Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Footsteps We Follow

To run is to live, everything else is just waiting.

- Mark Hanson

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 a New York City Firefighter whose passion was golf opted to do something that he did not typically do on a Tuesday morning.  He went for a run.   

He went for that particular run not because it was an easy thing to do.  He went for that run not because it was a prudent thing to do.  He went for that run because he, just like all of the men and women of the FDNY, NYPD and PAPD who wear the uniforms and carry the markings of their respective departments, was compelled to put the safety, the needs and the lives of all others above his own.  He went for that run because when you are programmed to do the right thing even in the face of danger, you do not stop to question the peril into which you are placing yourself.  You do that which needs to be done.

On that Tuesday morning eleven September 11ths ago, Steven Siller went for a run that took him from Brooklyn, through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and into Lower Manhattan.  He went for that run in spite of undoubtedly knowing that what awaited at the far end of that tunnel was not light but danger and, quite possibly, death.  That morning Steven Siller joined 342 of his brothers from the FDNY, 37 members of the PAPD and the 23 members of the NYPD who died at the World Trade Center saving the lives of countless thousands of people. 

Today is the Tunnel to Towers Run.  This morning it is my profound privilege and pleasure to be among the thousands of runners (and walkers) who shall line up on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and run the route that Steven Siller ran that Tuesday morning eleven years ago. 

On that terrible day, FF Siller died as did ten other members of his firehouse - Squad 1 in Brooklyn.  This morning, when we emerge from the Tunnel what shall greet us shall not be the images of chaos and despair that he undoubtedly saw that morning but, rather, images of strength and resolve.  Those qualities are embodied in the members of the FDNY - including those who were not yet on the job eleven years ago - who stand in dress uniform holding up the memorial photographs of the 343 who died that day.  Those qualities are embodied in the construction that is ongoing in Lower Manhattan including of course the building of the "new" World Trade Center, which continues to move closer and closer to completion with each passing September. 

Most of all, those qualities are embodied in the families of those who died that day and who participate in this event as a way of honoring a loved one lost and in trading that tragedy in for triumph, including of course the Siller Family and the Tunnel to Towers Foundation that they created.   

Eleven years ago on a Tuesday morning whose mark shall be left indelibly on the annals of recorded history, Steven Siller went for a run because it was the right thing to do.  This morning, thousands of people - most of whom never knew him and who he never knew - shall honor him and all of those lost that day by doing the very same thing.  And even though we are eleven years now further on up the road, his steps are easy to re-trace....

....all one has to do is follow his footsteps. 


-AK
   

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Plumbing New Depths

For those at home who believe - even for a moment - that "evil" always comes in readily identifiable, easy to evaluate packages (quick test - ask yourself this question, "What does evil look like?" and see whether this image or this oneeven this one or even this one leaps to the forefront of your mind's eye) spend a few minutes please and read the story of a particularly despicable piece of human deritus named Lori E. Stilley.   And lucky us fellow residents of the State of Concrete Gardens.  She is one of ours. 

What appears below is the Press Release that the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office issued on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 regarding Ms. Stilley.  The title affixed to the Release is theirs - not mine. 


DELRAN WOMAN ARRESTED FOR PHONY CANCER FUNDRAISING SCHEME

MOUNT HOLLY, N.J.
Burlington County Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi and Delran Police Chief Alfonso A. Parente, Jr. announced that a Delran woman was arrested today for soliciting and accepting charitable contributions while falsely claiming to be undergoing treatment for cancer.

Lori E. Stilley, age 40, of 42 Suburban Boulevard in Delran, was charged with Theft by Deception (Third Degree). She surrendered this morning with counsel at the Delran Police Department and was released after posting $25,000 bail.

The investigation revealed that in February 2011 Stilley told those close to her that she had been diagnosed with Stage III bladder cancer and would be undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatment. Stilley also posted this information on Facebook and her personal website. In April 2011, Stilley indicated the bladder cancer had become Stage IV.

She told relatives and friends that she did not have healthcare insurance, and several initiatives began to raise money for her treatment and medical expenses. The investigation revealed that Stilley had never been treated for or even diagnosed with cancer.

Relatives and friends organized a t-shirt sale and held a fundraising banquet in July 2011 that raised more than $8,400. Another fundraiser and cash raffle in the summer of 2011 raised an additional $1,000.

In addition, Stilley authored an e-book that discussed her daily struggle to cope with cancer. It was posted for sale in October 2011 on Stilley’s personal website at a cost of $14.99 and generated more than $3,000 in proceeds.

When Stilley indicated she wanted to marry her boyfriend before she died, her friends and family planned the wedding and the marriage took place nine days later. Friends and family members negotiated the cost of the wedding hall down to $500 and covered the cost themselves.

Stilley also received donations of gift cards totaling more than $1,600.

The gifts Stilley received were not just financial. A friend created a meal calendar that was posted on Stilley’s website that enabled people to prepare and deliver meals for Stilley. Dates were scheduled months in advance by people who committed to make and drop off dinners.

In November 2011, as Stilley was preparing to receive what supporters thought was necessary hospice care, she posted a message on her Facebook page that indicated she was feeling better and believed that a miracle was coming. As a result, she postponed the hospice care. It was at that point that her supporters became suspicious.

"Cancer causes so much pain and hardship for those who are suffering through it, as well as for family members and friends," Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi said. "For this defendant to represent that she was dying from this terrible disease for the sake of personal gain and sympathy goes way beyond simply being a criminal offense; it was extremely cruel to those who were concerned and worked hard to lend assistance."

The case will be presented to a Burlington County Grand Jury for indictment. The investigation was conducted by detectives from the Delran Township Police Department and the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office Financial Crimes Unit.

All persons are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law


As one who is a self-avowed agnostic I put little stock in the concepts of Heaven, Hell and eternal life.  That being said, I take comfort from the fact that if the allegations against her are proven - as one who shall be required to slather on the SPF 7500 if there is in fact an afterlife - this conniving piece of shit will be right there with me. 

Lori, just an FYI from me to you.  Contrary to what you might be told at the front gate,  down below it is all inferno

-AK

Friday, September 28, 2012

Of Heart & Hearth

How are you making out on those New Year's Resolutions?  I ask because by the time the next regularly-scheduled work week rolls around we will have officially reached the final quarter of 2012.  Is there anything you resolved to do way back when this year was just a baby that you are still doing now that 2012 is old and gray.  Oh wait.  I caught my own reflection in the mirror just now.  Apologies to 2012.  It is not gray.  That is me.  Damn. 

The frenzy of activity 'tween our four walls these past couple of weeks has been principally focused on the nuptial-related doings emanating from the great (they did give us Lyle Lovett so that counts for something) state of Texas.  Kind of, sort of lost in the background is the fact that the Colorado branch of the family bramble bush has been doing some serious "stuff" too.  If things go according to Hoyle - a fellow who has made maddeningly infrequent appearances in my life thus far - Rob and Jess will close on their new home today. 

