Thursday, May 31, 2012

Clear Sailing to Breaker's Point

Thirty-one years ago today. A memory so firmly etched in my mind's eye that I recall it as if it happened thirty-one seconds ago. An event that produced then as it does to a lesser degree now such a varying array of emotions that at times it feels as if it happened a lifetime ago and other times when it feels as if it just did....

Well Papa go to bed now it's getting late
Nothing we can say is gonna change anything now
I'll be leaving in the morning from St. Mary's Gate
We wouldn't change this thing even if we could somehow
Cause the darkness of this house has got the best of us
There's a darkness in this town that's got us too
But they can't touch me now
And you can't touch me now
They ain't gonna do to me
What I watched them do to you


So say goodbye it's Independence Day
It's Independence Day
All down the line
Just say goodbye it's Independence Day
It's Independence Day this time


Now I don't know what it always was with us
We chose the words, and yeah, we drew the lines
There was just no way this house could hold the two of us
I guess that we were just too much of the same kind


Well say goodbye it's Independence Day
It's Independence Day all boys must run away
So say goodbye it's Independence Day
All men must make their way come Independence Day


Now the rooms are all empty down at Frankie's joint
And the highway she's deserted down to Breaker's Point
There's a lot of people leaving town now
Leaving their friends, their homes
At night they walk that dark and dusty highway all alone


Well Papa go to bed now it's getting late
Nothing we can say can change anything now
Because there's just different people coming down here now
and they see things in different ways
And soon everything we've known will just be swept away


So say goodbye it's Independence Day
Papa now I know the things you wanted that you could not say
But won't you just say goodbye it's Independence Day
I swear I never meant to take those things away


-AK

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Blues of Broadway

The Stanley Cup Finals begin tonight. Sadly, this year much like most years the Finals shall be contested without my beloved New York Rangers. While this season they came closer than they have in any of the seasons since they last won the Cup in 1994, this season ended too has ended without a championship.

On Friday night when I should have been sleeping to ensure that I was bright eyed and bushy tailed for Saturday morning's Spring Lake 5 I was instead glued to the television set watching the Rangers battle for their life against the Devils. It proved ultimately to be an unsuccessful mission. Adam Henrique scored in overtime and the Devils were off to compete for yet another Stanley Cup. This marks their fifth such trip to the Finals since the Rangers made their last one. The Devils have won three Cups since the Rangers last won one in '94. At this point I am compelled to point out that prior to winning in '94, the Rangers had last won the Cup in 1940.

And you know what? The extended periods of failure, interspersed with the occasional bursts of mediocrity and infrequent years of excellence are part of being a Rangers fan. Always have been. Always will be. When I was a boy the Rangers had a roster full of tremendous players, including my favorite player Rod Gilbert. They reached the Cup Finals on a couple of occasions but never won the title. It was only after Neil Smith became the GM and mastered the art of fleecing the Edmonton Oilers out of their best players (Mark Messier, Jeff Beukeboom, Adam Graves among others) that the Rangers won the Cup. For a considerable period of time in the post-'94 era after Smith was long gone (ultimately replaced by the guy he made a career out of besting in all of those deals with Edmonton Glenn Sather) the Rangers were among the NHL's worst teams. And where did those of us who are Rangers fans go during those dark, dark times? Nowhere. Well other than to the Garden for home games.

So yet another NHL season shall end without a Rangers championship. While it would have been great for what was a very exciting season to have ended in a tickertape parade up the Canyon of Heroes, it did not. Perhaps next season shall. And of all of us who are Rangers fans born and raised hope like hell that it shall, experience has taught us that it is far more likely that it shall not.

Either way we shall be good with it. As we always have been. For the Rangers shall be what they always have been: a warm memory of Sunday night trips on the train from New Brunswick, Nedick's hot dogs, Orange Juliuses and chanting "Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!" until we were hoarse when Eddie Giacomin returned to MSG in his first game in goal for the Red Wings after Emile Francis exiled him to Detroit....and of course "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!" and all of the attendant bedlam that was 1994.

Cannot wait 'til next year right? Me neither. We are Rangers fans. That is how we roll.

-AK

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May Days

While I hope that the summer's triad of June, July and August prove to be as emotionally satisfying as May has been, I am not holding my breath (and would appreciate it if next time I share such news you would back away from your computer before groaning since I can hear you).

May's first weekend was highlighted (or pockmarked depending upon your point of view) by my second foray in the New Jersey Marathon. Again this year I fell just short of my stated goal of "winning that mutha" - finishing a couple of thousand places or so shy of the medal stand. But I did finish it and in a not too-terrible time for a relatively old man (at least in terms of the condition of my knees) of approximately four and one half hours. I am confident that 2013 shall be my year. I am completely off the radar now. No one shall be expecting me.

This month has also heralded the arrival of the summer racing season at the Jersey Shore with this past Saturday's Spring Lake 5. It is an event that has been contested annually for thirty-six years and in which I have competed for the past two, which makes me wonder (as I am certain you are as well) just how the hell they managed without me for close to three and a half decades. Saturday morning in Spring Lake had a 'mid-July' vibe to it in terms of the temperature and the humidity. While it was a bit of a tough morning to run, it also served to remind those of us who run and race in the State of Concrete Gardens what lies ahead for the next 100 days or so. Embrace it, curse it or fear it. It matters not. It is coming sure as I am sitting here. And this year, as we had last year (and as he has done by his count close to twenty times - thus answering my question as to what the race's organizers did before I showed up last May), my running partner Gidg and my law partner Arnold and I - as well as close to 10,000 other folks - triumphed over the conditions.

And speaking of things to fear, if you spent a portion of the first mile of the Spring Lake 5 trying to weave your way through the mass of humanity clogging Ocean Avenue behind American Flag Body Condom Man - as I did - you have a visual image associated with "saluting the flag" that the pointiest stick in all the forests in all the world shall not be able to eradicate from your mind's eye.

But this month's highlight was the dual visits that the Missus and I enjoyed with first Suz on Mother's Day weekend, whose arrival was known to Margaret in advance, and thereafter Rob and Jess on Memorial Day weekend, whose arrival was known to Margaret....five seconds after Rob turned the corner around the back of Lynne's house in 'Squan on Friday night. Since Margaret did not know Rob was coming to New Jersey this weekend, neither did Joe. That allowed us to share the joy of the surprise on Sunday when the kids drove up from the beach and popped by the old homestead to see Joe.

As a general rule a sequel does not usually measure up to the original. As someone who witnessed both Margaret's reaction to seeing the kids on Friday night and Joe's to seeing them on Sunday afternoon, this was the exception that proved the rule. Think Godfather II.

I know not what June shall bring. I do know that May set the bar pretty damn high. June has quite a bit to measure up to. Truth be told, if it comes close that shall be good enough for me.

-AK


Monday, May 28, 2012

Just a Thought

In honor of this solemn day I wanted to share here one of the most moving essays I have ever read on the subject of the meaning of Memorial Day. To the surprise of absolutely no one I am sure, I did not write it. Rob did. Four years ago....


I started thinking in this time of war what this day means. It is for those who didn't come back. They didn't come back to their mothers, their wives or their kids. They stormed beaches, fought and died in foreign countries. All that returned was a box and a folded flag.

I recently attended a Springsteen concert in North Carolina. I traveled by plane through this American land because I could, because I am free - and because of the generosity of some good friends. As Springsteen played a song called "Last to Die" I got emotional. The song asks, "Who'll be the last to die...." presumably in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It does not matter what you think of the American involvement in these wars. What does matter is that we remember these brave American servicemen and servicewomen.

Meanwhile I am enjoying a Springsteen concert, enjoying a beer and enjoying starting a career with the best government in the world; enjoying freedom. How can I do this? These are my brothers, my peers, guys my age fighting and dying. They volunteered so I didn't have to. They're not coming back to their favorite band, their favorite beer, their families or the state they grew up in.

Their children will not know their fathers. They will know only their sacrifice and some stories their mothers will tell. They sacrificed for someone they will never meet - you and me.

Remember them today.

-RJM


....what he said.

-AK

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Breathing Deep

Life is what it is. It is a series of days piled back to back upon one another. Days that are unique. Days that - one hopes anyway - not uniformly bad. We all have rain fall into our lives now and again. We need it. No one wants a drought. But drowning is not a hell of a lot of fun either. Ask anyone.

