Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Point Of Intersection Between Biology And Ideology

We share the same biology,
Regardless of ideology.
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too....

Blissfully quiet in the office this morning.  In my experience, there are few places as serene as a law firm early on a Saturday morning....especially the Saturday of Summer's last long weekend.   I am no one's hero - most pointedly not my own.  I shall not be spending the entire day here.  However there is work that must be completed and the person best suited to do that, sadly, bears an eerie resemblance to the fellow who returned my gaze in the bathroom mirror this morning.  Ugly, pathetic-looking fuck to boot.  Poor bastard.  

These past several days, when I had hoped to devote my non-work attention almost entirely to being whatever assistance Suzanne and Margaret may want or need in the last pre-wedding week on the calendar.  Notice that I did not say "entirely" but rather "almost entirely".  I am running in the Jimmy D 5K tomorrow morning in New Brunswick and watching the Buffs play CSU tomorrow night.  Hence the qualifier.  

However world events have laid waste to the best-laid plans of this mouse-like man.  The President has spent a lot of time these past several days appearing to try to lay out a case for going to war in Syria to punish the mouth-breeding bastard who runs that country and his coterie of inbred asshats for using chemical weapons on their own population.  The greatest potential downside to our once again taking on the role of "Global Super Cop" is that Syria has some fairly powerful friends, whether it deserves them or not.  Russia has made it known that it shall not stand by and allow "the West" to attack its Syrian ally.  Worse yet, the completely f*cking crazy pricks of misery who run the show in Iran have made it known that they shall read Israel into the conflict.  

Are we ready to power up Joshua and play a game of Global ThermoNuclear War to punish the government of Syria for what it did to its own citizenry?  I sure as hell hope the answer to that question is "No".   It is a question to which I wish I knew the answer.  

There is no historical precedent to put
Words in the mouth of the President.
There's no such thing as a winnable war
It's a lie we don't believe anymore.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Raiding the Future's Stores

And when August started to disappear,
We wondered what the Future held in store....
-Sam O'Herlihy

I am so old that once upon a lifetime ago - when I was a boy - this weekend heralded the official end of Summer.  A rite of the season was watching the annual Labor Day Regatta put on by the Harvey's Lake Yacht Club.  The inside joke, of course, was that it was not really a regatta.  And the boats involved in it were not really yachts.  Neither of those presumed infirmities ever appeared to diminish the event - at least in my eyes.  People on the water - in their boats - watching fireworks light up the night's sky.  An annual farewell salute to Summer.  We would pack up our stuff and head home to Jersey and back to our regularly scheduled, non-summertime lives.  The locals went back to doing whatever it was they did during the "off-season". 

I understand that nowadays Labor Day no longer heralds the arrival of the new school year.  Now, in fact, school starts for a lot of kids at some point during the final two weeks of August.  While I take no issue with that adjustment for children of a certain age I suppose - high school specifically - no one shall ever be able to explain to me what is so f*cking important that elementary school students need to begin their school year in August.  Is Steven Hawking now part of the curriculum in Kindergarten?  Dr. Sheldon Cooper popping in to lecture the kiddies on "String Theory"?  Thomas Friedman giving a talk on Middle East politics and policy?  

It might just be a residual effect of the fact that I become more and more disagreeable and cantankerous with every passing day but I suspect that the real, unspoken reason that the adults who run the public school education systems throughout these United States have foisted August start dates on the children in their charge is envy.  As a general rule, adults are envious of children.  We envy their energy.  We envy their spirit.  We envy their sense of perpetual, almost omnipresent enthusiasm.  Sometimes we look at them and see not only the promise of what they may become but also the regret of what we may have failed to become ourselves.  

Is this newly-embraced rush to adulthood paying off for us?  For them?  Has the elimination of seven to twelve lazy, fun-filled summer days from their calendar produced more dedicated, more earnest children?  Has it produced more mature, more sensitive and less dickish adults?  Pick up a newspaper.  Turn on your local news.  Decide for yourself. 


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Touchdowns and Flight Plans

From my admittedly selfish perspective, college football season officially opens tonight at or about 10:30 Eastern Time when the Scarlet Knights of State U. kick off their 2013 season in the Valley of the Raisin against the highly-touted Fresno State Bulldogs.  At last gander, Rutgers was listed as anywhere from a 9.5 to 11.5 point dog to the 'Dogs.  I know that I shall not stay awake to watch the entire game.  If RU is ahead when my eyes close, then I shall declare it a win.  It is the system I have employed with the Yankees all season.  On nights that Hughes pitches, I go to bed after the local news - at 6:00 P.M.  

I need to make sure I get my rest and the schedule makers have helped me greatly in that respect.  My beloved Alma mater does not kick off its 2013 season until Sunday afternoon.  The Buffs will travel down I-36 to Denver to play Colorado State in the Rocky Mountain Showdown.  Last season, CU opened the season by losing to the Ewes (sorry - the Rams) on their way to losing to pretty much everybody they played (thank you Mike Leach and Washington State).  This year the Buffs have a new coach and a new attitude.  New result?  Who the hell knows - certainly not Yours truly.  I know that I shall root for them faithfully every week - even when the action on the screen is so brutal that it begs me to look away.

Regardless of how Rutgers makes out on their season-opening trip to the Left Coast, I like the fact that they are willing to play 3,000 miles from home on Opening Night.  Starting next fall, every Saturday for RU will be "Big Boy Pants Day" as they make their maiden voyage through the Big Ten.  Playing teams such as Fresno State and Arkansas in their non-conference schedule will help prepare them for life in the Big Ten.  Kinda, sorta anyway.  

While I understand the desire of college football teams to play tough, intersectional games, it boggles my mind just how much cross-country intersectional action there is at the high school level.  This fall two of New Jersey's top prep programs, Don Bosco Prep from Ramsey and Bergen Catholic High School from Oradell, will play other nationally-ranked teams from all over the United States.  DBP opens its season at home against a Pennsylvania power, St. Joseph's Prep from Philadelphia.  Bosco's next game?  A short road trip to California to play Mission Viejo High School in Mission Viejo.  The following week, the Ironmen are home again in the cozy confines of Granatel Stadium to play Central High School of Miami, Florida, which as of this morning is the #1 high school football team in the United States (however one determines such things for high school sports).  DBP does not play a New Jersey opponent until the season's fourth week.  Query:  who pays the travel costs of a public high school's football team from Florida when it plays an away game in New Jersey?  I promise that the question is not deliberately snarky.  I have no idea who does.  I presume it is not the taxpayers of Miami.  Perhaps it is the TV network that broadcasts the game that foots the bill for flying a team, its coaches and its football equipment and putting them up for a night or two? 

Bergen Catholic's schedule is equally as ambitious in terms of its strength and far more likely to allow its players and coaches to rack up frequent flyer miles.  The Crusaders open their season in Louisiana against John T. Curtis High School.  The next weekend they are off to play the Jordan Beetdiggers at Rio Tinto Stadium, which (in case you did not know) is conveniently located in Sandy, Utah.  Bergen Catholic's first home game of the season is in their third game when they host Archbishop Gorman....of Las Vegas, Nevada.  

Apropos of nothing the first day of classes at Rutgers for the Fall 2013 semester is Tuesday, September 4, which means that the coast-to-coast trip to Fresno, California is costing the Scarlet Knights ZERO missed class time. 

Don Bosco Prep's first day of classes - according to the school's website - is Friday, September 6.  Ditto for Bergen Catholic.  No big deal.  The Bergen Catholic kids will have plenty of time to study....