Happiness is having a place to go visit where someone else does all the cooking for Thanksgiving....says the lazy slug who has never prepared one part of one Thanksgiving dinner even one time in the past forty-five years.  This year that someplace else is Colorado.  To date we have been treated to nothing but photographic images of their new home on the (Front) Range.  If it has fifty percent of the curb appeal live and in person that is captured in its digital imagery, then it will be something marvelous to behold.  

Truth be told, as long as it delivers to them the happiness it promises; as long as they continue to work hard to take care of one another; and as long as they always place each other's interests, fears, hopes and dreams on equal footing with their own it shall forever be a home.  And it shall never be merely a house.  

 Bless the four corners of this house and be the lintel blessed, and bless the hearth, and bless the board, and bless each place of rest... And bless the door that opens wide to stranger as to kin, and bless each crystal windowpane that lets the starlight in... And bless the roof-tree overhead, and every sturdy wall - The peace of man, the peace of God, the peace of love on all.
-AK
 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tickling Their Buying Bone

If you are in the vicinity of 'NTSG this Friday or Saturday how about doing a soon-to-be father of the bride a solid and stopping by 113 Howard Avenue and buying some of the treasures that the Missus is selling at....wait for it....A GARAGE SALE.  Come early! Stay late!  Buy lots!   On second thought, as long as you focus your energy on the third element of that most unholy of Trinities you might just make this grown man cry. 

Unbeknownst to me the basement at Suzy B/Joe's home was constructed in a manner akin to the clown car at the circus.  A seemingly endless amount of "stuff" (that shall be the descriptor du Jour so as to not scare off potential customers) was stored within its four walls.  This week's effort represents at least the third or fourth effort the Missus has made to find a new home for those treasures whose future at 113 Howard no longer appears to be as bright as it once might have been. 

I know from watching the manner in which Margaret attacks something as benign as a Garage Sale just what a phenomenal job she is going to do helping Suz plan her wedding.  But for the weather - over which she had grudgingly ceded control to Mother Nature - she has plotted and graphed every aspect of this sale with maddening precision and frightening efficiency. 

As is the case with most things in our household for which the Missus holds out any hope for even a modicum of success, my involvement in this endeavor has been very limited.  To date I have spearheaded the purchase of the metal sign posts upon which our (code of course for "Margaret's") hand-lettered and personally-designed "GARAGE SALE" signs (double-sided) were affixed.   And as the runner in the family, I was responsible for coming up with the "Top Ten" locations in town where to plant our flag/signs.  We spent this morning's wee wee hours (meaning "really early" and not "potty time") before I left for work  be bopping all over town under the cover of darkness in order to place them in their temporary homes.  If this sale is greeted by the sound of crickets, then one of us will have a lot of  'splaining to do to the other one of us.  Unless I can figure out a way to blame poor sales on the fox we saw at the corner of Greenbrook Road and 28 when we placed two signs at that busy intersection - or the deer who was strolling down Marlborough Avenue when we placed our final sign at the corner of Marlborough and Harris.  It is a conversation I hope to avoid having to have at all costs.

If we are the owners of any luck at all at the very least a sizable portion of the "treasures" that shall be available for purchase on Friday and Saturday shall safely be ensconced in someone else's basement by the time dawn breaks on Sunday morning.

And before you ask, please be advised that unlike Cosmo Kramer we shall not consider trades of any kind irrespective of however interesting they might be....

....not even dance lessons from Zorba the Greek.     

-AK   


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Met Life and Times

I spent quite a bit of time this weekend at the atrocity known as Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford (a/k/a "the joint that the money hungry pricks who own the Giants and the Jets built for no apparent reason except to convince the other money hungry pricks who own NFL teams to play the Super Bowl in the Northeast at night in February 2014 and to build it they had to tear down a perfectly functional football stadium that was only 30+ years old").  Color me not a fan.  Joint looks like a gigantic air conditioner unit from outside and inside is one of the most dismal, foreboding places I have ever seen. 
 
Fortunately I spent my time there this weekend not to watch the men of Mara Tech or the men formerly known as Titans ply their wares.  Note to Jets fans:  although I root for the Giants I feel terribly for you having to play the rest of this year without the best cover corner back in football Mr. Revis who is also, by all accounts, a hell of a good man.  Sometimes shitty things happen to good people.  This past Sunday a torn ACL happened to him.  I hope his surgery goes well and this time next year he is back where he belongs:  not having any balls thrown his direction on one corner while that overrated pro creator Antonio Cromartie gets picked on relentlessly at the other. 
 
This weekend's voyage to the land of the PSL was for the always-happy task of seeing Mr. Springsteen and his musical brothers in arms.  Saturday the weather was far better during tailgate time than it was during concert time but the quality of the former allowed the Missus and me to enjoy copious amounts of time not only with our regularly scheduled tailgate participants but some extra special guest stars.  Kara, Russ and their tail gunner Jordan hung out with us for a while pre-show.  I had never chilled out pre-show with my sister at Springsteen.  Pretty damn cool experience.  Russ and I laughed talking about the only other time we had ever seen Bruce together:  October 19, 2009 in Philly when we were guests pre-and-post-show of the Mighty One. 
 
(The guy in the middle looks the freshest
and this picture was taken after the show)
 
 
This past weekend also afforded me to catch up with my long-time fellow Bruce fanatic Marc Wichansky.  He and I had last seen each other more than nine years ago at Giants Stadium (a story that Margaret pointed out politely but firmly on Saturday that I tell quite often).  While I have known Marc for more than thirty years, he is from a part of my life that pre-dates my wife.  Thus he and Margaret were not known to one another.  On Saturday, that all changed.  The notorious MW and his brother-in-law Ross (his wife Lex's brother) joined us for a bit.  Upon meeting my wife MW was understandably smitten.  The three of us took a picture together to preserve the moment for posterity:
 

(The 'Visible from Space' quality of my shirt would prove quite
helpful when all hell broke loose meteorologically speaking)
 
As happy as I was to be able to join together - even if only for a moment - disparate elements of my life on Saturday afternoon I was happier still one evening earlier when MW and I located one another on the floor of the stadium pre-show.  He did what he did nine years earlier, which was ask a security person to take our picture.  Fortunately this time around the technology of choice was his iPhone and not a $20.00 disposable Fuji film camera.  I have never actually seen a single photo from our '03 adventure.  I am quite convinced that none exist.  This time around?  Suffice it to say that - in the not immortal but they should be words of Joe Jackson, "there goes your proof."
 

 
Overall one hell of a fine way to spend the final weekend of the Summer of '12.  Good people, good music and good times.  A fella could get used to spending his leisure time in such pursuits.
 
You know what they say about the natural progression of things; right?  From those that are little....
 
....well you just never do know.
 

 
-AK


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Sail Through the Changin' Ocean Tides

A bit of sad business on tap today.  My good friend Lisa Eves - who I think of as the younger sister I never had because my appearance in Mom/Dad's lives reinforced for them what a horrendous mistake it was to have had SIX children - has the always unhappy task of burying a loved one this morning.  Gracie (as I am fairly convinced only I call her for reasons too long/unimportant to recount here) lost her dad on Friday night.  Thomas Eves was but fifty-nine years young.  

