Monday, September 30, 2013

September Mourn

It is the final day of September.  We have reached the 3/4 pole of 2013.  Already.  Time is a winged, fast-moving bitch. 
More often than not September's final Sunday does not mark the end of the baseball season for the New York Yankees.  Even rarer is the frequency with which September's final Sunday heralds the end of the football season for the New York Giants.  This year, however, the exception was the rule. 
The Giants' September to forget came to a conclusion, mercifully, after Sunday's beat down in Kansas City.  Four games played.  Four losses.  Not a harbinger of good things to come.  Not this year anyway.  I suppose that at 0-6 or 1-8 Dunkin' Donuts will finally pull the plug on the Eli Manning TV spots that presently appear incessantly on all New York-based television stations. 
This marked only the second time since 1995 that the baseball season ended for the Yankees without any post-season games.  85-77 was not good enough to win one of the two Wild Card berths.  Given how badly the Red Sox kicked their asses all season, I was less than enthralled by the prospect of the Yankees trying to win one game for the right to get their asses kicked anew by the Sox in the ALDS. 
The saddest part of Sunday for me was that it marked the absolute end of the journey for Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte.  Two of my favorite Yankees exited stage right together.  From a human perspective I wish them well.  From a fan's perspective, I shall miss them both very much. 
September not so much....

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Measured Steps

One World Trade Center
T2T Day 2010

On September's final Sunday in 2010, shortly after we emerged from the PATH Station on our way to the first Tunnel to Towers Run in which I ever participated, I took the picture above of One World Trade Center.  Construction was well under way but to an untrained eye such as mine, the finish line appeared very, very far away.
In 2011, we returned to lower Manhattan on September's final Sunday to participate in the 10th annual Tunnel to Towers Run.  That year - like this year - we actually invaded the City on Saturday afternoon and made a weekend of it.  On our way back to our hotel from dinner we passed through  Zuccotti Park.  A couple of the members of our traveling party had grabbed seats on a bench - simply wanting to sit and relax for a minute or two - when my eyes spotted more uniformed members of the NYPD assembled than I have ever seen in a non-Parade situation.  The "Occupy Wall Street" movement was in its nascent stages and the officers in riot gear did not appear inclined to allow it to mature and to ripen.  At my rather emphatic direction, our group got the hell out of there.  As it turns out, less than five minutes after we left the area the NYPD entered it and arrested scores of people. 
While in town for Tunnel to Towers '11 I managed not only to avoid arrest and incarceration but also to take an "annual update" picture of One World Trade Center.  It struck me then as it does now just how much of a difference one year made.
One World Trade Center
T2T Day 2011
It was my great honor to return to lower Manhattan again last year - on September's final Sunday - to participate in the 2012 Tunnel to Towers Run.  The Missus and I were day-trippers last year.  She is an incredible sport my wife.  Sunday is the only day of the week on which she kinda, sorta can sleep in and on this particular one I rocked her out of bed early enough that we were in lower Manhattan by 6:15 in the AM, and were walking from the PATH Station to our rally point to meet Jeff and Gidg when I took this picture of One World Trade Center, which again revealed to me just how much one year's time can change something
One World Trade Center
T2T Day 2012
At some point I shall add the annual update 2013 edition to my T2T gallery but just in case you are curious as to how much progress has been made towards completion of One World Trade Center between last September and today, the final Sunday of September 2013 then I invite you to look at the utterly gorgeous aerial photo that Tom Kaminski of WCBS 880 in New York took on September 10, 2013 while flying over lower Manhattan
Aerial view of One World Trade Center &
9/11 Memorial taken from Chopper 880
(Tom Kaminski/WCBS 880 AM)
Today is the fourth consecutive year that I shall run in the Tunnel to Towers Run.  Again this year the Missus shall be there cheering me on and cheering on all of the amazing people one sees and meets at this event.  Again this year Gidg and Jeff shall run with me - with the latter, a volunteer firefighter, doing what many of his brothers and sisters shall do today:  running the entire race wearing full turnout gear.  It is true that the face of lower Manhattan has changed considerably in the four years since this day became a date of indelible importance on my calendar.  But it is also true that what this day is all about is far more than new construction or race ribbons.  This day is about constants:  Love, Strength, Perseverance, Hope, Courage, Honor and Faith.  Values that never, ever have gone out of style.... 
....and values that can never be broken.  Not even in the face of mass murder and the deaths of innocents.   Thousands shall gather today to once again "Follow the Footsteps".  Footsteps that shall never fade from sight as long as we never forget. 
And I assure you, we never shall....
T2T Run - September 2011



Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

There is no need
Like the lack of a Friend.
- Irish Proverb

One's character is forged not in times of milk and honey but in times of strife.  Anyone can be the Prom King but having those around you upon whom you can depend when the chips are down and when excrement and air-moving implement have just about arrived at the point of intersection is an entirely different thing altogether.  One's strength in such times of crisis comes from within and from "without" - and more often than you might realize strength is willed to us by those who otherwise might appear to be strangers to us. 

