Monday, April 30, 2012

Springtime in New York

It is amazing - is it not - how quickly things change. Way back when in mid-March when Andy Pettitte announced he had ended his retirement to sign a minor-league deal with the Yankees, my initial thought was, "Wow - what a nice luxury for the Yankees to have - a five-time World Series winner as an extra pitcher." By the time he arrives in mid-May, he will no longer be a luxury. He will be either the #2 or #3 starter. Michael Pineda is finished for the year without ever having thrown a pitch for the Yankees in a game that counted (Pedro Feliciano anyone?). Phil Hughes has been abysmal. Freddie Garcia has been even worse. If Andy cannot bring it as he could before his retirement, rumor has it that that the back-up plan calls for cloning C.C. Sabathia. Outrageous? Perhaps. But it has a much higher upside than giving the ball to Hughes every fifth day.

As someone who neither watches nor gives a rat's ass about professional basketball, I cannot pretend to care whether the Knicks win a single game in the NBA playoffs. That being said, I laughed to myself more than a little when I read late last week just how much the Knicks were looking forward to playing the Miami Heat. In the first game of their first-round series against Miami on Saturday afternoon, the Knicks scored 67 points. Miami scored 100. Hmmm. I would hate to think how many points the Knicks might have lost by had they not been so excited to play Miami. The countdown to tee times for the Knickerbockers is tee minus three games.

The tenant of MSG for whom I root fervently has continued to enjoy a successful post-season run. As the Rangers pursue their first Stanley Cup since 1994, it is worth pointing out the following similarities thus far between the '94 post-season and (thus far) the '12 post-season. In defeating Ottawa in Round One, the Rangers came back from a 3-2 deficit to win a seven-game series for the first time since....1994. In '94, who did the Rangers play in the second round - after sweeping the Islanders in Round One? None other than this year's second-round opponent the Washington Capitals. Here is to hoping that this year's series ends up the way the 1994 series did. Of course, the '94 Capitals did not have Ovechkin.

Then again in '94 the Rangers did not have Chris Kreider. The young man can play more than just a little bit.

-AK

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Seven Nights to Rock

I am not a particularly bright fellow. Hell, even when engaged in a monologue I am less than certain that I am the smartest person involved in the conversation. Yet, even a low-wattage bulb like me knows that the fact that today is April's final Sunday means that this time next week shall mark the arrival of May's first Sunday. This year - as was the case last year - May's first Sunday is Marathon Sunday.

My goal this year is what it was last year, which is to complete this task in four hours or less. Last year I choked. I missed my target time by close to thirty minutes. If it is possible to finish a task such as running 26.2 miles when - less than two years earlier doing so would have been impossible - and have one's reaction be profound disappointment, then that is precisely what my reaction was last year. I did not feel as if I had accomplished anything. Rather I felt like I failed. Truth be told, the passage of 51 weeks has done little to move the needle.

The quest this year was one of redemption. When I was a raging drunk I was not a twelve-stepper, preferring instead ultimately to unwedge the bottle from my hand and my head from my ass without the need for "meetings". But as someone who remains a fan of Seinfeld I know courtesy of George Costanza's bulbous head and the neck hole of James Spader's tightly-knit sweater that making amends is Step Nine. Up until approximately thirty days ago, I felt relatively confident that I had a shot at redemption. As race day approaches I feel less so. Pre-race jitters or merely a late-arriving acknowledgment of one's own limitations? I reckon I will be better positioned to answer that question this time next week than I am presently.

One week to go. According to a certain songsmith, on Sunday everybody rocks....

....I sure as hell hope so.

-AK


Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Mo' Better Blues

I am a lifelong New York Giants fan, which allegiance shall not change. As a Giants fan there are few teams that fill me quite so full of disdain as the Dallas Cowboys. America's Team? F*** off. In view of the uptick in the fortunes of the Houston Texans, the 'Boys might not even be Texas' Team any more.

I am constrained to admit however that as of Thursday night my "most favoritest" (evoking the words of Bob Cvengros who implored Coach Mac always to, "Give the ball to the man on the scholarmanship!") NFL player is a member of the Cowboys. The First Round of the NFL Draft was held Thursday night. As I understand it the Draft continued last night and concludes either today or tomorrow, with a total number of televised hours somewhere north of Herman Wouk's Winds of War and somewhere south of Alex Haley's Roots. I enjoy watching football but I would be fibbing if I said that in my entire life I have watched a cumulative total of one hour's worth of the Draft. I know not what I find more mind-numbing: the fact that not one - but two - television networks provide live coverage of the Draft; or the fact that people actually get all dressed up in their team's battle regalia and attend it. To each his own I suppose but certainly not this fella's preferred way to spend an evening.

Anyway, on Thursday night the Dallas Cowboys spent their first-round pick on a defensive back from LSU, Morris Claiborne. While I watch a lot of college football and saw LSU play often over the course of the past two or three years (when you lose one game every two years or so you tend to be on TV a lot....thus explaining why my Alma mater has been television's best-kept secret for the past decade I suppose) and am familiar with Claiborne's name and his position (he played cornerback at LSU), I would not pretend to tell you how good, bad or indifferent a player he is. Those who know these things however all seem to think he was pretty damn good in college and will be pretty damn good in the NFL, having traded the SEC West for the NFC East.

Earlier this winter Claiborne did what the top prospects do. He went to Indianapolis to take part in the NFL Combine, a process through which potential draftees are put through their paces running the 40-yard dash, lifting weights, performing agility drills, etc. all of which purport to give the NFL teams a better understanding as to what type of NFL player a kid might become then - oh I do not know - having watched the manner in which the kid performed in an actual game. It is something akin to a cattle call for bipeds.

Among the things the potential draftees are required to do is complete something called the Wonderlic Test. As I understand it, it is a fifty-question test that is apparently designed to measure the IQ of the young man taking it. How it does that, I know not. What the correlation is between high IQ and success on the field I know even less? A generation or so ago, a Dallas Cowboys linebacker named Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson cheekily proclaimed that an opposing quarterback was so dumb that he could not spell "cat" if you spotted him the "C" and the "A". The opposing quarterback? Terry Bradshaw of the Steelers. All he did was win each of the four Super Bowls in which he played, including the one played a day or two after Henderson's feline acuity comment.

Shortly after the Combine, the story broke in the media that Claiborne's score on the Wonderlic was a "4", which is a score of historic ineptitude. The kid was the object of ridicule in some circles and of fairly vicious comments in others. Nothing promotes bravery after all quite so much as the anonymity of the average internet forum.

Upon being drafted with the sixth overall pick by the Cowboys, Claiborne dished about how much it had hurt him to hear and read some of the rather unsavory things that were being said and written about him, "I'm human, so some of the things that were being said on twitter got to me," Claiborne said after his selection. "That test don't tell me who I am and what time of guy I am and what kind of ability I have. That test cant drop me."

But then Claiborne did something that I for one found refeshing. He claimed that the principal reason why he had done so dreadfully on the damn test was that he had found it pointless once he started taking it so he simply bailed on finishing it:

He found out it had nothing to do with football. He said he filled out 15 or 18 of the 50 answers, then put the test away and didn't finish. "I came to the Combine for football,'' Claiborne said Thursday night, "and I didn't see any football questions on the test. So I didn't finish it. That test doesn't tell me who I am.'

Time will tell I suppose whether he truly is as academically astute as a box of rocks and perhaps his intellect, be it limited or limitless, shall have a direct relationship upon his success as a NFL player. Perhaps time will reveal him to be as intellectually gifted as he is physically, which would tend to support his claim of how he handled the Wonderlic test. I hope it is the latter if for no other reason than to perhaps take one element of the "prized cow at the fair" mentality that permeates the Combine away from the NFL. I keep holding out hope that one day in the not-too-distant future the top 200 college players/draft prospects tell the NFL and its member clubs that none of them are coming to Indy for the Combine. Rather they shall require their prospective future employers to base their Draft Day decisions on something really extraordinary such as football.