What often feels like a lifetime ago Gracie worked with me here at the Firm and when I spent my "Winter at the Reservoir" three-plus years ago we were reunited briefly.  Although she is a Jersey girl born and raised she is a passionate Baltimore Orioles fan.  Her love of the O's is inherited from her father. 

In all the years we have been friends, I made his aquaintance only once.  During that brief meeting we talked about baseball and although it was a conversation that took place during one of Baltimore's protracted down periods I was impressed by the fact that his head was adorned with an Orioles cap.  A true fan.  He stood by the team he loved through thick and thin.  While he was more pleased about this season's results so far than he had been with any season in the past decade and a half, their success this season did not make him a bigger fan than he had been in seasons past.  His passion for them was not dependent upon their won-loss record.  He did not view loyalty as a malleable concept.  I can speak personally to the fact that his only daughter inherited that quality from her father.  And not just to her favorite baseball team.

If you can learn something about one person through your knowledge of - and relationship with - one who they love dearly and who loved them right back, then I think although I met him only once I knew quite a lot about Gracie's dad and the depth and breadth of his character's quality.  This day shall be a rotten one for Lisa, her mom Helen and the rest of the family that Tom Eves left far too soon.  But she shall get through it.  She shall ensure that her mom does as well.  And she shall do it with the grace and the strength through which she has conquered everything she has attempted in the decade-plus that I have known her. 

For she knows no other way to roll.  She is who she is.  An Orioles fan.  And her father's daughter.


-AK

Monday, September 24, 2012

Quarters Halves & Other Fractions

In the four years that I attended college at the University of Colorado - Boulder, I missed too many classes to count.  Who is laughing now?  "Not I", said the lawyer.  Perhaps if I had actually attended class with more regularity, more doors would have remained open to me.  But I digress....

While class was not a place I found myself with metronomic regularity, Folsom Field was.  In four years I missed only two home games.  I missed the Iowa State game on Halloween 1987.  But I missed it for an excellent reason:  I was a Groomsman in Jill/Joe's wedding, which was happening in Princeton right about the same time as the coin toss was taking place in Boulder.  They both called "I Do".  No reflip has ever been required.  In my absence the Sal Aunese-led Buffs opened a big Keg O'Whoop Ass on the Cyclones.   In my absence Jay and Alex led our gang on the Pearl Street Mall Crawl as Sir Robin and his band of minstrels - complete with coconuts to approximate the sound of horses' hooves.  None of them got arrested.  I have always suspected that had they tried harder at least one of them could have spent the night in the Boulder City Jail.   

I missed but one other home game during my CU career.  On September 24, 1988, while the Buffs were defeating the Oregon State Beavers I was once again in the State of Concrete Gardens.  And once again I was there for an event well worth missing a home game:  Kara/Russ's wedding.  Almost a quarter century further on up the road and they are still going strong.  To my sis and my brother-in-law I wish a heartfelt Congratulations!  

It was a little more than a week ago that Suzanne called home from Texas to tell the Missus and me that she/Ryan had gotten engaged.  Although no date has yet been set, the planning just this first week has been pretty impressive to watch.  Thus far I have nailed my part.  I stay the hell out of the way until either Margaret or Suzanne directs me to do something.  Once my assigned take is completed, I fade back into the woodwork and let the professionals do their thing. 

One of the things I ended up doing one day towards the end of last week was looking through a desk drawer and coming upon an odd, wide-ranging array of pictures that I have from a lifetime or two ago.  And for reasons not entirely clear to me, among their number is a photo of Kara and I dancing at her wedding.  Coming upon it as I did - fresh off of a week's worth of conversations with Margaret and Suzanne about songs that might lend themselves to father/daughter dances - it struck me that neither of the fresh young faces in that picture appear anywhere close to old enough to be parents of adult children.  Yet two of Kara's three boys are in college.  And as of one week ago, I am a year or so away from watching the older of my two - and my only daughter - get married. 



The bad news for Suzanne?  While my cleanshaven face was long ago consigned to history's scrap heap and the non-gray hairs on my head are fast on their way as well (and shall likely be but a memory by the time her big day arrives), the two left feet that almost left my poor sister maimed on her wedding day have made the trip with me from the last century to this one.  The good news?

....the blue blazer and I parted company at some point in the '90's. 

-AK



Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sweet Brevity

The odor emanating from this space today is not the usual - horse manure.  It is instead the unmistakable smell of fumes....as in those upon which I am running after back-to-back late nights/early mornings at Met Life Stadium singning myself hoarse to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.  Not a bad way for an old man to spend his birthday weekend.  His.  Not mine.  Messr. Springsteen is sixty-three years young today.  Most of me hurts this morning and all I did was play the part of "audience member".  Happy Birthday Bruce - and thanks for the presents.  Talk about your Homecomings

One week from today is the 11th edition of the Tunnel to Towers Run  in New York, which begins in Brooklyn, spans the length of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and wraps up in lower Manhattan in the shadow of the new World Trade Center.  A labor of love born out of tragedy, it very well may be the best example of turning a horrible event on its head and making it a font from which goodness and love are perpetually poured of which I know now or have ever known.  One can register for it through Tuesday.  

The Run is an extraordinary, life-changing experience.  The work performed every day of the year by the Steven Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation is something even more.  The Foundation honors not only the lives of those heroes lost on September 11, 2001 but also the lives of those heroes who have been injured in this nation's wars in the decade-plus since.  Even if you cannot participate in this year's run one week from today, do yourself the favor of spending a few minutes on the Foundation's website to watch the videos of the Smart homes built for injured service members and the other good works to which their resources are dedicated. 

I better get some rest.  Next Sunday is going to be one hell of a day.... 










....and I cannot wait for it to get here.

-AK

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Twice Upon A Time In The West....

I have said it in this space previously and - in homage to my oldest sib Bill recovering from ankle reconstruction surgery - I adroitly hop atop my soapbox this morning to say it yet again:  if the people of Michigan do not need Bridget Mary McCormack to be a Justice on the Michigan Supreme Court then they are the luckiest people I know.  They are the luckiest people I know for they clearly reside in that one very special place where we all wish we could live:  The place where everything is perfect just as it is. 

Presuming that unlikely scenario to be accurate, might I suggest to the Governor that once the Detroit Tigers are officially eliminated from playoff contention Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera be dispatched - along with their teammates - to protect Michigan's borders from a sudden influx of wanna-be residents.  For if your state is such a paradise now that you can do just fine - thank you very much - without the talents and the intellect of Dean McCormack joining the ranks of the Supremes, then my to-do list tomorrow consists of but three things:  (1) buy Winnebago; (2) pack said Winnebago with all my earthly possessions; and (3) head west to the Great Lakes State.   

Here is all one really needs to know about Bridget (although her C.V. is so incredibly impressive you might want to spend the several minutes needed to digest all she has done and continues to do):  She is a lawyer who gives lawyers a good name.  You think that is easy to do?  That was a rhetorical question.  You need not sit in front of your computer shaking your head vigorously back and forth....OK, please stop now. 

