Friday, August 31, 2012

Manhattan Black and Blue

My blue Manhattan
She's angry like a child, but how sweet
Fire and rain on the street
It's you against me most days
It's me against you, fell
Ah, the snow's comin' down
On the cars in midtown
Stone cold in sheets with you all over me
Ain't that sweet my little gal,
Ain't that sweet my little gal
Thirty-seven members of the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey Police Department died on September 11, 2001.  The thirty-seven were part of the team of first responders who ran into danger when their better judgment might have suggested that they head a decidedly different direction with all due speed.  The men and women of the PAPD, which is the twenty-seventh largsest law enforcement agency in the United States, are dedicated to patrolling the airports, bridges, tunnels and railways that are an intergral part of day-to-day life in the New York metropolitan area.  On September 11, 2001, a full 3% of the PAPD's force was killed.  It was the single-largest same-day loss of life not only in the history of the PAPD but in the history of law enforcement in the United States.  The harm that befell the PAPD that day was worse than any harm that any department has ever experienced. 
Captain Kathy Mazza bears the distinction of being the first female PAPD officer ever killed in the line of duty.   She was forty-six years old.  Her husband, Christopher Delosh, is a member of the NYPD.   At the time of her death, the couple had been married for sixteen years.  Captain Mazza joined the PAPD in 1987 and brought to the job a rather remarkable background, having earned a degree in nursing from Nassau Community College.  Her career at the PAPD was no less remarkable.  Among the responsibilities she assumed was being the Commandant of the PAPD's Academy - the first woman to ever hold that position.  She won numerous honors and awards during her fourteen years on the job. 

On the morning of September 11th, Captain Mazza saved the lives of countless people who were attempting to evacuate the North Tower.  When there was a bottleneck of people at the revolving doors in the North Tower, she shot out the floor-to-ceiling glass walls on the mezzanine. Her action allowed hundreds of people to escape.  She underwent open heart surgery in 1992 to repair a quarter-sized hole and that experience, coupled with her own medical training, made her so attuned to the signs of heart distress in others that a year or so later her fast action helped save her mother's life and - according to her husband - at least two neighbors in their Farmingdale, New York neighborhood.  

She was last seen on the morning of September 11 doing what she did best:  helping someone in need.  Her body was recovered from the wreckage of Ground Zero five months after the attack.   The New York Post  reported that a memorial service for Emergency Services workers, Mayor Guiliani used the following words to describe her:  “She was a trailblazer with a career that was truly unique. She had an incredible desire to help people. She’s an American hero.”  There have been too few occasions in his political life when America's Mayor has been accused of understatement.  On that particular day, he very well could have been.   

Christopher Amoroso was only twenty-nine years old when he was killed in the line of duty at the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, roughly two years after he had joined the PAPD.  He was a husband and a father.  He lived in Staten Island with his wife Jaime and their little girl Sophia Rose

On the morning of September 11 - as all hell was breaking loose around Officer Amoroso and the other first responders at the scene - he did something that strikes me as being utterly remarkable but to him probably seemed to be nothing of the sort.  He had already helped lead countless people to safety from the lower levels of the North Tower.  If you have ever cast your eyes upon this photograph, which is one of the truly iconic images of that day, then you have seen Officer Amoroso's work for yourself.   

Shortly after he helped get these people to safety, he was spotted picking up oxygen packs and hard hats on his way back into the North Tower.   He became part of the five-man group of PAPD officers that included Sgt. John McLoughlin and Officer Will Jimeno, whose remarkable story of survival in the wreckage of the Twin Towers was the focal point of Oliver Stone's World Trade CenterSadly, neither Officer Amoroso nor the other two members of that brave quintet - Officer Antonio Rodrigues and Officer Dominick Pezzulo - did.  If you can steel yourself to do it, then might I suggest you watch this tribute, which is a labor of love of one of Officer Amoroso's cousins. 

The entire nation - perhaps the world itself - was introduced to George Howard on September 20, 2001 during the strirring address that President George W. Bush gave to a special joint session of the Congress.  Towards the end of his speech, President Bush said:

It is my hope that in the months and years ahead life will return almost to normal. We'll go back to our lives and routines, and that is good.

Even grief recedes with time and grace.

But our resolve must not pass. Each of us will remember what happened that day and to whom it happened. We will remember the moment the news came, where we were and what we were doing.

Some will remember an image of a fire or story of rescue. Some will carry memories of a face and a voice gone forever.



George Howard, forty-four years old, father of two sons (Christopher and Robert) lived in Hicksville, New York and was a member of the PAPD's emergency services unit.  He had been a member of the PAPD for sixteen years and in addition to his work as a police officer, he volunteered his time as a Captain in the Hicksville, N.Y. Fire Department and as an instructor at the Nassau County Fire Academy.  One would think that a man who had that many demands upon his time would have zealously and jealously guarded his days off.  Another man might have.  George Howard did not. 

Not only was George Howard not supposed to be in Lower Manhattan on that terrible Tuesday morning, he was not supposed to be working anywhere at all.  He had the day off.  Yet as soon as he heard word of the attacks, he called Kennedy International Airport - which is where he was assigned - and was told to report to the World Trade Center.  It might have very well been a feeling of deja vu for Howard.  In 1993, when the Twin Towers were attacked for the first time, he had been among the PAPD officers who responded to the scene.  That day too had been an off day for him.  However, when one is born without an "off" switch, the concept of the "off" day is forever an alien one.  Here is to hoping however that regardless of what he was doing in early September 2005 he took a moment or two to look in on his son Christopher - who followed in his dad's path of service and became a member of the FDNY.  

Apples and trees.  Apples and trees....

My blue Manhattan
She cusses with her sailor's mouth
And fire and rain on the streets
It's you against me most days
It's me against you
Making snow angels in the gravel and the dirt
Crawling like a spider,
And I'm somewhere inside her





Thursday, August 30, 2012

Jersey Boys

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Todd Beamer did not board United 93 at Newark Airport on the morning of September 11, 2001 with the intention of becoming a hero.  He was an account manager for Oracle, living in suburban New Jersey with his wife Lisa and their two little boys.  On what became the final morning of his life, he was travelling for business.   But when what had dawned as just another ordinary Tuesday morning morphed into something decidedly more sinister, Beamer played a vital role in making sure that the objective of the vermin who had hijacked United 93 would not be realized.  

At the time of his death, Beamer's wife Lisa was expecting the couple's third child.  In May 2002 Lisa Beamer gave birth to a little girl.  She named their daughter Morgan Kay, bestowing upon her youngest child the honor of carrying her daddy's middle name as her first name.  A connection to a father whose arms never got to hold her and whose voice never got to sing her to sleep at night.  In the aftermath of the horror that was September 11, 2001 Lisa Beamer seemed to be everywhere.  As time has passed, her profile has diminished.  She is - by her own account - a "suburban mom from New Jersey.... a temporary public figure".  