Two Saturdays ago my beloved Buffaloes were scheduled to defend their home turf against the Fresno State Bulldogs.  Mother Nature had other ideas.  The Front Range of Colorado battled hard against historic rains while the folks in charge of such things at the two universities decided that their football teams could battle for gridiron glory some other day.  Had the folks from Fresno wished those of us in Buff Nation well and been on their way we would have thanked them for their good wishes and thought nothing else of it.  We are - for all intents and purposes - strangers to one another.  We run into each other every now and again but not with anything rising to the level of frequency. 

But the people of Fresno State did much more than simply wish Buff Nation well.  They rolled up their shirt sleeves and dug in to the "helping process" with both hands.  A week ago Friday Fresno State hosted their rival, Boise State, in a football game that was televised nationally on ESPN.  It was kind of, sort of a big deal.  Anticipating a crowd that would fill their home environs (Bulldog Stadium) to capacity, the Fresno State Athletic Department teamed up with the American Red Cross to raise money for Colorado's flood victims.  Fans were encouraged to bring donations with them to the Boise State game.  And bring them they did. 

Just the other day the Fresno State Athletic Department posted a photo on its Twitter account thanking all of those who responded to their call for help.   You may not realize it but if you are a person affected, directly or otherwise, by the recent floods in Colorado those faces you are looking at in this photo are the faces of friends.

Whether you ever meet them or ever learn their names is not important.  Those things did not stop them from thinking of you as their friend.  They should serve as no barrier to you doing the same.  

As always, Go Buffs!  Go Bulldogs too....and thank you for your willingness to lend a friend a hand in a time of need. 


Friday, September 27, 2013

Bridges and Gaps

Poor you.  I am a lot like you.  I presume I am anyway.  And presuming I am correct I feel sorry for you.  There is no coin or cache in being like me.  I assure you.  Yet here we are.  Peas in search of a pod. 

I have practiced law for two decades.  I am a man of markedly limited talents.  I can read.  I can write.  I have a very good memory (I used to have an excellent memory but the longer I have lived the harder I have strived to forget things).  I like to argue - albeit not as much now as I did as a much younger, far more heavily-intoxicated man.  Those factors coupled with the fact that I have the same full range of mechanical skills and abilities as my father did, which is to say none at all, and a face only a radio could love, pointed me to the law as a career.  There is money to be made in the misery of others.  Trust me.  Then again, I am a lawyer.  You may not want to trust me too quickly.  Better safe than the alternative; right? 

Truth be told, far more days than not I f*cking hate what I do for a living.  I enjoy - as a general rule - the people with whom I work.  I like the Firm.  I just find the whole endeavor - the "Who" and "What" of my day-to-day - to be utterly inane.  Not only is it so - at least from my point of view - but there are far too many of us in the State of Concrete Gardens who earn a living doing it.  The last figures I saw put the number of licensed attorneys in New Jersey in the neighborhood of 90,000. 

This has been a week in which I have been reminded over and over and over and over of the sheer stupidity and silliness of how I earn my daily bread on simply too many occasions to count.  I have endured conversations, both within the four walls of the Firm and outside of them that have made me wonder (including one time aloud in what turned almost immediately thereafter into a rather awkward, yet necessary conversation) just how many men of a certain age in this profession in this state reached adulthood without their testicle fully descending.  By Wednesday afternoon, I thought that I had missed my exit on 287 and had ended up at a Ramada Inn crashing the 2013 Conference of the Perpetual Douchebag Society.  Unfucking real. 

Last night, I experienced a most welcome reality check.  After depositions in Edison I hopped over to New York City's "Ready to Secede" Borough, Staten Island, to pick up my Tunnel To Towers Packet as well as Margaret's, Jeff's and Gidg's.  Although this is the fourth consecutive year I have taken part in this event, this year marked the first time that I handled packet pick-up.  The actual process of picking up our gear took considerably less time than it took me to get from Edison to Staten Island.  The good folks who were on-site ensuring that race participants such as Yours truly received the assistance we needed could not have been nicer or more helpful. 

As I was driving home, our gear beside me on the front seat of my car I kept thinking back to how great an experience this simple task had been.  And I was reminded of the fact that this remarkable event has as its genesis a singularly horrific event:  the murder of FDNY Firefighter Stephen Siller, 342 of his FDNY brothers and thousands of others.  I was reminded that some people just get it.  They comprehend the difference between fluff and substance.  And I was happy that again this weekend the Missus, Gidg, Jeff and I will be spending some quality time in the company of such people. 