Good luck in the NFL Morris Claiborne. May you have a long, prosperous and (for 14 games only as long as you play in the same division as my Giants) successful pro career.

-AK

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Dance with her Dad

This has been an extraordinarily long week at work. Between things to do and nonsense to wade through it has felt as if this week has been of the overstuffed variety. While work beckons tomorrow morning, today essentially ends the organized chaos portion of this week's festivities. Not a moment too soon.

In the world of work I have been luckier than most in terms of who has worked with me as my assistant/secretary. In the past fifteen years the roll call has featured only four names: Tracey, Gracie, Theresa and since mid-November 2010 Lucia. Today is Lucia's birthday. I told her that this year for her birthday I was giving her the gift of two consecutive days off....with those two days being tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Do not feel badly about not laughing. Lucia did not find it humorous either. I am fairly confident that she will enjoy her "real" present quite a lot more. I did follow Margaret's advice in getting it after all.

She is an exceptionally good soul. She has had an extraordinarily tough year. Her father was hospitalized for what seemed to be almost all of January and February. He died in late February. This is therefore her first birthday without him. She is not a child to be sure. But she is - as all daughters are (at least I hope anyway) - forever daddy's little girl.

Here's to hoping that her day is a happy one. She most certainly deserves it....

If I could steal one final glance
One final step, One final dance with him
I'd play a song that would never ever end
'Cause I'd love, love, love to
Dance with my father again


-AK

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Floor Recognizes the Gentleman at the Back of the Room

Every organization or group - irrespective of its size, composition or stated purpose - needs a leader. No door is big enough for everyone to fit through at once. Someone has to be the first one through the door. In the disparate collection of personalities sewn together solely by genetic material that is known as the "Kenny Children", my big brother Bill was the first one through the door.

As the maiden effort in the baby-raising business of Bill & Joan, Inc. he was equal parts prototype and guinea pig. While it would have been nice had he actually bothered to get more than two or three wrong on the entire SAT (it was fun [NOT] all those years later to hear Dad grill first Kara and then Jill on just how tremendous a score Bill had achieved and how disappointed he would likely be by their efforts....mercifully (for me anyway) he died years before I sat for mine), it was of tremendous benefit to those of us at the back of the line that first dealt with WPK, SR as a father years before we had to. I have heard the stories. I know now what I missed. I regret having missed exactly none of it.

He is the person who decided that the youngest of his five younger siblings, a big-headed, epilepsy-affected little doofus who looks remarkably like the big-headed, quickly-graying doofus who stares back at me in the bathroom mirror every morning, would learn to read at an early age. He was also the one who taught me - at the ripe old age of two. Some of the happiest memories of my childhood are of afternoons spent at the Rutgers University library with Bill and his friends as he taught me everything that one could learn from The New York Times. I entered kindergarten the year Bill graduated from Rutgers and while - deep in the throes of epilepsy - I was the leading candidate to be picked last for every athletic and/or quasi-athletic activity in which Mrs. Spaeth required us to participate, I was also the only member of my class who knew what our reported troop strengths were in Vietnam and why McGovern's odds of getting elected President of the United States were so laughable that Ron Paul seems like a chalk pick in comparison. The lack of progress I have made in the past forty-three years in terms of my comprehension and aptitude is something for which the blame rests squarely upon me. The introduction into a world where knowledge was treasured and actively pursued is something for which the credit rests equally well upon him.

We are a diverse and divergent sextet, the now-grown offspring of WPK, SR. and Joanie K. We have far more differences than similarities as a troupe. I suppose that a significant reason for that divergence is that our 'rents really had us as two separate trios with there being a four-year break between the arrival of the first trio's final member (Kelly) and the second one's first member (Kara). We were raised in what were for all intents and purposes different households, which were shaped by the times in which we were kids and - candidly - the economic circumstances in which Mom and Dad found themselves. Those of us at the back end also experienced at least a taste of what it was like to live in a single-parent household when Dad died in May, 1981. We are the same. We are also markedly different.

From the back of a long line of older siblings, one develops a certain comfort level. The scar tissue that those who preceded you through a particular phase of life acquired along their journey serves to protect you and to keep you safe and sound - at least to a degree. As the lead dog on the team, Bill had just the opposite experience. No one led him through the hole the way in which a fullback or a pulling guard might lead a running back. His playbook had a lot of sneaks and naked bootlegs in it. He was called upon to make his own way, to achieve his own success.

He did so. And in so doing he left a trail that even the tailgunner - way back here at the end of the production line - can see. He taught the rest of us that while life is indeed lived forward, time is also spent looking back over one's shoulder to cast a protective eye on those who are following behind you. For we know not where are are going once we lose sight of the place from which we started our journey.

Happy Birthday to my big brother Bill. A million years ago he taught me the first big lesson of my life: how to read. In the four and a half decades since the lessons have not stopped. Whether I have learned them well is open for debate. I have always done what I can.

And I shall keep on walking....

....just as a very wise man taught me to do.

-AK

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Way of the Wilbury

"I just shook my head. What are you going to do? It’s a completely ridiculous story. Shouldn’t have happened. Dumb thing to do, but let me assure you it’s not the last dumb thing we’ll see happen," Christie told the crowd, which chuckled at his response.

He went on, "So we should stay calm. People are human beings. They make mistakes. Those people who made this mistake should be held accountable and I’m sure they will. And I’m glad nobody got hurt."


It turned out to be a good thing for Governor Christie and the media that he had a bill signing at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center on Monday for it turned out that the press got three stories for the price of one: the signing of the bill, the Gov's love letter to the Nets and his reaction to finding out that on at least two occasions in the past twenty-four months one or more members of the New Jersey State Police has served as an official escort for a "high-speed caravan" of luxury cars as said caravan has be-bopped down the Parkway at 100+ miles per hour.

A story that first saw light of the newsroom a couple of weeks ago centered on the participation by at least a couple of troopers in a high-speed road race to Atlantic City identified as "Death Race 2012". One part of the story that no doubt stoked the interest of more than just a few was the reported involvement in the caravan of Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs was a member of the two most-recent Super Bowl-winning Giants teams and he left Big Blue as a free agent for San Francisco earlier this off-season. He is among the motorists alleged to have followed his blockers (a/k/a two marked State Police vehicles with emergency lights activated) all the way to Atlantic City. It is almost unfathomable to me that anyone would hurry TOWARDS Atlantic City (a/k/a "New Jersey's Sewer by the Sea") but to each his own I suppose. One wonders what Jacobs shall do for sh*ts and giggles in San Francisco.

Then, Monday night a piece of video was posted on the Star-Ledger's web site that was to me - as someone who logs in excess of 35,000 miles a year (most of them on New Jersey's highways and byways) - as equal parts amusing and infuriating. It is homemade video taken in 2010 by the front-seat passenger in a vehicle heading south on the Parkway (the action appears to pick up somewhere at or near the Essex Toll Plaza), which vehicle is moving at a speed of 100 miles per hour or more and struggling to keep up with a caravan of very fancy looking sports cars. At the front of the caravan? You guessed it, a marked New Jersey State Police vehicle. If you watch the video - and you really should - make sure you do so with the sound up on your computer. The running commentary of the two guys in the car is - at points - laugh out loud funny.

I happen to agree with the Governor and his position that the reported antics of a couple of members of the State Police is not and cannot be an indictment of the brave men and women who comprise the State Police. Having the pleasure of knowing a couple of State Troopers, including one who retired after a very distinguished career, I know firsthand that is an organization full of quality human beings. That being said, because it is populated by human beings it is chock full of imperfect beings as well...including those who are knuckleheaded enough to think that escorting a passel of car enthusiasts clocking south at 100+ miles per hour is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Thankfully, no injuries were reported....other than the red cheeks on the face of the State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes..

"It was you to me who taught
In Jersey anything's legal....
as long as you don't get caught."


It is as true today as it was when Lucky Wilbury first said it a quarter-century ago. Then again, he was pretty damn smart....

....even for a Wilbury.