If you have a few minutes, click on the link in the final sentence of the paragraph above.  It is the video of her commencement address to the Wheaton College class of 2011.  Perhaps you will be struck - even if for just a moment - as I was by how young she is today, how much younger she was eleven years ago and just how cruel a world can be that makes widows out of wives who are barely thirty years old. 

Jeremy Glick was thirty-one years old on the morning of September 11, 2001 when he boarded United 93 at Newark Airport.  He was married.  He and his wife Lyzbeth had likely endured more than their fair share of sleepless nights during the Summer of '01.  They were new parents after all.  The couple's first child, their daughter Emerson, having been born just twelve weeks earlier.  On the final morning of his life - confronted with what he likely knew was an impossible situation - Glick demonstrated resolve and calm that seems almost incomprehensible.  He spent the final twenty minutes or so prior to the passengers' assault on the hijackers on the phone speaking with his wife and with his in-laws.   

Glick's ability to keep his cool and his willingness to sacrifice himself for others likely came as little surprise to those who knew him best of all.  He was raised by parents who preached the importance of "The Three C's" - Compassion, Courage and Character - to Jeremy and his siblings.  By all accounts, Jeremy Glick lived every day of his life adhering to those three guiding principles.  It was only on the final day of his life that those of us who never made his acquaintance got to see him apply them.  

On the final day of his life, Jeremy Glick exhorted his wife Lyz to live her life and to always take care of Emmy.  One supposes that he smiles a lot when he looks in on them from time to time.  She has honored his wish and the promise she made to him to remember him always but to never stop getting all she can out of life. 

LeRoy Homer, Jr., who lived in Marlton New Jersey with his wife Melodie and their daughter Laurel (who was less than a year old in September 2001), was thirty-six years young when he died in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on the morning of September 11, 2001.  He was aboard United 93.  He was not a passenger.  LeRoy Homer, Jr. was United 93's First Officer.  Homer had worked for United for roughly six and one-half years at the time of his death.  He joined the airline after a distinguished career in the service of his country in the United States Air Force, which he entered as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1987 after graduating from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado as a member of the Class of  '87. 

He and Melodie first met while they were living 3,000 miles apart from one another.  He must have made one hell of an impression on that initial, blind date because eight months later she had moved across the country from California to New Jersey.  Less than three years later they were married.  His specialty while in the Air Force was piloting C-141B Starlifters, which are "mammoth heavy transport planes".  During the first Gulf War he flew them to/from the Middle East and bases in Europe.  During their all-too-brief time together he enjoyed flying with Melodie to far-flung locales including trips to Tahiti, Bora Bora, Greece, London, Germany, Canada and the Caribbean.

In the decade-plus since her husband's death, Melodie Homer has taken on the responsibility of creating and overseeing a foundation in her husband's name that supports young people interested in pursuing a career in aviation.  The Foundation's web site's home page contains a quote from Marcus Cicero that strikes me as absolutely pitch perfect:  The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.  A mantra by which Melodie Homer lives her life and by which she honors the life of her husband.  A lesson, really, for all of us....

No one has the answer but one thing is true,
You've got to turn on evil when it's coming after you,
You've gotta face it down and when it tries to hide,
You've gotta go in after it and never be denied,
Time is runnin' out,

-AK






Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In a Town Famous As a Place of Movie Scenes

Thirteen days from today is the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States, which occurred on September 11, 2001.  Our very own 21st Century "day that shall live in infamy".  Lucky us.  In his masterpiece Downtown:  My Manhattan the great Pete Hamill wrote, "Sentimentality is always about a lie.  Nostalgia is about real things gone.  Nobody truly mourns a lie."   In this space - for the next two weeks - a nostalgic journey shall take place.  Each piece will contain links to more information about the persons mentioned in it than is found here.  It shall also include a piece of music that perhaps no one other than me associates with these events. 

Life is indeed an experience that must be lived forward.  Yet unless we remain ever mindful of from whence we came, we never really know where we are going or how best to get there.  The importance of preservation of important things cannot be overstated.  

Gerard A. Barbara held the rank of Assistant Deputy Chief of the FDNY.  On September 11th he was the Citywide Tour Commander.  He was among the 343 members of the FDNY who died at the World Trade Center.  Chief Barbara was 53 years old.  According to the tribute that the New York Times published, he was walking toward the lobby of the second trade center tower when the building collapsed.   Chief Barbara was survived by his wife Joanne and two children.   His son, Paul, was twenty-three at the time of his dad's death.  Caren Barbara, twenty-five at the time of her dad's death, is the older of the Chief's two children. If you watched the exquisite HBO documentary, "Nine Innings From Ground Zero" then you had the opportunity to become acquainted with Caren.  She was part of the fan caravan that zig-zagged the country with Mayor Giuliani supporting the Yankees in the 2001 World Series against the Diamondbacks.  


Deputy Chief Raymond Downey was a member of the FDNY for thirty-nine years, having joined the Department in April 1962 after serving as a United States Marine.  For ten years prior to his death on September 11, 2001 he served as Deputy Chief of Special Operations Command.  His accomplishments on the job were nothing short of legendary.  His search-and-rescue skills and techniques were so well-respected and in such high demand that he and his team assisted in major operations throughout the United States, including the operation in Oklahoma City following the bombing of the federal building there. 

But Deputy Chief Downey was interested in saving lives even when was was not wearing his turnout gear.  In keeping with that spirit, his family established the Deputy Chief Raymond Downey Scholarship Charity Fund and in the almost eleven years since his death, the Charity Fund has provided financial assistance to the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation, The Marty Lyons Foundation, Inc., Our Lady of Rosary Knights of Columbus, FF Thomas Elsasser Fund, as well as providing scholarships for Deer Park High School Student Athletes.   In addition to being an almost superhuman presence in the FDNY, Ray Downey was a husband of forty years to his wife Rosalie, a father of five children - including two sons (Joseph and Chuck) both of whom followed in his footsteps in the FDNY and seven grandchildren.

Terence Hatton was a Captain in the FDNY - in charge of Rescue Company 1 - when he died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2011.  At the time of his death, he had been on the job for twenty years.  His squad - Rescue Company 1 - was based out of Times Square in the center of Manhattan and was an elite group of roughly two dozen firefighters whose job was to perform rescues and who typically answered as many as ten calls a day.   Hatton was only forty-one years young when he was killed and was survived by his with Beth who worked at City Hall for Mayor Giuliani.  Giuliani eulogized Hatton at his funeral as, "City Hall's resident hero.  He reminded me of Joe DiMaggio:  quiet, self-determined, confident.  He could have been a movie star, but if he had been a movie star, he would have been playing roles like Terry Hatton." 

Terry and Beth Hatton had no children at the time of his death.  Beth learned on September 12, 2001 that she was pregnant with the couple's first child.  On May 15, 2002 Beth Hatton gave birth to a daughter who she named Terri in honor of her husband and the father who Terri never got to meet but who she shall have the chance to get to know if only to a degree.