I arise this morning uncertain what today shall bring - although considering that at some point in time Rob and Jess are going to pull off a follow-up "Surprise!" on Grandpa Joe I have a reasonable expectation today is going to be pretty damn cool. While I hope it is, its fineness or lack thereof shall bear not at all upon the fact that yesterday was an extraordinary day.

Life it what it is. You may not know from one day to the next what awaits you. It may seem at times to be an unfair ride. Do what you can to make it through those days. For when you get to the other side of one and unwrap a day such as the one the Missus and I enjoyed yesterday, it will serve to give you strength to endure the next time you bite down hard into a shit sandwich.

May we all get to enjoy such a day - at least - now and again. We have most certainly earned it.

-AK

Saturday, May 26, 2012

'Cause Summer's Here....

I do any number of things on a day in/day out basis that serve to reaffirm my belief that I am the same fairly miserable piece of dreck now as I have always been with little prospect for an upswing on the horizon.

But every once in a while something happens that makes me hold out hope. Well, not hope exactly for I am a realist and I know my own limitations far too well but at least a bit of optimism. Last night one such "something" occurred.

Last night shortly after the Missus and I arrived in 'Squan a surprise visitor appeared at the door. Actually it was two surprise visitors. And in spite of the fact that we were at Lynne's the visitors came not to see Lynne but, instead, to see Margaret. She learned last night what I known for the past week: Rob and Jess are spending this Memorial Day weekend NOT in the state of snowcapped mountains but in the state of Snooki, Springsteen and pork roll, egg and cheese sandwiches. Yes indeed, they are home.

My weekend was made by the look in Margaret's eyes when those eyes locked on Rob's face. That warm glow will fuel me quite well thank you this morning as I join Gidg and 10,000 other pairs of feet running all over Spring Lake in the Spring Lake 5.

Here is to hoping that your Saturday is as good as mine shall be. If it is I assure you that you are doing better than fine.

Tonight tonight the highway's bright
Out of our way Mister you best keep
'Cause summer's here and the time is right
For goin' racin' in the street.


-AK

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Prayer Upon the Smiling Moon

Today kicks off the "unofficial start" of Summer 2012. If your plan for Memorial Day involves any travel at all, then please do so safely. I have come to develop a better understanding of the concept that wherever you are going, you shall in fact get there. No trip is worth dying for and since you can control only your own actions and not those of the gazillion other folks packed like lemmings into tiny metal boxes, you are the only contestant in this edition of this particular suicidal race who you can hope to effectively police. Please do not fail to do so.

Summer may very well be the time of year that more people look forward to than any other. 'Round here however the past several summers have not been kind. They have been especially rough on Margaret, Joe and Frank. Every summer since 2008 they have mourned the death of at least loved one. Last summer it was Joe's big brother Andy. In 2010 it was Margaret's Uncle Angelo - better known by all of us who knew and loved him as "Junior". In 2008, Margaret's grandmother - Nan - and Nan's younger (by one year) sister Meni died one week apart in early August. Saddest of all, it was early June 2009 that Suzy B.'s long, valiant struggle against that murderous bastard - cancer - reached its end. Enough is enough.

Life happens. Death is a part of life. I grasp the concept, f**k you very much. Over the course of the past several summers, I have borne enough pall to sustain me for rest of my life - however long or short that may be. I am a simple man. I have a simple wish. I wish to make it from Memorial Day to Labor Day without "death of loved one" popping up one time as an event on my Outlook calendar. Clearly, I want to make it much further than simply Labor Day but recent experience has reminded me that wishes are best made in small increments.

Is it too much for which to ask? I hope like hell it is not.

And not just for me and mine but for you and yours too....

The moon has a face
And it smiles on the lake
And causes the ripples in Time
I'm lucky to be here
With someone I like
Who maketh my spirit to shine


-AK

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Distances of Ever-Varying Lengths

In a manner of speaking, today heralds the unofficial beginning of summer for me. Tonight in Somerville New Jersey the Somerset County Bar Foundation puts on its annual 5K race. I think that The Legal Runaround has been a going concern for close to a decade now. For me, tonight marks the third time I have taken part in it. Margaret is making the hop over to the Ville too this evening I do believe. She likes this event because it is close to home (about a ten minute drive), it is run at a reasonable hour (7:00 p.m. as opposed to anything a.m.) and the post-race party is catered. In short, it has much to offer for the discriminating Race Mom. As per usual, Gidg shall join me on the starting line (we do not actually stand on the starting line for that is where the fast runners stand but rather a comfortable distance from that rarified air). I think that tonight we shall be joined by the late, great Big Man's 2nd favorite sax player. Barring any sort of scheduling issue, I expect to see Liv there tonight too.

I have no idea what the weather shall be in Somerville this evening. Last year it was hot and dry. Two years ago it rained so hard just after the race started that I could not decide whether to run to the finish or start to backstroke. We tend to gather up more than our alloted share of humidity in the State of Concrete Gardens this time of the year and if the conditions are just right - or horribly wrong - it all depends upon one's perspective I reckon - then the excess humidity can manifest itself in the form of rain. And lots of it. Two years ago the rain would have been tolerable but for the fact that it brought its cousins thunder and lightning to town with it. I take on faith that among the many things I likely am not faster than is a lightning bolt. Two years ago in this very race I came closer than I hope to ever do so again to finding out that question's answer for certain.

While I enjoy this little get-together and it really does get me ramped up for the summer - beginning with Saturday morning's Spring Lake 5 - this year will be different than the past two years. This is the one event annually - in addition to her leadership role on Sue's Crew - in which I would get to run with Suz. She was there with me on the pitch black streets of Somerville in 2010 when we ran between lightning strikes and walked between the raindrops simultaneously. And she was there last year too when all we had to do was worry about the race thanks to Mother Nature's decision to put on a happy face for the evening. At gun time tonight though she will be 1800 miles or so southwest of the starting line. That is simply too much distance to cover....

....at least in a race as short as a 5K.

-AK

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The House of Blueshirts

I have no idea whether the Rangers or the Devils shall be the last team standing when their Eastern Conference Final series comes to an end. Thus far, this year's border war has made the rivalry between the Hatfields and the McKoys seem like a minor misunderstanding. I have enjoyed hockey my entire life and have watched a great deal of it. I am at a loss to recall ever seeing two coaches spend as much time engaging one another directly as John Tortorella of the Rangers and Peter DeBoer of the Devils have done throughout this series. I root like hell for my beloved Blueshirts but as hostilities resume tonight at the Garden in Game Five, with the series all square at 2 and 2, I cannot help but think that the not-to-be-missed moment of this series shall be the traditional handshake line. It just might be the first time that a security checkpoint is installed on the ice on either side of the red line to check the players for weapons before they pass by on their way to shaking the hands of their opponents.

In the interests of full disclosure, I was more in than out of Game Four on Monday night. In other words, my commitment to the televised version of events matched that of the Rangers' on-ice commitment. The Missus and I were watching the farewell to "House" on Fox. Kudos to Hugh Laurie and the powers that be on that show for doing what they did Monday night as a lead-up to the series finale, which was create a one-hour program that was equal parts documentary and retrospective and which served to introduce those of us who watched the show to the people responsible for putting it on the air from caterers to construction workers, from stylists to production designers and everyone in between. As the show prepared for its final moment in the sun, its on-air talent made certain that those folks whose names we do not know and whose faces we do not see got their well-deserved moment.

And for whatever it is worth - and I posit that question knowing that its answer is "nothing more or less than that of any other person" - in my opinion the end of the series was pitch-perfect. As the show had wound down to its final few episodes, focus had shifted away from House and his medical puzzles to House and his friendship with Wilson. I grinned ear to ear when House's penultimate line - spoken to Wilson - was, "I'm dead. How do you want to spend your last five months?" And off they rode into the sunset, two banditos on their motorcycles. One presumed dead, the other marked for death. And neither giving a flying rat's ass about it but simply motoring off on their next great adventure.

Life is a journey, not a destination. On Monday night, courtesy of the unscripted drama that is sport and the scripted drama that was House I was reminded yet again that what we sign up for is the journey itself....