....on the plane.    



Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Ten years ago - on this very date - the not-quite-yet Texas Tornado moved into her freshman dorm at Seton Hall University.  This afternoon, a flight shall transport the now-full-fledged Texas Tornado to New Jersey for the final time pre-nuptials.  When she next boards a plane for Texas, she shall be a Missus. 

A lot happens in ten years.  Some good.  Some bad.   Of course.  That is how it is supposed to be.  For it is Life.  We live it.  It is not a Disney touring production of "Snow White" or some such thing.  It is Life.  We savor the highs.  We absorb the lows.  And through it all we hope to maintain a keel even enough that it allows us to successfully navigate our day-to-day.

Ten years ago on this very date, Suzanne and all of the treasures she had accumulated to that point in her life moved up the road a bit from our house to her dorm room.  We transported enough "stuff" with us for her that News 12 came by where we had her belongings gathered - on a lawn outside the dorm - to shoot some footage of her belongings.  If memory serves me correctly they found it hard to believe that (a) all of the stuff was for just one student; and (b) all if it would fit inside of her room.  It was.  And it did.

She will carry considerably less with her on her flight home today.  Yet, she is not traveling light.  She carries with her nothing less than everything:  everything she is, everything for which she hopes and everything for which she dreams.  At eighteen, that load would have been too much for her to bear.  At twenty-eight, she carries it with grace and with ease. 

A lot happens in ten years.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Holy Sound & Fury Meaning Not A Goddamn Thing At All!"

I was driving in my car - somewhere between the office and an appearance - one day last week when the radio exploded with news regarding Ben Affleck.  I cannot recall to what station I was listening but both the on-air host and the people to whom he was talking (both people in studio and callers on the phone) mentioned Mr. Affleck's name with such passion - and in some cases venom - that I thought perhaps he had been implicated in some horrible criminal conspiracy or - perhaps worse - had left his wife and children to reunite romantically with J. Lo. 

Imagine my surprise when I learned that the tumult was the result of someone (Warner Brothers I think) announcing that Affleck has been tabbed to play Batman in a movie called "Superman vs. Batman".  Holy shit.  I never knew how little the truly important issues of the day resonated with the world at large until I saw the response to this announcement.  People created web sites "protesting" the decision and took to Twitter to express their (a) disappointment, (b) outrage, and (c) feelings of betrayal.  Wow.  What a country.

Note to those who commenced engaging in pre-emptive bed-wetting, poop-flinging and other forms of social protest upon hearing the news:  get a fucking grip.  He is an actor.  He has been hired to play a part in a movie.  A movie that - if I understood the announcement correctly - has not yet been written, has not yet begun production and will not be released until mid-July, 2015.  If the most trying issue you must tackle on a day in mid-August, 2013 is who has been hired to ACT in a movie that will not be released for two years, then you either need to recalibrate your "Prioritizer" because you have drifted far beyond the area between the navigational beacons OR you need to forward some of the righteous herb you have stockpiled in your greenhouse to me.  E-mail me.  I will send you my address....and a whole tray of brownies as a token of my appreciation. 

For those of you whose emotional growth has now allegedly been permanently fucked by Ben Affleck's participation in a Batman movie, it bears pointing out to you that simply because a film is made and released that has a comic book character's name in the title (or in the case of this movie the names of two characters) you are not required to watch it.  The Republic shall survive Ben Affleck's turn as Bruce Wayne, whether you elect to plunk down money to watch it or not.  We made it through Johnny Depp's Tonto did we not?  

And gee, I almost hate to point this out to the emotionally stunted with far too much free time on their hands among us who have already started campaigning against Affleck and this project because I know it is such a radical notion that many of you will not be able to do it.  Your internal constitution simply will not allow it.  Here it goes anyway:  you might actually want to wait until the movie is made before you judge it.  You might opt to make up your mind as to its quality once you possess actual information upon which to base your opinion.  

Nah.  Who has time for that right?  


Monday, August 26, 2013

When Nothin' Else Matters

Down the shore everything's alright,
You're with your baby on a saturday night,
Don't you know that all my dreams come true,
When i'm walkin' down the street with you,
Sing sha la la la la la sha la la la.
- Tom Waits

It took us until the final weekend before Labor Day to do it but the Missus and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Shore.  On Saturday night, we headed first to 'Squan to meet up with the rest of our party and then made the short trek down Route 35 to Point Pleasant.  Approximately three hours later with cheesesteaks and Kohr's ice cream in our bellies and the sights and sounds of the Boardwalk etched into our minds' eyes we headed north. 
A night of Frog Bog, bumper cars, Whack-A-Mole and the Tilt-A-Whirl is good for the soul.  And when it takes as long in the summer season to arrive as it did this year for Margaret and me, it is savored from its beginning until its end. 
A magical elixir indeed....


Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Trouble With People.... that far too many of them (of us) are assholes.  Inevitable?  Perhaps.  After all, there are billions and billions of us participating in this great celestial time-share.  Statistically speaking, at least some of us are going to suck. 

Perhaps it is the realization that a not insignificant percentage of the people with whom we share space here on Earth are asshats that drives an inordinately high number of us to seek solace in things such as religion.  I was born an Irish Catholic.  I lapsed years and years ago.  If I had a soul I would claim to feel badly about the path onto which I have strayed.  I do not.  Therefore I shall not.  And to ensure that my sleep patterns are never disturbed by visions of pitchfork-wielding maniacs in pointed hats and capes - unless of course I have been watching CMT's Top 20 Video Countdown shortly before bed time - I simply think of those who represent "the other side".  Archbishop John Myers of the Diocese of Newark leaps to the forefront of my mind.  I sleep like a baby.  Actually, I sleep better than a baby.  I sleep like a drunk:  soundly and through the night.

While neither God nor the institutions that construct designated meeting places to delight the assembled masses with their particular fables of the reconstruction occupy any measurable time in my day-to-day, I am aware of the fact that not everyone shares my opinion.  I run past the local catholic church, OLMV, every Sunday morning.  There always seems as if most of the spaces in the parking lot are filled.  Well, except for the early mass, which I think is either 7:00 or 7:30.  That appears to be as well attended as an 8:00 Humanities class at CU-Boulder.  Or a Mets game. 

I tell anyone who will listen that I approach the notion of God in this way:  the Lord and I have an understanding.  I spend little time in his home and he returns the favor.  While I have zero patience for those who attach God's name to everything - if one more athlete thanks "God", "Jesus Christ" or "My Savior" in response to catching a pass, hitting a home run or sinking an off-balance corner jumper over the outstretched arm of a defender I am going to vomit in my own mouth.  Apparently the Creator - much like Vegas - has an active Sports Book.  I am not quite sure how one reconciles one's belief that he/she has a hand in the outcome of sporting events with the ass-kicking Notre Dame took at the hands of Alabama in the BCS Championship Game. 

Among the things I do hold near and dear to the little lump of coal pretending to be a heart is the preservation of the memory of those who were murdered by terrorists on September 11, 2001.  I subscribe fully to the "NEVER FORGET" school of thought.  In spite of my own lack of a belief in a "higher power" I not only understand but I appreciate the manner in which those directly impacted by the events of that day may have sought comfort, solace or whatever you want to call it in their faith.  When Life knocks you on your ass, needing something to get your legs back underneath is understandable. 

People have become very attached to symbols of that day.  Although not a religious man, I consider one of the greatest presents I have ever received to be a framed photograph of the World Trade Center Cross, which the great Ron Quinlan gave me for Christmas one year.  It is now where it has been since Mr. Q. bestowed it upon me:  prominently displayed on a wall in my office.

