Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandy 1, Me 0

I hope you and yours made it through Sandy safe and sound.  We did.  Our power has been off since Monday night.  Sandy is to blame for knocking it out.

The fault for the power staying off is entirely mine. I failed to prepare. In doing so, I prepared to fail. And fail I did. No generator equals no power. No power means no heat. No power means no refrigeration.

An ass am I.

-AK

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

General Marshall's Mantra

Today is the first Tuesday following the final Monday of October.  As luck would have it, next Tuesday is the first Tuesday following the first Monday of November.  In these United States we have a clever sobriquet for that otherwise far too long to say quickly in polite conversation day on the calendar.  We call it "Election Day".    The nation goes to the polls - or if history is any guide slightly less than half of us who are registered and therefore eligible to do so - one week for today to decide among many, many other things who shall be the next President of these United States. 

Granted being President has neither the gravitas nor the panache of being the next American Idol but history has taught us that it is a pretty important gig.  Whether you back Barack or think Mitt is it (or weep quietly in the corner over the paucity of actually attractive options from which you might choose), do the right thing and vote.  Casting a vote is not likely to kill you.  Considering all that has been sacrificed throughout the history of this nation- including on this very day in places flung far and wide around the globe - by men and women an awful lot like me and you (except unlike me they resisted the urge to run away as fast they could when bad shit started to happen all around them) so that men and women such as me and you could enjoy the freedom and the liberties under which we live, the burden placed upon us is less than negligible.  It is non-existent.


If next Tuesday you are just not feeling it and are inclined to blow off taking the time to vote, then come back to this very space for no reason other than to read the words of General Marshall.  Words that are etched in stone at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Etched in stone.  Born in blood.  Consecrated in sacrifice.   

WE ARE DETERMINED
 THAT BEFORE THE SUN SETS ON THIS
 TERRIBLE STRUGGLE OUR FLAG WILL BE RECOGNIZED
 THROUGHOUT THE WORLD AS A SYMBOL OF FREEDOM
 ON THE ONE HAND AND OF OVERWHELMING
FORCE ON THE OTHER

'Nuff said.

-AK

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Deal of the Half-Century

It is the day before the night before Halloween.  Unless the weather nerds are utterly wrong, it may be at least another two days before the far-flung branches of the family tree are able to make it back to their respective outposts. 
 
Way back when in the middle of March - for reasons that I cannot entirely recall - my wife warned me against throwing a surprise party for her 50th birthday....which was two days ago.  She went so far as to say, "the only thing I want for my birthday is a nice photo of Suzanne/Ryan and a nice photo of Jess/Rob.  Since they cannot be here for my birthday, I want no party.  I want nothing else." 
 
The lawyer in me seized immediately upon the language that I have highlighted.  I interpreted what she said not as a directive against having a party but rather a specific condition precedent that had to be met in order for one to be permitted.  The kids and I immediately put a plan in place whereby all four of them would come home for Margaret's birthday and we would surprise the hell out of her.  Of course, that was our plan. 
 
Unbeknownst to us, Margaret's plan was to order an extra-large supply of traveling bones and decide that the two of us (and in at least one case Joe) would emulate the Rolling Stones and announce our own tour of North America.  Once the Missus made plans for us to be in Houston last week and Colorado next month, I proposed to Suz and to Rob that perhaps we call off the New Jersey excursion.  Both of them told me - without hesitation - no chance.  Home they were a-coming. 
 
And home they did come.  Boy oh boy was their mother surprised to see them.  While I anticipate that on some cold night in January I will be awakened by the smell of my side of the bed burning, at least for present purposes Margaret appears to have enjoyed her birthday immensely.  Kudos to Lynne and Gidg - the Sisters Kizis - who were my co-conspirators and who had the yeoman's task on Saturday of keeping Margaret away from our home until the "surprisers" had arrived and assumed our positions.  And an additional shout out to Gidg for the cake of the year
 
 
 
 
The day would not have happened - and could not have happened - without the efforts made by Suz and Ryan to wing home from Houston and by Jess and Rob to head east from Colorado.  It was one of the best days I have had in I know not how long - not only seeing the three people about whom I care the most on this planet together and sharing one another's company but seeing also the future of this little unit.  Moving forward we are in very good hands.  Very good hands indeed....
 
 

 
....I am damn happy and forever grateful that roughly twenty-two years ago Margaret invited me along for the ride.   I would not trade it for anything in the world. 
 
-AK

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What Comes First - the Earthquake or the Aeroplane?

In what is fast becoming a rather unwelcome rite of late October in these parts, those of us here in the State of Concrete Gardens are battening down our collective hatches in anticipation of Mother Nature's anticipated delivery - whether we want it or not - of a rather large, unpleasant weather system.  The Weather Nerds in the local media have dubbed the coming event "Frankenstorm" in recognition of its juxtaposition to Halloween.   Imagine their horror were it scheduled to arrive in time for St. Swithun's Day.  The struggle to name it would be daunting at the very least.   Perhaps Sebastian Junger would be consulted?