Elections are not won on merit alone.  If you have lived through the past 30+ years of Presidential politics then you know the truth of that statement.  Being the person most capable of doing the most good for the most people is of little moment if those people do not know who you are or how to vote for you.  Every now and again, you need to shake things up a bit to ensure that those who you pledge to serve know who you are and the depth of your commitment.  And when the need for a good shake arises, it is nice to have friends - and in Bridget's case a sister (a sister whose portrayal of a Deputy U.S. Marshal for five seasons on "In Plain Sight" was well received by those in the USMS - I have a guy on the inside who tells me such things) - in high places.  Even if that "high" place is located not very far at all above sea level....


Good people of Michigan need not take the word of a troupe of talented thespians - even if they have reunited for the best political spot I have ever seen - nor the word of an old friend from a lifetime ago and half a continent away about Bridget Mary McCormack.  She is her own best salesperson.  Consistency is a hallmark of the truth.  Consistency is an exceptionally useful way in which to measure one's character.  And when consistency is coupled with excellence, its appeal is self-evident....  


-AK

Friday, September 21, 2012

Hands and Sins

Here is to hoping that this evening - and tomorrow - the weather gods smile down upon those of us who reside in the State of Concrete Gardens.  This evening and the next I shall spend some quality time in the company of Mr. Springsteen and his band of merry men at Met Life Stadium (a/k/a "The House That Greed Built"), which sits atop the swamps of Jersey next to the former, fully-functional home of the defending Super Bowl champions.  

The original plan of attack called for the Missus and I to both check out tonight's show - as well as tomorrow night's - but in anticipation of just how long a day tomorrow might prove to be Margaret is opting out of this evening's festivities.  At least that is what she told me is her reason for staying home this evening.  I suspect that she and the girl child shall be burning up several different lines of communication discussing all things wedding-related - enjoying their ability to plan without my input.  I must confess that I found their immediate rejection of my suggestion of a potential venue for the reception a bit insulting.  After all, who does not like Sonic?  It is America's Drive-In. 

Anyway, the "Wrecking Ball" tour is (or appears to be anyway) in its latter stages.  This evening shall be the first occasion in spite of the length of the tour to date that my face has laid eyes upon Springsteen's stage on this tour.  That is in and of itself an anomaly I suppose.  On two occasions earlier in the tour, a scheduled evening out with Bruce and the band fell by the wayside due to family obligations.  Do not search for regret in my words.  You shall not find it.  I love Springsteen's music and I love seeing him perform live.  But a concert is merely an evening's entertainment.  Family is family.  The latter always trumps the former. 

Mr. Springsteen - in the event that you are starting your day today as I am sure you usually to (by spending a few minutes here) - I would appreciate it very much if you could throw a long-time fan a bone this evening.  If you need any clarification as to just what bone it is I hope to have thrown my direction, might I direct your attetntion to the very top of the page....

....technically speaking it is still summer after all.    I mean not to "go all lawyer" on you but desperate times call for desperate measures.  Your understanding is most appreciated.

-AK

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Ballad of the True Believer

I have learned these past few days that once your daughter telephones you to inform you that she is engaged, the discussion of and the planning for the wedding becomes an everyday, above-the-fold conversation.  I say that without a single tinge of regret.  I have enjoyed eavesdropping on conversations these past few days between the Houston satellite and the Middlesex-based mother ship, which have covered every possible wedding-related contingency and necessity.  How Eisenhower planned D-Day without the Missus and Suz handling logistics shall be a mystery that befuddles historians for time immemorial. 

I am a sucker for a good story.  While we are many months away from the event itself (I can express an almost cavalier nonchalance here away from the prying eyes of either the bride-to-be or her mother), this story is already an excellent one.  Suz sends Margaret information about one thing or another related to the impending nuptials and thereafter they spend many minutes either chatting via telephone or text message examining the information from every conceivable angle.  It is an exercise I cannot witness without a smile forming on my face.  Hell, I am grinning now just writing about it.

Your children are children - seemingly forever.  Until they are not.  They never cease being remarkable though - irrespective of age.  I am thankful for nothing more than the fact that I am here to witness it. 

Heaven?  Yours truly - the Chief Agnostic in Residence - would not pretend to know.   But presuming such a joint exists, this just might be it.... 


-AK

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

First Exit Past Sublime....

I think that once upon a lifetime ago - back when forty-five-year-old Adam was seventeen-year-old Adam - the stunt pulled just the other day by a member of the junior class at (I am not making this up) Patriot High School in Prince William County, Virginia.  He used a helicopter to drop an invitation to the school's Fall Fest on the football field where the young girl he wanted to ask to the dance was practicing.  She is the kicker for the football squad in addition to being a member of the girls' varsity soccer team.

I kid you not:  a helicopter.  And not just any old chopper.  Nope.  His dad is apparently a "senior official"  with U.S Customs and Border Protection.  A CBP helicopter was used to drop from the sky the stuffed bulldog that was holding the invitation for 17 year-old Victoria Burress.  Like a Mountie our young Patriot got his gal.  “He knew it was my senior year, and I’ve been asked some pretty creative ways before this,” said Burress.  “Everyone thinks that we like each other, but it’s not like that at all. It’s just unusual to be that close with a guy and to have him still do something nice for you.”  For the life of me I cannot decipher what the hell she was trying to say right there.  Enormous future for young Ms. Burress in the Romney White House as a speech writer....or as Chief of Staff.

Contrary to what young Victoria might think, this stunt proves to me yet again that young men will go to extraordinary lengths to get laid.  Young Mr. Whirly-Bird did not appropriate a helicopter and pull the stunt of a lifetime in the hope of getting a cuddle and a peck on the cheek.  His thought process I get.  It is the thinking - or lack thereof - of the adults involved here - starting with chopper boy's Mom and Dad and most assuredly including the Principal of Patriot High that boggles my mind.  Kid could not have pulled it off without official assistance and - more importantly - permission.  To me, completely and utterly ridiculous.

Dirigible companies are taking orders now from eleventh and twelfth grade boys at Patriot High School for prom season already.  Operators are standing by.

-AK

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Forgotten Ghosts in Blue and Gray

I came across an interesting item yesterday in - of all places - USA Today.  Who knew McPaper could actually masquerade as a source of....well, actual news?   The advantage of not being very bright is that fertile opportunity presents itself daily to learn something new.  Yesterday was just such a day.  Glancing through a story in the on-line edition of USA Today, I learned that yesterday was the Sesquicentennial of the Battle of Antietam.

The Battle of Antietam - fought in the area around Sharpsburg Maryland - holds the undeniably grizzly distinction of being not just the bloodiest battle of the War Between the States but the bloodiest single-day engagement involving American forces anywhere in any war on any single day.  There were over 22,000 casualties at Antietam on September 17, 1862, including 17,000 total wounded.  Slightly more than 2,100 Union soldiers died that day along with a bit more than 1,500 soldiers of the Confederate States of America.  

Although historians view the outcome of the battle as a draw, President Lincoln and the Union hailed it as a victory as it served to repel Robert E. Lee's invasion of Maryland (let that thought roll off your brain for a moment and think for a moment what us Garden Staters could do to those troublesome Delawarians).  Why was that important?  It provided President Lincoln the breathing room he needed to issue a Proclamation with which you might be familiar, which Proclamation he issued on January 1, 1863.  And the preliminary draft of which he released only five days after Antietam.