When I look at it, which I do every day it does not make me think of the four horrible years I spent attending Catholic grammar school or the seemingly endless number of Sundays I spent sitting in church as a boy.  It makes me think of those who perished in that place, including those who rushed into harm's way in an effort to save people they did not know and had never met. 

Princeton, New Jersey sustained the loss of nine of its residents on September 11, 2001.  For the past three years, Roy James, the Deputy Chief of the Princeton Fire Department, has spearheaded the town's efforts to construct a 09/11 Memorial.  Finally, last year, after having tried for some time do to so, Deputy Chief James was able to secure a piece of the World Trade Center to be utilized as part of Princeton's memorial.  It is a single beam, approximately ten feet long and weighing two tons.  At some point prior to Deputy Chief James being able to procure it for the people of Princeton, someone cut a hole in the beam.  Were not the hole in the shape of a cross, its presence would be of no moment whatsoever.  If only....

While the presence of the hole in the beam in the immediate proximity of the cross has not prompted outrage from fans of crullers or danishes - arguing that the beam contains an obvious pro-doughnut message, the presence of a cross cut into it has sent the American Atheists into a tizzy.  In a story that aired on the local news Friday night on the CBS affiliate in New York, American Atheists spokesman Dave Silverman promised/threatened/whined like a little bitch that his organization will do "everything it can" to stop Princeton from constructing a 9/11 Memorial in which the cross in the beam is visible.  Silverman pointed out that the town's erection of a Memorial on public property in which the cross was visible to the public would "Place a religious symbol on public land and exclude others [which] is clearly illegal and unconstitutional." 

To date, no ground has been broken on the Memorial and whether the project, of which Deputy Chief James is clearly the driving force, ever shall come to fruition remains to be seen.  I did chuckle when I saw Deputy Chief James being interviewed during the CBS 2 story that aired Friday night.  Apropos of nothing, all of the concerns raised over the cross and what it means and what religions it allegedly excludes appear to be totally lost on the Deputy Chief.  Why?  Perhaps because he, himself, is Jewish....

....or perhaps he - much like the rest of the Twitterverse - is far too consumed by the big issues of the day.  Ben Affleck as Batman?  What will Hollywood think of next....


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tuff Enuff

Courage is Resistance to Fear,
Mastery of Fear,
Not Absence of Fear.
-Mark Twain

Just in case you find yourself today in need (desperate or otherwise) for proof of the existence of genuine, actual goodness among the most advanced yet sadistic of Earth's occupants.  Just in case you find yourself today struggling to understand why two presumably ne'er-do-well pieces of shit would set upon and beat Delbert Belton to death as the 88 year-old WW II Veteran (injured at the Battle of Okinawa) stood outside a lounge in Spokane, Washington minding his own business and waiting to escort a female friend home for he did not want her to walk alone.  If you find yourself in that place today, may I say it is a pleasure to see you.  I was where you are now when I woke up this morning and was reminded yet again what a Confederacy of Fucktards we appear to be devolving into here in these United States.  I was resigned to the fact that I would spend my entire day here. 

Then something extraordinary happened.  I received the psychic equivalent of a B-12 shot.  Talk about your PEDs.  Is there a name for this magical elixir you ask?  There is indeed.    

Her name is Antoinette Tuff.  She is the bookkeeper at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Center, which is an elementary school near Atlanta, Georgia.  Earlier this week, a disturbed young man named Michael Brandon Hill stormed his way into the school, armed with an automatic weapon and 500-plus rounds of ammunition.  His apparent intent was to do harm to someone - or to an indeterminate number of someones.  He did not.  

He did not because of what Antoinette Tuff did.  She disarmed him.  Not with force.  Not with physical strength.  With charm.  With sincerity.  She disarmed him because she displayed a genuine concern to him not only for her own welfare but for his and for all of the other people on the premises.  She never flinched.  She never ran.  She never wavered.  

The armed invasion at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Center ended in a way that such incidents never seem to end:  peacefully.  Antoinette Tuff prevailed upon Hill to put his weapon down and to lie down on the floor with his hands behind his back as part of his voluntary surrender to law enforcement.  Do yourself the favor of investing the thirteen-plus minutes necessary to listen to the 911 recording, which captured not only Ms. Tuff's interaction with officials but her conversation with Hill.  She was braver in those thirteen-plus minutes than I have been in forty-six-plus years.  An utterly amazing woman.

Shakespeare once penned the question, "What's in a name?"  Methinks that somewhere, someplace wherever he may be Willie the Shakes has been spending this week smiling ear-to-ear contemplating the way in which Antoinette Tuff has answered him.  

I know I have. 


Friday, August 23, 2013

The View From The Sun

I do not know whether the past couple of weeks have - in reality - been any longer than the ones that preceded them.  They have felt that way however.  A lot of "stuff" going on.  Far more good stuff than bad to be sure.  A bit fatiguing nonetheless.  And think of how tired I would be if I did 1/10th of all Margaret has been doing.  I have no idea what powers my wife.  Her reservoir of energy appears inexhaustible.  Always has.  I hope it always is.  I am not nearly smart enough to develop a back-up plan.
Anyway, while I was driving back from the Essex County Courthouse in Newark late Wednesday morning I was flipping around the radio I am inclined to do every now and again.  And while I was flipping around the dial I dropped in on a song that I loved when I was in high school.  Truth be told my affection for it has not waned at all in the quarter-century or so since I first heard it.  The band for whom this song was a hit never - to my knowledge - had another. 
If you can only have one moment, they had one hell of one.  All in all that is not too bad.  Not too bad at all.
Enjoy your Friday.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Terrible Price Of A Reality Check

The great Jerry Izenberg used to self-deprecatingly refer to sports, which he made his living writing about, as the "kid's section" of the world, not to be confused with adult endeavors, such as the truly important events of the day.  Ones that deal with issues of magnitude.  The life and death stuff if you will.  The newsroom was "the adult swim" portion of the program.  

The lines between sports and news get blurred often these days.  Considerably more ink this summer has been spilled on the wholly juvenile breakdown in relations between the New York Yankees and Alex Rodriguez than has been discussing his on-field performance.  Ditto for Aaron Hernandez, Murder One suspect as opposed to Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots tight end.  When reality interjects itself into the games we play, insanity is certain to follow.  

Izenberg's point has always been a finer one than that.  It has been to remind us that "sport" has a critical role in our society.  That role is to provide us with a respite, however brief, from our day-to-day.  It is not a magic elixir for our ills but it is nothing less than a port in the storm.  It is somewhere to find solace, an escape from what may otherwise be pressing down upon us.  If you doubt Izenberg's point, then root really hard for Jim Leyland and his Detroit Tigers to win the World Series this Fall....and watch the number of people in the financially-bankrupt city of Detroit - people of all colors, ethnicity and social classes - who shall line the streets of Detroit to celebrate their first World Series title in three decades.

Just this past week, in the town of Duncan, Oklahoma (population of approximately 25,000) the "adult swim" portion of the program spilled over onto the sports page.  Chris Lane, 22, was an Australian national and an American college student.  Lane was a scholarship baseball player at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, where he was scheduled to begin his senior year this month.  On Friday, August 16, Lane went for a run through the streets of Duncan, Oklahoma.  He was in Duncan with his girlfriend, Sarah Harper, as the pair visited Sarah's family.  