My single favorite aspect of the way in which local television crews cover severe weather is the manner in which the people running the stations appear willing to sacrifice on-air talent in order to get the most spectacular footage to show to their viewers.   Each station's meteorologist - including my favorite Lonnie Quinn of CBS-2 - be sent out into the breach to report on the weather as it is happening all around them.  An interesting quirk in TV news is it not that when the weather is atrocious the weatherman/woman is dispatched out into it so that he/she can show it to us as they give us the forecast but no such visual aid is deemed necessary when the forecast calls for sunshine and 58 degrees?  On a sunny day we the viewer do not need any visual confirmation of what we are being told regarding the weather but on a bad weather day "Proof of Rain" somehow is required? 

It is of course not simply the meteorologist who gets sent out into the weather but every third piece of on-air talent as well.  Last October I cannot even begin to estimate how many members of the local stations' on-air staffs we saw on our television including those who seemed willing to hurl themselves into harm's way just to tell us what the pictures being broadcast had already conveyed to us most effectively:  there was some bad shit happening out there.  It is as if we have raised a generation of tele-journalists who - having little desire to report from one of the too damn many battlefields on which American troops are presently engaged - are working on getting their "real journalist bona fides" dodging snow plows and doing the dog paddle.  To me it makes as much sense as having the sports anchor give his report from the Giants huddle or behind the Rangers goal - while wearing full uniform of course - or the entertainment reporter give her report while flying on the trapeze at the circus. 

This too shall pass - although it might be in these parts through Halloween on Wednesday.  If you and yours live within the geographic boundaries of the affected area - which would be anything shown on this map


then I hope that other than inconvenience, Frankenstorm brings no other bad tidings to your door.  Forewarned is forearmed.  Be prepared.  Stay safe.  Regardless of what Michael Stipe says, it really is not the end of the world as we know it....

....it is just the end of October, Jersey style.

-AK

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Rescued From Halfway Down A Shallow Grave

My fate was sealed before I met you darling
I was halfway down a shallow grave
So little room for you to catch me falling

It is not an exaggeration - not even by a little bit - to say that Margaret saved my life.  In fact, it is not even the half of it.  She not only saved my life.  She opened my eyes, my mind and that little crumpled-up piece of coal buried in my chest to the concept of having a life.  Had I not met her I know not where I would have ended up.  I have every reasonable suspicion though that the journey would have been much less enjoyable than it has been thus far.  I have almost as many reasonable suspicions that it would have ended quite a long time ago but for her.

Today my life's great love is celebrating her 50th birthday.  It has been my great joy and privilege to have been part of her life as she has completed twenty-plus trips around the Sun.  She has approached today as she has approached every one leading up to it:  with a smile on her face.  The written word - both fiction and non-fiction - is replete with references to the efforts to which women go to avoid the mere mention of their birthday.  Not Margaret.  Her take on it - while not unique perhaps - is most assuredly extraordinary.

While I shall spend a portion of my day at the office, the Missus shall spend her day in the company of two of her closest friends doing something that she spends scant little time doing:  shopping for herself.  Today begins the quest for a "Mother of the Bride" dress, a quest on which she shall be joined by the Sisters Kizis.  Inasmuch as this is a topic about which I have as little to offer as I do on most topics, I shall be the best possible place while they are on their quest:  somewhere else entirely.

This evening we are going out to celebrate the "Big 5-0" with the Sisters Kizis and a few other near and dear friends.  The jackass to whom Margaret is married is so incompetent that while he wonders if she will wear her birthday present from him to dinner, he will not know if she is unless she tells him.  Apparently I bought her a beige sweater.  Yep.  A beige sweater.  At long last the life-long search for a middle name is over.  "Mr. Excitement" it is.  It suits me.  I am sure you will agree. 

I hope that today is indeed a happy birthday for my bride.  I know that she is saddened by the fact that while both of our adult offspring are healthy and happy neither of them is currently in possession of a zip code here within the geographical boundaries of the State of Concrete Gardens.  Whoever penned that old saw about the interplay between absence and fondness has never spent one day - let alone a birthday - in Margaret's company. 

Pretty incredible how this life has worked out for me.  'Tis her birthday.  Yet I am the one in receipt of the present....

....every day. 

If all men are equal
This must be against the law
'Cause I can't help but feeling
I'm one up on my brother when night falls.

-AK







Friday, October 26, 2012

The Epoch of Belief....

This week that was here in the State of Concrete Gardens has emitted a decidedly Dickensian vibe.  

The little South Jersey town of Clayton learned that evil lives everywhere - even in a sleepy little town.  You may awaken one morning and think that you have seen the worst of what the world has to offer.  Then you flip on the local news or open the newspaper to learn of two teenaged boys who allegedly were so utterly callous in their disregard for the proper value of things that they decided a BMX bicycle was worth more than a 12 year old girl's life - stealing the former and discarding the latter (from whom they are alleged to have taken it) in a recycling container as if she was a bottle of bleach or a Chinese food box.  Autumn Pasquale and her family should be spending this weekend preparing to celebrate her upcoming 13th birthday.  They are not.  Instead her parents tomorrow shall endure what no parent is ever prepared emotionally to endure:  they shall bury their little girl.    

Against this backdrop of despair and almost unfathomable cruelty, a ray of hope was found.  Earlier this week, the New Jersey Journal published the heroics of 24 year-old James Baber.  A week ago Thursday - on October 18th - Baber was in Journal Square in Jersey City in order to catch a train to take him to Newark.  Baber is (cue the Alma mater) a student at Seton Hall University's School of Law.  Apparently as he was heading towards his train he spotted a woman trip and fall from the platform onto Track 3.  He hustled over to where she was and - instead of calling for help or (as I would have done) freezing and being unable to act - he launched himself onto the tracks and rescued her.  