If you need a glimpse into just how upside down life was in these United States a century and a half ago, cast an eyeball on General Lee's written request to Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy for permission to invade Maryland:  I therefore determined, while threatening the approaches to Washington, to draw the troops into Loudoun, where forage and some provisions can be obtained, menace their possession of the Shenandoah Valley, and, if found practicable, to cross into Maryland. The purpose, if discovered, will have the effect of carrying the enemy north of the Potomac, and, if prevented, will not result in much evil.   Understand of course as you read it (and read the whole document for it is not only fairly brief but it is also damned interesting) that it was written by an American - arguably one of the greatest military minds that the United States Military Academy as West Point has ever produced - to an American and the "enemy" to which he referred was an army comprised of chiefly - if not entirely - by other Americans.  Pretty heady stuff.

One of the fascinating things that came out of Antietam (well fascinating to me anyway) is that techniques first applied there by Jonathan Letterman, the Union Army's medical director, were the basis of modern battlefield medicine and a blueprint for today's civilian emergency response system.  According to the piece in USA Today, "At Antietam, Letterman first tried a coordinated, progressive system of trained first responders, triage stations, surgical field units and permanent hospitals. For civilians today, that's ambulances with EMTs, emergency rooms, operating rooms and hospital room convalescence."

For roughly the past ten years, doctors, nurses and medics from the United States Military have attended lectures given by the Letterman Institute of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and have studied how to apply what Dr. Letterman did on that deadly September day one hundred and fifty years ago to better treat American military personnel injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

It has been said often that those who ignore the errors of history are doomed to repeat.  It has also been often said that the best way to keep a firm eye on where one is going is to never lose sight of from whence one has come.  Two lessons taught to us with equal ferocity by the ghosts of those who fought and died one hundred and fifty years ago.

So don't sing me your songs about the good times
Those days are gone and you should just let them go
And God help the man who says
If you'd have known me when
Old haunts are for forgotten ghosts
Old haunts are for forgotten ghosts.

-AK

Monday, September 17, 2012

One More Thought

A bit of a programming note here.  I intended to use this space today to lament the demise of the once-proud University of Colorado Football program.  Or perhaps to talk just a little bit about politics and the upcoming Presidential election.  If you read beyond this point you will find out that I did not use it for either of the above.
 
I am fortunate enough to not only be married to a woman who is far more than I actually deserve but to have married her at a time in her life when she was the mother of two little squirts who were at the time not more than five and six years old.  A great joy of my life has been watching those two children grow to adulthood.  I am biased - of course - but it is my firmly held opinion that they both are exceptional human beings. 
 
I shall have no more children.  And as luck would have it, only one of the two is a daughter.  So I shall never again have the opportunity to celebrate the glorious news that Suzanne shared with the Missus and me when she called home from Texas on Friday night.  I have spent the past couple of days walking around with a smile on my face.  If this keeps up people might start suspecting that I am suffering from some sort of mental illness.  Hmmm.....
 
Margaret's favorite singer is Martina McBride.  If you are not a fan of Ms. McBride's, the only explanation I can offer in your defense is that you have never heard her sing.  Her voice is simply stunning.  One of her signature songs is one of my wife's favorites.  I have thought of it often over the past couple of days - not only because of Suz/Ryan's engagement but also because of the date on which it came:  what would have been Suzy B.'s 80th birthday.  I am such an igorant ass that the date had escaped me altogether.  Ditto for the milestone nature of this year's birthday.  Ryan's timing was impeccable.  
 
In my daughter's eyes,
I am a hero,
I am strong and wise,
And I know no fear,
But the truth is plain to see,
She was sent to rescue me,
I see who I want to be,
In my daughter's eyes.
 
 
 
In my daughter's eyes,
Everyone is equal,
Darkness turns to light,
And the world is at peace,
This miracle god gave to me,
Gives me strength when I am weak,
I find reason to believe,
In my daughter's eyes.
 
 
 
And when she wraps her hand around my finger,
How it puts a smile in my heart,
Everything becomes a little clearer,
I realize what life is all about,
It's hanging on when your heart is had enough,
It's giving more when you feel like giving up,
I've seen the light,
It's in my daughter's eyes

 


In my daughter's eyes,
I can see the future,
A reflection of who I am and what will be,
And though she'll grow and someday leave,
Maybe raise a family,
When i'm gone I hope you see,
How happy she made me,
For i'll be there,
In my daughter's eyes


-AK


 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Deep in Their Hearts in Texas

It is not a lack of Love,
But a lack of Friendship that makes unhappy Marriages.

-Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday night, roughly an hour or so after the Missus and I returned home from dinner out at a little joint right here 'NTSG (one at which we ran into an old friend of mine from high school - who I have no recollection of having seen since graduation 27+ years ago - and her husband), the Missus received a quite important phone call from the girl child from deep in the heart of Texas.  Suzanne called to share with us the very exciting, simply terrific news that she and Ryan had just gotten engaged.  Happiness is having enough room left on one's C.V. to add a new title:  Father-in-Law. 

I know not whether Margaret spilled the beans to her during that conversation that we  - the 'Rents - had known since the kids were in New Jersey in July that this day was approaching with some alacrity.  Ryan is old school.  During their time 'home' in July he approached Margaret and me and after telling us that he wanted to ask Suz to marry him, he asked for our permission to do so.  I was more than slightly impressed.  It never occurred to me that here in the second decade of the 21st Century a young man would do such a thing.  Old school all the way.  

I know not whether he knew (I did not until Margaret reminded me) that the day he chose to ask Suzanne to marry him - the 14th of September - was the birthday of her late, great namesake and grandmother Suzy B.  Methinks that from her vantage point way up on high, an ear-to-ear grin decorated Nona's face as the question was asked and the hoped-for answer was provided. 

I drove to the office in the wee small hours of yesterday morning with a million images of Suzanne as a little girl speed-dialing through the movie screen of my mind's eye.  Smiling all the while.  As a parent, you hope for nothing more than that your child finds peace.  Not simply happiness.  Not simply success.  Peace.  Suz's phone call to Margaret Friday night confirmed that she has.  And for that, the Missus and I could not be happier.  Neither could Suz and Ryan. 

And at day's end, nothing else at all really matters.... 

I'm driving a big lazy car rushin' up the highway in the dark
I got one hand steady on the wheel and one hand's tremblin' over my heart
It's pounding baby like it's gonna bust right on through
And it ain't gonna stop till I'm alone again with you

A friend of mine became a father last night
When we spoke in his voice I could hear the light
Of the skies and the rivers the timberwolf in the pines
And that great jukebox out on Route 39
They say he travels fastest who travels alone
But tonight I miss my girl mister tonight I miss my home

Is it the sound of the leaves
left blown by the wayside
That's got me out here on this spooky old highway tonight
Is it the cry of the river
With the moonlight shining through
That ain't what scares me baby
What scares me is losing you

They say if you die in your dreams you really die in your bed
But honey last night I dreamed my eyes rolled straight back in my head
And God's light came shinin' on through
I woke up in the darkness scared and breathin' and born anew
It wasn't the cold river bottom I felt rushing over me
It wasn't the bitterness of a dream that didn't come true
It wasn't the wind in the grey fields I felt rushing through my arms
No no baby it was you

-AK

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Au Revoir Sand Bar!