At some point on his run, Lane ran past a home where three teenagers, ages 15, 16 and 17, were staying.  The three young men did not know Lane.  By all accounts I have read he did not know them.  It mattered not.  The trio was bored.  Upon seeing Lane run past the house, they decided to kill him "just for fun".  The 17 year-old apparently told the police after he and his cohorts were apprehended that he and his pals were bored, looking for something to do and decided that killing someone seemed like a fun, exciting thing to do. 

The trio pursued Lane in a car.  When they caught up with their unsuspecting quarry they shot him in the back and sped off.  People who heard the shot came running as quickly as they could to assist Lane.  Their efforts failed.  He died on the street in Duncan, Oklahoma.  He was only twenty-two years old.

The lines between "the kid's section" and the real world get blurred sometimes.  That happens when reality interjects itself into the proceedings.  Where reality enters, insanity follows.  And too often, with tragic and anger-inducing results.  For all concerned.  On Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors in Oklahoma formally charged the three teenage perpetrators.  As reported Chancy Allen Luna, 16, and James Francis Edwards, Jr., 15, of Duncan, were charged with first-degree murder.  Under Oklahoma they shall both be tried as adults.  Michael Dewayne Jones, 17, was charged with using a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon and with being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.  Under Oklahoma law, although Jones is the oldest of the three, he is considered a youthful offender.  He, too, shall be tried in adult court. 

It was less than two months ago - in the wake of the "not guilty" verdict in the criminal trial of George Zimmerman that civil rights leaders nationwide spoke loudly and passionately of the perils of being an African-American teenage boy in these United States.  President Obama himself lent his voice to the chorus.  Do the recent events in Duncan, Oklahoma expose the fallacy of that position?  No.  Not to me at least.  Rather, to me, they serve to remind us that the world is a dangerous place.  And the more that we the people of these United States see fit to view other members of our society as "disposable" the more damage we shall do not only to them but to ourselves as well.  For whether the victim is African-American and the alleged offender is Caucasian (the Trayvon Martin scenario) or the victim is Caucasian and the alleged offenders are African-American (the Chris Lane scenario) matters not.  Ignorance is colorblind. 

The great Mark Twain once observed that, "Of all the animals, Man is the only one that is cruel.  He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.”  It was true when he said it.  Sadly, one-third of the way through the second full decade of the 21st century it remains so.  For all the years that have passed since Twain lived and died, one might have expected we would have covered more ground. 


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Beat the Clock

The "Countdown Clock" is now at "T Minus Sixteen Days".  This time next week the Texas Tornado makes her final pre-wedding landfall here in the State of Concrete Gardens.  Her final flight home as a single womam.  When she arrives one week from now, here is where she shall stay through the wedding.  The flight back to Texas in a couple of weeks will be the first one she takes as a Missus.   Pretty heady stuff.

My role in all of the wedding preparations has been very limited.  Margaret and I joke that I am "Chairman of the Finance Committee", which is only a half-truth.  Everything else has been coordinated either by Suzanne in Texas or Margaret here at home.  Their tag-team approach has been helped along by the efforts of Suzanne's trio of bridesmaids.  Ashley, Jaime and Nicole have all been invaluable contributors.  And the simply jaw-dropping artistic designs for things that - at gunpoint - I would not have known were part of one's wedding and/or reception are Deb Stair's labors of love.  Deb has stepped into the breach on more than one occasion.  Her generous contribution of the dual gifts of her time and her talent has been nothing short of extraordinary.  I smile thinking of all that not only Suzanne and Margaret - supported by their lieutenants - have achieved in putting together what shall be not only the singlemost important day of our daughter's life to date but also what promises to be one hell of a shindig.  

Other than making sure to arrive not later than 4:00 PM on "The Day", my contribution to the wedding preparation is all but over.  On my way home tonight I shall pick up my new suit, expertly tailored.  To put the tailor's mind at ease the day I purchased it I reminded him that I knew that what I was paying him to perform were alterations and not a transubstantiation.  Annie Sullivan he is not.  No miracles are expected.  

I am quite confident that I shall not be disappointed.  

I rarely am....


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

To Drown An Unsung Man

He said it because, well, it is after all what is always said after such an incident occurs.  Sunday night - after having hurled several consecutive pitches at Alex Rodriguez, Boston pitcher Ryan Dempster told the media swarm that was gathered around his locker post-game that he had not intended to hit A-Rod.  His pitches simply "got away" from him.  His manager, John Farrell, did what managers always do after such an incident occurs:  he backed up his pitcher.  The good folks tasked with the responsibility of taking care of the Sox at Fenway Park did what they always do after such an incident occurs and the inevitable post-mortem follows:  they stood at the ready with fire extinguishers and kept a sharp eye out for pants simply spontaneously combusting.  According to news reports, Dempster's actually did whereas Farrell's apparently smoked a little.

While I am a New York Yankees fan, I am not now nor have I ever been an Alex Rodriguez fan.  As a person who is not a "Hey World look at me!" kind of person in my day-to-day, I tend to gravitate away from cheering for athletes who are such persons.  Not a damn thing wrong with them doing it I suppose.  Simply not my preference.  Irrespective of his performance on the field, A-Rod has always been a player for whom I have found it difficult to root because of his seemingly pathological need to put himself first. 

I mention that simply because what appears in this space might make one think I am an A-Rod sympathizer or apologist.  I am neither.  But I am a believer in the need to treat one and all fairly.  For the past couple of weeks one thing that Alex Rodriguez has not been the recipient of is fair and equal treatment.  

I am not speaking now of either his 211 game suspension (which is currently under appeal) or his absurd, ever-escalating tit-for-tat war of words with the Yankees.  If he has done the things he is accused of having done, then the punishment he faces is that which he knew could be imposed upon him for doing what he is accused of having done.  Eyes wide open.  Big boy pants on.  He deserves whatever he gets.  

What he does not deserve, at least in my opinion, is to be the recipient of the angry, more than slightly obtuse barbs of his fellow members of the MLBPA.  I have no issue with a young player such as Nick Markakis of the Orioles or Mike Trout of the Angels expressing their opinion - globally - as to what fate should befall their brethren who cheat.  In fact, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the players who espouse such a position.  

However I have zero respect for the players - such as John Lackey of the Red Sox and Evan Longoria of Tampa Bay - and their repeated griping about how it is "wrong" that A-Rod be permitted to play for the Yankees while he is appealing his suspension.  Setting aside for a moment the gleeful smiles that have no doubt appeared on the face of every owner of every MLB team upon reading such comments, left to hope that at long last a crack has appeared in the heretofore impenetrable foundation of the the MLBPA, at the utter absence of wisdom attached to such comments, the position of Lackey, Longoria and others is wrong both factually and legally.  

Rodriguez's right to play while his appeal of the suspension is pending is not an exception.  It is rather the rule.  His right to play while his appeal is pending is a right that union chief Michael Weiner and the MLBPA collectively bargained for on behalf of its membership, including Rodriguez (and Lackey and Longoria by the way).  Had the rank-and-file not wanted the right to play while appealing punishment doled out by the Lords of Baseball they could have - and should have - directed their negotiating team not to negotiate for it.  If Lackey and Longoria wield influence within the MLBPA's membership then perhaps they can begin rallying their fellow members now to join them so that by the time the union's negotiating team sits down with MLB to negotiate the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, that team will be able to inform the owners' negotiating team that the membership has insisted upon surrendering that right.    

Unless and until they muster the intestinal fortitude to do so - and I have a $1.00 I am willing to wager against anyone, anywhere that a monkey will sooner emerge from my arse singing "Figaro" than any member of the MLPBA shall lead such a charge - they are reminded of the wise words of Mark Twain, "It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid then open it and remove all doubt.