In addition to attending law school, Baber works for the Hudson County Law Department.  It is worth pointing out that his act of valor became public knowledge only because one of his co-workers contacted the newspaper and told of his exploits.  This is not a young man particuarly interested in banging his own drum.  When the newspaper caught up with him earlier this week and he walked them through what had happened, his nonchalance was astounding:  “It’s not like there was much of a thought process.  There was a man waving his arms to signal the train to stop, but no one else was going to be able to get there in time.”

The life he saved was that of a seventy-two year-old woman who, I assure you, is most grateful that this future member of the Bar acted as decisively and as swiftly as he did.   About a year and a half ago I had the pleasure of trying a case in front of his dad - who is a a Superior Court Judge in Hudson County and who was at that time assigned to the Civil Division.   Good man and one who I am quite confident is damn proud of what his son did.  And probably not surprised at all. 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Old Chuck Dickens was a wordy son of a bitch.  But when he is right, he is right.  And this week - here in the State of Concrete Gardens - he flat-out nailed it.

-AK

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Once Upon A Very Long Time Ago....

....competitive football was played by the young men wearing the colors of the University of Colorado Buffaloes.  This autumn?  Not so much.  The purpose of this piece is not to slam the kids on the 2012 roster, the coaches who oversee their day-to-day lives or the institution that brought the two together.   Their results this season - while dreadful and likely to get worse with the Oregon "Point-A-Minute" Ducks waiting for the Buffs this Saturday in Eugene, which is a scary place to play as an opponent when you are good - are not the by-product of an inferior effort.  They try hard.  They just do not play really well.  Worse yet, they do not play anywhere near well. 

I do not pretend to know either what the solution to the problem is or - better still - what it should be.  I earn my living faking my way through the practice of law.  That in and of itself occupies my time.  I have no delusions that my passion for my Buffs is an effective substitute for actual knowledge regarding what should be done in terms of the program.  I leave that to those who know better than I.  I take comfort in the fact that at day's end if it turns out that the current caretakers are deemed by those to whom they answer to be ill-prepared to continue in their positions, changes shall be made and that I am not the one to whom those currently in charge answer so that decision shall not belong to me.  

While it has been an unhappy autumn on the Front Range, on this very day twenty-six years ago the mighty Buffaloes of the University of Colorado did something that they had not done since Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of these United States.   Coach Mac's Buffs upset the heavily-favored and nationally-ranked evil red horde from Nebraska.  (Apropos of nothing, although Nebraska was our #1 rival while I was at CU and I said nasty things about them then and still do on occasion today, among the nicest folks you shall ever meet are the folks who road trip all over the country in support of their Cornhusker football team.)  

For my fellow Buffaloes, take a moment or two and rejoice in the memory of what feels these days as if it happened twenty-six lifetimes ago or worse yet, not at all.  In fact, it was such a great afternoon rejoice not in just one memory but in two:



                                        
and the coup de grace



                              
And fear not my fellow New York baseball fans.  While I know that it shall not totally repair the wounds inflicted upon Mets fans for how brutally they played all season or the wounds of Yankees fans for how dreadfully they played in October, may it bring us all a small measure of comfort that on this very date twenty-six years ago a ball that trickled up the first base line led to a stream of confetti in the Canyon of Heroes just a few days later



I think that all of these clips would make me happier....

....if they did not make me feel so damn old.

-AK

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Moving Pictures

I know not whether Robert Fulghum was right - although in view of what a colossal waste of time, money and sweat equity law school was I suspect that he was speaking truthfully - but I know that as a little dude I learned a great deal NOT in school but by watching Bugs Bunny cartoons after school every afternoon.   An education provided to me by the earnest efforts of my older brother Kelly.  Today is his birthday (and in an entirely unrelated event it is United Nations Day) and while I suspect that he shall spend it as he spends every day of the calendar year that ends in a "Y", which is working, I hope he has a free moment or two to celebrate it. 

I have written in this space about the great benefit of being the last car on an elongated train of six siblings.  It served me well - especially so when I was a child.  While it was from my big brother Bill that I acquired my love of Springsteen music and the ability to read by my 2nd birthday it was from Kelly - middle of the three Kenny sons and the link between the first half of Mom/Dad's kid caravan and those of us on the back half - that I learned an appreciation for humor and its role in education.  His classroom?  Our family room in the old barn of a Revolutionary War home where we lived on Canal Road.  His tools of learning?  The television and the daily dose of Looney Tunes that was faithfully beamed through it every afternoon.   I know not whether I have in fact learned more from a three-minute record than I ever learned in school but I know emphatically that through the adventures of Bugs Bunny I learned quite a lot about quite a lot of subjects. 

When my two were children, which they have not been for a number of years, I recoiled in horror at the poor quality of the cartoons that were targeted for their age group.  The animation was atrocious and the story telling was unimaginative.  I was happy to have had my own reservoir of Bugs-related knowledge upon which to draw and to share with them.  It enabled them to have an opportunity to experience something that they might not have otherwise known existed.  It was an experience I was able to share with them only because when I was their age Kelly ensured that I lived it and learned it. 