....what happens along the way has yet to be written.

-AK

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pine Boxes and Steel Cages

In a New Brunswick courtroom yesterday afternoon the Hon. Glenn Berman sentenced Dharun Ravi to thirty days in jail secondary to the conviction on fifteen counts secondary to the suicide of his then-roommate Tyler Clementi shortly after the start of the fall semester a couple of Septembers ago. Among the fifteen counts on which a Middlesex County jury convicted Ravi earlier this year were two counts of second-degree bias intimidation charges for which a jail sentence is presumed.

I have done no criminal defense work at all since I was a baby lawyer so I do not presume to know whether an appeal is forthcoming although I expect it is. Judge Berman ordered Ravi to report to the Middlesex County Adult Correctional Center in North Brunswick on May 31. He is twenty years old. Barring him receiving relief in the appellate courts, he shall live the remainder of his natural life with the words "Convicted Felon" figuratively stamped across his forehead.

Ravi and Clementi were but eighteen years old during the brief and ultimately tragic period of time in which they were roommates at Rutgers University. Presuming their room at RU was anything close to those in which I lived at CU-Boulder the two years I lived on campus, "spacious" is not likely a word one would use to describe their living quarters. Yet, in spite of the physical closeness in which they resided and in spite of the seemingly endless methods with which technology has enabled humans to communicate with one another, they apparently either could not or would not do so.

My sister Sigrid had something posted on her Facebook page yesterday that caught my eye and although its point of reference is a child half the age of the two actors involved in this affair, which sadness has no measurable depth, it nevertheless seemed fitting to me somehow to poach for today's piece:


As eighteen-year-old men-children Messrs. Clementi and Ravi had all those tools at their disposal as well. And at day's end they could not even talk to one another face-to-face. Instead a situation festered that resulted in the ending of one life, the derailment of another and the destruction of not one but two families.

Pine boxes and steel cages. Each is a place where a parent hopes never to find his or her child. In the case of the Clementi and the Ravi families, theirs is a hope denied.

-AK

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Doctor is Out

Well I hadn't intended to bend the rules
But whiskey don't make liars,
It just makes fools
So I didn't mean to say it
but I meant what I said.


A lifetime ago when we were students at CU-Boulder my good friend and roommate Jay Bauer and I would posit the idea time and again of what life would be like if for just one day you could do or say anything without being too concerned about the consequences of what you did or said. Usually we had this conversation when we were deep into an evening's carousing. If memory serves, on at least one occasion we took our theory out for a test drive....usually when we were deep into an evening's carousing. And if memory serves, we usually found our social experiment to be a damn sight more entertaining than did those who were in our company.

Apparently our problem was poor writing. Eight years ago FOX introduced America to the irascible Gregory House, M.D. While he has had more than his share of personal crises during his run, Dr. House has been a consistently popular fellow in terms of eyeballs to the sets ever since Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital opened its doors. Far more popular than Bauer and I were I assure you. Well, more popular than me anyway.

Tonight the television program that made Hugh Laurie a "house"hold (Yes, pun intended) name shall air its final episode. If you have ever watched an episode of it, then you appreciate the propriety of its title, "Everybody Dies". Margaret and I have been watching it since the beginning and since it is - much like Law & Order - on somewhere on the TV dial any hour of any day, we have seen most episodes too many times to count. We shall watch tonight's swan song. And we shall miss it once it ends later this evening.

House - the character - reminds me quite a lot of my oldest brother Bill in that both are intense, wickedly bright people with little use and even less tolerance for idiots. Both blessed with the ability that most of us simply do not possess to see about six or seven steps ahead of where everybody else is, which gives them a leg up in terms of problem-solving and not everyone's first choice for traveling companion. Being right is more important than being popular. That is an understated skill....

....and it is one that shall be missed on Monday nights. Thanks for the memories Dr. House.

-AK

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Sinking Feeling

The Missus and I enjoyed the opportunity last evening of spending some time in the company of some good friends. We got together for a 50th birthday party for Lynne, who is one of Margaret's longeststanding and dearest friends. Not only was it a birthday party, it was my favorite kind of birthday party. It was a surprise party. Nothing I enjoy more than a good surprise party....as long as the "beneficiary" of it is someone other than me.

From my vantage point it appeared as if the surprise and the party each enjoyed a great success. The official subterfuge that was employed to get Lynne to her sister Laura's home by the appointed time was that the Sisters Kizis were throwing a surprise birthday bash for their dad. Lynne had no idea that it was she and not B-O-B who was the evening's honoree. Once the initial "Boy am I gonna kill everyone who was involved in this!" reaction wore off she had a hellaciously good time. It always warms the little rock I call a heart to see good things and good people find one another. Last night represented just such a confluence.

As an added benefit, spending Saturday evening at Lynne's birthday bash absolved us from going to the cinema and sitting through "Battleship". While I have actually read one or two favorable reviews of this film, getting me into the theatre to endure it is going to take one well-nourished and strong team of wild horses. The director Peter Berg is someone whose work I usually enjoy a great deal. He is - in the event you are unaware - Buzz Bissinger's cousin, the director of the film adaptation of Bissinger's book Friday Night Lights and the gent who decided that the FNL story needed to continue to be told and created the Dillon Panthers, a team that became the centerpiece of one of the finest dramas any TV network has ever aired. "Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose." Simply terrific stuff.

I am at a bit of a loss trying to understand how exactly Berg morphed from that fellow into being the #1 ranked student in the Honors Program at the "Michael Bay F*** Better & Just Make It Louder Academy of Film Making". I am at an even greater loss trying to understand how he prevailed upon Riggins and Landry to trade in their football cleats for combat boots. Everyone has to eat I suppose.

I find myself rooting against Berg and his troops even though I am a fan of his work. My fear is that if this movie makes a lot of money (and it apparently has to make gobs of it just to make back its cost) then Hollywood will crank up the "Dumb It Down Machine" even higher. While I must confess that for present purposes I am at a loss to provide an example of what could possibly be a sillier board game to turn into a motion picture than "Battleship" but it sickens me to realize that somewhere in Hollywood right now there are people trying to figure out what role Johnny Depp can play in "Parcheesi" and what part is perfect for Reese Witherspoon in "Mall Madness" while some other asshat is figuring out just how many merchandise tie-ins Christian Bale's "Chutes and Ladders" will have to have to ensure it makes money....even if no one with a brain ever actually sits through the entire film.

Holy shit people. Read a book for crying out loud. It is only our ability to engage in complex thought and our nifty thumbs that secure our spot atop the animal kingdom. Wearing mittens 24/7/365 is not a good look for anyone. Trust me.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Always Thankful

Today is Armed Forces Day. For every man and woman - including those members of my own family - who has served this nation, I say thank you. Whether your service took place during peacetime or a time of war and whether your service required you to spend time on foreign soil or in a place as alien as North Carolina, you did something for which you should be commended.

This is a day to honor the memory of Elwood Green and the dedication of his daughter Josie Tibbitts. Master Sgt. Green was 33 years of age when he died while being held as a POW in North Korea in 1951. Ms. Tibbitts was a baby living in Colorado when her father died. Earlier this year, Master Sgt. Green's remains, which had been recovered among the remains of other POWs in 2005, were finally able to be identified through a couple of pieces of bone. Earlier this month, Ms. Tibbetts brought her father's body home. He was laid to rest near his childhood home of Norman, Arkansas. The last wish of Tibbitts' mother, Gerta, who died two decades ago, was to have her ashes laid in her husband's empty grave. Instead, her cremated remains will be put in his casket with his uniform and the bone fragments.

One of the great strengths of this nation is our ability to produce strong natural resources. Resources such as Master Sgt. Elwood Green. Resources such as Josie Tibbitts. Here is to hoping that we stop squandering those we presently have and that we do all we can to continue to cultivate and nourish their growth. With them, we have what we need to thrive. Without them, we have nothing.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

-AK

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fraternity

My children are not. Neither has been a child for some time. In fact each has settled in a part of the United States fairly far from the part of the country in which they were born and raised and embraced wholeheartedly a slew of decidedly unchildlike endeavors such as pursuing a career each enjoys and building a life in the company of one whom they love very much. This is very much the adult swim portion of the program. Indeed it is.