Leave saying stupid things to A-Rod.  Or to his attorneys.  Or to any member of the Yankees front office.  If history is any guide, we shall not have long to wait.  


Monday, August 19, 2013

Main Street's White-Washed Windows

Summer returned to these parts yesterday as I knew it would.  It was not a brutally hot day by any stretch.  It was however one of those thick August days we get 'round here.  A day more gray than not.  A not entirely atypical August Jersey Sunday. 
A pleasant enough day for a run.  Having only gone about six and one-half miles on Saturday I wanted to put some more significant mileage on my legs.  Humidity notwithstanding, I was able to accomplish my goal.  A nice, solid eight miles.  Felt terrific. 
You see a lot when your feet are your preferred mode of transportation.  A lot.  Life comes to you differently when you pass by it up close and personal as opposed to when you view it through the window of a moving automobile.  As I run throughout the little town where we live I see a great deal.  And a considerable portion of what I see distresses me. 
Ours is a little town that has what appears to my eye to be a disproportionately high number of "For Sale" signs on its residential properties and "For Rent or Lease" signs on its commercial properties.  I realize that the mere fact that someone's home is for sale does not necessarily suggest that trouble has arrived in River City.  The Missus and I sold a home here 'NTSG earlier this summer.  However the fact that there are a number of several streets over which I run in which there are several homes clustered together that are all for sale does concern me more than just a little bit.  In those pockets of town, it is as if an "Abandon Ship!" alarm has been sounded and neighbors have decided as a group to move to the closest lifeboats. 
More troubling to me is the perpetually high vacancy rate of the commercial properties throughout our little 'burb.  The purported commercial/industrial heart of Middlesex is Lincoln Boulevard.  There are buildings and stores up and down Lincoln Boulevard that are vacant now - and have been vacant for several months.  A number of them have been vacant for more than one year.  Far too many of them in fact.  
I have little skin in the game here 'NTSG.  I am already on borrowed time here.  My deal with the Missus was that the sale of our home and the consolidation of our household into Joe's was the first of a two-step process.  If everything goes according to Hoyle, by this time three years from now I shall have another postal code.  But I hope that for those folks who shall continue to call it home, that it shall still bear at least a resemblance to the place they have come to know and love. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Disorder in the House

Disorder in the house
It's a fate worse than fame
Even the Lhasa Apso
Seems to be ashamed.
-Warren Zevon

I am not a particularly bright fellow on any day of the week.  Sometimes however by the time Saturday has faded into Sunday, I am far, far behind the intellectual eight ball.  Things that may in fact make sense to a person of reasonable intellect simply are beyond my ability to comprehend.  Questions?  I have plenty.  Answers?  In precious, short supply.
I suppose someone, somewhere understands what it is that fuels Alex Rodriguez's desire at self-immolation.  I do not.  Friday afternoon - prior to the first of three games the Yankees played in Boston - he told the gathered media horde that a 60 Minutes report claiming A-Rod leaked the names of other players (specifically Ryan Braun and A-Rod's own teammate Francisco Cervelli) was categorically untrue and that he was tired of all of the "attacks" upon him and his good name.  He claimed that his primary focus was simply helping the Yankees (his "brothers") win the AL East. 
One presumes that while A-Rod was holding court on Friday afternoon he was aware that his new lawyer, Joe Tacopina, was chatting with Tyler Kepner of the New York Times.  Tacopina is an attorney of some renown - having represented a fair number of famous and infamous clients - and is drawn to the red light of the camera much like a moth to a flame.  According to Tacopina, not only is A-Rod being persecuted by MLB but the Yankees have committed a litany of offenses involving A-Rod in a calculated effort to (a) demean him; and (b) create an artifice that would permit them to escape paying him the huge amount due and owing to him under his contract.  
Does Tacopina have evidence to support his declarations?  I do not know.  In the Spring of 2007, he spent close to six weeks arguing to a jury in Middlesex County that an attractive, young nurse in a fertility clinic had not drugged, shot, dismembered her husband and then placed his dismembered remains into three suitcases, which turned up in the Chespeake Bay.  Melanie McGuire was thirty-seven years old at the time of her trial.  She shall be one hundred years old when she is finally eligible for parole.  
The knife fight between the Yankees and their highest-paid player is not the only thing I find hard to comprehend these days.  One might me hard-pressed to find a person who does not know about the sanctions the NCAA imposed upon Penn State's football program as punishment for all things related to Jerry Sandusky.   In short, the NCAA dropped the hammer on players and coaches presently part of the program for sins committed more than ten years ago - and perpetrated principally by a piece of human detritus - Sandusky - who had not been officially part of the program for more than a decade.  Sons paying for the sins of the father if you will. 
In light of what befell Penn State, how anxious are the people at Vanderbilt University these days?  For decades Vandy, which is one of this nation's great universities, has been the whipping boy of SEC Football.  The past few seasons however the winds of change have blown in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Commodores have had gridiron success that would make Lionel Richie proud.  In 2012 they went 9-4, including a victory in the Music City Bowl over North Carolina State.  This year's team popped up in the first AP Top 25 Poll unranked but listed among "others receiving votes".
Vanderbilt's response to the alleged sexual assault (and I throw the word "alleged" in there not because I know anything about the evidence in the case but simply because I cotton to the idea that innocent until proven guilty is a good thing) was swift.  Batey, Banks, McKenzie and Vandenburg - who were arrested shortly after the incident - were all dismissed from school and barred from campus pending the outcome of the case (I do not know if Boyd has now been similarly treated in the aftermath of his indictment).   But will the school's response make any difference to the powers that be at the NCAA?  Penn State was severely punished for past crimes.  In light of that, where does the NCAA go with Vandy and the crimes committed (allegedly) by its current student-athletes? 
Final 'thought' for the day because while it is early my head already hurts.  If you purchase a beautiful home that sits prominently on a corner lot in a nice, heavy traffic neighborhood, then get off of your ass and cut the f*cking grass.  The douche shizzle who bought our home appears to have not yet unpacked his lawn mower one month after the closing.  The property looks like shit.  I may not own it any longer but it shall always belong to me - even if only in my heart.  Cut the f*king grass. 
You may welcome disorder in your house.  I do not.  Not even in one I no longer own....
....although it sure sounds good.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Moving Daze

I happened to glance over at my beautiful 2013 CU Alumni Association wall calendar yesterday morning - this month's photograph is of a building I am fairly confident has been built in the quarter-century AM (After Me) - Eaton Humanities.  Given that I recognize neither the name nor the structure, it either did not exist while I was an undergrad in Boulder or I failed to notice it even one time over the course of eight semesters.  Sadly, given the course I plotted during my college years, a descent to a level of incoherence that would enable a whole building to disappear - while unlikely - is not entirely beyond the realm of possibility. 

In addition to the aforementioned building of intrigue, August also is significant in that it identifies August 26 as the first day of classes.  Among the ever-increasing number of things I do not recall about CU-Boulder in the latter half of the 1980's was the fall semester starting on the final Monday of August.  Again, given that my class attendance was "sporadic" - particularly during my first couple of years - it is entirely possible that classes have always started as early as they are starting this year.  Candidly, I think that is something I would in fact remember.  In my defense, the classes I missed in college were missed not because I did not know I had them on my schedule but because I opted to spend that time doing something else.  I would laugh about it now but given the career corner I deftly painted myself into through my less-than-clever decision-making, it would appear as if the joke is on me. 