A B-12 shot for my soul.  Just in time.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Windows, Sins & A Catch of Roses

I am nothing if not a slow study.  Truth be told I am as much my father's son as I am my mother's.  It is not the Kennys, Joan and William, Sr., about whom Springsteen sings in "The Wish", when he sings:

If Pa's eyes were windows into a world so deadly and true
You couldn't stop me from looking but you kept me from crawlin' through....

But it very well could have been.  My father was a man of tremendous abilities and talents.  Managing and maintaining an interpersonal relatioship with one closest to him - such as those of us attached to him by either blood or marriage - was not among them.  It was a shortcoming that I viewed as a deliberate failing in him - right up to the point in time when I recognized it in me.  Then, and only then, did I become a slightly less tyrannical grader.  Had such recognition occurred in our mutual lifetime we perhaps could have chatted about it.  It did not.  Thus we did not.  Hell, we are Kenny men.  The likelihood of us ever having had such a conversation is slightly less than my brother Kelly getting elected Pope.  Only slightly but still.

As fathers go, I reckon I was - and to the limited degree they still need me to be I remain - a reasonably good provider.   We lived neither in luxury's lap nor anywhere on his person for that matter but we never actually wanted for what we needed - even when the children were little and my first full-time lawyer job found me working for a small firm in Plainfield where the two name partners spent whatever little time they did not devote to ripping off the world at large - including those of us who worked for them - to stealing from one another.  A hell of a life it was - living from one "Theoretical Pay Day" to the next.  My wife is tiny but her ability to stretch - and to stretch a dollar - proved unmatched in the annals of recorded history.  I know not how she did what she did but right up until I awakened to the fact that Happiness was 705 Park Avenue in the rear-view mirror she managed to figure out how to throw enough dollars in enough directions for us to keep the lights lit, the home fires burning and ourselves protected 'neath a roof and four walls.    

It has taken me a long time to awaken to the fact that being a good person is measured by something above and beyond simply the work one does.  That more factors into the equation than how skilled one is at what it is one does to earn his daily bread.  In a life chock full of regrets, I regret that dawn did not break in this regard until neither of our "children" was a child any longer.  I suspect that I would be in far more photographs had it broken more promptly.  On the other hand, both Suzanne and Rob were such good-looking kids that it would have seemed a shame to have pockmarked otherwise excellent pictures with too many views of my Jupiter-sized cranium.  If Life shall afford me the opportunity to be a grandfather, then I shall do my level best to ruin far more photos with my oversized head and half-assed smile. 

So it turns out that the Poet Laureate of Freehold has been right all along.  It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive.  While I certainly have had my moments - and have self-produced enough drama to fill at least four nights on any network's Fall schedule - now that dawn has broken my focus has shifted.  What used to be at best a secondary consideration for me has become one of paramount importance.  Home is much more than an address.  It is a goal.  It is a destination.  It is an elixir.  

I wish that it had not taken me most of my life to figure it all out.  I wish it had not in fact been such a long time coming.  But it did.  And it was.  At last, it is here.  And I am damn glad I made it long enough to bear witness to its arrival....

....and in plenty of time to catch the second act.   


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

At the Point of Intersection between Gravity and Gravitas

I woke up Sunday morning with the best intentions.  Well, grading on the curve I suppose they were the "best intentions".  Not Mother Theresa "best intentions" or Dalai Lama "best intentions" to be sure.  But pretty damn good intentions nonetheless. 

Then, as often happens to me on the one day of the week I dedicate to the relentless pursuit of nothing in particular, my best intentions were left unfulfilled.  The Missus and I called an audible.  We ended up spending two-plus hours on an errand to which we had originally planned on dedicating fifteen minutes.  At least at errand's end we had accomplished what it was we had set out to do.  It might have taken a touch or ten longer than anticipated but we persevered. 

By the time we returned from our errand, the Yankees were fairly deep into the Mariano Rivera Day Pre-Game Ceremony, which I had been listening to in the car.  Upon our return, my action plan was to get changed and go running on what was yet another drop-dead gorgeous September day.  Instead I sat down in the living room and watched the rest of the Ceremony and - of course - the final home start of Andy Pettitte thereafter.  It turned out to be one hell of a game.

Given the close, competitive nature of the game I called the day's second audible.  Rather than go for a run outdoors I got changed and be-bopped downstairs to the basement to do a quick four miles on the treadmill.  We have a TV in the basement in front of the treadmill so I could root, root, root for the home team while I got in some much-needed cardio exercise. 

All was going according to Hoyle.  When I run short distances on the treadmill to alleviate the boredom associated with running on the human Habitrail I typically set the speed on the machine for not less than 8.0 miles per hour.  Even running in place, time passes with acceptable alacrity at 8.0 miles per hour.  At that pace, however, one works up a healthy sweat rather quickly.  Sunday afternoon it took me only 1.63 miles to work up a sweat that required a towel to control. 