-AK

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Empty Nets

You might have missed it. Or perhaps you made the same conscious decision that I did, which was to not watch it. The swan song of the Garden State's never quite beloved professional hoops team: the New Jersey Nets. When the Nets regular season begins next year they shall be residents of Brooklyn. Will the borough that mourned the Dodgers' departure and welcomed back Kotter embrace the Nets? Not if the good people of Kings County are anything like their neighbors to the west in Middlesex County, Bergen County or Essex County. Whether the Nets played their home games in Piscataway, East Rutherford or Newark a considerable percentage of their fan base came to their games dressed as empty seats.

A decade or so ago the Nets made back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals. In two years they won a total of two games, slightly less than the number of victories necessary to win either series. As someone who is not a professional basketball fan and who had never watched the Nets play when they were winning fifteen to twenty games a year, I made no attempt to hop on the bandwagon during their brief trip to the top of the world. Sure enough, the roof caved in on them a couple of years later. They opened the season with eighteen consecutive losses. And the rest as they say is history. A history humorously recounted by Dave D'Allesandro in Monday's Star-Ledger, a piece worth the time to read even if the team about which it is written more often than not has not been worth the time to watch.

....and because we are Jersey, leave it to our Governor to get the final word on our late, not too great and not lamented at all NBA hoopsters, "You don't want to stay, we don't want you," Governor Christie said. "I mean, seriously I'm not going to be in the business of begging people to stay here. That's one of the most beautiful arenas in America that they got a chance to play in. It's in one of the country's most vibrant cities and if they want to leave here and go to Brooklyn, good riddance. See you later."
-AK

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Price of Peace

The New Jersey Marathon is now less than two weeks away. Thirteen days to be exact. "Who is counting?" you might ask. Well, the answer seems self-evident so on second thought perhaps you realized you did not need to ask it.

Yesterday morning was spent participating in the 3rd annual Unite For Charity Half-Marathon at Rutgers Unversity. Gidg and I have participated in each edition of this event and we were joined again yesterday by her brother-in-law Mike and Mike's friend Scott. All in all I would say it was a successful day for each of us. It served as a training run for Gidg and me - a sort of final pre-Marathon tune-up as it were for the two of us. The training schedule for next Sunday calls for only an eight-mile run. I never thought I would reach the point where in my vocabulary a scheduled eight-mile run would be preceded by the word "only".

Candidly, my marathon training has hit a bit of a snag the past couple of weeks. An issue that arose during a 20-mile training run a few Sundays ago took longer to resolve itself than I had hoped it would. When my usual course of treatment for orthopedic problems did not produce the desired result, I did something I hardly ever do: I stopped running. Between Sunday the 15th and yesterday I had run exactly once....for a grand total of three miles.

Running is important to me. It is important not just physically but mentally too. I glean a tremendous amount of inner peace from running. I run for much the same reason that I write: it soothes me. I was likely crabbier than usual this past week during my self-imposed hiatus but it had to be taken. Peace is important. Being able to walk from here....to here is equally so.

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Green Leaves and Potted Plants

Humans are hot stuff. As the dominant species on this particular planet, we deign to set aside one day each year to honor our host and our home. Such arrogant pricks are we that Earth Day turns 42 today. How nice to belong to the segment of the human population that is older than THE one global holiday. It is little wonder that sharks attack us and grizzly bears maul us. We deserve it. They know it. We are the d-baggiest species on the planet.

Presumably here on the big blue marble every day other than today is Uranus Day. Something has to account for the proliferation of all things Kardashian, the continuing popularity of Jersey Shore and Rick Santorum.

A lifetime ago when I was an undergrad at CU-Boulder I did my part to cherish and preserve the earth by consuming my fair share of "grass". I enjoyed it now and again and do not think it had any long-term impact upon my mental acuity. Truth be told, when you start with a small handful of brain cells the loss of three or four is negligible. It harmed no one and was greatly appreciated by the folks in the UMC who sold brownies and oversized chocolate chip cookies. I did my level best to help pay their kid's college tuition.

While I remember enjoying a good smoke now and again I have no specific recollection of there being a day on campus that purported to turn Norlin Quad into one big hookah lounge. It is possible that I do not remember 04/20 being a date of any importance during my golden era of collegiate cannabis consumption because I was simply so stoned that I have forgotten. Possible but not bloody likely.

These days, however, in Boulder 04/20 has become some sort of unofficial high holy day (clever word play right there - did you see it? I told you that smoking weed did not have no impact on myself!) among the marijuana-smoking community. So much so that this Friday, the folks who run CU essentially locked down the campus in an effort to keep the several thousand stoners who annually congregate on Norlin Quad from doing so. In terms of keeping down the number of people who participated in this year's event, the tactic was a success. In terms of the decision to pay Wyclef Jean $80,000 to perform at a free concert at the Events Center that was attended by fewer than 1,000 people, not so much.

And let me not forget to mention the economic downturn experienced by all of Boulder's local pizza joints and Taco Bells. Especially Taco Bell. No human not impaired by the prior consumption of some sort of 'substance' rationally considers that crapatorium a place at which to dine. For those all hopped up by the issue of illegal immigrants streaming across our Southern borders, forget the plan to spend a gazillion dollars to build the Great Wall of Laredo. Simply have Border Patrol personnel greet clandestine crossees with a complimentary meal from Taco Bell. Better than barbed wire and gun turrets every day of the week.

Happy Earth Day everyone. Now get out there and hug a rock. And you plowmen? You know what to do.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Waltzing No More

I must confess that given my relatively young age at the time he and his mates danced The Last Waltz I did not come to appreciate the genius of Levon Helm until I was a much older man. It was to my benefit that I eventually did. Helm died Thursday afternoon, succumbing to cancer after waging a war against the disease for the better part of the final decade and one half of his life. He was seventy-one.

Levon Helm was regarded in many circles as one of rock and roll's greatest drummers. He was one of the interview subjects of my favorite rock and roll drummer Max Weinberg in the Mighty One's book "The Big Beat"

Incredibly, he was held in even higher regard for his humanity than he was for his musicianship. His former bandmate Robbie Robertson, from whom he had a well-documented estrangement for a number of years, visited Helm in the hospital shortly before his death, after which he wrote, “Levon is one of the most extraordinary talented people I’ve ever known and very much like an older brother to me. I am so grateful I got to see him one last time and will miss him and love him forever.” Don Imus, whose radio show I listen to now and again, considered Helm to be one of his greatest, most loyal friends (the Levon Helm Band actually performed on-air to help raise money during the annual Imus Radiothon several years ago after Imus had been fired - during the middle of the event - from his gig at WFAN following the Rutgers debacle). On his program on Wednesday morning Imus described Helms as one of the true angels on Earth. One of my favorite things I ever heard him sing was his cover of "You Better Move On", which appeared on the first Imus Ranch Record, which was released in 2008.

According to published reports, when death came for Levon Helm he went comfortably and in the company of those he loved and those who loved him. Take a load off Mr. Helm. The respite is well-earned.

-AK

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dogs and Bones

For any number of reasons this week has felt as if it has dragged on interminably. My reaction to having finally arrived at Friday? It is about effing time.

If you need further evidence that the campaign for the Republican nomination is all but over, then look at the amount of time and space devoted this week in media outlets nationwide on "Canine-Gate" as the first big issue of the Fall campaign. Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, has copped to strapping the family dog in his crate (the dog's - not Mitt's) to the roof of the Romney family's station wagon when the Von Romneys trundled off on vacations. Obama, the incumbent Democrat, has copped to eating dog as a child when he lived in Indonesia. To paraphrase Jimmy Kimmel, we have now reduced the campaign for the Presidency of the United States to "Team Strap Him to the Roof" versus "Team Strap Him to the BBQ Spit". Lucky us.