....what other place would have had so many brave individuals to send into harm's way so that countless others could get out of it?

-AK





Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Almost A Decade's Worth of Road Travelled

Nine years ago today the older of my two children embarked on the collegiate chapter of her Life's adventure.  It was on this very day in 2003 that Suzanne and her seemingly endless amount of stuff made its way from our home to her new home, which was a "just about the same size as a shoebox" dorm room at Seton Hall, which shoebox she shared with a roomie.   I have a very vague recollection of meeting Suz's roommate the day that the girls moved in but if either my life or the girl's depended upon it I could not tell you her name.  I remember that she had blond hair, was from somewhere in Monmouth County and apparently dated one of the kids on SHU baseball team.  I think she/Suz lived together their entire freshman year but - again - I would prefer not to have to wager my continued existence or hers on that fact.

When my parental participation in the great ingress had concluded for the day, I took a ride over to Giants Stadium.  A great old friend of mine - who I had not seen in close to twenty years - flew east from Arizona so that the two of us could take in Springsteen and the E Street Band as they kicked off the final three shows of what had morphed into a ten-night engagement that summer.  The Rising tour was the first tour on which "the Pit" surfaced as a phenomenon at Springsteen shows.  While we had General Admission tickets, neither of us had any notion as to what "the Pit" was or how it worked.  So, we hung out in the parking lot for close to an hour, catching up and drinking a beer or two.  When we finally wandered into the stadium about an hour or so before show time, the usherette responsible for letting people into the GA area looked surprised to see us.  She explained to us that her surprise was at seeing us for the first time that close to show time.  Apparently the other inhabitants of that area had been there for quite some time, elbowing for position closest to the stage. 

The house lights dimmed, the band came out on stage and the couple of hundred other middle-aged suburbanites who were in the GA area with us rushed the stage in a wave of Whitelandia humanity.  We stayed right where we were.  We then proceeded to spend the next almost three hours surrounded by absolutely no one as we sat on the barriers that had been erected around the large camera that was filming the night's proceedings for broadcast on the large video screens that had been put up on either side of the stage.  Our position put us approximately forty to fifty feet away from the Big Man and Nils with an unobstructed view of both of them.  It was an utterly fantastic way to see a show.  Among the songs performed that night was a favorite of mine, "Be True" that first found its way onto a commercially-released recording in the late 80's on the Chimes of Freedom EP. 

I am hopeful that perhaps on Springsteen's return jaunt through the new Giants Stadium (sorry - "MetLife Stadium") on the 21st of next month, my old pal shall join me for another evening under the wide-open Jersey sky taking in Bruce and this iteration of the ESB.  The invitation has been extended.  As of yet, I have not heard from him whether he can make magic out of the chaotic/36 hours crammed into every 24 schedule he calls his day-to-day enough to get east again.  I hope he can.  I would love for him to spend the evening in GA with the Missus, the Sisters Kizis and me.  I would actually consider it a birthday gift - from me to him....nine years late. 

By the 21st of September, it will actually be nine years and twenty-four days late seeing as how his birthday this year - coincidentally - falls on the same date that it did nine years ago:  August 28.  

HB MW.  Hope it is a happy one.  Hope to see you soon to celebrate it in proper fashion.  'Til then I hope this tides you over....


-AK

Monday, August 27, 2012

For All the World Like an Urban Toreador

Saturday afternoon I did something that I had not done in more than six years.  I bought a car.  My beloved sidekick Skate, which served me faithfully for slightly less than 166,000 miles, was retired in favor of a newer model.   Margaret was thrilled - having commented for some time (slightly more than six years in fact) that I needed a "Big Boy" car, which Skate apparently was not coming equipped as he did with power nothing - except for steering (and mirrors).   A car of bones so bare that had Sally Struthers ever learned of his existence she would have filmed a series of infomercials imploring people at home to send him crates of food and nourishment. 
I spent the better part of the past several months doing some informal car shopping on-line.  For a considerable period of time I was leaning a particular direction.  Then I was pulled in another direction altogether.  After some time the process became - as most processes do - fairly tedious.  Friday morning I was at the office enjoying an early-morning cup of coffee when I decided to head off in another, heretofore uncharted direction.  It proved to be the final necessary course correction.
Margaret and I spent a remarkably brief amount of time at the dealership - probably about 75 minutes from start to finish inclusive of the time the two of us spent test-driving the car.  It was actually quite a pleasant experience.  Having perused their web site a day earlier I came to the dealership with a specific purpose:  to look at two vehicles.  No time was spent trying to goad me into looking at something else.  The focus remained where I wanted it to be.  Voila!  We were in and out in sufficient time to allow me to prepare my pork chops, potatoes and veggies for the grill for Saturday night's dinner.  Nothing gets in the way of my grill time.  Nothing. 
As I prepared dinner, Margaret prepared an advertisement for placement on autotrader.com.  We took a small handful of pictures of Skate - who I honored Saturday morning with a car wash AND a vacuuming (an indulgence that cost me an additional $1.25) - and placed our advertisement.  Less than twenty minutes after it went live, I received a phone call from a perspective buyer.  By 7:15 on Saturday night, Skate had been sold.  His new owner picked him up yesterday afternoon.   After his new owner left Saturday night - having taken Skate for a test drive - Margaret took one final photo of me and my ride as we hung out together on the driveway



If my new ride treats me as well as my beloved Skate did for the six-plus years we bopped around New Jersey's highways and byways, then I shall be a happy man indeed.  I hope that Skate's new owner gets good use out of my old friend too....
-AK  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Face of Quiet Desperation

Every year is getting shorter
Never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught
Or half a page of scribbled lines....

We have arrived, as it was inevitable that we would, at August's final Sunday.  There are those who subscribe to the belief that summer is over for all intents and purposes once the last remaining firework has been launched from the barge in the East River.  There is at least one who opines that it is over as a practical matter once the Summer Solstice has been reached.  Me?  I suppose that my innate dislike for the start of the school year, coupled with the joy I derived from countless childhood summer days doing absolutely nothing, has earned me permanent enrollment in the school of thought that September's entrance upon the calendar signals summer's annual death knell.  As we have now reached the point where all that stands between September and us is one remaining five-piece combo of days, that sound that is now audible in the distance - and grows more so daily - is that of the fat lady clearing her throat.

September brings with it not just the beginning of a new school year but also this year - as it has for the past decade - a stark reminder of a terrible day.  We are slightly more than two weeks away from the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  It is a date that is firmly etched in my mind's eye.  I still find myself glancing skyward each and every time I hear a jet fly overhead.  Considering I was inside the Bergen County Court House in Hackensack when the two planes were flown into the Twin Towers - and of course heard no noise from any jets whatsoever - there is no rational explnation for why I do what I do.