I know it was 1.63 miles when that occurred because a few seconds later, while attempting to towel off the left side of my face (while running at close to 9.5 miles per hour) the left side of my left shoe came into contact with the left rail of the treadmill.  The odometer on the machine had just flipped 1.64 miles when I lost my balance and almost with no hesitation at all did my impersonation of Joe Frazier in his fight against George Foreman.

Much like the late, great Smokin' Joe I attempted get up while paying precious little attention to my surroundings.  As I put my feet back onto the treadmill - which was now cruising along at a robust 9.5 miles per hour, I bit turf again.  I laugh now thinking about it - as I did Sunday afternoon after I did it - because had anyone had a phone or a video camera in our basement while I did what I did, I would be up to 367,541 YouTube hits by now.  Truth be told, I was fortunate in that my hands held fast to the front rail on the treadmill, which is what kept me and my oversized noggin from getting launched like George Jetson right off of the machine. 

Lesson for the day?  No matter how many times you do something, never ever half-ass it.  You are either all in or.... are flat on your face whining about the pain in your scraped-up knees.  And nobody wants to be that guy, I assure you.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dream Wever

The Missus and I spent a portion of our Sunday evening watching a bit of television.  Not watching anything in particular mind you but simply surfing around the dial.  I had thought - erroneously as it turns out - that the Giants game this past Sunday started at 8:00 PM.  Judging by the final score, it appears as if the boys from Mara Tech had the same thought.  When you make the Carolina Panthers look like the Canton Bulldogs it is time to seriously rethink your life choices.  The good news is that for all Giants season-ticket holders who were worried about having to spend February's first Sunday night shivering at Met Life Stadium root, root, rooting for the home team in the Super Bowl, no need to worry.  A suggestion to the PR folks at Dunkin' Donuts:  Stop running the round-the-clock "The Giants Run on Dunkin'" spots with Eli Manning.  Truth be told, the Giants cannot run on anyone, anywhere at any time. 

I digress.

We are not great movie-goers, the Missus and me.  I could be wrong about this but to my recollection the last movie we saw in the theater was "The Descendants" with George Clooney.  Since we do not go to the movies much, we never watch the Academy Awards.  On the other hand, since there are a number of shows we watch regularly (although not necessarily together.  I love "The Newsroom" whereas Margaret is not a fan) we usually catch at least a bit of the Emmy Awards.  I, personally, have never watched a single frame of "Nurse Jackie" on Showtime.  That being said, Merritt Wever is an actress whose work I know - not simply from the 147,000 different guest spots she did on the several imprints of the "Law & Order" franchise or her extraordinary work in "Michael Clayton" - but also because she plays Elizabeth (one of the two loves of Schmidt's life) on "New Girl".  She captured her first-ever Emmy on Sunday night as the Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy for her work on "Nurse Jackie".  Her acceptance speech was, well, remarkable:

Somewhere, someplace Sunday night George Costanza watched - and smiled.  For years he preached the importance of leaving on a high note.  Merritt Wever did just that.  And then some.


Monday, September 23, 2013


Summer certainly went out on a high note in this neck of the woods.  I know that next year Rutgers will be a full-fledged member of the Big Ten Conference.  Yet, given State U.'s somewhat undistinguished history on the gridiron - their recent decade of success notwithstanding - those of us who are faithful, long-time fans watch most games with one eye skyward....awaiting the return to Earth of the other shoe. 

Saturday on the banks of the old Raritan Rutgers did something it had never done in its history.  It hosted a SEC football opponent.  Last year - on the same weekend as a matter of fact - Rutgers went to Arkansas and upset the Hogs on their home turf.  Three quarters of the way through Saturday's rematch it appeared as if Arkansas was going to return the favor.  Saturday's game started in the mid-afternoon and during the day time portion of the contest the home team was taking it on the chin.  Then, as the turn was made into the gloaming on the way to nightfall, something just this side of extraordinary happened.  Rutgers scored three touchdowns in the game's final fifteen minutes.  A 24-7 deficit was transformed into a 28-24 victory.  I mean not to embarrass him but I am quite confident that a certain RU alumni to whom I am related by blood had a "can't touch this" smile on his face for the remainder of the weekend. 

You may root for whomever your choose in Major League Baseball - although if you are the fan of a Marlins team owned by a confirmed sack of shit who has been proven both a liar and a thief then you deserve whatever you get - but you cannot deny that no team puts on a ceremony as well as the New York Yankees.  By the time I got finished listening to - and watching - the incredible pre-game ceremony I had almost forgotten that they were playing a ball game yesterday afternoon.  An incredible tribute to an incredible man. 

Summer went out 'round here not so much with a bang as with an ear-to-ear grin.  And today is not only the first full day of Autumn, it is the birthday of the Poet Laureate of Freehold.  Pretty nice start to the season I must say. 