I see the commercials on television and the inserts in the Sunday newspaper promoting "Back-to-School" sales for students of all ages - from moppets to college students - and I find it difficult to recall in great detail much about my own experience with it, first as a kid and thereafter as a parent.  I remember moving Suzanne into her dorm room at Seton Hall her freshman year.   She had enough "stuff" with her that a TV 12 news crew stopped by to record it and to chat briefly with her.   In a miracle worthy of inclusion in the next edition of the Bible, everything she had brought with her ended up fitting into her cell-sized room.  How I do not know.  All I know is that it did. 

I remember pulling the daily double the following summer - spending the morning/early afternoon moving Rob into his room at the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan in advance of his freshman year at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and then spending the late afternoon/evening of that very same day moving Suzanne into her first off-campus digs.  We had not intended to perform both insertions on the same day but given that Suz only made her decision to join five other girls in an experiment in what became an unmitigated disaster as we were emerging from the Lincoln Tunnel onto Dyer Avenue, it just worked out that way.   

It occurs to me as I write this that both of those days happened so long ago that they feel as if they happened to someone else - in a different lifetime.  Those two young collegians have covered a lot of ground - both literally and figuratively - since they took their tentative first steps as college freshmen.  And each has much more ground to cover and many more very important steps to take.  I am looking forward to those to come as much as I did those they took way back when. 

Although I am too old to have to carry heavy shit up flights of stairs. 

Next time, I am holding out for a strictly supervisory position.


Friday, August 16, 2013

August and Everything After....

We're getting older and older, and older
And always a little further out of the way
You look into her eyes and it's more than your heart will allow
In August and Everything After,
You get a little less than you expected, somehow...
-Counting Crows

Here in the State of Concrete Gardens we are waist-deep in August.  A month of the year known in these parts with varying degrees of affection as "the Dog Days".  August in Joisey can feature weather so hot and so humid that a bead of perspiration forms on your upper lip as you are closing the refrigerator door.  Today represents the first day of the back half of August.  I own neither a farm nor an almanac.  I will not pretend to know (although I reckon I could) what has been forecast to come our way between now and September 1.  I would be willing to wager however that at least one last spate of 90/90 days is ahead of us.

For all of its infernal fury, August is also the summer month most likely to throw in a change-of-pace day or two every now and again.  Much like R.A. Dickey and his dancing knuckleball or Rip Sewell and his Eephus pitch, it is something not alike at all the company it keeps.  Wednesday was just such a day.  An absolute jewel of a day.  A day with a decidedly autumnal vibe.  And as the sun faded in the western sky, the air carried with it something rarely packed in its saddlebags on its summer vacation:  a slight chill. 

It proved to be a glorious evening to be outdoors.  I went for a run and then spent a bit of time in the back yard with my trusted canine companion Rosalita simply breathing in the fresh, crisp air.  Autumn has been my favorite time of the year for the entirety of my life.  I love the change of seasons.  I enjoy college football, NFL football and the World Series.  And when I played sports in high school, my favorite sport to play was soccer, which was a fall sport.  When you are fair-skinned, prone to burn instead of tan and a bit of a pudgeball, Summer is a season you like (for all of its obvious attractions) but Autumn is a season you love.  

For just a little while on Wednesday night, sitting with Rosebud in the back yard, doing absolutely nothing, I felt the promise of Autumn.  I picked up its scent in the air.  While the scent was faint and it was fleeting, its presence was felt.  And it was welcomed.  For all of the things I love about Autumn, this year I add something else to the mix.  Suzanne's wedding happens on September's first Friday.  While I am aware that her wedding day arrives slightly more than two weeks before the Equinox, I am cheating (call it "Exercising Paternal Prerogative" if you will) and including it this year on the list of things I love about Autumn.     

And were you lucky enough to be wearing my shoes, you would be doing likewise. 


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sweet Sixteen

From time to time, something I write in this space prompts "reader feedback".  A fair percentage of the time that someone feels compelled to communicate with me directly regarding something that appears here, the communication is in the form of a question.  Often - but not always - a question along the lines of "Do you have a soul?" or "Are you ever not a miserable crank?"  When I receive such a note or e-mail or whatever, I pick up the phone, call Mom and remind her that just because I write it she does not have to read it.  That usually calms her for a month or two.  

Given my normally cantankerous disposition, it may well come as a great surprise to you that one of my favorite stories of this past week - or any week in recent memory for that matter - is that of the sixteen people - all employed by Ocean County, New Jersey - whose pooled Powerball tickets included one of the three winners drawn for the $425 Million jackpot.  

"Ocean's Sixteen" - the sobriquet they have hung upon themselves - met the media on Tuesday afternoon at the Ocean County Library in Toms River, New Jersey.  At least six of the sixteen owned and/or rented home that Hurricane Sandy either destroyed or substantially damaged when it cut its swath through New Jersey this past October.  At least some of them have spent the past almost-ten months trying to figure out how they were going to get from their knees and back up onto their feet.  

They now appear to have a solution.  Each of the sixteen shall receive a lump sum, after tax payment of $3.87 Million.  While that amount may represent nothing more than a weekend's pay to A-Rod or Albert Pujols, for those of us who inhabit the regular, work-a-day world it is a life-changing sum.   

If I understood what I read and saw correctly, fifteen of the sixteen intend to continue to work at their present jobs for Ocean County.  The sixteenth, Joseph Odoardo, is going to retire.  During the media event on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Odoardo said that he has worked for the County for thirty-four years, had hoped to retire last year but apparently could not.  Now, with thirty-four years on the job under his belt and $3.87 Million in his bank account, he can. 

A lot of money has been spent in the State of Concrete Gardens these past few months reminding us all that we are "Stronger Than The Storm".  So much of the message is slickly packaged - and the ad campaign's theme song is so Bon Joviesque in its irritability quotient - that it is sometimes easy to dismiss it all as hype.  As nothing but noise.  But then you hear the stories of people - such as the men and women of the "Ocean's Sixteen" - and those among their number who have battled hard these past ten months to keep body and soul together, all the while hoping like hell for more than just a little help while having no earthly idea from whence such help was going to come.  Or if it ever was. 

The great John Wooden once observed that, "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things work out."  Tuesday night - as I watched the CBS Evening News and its coverage of the "Ocean's Sixteen" media event - which wrapped with video of a number of the winners driving away from the Ocean County Library and back to work, I was reminded not only of Coach Wooden's Woodenism but also of a line from a long-ago Joe Jackson song, "There goes your proof." 



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mass Cowardice

We live in an era of almost unfettered ability to broadcast and to communicate one's thoughts.  There are too many social networking sites to count.  The on-line arm of every newspaper and magazine has a comments section.  Many also provide "Forums", which provide yet another vessel into which one may vent his or her spleen.  Every ass hat - including Yours truly - has a Twitter account (@adamkenny89).  And far too many ass hats - including the aforementioned - have established permanent or seemingly permanent encampments in the "blogosphere".  Who needs a publisher when one has a platform on which to write and opposable thumbs? 

Right or wrong, on-line communication platforms (as a general rule anyway) permit those who contribute to the content of a particular site to do so either anonymously or - at the very least - through a cloaking device (a/k/a "user name").  Something about the "secret identity" appeals to the Batman in all of us I reckon.  

Secret identities are cool.   Not as cool as utility belts but cool nonetheless.  Right up until the point where one's secret identity morphs into a license to say anything - irrespective of its content.  There is no greater promoter of cowardice than anonymity.  He who reasonably believes he can hide in plain sight will say things that likely would not otherwise say if he feared being held accountable.  I am nobody's hero.  However, more importantly (to me anyway) is that I am no one's coward.  I write what I want.  And I own what I write.  My name is attached to it for better or for worse.