I am a bit of an anomaly among people I know from high school or college in that neither of my kids is a child any more. Life moves at different paces for each of us I know. I recall fifteen years ago or so when we played in a Sunday Mens' Softball League at Yanticaw Park in Nutley and I was one of the few guys on our team who was married. And I was one of the two members of our team who had children. Rob, in fact, used to make the occasional guest-starring appearance at the park to watch us play and when he and I would get home on a Sunday night he would share with Margaret and Suzanne what he had seen and heard that day. I have not seen my former teammate Tommy in what feels like a lifetime. I shall forever smile though at the mere mention of his name or the mere glimpse of him in my mind's eye. In Rob's world, Tommy was not Tommy. Rather, he was "The Guy who says the F Word a Lot", which Tommy did indeed do....every time he undercut a ball and hit what baseball announcers used to refer to as, "A Home Run in a Silo", which he did at least two times a game.

Back in the day - as it were - Rob was a fascination to many of my friends simply because he existed. The notion of fatherhood was then as alien to most of them as....well as it was to me right up until the time I met and fell in love with my wife.

I was thinking about those days just the other day, being as we are hip-deep in the season of proms/graduations/holidays celebrating moms and dads. It occurred to me that given the ever-forward manner in which life is lived I remain a bit of an anomaly among my friends. For while this is indeed a season of communions, confirmations and various and sundry other sacraments in their homes, those events are squarely fixed in my rear-view mirror and disappearing further and further from view every day. It brings a smile to my face thinking about the joyous noise bouncing off of the walls of the homes of the Brothers Navas and the Brothers Rubino. It also makes me smile thinking about several friends of mine - all of whom are roughly my age - who are on just their first lap or two of the Dad Race. Where each of them is could not seem to be any further removed from where I am in terms of our respective treks.

Yet we are not so very far apart at all. In fact, the innate joy of the Fraternity of Paternity is that no one checks your creds at the door to see when you first joined. No one cares. Once you are in, you are in. And you are in for life. You best be prepared to hold up your end. Someone very important is counting on you. Put on your helmet and buckle up your chin strap for at times it can be one hell of a ride....

....and it is one that you are glad shall never end.

-AK

Thursday, May 17, 2012

While Somewhere Mr. Hiatt Smiles

Riddle me this: What can one do to secure status simultaneously as the Man of the Year for the ASPCA and Public Enemy #1 for Child Protective Services....without even consciously aspiring to either title? Give up? I thought you might.

Since you are stuck for an answer to a brainteaser that would have made Frank Gorshin guffaw, perhaps you should matriculate to the Craig Dershowitz College of Canine Knowledge. Mr. Dershowitz is a New York resident and what one could fairly consider to be an unabashed animal lover. Whether he has great affection for all creatures great and small I know not. However I do not question his love of his own pooch.

During the time that they lived in New York together Mr. Dershowitz and his girlfriend Sarah Brega owned a dog. Apparently the course of true love ran afoul for the human companions. When that occurred they ended up not continuing to share the same abode. Since there are two of them and but one dog there simply was not enough Knuckles to go around.

As often happens - much to the delight of the bank that hold the mortgage on my home - the disagreement that Brega and Dershowitz had over in whose hands Knuckles should be entrusted descended into litigation. Ms. Brega ended up all the way across the United States - in Southern California - in possession of Knuckles. Mr. Dershowitz claimed that Ms. Brega stole Knuckles. He filed suit against her in Los Angeles County for custody of the dog. Crazy or passionate? Not for me to decide although considering he claims to have spent more than $60,000 in his effort to rescue a dog he characterizes as having been "kidnapped" there very well may be no wrong answer.

Mr. Dershowitz has gone so far as to create a video that he has posted on-line. In it he uttered the line that might very well bring down upon him the wrath of those who do not consider one's four-legged companions to be somehow comparable to one's human offspring. "All I want is to bring Knuckles back home to me. In a lot of ways, he's like my son. He's absolutely the cutest dog in the universe. He has big floppy ears. He snores like an old man. His whole butt wiggles when he wags his tail. … He's incredible."

Having never met Knuckles I cannot attest to the level of his incredibleness. However, having checked out the website (www.rescueknux.com) I can speak to his cuteness. He is quite a looker.

And for the time being at least Knuckles will continue to live life in Los Angeles. On Wednesday afternoon, a judge ruled that Knuckles will stay put in California - at least for now. Although Mr. Dershowitz lost this round, methinks that this fight likely has several more rounds to go. He could not have expected favorable treatment - a New Yorker in a Los Angeles courtroom. Hell, I recall one time on Law & Order Jack McKoy had to travel all the way to Los Angeles to try to persuade a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge to honor an extradition order signed by the Governor of New York and to release a suspected murderer into the custody of Briscoe and Curtis for transport back to New York to stand trial. He failed. Yet by episode's end he had turned the tide, secured a second appearance before the judge and justice ultimately prevailed. McKoy had the benefit of Jamie Ross AND a favorable script and he still lost the first go-round. Stay the course Mr. Dershowitz. Stay the course. Heidi Ellison deserved Jack McKoy's perserverance. Knuckles certainly deserves yours. After all, he does have big floppy ears.

I love Rosalita quite a lot. That being said, when the Missus finally wises up and kicks me to the curb in the unlikely event she should decide she wants to keep Rosie I might be inclined to let her. I certainly would have to think long and hard about dropping $60K on a quest to reclaim her.

Then again she does look quite fetching in her Ray-Bans....


I never felt so free
It was just my dog and me....


-AK









Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Things That Runneth Over

I cannot pretend to know how it shall play out but it was nice to see my beloved Broadway Blueshirts hold serve in Game One of their Eastern Conference Finals against the Devils on Monday night. To steal a phrase from Mr. Springsteen (I would say "borrow" but since I neither sought nor received his permission), "my ass was dragging from a passing gypsy wagon" on Tuesday morning courtesy of my decision to stay up and root, root, root for the home team. I usually have caught the last train to sleepy town well in advance of the 11:00 p.m. news coming on-air. Monday night I did not. A price to pay for loyalty I suppose. I hope I have to pay it again for seven more Rangers victories this season.

The resumption of hostilities between the Rangers and the Devils in this year's Eastern Conference Finals has evoked in many - including Yours truly - memories of the first such tilt, which occurred in 1994. Eighteen years later the only player from either team who still plays in the NHL is the Devs' goaltender Martin Brodeur. All of the other combatants have long since retired. Off the top of my head I can think of one who has died. Alexander Karpovtsev was a defenseman for the Rangers in '94. He was among the Russian hockey players and coaches killed when their charter flight crashed in September 2011.

Perhaps it is because the memories of the run that the Rangers made to the Cup that season remain so vivid in my mind's eye that I forgotten just how much time had passed. I remember where I was and what I was doing while absorbing all that was happening on the ice through all four rounds of the playoffs that spring, with the most vivid, most pointed recollections being those I associate with the Cup Finals against the Canucks and - of course - their pentultimate clash against the Devils. Almost two decades later, my favorite French-sounding word remains unchanged.

The distance between now and then is great. And it grows greater every day. As a child it sometimes seemed to me as if an hour would last for a week. Now it far too often feels as if each day passes by in an eye blink. Whether time is moving faster or I am moving slower I know not. It matters not at all. The result is the same.

Now there's so much that time, time and memory fade away. While I am fairly confident that neither time nor infirmity shall ever claim my memories of the Rangers 1994 Stanley Cup, one can never be too certain. I would happily accept a companion piece in 2012 to serve as a refresher of my recollection....

....just to be safe.

-AK

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vapor Trails

There was a perceptibly lesser amount of joyous noise around the house last night than there had been for each of the previous three. No mystery as to why. Yesterday morning, after her far-too-quick visit to New Jersey ended, Suz boarded a plane back to Houston. And with her she took at least a bit of the energy that had permeated through these parts while she was here.

I have written in this space before - and I shall again so be prepared - that Margaret is the miracle of my life. She is not simply because upon entering it she saved it. She is also because upon entering it she brought Suz and Rob with her. No man has ever received a greater gift.