For the calendar purists among us this weekend is the final weekend of summer.  Of course if you are a kid eighteen or under and you have been sweating your ass off for the past three weeks or so in a high school and/or grammar school classroom then as you read that first sentence you did a bit of mental Physics and Grammar....wondering how to construct a declarative sentence encouraging me to perform a very specific function on myself. 

Do not worry kids:  I am in your corner.  According to my abacus summer's allotment of days ran out at the time August disappeared.  I at least grade on a bit of a curve.  My brother Kelly historically has punched summer's ticket almost as soon as it begins since the Solstice in late June marks both the longest day (in terms of daylight) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first step on a six-month journey into darkness.  Huge surprise that our greeting card business never caught on; huh?

Regardless of your point of view, by this time next week Vern E. Quinox's much less-welcomed brother Otto M. Quinox will have arrived.  Personally - and perhaps not surprisingly - Autumn is my favorite season.  I for one amd looking forward to Otto's arrival.  Admittedly this year my enthusiasm level might be ratcheted up a notch or two given that the Missus and I shall celebrate it at Met Life Stadium on both Friday night and Saturday night in the company of Mr. Springsteen and some of neighbors from E Street.   

We shall spend a portion of this season's final Saturday in Point Pleasant.  Today is the annual Festival of the Sea Seafood Festival.  If you are a person who likes seafood, then today is a day made for you.  Good seafood to eat all up and down Arnold Avenue.   If history is any guide, then today shall be equal parts mob scene and sh*t show but the quasi-controlled chaos does little to dampen my enthusiasm for the event.  Any event that has enough places selling homemade crab cakes that one (OK, me) can conduct his own comparison taste test is an event worth spending a bit of time at, regardless of the difficulty finding parking near the Festival or the difficulty finding room to move once you are immersed in it.

Perhaps one of these years the Connecticut branch of the family can be coaxed into coming South to check it out.  I have never heard my brother Bill extol the virtues of a lobster's tail or a crab's leg but this event is such an extravaganza that it offers something he might well find impossible to resist:  a pony ride

Enjoy your Saturday wherever you are and whatever it is you plan to do.  If you are looking for me, you know that today I am easily found....

-AK

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Sort of Homecoming

Public Service Announcement:  For any and all who want to participate on Sue's Crew IV in the 14th Annual Run For Mom 5K, which will take place at Nomahegan Park in Cranford at 9:00 o'clock on the morning of October 6, even if you have not yet registered on-line get me your t-shirt size TODAY.  The order for our supercool team shirts is being placed by the close of business this very day.   You sign up for the race here.  You can place your request for a team shirt in your size simply by sending me an e-mail or reaching out to me through this very space.  It would be nice to read a friendly comment for a change so....contact away!

Disclaimer:  You may or may not have noticed that the posting time for my little daily doses of silliness is 12:00 a.m.  I assure you that while my alarm clock goes off in the wee small hours of the morning, I am neither awake nor writing anything at midnight.  A magician does not reveal the secrets of his trade for fear that a nightclub's worth of patrons will start checking under tables and in back alleys for his secret catch of rabbits so I shall not disclose just how it is done - although seeing as I finally figured it out, none of you will have any problem doing so.  I mention that for this reason.  As I write this I have no idea whether the Scarlet Knights of the State University of New Jersey shall awaken this morning 3-0 and the proud owners of a road victory over their Big East rivals the USF Bulls or 2-1 and the owners of the first defeat of the Kyle Flood Era.  RU is on my mind these days not for what they are doing this Autumn on the gridiron, which thus far has been quite enjoyable to watch, but for what has transpired on the Raritan's banks in Autumns gone by.

This weekend the rookie head coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs shall bring his NFL team north to play the Giants.  Greg Schiano is no stranger to these parts.  He is a Jersey boy born and raised who twelve years ago took on the Herculean task of making lemonade out of the gigantic lemon that was the Rutgers football program.  He raised the ire of a rather vocal percentage of the fan base when - in late January 2012 - a few days before National Letter of Intent Day - he left RU to accept the aforementioned coaching gig with the Bucs.  In his eleven years at RU they played in six bowl games, winning the last five of them.  They also ended one season - 2006 - and began another - 2007 - ranked in the Top 25.  In my highly unscientific opinion, he did one hell of a job.

I am of the opinion though that Schiano the football coach - in spite of his success - has never been the equal of Schiano the man.  A couple of Septembers ago, I participated in a 5K race on the Rutgers campus, which was organized to raise money for the Cancer Institute of New Jersey.  The race materials advertised Coach Schiano as the M.C. of the morning's festivities and the official race starter.  The race started at 8:30 on a Sunday morning. 

I went to sleep Saturday night close to midnight - having tried in vain to stay awake to watch the end of RU's game at Florida International.  Having seen what time the game ended - in Miami Florida - I did not expect to see Greg Schiano a few short hours later in Piscataway New Jersey serving as the MC for the 5K race.  Yet there he was.  Not only was he there he was ALL there.  He did not mail in the appearance.  He gave all of us a pep talk worthy of halftime on Homecoming.  He honored his commitment. 

In the final couple of years he spent at RU, his name became intertwined with that of Eric LeGrand.  LeGrand - himself a Jersey boy - was paralyzed from the neck down as a result of an injury he suffered while attempting to make a tackle during RU's game v. Army in October 2010.  Rutgers won that afternoon but did not win again the rest of that season and Schiano spent as much time - if not more - in LeGrand's hospital room than he spent anywhere else.

From that day to this one, Eric LeGrand's progress has been nothing short of extraordinary.  Next time you wake up having a sh*t day, spend five minutes or so right here.  An amazing young man.  Simply amazing.  Last week, after Tulane University football player Devon Walker was seriously injured during the Green Wave's game against Tulsa, LeGrand reached out to Walker and his family to offer his support.  RU Coach Kyle Flood did likewise

LeGrand's injury brought an abrupt end to his on-field work for Coach Schiano.  But it did nothing but strengthen the bond between the two men.  Less than one year ago, when Rutgers hosted its (former) rival West Virginia on October's final Saturday, LeGrand led his Scarlet Knights teammates out onto the field.  Did I mention that he did so in the teeth of a Nor'easter - a freak October storm so violent that some towns in New Jersey are still dealing with the damage it caused eleven months later. 

Earlier this year, Coach Schiano telephoned Eric's mother to tell her that on May 2 (LeGrand's RU number was 52) the Bucs were going to sign Eric to a free-agent contract so that he could realize his dream of having been a member of an NFL roster.  Silly sentiment?  Not from Coach Schiano's way of thinking:  This small gesture is the least we could do to recognize his character, spirit and perseverance. The way Eric lives his life epitomizes what we are looking for in Buccaneer MenWhen the Bucs opened training camp in July LeGrand retired from the NFL.  He did not want to leave his teammates one man short on their 90-man roster.  When he announced his retirement, LeGrand said, "Every man counts. I am still a Buccaneer for life, just not as a player."