I mention that here in the context of a "programming note" for those of you who - presumably as a condition of parole or at the very least a probationary sentence - spend a small piece of your day here every day.  Starting Wednesday for every day thereafter through the 11th of September I shall use this space as I used it at or about this time last year, which is to honor the life and the memory of some of those who were murdered on that terrible day eleven years ago.  It is an exercise that inures probably to the benefit of absolutely no one but me.  In the event that it is not something you want to read, I wanted to give you the information you need to opt out now.  I value your time as I do my own....

....last one out please pull the screen door closed and lock it.   Season's end after all.

-AK



Saturday, August 25, 2012

In the Court of the Latin King

It has been my pleasure and my privilege to call Dave Lackland my friend for most of our lives.  One of my favorite artifacts of a bygone age is a Polaroid picture that my sister Jill took right after 7th grade graduation - a steamy June night in 1980.  Truth be told I remember not a damn thing at all about the weather but since it was June in Jersey I am playing the percentages here.  Dave and I are 40% of the Fab Five in that photo.  He is to the far left of the frame - looking across the rest of the group.  I am the wide as I am short fireplug on the far right, either having just received or getting ready to receive an "atomic elbow" from Mike Koplowitz.  Our quintet suffered a grievious loss just five years later.  Brian Clare, a 20%er all by himself, died in the Summer of '85, which was the summer after we all graduated from high school. 


By the time we made it through high school we had headed off different directions.  Steve Keller (the mysterious 5th member of the group), Mike and I all graduated from W-H together.  Dave and Brian had headed off for greener academic pastures by then.   One of the things I actually enjoy about the manner in which social media has shrunk the world around all of us is that it has enabled me to reconnect with old (sorry "long time") friends such as Dave.  That is most assuredly a good thing.

Mediocre human beings are lucky when they are befriended by truly good human beings.  I have written in this space previously about Dave's efforts to protect and preserve the community of iguanas that calls - as he does - the Florida Keys "home".   He has done more to promote the general welfare of reptiles than I have ever done on behalf of humans.  It delighted me to no end when he created his own place out here on Prince Albert of the Valley's virtual highway to share his adventures with them.  I wish he had more time in which to write.  While the updates are infrequent they are always extraordinary.  

I suspect (although I have not asked because while it is clearly his business it is also clearly none of mine) that Dave's time these days is spent doing something far more important than keeping those of us above the Mason-Dixon Line abreast of life in the Keys.  Today is far from his first birthday but it is the first one on which he has been not simply the Birthday Boy but a Birthday Dad.   Indy arrived in early December last year.  If his presence does not ensure that this year's edition of his daddy's birthday is his best birthday ever, then at the very least it has guaranteed it a spot on the medal podium. 

Shortly after Indy was born last year I sent Dave and his Missus a "Congratulations!" card.  I stuck Jill's three and one half-decade old Polaroid inside of it.  At this late date that picture has already outlived its life expectancy.  But I figured entrusting its continued existence to the one man I know who knows more about preservation than anyone else I know was as sure a bet as I could make.  I hope that it hangs in there long enough for Indy to be able to ask his old man one day, "Which one of these characters is Carl, Dad?"  

Today is your birthday Dave.  Here is to hoping it is a happy one....

....or as my old man might have said to you a lifetime ago in 7th grade Latin class, "Felicem Diem Natalem!"  You have certainly earned it. 

-AK

Friday, August 24, 2012

Free-For-All Friday

Under the best of circumstances I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer of cutlery.  This week it has seemed as if it has taken fifteen days to make it to the fifth.  The little nectarine pit occupying space within the cozy confines of my oversized melon is flat worn out.  Welcome to "Free-For-All Friday".  

If you know me then you know just how little I care about how others spend their free time.  Great thing about America - you do not need my permission to do....well anything now that I think about it.  You are free to do what you want.  As am I. 

Right now, what I want to do is point out to you that if you are going to be in the New Brunswick, New Jersey area on Labor Day weekend, then you might want to spend a bit of your Sunday morning getting some exercise, having a hell of a lot of fun and helping raise money for a great cause.  Erin D'heron Varga is the daughter of the late, great Jimmy D'heron, Deputy Chief in the New Brunswick Fire Department who died in the line of duty on September 3, 2004.  She organized the Jimmy D Memorial 5K in her dad's honor and September 2, 2012 shall be the 8th edition of it.  It has been my great pleasure and privilege to participate in the past two editions and I shall be among the runners toeing the starting line a week from Sunday as well.  The 5K is one of the signature events of the James D'heron Memorial Foundation, Inc., which raises money for burn survivors.  It is a great event and if you register for it today (click here) - you beat the registration fee increase that goes into effect tomorrow! 

Bridget Mary McCormack is a lawyer who by virtue of the manner in which she goes about her day-to-day makes something look very easy that is in fact exceedingly difficult.  She gives lawyers and the practice of law a good name.  As someone who has earned his daily bread for close to twenty years in the practice of law and is surrounded by lawyers every day, I have a keen appreciation for an attorney whose mere being elevates the rest of us.  Bridget is such a lawyer. 

Michigan is a state that elects Justices to its state Supreme Court. I am a registered Republican.  Bridget is running for election to the Michigan Supreme Court as a Democrat.  I care not at all about her party affiliation.  All that matters is that a serious, earnest, brilliant woman whose record of seeking justice for all in the criminal justice system speaks for itself is seeking a seat on the Michigan Supreme Court so that she can bring that reputation for evenhandedness and thoroughness to a place that always needs more of both:  the judiciary. 

I do not know a single thing about any of the other people seeking election to the Michigan Supreme Court.  That being said, it is inconceivable to me that any of them is a better candidate than Bridget.  If the people of Michigan do not need a state Supreme Court Justice like Bridget McCormack then they best prepare for the great ingress because those of us not fortunate enough to live in America's version of Shangri-La will soon be teeming across state lines (and in the case of those pesky Canadians overwhelming border crossings).   As Andrew Jackson once observed, "All the rights secured to the citizens under the Constitution are worth nothing, and a mere bubble, except guaranteed to them by an independent and virtuous Judiciary."  Words to live by this November in Michigan....and everywhere else for that matter.


August has not been a banner month for the Yankees on the diamond (Note to Joe G and his troops:  that object in the rear-view mirror in in fact just as damn close as it appears to be) or for former Yankees off of it.  A week after Melky Cabrera was suspended for fifty games for violating Major League Baseball's policy regarding the use of PEDs (performance enhancing drugs), Bartolo Colon met with a similar fate.  Candidly the first question that popped into my mind - given Colon's "physique" was "When did Mrs. Butterworth's syrup earn status as a Performance Enhancer?" 