Perhaps it is only me - I hope not - but the notion of a dozen or so Secret Service agents in a nice, safe, bucolic place such as Colombia for the stated purpose of doing preparatory work for President Obama's trip there spending as much if not more time trying to figure out how to get their knobs polished than doing their jobs is more than mildly irritating. And inasmuch as one presumes that those agents assigned to the Presidential Detail have at least a rudimentary-level amount of observational skills, I cannot decide whether to be amused or outraged by the claim that none of the agents realized that the young Colombian women who they were having no difficulty whatsoever picking up in the hotel bar was a hooker. Really?

Every time I hear Ted Nugent speak I think how fortunate we all are to live in a country that values free speech. But for his Constitutional protections, Nugent might actually be reticent to give voice to this inane thoughts. In these United States he is free to expound upon them. The rest of us are free to consider them and then - in the case of those of us who live a comfortable distance from him - thank the lords of geography for the buffer between him and us. Perhaps the most positive thing that I glean from Nugent's interest in all things political is that it lessens the amount of time available to him to churn out the dreck he calls music. I read somewhere earlier this week that the Secret Service intends to speak to Nugent about some comments he made about President Obama last week. Note to the Secret Service: when you arrive at Nugent's home, the women he introduces to you as his "sisters" and with whom he offers to fix you up on a "date" are NOT his sisters. I am just trying to be helpful here. There is no indication that the Secret Service employs agents who are any better at recognizing Michigan hookers than they are Colombian hookers.

The Yankees are in Boston this weekend to play the Red Sox. The first game of the series today shall serve as a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park. A visit to Fenway Park to watch a game remains one of the unfulfilled items on my bucket list. Kudos to Major League Baseball for getting this right. The best rivalry in North American sports is precisely how this anniversary should be observed. I read something on-line yesterday morning that while he had initially said he was not going to attend the celebration, former Sox Manager Terry Francona had reconsidered and now does intend to be at Fenway for the festivities. From afar, Francona seems to me to be a good man who got a raw deal on his way out the door in Boston. "Unnamed sources" within the organization were far too happy to throw him under the bus for their September implosion. Gutless. Truly gutless.

In view of how swimmingly the Bobby Valentine Managerial Experience has done so far, perhaps the Sox have invited Francona to come for the pre-game ceremony...

....and stay to manage the game.

-AK

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fourbearance

Before someone alerts the spelling police in a tizzy, I am compelled to point out that the misspelling in the title of today's silliness is one of deliberate design. Unclinch your ass cheeks and unknot your knickers.

It was four years ago on this very date that this little slice of life was launched. It remains faithful to its original purpose, which was to serve as a pressure release valve for the things and voices waging war in my head. As long as it does so, it shall continue. It is - as are most things in my day-to-day - all about me. I write because this place serves as a platform for me to share aloud those things that interest and amuse me and to shout aloud those things that offend and infuriate me. It remains a great mystery to me why anyone reads what is written here. Well, I suspect that my brothers and sisters do because perhaps Mom has asked them to do so. Something akin to, "Be nice to your little brother." And I suspect that my kids do in the hope that if either ends up stuck having to visit me in the home at life's end, they will at least have 6 or 7 minutes of something about which to talk.

This space exists because maintaining its existence requires discipline and I, like many of us I reckon, have a need for discipline and order in my day-to-day. Human beings being animals and animals being creatures of habit, I suspect that I shall have such a need for the remainder of my life. Of that I am certain. I am less so that this place shall remain inviolate the locale at which that need is fulfilled. Forever is a mighty long time. As the great Pete Hamill wrote, "Time itself is long, even if the time of man is short."

Mine, like yours, grows shorter with the dawning of each new day. Thank you for choosing to spend a couple of moments now and again right here. It is something that I do not understand but, nevertheless, I appreciate it. Whether there shall be a fifth anniversary edition of this blog I know not. However, I know there shall be a "fourth year, second day" edition.

See you tomorrow. One step further on up the road.

-AK





Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Heat and the Vapors

On a Patriots Day that featured temperatures in the neighborhood of eighty degrees (and even hotter in the Red Sox clubhouse except in front of Dustin Pedroia's locker - for that little dude is always cool), approximately 22,000 runners participated in the 2012 edition of the Boston Marathon. Race conditions were so tough that race organizers offered a field-wide deferral of one's entry. As a general rule, one must qualify to run in Boston. But because the conditions Monday were forecast to be at or near a level fairly described as "extreme" race organizers told all 26,000 runners slated to participate that if - due to the weather - a runner wanted to opt out of this year's race and run in next year's instead that he or she could do so. We are a (fool?) hardy bunch - runners that is. Only roughly 4,000 people who had signed up to run on Monday opted out and into 2013.

Runners from Kenya finished first through third in both the Mens' Division and the Womens' Division. The top two finishers among the women were separated by only two seconds. Two seconds. Incredible. To run 26.2 miles in approximately two and one half hours only to lose by two seconds is something that seems almost incomprehensible. Two seconds. It is the difference between a size 11 shoe and a size 8 shoe for crying out loud.

Reading that story in the paper took me back to last May and my own maiden voyage on the Sea of Marathoning, wherein I had an eerily similar experience. It took me about six weeks to get over the heartbreak of losing by two seconds - losing the chance to finish in 8,569th place. Hell, I really thought I could catch Petey "the Human Pogo Stick" Prudhomme in the final mile but that one-legged dude would not be denied. At age 83 he moved as if he could have hopped on his one leg all day. My #1 goal for this year's race is to finish ahead of him. I am not too proud to admit that I shall trip him if necessary to defeat him. "It is not enough merely to win; others must lose."

This year I am taking no chances. I cannot stand the thought of being bested by him yet again. I have - in addition to training hard - employed an 11-point strategy. Given the "out and back" nature of the NJM course, while I have not yet decided on which point to focus energy on race day, I am leaning heavily towards #4.

I had hoped to use #10 and #11 but after I mentioned it to Bill and Kel, both of my brothers stopped returning my text messages and started blocking my e-mails. Perhaps by next year they will have come around.

Or perhaps I shall just ask Bobby Valentine's assistance in preparing for race day. Rumor has it that he is a master motivator. Well, at least on one side of the Pacific.

Get the picture?

-AK

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Night of the Johnstown Flood

One of my favorite Springsteen albums is Nebraska. It is – of course – the incredibly dark, brooding piece of music that Springsteen recorded in his home studio by himself. When Columbia Records inquired as to the album that would serve as the follow-up to The River, he presented them with the cassette of his home recordings that he had been carrying around in his pocket. It is an album that burst onto the scene in the early 1980’s and expertly and poignantly captured the vibe of the times.

The thing I like the most about Nebraska is its simplicity. There are no “wall of sound” songs on it. There are not - to my ear anyway – any songs on it in which the music overtakes the lyrics. Words matter. Words matter to the people whose stories are being told on the record. Words matter to the narrator of those stories. Consequently, words matter to you the listener.

Simplicity of arrangement should not be misconstrued however. For the simplicity of the songs belies their depth and their power. The people whose stories are being told in them are more than merely characters. For however long a particular song lasts, you are right there with them getting a peek behind the curtain at the story of their life.

It has been ‘round these parts an exceptionally trying last couple of weeks and truth be told there appears to be a chop on the water in the seas ahead for as far as the eye can see. The difference between difficult and insurmountable is often very fine. As the narrator of “Atlantic City” teaches us, it is a line on the wrong side of which we do not want to end up. And what is the key to staying on that line’s right side? A question answered for us by the teller of the tale in “Highway Patrolman”-

Yea we're laughin' and drinkin' nothin' feels better than blood on blood
Takin' turns dancin' with Maria as the band played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"
I catch him when he's strayin', teach him how to walk that line
Man turns his back on his family he ain't no friend of mine.

Nothing feels better than blood on blood…

-AK

Monday, April 16, 2012

Here's to You Mr. Robinson

Sixty-five years ago yesterday Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play in a Major League baseball game. Robinson was a twenty-eight year-old rookie when he played his first game as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. All big league teams honored Robinson's memory yesterday by having their players wear his number 42.