Sunday afternoon on the very field where his playing career ended, LeGrand will participate in the pre-game coin toss pursuant to an invitation extended by the Giants.  Sunday will mark the first game Greg Schiano has coached at Met Life Stadium since the RU/Army game in which LeGrand was hurt.  The Giants invited him to take part in the coin toss and his mother Karen and him to watch the game as their guests.  His mom - who used to watch him play every week at Rutgers - is making her first trip to Met Life Stadium since that fateful afternoon two Octobers ago.  Coach Schiano is thrilled:   This week, I know the Giants have helped out, and the Giants have provided a place for he and his family to watch the game, which I think is awesome of them.  Just that he can be there and watch with all the familiarity with both teams and all that. It's just a good New Jersey thing, and a good thing overall for football."

Far too often in life, bad things happen to good people.  Every now and again though those who deserve good things realize their dream of attaining them.  Is it luck?  Is it a belief in the power of positive thinking?  I have no idea.  I know though that Greg Schiano and Eric LeGrand are both damn easy men for whom to root.  And I intend to do just that this Sunday afternoon....

....well for the coin toss at least.  The Giants really, really need to win this game.

-AK

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Maternal Instinct

This Missus and I spent a portion of our Tuesday evening at Victor Crowell Park attending our little town's September 11th Remembrance/Memorial Ceremony.  Middlesex Borough lost one of its own on September 11, 2001 when Thomas Gorman, a member of the PAPD's Emergency Services Unit, died while helping others to safety.   A couple of years after his death, a Memorial was erected in his honor and in his memory at Victor Crowell Park, which Memorial I try to make a point of running by as often as I can.   On Christmas Day 2009 I took this photo of it - against a gun-metal gray sky and with snow on the ground - as Rosie and I were out for a walk. 


Ours is a small town so certain things - such as ceremonies honoring those who died saving the lives of others - do not necessarily go as "pitch perfect" as those one might be used to seeing from Ground Zero or the Pentagon.   Suffice it to say, Tuesday night was no exception to that rule.  However, what our little town's ceremony had going for it was the presence of Theresa Gorman.  Eleven years ago, Mrs. Gorman received a combination platter of news that is as hard to swallow today as it was then.  Her two sons, John and Thomas, were both at the World Trade Center that terrible Tuesday morning.  She was elated to learn that John made it out safe and sound.  She was crushed to learn that Thomas had not. 

Tuesday evening Theresa Gorman stood at the microphone before the couple of hundred persons gathered there and in less than two minutes reminded me - and hopefully all of those in attendance - precisely why we should never and shall never forget the events of that day.  She thanked everyone for coming to honor those who died that day - including her son.  She talked briefly about how much she loved him.  She said a few words about how raw she still feels and how hard the pain is still.  And then she stopped talking.  She could not say another word.  She started to cry and without saying anything further she stepped away from the microphone and over to where her family was standing, including her great-grandchild. 

For a few moments thereafter no one spoke.  No one made a sound.  Hers should have been the final words spoken that evening in fact.  In saying the few words she did, she communicated all that needed to be communicated.  And she did it with grace and composure and strength that brought a lump to my throat. 

She reminded us - without having to say so directly - that all any of us has to do who did not lose one we love on that terrible day is keep a little piece of September 11, 2001 in our minds and in our hearts as we live our day-to-day.  Just a small sliver.  Nothing more.  And she reminded us - again without even saying a word - of how much less our burden is than is hers and that of her family.  For her, much more than a little piece of September 11, 2001 occupies a piece of her heart and a piece of her mind.  Inasmuch as it is there where a piece of her memory of her beloved son resides also, it is a burden that she shall carry with her for all of the days of her life. 

And she shall do so without complaint.  No surprise there.  It is, after all, the way of the mother.  

-AK



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

These Things I Think....

....random thoughts from an overtaxed mind - although if you know the possessor of said mind you know that his mind gets challenged by "Paper or Plastic".

I care not at all what one's politics are.  To each his own.  Yet in the Facebook-infected world in which we live I find it mind-boggling that anyone clicks "Like" for the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.  Do not misunderstand:  if you intend to vote for Messrs. Romney and Ryan then by all means feel free to do so.  In view of what has happened - or not happened - these past four years there is a compelling argument to be made for changing the man at the top.  But what exactly is there to "Like" about Ryan?  He is a d-bag in bureaucrat's clothing.  He has essentially done nothing other than run for elective office perpetually since he was in Cub Scout Troop 19 in De Pere, Wisconsin.  ***Editorial note:  I totally made that part up about him and his Cub Scout Troop.  I do not want to get caught in an easily checkable lie - such as claiming I ran a marathon an hour faster than I really did.  

Clint Eastwood is one of my favorite actors and directors.   Having abstained from watching a minute of either Convention as it happened - I prefer to watch my fiction on tape-delay - I did not see his speech on the final night of the Republican Convention as it happened.  After watching it the following morning I wondered, "What the hell was Josey Wales thinking about?"  Later that evening, when the Missus and I were watching television it hit me:  old Clint scored himself some nice, free publicity less than one month from the release date of his latest movie Trouble With The Curve.  It opens nationwide on Friday, September 21.   A baseball movie starring Clint Eastwood.  Color me there. 

I root, root, root hard for my Alma mater.  That being said this could be the longest autumn in the history of the University of Colorado football program.  And when you are a program that includes the name "Chuck Fairbanks" in your official biography that is indeed something to contemplate.  After losing their season opener to young Jessica's CSU Rams (thankfully we "forgot" to make a bet this year) in Denver, this past Saturday my beloved Fumbaloes lost their home opener....to Sacramento State.  Inasmuch as Sacramento is NOT a state but rather a city I have filed a formal protest with the NCAA in which I have argued that their deceptive naming practices are grounds for a sanction of some sort.  I suggested that three points be deducted from their total score in this past Saturday's game.  Nothing too Draconian. 

I know so little about tennis that if one was to pour all of my knowledge into a thimble one would still have space left over for one's thumb.  However, on Sunday evening Joe, Margaret and I watched the final set of the women's final at the U.S. Open.  Apparently Serena Williams blitzed her opponent - the #1 seed Victoria Azarenka - in the first set (women play best 2 out of 3).  But then on the way to the rout a funny thing happened:  Serena lost 11 of the next 16 games.  Suddenly she was down 5 to 3 in the third and final set, appearing for all the world to be on the verge of losing the tournament.  And then an even funnier thing happened:  Serena did not lose another game.  She ran off four straight games to win the set 7 to 5 and win the U.S. Open for the fourth time in her career (my friend Gidg tells me that Serena has won 15 Grand Slam Championships.  Five more and she gets her own Denny's franchise).  There may well be athletes as tough as Serena Williams.  There is not one - in any sport - who is any tougher than she is.  She has guts to spare.  One hell of an athlete.    

I wonder who would win a marathon match race between Serena Williams or Paul Ryan.  Just screwing with you.  I wonder about the outcome of such an event not at all....