There are scant few places in the State of Concrete Gardens that I loathe to the degree of loathing that I feel for Great Adventure.  That being said, from my limited perspective the only worthy part of the joint on a day in, day out basis is the Safari.  I remember the Missus, Suzanne, Rob and I driving through their one time when my kids were in fact kids and interacting with the animals.  For good measure we also reported to the Ranger some ass hat who gave a rather large ape (where the hell is my brother Kelly when I need him to identify what type it was exactly) a bottle of Mountain Dew to drink.  In the guy's defense, his wife had apparently just finished off the last of the twelve-pack of Jolt Cola that he had brought to share with the animals so Mountain Dew was all that he had. 

Earlier this week the people who run Great Adventure announced that when this season ends at the Jackson attraction (I probably should have typed "the" in all capitals) it shall mark the end of an era.  Beginning in 2013, motorists shall no longer be permitted to drive in their personal vehicles through the safari.   Apparently when the Wild Safari (on the short list for the most redundant two-word names ever) opens for the 2013 season, it shall take on a new mission - in addition to educating New Jersey residents as to animals we might not otherwise encounter.  It shall help in the battle against obesity. 

As of 2013, the Wild Safari is going to become a "Pedestrian Only" attraction.  No cars allowed.  Just you and your kicks as you take a walking/running tour of the animal kingdom.  To help ensure that they stay just on this side of the State's prohibition of assisting in the suicide of another, no admission fee shall be charged.  Patrons will instead pay an "Exit Fee", which is only required to be paid once one reaches the safety of the Safari's far side.  I suppose - from the perspective of the big cats at least - Six Flags Great Adventure has put the concept of a "free lunch" front and center. 

Might I offer this unsolicited advice to anyone intending to visit the Safari in 2013?  Invite Bartolo Colon to come with you. 

-AK



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Intolerable Stupidity

Generally speaking, happiness is NEVER a day for me on which I awaken to learn that I am on the same side of an issue as the purveyor of tele-evangelical fraud Pat Robertson.  I am a confirmed agnostic and while I find the regular person's belief in some sort of amorphous higher power very difficult to comprehend, I find the coterie of charlatans such as Messr. Robertson and his fellow flock-fleecers Messrs. Falwell, Bakker, Roberts and Swaggart to be almost beyond contempt.  An utterly reprehensible assemblage of human beings preying upon the good-natured beliefs of others.  Whether P.T. Barnum would nod his head in appreciation or shake his head in disgust at the way in which they have raised the practice of sucker-making to an art form I know not. 

That being said, I find myself squarely on the same side of the argument as Robertson's group, the American Center for Law and Justice (the "ACLJ").  The ACLJ is a law firm that principally defends the propriety of the placement of religious symbols in displays on public property (think creche on the lawn of the local courthouse).  Earlier this week the ACLJ joined the fight against the American Atheists in the latter's lawsuit against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation, which the Atheists filed in August, 2011.  The stated aim of the suit is to prevent the Museum from including among its works the "cross" that was found at Ground Zero's wreckage after the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, 2011.  The Foundation plans to include the 17-foot cross among more than 1,000 objects, including fire trucks, an ambulance and the 37-foot "Last Column," left standing on the site of the former World Trade Center.

I put the word "cross" in quotes in the preceding paragraph by deliberate design.  The allegedly objectionable artifact is iconic because it is not - and was never - itself the result of deliberate design.   It was formed by two steel crossbeams whose very existence was revealed to the world only because everything else around them was destroyed.  With the building that housed them utterly demolished, their presence became a symbol to me not of God's presence in a place seemingly devoid of any such thing but rather of the unbowed, unbroken spirit of all Americans.  Together, they offered a ray of hope on our darkest day.   


We are less than one month away from the eleventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks.  I appreciate the fact that more than a decade removed from that day, its echo resonates with varying levels of intensity and clarity for many of us.  As someone who is honored to participate this September as I have in the previous two Septembers in the Tunnel to Towers Run through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and into Lower Manhattan, its echo resonates very strongly with me still. 

In their lawsuit, the Atheists claim that the inclusion of the cross in the National 9/11 Museum, "amounts to an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. It also asserts the presence of the cross would result in injury — emotional and even physical in the case of extreme anxiety — to atheists left feeling excluded from what should be a place of unity and healing."   Permit me the indulgence of employing legalese here in reply to this claim:  Bullshit.  Complete, utter and reprehensible bullshit.

In his on-line column for the Ledger's web site on Tuesday, Mark Di Ionno (of whom I am a tremendous fan) said it far more eloquently

"The Cross at Ground Zero" came down from Tower One, and stood above the rest on a higher hill of twisted steel and concrete slab. When fires subsided, and dust and ashes settled, it emerged as a beacon of hope — a sacred symbol of, at once, survival and remembrance....

....The U.S. Constitution says "Congress will make no religion." It doesn't say religion has no place in society. If there was ever a time faith was needed in this nation, the aftermath of 9/11 was the time. One more thing: religious freedom is the enlightened concept that separates America from its attackers. The cross was a symbol of that, too.

I began today finding myself in agreement with Pat Robertson.  I end today, having read Di Ionno's words again, finding myself mouthing the word "Amen".

One hell of a tough day to be an agnostic.     

-AK  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Land of the Big Problem

The item in the sports page over the weekend caught my eye only because the Astros are (for present purposes anyway) Ryan and Suz's hometown team.   Houston became the first team this season to fire its manager when it bid farewell to Brad Mills on Saturday.  In fairness to Mills, his GM spent the better part of the summer jettisoning all of his actual Major League players.  They shed so many big leaguers in Houston that as of Sunday the average age of the players on the big-league team is almost a year younger than the average age of the players on the club's Triple A affiliate. 

And by the way, for all of your smart New Englanders who had Bobby V in the "Managerial Dead Pool" I hope you are happy now.   Serves you right for siding against the smartest guy in the room - any room - on the subject of baseball.  Find that impossible to believe?  Just ask him.  He will tell you exactly the same thing.

I know not whether Ryan and Suz have gone to any 'Stros games this season.  Candidly, in view of how awful they are and how terrific an offensive player Suz was during her years playing fast-pitch softball, the big league team could probably use her in left field more than they could use her in stands.  I used to delight in taking her to the "fast-pitch" batting cage where the ball came at the hitter at speeds upwards of 70+ miles per hour to watch her rake line drive after line drive from the right-handed batters box, which is her natural side of the plate.  After taking a short break to grab a drink of water or some such thing, she would step into the left-handed box and then proceed to rake a seemingly endless barrage of line shots from that side as well.  Typically she would start the session in splendid anonymity.  By the time she was finished, any number of admiring eyes were upon her.  Me?  I cannot hit a ball from here to the end of this sentence.  I know not from whence she got that stroke but it was sure fun to watch her hit.   If Houston's GM happens to read this, I would hope that he takes my advice and invites her to a tryout.  What the hell does he have to lose?  After their loss on Sunday the Astros were 39-83.  You read that correctly.  They had only 39 wins AND were 44 games under .500.  It is no small accomplishment to pull off that daily double. 