One supposes perhaps that in a perfect world one's children would grow to adulthood and settle within a reasonable proximity of their childhood home - all the better to enjoy things such as Sunday afternoon get-togethers, Yankees games and - of course - Springsteen concerts. But in the world in which we live and toil perfection is more than simply a lofty goal. It is a pipe dream. Our children grow up and go off to make their mark in the world wherever opportunity exists for them to do so. They honor the lessons of their upbringing by carrying them with them in their day-to-day wherever that day-to-day is lived.

Even if it is not just around the corner. Even if it is a time zone or two away....

-AK

Monday, May 14, 2012

Golden Children

In an effort to ensure that I was awake for the late-night trip to/from Newark Airport prompted by Suz's glorious visit home this weekend, Thursday night I did something I do not usually do. I took a little nap. I slept for about an hour prior to waking up and heading out with Margaret shortly after 10:00 pm to pick Suz up. I learned at age 17 when I managed to transform a Chevrolet Malibu station wagon from mid-sized to sub-compact in one fell swoop that it is better to sleep in one's bed than behind the wheel of one's car.

Anyway, falling asleep at 8:30 pm proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated. I ended up laying in bed for about forty minutes watching television and after speed-surfing through roughly six dozen channels in less than two minutes I settled upon the final, suspenseful moments of one of the cheesiest films from the 1980's. I speak of course of the Francis Ford Coppola opus "The Outsiders". Nothing says epic struggle quite as poignantly as Coppola's depiction of the clash between the Greasers and the Socs in mid-1960's Tulsa, Oklahoma although to be kind it is hard to envision Tulsa as a tough town when some of the toughest guys in the rival gangs are Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio, C. Thomas Howell, Emilio Estevez, a 99-pound Matt Dillon and - the coup de grace - Leif Garrett. When Leif Garrett is the toughest dude in your gang, it is time to surrender your corner of the 'hood to the Girl Scouts.

It may be difficult to reconcile that the same man who was responsible for "The Godfather" films, "Apocalypse Now" and - for good measure - "Tucker" also has this film on his resume. It is especially so when you watch the final couple of minutes of it. Holy Mother of Pearl - what a cheesefest.

For all of the inherent corniness in the film however, Johnny's farewell letter to Pony Boy in which he shares with his friend his thought about the meaning of "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost is spot on. It is children who are golden. It is those of us of an adult persuasion who work too damn hard to take that gold out of them. And we do so by any inane means available to us.

Need proof of this phenomenon? Look no further than the religious zealots who run Our Lady of Sorrows School in Arizona. Those big thinkers decided that they would not permit their varsity baseball team to compete against the squad from Mesa Preparatory Academy for the Arizona Charter Athletic Association Championship last week. Why not? Mesa Prep's second baseman is not a 'man'....or even a 'boy' for that matter. Fifteen-year-old Paige Sultzbach is a girl. Our Lady of Sorrows has a policy that forbids its athletic teams to compete in co-ed sports. The adults who run the joint actually issued a statement that, "the school teaches boys respect by not placing girls in athletic competition, where proper boundaries can only be respected with difficulty."

The heights of stupidity to which people ascend in the name of organized religion never ceases to amaze me. Kudos to the God-worshippers at Our Lady of Sorrows for failing to see the forest for the trees. Nothing quite like being condescending, patronizing d-bags in an effort to teach their male students how to respect a fifteen-year-old student-athlete at another school.

The Lord works in mysterious ways; eh?

-AK

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Toast to the Ever-Changing Sameness

It was on Mother's Day fifteen years ago that the only piece I have ever written in my life that was actually picked up and published - this vanity press effort notwithstanding - appeared in print. It was something that I had written after having been in court one Friday morning waiting my turn to make an appearance before Judge Miller in Bergen County and having heard Judge Miller pronounce sentence upon a repeat offender - a guy whose crimes were more against himself than against the rest of us. What I took with me from Judge Miller's courtroom that day had nothing at all to do with the defendant and almost as little to do with the sentence. It had everything to do with the way in which His Honor talked about the role one's mother plays.

The little piece I wrote made it in fact onto the front page of the "Perspective" section of the Star-Ledger on the Mother's Day edition of the paper. If memory serves, the Ledger ceased producing the "Perspective" section of its Sunday edition shortly thereafter. While I have long held out hope that my contribution to it was not a proximate cause of its demise, I know not whether that is true. Worse yet, I have my suspicions.

A copy of the piece I wrote is affixed to a wall in my office. I have held onto it not because it represents my one moment kinda, sorta in the public eye - on the public's head somewhere at least. Well, that is not the only reason - or the principal one - anyway. I have held onto it because inasmuch as a man has got to know his limitations, I find it instructive to have a cheat sheet to which I can easily refer to remind me of what mine are. Sitting in my office on Friday morning, thinking about Suz's Garden State weekend adventure, my eye was drawn to it. Fifteen years further on up the road, I was reminded that even in a sea of change there are atolls that serve as constants. Solid masses of land upon which a voyager can seek shelter.

Without further ado and in recognition of the dry ground that Mom always strived to ensure remained beneath my feet:

Our mothers, noted Judge Miller, are the bedrock and cornerstone of our society. They sacrifice and suffer so that they can provide us, their children, with opportunities for prosperity that they themselves might never have had....

....Judge Miller was right. Mothers are the bedrock and cornerstone of our society. I know that every opportunity I have ever had to achieve anything has been provided to me by my mother. She is - without exception - the strongest person I have ever met. My father died when I was fourteen leaving my mother three kids' college educations to pay for. Nevertheless, my mother persevered. Freed from my father's strong and sometimes domineering personality, my mother proved herself to be a woman of amazing strength and determination. Nothing, including cancer, has stopped her. She has always done all that she can to present her children with opportunities for achievement without making excuses for failure.

Shame on me. I had let all of that stuff slip into the recesses of my mind. Perhaps in a world of "instant everything" I had let a lifetime's worth of everything get lost. Too often life today revolves around a "What have you done for me lately?" mentality. Lucky for me and - I suspect - scores of others - that mothers do not subscribe to that philosophy. Thank you Mom for being my bedrock and cornerstone. And thank you Judge Miller for reminding me of something that I have always known but had inexcusably forgotten
.

As my wife can attest to - unfortunately I am sorry to say - I am not a quick study. It is more than a little humbling to admit that all these years later I am still prone to the same mistakes. Lucky for me, Mom is still kicking ass and taking names. The window of atonement remains open.

For Mom. For Margaret. For my sisters and my sisters-in-law. For all the mothers everywhere....

....Happy Mother's Day. And thank you.

-AK

Saturday, May 12, 2012

When Sunset Beckons

I have no idea whether Jim Baglin ever met John Wooden although based upon the limited extent to which I know the former and all I have read about the latter I suspect that the two men would have liked each other quite a lot.

A lifetime ago, when our daughters were in elementary school together at Our Lady of Mount Virgin here 'NTSG (leave it to the Catholic Church to juxtapose the words "Mount" and "Virgin" in an elementary school's name), Leigh Ann and Suzanne played basketball together. If memory serves they spent five seasons together competing for the OLMV Vikings (leave it to the Catholic Church to drop a nickname on its religiously-affiliated elementary school of a people who worshipped many gods but not the big "G") in the Diocese of Metuchen League. For all but one of those seasons, they were greatly aided in their efforts by the presence of Leigh Ann's dad on their bench. Unlike most of the youth league coaches - including Yours truly - one is apt to encounter, Jim was far more than a devoted father with a love for the game that his child played. He was one of the best, most successful high school basketball coaches that New Jersey has ever seen.

Yup, for a few years back there in the late '90's the Lady Vikings of OLMV had themselves quite a ringer. He never served as the Head Coach but rather as his wife Barbara's top assistant. During at least two of those seasons, I had a seat on the bench next to him. I not only got to watch him interact with the children he coached - while marveling at the patience he demonstrated in communicating with them and teaching them the fundamentals of basketball - but I got to listen to him share his thoughts about basketball, a game that I enjoy at every level save for the NBA. I learned more in those couple of seasons sitting next to Jim than I would have otherwise ever learned.