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Serenity Now....

Now the lines have all been read
And you knew them all by heart
Now you move toward the door
Here it comes the hardest part
Try the handle of the road
Feeling different feeling strange
This can never be arranged
As the light fades from the screen
From the famous final scene....
- Bob Seger

Today was already slated to be a tough day in the Yankees Universe.  Today is the day the Bombers marked on their calendar to salute the career of the game's greatest-ever closer, Mariano Rivera, who informed the world before the start of this season that this year would indeed be his final one.  As the season has wound down towards its conclusion, this date has loomed ever larger on the calendar.  Yet its presence having been fixed by Rivera way back when in Spring Training, its spectre has been blunted somewhat.  Sadness, not shock, was the anticipated order of the day.

Just two days ago in this space - writing then as well (at least in part) about Rivera - I remarked offhandedly that it would not surprise me to see 2013 be Andy Pettitte's final season in MLB too.  At the time I wrote it (and do not believe for a minute that I awaken daily at midnight to produce that day's work - even if more often than not what appears here reads as if it was penned by a half-asleep asshat) I had no idea that (a) Pettitte had decided months ago that this year would be his last; and (b) Pettitte had been talked into holding a press conference - by both Rivera and the Yankees apparently - on Friday afternoon to publicly announce his retirement.  Friday had a real "Who's Sporting His Psychic Underroos? THIS GUY!" vibe to it for Yours truly. 

Two of my favorite Yankees are saying their public goodbye this afternoon.  A third member of the Core Four preceded them into retirement a couple of seasons ago.  A picture that was taken of the quartet during their final World Series - in 2009 - seems this morning to belong to a bygone era.  Even though it was taken just four years ago, I reckon it is. 

Pettitte and Rivera's joint passage into retirement now leaves only Jeter as the Last Man Standing from the team that has had a simply marvelous run these past eighteen years:  5 World Series Championships, 7 American League Pennants and 16 Post-Season appearances.  Truth be told, Jeter is reduced to the role of "Last Man Limping" at this point.  One wonders what he is thinking about this morning, watching the final two members of his particular Band of Brothers exit the grand stage.  One thing is for certain:  he will never share his true feelings publicly.  You are as likely to hear a revelatory comment about Derek Jeter from Derek Jeter as you are to hear the truth - about any goddamned thing - from Alex Rodriguez. 

Autumn arrives this afternoon at 4:44 Eastern Time.  A season ends.  A screen fades to black.  You may as well take it calmly and serene for it shall happen whether or not you do.  All things come to an end. 

The ending of a good thing simply hurts more....


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Life as I Know It

While I suspect that the following shall reveal more about the state of my Life than I might be comfortable having held up for public inspection, I am compelled to reveal that Thursday was one of the best days I have had in quite some time.  Not "Suzanne and Ryan Wedding Day" level of bliss of course but leaps and bounds ahead of the usual Thursday. 

I arrived home Thursday to find that Margaret's nephew Frank - who doubles as our kick-ass landscaper - had finished creating his latest masterpiece, which I had requested:  a grill pad.  As someone who loves to grill, having a space reserved specifically and exclusively for it is not a little thing for me.  It is - in fact - quite a big thing.  Frank and one of his guys had started the job on Wednesday and put the finishing touches on it early Thursday afternoon.  Accuse me of bias if you will but I think it is simply beautiful. 

You may not be able to tell from this angle but the flamingos in Nona's Circle are smiling.  They too think he has created a fully functional work of art in our backyard. 

The presence of Frank's masterpiece (and if you live in or about the Central region of the State of Concrete Gardens - whether you are nestled 'NTSG or not - and are not a Bozzomo Landscaping customer you know not what you are missing) was in and of itself enough to raise Thursday above the tree line of an ordinary, hum-drum day.  It turned out that it was only the half of it. 

Since I purchased my "big boy" car last August, I have struggled with the ill-fitting, all-weather floor mats that Margaret and I bought for it.  I did not buy them from the dealer of course but went to Target or some such place.  How bad could they be I wondered.  It turns out, quite bad in fact.  While the floor mat protecting the carpet on the front seat passenger's side of the car caused nary a problem in the past twelve months - and none at all for me - its traveling companion on the driver's side was a pain in the ass.  Suffice it to say that one more than one occasion it decided its view of the world from beneath the gas pedal was inadequate and it popped its curled-up head up to get a better look of things.  Happiness is NOT having an impediment to the foot/accelerator pedal relationship.  

Last Sunday I finally broke down and did something I should have done months ago:  I hopped on the Weather-Tech.Com site and ordered custom-fitted floor mats.  Turns out that not only were they not terribly expensive but - hold on for the big finish - they actually were made to fit my car.  It was a feeling akin to buying a baseball cap without the adjustable plastic strip in the back.  They were not made for any car.  They were made for my car.  A perfect fit.  Parenthetically, due to my gynormous, bulbous-shaped cranium I have never been able to wear a baseball cap that did not have the adjustable plastic strip (or its Velcro equivalent) in the back.  No hat company makes "Jumbo Rock Head" as part of its regular inventory apparently.  