-AK

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Salt of the Earth

For anyone and everyone who suffered the murder of one (or more than one) who you loved and who loved you on this very date - and on this very day of the week - eleven years ago, I cannot for a moment pretend to know what it is you have endured.  Not only have I not walked a mile in your shoes, I was never even asked to take a pair of them off of the shelf in the store and try them on for size.  You have my most sincere sympathy.  You had it then.  You have it now.  You shall have it always. 

Having not sustained a direct loss, I use this space today to honor three souls lost on September 11, 2001 with whom I have/had an indirect connection either through someone I know, a place where I went to school or the town in which I live.  Not only is this not much - it is nowhere close to enough.  It never shall be.  I would not pretend to besmirch the memory of any of these three individuals by pretending for just one moment that it was anything more than it is:  one man's way of trying to process an event that eleven years after it happened still seems utterly incomprehensible to me. 

An event that left an imprint upon me similar to that it left on all of us who did not mourn a loved one but who grieved for all who were killed that day.  An event that eleven years later still causes me to gaze skyward - regardless of where I am - when I hear a jet engine overhead.  An involuntary reflex caused by what I know not given that eleven years ago this morning while the horrible events of the day were breaking loose I was in the Bergen County Justice Center in Hackensack, New Jersey from which vantage point I neither heard nor saw a single plane.   

Antoinette Duger is a woman who I never met.  Yet through my friendship with her cousin Gerard Gonnella I feel as if I have been introduced to her.  Several months ago, I wrote about Antoinette in this space.    When she was killed on the 11th of September 2001 she was but forty-four years old.  At the time of her death she worked for Wachovia, which several years earlier had purchased First Union.  Antoinette had spent her entire professional life - starting at age 18 - working for First Union/Wachovia.  Her office was on the 47th floor of One World Trade Center.  For a kid who grew up in Newark and who graduated from Barringer High School, she had a view from her office that reinforced the fact that hard work and earnestness pay off.  She had made it. 

And because a life lived only in the work-a-day world is not as much a life as it is an existence, Antoinette had worked hard to secure happiness in personal life.  She was married to Raymond and the two of them doted on their only child Megan.  She was not only a woman with a plan, she was a Mom with a dream.  It was her dream that she and Raymond move to a place where the local school district would ensure Megan the best possible education.  Honoring the wish of his wife in the best possible way, Raymond made it happen.  Raymond and Megan moved out to Morris County - to Parsippany Township - where Megan Duger was a member of the Parsippany High School Class of 2011.    

Eleven years after her death, on the occasions that I have had to discuss her with Gerard, he almost immediately talks of her generous spirit, her selflessness, her grace.  A woman who was the type of person that all of us aspire to be.  On a tribute posted on CNN.com her niece Rose Marie DiMatteo said it better than I ever could:  She was a wonderful sister, mother and aunt. She always placed her family and friends before herself, and she leaves behind the greatest legacy one could leave behind. Our mission is to carry on her memory and to be as kind as she was to all she knew.

Thomas Glasser grew up attending what was then the Wardlaw Country Day School.  Secondary school education in suburban New Jersey is as subject to change as anything else is - and it was in the mid-1970's too.  When he graduated from high school in 1978, he did so from the Wardlaw-Hartridge School.  I knew of Tom Glasser prior to setting foot on the Plainfield Avenue campus as a student for the first time in W-H Year #2 courtesy of my father.  Dad had been the Associate Head of the Lower School at Wardlaw and when the two schools merged he retained that same title at W-H.  Thus, I learned of Tom Glasser's exploits on the track and field team and on the cross-country team from listening to Dad speak of him. 

Last year, on the tenth anniversary of September 11,  I wrote about Tom Glasser in this space.  He is to my knowledge the only graduate of Wardlaw-Hartridge to be killed on September 11.  At the time of his death, he was a partner with Sandler O'Neill.   He was survived by his wife Meg, his two young sons (ages four and two respectively) and his parents.  His father, Dr. Gerald Glasser has honored the memory and the life of his son in a number of ways, including helping form the Imagine Center in Westfield.  An initial grant for startup funding for Imagine was provided through the Thomas Glasser Foundation.  Similarly, his wife Meg and his two boys Dylan and Luke have done amazing things in turning their tragedy into a source of help and assistance for others.  In August of 2011, shortly before the tenth anniversary of the attacks they were at Overlook Hospital to help christen something that they had helped create in his honor:  The Thomas Glasser Caregivers Center.    

He was a man who derived much enjoyment from doing good things for others including those who he did not know.  The extent to which his family has continued to keep up those good works and has continued to live their lives in a full and rewarding manner is a credit not only to the man he was but also to the parents who raised him, the remarkable woman he married and the two extraordinary sons he fathered.  The phrase "Pay It Forward" has been seemingly reduced to a punchline over the years.  The Glassers restore its substance.  Every day. 

Margaret and I were married approximately nineteen and one-half years ago.  I have lived with my wife in her hometown of Middlesex Boro since that time.  When I first moved to Middlesex almost twenty years ago, I knew perhaps two dozen people.  In the twenty years since that circle has expanded little if at all.  Thus at no time between the time I first moved into town and the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 did I have the pleasure or privilege of getting to know Thomas Gorman.   Tom Gorman was a police officer for the PAPD and a member of its Emergency Services Unit.  On the morning of September 11, 2001 he responded to the World Trade Center to help those there get home to their loved ones.  In doing so, he was killed.  Tom Gorman was forty-one years of age.

Among the people to whose assistance Tom Gorman had rushed that morning was his younger brother John.  In September 2001 John Morgan was working for Bank of America in BOA's offices on the 81st floor of the North Tower.  He and the co-workers he was with made it out of the North Tower safely. 

When he was not at work, Tom Gorman was apt to be found coaching a baseball or basketball team that one of his children played on, rooting hard for his beloved Big Blue or cooking.  He was survived by his wife Barbara and the couple's three children Laura, Patrick and Bridget.  In a tribute published in Newsday in the autumn of 2001 Barbara provided a beautiful eulogy for him:   He was just a very genuine person.  He told you what he thought, what he felt. But he would do whatever he could for you, and do his best. He was a man who worked hard but also knew how to enjoy life.  Would we not all want to be described in such magnificent, glowing terms? 

In what are most assuredly developments that would bring a smile to his face, life has gone on in the Gorman family in the eleven years since Tom Gorman was killed in the line of duty.  His oldest daughter Laura - in her mid twenties - is a mother herself.  His two younger kids have grown as well from childhood to adulthood.  

Three families from three different communities bonded by a common loss.  And by a common trait.  A trait that binds not just the families of Antoinette Duger, Thomas Glasser and Thomas Gorman together but one that seems to bind all of them together.  Good people upon whom a horrible set of circumstances was foisted.  A set of circumstances that perhaps could have served as a basis for all of them to throw up their hands in despair and choose not to go on.  But, far more often than not, it did just the opposite.  It galvanized them.  It steeled them with a purpose and a determination that always seems inspiring and on many occasions seems almost too incredible to comprehend. 

The Salt of the Earth indeed.  Then.  Now.  Always.  And it is for them and all that they do - as much as for their loved ones and all that they did - that we must always remember that horrific day.  They are we can never forget.  They cannot and joining them in their remembrance is the very least we can do. 

That and raise a glass in their honor....





-AK