Up close I got to not only see him interact with the young girls who played for our team but also those who played for the opposition. Suz's team had a lot of success in the years that Team Baglin patrolled the sidelines. Yet never did Suz or any of her teammates do anything deliberately or intentionally to show up or humiliate an opponent. They won far more often than they lost but never once ran up the score on an overmatched foe. I recall more than one occasion on which Jim would talk to the other adults on the bench about the importance of making sure that all the kids who played enjoyed the game. He is a competitor of course. Yet his love of the game and of passing that love on to as many kids as he came into contact with as he could trumped all else.

When he was not hanging around OLMV helping Barbara coach their daughter's team he was doing a pretty damn fine job of what he actually did professionally, which was coach the Boys' Varsity Basketball Team at Mendham High School. Mendham is a rather affluent town in Morris County - it is where Governor Christie lives - and although traditionally one thinks of schools located in the heart of the big city as opposed to those smack dab in the middle of lacrosse country as the ones who shall rule the roost in scholastic hoops, year in and year out Jim Baglin's Mendham teams stood convention on its ear.

In 33 years as the head coach of the Minutemen (not everyone can be named the Vikings you know), his teams won sixteen Conference titles, nine Morris County Championships, six Sectional State Titles and two overall State titles - as a Group II school in 2000 and as a Group III school in 2010. In thirty-three seasons on the bench, his Mendham teams competed in 878 games....and won 685 of them. In other words, they won close to 80% of their games for three-plus decades. Heady stuff.

I have never known Jim well enough to refer to him as my "friend". To do so would be far too presumptuous. In fact, in the close to fifteen years that have passed since Leigh Ann, Suz and the other two dozen or so kids who comprised their graduating class at OLMV matriculated off to high school, I have seen him but once - for a total of ten seconds. He was leaving a barber shop in town just as I was turning the corner to enter it on a Saturday morning a couple of years ago. We exchanged a quick "Hello" and then continued on, moving in opposite directions.

I had not thought about him much since that morning - until I saw the piece in the paper a week ago yesterday announcing that he has retired from coaching. While he shall continue to serve as the Athletic Director at Mendham High School, when hoops practice starts in November 2012 for the 2012-13 season, there shall be someone other than Jim Baglin running things for the boys for the first time since 1978. I have no idea just how he shall survive a basketball season without being a coach. I suspect that he does not know either. I wish him well in the endeavor.

Coach Wooden once said, "A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment." I know not whether Coach Wooden ever met Coach Baglin. However based upon what I saw up close sitting next to Coach Baglin all those years ago, Coach Wooden could not have described him more perfectly.

-AK

Friday, May 11, 2012

Of Bears and Buffaloes

Today is Graduation Day in Boulder, Colorado. For all those joining the ranks of CU-Boulder Alumni - a group that includes not merely Yours truly, my sis Jill, brother-in-law Joe and a veritable rogues' gallery that includes the Nepalese Nightmare, Schneeds and my partner in all things of questionable legality (the one and only Mr. Bauer) but a whole lot more fine folks - I say, "Congratulations", "Well done" and all that jazz. I also say, "Thank you". The addition of another 5,000 or so to the Alumni rolls means that the frequency with which a certain member of the Class of '89 receives phone calls and solictations for money from our Alma mater will decrease.

Looking back on college I know not what strikes me as more amazing. The fact that I graduated or the fact that close to a quarter-century has passed between that day and this one. One of my favorite photos of Mom and me was taken that morning - May 12, 1989 - after Schneeds and I officially been pronounced as "graduates". We stood on the field across from the CU Events Center (and back then the only occasion all year for which the Events Center was filled to capacity was graduation. Thank you Coach Boyle for changing all that by the way) with the mountains in the background. Mom, ever the good sport, held up my cap on which I had written "ADSEY" in tape in the vain hope that it would help my family (Kara, Jill and Joe all made the trek west with Mom) see me in the see of 5,000-plus graduates.


The original of that photo is where it has been for too many years to count: in a frame on a bookcase in my office.

A couple of years ago, while Mom was chilling at the beach with Jill and Joe, we teamed up for an updated photo, which is also among my favorite pictures - and which occupies a place of honor in our den at home. I took a look at it last night when I got home from work and I was amazed to see the effect of a quarter-century or so of time staring back at me in living color. Its effect on me at least.


I think Mom looks as if she has aged about 18 minutes in 20+ years. Her son on the other hand....let us just say that the salt I have excised from my diet has wound up in my beard and my hair. 'Tis a trade-off I would gladly take ten times out of ten.

Here is to hoping that whatever paths the CU-Boulder Class of 2012 blazes that they enjoy the journey. Life is a trip of indeterminate length. As the late, great British comic Benny Hill once observed, "Life each day as if it were your last because one day you are going to be right." Words to live by indeed.

Finally, while I have no idea of this young man is a member of the Class of 2012, I could not let an entire piece devoted to my Alma mater go by without praising CU student photographer Andy Duann. Andy was toiling for the campus paper, the CU Independent when he captured an image that any shutterbug would give his eye teeth to have scored. Andy's photo has been dubbed - in some circles at least - "Falling Bear". You shall no doubt be pleased to learn that no bears were injured in the taking of Andy's photo. Check out the slideshow for yourself.

Sadly, "Falling Bear" shall not be attending graduation ceremonies this morning. A week or so after he went tree-climbing at Williams Village he died. He was struck by a car while wandering across the Denver-bound lanes of U.S. 36, which is the highway that connects Boulder and Denver. Authorities had released him into a wilderness area some fifty miles west of Boulder after his brush with academia but apparently the allure of Boulder was too much for him to overcome....

....a feeling with which a certain percentage of today's graduating class can relate. Of that I am quite certain.

-AK




Thursday, May 10, 2012

Incoming

Before I lay my oversized melon of a head on my pillow tonight I shall have had the chance to play my favorite, recurring role. Tonight I am transformed once again into "Airport Pick-up Guy". Fear not. I am not cruising the taxi stands at Newark Airport like some swarthy Lothario preying on unsuspecting tourists.

I am however making the short hop on 78 over to Newark Airport to pick up Suzanne. This Mother's Day, Suz is giving Margaret the gift of herself. Here, in Jersey, live and in color. Here for the first time since Christmas. To the unsuspecting eye that might seem as if it was approximately five months ago. To Margaret's, it was a lifetime ago. She has counted down the days on the calendar in eager anticipation since Suz first told her of her travel plans. Suz's flight is scheduled to land tonight at some point after 11:00 o'clock. This day's first twenty-three hours shall be among the longest of my wife's life.

I know already that the time Suz spends in the State of Concrete Gardens shall pass in an eye blink. Monday morning's airport drop-off will be here before we know it. That, however, is a concern for another day. Today is all about the arrival. That and the joy it carries with it....


....and the promise of a most Happy Mother's Day indeed.

-AK

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

All Things Wild and Otherwise

You might have missed the item in the news from earlier this week regarding "Meow" the cat. What made Meow newsworthy? His weight. Meow tipped (over) the scales at a Primo Carnera-like thirty-nine pounds. He was but five years old when he died. According to someone from the shelter that cared for Meow during the final couple of weeks of his life - and had placed him on a weight-loss regimen during the time he was with them, Meow died due to an "unanticipated respiratory difficulty". Respectfully, he was a five-year-old house cat who weighed roughly as much as a five-year-old human being. Is it difficult for me that a respiratory issue killed him? Not at all. However I would bet all nine of his lives and my own that he never had a respiratory problem that was "unanticipated". The poor animal had feet that were - from his sight lines - mere rumors. Poor bastard.

While Meow would hardly seem to have qualified as a 'wild thing', he did have the distinction of dying only a day before Maurice Sendak did. Sendak, 83, wrote and illustrated a number of books but is best known to anyone under the age of eighty-three for his seminal creation: "Where the Wild Things Are". If you have not read it in a while - or like Yours truly in too many years to count - pick it up again and give it a read. It shall remind you what you loved about it way back when. If you have never read it, be certain to do so. You shall be happy you did. And when you share it with your children or grandchildren, they will be happy you did as well.

The good old days took a double shot on the chin this week. It was announced that Richard Clemens who, while a Massachusetts State Trooper, served as the model for the police officer in Norman Rockwell's 1958 illustration "The Runaway" had died. Clemens, like Sendak coincidentally, was eighty-three years old. The illustration first appeared on the cover of the September 20, 1958 Saturday Evening Post. I read on-line in one of the Boston papers that Clemens scored the gig because he and Rockwell were neighbors. Apparently, in illustration modeling - much like real estate, the three most important things are "location, location, location".