Floor mats and grill pads.  These are a few of my favorite things deep into the forty-sixth year of my existence.  Clearly, the question is not how long ago I ceased living life in the fast lane but, rather, for how long a period of time has my car been on the shoulder, flashers on, awaiting the arrival of AAA road service?  

The answer I suspect is, "Longer than I shall care to admit."  And not by a little bit either. 


Friday, September 20, 2013

Autumnal Men

Summer's final breaths are upon us.  Today is the last Friday of the Summer of '13.  Time passes so fast that I know not what strikes me this morning as more extraordinary:  that it was slightly more than one year ago that Suzanne and Ryan became engaged or that it is already two weeks since they were married.  Both events have hurtled past me with alacrity. 

The end of the MLB regular season shall be upon us by this time next week.  Mercifully, the season ends in the Autumn this year as it does every year.  It therefore allows the incomparable Mariano Rivera one final Autumn in which to ply his craft.  Unlike just about every season that preceded it, this season does not appear to be in which Mo's itinerary shall include not merely Autumn games but October ones as well.  Hell, there has been a time or two when saving November games has been an item on his "To Do" list.  Alas, not this year.  

May your schedule permit you the chance - if you are as I am a fan of Doubleday's game - to spend a minute or two these next eight or nine days watching Mariano do what it is he does.  As I watched the Yankees lose Tuesday night in Toronto, it occurred to me that when sunset beckons at season's end Rivera might not be riding off into it alone.  I suspect that his long-time teammate and good friend Andy Pettitte shall saddle up alongside of him.  While Derek Jeter is too stubborn and too proud to join them off of the non-season he has had - regardless of whether he can run from here to the end of this sentence without hurting himself - I would not be surprised to learn that the Siren's Song of the sunset has at least reached Jeter's ears as well.  He will likely return to wage at least one more year's worth of war against the ravages of Time.  One more year from Pettitte, however, would surprise me immensely.

You get reminded very quickly about the vagaries of time and the rapid movement of Life when an athlete for whom you have cheered since he was a very young man retires.  You are reminded that it is not just the men being watched on the TV who get older, who slow down and who perhaps lose a step.  It happens to all of us.  

Autumn is, has been and shall likely always be my favorite time of the year.  I know not why exactly but it just has.  For reasons that I cannot explain and shall not attempt to explain it has always seemed to me to be kinda, sorta Summer's older brother.  Frivolity may be the order of the day in the Summer but in the Autumn, earnestness is.  Crazy?   Perhaps.  Just one man's perspective.  Nothing more.  Nothing less. 


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sole Searching

The "'Round the State of Concrete Gardens Tour" continues for Yours truly today.  Having spent Monday in Middlesex County, Tuesday in Hudson County and yesterday in Bergen County, today's land of laughs and giggles is Mercer County.  Nothing quite as exhilirating as an early morning jaunt to Trenton.  Well, that is not entirely true.  I can think of any number of things that surpass a weekday morning in Trenton on the exhiliration-o-meter.  I cannot however think of a single one - not even one - that pays the mortgage as effectively as the way in which I shall spend this morning.  Ah hindsight.  Thou art a heartless bitch.

At one point I thought that I was going to spend a piece of my day in Trenton catching up a bit with an old friend I have not seen since law school.  Best laid plans of mice and men I reckon.  Tuesday evening he sent me an e-mail telling me he had to cancel.  Next time perhaps.  Perhaps.  Or then again, perhaps not.  My initial reaction to seeing his e-mail was one of regret.  But that was a short-lived reaction.  The longer term reflexive response was one of relief.  Relief that the likely chasm between reality and expectation would be left unplumbed until - at the earliest - some other day. 

I am a notoriously poor "Glory Days" guy.  One of the reasons why the oxymoron that is "Social Media" holds the appeal for me that it does is that it is a vehicle that assists me in keeping the world at what I consider to be its minimum safe distance from me:  arm's length.  While I enjoy having re-established contact with a number of folks I had lost contact with over the years, when all of us are in the same place we spend scant little time playing "Remember When?"  I presume that is because all of them - either as individuals or as a collective - have as little stomach for it as do I. 

When I die - and stop dancing the jig you had just started for I woke up this morning feeling fine so I reasonably anticipate that I shall make it through today, it is reasonable to presume that the official cause of death shall not be "Absence of Sentimentality".  Make no mistake however.  I am not a sentimentalist.  To the contrary, I subscribe to the Pete Hamill view on the subject, "Sentimentality is always about a Lie.  Nostalgia is about real things gone.  Nobody truly mourns a Lie."