In addition to firing Mills, the Astros also fired their hitting coach and their first base coach.  I wondered - since the first base coach got the old heave-ho - how the third base coach had been spared a similar fate.  However while I was trolling around the Internet on Sunday I learned that the Astros actually got rid of their third-base coach about a month ago.  They crunched the numbers and realized that given the relatively small percentage of the time that any of their players actually made it to second base - let alone third base - the cost of paying a live human being to man the post far outweighed any benefit the club received from his presence there. 

While I have not seen any video of it, according to something I read on-line, the club replaced the coach with a far more cost-effective alternative....

  

....thus far any drop off vis-a-vis the former 3rd base coach and the present one has, according to Astros management, been negligible.

-AK

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Man for All Seasons

It does not seem possible that this weekend is already August's final weekend.   August clearly had the right idea this year - wrapping up its stay on a Friday.  End of week.  End of month.  Good plan.

Sunday morning was a simply beautiful morning to run.  It was hot - but not overly so - and almost utterly devoid of humidity.  It was the type of August morning that reminds you that Autumn is indeed just around the corner. 

And among the songs that looped its way through my iPod as I ran through town on Sunday morning was "Boys of Summer".   For reasons that might not be clear to anyone but me, the version I have on my iPod is not Don Henley's classic, which I love.  It is a cover version of Henley's tune courtesy of The Hooters.  I think somewhere in my subconscious mind is the fact that The Hooters had their fifteen minutes of fame and fortune way back when I was in high school.  They were - if memory serves me correctly - my friend Mike Koplowitz's favorite band for at least most of our senior year in high school.  

High school was for me a fairly benign experience.  Generally speaking, it was a pretty enjoyable four years.  While I have no desire to relive it, which is why I think I have already attended my lifetime's allotment of reunions, revisiting it for four minutes or so while I run is most assuredly an enjoyable experience. 

"Brown skin shining in the sun."   A visual image designed to bring a smile to my face.   Even after summer's boys have packed away their Wayfarers for another year....

....which is something that this man for all seasons never does.   

-AK

Monday, August 20, 2012

Quieting the Riot

One of the hallmarks of every Presidential campaign in these United States - at least for as long as I can remember in my lifetime - is the ceaseless volley of inane personal attacks that the candidates and their trained lackeys shall hurl at one another.  One guy is a Kenyan.  The other guy is a tax cheat.  This guy is un-American.  Oh yeah, well so is the other guy!  Why do they spend so much time and money hurling mud at one another and devote so much effing energy ensuring sound and not substance dominates the campaign?  Because they know their audience. 

We the people of these United States prefer Jersey Shore to Face the Nation and the National Enquirer to the Washington Post.   Our national A.D.D. prohibits us - as a collective - from engaging in depth on pretty much any aspect of any issue.  Oh sure, we cry and bitch about the negative tenor of the campaign and wonder aloud why the candidates spend their advertising money calling one another names as opposed to discussing their plan for fixing the clusterf*ck in which we presently find ourselves.  Yet we respond to the nonsense.  We lap it up in fact.  As long as it continues to make the needle move, we will continue to be fed a steady diet of it.  You know what you call a candidate for the Presidency of the United States who runs an issue-driven, attack-ad-lacking campaign?  Jon Huntsman

My least favorite mouth-breeding, hate-spewing device (employed with equal fervor by both sides of the great Red v. Blue Divide) is the manner in which the side opposing a particular President dares to equate the duly elected Commander-in-Chief of the United States to Hitler or Stalin, two of the most evil humans of not just the 20th Century but of any century in recorded history.  When President Bush 43 was in the White House, he was targeted by those in Blue.  President Obama has been similarly stained by those in Red during his term. 

As Ray Davies pointed out long ago we are a society that tends to think visual.  Perhaps that is the easiest way to explain the bottomless depths of the ignorance one reveals when one dares to make such a comparison is to employ a Davies-approved device - a visual aid.  Just about six months ago, on February 21, 2012, the members of an all-female Russian punk band named Pussy Riot broke into the Christ the Saviour cathedral in Moscow for the stated purpose of performing a "punk prayer" from the altar.  The "performance" was captured on video.   The three musicians were arrested.  They were charged with "hooliganism". 

This past Friday the three young women - who had been held in custody since their arrests on February 21st - were found guilty by a Moscow judge, Judge Marina Syrova, of "hooliganism driven by religious hatred".  They were sentenced to two years in prison.   According to the Washington Post, the trial bore little resemblance to one that we the people of these United States might expect to watch on Nancy Grace TV.  The three women were locked inside of a glass cage throughout the trial.  Their efforts to call witnesses on their own behalf were repeatedly thwarted by the judge as well.  When a defense lawyer complained that, "I have no rights in this court", Judge Syrova reportedly replied, "Indeed.  All you have are obligations."   During the trial the three defendants apologized to the court for their actions and noted that they were not expressing religious hatred but rather a political point.  Huge surprise to you I am sure just how well that defense worked. 

We are less than 100 days to the Presidential election.  While I reasonably anticipate that this request will fall on deaf ears, I propose an idea to "smarten up" our own participation in the campaign.  I care not for whom you vote (your vote, your choice) but regardless of whether you shall vote for Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney, make the promise to do the following.  Whenever you hear anyone (whether on your side or on the other) start spouting off about something inane or something offensive ("Your guy is like Stalin" for example) look them squarely in the face and say, "Pussy Riot you Ass Hat!  Pussy Riot!" If he or she does not know the reference, invite your listener to Google it. 

If you want to know what life looks like in a place where one does not have the right to express one's displeasure with the government without being imprisoned for two years (imagine what the sentence might have been had they actually damaged a single thing inside the cathedral), then spend some quality time with Pussy Riot.  If you cannot appreciate the difference between what it means to live there and what it means to live here and how our President - regardless of who it is - bears absolutely no resemblance at all to Stalin's linear successor Mr. Putin then do all of us a favor.  On Election Day, stay the hell home.

And one more thing.  Between this day and Election Day, shut the f*ck up.  Noise and sound are not interchangeable concepts.  If you do not believe me, give Pussy Riot a listen. 

-AK

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lead Zeppoles

It took us almost the entire summer to get there.  Last night - finally - after a couple of false starts the Missus and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Boardwalk in Point Pleasant - accompanied by our perennial partner in Boardwalk frivolity Gidg.  Proof once again that when you are a simple-minded rube you derive pleasure from things as simple as a cheesesteak sandwich, a zeppole (or ten), a spin on the Tilt-A-Whirl and some quality time in the Frog Bog.  And once again proof of the fact that when you are the long-suffering wife of the aforementioned simple-minded rube, as long as the calculation you do in your own head tips the scales in favor of enduring this excursion, you permit Sammy Simpleton his moment and hope that he does not blow through all of the money in his wallet in an attempt to win a stuffed animal worth $1.87. 