And judging from the way in which my favorite hockey team snatched victory from defeat's jaws on Monday night in the fifth game of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semi-Final series with the Washington Capitals, location is also the three most important things in hockey. For with but 6.6 seconds left in regulation and the Rangers down by a goal, Brad Richards was most certainly in the right place at the right time for the home team. Whether the Rangers manage to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup this year remains a mystery but this group has been a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Do they have nine more victories in them? Time will tell.

-AK


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Happy at Home

As the sun rises on "2012 Marathon Day + 2" I hope to continue my efforts at walking without looking as if - on horseback - I chased Geronimo across the High Plains for one hundred miles. From the time I stopped running on Sunday afternoon, I have been walking around as if auditioning for the role of Woody in "Toy Story: The Musical" Today shall be better than yesterday. By Thursday morning I shall look down at my to-be-tied shoelaces without cursing them and my decision to eschew loafers the last time I needed dress shoes. By Sunday, my running shoes will be laced up and on my feet again and I shall be back doing something I enjoy very, very much. Til then, baby steps. Stiff-legged, jarring baby steps but baby steps nonetheless.

So this year Kentucky Derby Day falls on Cinco de Mayo and what horse wins the annual Run for the Roses? A horse named, "I'll Have Another" of course. His win was not a monumental upset although at 15:1 he paid off fairly handsomely for anyone who bet on him. As I have written in this space previously, among the many things about which I know nothing is horse racing. However, Saturday's Derby serves to prove yet again that truth is often stranger than and much funnier than fiction. "I'll Have Another" is a great name for a horse and had I known a horse with a moniker as mantra was running in Saturday's race I would have found a way to plunk down a sawbuck on him.

Finally, as those who have known me for a number of years and/or have read this space for at least the past three years know, for a brief period of time in early 2009 I left the Firm to ply my trade someplace else. For a myriad of reasons, the move did not work. It was on this very day three years ago that my law partner and friend Howard Brechner called me to tell me that the attorney who had been brought in to take my place had just come into Howard's office to tell Howard that he was resigning his position at the Firm - effective May 22, 2009.

Since I had missed being at the Firm and the Firm had missed me, how about we rectify that situation - effective May 26, 2009 was what Howard wanted to know. That brief phone conversation then set off a chain of events that played out like something out of a Hollywood "B" movie spy caper. It is an afternoon that to this day both Howard and I laugh about whenever we discuss it. As soon as I returned, it felt good to be home.

Three years after I made the decision to do so, it still does.

-AK

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Day's Long Journey

Yesterday Gidg and I took our second shot at the New Jersey Marathon. While both of us finished with a time slightly off our respective times from last year, it was nevertheless a hellaciously fine day. A day well-spent.

I came to appreciate yesterday just how inane my reaction to my effort last year in this race had been. I spent so much time last year lamenting my "failure" to finish by a certain time that I undersold not only my effort and Gidg's effort but also the effort of everyone else who ran. Worse yet, it undersold everything Margaret, Lynne, Bob, Laura and her kids did in terms of supporting us. It was idiocy. Plain and simple.

At about the fifteen mile mark yesterday my mind failed me a bit. While I eventually got my mental mojo back together at or about mile nineteen, the one-man wrestling match I participated in with my psyche for the better part of 40-45 minutes was not much fun. There was more than one moment out there that I had to work hard to talk myself into continuing to put one foot in front of the other. What served as my motivation? Making it to Margaret. I knew that at some point she, Lynne, Bob and Jeff would be at the finish line waiting for Gidg and me. I also knew that the only way to get from where I was to where she would be waiting for me was to continue running. Fear may be a great motivator. I was reminded yesterday that love kicks fear's ass six ways to Sunday. Best of all, on Sunday it kicks fear's ass twice.

A great surprise yesterday was the presence of Kara, Russ and Jordan about a half-mile from the finish line. Russ ran in the half-marathon yesterday and the three of them stuck around waiting for what likely was several hours to watch me. Margaret knew that they were going to be there but she and Kara decided not to tell me. I saw Jordan first, standing against the spectator rail holding up a handmade sign that read, "Keep Going Uncle Ad"....and I did. Margaret and I were driving home from Lynne's after the race when Kara sent us a picture of J and his sign


One hell of a sight to see after so many miles completed and a final few exhausted steps left to complete the journey. At times it was difficult. Yet ultimately it was rewarding and extremely satisfying. A day well spent.


-AK



Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Ish of Self

Proving that in addition to raising six crazy children, Mom raised one stupid one at or about 8:00 this morning I shall participate in the 2012 edition of the New Jersey Marathon. I am far from the only person participating in this year's marathon of course. My running "sister in blisters" Gidg is back for a second helping of hurt as well. But for the fact that thousands of other folks have signed up, we might have had a shot at a 1-2 finish. Next year? Perhaps.

I know not what today shall bring other than I shall bring my best effort to bear on the proceedings. My goal last year was to trudge through this thing in four hours or less. I came not close at all to my goal. I finished in 4:29.04. Not exactly "missing it by that much".

While failure served as the impetus for today's encore effort, anyone who read this space in the spring of last year knows how much I hoped to not have to go through this process a second time. My principal reason for hoping to have been "one and done" was not the physical exertion involved in the training regimen, which is not insubstantial. Rather, it was because of all the things that marathon training is, in my experience the thing that it is above all others is selfish. Incredibly so in fact. While engaged in it, it is impossible to do anything else. One cannot sit in a movie theater with one's wife AND run eighteen miles simultaneously. Ditto for dinners and evenings out with friends. Ditto for a million other things that presently escape me.

Whether I succeed or fail today in my quest to break the four hour barrier is something to which the answer remains to be written. Soon enough we shall know for certain. Regardless of how today goes, it is an understatement of quasi-criminal dimensions to say that but for Margaret's love, patience and understanding I would not even be in a position to line up in the starting corral. The temperate weather we enjoyed in these parts all winter was a boon to my training. Yet, it was not close to being the most important thing I had working in my favor. Without question, Margaret was. She has spent the past four months making a process that is as emotionally draining on the loved ones of the runner as it is physically draining on the runner himself seem almost benign. She has been nothing less than a favorable breeze at my back, spurring me on to do my best.

And as any runner will attest, happiness is a favorable breeze at your back. So, regardless of where I finish today or what time I run, I have already won.

Happiness indeed.

-AK

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cinco Easy Rules

Today is Cinco de Mayo. If it is an event you celebrate similar to the way in which all the faux Irish celebrate St. Patrick's Day, then please enjoy yourself....and do so somewhere other than where I am and in a manner that will not render you a nuisance (or worse) to me. Perhaps some rules to live by will assist you in having a bueno time without making a culero out of yourself.

UNO

Irrespective of how much tequila you consume, neither you nor anyone at your gathering shall perform - or even attempt to perform - the "Cat Daddy" dance. As is the case with any rule worth its salt (note the topical, cultural reference), there is an exception: Kate Upton.

DOS

No matter how sweetly she asks you - and she is adorable - do not permit Ms. Upton to bring that scary old creepy dude Terry Richardson to your party. What a lecherous cat he appears to be. Holy sh*t. Under no circumstances do you permit that fella to have access to your home.

TRES

Do not start your party until after you root the Rangers to victory in Game Four of their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series against the Capitals. After a win for the ages on Wednesday night/Thursday morning, you will kick yourself if you miss it. Scientific fact: even lousy Mexican beer like Corona tastes like something real adults drink when the Rangers are up 3-1 in a best 4 out of 7 series. Trust me on this. I am Irish. My people know our alcohol.

CUATRO

Do not cater your Cinco de Mayo fiesta with food from Taco Bell. Even "Mexicans for a Day" like you and your full complement of fellow travelers who shall celebrate the day in traditional locales such as Hoboken know that Taco Bell's food is muy disgusting. There is simply no good time to consume it. If you attempt to serve it prior to rampant alcohol consumption occurring, common sense and alert taste buds will prevent your fellow revelers from sucking it down. If you roll the dice and serve it AFTER all of the booze in your place has been consumed and everyone's thought processes are sufficiently dulled to almost make that crap palatable, then you run the risk of your revelers NOT being able to keep it down.