(Parenthetically he also quizzed me every day as to the name of that year's winner of the Kentucky Derby and assured me - in spite of documentary evidence to the contrary - that "Charley Horse" won every year and always by the same razor-thin margin - "A hair on his nose".  It was not until age thirteen that I discovered this was not in fact the case.  It was also the age at which I regained full feeling in my left leg so it was a cause for celebration for more than just one reason.  But I digress....)

In addition to being the Professor of Animated Features at my School of Life, he was also - somewhat incredibly I think given that when I was a "single digit" kid he was a high school cool kid - the fiercest protector of the Santa Claus legend I have ever encountered.  When I was in first grade - and prone to the occasional (if in your world recess constituted an "occasion") Grand Mal epileptic seizure - it was Kelly who gave me the information needed to rebuff the claim of the first non-believer in our class, which allowed me a brief moment of not being referred to as "We'll take him" by my classmates.  Better yet, when I came home the following day crushed by my young antagonist's deliberately dismissive query, "If there is a Santa Claus then how does he deliver presents around the whole world in one night?" it was Kelly who - without even having to pause to consider the import of the question - gave me my retort.  "Time zones", said I without fear of being challenged.  And I was not. 

I hope today that he has a free moment or two to celebrate his birthday.  Perhaps put his feet up and take in a feature....or two  In the spirit of the season, perhaps he shall even make time for a third

After all, monsters lead such interesting lives....

....and can always conjure up a laugh.  A lesson imparted upon me a lifetime ago in a classroom far, far away.

-AK

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

And Then There Were Two....

....weeks until Election Day.  You thought perhaps this was going to be a primer on the Major League Baseball playoffs?  Nope.  While there are in fact but two teams left standing, neither of them is the team for which I root most passionately.   Thus my interest in this year's World Series is as muted as it has been the past two years.  Make no mistake however.  While I shall not follow the action pitch-by-pitch I am rooting hard for Jim Leyland and his Detroit Tigers.  Leyland is my second-favorite person who is trying to win something this fall in Michigan.  Here is to hoping that the Bridget Mary McCormack juggernaut is juggernautish ("Hey look Kids it is "Create Your Own Language Day!"") enough to carry both her hopes and those of Leyland's troops to victory. 

For those of you who spent a portion of your Monday night listening to Messrs. Obama and Romney bicker (I refuse to lend dignity to an unholy trinity of undignified mud-sling-a-thons by referring to what has occurred this election season as "debates".  Respect for the oratorical skills and historical significance of Messrs. Webster and Haynes and Messrs. Lincoln and Douglas simply shall not permit it), while I doubt highly that anything either said provided you with (a) actual, useful information; or (b) a basis for adjusting your pre-conceived notions about the two candidates more than ever so slightly, I admire your ability to absorb punishment.  

Then again, I did subject myself to two weeks of watching the Yankees flail helplessly against each and every pitcher they faced (except for Jim Johnson and Jose Valverde).  I am not entirely certain but I think in Game Four of the ALCS at one point young Max Scherzer just started tossing anything he could find towards home plate (rosin bag, pitching rubber, bag of chew) knowing full well that nothing he sent in the direction of the Yankees was coming back his direction....except for the ball out of Gerald Laird's right hand.  And apropos of nothing, if you need a kid to root hard for not just this October but every month of every season, google "Max Scherzer" and read what he and his family have endured this season.  He is quite a remarkable young man. 

We are two weeks removed from Election Day.  I cannot be more sincere than when I say I care not for whom you vote.  I care simply that you exercise a right that someone other than you and other than me won for the both of us and just might have given his or her life in the process.  Election Day is "Adult Swim". 

Everybody into the pool....

-AK

Monday, October 22, 2012

Rhythm and Music

There were many, many terrific things about the several days that the Missus and I spent in Texas last week.  However on a visit chock full of highlights, it is easy for me to distinguish the trip's defining moment from a whole lot of other very, very good ones. 

On Thursday, which was our first full day in the Lone Star State Margaret and Suzanne went bridal gown shopping together.  Both were looking forward to the outing very much.  But not because either reasonably anticipated that gold would be struck on this venture.  Rather, because the cruelty of geography being what it is, Thursday represented the one and only time that my two best girls were going to be able to shop together.  Suzanne is Margaret's one and only daughter and the fervor with which each has taken to planning for an event that is still (only?) ten and one-half months away is reflective of just how important each is to the other.  As has been the case for the entirety of Suzanne's life, each has wrapped her own notion of "happiness" tightly around the other's. 

Thursday - either at some point in the late morning or the early afternoon (I know not because at the time I was informed as to what they had achieved I was crawling around the USS Texas, a decommissioned battleship permanently moored at San Jacinto State Park) the Dynamic Duo did something that neither might have considered possible only a couple of short hours earlier:  they found Suzanne's wedding gown.  In retrospect their smashing success should not have come as a surprise to either of them.   It most assuredly did not come as a surprise to me.  When two intelligent, focused individuals combine their energies and talents in order to accomplish something that is extraordinarily important to both of them, no obstacle is insurmountable. 

At day's end, it was not simply important to Suzanne and to Margaret that Suzanne find a gown in which to be married that she simply adores.  It proved to be just as important to them that THAT MOMENT - the moment at which Suzanne realized her search was over - take place neither when Suz was alone nor when she was in the company of someone other than her mother.  It makes perfect sense, given the way in which one has ended and the other has begun for the entirety of Suz's life that the two were together when THAT MOMENT arrived. 