The internet is not the only place where anonymity has sown the seeds of cowardice and - to be blunt - socially offensive behavior.  For years, no place has been a better laboratory in which to foment the elixir of loud-mouthed douchebaggery than the professional sporting event.  No one is quite as brave as a drunk in the stands; right?  Do not feel constrained to take my word for it -  go to a game and see for yourself.

This past weekend the Baltimore Orioles played the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco.  According to Adam Jones of the O's, in the ninth inning of Sunday's game, which Baltimore won in a nail-biter 10-2, a fan threw a banana at him.  Jones is Baltimore's exceptionally talented, young centerfielder.  He happens to be African-American.  After Sunday's game - a game in which Jones went 2-4 with 4 RBIs including a three-run home run in the top of the 9th inning - Jones tweeted, "I want to thank whatever slapdick threw that banana towards my direction in CF in the last inning.  Way to show ur class u jackass."  (Parenthetically, his reference to the perpetrator as "slapdick" bows only to Denis Leary's excoriation of A-Rod as a "thunderc*nt" for direct, blunt, effective word usage).  The Giants' organization apologized to Jones and to the Orioles on Monday - as if they are responsible for an individual's decision to take fresh fruit (perhaps purchased at the Farmer's Market located inside of the confines of AT&T Park) and use it as a projectile, if not a weapon.  The Giants vowed to do all they can to try to identify Senor Slapdick and to punish him if and when they do so, presumably by banning him from the ballpark.

Why ban him?  Why not give him the opportunity to do face-to-face what he allegedly sought to do on Sunday fruit-to-feet:  make the acquaintance of Adam Jones.  Presuming Jones is telling the truth - and one searches for a reason (I do so in vain) why he would make up such a thing - then he should have the chance to meet the coward who threw it at him up close and personal.  Perhaps - and I am just spitballing here - Mr. Slapdick could be a guest of the Orioles at their ballpark.  They could introduce him on the Jumbotron pre-game and let their home crowd know who he is and why he is receiving such personal attention from the Orioles.         

You say it, you write it, you throw it - you own it.  Period.  If you lack the intestinal fortitude to attach your name and your face to your actions, then perhaps you should hold that particular action in abeyance until your testicles fully descend....

....or until you are confident you can outrun Adam Jones - even if he is chasing you for the rest of your miserable life.  


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

At the Top of the Stretch

Unless I am mistaken - and if there is anyone who could be it is the gent whose reflection stares back at me in the bathroom mirror every morning - Margaret and Suzanne have locked down every detail for Suz's wedding.  On Sunday afternoon, upon the Texas Tornado's return to Joisey from a trip to Rhode Island for the wedding of one of her closest friends, I watched the two women in my life roll through battle plans.  I felt for just a moment like a fly on the wall of Dwight Eisenhower's HQ in the run-up to D-Day - and not just because they were working off of not one - but two - gynormous schematics that detailed the layout of the room for the reception.  I was quite impressed.  I also came away thinking that had we really hoped to achieve "SHOCK AND AWE" when we invaded Iraq more than a decade ago, the one we would have asked for assistance were sitting side-by-side on the floor of my living room on Sunday afternoon. 

Suzanne's all-too-brief visit "home" wrapped up in the pre-dawn hours on Monday.  I deposited her at Newark Airport at 4:30 or so in order to ensure that she made her 5:25 flight to Houston without difficulty.  I was pleased to learn upon my arrival at my office Monday morning that United Airlines reported that her flight had taken off on time.  Had I slept well Sunday night then I would have minded much less actually getting up a half hour earlier than usual on Monday morning to ensure her on-time arrival at Newark Airport.  I found myself whistling Geldof's most famous tune all day Monday, which started with my feet on the ground at 2:30 A.M.  While I know that an early wake-up call was not his inspiration, had it been he would have had more than enough to work with to craft a masterpiece. 

Sunday morning I took care of my final piece of pre-wedding business.  I purchased a new black suit.  Had Suzanne/Ryan decided that the male parental units were to be clad in tuxedos I would have rented one.  They did not.  They decided that black suits shall be the order of the evening.  The Missus and I took a ride over to the Macy's store in Bridgewater Commons and - twenty minutes later - mission accomplished.  Not that anyone shall give a rat's ass what the father of the bride looks like - especially when he looks like Yours truly - I shall at least hold up my end in terms of my attire. 

We have reached the top of the stretch.  The finish line is in sight. 


Monday, August 12, 2013

Date Saviors

I mean not to speed dial through the remaining portion of your summer on you - presuming that unlike the Missus and me you have actually participated in summer to date - but if I have learned on thing from being a Father of the Bride (other than that no one considers SONIC to be a legitimate place for a reception) it is that it is never too early to remind people to "Save the Date". 

On Saturday, October 19, 2013 the Wardlaw-Hartridge School shall enshrine the 2013 class of the school's Athletic Hall-of-Fame.  I am a bit biased in extolling the virtues of this year's class because this year was my first on the Hall-of-Fame Committee and I happen to think - immodestly perhaps - that my four colleagues and I did a fantastic job.   The four members of the Class of '13 span twenty years of the school's history. 

Tom Lankey, Class of '78, is in line to be the next Mayor of Edison Township, New Jersey.  Years before Lankey became a political heavy-hitter and a financial whiz he was a gifted pass-catcher on the football team and the ace of the baseball team's pitching staff.  His baseball accomplishments were enough to attract the attention of the Cincinnati Reds.  The Reds drafted him.  He opted to pursue another direction with his life but knowing that "The Big Red Machine" deemed you worthy of expending a draft pick on you certainly is no small thing. 

The "baby" of the Class of '13's members is Sarah Williamson of the Class of 1998.  Young Ms. Williamson's time on Inman Avenue began and ended long after mine so I never saw her exploits firsthand.  I was amazed to learn from my fellow Committee members that Sarah earned twelve Varsity letters in four years and was the Captain of five different teams, which means that she was selected Captain by her teammates on at least TWO teams prior to her senior year.  At the time she graduated she was the school's all-time leading scorer among female basketball players. 

I am particularly pleased that the Class of '13 shall include Tom Murray, W-H Class of '86, and one of the all-time greatest swimmers W-H has ever produced.  In 1985, Tom earned NISCA All-American Honors in the 100 yard backstroke.  Almost thirty years after he set it, his time of 54.12 seconds remains the school's record in that event.  His accomplishment remains memorialized on campus.  His All-American Certificate is framed and prominently displayed in a trophy case.  If you attend the Hall of Fame Ceremony on October 19, then you can see it far better than the admittedly mediocre picture of it that I took a few years back

Tom Murray's All-American Certificate is prominently displayed in the Gregory A. Boff Memorial Lobby.  This year, thirty-plus years after his class graduated and more than two decades after he was killed in a motor vehicle accident, Greg Boff, Class of '83, shall take his rightful place in the W-H Athletic Hall of Fame.  On the basketball court he was one of the greatest leaders I have ever seen, piloting an underdog but determined crew to the school's first state title in basketball in 1983.  He was also a fine soccer player.  But it was on the golf course that he truly flourished.  I have no idea presently what type of golf team that W-H fields, but back in the day they fielded outstanding squads annually.  Greg Boff was one of the top players on an utterly dominant team. 