CINCO

Survive the day. Having a great time on Cinco de Mayo is of little moment if you do not make it to sunrise on Seis de Mayo. Be careful out there....

....and stay thirsty my friends.

-AK

Friday, May 4, 2012

LeGrand Gesture

Greg Schiano is no longer the head football coach at Rutgers University. Eric LeGrand is no longer a member of the Rutgers University football team. These two men however are forever linked by the time each spent on the Banks of the Raritan. Theirs is a relationship forged out of the residue of a seemingly tragic incident. Theirs is an unbreakable bond.

Earlier this week, Greg Schiano - now fully ensconced in his position as the head football coach of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers - signed up Eric LeGrand one more time to be a member of his football organization, much as he had all those years ago when LeGrand was a senior at Colonia High School. Of course, given the catastrophic injury LeGrand suffered when he was injured during the Rutgers-Army game on October 16, 2010 he shall never play in the NFL. He knows that. His old ball coach knows that too. It matters not.

What matters is this: "The way Eric lives his life epitomizes what we are looking for in Buccaneer Men," Schiano said in a statement released by the Bucs.

And this: "Coach Schiano is like a father figure," LeGrand said on a conference call. "Going into Rutgers as a little boy and coming out a man. When you're faced with adversity, he's not going to say you back down at all. You deal with whatever it is. In life, you can't control what cards you're dealt. That's what's helped me through my whole situation. Sometimes it's hard, but I think about all the stuff I was taught at Rutgers. You fight through it. Tough times don't last. Only tough people do."

Football - both at the collegiate level and at the professional level - is big business. But it is, like any business, populated by human beings. The great Bernard Malamud wrote, "Without heroes we are all plain people and don't know how far we can go."

This week these two men reminded us that the sky is indeed the limit.

-AK



Thursday, May 3, 2012

And the Sound of Knuckles Dragging

Dave Lackland is one of the best people I know. One of the great benefits of life in the 21st Century and all of this "social networking" silliness has been that it has enabled me to reconnect with Dave. It is my pleasure and my privilege that he refers to me as his friend.

Dave, his Missus and their bouncing bundle of boy baby joyness Indy live a considerable distance from me. They are deeply ensconced down in what those of us who live in the Northeast might think of as Jimmy Buffett country - the Florida Keys. He and his family live in a part of the world where humans interact up close and personal like with a fairly spectacular array of other creatures, including but not limited to the iguanas whose adventures Dave shares with the rest of us now and again right here. One would think that living in such close proximity to a such a multitude of other creatures would inure to the benefit of the bipeds who inhabit the region. One might even think that said bipeds might take advantage of the fact that having chosen to make their home in an area whose native inhabitants - having missed the vote on whether to allow humans to invade their space - nevertheless continue to present them with viewing opportunities reserved only for zoo trips for the rest of us.

Sadly, when I read Dave's most recent report from the Keys, I was reminded that among the shiftiest, sneakiest and most mean-spirited inhabitants of this planet are those of us of the human persuasion. Not all of us of course. That Hawking fellow seems just fine - ditto for that Dalai Lama dude. But walking among us are certifiable pieces of dreck. Utter asshats who act like bullies simply because they can. Upon reading Dave's homage to his friend, I came away with the inescapable conclusion that these assholes are starting to wear him down.

I remain confident however that even if they have bent his resolve for the time being that they shall not break it. While I realize his home is now in Paradise, he is from Jersey after all. At his core he is far stronger than they are. Thus, I hope Dave continues to do what he does in his little part of the world, bonding with and championing the cause of Carl and the rest of the crew. They need him. Whether the morons who share his postal code realize it, those of us of the human persuasion need him even more.

At least now and again (hey I do not want to set the bar at a height that proves impossible to hit) us humans need to aspire to be something better than simply occupiers of space. We need to suppress the urge to channel our inner Kardashian and make a positive impact on the world around us. It is something that a number of us, including the ever-graying man whose face I see in the bathroom mirror every morning, need to be better at than we presently are.

Thankfully, it is something that a number of us, including a certain lizard-loving benevolently crazy spirit who goes by the handle Iguana Dave, work hard at every day. Their experience serves to guide and to teach those of us who need to do better just how to get there.

-AK

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Catches of Roses and Shakers of Salt

This Saturday is Cinco De Mayo and Kentucky Derby Day. Perhaps at Churchill Downs they can combine the two events. Immediately before post time for the Derby, require all of the jockeys to slam a shot or two of Patron before sending them hurtling down the track atop their respective mounts. Jockeys are mini-sized humans - something akin to postage stamps with limbs affixed - so even in a field as crowded as the Derby one bottle shall suffice. A dozen and a half liquored up Central Americans at the controls of a vehicle with more horsepower than they can handle? That to me sounds more like Bergenline Avenue in Hudson County than the homestretch at Churchill Downs on a Saturday night in early May.

I know as much about horse racing as I do about most things, which is to say that you could pour all of my knowledge into a thimble and still have ample room for your thumb. One of the things that I think I know is that a thoroughbred race horse's name can be no longer than sixteen characters long. If I ever possessed enough money to purchase such an animal I would name it something motivational such as "AFUTUREGLUESTICK" or "NEXTWEEKSDOGFOOD". Not your idea of motivational? You misunderstood my meaning. By "motivational", I meant George Steinbrenner circa-1976 to 1981-type of motivational. The belief that fear is the greatest motivator of all. If motivational does not strike your fancy, then how about a name that embodies what the great steed itself is thinking - both present tense such as "PULLTHEDWARFOFFME" - and a bit further on up the track such as "FUTURESEXMACHINE"?

I am kidding of course....well at least as far as you know anyway. I have never attended the Kentucky Derby. I cannot foresee the circumstances under which I ever shall. I am given to understand that it really is quite a tremendous event. While I do not know whether Tom Swales - an old friend of mine who owns thoroughbreds - has ever attended it as a fan, I hope that at some point in time he has the chance to participate in it as an owner.

Last year, the New Jersey Marathon started on the boardwalk in Long Branch. This year, it shall begin at Monmouth Park Race Track, where Tom's horses do the voodoo they do so well when racing here in the State of Concrete Gardens. Just for fun, I am going to start the Marathon wearing my assigned Bib # on the front of my shirt and a sign on the back of my shirt that has my # on it with the name "AFUTUREGLUESTICK" written above it in bold type. I wonder if I shall get any action....

....note to self: check the Morning Line in Sunday's Daily Racing Form.

-AK

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Five Words

A disadvantage of not being particularly bright is that it takes me a bit longer to catch on to those things that those around me who are not so handicapped are far better equipped to respond to and to process. It is a life lesson that has presented itself to me far too many times to count. It presented itself in its most recent iteration on Sunday.

Approximately one month ago - while training for this Sunday's New Jersey Marathon - I injured my leg. I took the same approach to that particular injury as I have to most maladies and ailments that have confronted me: I popped a dozen Advil a day for about a week or so and awaited the magical results that those little orange beauties often bring. This time however not so much.

Anyway, as we head into the home stretch of marathon preparation the discomfort in my leg had squarely placed itself in the forefront of my mind. Its placement there was most unwelcome. Candidly I was not entirely confident in my ability to evict it.

Thankfully, in this space on Sunday I mentioned my ever-increasing consternation. In response to my "share" I heard from a long-time, very good friend of mine who, in turn, bestowed some excellent advice upon me: Stop worrying and just run. Considering the unimpeachable quality of this particular font of advice, I hesitated not at all in following it. Yesterday morning - for the first time in too many mornings to count - I woke up feeling no pain at all in my left leg. Did it go away overnight or did I simply unwedge my head from my ass far enough to allow it to move from front and center to a space in a less obtrusive corner of my mind? I know not and care even less. The goal remains what it has been since I first embarked on this silliness in January 2011: a finishing time of four hours or less. I shall either achieve my goal or I shall not. Either way, no excuses. Just run.

Five words. Proof that one need not use a lot of words to convey wisdom effectively.

Hmmm....that is advice I should learn to heed on a far more regular basis.

-AK