Neither forced it.  It simply happened for them.  Same as it always has.  Same as it always shall.

-AK

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Yonder Bound

Today endeth the Texas adventure.  I suppose that technically speaking this is the final day of our vacation but considering that we shall spend the bulk of it getting from Point A to Point B while hustling through and sitting in airports and on airplanes, it sure feels nothing at all like a "vacation" day.   It is what it is.

The "wrap up" part of any trip to visit either of the kids at one of their remote locales (or of one of their too-infrequent trips back to the State of Concrete Gardens) is always the worst part of the jaunt.  It is the day when reality's ugly head raises up full and proud above the tree line to remind us that "See you soon!" is equal parts hope....and lie.  Or perhaps it is simply proof of Einstein's theory of relativity.  For when you see one you love infrequently then seeing them again in sixty days or so perhaps does fit the dictionary definition of "soon". 

We are off.  Back to the homeland.  While as a visitor in a strange land just what it is that gives Texans that feeling that being from this oddly-shaped state makes them somehow superior to the rest of us successfully eluded me, for present purposes Texas has two things that I wish very much New Jersey had.

'Til Christmas then.  Love you both.  See you soon....  

....when I say it really fast it sounds less like I am telling myself a lie. 

-AK

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Adventures in Levelland

In the great migration west
Separated from the rest
Though they might have tried their best
They never caught the sun

So they sunk some roots down in this dirt
To keep from blowin' off the earth
Built a town right here

 
You live long enough and the opportunity presents itself to try many things.  One time, at least.  This morning the Missus and I shall awaken in the state where the stars at night are big and bright.  We have been here since Wednesday.  This morning marks the beginning of the first weekend in the forty-five plus years of living I have done to date that I have ever spent in Texas. 

We have spent the past couple of days taking in some of the local sights with Suzanne.  Margaret and Suzanne have spent some time huddled up doing some wedding planning as well.  Considering that the overwhelming majority of this event shall be coordinated via on-line chats and phone calls this "face-to-face" time is important.  Or so they both tell me.  My role in all the planning is easy.  It is limited to three simple questions:  (a) What is the caterer's name; (b) How much do I owe him; and (c) When do I have to pay him? 

The past couple of days we have seen some interesting things and checked out some pretty cool places but while we have been "touring" the folks who live here have been busy working.  Well, all of them except for Suzanne.  Today we shall have a chance to see Houston "at play".   While I am not a great traveler by any accepted definition of the term one of the things I enjoy when I do go outside of my comfort zone is seeing what people in other places do to fill their leisure time. 

The temperature today is supposed to reach into at least the mid-80's with humidity somewhere in the 60-65% range.  Nothing quite like a dose of July weather in mid-October to make one yearn for Autumn.  But it does give me a hell of a fine excuse to wear flip-flops.  At home, the door has almost closed completely on flip-flop season so my little piggies have been living the high life the past few days. 

Off we go, the Missus and me.....to Infinity and beyond!  OK.  First we are going to breakfast.  From there, we shall play it by ear.  No sense trying to overdo.  We are on vacation after all.



-AK

Friday, October 19, 2012

Speed Demons

With little of consequence to do but enjoy a few days of rest and relaxation in the home of the Johnson Space Center (Go NASA!), I finally spent a little bit of that free time checking out the video of Felix Baumgartner's Supersonic Jump, which took place on Sunday October 14.  Let us set aside for a moment the fact that he landed ON HIS FEET and with the grace and aplomb of Fred Astaire.   How about we focus - for just a moment - on the steel in this man's spine in the moment before he began his descent.  This is a picture of him in mid-salute as he prepares for his descent. 


I stay off of ferris wheels due to my height-related anxiety.  To say that this feat is beyond impressive to me is to make me guilty of something I am rarely accused of, which is understatement. 

Baumgartner stepped out of his capsule a robust 24.26 miles above the Earth.  At top speed during his trip downward he accomplished his goal of eclipsing the speed of sound (which has nothing it turns out to do with whether anyone on the ground can hear you as you scream from twenty-four plus miles above the Earth), achieving a top speed of 833.9 miles per hour. 

Baumgartner did his thing on the 65th anniversary of Chuck Yeager having been the first human to break the speed of sound, which Yeager did while wearing an airplane as opposed to a pressurized spacesuit.  Before he made the jump, Baumgartner said, "Sometimes you have to get up really high to know how small you are."

Just for fun the now eighty-nine-year-old Yeager spent his Sunday marking the sixty-fifth anniversary of his achievement by doing it again - albeit this time from the rear seat of an F-15 Eagle.  At 10:14 a.m. - no one ever accused Yeager of lacking a keen sense of dramatic flair - Yeager's plane went supersonic.  Again.

Is it just me or do you suspect that if we all fortunate enough to have Chuck Yeager with us this time next year that Yeager - age 90 - and Baumgartner - roughly a half-century his junior - will join forces to do something that even by their incredible standards is extraordinary? 

"This is Fearless Felix to Ground Control.  I need you to set up a table for two for lunch.  What time?  About nine minutes from now."