Major League Baseball has retired Robinson's number. Any big-league player who was already wearing it when MLB announced its decision was permitted to continue to wear it. Thus, any player currently wearing it shall be the final member of his team ever to do so.

I have no idea who wears Robinson's number for any other Major League team. It has been worn with class and dignity for the Yankees by Mariano Rivera since the mid-1990's. When Mo ran onto the field at the Stadium to be introduced before the Yankees home opener, it may very well have been his final home opener. Mo has been typically circumspect in sharing details of his plans for beyond this season. It would not be entirely surprising to see 2012 be his last one in Pinstripes.

It is fitting it seems to me - whether 2012 or some other year altogether is Rivera's final year as a Yankee - that Mo shall be the last Yankee ever to wear Robinson's number. Even though Rivera was less than three years old when Robinson died in October 1972, I reckon what had Robinson lived long enough to have seen Mo pitch and the way in which he plays the game, knowing that Rivera wears his number would have pleased him immensely.

-AK

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Taxman Not Quite Cometh

Nice of April 15 to get the opportunity to share the pain this year; right? Think of the burden of being a date on the calendar that is universally reviled, year after year. But for perhaps the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, no tax-paying man or woman in these United States leaps from bed on the morning of April 15 and exclaims, "Yippee! Time to mail in the check to pay my taxes!" Talk about a bum rap. April 15 did not lobby or campaign to become "Tax Day". What day in its right mind would want to get slapped with that label?

By comparison, February 2 got off easy. Groundhog Day is Christmas for crying out loud when measured next to Tax Day. Six more weeks of winter? If you live in Southern California, any of our southwestern states or southern Florida, you give not one's ass about six more weeks of winter. Hell, if you live in Texas or Florida and a groundhog pops its head out of a hole in your lawn, you are more likely than not to shoot the damn thing than check to see if it can see its own shadow. And in Florida, if you can argue with a straight face that the little fat bastard charged at you, then you might be able to escape culpability entirely.

Not this year baby. This year, April 15 is taking it easy. No pressure on 0415. Nope, not in the '12 edition. It is a feet up on the ottoman, cold one in one hand, TV remote in the other kind of day for him. This is not the year in which he channels his inner Harry Truman. This time around, the buck does not stop here. This time, he gladly passes it to his neighbor and watches with a wicked grin as April 16 endures the slings and arrows of people nationwide.

Had I paid more attention to the way the calendar broke this year, I might have actually tried to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Not that I consider running in marathons to be fun and not that I think running in Boston would be anything other than a complete ball-breaking experience. The course for the New Jersey Marathon is pancake flat and by race's end last year I wanted to hurl myself over the Boardwalk railing and onto the sand of the beach in Long Branch just so I could crawl out into the ocean and drown myself. Arguably the most famous - or infamous I reckon - portion of the course in Boston is "Heartbreak Hill". As a runner whose brains were beaten in last year - and shall likely be again three Sundays from today - on the "Kick My Ass Flats of Deal", there is nothing about Heartbreak Hill that sounds even remotely inviting.

Except perhaps this year. For while I am not entirely sure I think that an argument could be made that a taxpayer who dies while running the Boston Marathon during the morning of Tax Day is relieved of his obligation to have his tax return stamped, postmarked and en route to the IRS by midnight of Tax Day. Death has to be worth a sixty-day extension at least. Right?

So, here is to hoping that 0415 enjoys his respite today. Next year he is back wearing the bullseye hat and being the target of much anger from all corners of the nation. If he can just hang in for four more years, another vacation is coming his way in 2017. And before you shed a tear for April 16 and it being the recipient of the stick's shit end just five years up the road, weep not. He shall not be the one adorned in the pork chop suit trying to navigate his way through the lion's den....

....you might want to save a Kleenex though for the 17th. That poor bastard has no idea what is coming.

-AK

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Issue is Joined

I expect that until such time as the criminal case of the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman has concluded, whether by trial or by some other means (such as a plea agreement) that today shall be the final time that Mr. Zimmerman's name shall appear in this space. I also expect that should you have a hankering to read about the case, there shall be no shortage of places where you can do so.

At this point the final thought I shall offer on this, which shall be ignored far and wide and shall never occur to the talking TV legal whores (Nancy Grace you know who you are), is that hardly anyone knows what the evidence is in this matter and - more importantly - what shall be the evidence at trial. Anyone who proclaims - without knowing that critical information - to know with absolute certainty (a) what that evidence shall show; and (b) what the outcome of the any trial shall be - is talking out of his or her ass.

Unless you have been off the grid altogether for the past sixty days, you know that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. What has yet to be determined in a court of law is whether what Zimmerman did was commit 2nd degree murder. Special Prosecutor Angela Corey said it well at the news conference announcing the charge against Zimmerman earlier this week, "Every murder is a homicide. Not every homicide is a murder."

Zimmerman has been arrested, charged, retained counsel and made his initial appearance. We have seen but the first few scenes in what shall likely be a rather extended and unpredictable drama. Here is to hoping that we the people resist the temptation to rush the action.

If we allow the matter to run its course, it shall. In this case - much like in every litigated matter be it criminal or civil - the result will be celebrated by some and reviled by others. But it is the system we have. While it is far from perfect it is the best system that we humans have yet to develop.

It is a system in which the parents of a dead 17 year-old boy have - with grace and aplomb that candidly I doubt I would possess were Trayvon Martin my son - have placed their confidence. If they can do so, then the least that those of who did not lose our son that night is honor them by doing likewise.

-AK

Friday, April 13, 2012

As the new issue of Rolling Stone lies neatly in my Mailbox

Boy oh boy - it is Friday the 13th! The favorite day of cynical, superstitious Irishmen everywhere. Or one such individual anyway. Sorry, I tend towards hyperbole now and again.

It is entirely possible that this occasion of the most inherently unlucky day on the calendar shall pass without incident. Today is after all the day on which the Bronx's best apostles commence the home portion of the 2012 season. The day shall be marked by the presence of recently-retired Yankees legend - and more significantly (to me anyway) one of my favorite players - Jorge Posada at the Stadium. Posada shall throw out the ceremonial first pitch....and soak up the applause and affection of a capacity crowd, using their voices to speak for all of us who cannot be there to express our appreciation to Jorge for a career well spent in pinstripes.

Until he makes his first appearance at Old-Timers Day, this might mark the last time for quite some time that one shall hear, "Hip Hip Jorge!" cascading throughout the Stadium. Here is to hoping that whether you are listening on radio or watching on TV that neither Sterling nor Kay crowds the moment by talking over it. Apropos of nothing, you would get better odds on a Kansas City Royals vs. Houston Astros World Series matchup than you would on Messrs. Sterling and Kay's syncopated silence.

If you are going to be present at the Stadium today, enjoy. I hope that the weather cooperates and that the action on the field turns out in favor of the home team. If you are like me and shall be spending your Friday simply getting through your day-to-day, then be careful out there....

....'tis Friday the 13th after all. Trouble very well may be waiting to happen.

-AK

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Leopard Spotting

The urban legend that makes me laugh the loudest is the one about people and change. You know the old refrain, "I know I have behaved badly in the past. But that was then. This is the new me. I have changed." It is the lie told by those who practice the revolting art of domestic violence to those upon whom they ply their craft. Tragically, too often it is the lie that those who are repeatedly victimized tell themselves - not about themselves - but about their tormentor.

Here is the straight skinny on that lie and all of the iterations and shadings of that psychobabble bullshit: it simply is not true. Human beings are animals. Animals are creatures of habit. More often that not, when push comes to shove human beings will act in a manner that is familiar to them irrespective of whether (a) the familiar path is the best available option then and there presenting itself; or (b) the familiar approach is one that has failed previously. "Nonsense!", you say. Sadly, it is not.

While people typically speak of recidivism in a criminal justice context - specifically with sex offenders - it can be applied to any number of behaviors and situations. The cliche, "the Devil you know is better than the Devil you don't know" has achieved cliche status because it contains more than a mere scintilla of truth. “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” Disagree with me all you want to but understand that you have stepped up immeasurably in weight class when you opt to go toe-to-toe with Professor Einstein.