We had had a couple of false starts this summer regarding our great adventure.  The first couple of times we intended to do it, Mother Nature and life's circumstances rained all over our people-watching parade.  Last night though the weather cooperated.  There are scant few places I have ever been in my life that are a better social science laboratory for people-watching than a Jersey Shore Boardwalk.  Admittedly Point Pleasant is a place where one is more likely to encounter a Soccer Mom than Snooki - at least in comparison to Seaside - but the pickings are still very, very lush.  Just when you think you have seen "it" all - whatever it might be - something else pops up that leaves an indelible imprint upon your mind's eye. 

Once upon a time I spent very little time at the Shore.  Ever since I started running in road races my time within the cozy confines of Monmouth County and Ocean County has increased substantially.  However regardless of how much time I spend running through and over the streets of Spring Lake, Lake Como, Belmar, Sea Girt or Asbury Park during summer's lazy, hazy days I limit myself to just one Saturday night trip "to the Boards".  As Mr. Townshend once observed, "More than one would be a waste."

A little was indeed enough.  More than enough to tide me over 'til this time next year.

It will take me that long to run off the cheesesteak and the zeppoles.  And it will give the Missus an entire year to reign as the Queen of the Boardwalk....


-AK


Saturday, August 18, 2012

You Say You Want An Evolution?

When you have an "office" job and you start your work day - six days a week - at 4:30 a.m. people tend to get the wrong idea about you.  A mythology is created - an urban legend if you will - regarding you and your alleged idiosyncracies and foibles.  

I am the person described in the opening paragraph.  My work day starts hours before sunrise not because my employer requires it but because I demand it.  There is always too much to do and too little time in which to accomplish it.  I do not require any person who reports to me - either directly or indirectly - to adopt a similar work schedule.  Candidly I am significantly less impressed by the hours I keep than many of my colleagues seem to be.  I enjoy early morning much in the same way others enjoy - and excel at working late into - the evening.  I consider what I do to be more of a parlor trick than anything else.  As the Poet Laureate of Freehold once observed, "You get used to anything.  Sooner or later it just becomes your life."

Tied closely into the absurd exaggerations others tell about my work ethic based upon the hours I keep is the correlated fable about my inability to relax and/or to enjoy myself.  I suspect that this misconception finds it origin in the rather limited amount of vacation time I use.  There have in fact been years on which I have taken zero days off.  Why?  There was no need to take one.  Since no need existed, manufacturing one for the sense of taking a day seemed a bit inane.  Thus the legend grew - "He starts his day before dawn!  He takes no time off ever!" - as if the people in the community surrounding the office were going to be advised to lock up their children and small animals out of concern for their safety in my presence. 

I look forward eagerly to the reaction that I shall get when those who need to know at the Firm shall be informed that between now and the middle of February the Missus and I shall have our travelin' pants pressed and ready to wear.  This fall we are heading first to Texas to see Suz and Ryan and then - the following month - to Colorado to visit Jess and Rob (and Tillie) in their new digs.  In February Margaret has arranged for me to have a gift for my 46th birthday I have not enjoyed on any of the first 45:  Warmth.  We shall be in Florida on my birthday.  The prospect of running outside every day wearing shorts and a sleeveless shirt - IN FEBRUARY - already has me smiling ear-to-ear.   

Evolution, Baby, Evolution.  Embrace the change.

-AK

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Thinness of Lines

The end of another week is upon us....well not so much for those of us who work one or both days of the weekend.  We tend to be a bit less effusive in giving thanks for Friday's appearance on the calendar.  We are happy to see it - to be sure - but not giddy about it. 

I think that this season I would be giddy if I was a fan of the Seattle Mariners.  Not because of their performance on the field - where more often than not they are nothing short of dreadful.  However if I am a Mariners fan and I attend their home games at Safeco Field then I have had the chance to witness not one but two perfect games this season.  Philip Humber of the White Sox threw one against the M's way back when in the season's first half and on Wednesday afternoon the King, Felix Hernandez, delighted the home folks by throwing the franchise's first-ever El Perfecto.  Hernandez beat the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 and in route to his perfect game struck out twelve....including five of the final six he faced.  I did not bother to look it up but I think that in the history of Major League Baseball a total of perhaps two dozen perfect games have ever been pitched.  Two of the three thrown this season have occurred in the same ballpark.  I know not whether such a thing has ever happened before.  Hopefully my friend and baseball guru Schiff will pop by this space today, read at least this far, do the requisite research and share the results of his search with his unenlightened friend (and anyone else similarly situated).   No pressure Schiff....

Hernandez is one of my favorite non-Yankees.  I enjoy watching him pitch because in spite of the fact that predicting just how woeful the M's shall be annually has become as easy as finding a coffee stand or predicting a rain shower in Seattle he never doe anything but his level best.  He is a professional in the truest sense of the word.  Pitching for the M's is his job.  He takes it seriously.  Every fifth day, regardless of where they are in the standings, he toes the rubber and performs at the highest possible level.  This year, the M's started playing out the Spring at some point between Memorial Day and Father's Day.  Matters not at all to King Felix. 

Wednesday was not as good a day for another of my favorite non-Yankees.  Melky Cabrera had a star-crossed couple of seasons in the Bronx - having first been inartfully foisted upon Joe Torre and a veteran club as the "de facto" replacement for Bernie Williams....while Bernie was still on the club.  Cabrera's career as a Yankee began dreadfully but by the time they put together their most recent World Series-winning season in 2009, the Melkman had become a dependable fourth outfielder.  They traded him after that season to Atlanta because one tour of duty in pinstripes for Javy Vasquez apparently was not enough.  Cabrera scuffled around the past couple of years before ending up in San Francisco this season.  Just about five weeks ago, he was the the All-Star Game MVP.  Now, his season is over courtesy of a fifty-game suspension for violating the MLB drug policy. 

A great man once observed that, "Down here there's just winners and losers and you don't want to get caught on the wrong side of that line."  Same holds true on the baseball diamond.  It too is a place defined by lines.  How you perform within them and what you do to make sure you do not step outside of them makes all the difference.  Do note feel compelled to take my word for it.  Ask Felix Hernandez.

Better yet, ask Melky Cabrera.  He has an unexpected surplus of time on his hands these days.  I am sure he is available to talk. 

-AK

Thursday, August 16, 2012

School Dazed

Then when August started to disappear
We wondered what the future held in store....

The Missus and I were in the Target store in Bridgewater on Sunday afternoon shopping for what I have absolutely no recollection whatsoever.  The store was awash in youngsters - a lot of whom were accompanied by their mothers but some of whom were either flying solo or with one of more friends of apparently the same age - gearing up to head on off to college.  I was blown away by some of the "stuff" they were buying, in terms of furniture, electronic equipment and small appliances.  My brain flashed back to my freshman year at CU.  I arrived in Boulder with one suitcase of clothing.  Jill/Joe drove cross-country to start what was their third year and carried with them - for me - a footlocker in which the remainder of my clothes made the great migration West. I had no "personal belongings" to bring.  No furniture.  No small appliances.  Most assuredly, no electronic equipment.  