-AK


Thursday, October 18, 2012

(A)lone Star

Today is the first full day here on the ground in the great state of Texas.  The Missus and the Jr. Missus are spending a bit of quality time together today shopping for wedding gowns.  Inasmuch as my input historically has proven to be insubstantial when one of them is looking at something as benign as flip-flops, I have been invited/permitted to sit this one out.  

I know not how long their excellent adventure shall last today - although I anticipate they will be engaged for a couple of hours at least (including the requisite lunch/cocktail break - where I shall be present in plastic if not in person).  My future son-in-law is scoring HUGE points with me by spending his Thursday working.   Well done Ryan.  Playing tour guide does not pay the bills.  I am beyond impressed.  

So with the women folk (note how effortlessly I dropped a little Tex-speak on y'all right there?  I actually did it twice but who likes a braggart?) are shopping and the son-in-law to be is otherwise engaged, I get to play the role of the New Jersey Yankee/tourist.  Our hotel has a pool and a fitness center, which means that I can run in climate-controlled conditions and then catch up on some reading at pool side.  I presume that since Suzanne (a) knows where the deadly duo is going today; and (b) has a car that she will do the driving for their day's adventure, which means that our rental car and I shall be left togther.  Unchaperoned. 

Oh the stories we just might be in a position to tell.  

-AK  


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

....on the Streets of Houston Town

The Missus and I are airborne today.  Well, to be wholly accurate we shall only be in the air for a portion of the day.  Considering we are flying United (the airlines f/k/a Continental and United) there is an excellent chance that our bags may never land.  
 
All kidding aside we are off today on the great Texas adventure.  Excited to see Suzanne and Ryan for the first time post-question popping.  Excited too to see their digs in Houston.  Neither of us has been to Texas since the great migration (south) west took place in the last quarter of 2011.  Ought to be quite an exciting, interesting few days.
 
Wait.  I think I hear the Elkhorn Special....
 
 
 
-AK
 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Demented and Sad....

Quite an action-packed weekend for my old bones 'NTSG.  Friday night the Missus and I took in the John Hiatt and the Combo concert at McCarter Theatre in Princeton.  Simply extraordinary show.  Mr. Hiatt has been plying his trade for a long time and has built up an extensive catalog of material from which to draw.  For two-plus hours Friday night he took us on a guided tour of it, including several visits to his newest release, Mystic Pinball.  The energy he brings to bear is exceptional but energy without talent is....well Bobcat Goldthwait.  Hiatt is a musical craftsman.  Friday night he did not disappoint.  An outstanding evening of music.  If the opportunity presents itself for you to see him on this tour, avail yourself of it.  If you are among what I presume to be the overwhelming majority of people who pop by this space and have never heard any of his music, avail yourself of that opportunity too. 
 
Sunday morning we headed off to Livingston New Jersey so that Margaret could work at and I could run in the 3rd Annual Livingston 5K, an event which is a labor of love of my law partner Arnold Gerst.  It was this year - as it had been each of its first two years - a terrific event.  Mother Nature was not as kind to Arnie and his army of volunteers as she might have been.  While the morning saw not more than the stray drop of rain, the sky had that gun-metal gray, autumnal look to it from sunrise on, which had a bit of an effect on the number of people who showed up an hour or so before gun time to register for it.  For reasons still not entirely clear to me, I ran my best-ever 5K time.   I remain genetically incapable of finishing with a time that is lower than 24 minutes.  But on Sunday I ran a personal best of 24:10.89.   A nice way for me to wrap up my fall racing schedule.  No events for me now until the Saturday before Thanksgiving when I take part in the 5 mile Turkey Trot in 'Squan. 
 
The filling in the middle of the Oreo of fun that was this weekend was the time spent in the company of those who graduated as I did from W-H.  On Saturday afternoon I went to campus for the annual Alumni Gathering during which two folks whose time at W-H overlapped with my own were the recipients of honors.  Roger Wood was enshrined in the school's Athletic Hall-of-Fame while Mary McCormack was honored as a Distinguished Alumna.  Mary's remarks in accepting her award were pitch-perfect.  And her good humor and patience in playing the "You may remember me" game that took place at the conclusion of the ceremony was nothing short of gracious - especially when talking to an alum who graduated a couple of years before she did and whose conversation with her centered around his son's appreciation of the way in which she brought a feeling of authenticity to a role that had her playing on television what his son does in "real life" every day.  
 
I ended up spending a bit of time post-ceremony not only hanging around on campus with some old friends - and a number of people who I knew either not well or not at all - and then to my surprise with many of that same group off-campus for a while thereafter.  If you live, work or both in or near Scotch Plains, New Jersey might I suggest that you spend a bit of time and hard-earned coin at the brand-spanking new Darby Road Pub on Park Avenue.   Terrific little joint owned and staffed by good folks and turning out good food and drink at a good price. 
 
By choice (mine - although the pleasure realized from it is all theirs) I spend little time with the company of those I first came to know a lifetime ago.  As someone whose life's history has consistently been one of brightening rooms through departure as opposed to arrival I have little doubt that my absence has been scarcely noticed - if even at all - by those who attend such functions regularly.  Thus their collective patience in tolerating my attendance on Saturday evening was well-appreciated I assure you.  My gift to them is my promise to not come 'round again for another twelve months. 
 
All kidding aside, while it may well be true that you cannot go home again, the occasional trip through the old neighborhood just to see what's what is certainly good for the soul. Happy that I took this one. 
 