It shall be bittersweet in that Greg's plaque will be presented to his two sisters, Dana and Stacy.  If there are two women alive who handle moments such that which shall take place on October 19 with more grace and aplomb than the Sisters Boff, I most assuredly have never met them. 

October 19, 2013.  Save the Date.  Join the celebration at W-H.  Regardless of where you are coming from, it shall be worth the trip. 


Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Long-Ago Sound Of Your Sister's Voice

I tend to do things to such a degree that a habit can - if I am not careful - grow to the depth of a rut.  It is as good an explanation as any I suppose as to why I opt to start my work day as early as I do.  Well, perhaps that is more simply explained:  insanity. 
One of the many things I have a tendency to do to an extreme is listen to music.  For the most part, I listen to music only when I am in the car.  I used to always wear my iPod when I ran but I have weaned myself off of that for the most part.  I am far more likely than not now to run without music.  So, these days my music consumption is limited to my drive time.   Given the amount of driving I do, there are weeks in which I still spend several hours listening to music.  
The habitual portion of my music consumption comes therefore not from the amount of music I listen to but where I do it.  While I have A LOT of music available to listen to - not anywhere near the level of my brother Bill but a level acceptable to mere mortals - I tend to not have most of that music available to me when I am in the car.  As a result, I tend to listen to the same CDs over and over....and over.
A couple of weeks ago someone at work asked me if I had "Born in the USA" on CD so that he could "load" it on his computer.  Since I do not know whether one downloads or uploads such a thing I am going to simply call it "loading" and leave it there.   It took me a couple of days to locate it in one of our "moved but not yet unpacked" stacks in the basement but find it I did.  And once he put it on his computer he gave it back to me so I threw it in the car.  And then I did something that I had not done in years:  I put it in my CD player and I listened to it.
Born in the USA is not my favorite Springsteen record but having not listened to it in a number of years I was surprised by how much I like it.  And I was pleased that it did what music does for me - it took me to another place and time.  For twelve tracks worth of music, I recalled where I was and how I felt when I first listened to the album almost thirty years ago.  And it permitted me to recall Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici as they sounded then.  When they were young.  Before either succumbed to the ravages of time and mortality.
I know not how long BITUSA shall remain in my car.  I reckon it will be a while.  Old habits die hard after all.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Grand Fin-ale

Woke up a tad depressed this morning.  Color you surprised!  I always find the "Day After" a bit of a downer.  The day after Shark Week wraps for the year.  I watch the Discovery Channel more during Shark Week than I do the other fifty-one weeks of the year, which I realize speaks more to my lack of intellect than it does to their lack of quality programming.  I shall be able to wean off of it a bit more gradually than in years past I suppose.  I planned ahead this year and set my DirectTV to record all of the Shark Week programs.  The ones I missed (or fell asleep while watching) I can now view at my leisure.  Ah, the joys of modern technology.

Usually my favorite programs of Shark Week are the "Air Jaws" shows.  I never tire of watching a ton or so of hostile fish fury shooting out of the water like a torpedo in pursuit of food only to realize that it has just chomped down hard on an old bicycle tire.  I presume that to date the great white sharks of South Africa have not figured out that the humans on the boat twenty feet or so away from them are the one perpetuating this particular mind fuck upon them solely for their own entertainment.  Perhaps when they figure it out we will have reached the end of the "Air Jaws" series - we fade to black as one large, extremely pissed off fish breaches the boat and dumps its occupants into the water like a box of fish sticks. 

Truth be told the thing I like the most about the "Air Jaws" programs is what they do not show:  human beings sticking our noses into something that neither wants nor needs our interference.  Given the inherent cuteness of seals, the historic evildoer status of great whites and the former's status as the #1 "to go" food of choice of the latter, I consider it no small accomplishment that to date no one has sought to impose any "humanity" on their eco-system.  It may be tough for the Smurfs among us to watch Snuffy the Seal get hammered by Jaws but it is important that we recognize the role each plays in sustaining life in that part of the world. 

And it is equally important that we recognize that for decades and perhaps centuries before Peter Benchley wrote Jaws these two species were living out this drama in splendid isolation.  The fact that the bigger, not nearly as adorable animal hunts and kills a significant number of the smaller, far more cuddly animal not only is of no moment but it actually ignores the bigger picture altogether.  The seals in that area swim through the kill zone of the great whites to get to the open water and the fish that they hunt and kill and eat to survive.  While there may be a lot of fish in the sea (said everyone's mother at some point in one's sad teenage years), there is not an infinite number of them.  Would there be enough to feed the seal population in perpetuity if there was not an effective seal population control device on hand?  I do not know.  I do know that if we the people do not fuck with these particular members of the animal kingdom I shall never need to find out. 

For as much as I enjoy the "Air Jaws" shows, the show I enjoyed the most this year was "Spawn of Jaws".  If you did not see it, do not let the 1950's Saturday matinee horror movie matinee schlocky title scare you off.  It followed the work of a marine biologist named Michael Domeier and his team in their efforts to learn where great white sharks mate and where the females give birth.  To ensure the safety of the great white sharks - during the process in which they are fitted with long-life transmitter tags that will report information as to their migratory patterns for up to twenty-four months (pregnancy apparently lasts up to eighteen months - more time to shop for hard-to-find shower items!) - Domeier and his team never take them out of the water.  Working from a boat barely bigger than "Orca", they hold these enormous fish in place right next to the boat while Domeier uses his trusty DeWalt drill to drill a hole in the cartilage of the dorsal fin to which the container for the transmitter is attached.  Both of the adult female great whites they showed his team successfully tag during the show were approximately the length of his boat and weighed as much if not more than it did.  Dude has a brass set of balls.  Simply amazing stuff. 

The one thing I could do without in Shark Week 2014 is the obligatory MythBusters episode.  I get it that the MythBusters dudes are Discovery Channel stars although the few episodes of their show I have seen have left me decidedly unimpressed.  But during Shark Week - with its limited amount of programming hours - it serves little purpose (to me anyway) to devote an entire hour to this bunch of special effects geeks and their inane experiments.  If you want to drop the whole lot of them in a shark cage off of Seal Island and then start chumming the water around them, then you have a program that shall capture my attention. 

Oh yeah - one more thing:  no more Hasselhoff.  Ever. 


Friday, August 9, 2013

Takeoffs and Landings

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Live the Life that you've imagined.
-Henry David Thoreau

We lost a terrific young lawyer at the Firm yesterday.  I mean not to imply that we put her down someplace and now cannot recall where she is.  I mean simply that she is doing what young people sometimes do:  she is picking up and pursuing life's next great adventure in an entirely new postal code.  She is good at what she does and far more important than any of that she is good.  Period.  A good human being.  Engaged to be married to another good human being.  This time next week they will be getting acclimated to life in Nashville, Tennessee.  To a person at the Firm, we were sorry to see her go.  To a person at the Firm, we are happy for her.  

Ah, the courage of the young.  I envy it.  I admire it.  At this stage in my life, I struggle to recall what it felt like to exhibit it - or whether I did.  It matters not.  What is done is done.  What was not done....well you get the idea. 

Today I am afforded the opportunity to perform my favorite role:  Airport Pick-Up Guy.  The Texas Tornado is flying home to New Jersey tonight.  The stay shall be too short to even qualify as abbreviated but for a night anyway she shall be back under the parental roof.  By this time next month she will be married. 

Hmmm.  I may not recall a lot of my younger days but I shall be reminded again looking at Suz coming up the jetway this evening that I have living proof of it having been time well-spent. 

I am a Dad.  I need nothing more.