You shall therefore have to forgive me for my inability to even feign surprise or a reasonable facsimile thereof over the self-immolation of deposed University of Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino. By all accounts, Coach Petrino is a first-rate football coach. Unfortunately, he has consistently posted lower scores as a human being:

When you hire Bobby Petrino, you get something other than the truth. This is why the nation is laughing at the University of Arkansas right now. The state's flagship university is shocked to discover that its lying-weasel football coach is a lying weasel.

Petrino's history of lying is well-documented, but for those who have not been paying attention, which may include Arkansas administrators, here is a summary: When Petrino coached Louisville, he lied repeatedly about his interest in other jobs (some of which he interviewed for). He left for the Atlanta Falcons, then left that job before a season ended, one of the few absolute no-nos in a sometimes ruthless profession.


Tuesday night, slightly more than a week after an April Fool's Day motorcycle accident brought to light an "inappropriate relationship" (his words - not mine) that the Hogs' football coach had been engaged in with a young woman who he, said football coach, had just hired to a position (for which more than 150 people had applied) on the football staff that carries with it an annual salary of approximately $55,000, Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long fired said football coach. In his statement to the media Tuesday night Long said - among other things:

"He made the decision, a conscious decision, to mislead the public on Tuesday, and in doing so negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program," Long said, choking up at one point as he discussed telling players that their coach was gone. "In short, coach Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me and members of the athletic staff, both before and after the motorcycle accident."

Forgive my hardheartedness but I shall weep not one tear for the administration at the University of Arkansas. On Tuesday they fired the same man - the very same man - they had pilfered from his previous job in mid-season. Petrino is now who he was then. The only thing that has changed is that four years ago, the Hogs cared not one pig's ass about the carnage that was clearly visible in Petrino's rear-view mirror as he headed on up to road to Fayetteville. Suddenly, they care a great, great deal.

People do not change. Perspective does. Same as it always was. Same as it always shall be.

-AK


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Song of the Mockingbird

As if you needed a second reason to watch In Plain Sight on USA Network (the first being that it is a damn entertaining TV show - far better than a lot of the dreck also airing on that channel ("Suits" anyone?)), Friday night's episode presented you with it. For it was during Friday's broadcast of IPS that USA promoted to death its "special presentation" on Saturday night of "To Kill A Mockingbird".

Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch is one of the true heroes of American cinema. When one considers just how many book-to-movie adaptations Hollywood f***s up (do not take my word for it - ask Elmore Leonard) it is surprising almost to the point of stunning just how right this particular adaptation was. A half-century ago, someone figured out how to convert a classic of American literature into a classic of American cinema. Remarkable stuff.

Atticus Finch is an attorney who gives the practice of law a good name. He is significantly more than that however. He is a human who gives humanity a good name. A person driven to do that which he believes in his heart to be right without a moment's concern for the popularity or absence thereof of his action. A father who saw fit to teach his children that, "The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."

Harper Lee created him. He is a fictional character to be sure. Yet the ideals to which he gave voice are not make-believe. More of us than we might realize have at least a kernel of Atticus Finch inside of us. It can be hard to give voice to these days - in an era where spirited discourse has been cast aside in favor of high-decibel diatribe - but these days it is perhaps more important than it has ever been to do so. For while it takes determination to achieve success at something, it takes real courage to undertake something because it is the right thing to do, even when you reasonably anticipate that you shall fail. "Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It's knowing you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do."

These days, when it seems as if there are those among us far too eager to leap to unflattering conclusions about those with whom we have a difference of opinion and far too reluctant to cross the aisle in contemplation of arriving at a shared understanding; when it seems as if what once was black and white still is black and white with the nuanced shades of gray removed from the palette entirely, we could all use a little bit of Atticus Finch. "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

Fifty years further on up the road from the halcyon days of Atticus Finch. The more things change, the more they do not. The mockingbird still sings a lovely tune....

....and it still is wrong to kill one.

-AK

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Feats and Shoes

If you are a person who believes in the notion of an afterlife, then you have to smile just a little these days of thinking how much hard-edged the reporting on that particular beat has gotten this year. First Andy Rooney and just this past weekend Mike Wallace picked up a new assignment. A couple of curmudgeons to be sure. But curmudgeons who - in spite of their apparently average-sized frames - wore exceptionally big shoes. Shoes that shall likely prove to be very difficult to fill. Here's to hoping that those who may have the chops to do so do not get scared off of the challenge. The two of them did important work. But as always seems to be the case, the need for that work to be done continues. It outlived them. As the great Pete Hamill wrote in "Downtown: My Manhattan", "Time itself is long, even if the time of man is short." And it always is short. Even when the time of a particular man lasts for more than ninety years.

Sunday was a tough day to be a vegetarian in our neighborhood. Margaret made lamb and ham for dinner. While Sunday dinner in our home is typically a three-attendee affair, on this particular Sunday we were joined by the Frank Bozzomos - father and son. Frank and Frank joining us for dinner was terrific on a couple of different levels. As a practical matter, had not two perpetually hearty appetites aided in consuming all of the food Margaret prepared, I would be eating leftover lamb and ham until the cows come home (Oh, see how effortlessly he nails the farm animal comedic reference trifecta! I will be here all week folks - all week!). More than that however, I always enjoy having a front-row seat for the multi-generational interaction. The ability to speak across those generational lines, which ability each of them possesses, is uncanny. The similarities between the men of three different generations are uncanny. Each is his own man. Yet the common DNA is apparent. Had Joe's namesake - the older of Frank's two sons - been able to join us for dinner then the shared characteristics would have been visible not three - but four times - over. Each man, spanning three generations, is his father's son.

And I was reminded again on Sunday just how seamlessly Margaret has moved into the role of familial glue. We are fast approaching the third anniversary of Suzy B.'s death. My mother-in-law was for all of the time that I had the pleasure of knowing her - the emotional center of her family. By being nothing more or less than her mother's daughter, Margaret has assumed that very position. Replaced her? No. Not everyone can be replaced. Taken up the mantle of responsibility and filled the void left by her? Absolutely. I love my bride with my whole little burned out ember of a heart. I am reminded time and again that without intending to, I occasionally underestimate the extent of her fortitude. When that happens, days such as Sunday serve as a wake-up call.

The amazing thing is that from afar one cannot readily tell just how big Margaret's shoes are. Although if I had to hazard a guess, it would be that Suz already has picked out a pair for herself in a style she likes. Suz is a stickler for preparation. After all, she is her mother's daughter.

-AK

Monday, April 9, 2012

Kneeling to the Occasion

So much for the Yankees going undefeated this year. Damn. I had a feeling I should have never plunked down $100 - even at 10:1 odds - taking them with an over of 161. Live and learn I suppose. And for Wallace Matthews and all of the other guys on the Yankees beat who have already written at least "the sky is falling" column, all of us who follow baseball know how long the season is. Do all of us a favor and save the "Girardi is a Big Fat Idiot" rants for later in the season. Memorial Day at least.

As I was out running yesterday morning, I was listening to my iPod as I usually do. Yet as I ran past the local Catholic church here 'NTSG the tune that leapt into the forefront of my mind was one that is not loaded on my iPod. Yesterday being Easter Sunday it looked like they were having a two for one sale on sacramental wine and communion wafers. All of the Occasional Catholic were out in force, packing not only the parking lots for the church but also all of the available on-street parking on all of the streets in the church's neighborhood. While I have not been inside the church since Megan/Adam's wedding in late June 2009, I run past it every Sunday morning. The uptick in the number of cars was so significant as to almost be comical. I wish that for one Sunday at least I had had the foresight to carry a bottle of wine and a box of Nilla Wafers with me when I run. Boy, oh boy could I have made a killing yesterday.

Nothing makes me laugh harder than the Occasional Catholic - the church-going fraud who pops in at Christmas and again at Easter. I am not a religious man and I admit it. One's devotion to organized religion is nothing short of a mystery to me. I respect it. I do not understand it but I respect it. But the "twice a year" charlatans who put on their Sunday finery and head to church are so full of shit they make my hair hurt.