 
 
-AK

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Walk Up Calvary Hill

Last week's end brought brutal news from a place I normally associate with beauty and peace.  A grim reminder that even in places where one might not expect it, evil exists.  It is everywhere.

It was ten days ago that ten-year-old Jessica Ridgeway walked out of her home in Westminster, Colorado at or about 8:30 in the morning for a scheduled "meet up" with some friends at a local park so that all of the children could walk to school together.  Jessica failed to appear at the park.  Her friends, not wanting to get in trouble themselves for being late to school, walked to school without her.  They reported her failure to appear to an adult upon arrival. 

Ten days.  In the larger scheme of things, ten days is an eye blink.  Unless and until someone abducts your child.  Ten days becomes an eternity. 

Late in the day on Friday, October 12, authorities in Colorado confirmed what they had suspected - and feared, which was that the body of a young female child that had been discovered near Pattridge Park Open Space in Arvada two days earlier was that of Jessica Ridgeway.  Authorities announced on Friday that they confirmed Jessica's identity using DNA testing, which was necessitated by the fact that the body was "not intact".  

It takes a particular type of evil to perpetrate an assault and murder of a child.  The hunt for the piece of human dreck who commited this horrific crime has been joined with great vigor by law enforcement agencies all along the Front Range of Colorado and beyond.  There is more than just a small part of me wishing that after this piece of shit has been apprehended, DNA testing becomes a necessity for whomever comes to claim the body to identify him due to the fact that his body is "not intact".

A parent's greatest fear is to outlive our child.  It is a disturbance in the natural order of the universe unrivaled by anything of which I am aware.  To say that my heart breaks for this little girl and the parents who now shall face the sad task of burying her is to understate the case by too many degrees to properly quantify.

-AK



Sunday, October 14, 2012

And Old Champ's Still on the Guitar

You say you're not from Texas
Man as if I couldn't tell
You think you pull your boots on right
And wear your hat so well

So pardon me my laughter
'Cause I sure do understand
Even Moses got excited

Today kicks off an abbreviated work week, which is and of itself cause for celebration I reckon, which doubles as a week in which the Missus and I shall spend a bit of time with the soon-to-be newlyweds.  Yee Haw!  Texas here we come.  But for "Friday Night Lights" and Lyle Lovett one would be hard-pressed to explain to me why the United States should not have - in hindsight - sided with Mexico in the Texas War for Independence.  It shall be great to spend a few days with Suzanne and Ryan.  So much so that ignoring the fact that everyone else around us and them will likely be a Texan shall not be a difficult obstacle to surmount.

This morning if you are in the general vicinity of Livingston, New Jersey head over to the high school.  At 9:30 a.m. my law partner (and fellow member of Sue's Crew IV) Arnold Gerst and some of his friends and neighbors shall be putting on the 3rd Annual Livingston 5K.  I am biased I suppose due to the fact that Mr. Gerst is one of those who practices law for a living who gives the practice a good name but this is one of my favorite events on my running calendar.  It is not a particularly big event - probably somewhere in the neighborhood between 150-250 runners will participate but it is very well-organized.  Margaret and I shall be there this morning by 8:00 a.m. because the Missus is part of Arnie's Crew.  This will mark her third consecutive year as part of Mr. Gerst's all-volunteer army. 

The weather forecast for today here in the State of Concrete Gardens is "Spectacular".  Even if you are not a runner, there is still much for you to do and see at Arnie's event.  There is a health and wellness expo and - for those among us with rugrat-sized kids at home - there are a number of children's events and races too.  In another month in these parts it will likely be cold enough even in the midday sun to make one want to limit his/her time spent out of doors.  Do not squander the opportunity that today has presented you. 

-AK

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Making My Way Back to the Old Town

Some nice goings-on at the Alma mater (high school version) today and this evening.  Today is W-H's annual "Fall Fair/Homecoming".  Back in the day, when I prowled the campus as a student this was my favorite day of the year.   As an alum who lives within a twenty minute drive of the campus, it is the one time a year that I try to make it to campus.  As of right now, a jaunt over there late this afternoon is still in the plans although whether the Missus makes the trip with me is still open to negotiation.  Candidly I cannot blame her for her somewhat middling level of enthusiasm.  Spending several hours in the company of people who are strangers to you and who are - for the most part - barely more than strangers to the spouse whose company you are keeping is no one's idea of an ideal Saturday evening. 

A few years ago W-H added a very nice, well-planned Alumni event to the Fall Fair program.  This year's event will feature two alums being inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame.  One of the two HOF inductees, Roger Wood, graduated from W-H the year after I did.  We played on a number of teams together, beginning when he was a 7th grader and I was an 8th grader.  When I found out that Roger was among this year's inductees I smiled thinking about our 7th/8th grade football team.  Head coach Link Keur - astutely realizing that a football team with two #1 quarterbacks really has no #1 quarterback - made a decision early on in pre-season camp to list Wood, R. ahead of Kenny, A. on his depth chart.  He never wavered from that decision all season.  A lifetime later, one of us is being inducted into the Athletic HOF.  The other shall be an attendee at the ceremony.  If Link Keur is not the brightest coach I ever played for, then he is at the very least assured of a spot on the medal platform. 