Depending upon how long it takes in court this morning, I might grab a bite to eat before I start the long drive north to Parsippany.  Table for one please.  For that is how I roll.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hallmarks and Other Milestones

You may have missed it.  If you did do not feel any particular sense of shame.  It is not your fault.  Hallmark does not make a card for it.  An excellent shorthand test regarding a particular day's established, commercial legitimacy is whether the robber barons from Hallmark mass-produce cards heralding its arrival.  In fairness to the Hallmark folks, I do not think that Mr. Deeds ever thought of suggesting a card for this particular day either.

Yesterday was Constitution Day.  The Constitution of these United States was adopted 226 years ago - yesterday.  So much energy and vitriol has been expended - especially so these past few years - over the rights afforded to individuals under the Constitution that you are forgiven if in your review of the document in its original, "as ratified" form you cannot locate a single word about the "right to bear arms".  It is not in there of course.  They call them "Amendments" for a reason Slappy.  The first ten were important enough to be identified en masse as "the Bill of Rights" but the Constitution as adopted eleven score and six years ago contained nary a one of them.  As of September 17, 1787 the score was Articles 7, Amendments 0.  The Bill of Rights would not be ratified for more than four years thereafter.  

 We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,
establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,
promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty
to ourselves and our Posterity, 
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Happy Birthday to Us!  Close your eyes and make a wish.  And make it a good one.... 

....we are all in need of a good one....


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Randomness and Other Adventures in the Great Unknown

I was in court for most of the day on Monday.  My ability to follow the breaking news of the grotesque act of cowardice perpetrated upon the men and women who work at the Washington Navy Yard was limited to snippets of stories I was able to read on my phone.  The people who earn their living protecting us should be safe at home - including the campus they call home.  Monday's events reminded us that they are not. 

Irrespective of your political affiliation, your thoughts as to the role and size of the American military, our next potential escapade in Syria, your thoughts and good wishes should be with the men and women murdered and the men and women injured on Monday, all of whom was doing nothing more or nothing less than their job.  Keep them and keep their families in your thoughts and - if you are someone who believes in such things - your prayers as well. 

The only pleasant element of the latest Lost Weekend in Boston for the Bronx's Best Apostles was the top-notch sendoff that the Red Sox gave to the one and only Mariano Rivera.  Kudos to everyone in the Sox organization for a presentation that was both humorous and touching. 

I care not what MLB team you root for - although if you are an Astros fan a mental status exam might be in order - you should squeeze all you can out of the final two weeks of a career the likes of which you are not likely to ever see again.  I have been watching baseball for most of my forty-six-plus years.  Mo is not only the greatest at his position that I have ever seen, he is an original.  The esteem in which he held between the lines is surpassed only by that in which he held off of the field.  There shall likely be no October in the Bronx this year.  That saddens me a little because it means that there shall likely be no mo' Mo entering from the bullpen to save the day.  

As a Yankees fan, I know what he means to me.  Sunday night's tribute in Fenway Park reminded me what he means to fans of baseball....even those who do not root for the Yankees.  Oh - and if you do not think Big Papi is one of the best souls playing in the Big Leagues, take a gander again at the video of the Sox tribute to Mo and check out who is pumping the crowd up to make a lot of noise.  Actually watching the ceremony made me think not only about the great playoff clashes the Red Sox and the Yankees engaged in once MLB added the Wild Card but - also - how long it has been since they have clashed.  Between 1999 and 2004 they battled three times in the ALCS - with the Yankees winning in '99 and '03 and the Red Sox rallying from three games to none to win in '04 on their way to winning their first World Series in 86 years.  2004 was close to a decade ago.  Where has the time gone?  

Time has gone where time always goes - right past you too damn fast.  Especially if you are a little boy with a death sentence.  I hope that whatever you have on tap today you can steal a minute or 5:10 to learn the story of Creed Campbell and his best buddy Casper.  In a world where cowards gun down people at their place of work, you might find yourself in need of a reason to look - glance at least - towards the bright side of Life.  Here goes your proof....

See you tomorrow.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Shouldering The Load

Fight CU down the field,
CU must win
Fight, fight for victory
CU knows no defeat
We'll roll up a mighty score
Never give in
Shoulder to shoulder
We will fight, fight
Fight, fight, fight!
- CU Fight Song

Thus far this fall the 2013 edition of the Colorado Buffaloes football team is undefeated.  Coach Mac's kids have played twice and won both games.  Considering that the 2012 season, which was comprised of significantly more than just two Saturdays, resulted in only one win, you may not be impressed by the baby steps Mac's Herd has taken so far.  But for those of us who bleed black and gold we are quite happy, thank you very much.