And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
'Cause I'm in need of some restraint


-AK

Sunday, April 8, 2012

One Last Song from Van the Man

While I am not a religious or spiritual man, I can read. I know from glancing at my official CU-Boulder Alumni Association calendar - featuring photographs of the country's most beautiful college campus and its environs - that today is Easter Sunday.

In recognition of this being a holiday - at least among certain religious persuasions - and in honor of the Easter Bunny emerging from his hole, seeing his own shadow and thereafter devoting himself exclusively to multiplication for the next six weeks (and while his preferred partner is a a little miss cottontail apparently both loaves and fishes will do in a pinch), I leave you early today. I have a long run on which to embark and you have countless better things to do than waste any more time here.

Here is to you and yours on this beautiful Sunday morning, whether or not you reside on the Isle of Easter....

You may bury me with an enemy in Mount Calvary
You can stack me on a pyre and soak me down with whiskey
Roast me to a blackened crisp and throw me in a pile
I could really give a shit - I'm going out in style.



....bonnet optional.

-AK

Saturday, April 7, 2012

All the King's Men

Today is the final day of the 2012 NHL regular season. As someone who was first introduced to the great sport of ice hockey by my father when I was just a little boy, I remain of the opinion that if more people had the chance to see it live and in person it would be exponentially more popular than it is presently. While almost all of my hockey consumption is of the televised variety, I recognize that even the best television coverage does an injustice to the game. Ice hockey is a sport best appreciated live. You get a far greater appreciation for the skill and athleticism of the players when you are separated from them by a thin layer of plexiglass than you do on television.

I have less of an explanation as to why - if you are a hockey fan - you are a fan of any team other than the New York Rangers. One possible explanation is that unlike those of us who grew up in the Kenny household, you were raised by Godless Communists. Or perhaps something truly horrible such as Islander fans.

To be a Rangers fan is to pick up the mantle of New York sports fandom tossed down by Brooklyn Dodger fans when their beloved Bums hightailed it west to Chavez Ravine. It is to root completely, wholeheartedly and without reservation - even when the team is owned by a know-nothing like James Dolan and managed to the brink of irrelevancy by a clown like Glen Sather (but for the NHL lockout and the salary cap it brought with it that moron would still be making lavishly horrid free agent signings) - and to embrace the warmth offered by glorious moments like the Stanley Cup in 1994 as protection against the harsh, bitterly cold times....such as every season since.

The Dodgers of Brooklyn had '55. Until its arrival, their fans rallied annually behind cries of "Wait Til Next Year". They were denied the chance to live long off of its memory as Ebbetts Field sat vacant by the time the 1950's had ceded their moment in history to the Sixties. Had they been required to though one suspects they would have long survived on the memory of '55. Brooklyn Dodger fans were hearty souls. Trust me, one of them gave birth to me. I know of which I speak.

For the first time in quite a long time the Rangers - who I have loved since I learned how to spell Stemkowski and Giacomin and since I learned that Gilbert was pronounced "Jill - Bear" and not "Gill - Bert" - finished the regular season as the #1 team in their Conference. While a first-place regular season finish may have no bearing whatsoever as to what happens in the post-season - the NHL having adopted its model of four rounds of "Best 4 out of 7" series from the humanitarians who introduced the Death March to Bataan - it is a worthwhile achievement nonetheless.

When I saw that it has been quite a long time since the Rangers finished in first place, I am not underselling the point at all. It has been eighteen years in fact. The 1994 Cup-winning team was the last Rangers team that accomplished the feat. To put a finer point on it, when the Rangers last achieved this mark O.J. Simpson was still known simply for being a Hall of Fame running back and a bad actor. His descent into infamy would not begin until June 12, 1994 with the murders of his ex-wife and her friend. By that point, the playoffs were almost over. The Rangers would win the Cup two nights later in Game Seven against Vancouver at MSG.

Hell, it last happened so long ago that the last time the Rangers finished the regular season #1 in their conference I had not yet finished my final semester of law school let alone graduated or even sat for the Bar exams in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I do not remember for certain but I am pretty confident that back in April 1994 none of my hair had yet turned gray. It really has been a very long time.

Whether the Broadway Blueshirts are the last team standing at the end of the marathon that is the NHL post-season I know not. Given that they have one of the sport's truly gifted goaltenders between the pipes, they have at the very least a puncher's chance. Henrik Lundqvist - a/k/a "The King" - is always excellent and is often times spectacular.

Whether Lundqvist shall be spectacular for the Rangers in the net during the playoffs I know not. I reckon if he can just be "like Mike", that should be good enough.

See you in the Canyon of Heroes? Hopefully....

....I will be the one munching on the Nedick's hot dog.

-AK

Friday, April 6, 2012

And Then There Were Thirty....

Query: How does one put the "good" in Good Friday? Answer: New York Yankees 2012 season opener against the Rays - who apparently exorcised the Devil if not from their life than at least from their name - in Tampa. The 2012 season has been up and running for a couple of days now - more than a week actually when one considers MLB's Far Eastern adventure. However, I have thus far paid little attention to it. Tonight, it begins anew with the Yankees' #1 pitcher CC (contrary to some published reports his initials do not stand for "Cherubic" and "Christlike") Sabathia being given the Opening Day assignment. While I have no idea how their season shall end, I know how it shall begin: with them playing and me watching. Play ball gents. Play ball.

God and I have an understanding. I spend little to no time in his 'hood and ask only that he returns the favor. Judging by all that I have observed during the first forty-five years I have spent toiling on the Big Blue Marble, more often than not he has honored the arrangement. Me of little faith who has less than zero use for organized religion is not especially moved, personally, by the solemnity of today. That being said I recognize and appreciate the fact that there are many - including many who are considerably brighter than I am - who put great stock in such things and for whom today, whether Christian or Jew, is a day of considerable importance. If you are such a person then whether it is Easter or Passover that you shall both observe and celebrate, I hope it is a happy holiday for you and yours. And permit me a moment please to further demonstrate just why I plan on having Margaret toss quite a lot of sunscreen and my Ray-Bans in the urn with me when I die in anticipation of the rather warm locale where I shall spend eternity:



Today is the 6th of April. The 2012 New Jersey Marathon is thirty days away. T minus 30. In honor of passing this mile marker on the road to the Marathon (a/k/a "the Highway to Hell"), a thought worth sharing courtesy of a gent with whom you might be familiar....General George S. Patton:

Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.

Safe weekend to one and all. If you are neither Christian nor Jew and/or if golf is your religion, then enjoy the Masters. And to my favorite observant Afghan hound I say, "Happy Passover Travis Koplowitz!"....

....wherever you are.

-AK

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Locals Only

What seems like a lifetime ago now, the late, great Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill shared with all would listen his secret of politics. "Think Global. Act Local." Four simple words. One equally simple and direct message: above all else one should take care of those around him. You protect your own first. Once - and only once - they are safe and sound do you worry about protecting everybody else. It makes little sense to trot about the globe putting out fires only to allow one's own home to be reduced to a pile of ash.

The genius of Tip O'Neill's advice is that it is not poltics-specific. The lesson imparted by his words applies with equal force and effect outside of the science of things political. Good advice is good advice, whether one is considering it in connection with the enactment of legislation or whether one is considering it in connection with something far more localized and infinitely more important. Something such as one's family.

Bruce Springsteen has been the musical soundtrack of my life for most of it. Much has been written and said about the political tone and tenor that permeates his latest record. Among the things I have always enjoyed the most about Springsteen's music is the differing levels of meaning a particular song - or even simply a particular lyric - can have. Often it not only means who you think it means, it means a number of other things as well.

The first single released off of this latest record is the anthemic "We Take Care of Our Own", which has been widely interpreted - with good reason - to be a somewhat caustic commentary on the disparity in 21st Century America between perception and reality. It is a song filled with big, vivid imagery including but not limited to New Orleans during and after the horror that was Hurricane Katrina.