In addition to inducting two new members into the Athletic Hall-of-Fame, this year's Alumni event will also honor two people as recipients of this year's Distinguished Alumni Award.  One of the two honorees (a Distinguished Alumna as it were) is Mary McCormack, Class of  '87, who is one of the ubertalented and successful McCormack family.  If you have seen "Private Parts" or an episode of "The West Wing" or more recently "In Plain Sight", then you have seen Mary's work.  And if you have not, then after pushing the boulder from in front of the hole where you have been entombed the past two decades, find your way to a computer and enter the word "NETFLIX" in a Google search. 

For no reason other than this is not my week to baby-sit the McCormack family I know not whether Mary's big sister and (hopefully) soon-to-be Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court Bridget shall be in attendance this evening.  With days to the election dwindling down to a precious few, it may not be possible for her to be in New Jersey on a Saturday night.   I reckon that at some point between now and when my head and my pillow dole out their nightly helping of Peaches and Herb I shall know the answer to that question. 

The weather dudes and dudettes have promised a beautiful October day for the good folks who give up copious amounts of time and sweat equity to bring this annual event to life at W-H.  I hope that Mother Nature honors that promise.  While it long ago ceased being a part of my day-to-day, W-H remains now what it was then:  a place where a lot of good people strive to do good work. 

The faces change but the mission remains the same.  Same as it ever was....
I made my way back to the old town
And everything looked the same
The shops and the schools and the factories were there
But somehow the faces had changed
So I went for a walk in the high streets
Took my coat off and rolled up my sleeves
I thought of my father and his father before him
And how I was the first one to leave.

-AK




Friday, October 12, 2012

How I Found The Straight & True

Our wedding anniversary is June 19.  We arrived at that date because Margaret and I wanted to get married on or about the second anniversary of our first date.  And we wanted to get married on a Saturday.  As luck would have it, the 19th fit the bill on both counts.  For those keeping score at home, our first date was June 21, 1991, which was a Friday.   There will be neither a quiz on this nor a prize at tale's end for those who remember this particular piece of information so feel free to disregard it - starting right now. 

I was thinking about that first date this morning because tonight the Missus and I are traveling down to McCarter Theatre in Princeton to see the great John Hiatt.  Mr. Hiatt is on tour in support of his latest release, "Mystic Pinball".   While it is Mr. Springsteen who occupies more slots than any other artist in the jukebox of my life, Mr. Hiatt is not far behind.  He has written cerebral yet approachable stuff for decades.  In my mind it has always seemed to me that had my oldest brother Bill been a musician/songwriter, the one he would have been was Hiatt.  Both are possessors of an intellect so vast so as to not be restricted to the "same old, same old" and a sense of how to make what is said or written accessible to practically anyone.  A remarkable gift.  

I first fell into Hiatt's music as a student at CU Boulder in the latter half of the 1980's, assisted in my pursuit of it by a musical oasis on the FM dial, KBCO 97.3, which back in the day played a fantastic, eclectic mix of music.  Two of Hiatt's best-selling records, "Bring the Family" and "Slow Turning" were released while I was faking my way through the College of Arts and Sciences and multiple tracks from each ended up getting airplay on KBCO.  They provided me the inroad needed to explore the older portions of his catalog.  I was hooked.  I have been a fan ever since. 

Over the course of the past two-plus decades I have been lucky enough to see Hiatt perform, both as a solo act and supported by a band, on a number of different occasions and in a number of venues, ranging from Madison Square Garden (he OPENED for Hootie and the Blowfish....and no I am not making that up), to the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank and from the State Theatre in New Brunswick to McCarter Theatre in Princeton. 

In fact, this evening marks the second time I will have seen him perform at McCarter Theatre.  It is the first time, however, that I am being joined in Princeton by the Missus.  Tonight Hiatt is performing with a band.  When I last saw him in McCarter Theatre, he was by himself.  As was I. 

Tonight will be the first time I have seen John Hiatt perform in Princeton since June 14, 1991.  How do  I remember the date so readily?  It was the last Friday night I ever spent without Margaret.  It was my last Friday night as a "solo act".  One week later, we were off to dinner at Chan's Garden in Dunellen and some after dinner cocktails at Tumulty's in New Brunswick.  Almost twenty-two years later and she has yet to kick me to the curb.  

Truth is I never was young
Shot like a bullet from a rusty old gun
I could never find the straight and true
Honey, baby till I found you

I ain’t saying I ever grown up, girl
Oh, I’m the biggest baby in the world
I know you can say a lot about that
But you’re so sweet you keep it under your hat

Honey, I’m still the same old man
That you married way back when
A few less brain cells, a lot less hair
Honey, tell me do you still care?


I love you more than I ever did
I love you just like a little kid
Guess I’ll always be your biggest fan
Honey, I’m still the same old man

We been down a rough road or two
This is another one we’ll get through
Don’t ask me how I know
I’m just saying baby, please don’t go

'Cause I can still sparkle up your eyes
And you can still cut me down to size
Please take me as I am
Honey, I’m still the same old man


Honey, I’m still the same old man
That you married way back when
A few less brain, a lot less hair
Honey, tell me do you still care

I love you more than I ever did
I love you just like a little kid
I guess I’ll always be your biggest fan
Honey, I’m still the same old man

You start out trying to change everything
You wind up dancing with who you bring
I loved you then and my love still stands

-AK