all - without anyone having given it a second thought.

But they did. And what each learned about the other was that he gave not a rat's ass about the color of the other's skin but, instead, cared wholly about the quality of the man who walked around inside of it. That knowledge formed the basis of a life-long friendship.

In the Fall of 2010, in New Jersey two young men of different races and apparently different sexual orientations, brought together to live under the same roof at the same college, never developed the skill set to look at - or for - the content of one another's character. A shortcoming that had profound consequences for them both.

We have come a long way from 1956. Which way have we moved? Beats the hell out of me....

....and I am not sure that the goings-on at the Middlesex County Courthouse these days are at all helpful in trying to answer that question.

-AK

Friday, March 2, 2012

Drinkin' Cocoa on the Bear Skin Rug....

I was at the crib, sittin' by the fireplace.

But I digress....

Jason Varitek of the Red Sox retired this week. Varitek played for the Sox full-time since 1998. He actually arrived at the trading deadline in 1997, when he was still a "prized minor leaguer". He came to them in a deal that turned out so terribly for the Red Sox's trading partner that one suspects that a decade and a half later the name, "Heathcliff F****** Slocumb" is still uttered through clenched teeth in coffee houses all over Seattle. Varitek's entire big league career was spent in Boston where he was the Red Sox catcher, captain and cog on two World Series-winning teams. It seems fitting - to me at least - that he and his Yankees counterpart Jorge Posada retired during the same off-season. They essentially arrived on the scene together all those years ago. During their careers, each represented the best parts of his respective team and what is - to me at least - the best rivalry in professional sports.

With Varitek's retirement, that rivalry has now said farewell to four tough as nails competitors since the end of the 2010 season. He and Posada can form a foursome with Andy Pettitte and Tim Wakefield and spend their summer afternoons on golf courses rather than baseball diamonds. Varitek should find it markedly easier to play golf with Wakefield than he ever found it to catch him. I hope retirement treats him well. He served baseball well from the first day to the last day of his career. The game shall miss him. Want to have a bit of fun? Check out Wikipedia.

On Tuesday, the latest Springsteen CD officially arrives in stores. Tonight Bruce and the ESB shall pop in again with Springsteen's #1 fan (at least among late night television hosts) Jimmy Fallon on "Late Night". I go too bed far too early to watch Fallon's show. Thankfully, through the wonders of video, even that which was not viewed at time of broadcast is not missed any longer. If you are curious as to whether at his age and sans the Big Man, Mr. Springsteen can still get it done, then check this out. Or this. You watch. You decide.

Courtesy of a little bird, I have spent the past week or so listening to this record (and if I had not broken the "device" that I used to share audience created recordings I would have shared and shared alike). If you saunter over to Backstreets.com you shall see that not every citizen of Springsteen Nation is a fan. I happen to like it a great deal. It contains at least a couple of songs that I cannot ever imagine myself tiring of hearing - a list at which this song belongs on top.

I spend a lot of time driving and, consequently, I put a fair amount of miles on my car. Skate is approaching her sixth birthday and 175,000 miles with equal alacrity and enthusiasm. Yet for all the driving I do, I really do not go anywhere. By that I mean that almost 100% of Skate's miles have been accrued within the georgraphical confines of the State of Concrete Gardens. While driving around on my beloved home state's highways and byways I have seen some pretty funny stuff. One night last September as I was driving home on 287 South I saw this:


All I could think was, "Holy Sh*t! With my luck this is what will happen to me when I die." And then I remembered that Margaret's instructions are to cremate me. Hopefully the journey from the funeral home to the crematorium is shorter than that from the funeral home to the cemetery, thus reducing the likelihood of car trouble.

This past Saturday I was heading home on 287 South when I saw the biggest cup of "to go" coffee I have ever seen in all my life:


Presently neither of my kids - both of whom are coffee fiends and big Dunkin' Donuts fans - resides in a part of the United States that "runs on Dunkin'" so I sent the picture to them. A not-too-subtle jab by the old man I reckon, "Look how great we have it here!" or something to that effect. Not only can we get it at Dunkin' Donuts or at the local supermarket, we can get it by the carload!

There is an old saw about the one who laughs last. I was reminded of it on Tuesday. As I understand it, the lords of Facebook place advertisements on one's home page that bear some relationship to the person and/or the person's identified interests. It explains to my satisfaction why I see endless advertisements for races of all distances and types as well as products associated with the University of Colorado.

It does not however explain nearly to my satisfaction what prompted the inclusion of this advertisement on my page:


I know I have never said a word about that aloud. I shall be damned if I know how Marc Zuckerberg and his henchmen found out.

Someone must have leaked....

....Things that make you go hmm
The things that make you go hmm.



-AK