It seems to me that it was not simply a lifetime ago that I matriculated off to CU, which it certainly was, but that it was a lifetime ago that Suzanne and Rob made their respective treks as well.  Amazing to me the speed with which time moves.  And once it is gone, it is gone forever.  You hope that you break even in the never-ending trade of moment for memory.  Even is the best you can hope for - or at least it seems that way to me.  An eyeblink ago the older of my two was packing up to move into her freshman dorm at Seton Hall followed twelve months later by her brother's Manhattan invasion.  This autumn Margaret and I are making plans to visit each of them in their homes, both of which are roughly three-quarters of a continent away from our own.  

Today is the first day of the second half of summer's final month.  As a kid I dreaded the latter half of August.  Summer was already over.  Once you could measure summer vacation in days instead of weeks or months, you were engaging in nothing other than self-delusion.  I never quite understood the enthusiasm some of my classmates had for the first day of school.  I suppose if it had been both the first AND LAST day then I would have enjoyed it substantially more.  Or perhaps even the first in a series of two or three might not have been too awful.  But the fact that it was the first one behind which close to one hundred and sixty-plus reinforcements stood ready to follow it told me all I needed to know about its sinister intentions. 

Yet while I dreaded the first day of school in early September, August's second half was not without its charms when I was in high school.  Summer two-a-day practices started for soccer at some point in mid-August.  In addition to those of us roasting for eight hours a day on the soccer field, the football team and the girl's field hockey team were also on campus every day preparing for the season.  It was as if you got to spend all day hanging out and playing sports with your friends without having to worry at all about the "class" part of school.   It was a glimpse at what life must be like for Division I athletes at an institution of higher learning such as Florida State.  All play and no work made Adam a damn happy boy.

If memory serves me correctly, our soccer two-a-days featured an extraordinary amount of running, so much so that Coach Freeman used to give us either ninety minutes or two hours off between the morning's practice and the afternoon session, during which we scrimmaged daily.  While I have not had occasion to travel up Inman Avenue in that direction in too many years to count, once upon a lifetime ago I used to make a regular pilgrimage in the direction of "The Deli Station".   We used to walk there at lunch to grab subs, sodas and whatever the hell we were going to ingest for lunch.  I am certain that at least on occasion other people made the trek with us but I tend to remember Cesar, Jerry Cas, Schiff and I as being the Station's most faithful customers.   Other than a daily bout of indigestion, our loyalty brought with it scant little reward. 

I was no better at freezing time then than I am now.  The more things change, the more things stay the same I suppose.  It turns out that there really is nothing at all dastardly about these final two weeks of August.  They are simply doing what they are supposed to do, performing the task to which they have been assigned.  They cannot thwart September's entry onto the stage any more competently than can I.  So why bother to try?

I think I will just order myself an Italian sub with extra oil and vinegar and await its arrival. 

-AK

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Good Vibez

In case you needed a reason to root for nice weather Saturday evening here in the State of Concrete Gardens, some good folks in the terrific little town of Westfield are happy to provide. 

About one month ago a young woman named Allison Lowenstein, twenty-one years young and a graduate of Westfield High School, was running in Harriman State Park when she was struck by a motorist who fled the scene of the accident.  The accident left young Ms. Lowenstein, known as "Alli" to her friends, in critical condition.  As of this date, the New York State Police are continuing to investigate the accident.  However, they have not yet been able to apprehend the coward.  

[I am constrained at this juncture to point out that Alli attends Oberlin College in Ohio, which is the current home and future Alma mater of my niece Simone, where she (Alli - not Simone) is a member of the cross-country team.  I know not whether the two Yeowomen know one another.] 

Saturday evening in Tamaques Park friends of Alli are having a fun run in her honor.  The "Run for Alli" is scheduled to last from 4:00 o'clock to 7 o'clock.   Significantly more - and substantially better information than that contained in this space - is found here on the Facebook page the folks organizing the event created.  

If you needed a reason to root for sunshine this Saturday evening, now you have it. 


Go Yeomen....and Yeowomen!   Saturday evening her friends will gather to send "good vibeZ to Alli".  Somewhere Brian Wilson smiles....

....and sunshine reigns.  

-AK

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Crystal Clarity

As a rule, I eschew discussing politics here.  I do that principally for two reasons. 

First, because I subscribe to the "old school" of thought, which is that a person's politics is his or her business.  America has become infatuated with the affixing of labels.  Unfortunately for those of us of the human persuasion, once a label is attached to us it is damn sight harder to remove than one that we might have slapped onto a cardboard box or a moving crate.  

Second, because one of two chiefs atop the Firm's food chain is one of the leaders here in the State of Concrete Gardens of the State Democrats.  Since he has voiced little interest over what has appeared here over the course of the past four-plus years, I figure that the least I can do is do as little as possible to complicate the "adult swim" portion of his life courtesy of the things I might write here.  Plus, I have grown mighty fond of being able to pay the mortgage and buy food.  No sense in chomping down hard on the feeding hand; right?

This past weekend the dance card for this November's Presidential election was filled out.  Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was selected by the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney to be the GOP's nominee for the office of Vice-President of the United States.  Selfishly, I am thrilled that Romney selected someone other than Governor Christie to be his running mate.  I happen to be a big fan of our Governor and intend to vote for him again in 2013 should he stand for re-election.  I would have been less than thrilled had he abdicated his office before the end of the term to which we the people of New Jersey (or at least a majority of the ones who bothered to show up and vote) elected him in 2009. 

I suspect that Governor Christie is not unhappy that he ended up not being the #1 choice for the #2 spot on the ticket for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that no one really wants to be #2....especially if the ticket on which one is the wing man loses the election.  Methinks that the Governor and other similarly-ambitious members of the GOP are thinking already of 2016 and presuming an election cycle in which there is no incumbent in the White House - with President Obama being mandated by our Constitution to retire from the office at the end of his second term - and in which the two-term incumbent Vice-President is not likely to be his party's choice to ascend to the top of the ticket. 

We the people of the United States have - for the first time in quite some time - been handed the opportunity to make a decision about the highest elected office in this nation based not upon nonsense, blather and faux issues.  Rather, we have before us in November an election between two men (and their sidekicks) who have two distinctly different visions of the present and the future of these United States.  Whichever vision holds more appeal to you is your business - not mine.  I respect that fact and expect you to do likewise.  My request is a more plain, more simple one:  Do not squander this opportunity.  Learn all that you can about both tickets and both visions, whether you are leaning one direction or the other. 

Ours is a tremendous responsibility.  We the people of this Republic are in fact the keepers of its promise.  Let us not shrink from it.

-AK