But is also a song reflective - to me anyway - of Springsteen's ability to apply the teachings of his fellow Irishman (and mine) Tip O'Neill to something far beyond the limitations of politics. It is a clarion call - a reminder if you will - that the responsibility to take care of our own and to protect those who we love the most and hold the most dear rests with each and every one of us. To paraphrase a Springsteen PSA from The Rising tour, "It ain't a global thing. It ain't a political thing. It's a family thing."

And it is indeed just that. Nothing less and - because there is nothing of greater value - nothing more. Doing right by the world at large is fine. Perhaps it is even noble. But it pales in comparison to tending to the needs of our own family, our own loved ones.

We take care of our own. Because without "acting local", all of the rest of it is just jive. Smoke, mirrors and bullshit. Not a goddamn thing more.

-AK

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Joint is Jumping

The road - or roads I suppose - to training for this year's edition of the New Jersey Marathon took a bit of a detour for me this past weekend. Sunday is the day of the week on which I undertake my long training run. The training program that I am only kind of, sort of following this year (after strict adherence to it last year might have factored into my underwhelming performance on race day) only calls for one run of 20 miles in the ramp-up to the marathon. According to "the program" that run is to take place a couple of Sundays from now - on the 15th. Two Sundays ago I completed what I intended to be the first of four twenty-plus mile runs as part of my pre-race preparation. A bit ahead of schedule and damn happy about it.

This past Sunday, while I intended to go twenty miles, I failed to reach my stated goal. At or about the ten-mile mark I felt a sensation behind my right kneecap that felt like something akin to an explosion. Usually on a long run I dread the prospect of a cramp. Sunday morning I found myself rooting for that having been the issue. While I do not know what happened, I know that it was not a cramp. Given that I now run all over the highways and byways of not only Middlesex but also Bound Brook and Piscataway, armed with my trust Garmin Forerunner to guide me, I was a considerable distance from home when the "popping sound" first occurred. Not necessarily the best place to be.

Being about as responsive to overt expressions of pain from my body as I am to unwelcome sounds emanating from my automobile I did to my knee what I do to Skate when the latter makes a noise that I find troubling, inexplicable or both: I turned up the volume on my iPod and blocked it out. While being obstinate might not be the AMA's #1 recommended method for treating potential orthopedic injuries long-term, in the short run the results are quite stellar.

I chugged along for approximately two more miles - running as I have to taken to doing on Sundays through the Lackland Brothers' Birch Run development in Piscataway. If memory serves me correctly, this was the first construction project on which my brother Kelly - who has built buildings that have appeared on the pages of magazines such as Architectural Digest - worked as a young carpenter. There is an unmistakable '80's vibe to the design of the homes throughout the development. I remember Kelly telling some pretty humorous stories regarding things he observed on the job site. That memory coupled with the fact that the Lacklands are a family I have known most of my life and the fact that I count Dave Lackland (a/k/a "Carl's Scrivener") among my favorite people has made Birch Run an integral part of my long Sunday run. This past Sunday it also nearly stood as the point on my journey on which I telephoned Margaret to come and pick me up. Almost.

After half-hobbling, half-walking for a minute or two, I made the right turn onto Possumtown Road and powered towards home. As I crossed over the railroad tracks and back into the cozy confines of 'NTSG my right knee felt well enough that I considered bearing down a bit harder and making my intended mark. That spirit ceased to move me about three or four minutes later when my right knee sent a jolt upwards to my brain that - even on maximum volume - my iPod could not block. At that point, I opted to listen to what it was trying to tell me, popped the right turn from Seneca Avenue onto Decatur and headed home.

I have taken it easy since Sunday and my erstwhile vocal joint has resumed its vow of silence. I reckon that the real test of how well it is feeling will come this Sunday when it accompanies me on yet another planned run of 20 miles or more.

Marathon Sunday is only five Sundays away.

-AK

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Anger Management

Sunday night the Missus and I went to the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick to check out its production of "Twelve Angry Men". Remarkable stuff. The Playhouse's production is only playing through next weekend so if you have not seen this go-round you have only a limited window of opportunity in which to check it out. Console yourself by renting the 1957 version with Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb and the rest of the dozen. You shall not be disappointed.

As an attorney I enjoy this particular play because while it is set entirely in a courthouse, it is set entirely within the confines of the jury room. The jury room is the part of the courthouse to which a trial attorney is granted no access. It is the part of the courthouse over which a trial attorney has no ability to assert control while the jurors are gathered together doing their deliberating. Trying a case is equal parts exhilirating and anxiety-provoking. During the time that you spend in the jury's company, you interact with them continuously but you hear from them rarely - if at all. You spend the trial hoping that the aspects of your case that you feel are the most important are the aspects of it that resonate most deeply with the jury. Truth is you never know. At least until the verdict is announced. The play dramatizes beautifully the manner in which the jury's deliberative process works. Very cool stuff.

Even as just a regular old human being, I enjoy this play because it teaches us a great deal about the way in which people relate with one another. You need not punish yourself needlessly by going to law school and passing a Bar exam to appreciate it on that level. Trust me on this last point. Skip law school. Head to Netflix. You will be happy that you did.

Joy derived from anger. Ah, the mysteries of life.

-AK

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Left-Handed Kids Are Alright

Opening Week in the Major Leagues has arrived. Wednesday night the St. Louis Cardinals (sans Albert Pujols) begin defense of their World Series title against the Miami (do not call us "Florida") Marlins in the latter's brand-spanking new ballpark. Sage investment by the way - a new ballpark and new name for the Marlins. If winning two World Series championships in the first quarter-century or so of the franchise's existence has never been enough to make residents of the greater Miami-Dade Metroplex baseball fans, a new name and place at which to not watch the games ought to do the trick. At least for one season anyway.

While I cannot even pretend to give a rat's ass about the Marlins, I am very pleased to see that Jamie Moyer has earned a spot in the pitching rotation of the Colorado Rockies. Moyer shall make his first start of the season on April 7 against the Houston Astros. The first time he wins a game, he shall make history. Forty-nine years old. A truly remarkable story.

And more than that. He is a person who all of us, irrespective of gender, race or even rooting interest can root for. “If I can inspire people to work out, to have a better attitude and not give up, that’s great,” Moyer said. “It’s all about taking advantage of opportunities. And this is a great opportunity.”

At some point between now and Moyer's first start on April 7, do yourself the great favor of reading Jeff Caple's piece on espn.com. "The Jamie Moyer 49" is time well spent.

As a Yankees fan I am thrilled beyond words by the prospect of the return of a certain 39 year-old lefty to the Big Ballpark in the Bronx. As a baseball fan, I shall make it my business to carve out enough space in the little burnt ember in my chest masquerading as a heart to root equally well for Moyer.

I am doing it not for either of them but for me. I would like very much to be like either of them when I grow up, which I am not entirely inclined to do. For that I make no apology, neither Moyer nor Pettitte appears to be in a particular rush to do so. Why, therefore, should I?

For present purposes, these kids are alright.

-AK

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Son Shine

My handwriting is not improving with age, although the subject of today's piece most assuredly is. For both of those reasons (and in the interest of preserving his vision for more important things) I reproduce here what is scribbled in my "Boy if I had known any science I could have been a doctor because my penmanship sure is bad enough" handwriting on the birthday card that made the journey West in honor of Rob's birthday:

A couple of years ago - when you were home for Suz's graduation party celebrating her Master's - you and I had a conversation in the garage about which I think often.

You - at the ripe, young age of 24- expressed amazement that I was 26 when I married Mom and became a dad. I told you then that in life there are thing for which you cannot plan. Stuff just happens. You cannot force it. You can only hope to be ready when it does.

At the time you seemed unsure that what I spoke of could ever happen to you.

I note with great joy that you are now 26 - an age at which good things happen. I reckon you have it figured out just fine.

Take care of each other.



Happy Birthday and much love....

-AK