Saturday should have been the Buffs' third game of the season.  They were scheduled to host the Fresno State Bulldogs.  Last September the Buffs dropped a nail-biter in Fresno 69-14.  Working off of memory, I think it might have been 35-0 at the end of the first quarter.  Yep.  It got very ugly very early.

Nevertheless the Buffs had been looking forward to the return match in Boulder this past Saturday.  Sadly, as Life often does, it had other ideas.  And once it put those plans into motion, everything changed.  Mother Nature selected the past week to subject Boulder, the communities that surround it  including Lyons and Longmont and the entire Front Range - including Fort Collins where Rob and Jess live to historical rainfall and, of course, flooding.  When the local weatherman - and not the preacher man - speaks in terms of "Biblical flooding", he has succeeded in capturing my full and undivided attention.  

At some point in the afternoon on Friday, the adults in charge of making difficult decisions at CU - including Chancellor Phil DiStefano, Athletic Director Rick George and Coach Mac - made a necessary but difficult decision:  they postponed the Fresno State football game.  Recognition was given to the fact that the critical issue was not whether the game could be played but rather, whether it should be played.

On Saturday the 14th of September the University of Colorado Buffaloes football players - joined by their brothers and sisters in the basketball program, volleyball program, soccer program and our newest Buffs - the women's lacrosse program - spent several hours at Folsom Field anyway.  However rather than performing on the field, they performed off of it.  They spent their afternoon serving food, providing assistance and otherwise offering comfort to members of the community, including the CU students whose family housing residences were among those flooded out when Boulder Creek decided it did not want to spend its entire life within the geographical boundaries of its banks.  Approximately 800 people attended the event, including scores of children. 

Among the members of the Buffs who manned the food station on Saturday afternoon was wide receiver D.D. Goodson.  Goodson has gotten off to a terrific start this year as a complementary part of the receiving corps headed by Paul Richardson.  However when the flood waters started to rise on Thursday and Friday, among those residents of Boulder whose places were flooded and whose worldly possessions were lost was D.D. Goodson.  Yet there he was on Saturday afternoon with his teammates and his fellow student-athletes doing his part to ease the suffering of those affected by the week's horrific weather.  Well, those other than himself of course.

CU-Boulder has been an integral part of my life since I was an eighteen-year-old freshman close to three decades ago.  CU and Boulder are engrained into the fiber of my being - part of my DNA if you will.  As an alumni I root hard from afar for the young men and women who represent CU in various athletic arenas to have success.  Some times they do.  Some times....not so much.  For all that my Alma mater has meant to me for the past thirty years, I have never been more proud of it, the young women and men who are its students and the adults who provide them leadership and guidance. 

You cannot spell "Community" without the letters CU.  A lesson learned anew these past few days. 


Sunday, September 15, 2013


How many times can you get up after you've been hit?
Well I swear if I could spare the spit
I'd lay one on your shiny chrome
And send you on your way back home....
-Bruce Springsteen
"Seeds" is a song that appeared on Bruce Springsteen's 5-Album Box Set "Live:  1975-1985".  Truth be told, it had little to nothing to do with the effects of Mother Nature on her human subjects and everything to do with the often inhumane things that humans of the species do to one another. 
Nevertheless when I saw the incredible video and photos of the damage that Mother Nature inflicted on the Jersey Shore again this week, I thought of the sentiment underlying Springsteen's lyric.  Especially with regard to my neighbors in the Ocean County towns of Seaside Heights and Seaside Park.  How much can one group of people take?  And will it be easier for them - or harder - if it turns out that Mother Nature had at least one human helping hand.  As of Saturday night, the investigation into the cause of the inferno was incomplete

Less than one year after they were left on the asses by Wind and Rain, the Earth decided to unleash Fire upon them.   Jerseyans are a hardy lot to be sure.  But no one's tolerance level is limitless.  No matter how much we might want to think otherwise.  I certainly hope that they continue to keep on keeping on.  Truth be told, I have no idea whether I could. 


Saturday, September 14, 2013

One More Reason to Believe

Next year the football program at Rutgers University takes the next step in its seemingly eternal quest to be considered "Big Time" when RU officially joins the Big Ten Conference.  Pay no attention to the fact that with RU in the fold - joined as it shall be by ACC emigre the University of Maryland - the Big Ten shall actually have fourteen members.  No one associated with the Big Ten appears to care.  Therefore you should not.  Neither should I.

This afternoon - while playing its second home game of the season - the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers University shall indeed enjoy a "Big Time" moment.  If a university in these United States has a better, more inspiring face of its football program than does Rutgers in Eric LeGrand, then I am unaware of it.  This afternoon, Eric LeGrand's #52 shall be the first uniform number retired in the history of Rutgers Football.  The very first.  

On the field at Rutgers Stadium this afternoon, before his Alma mater takes the field against Eastern Michigan Eric LeGrand shall have yet another well-deserved moment.  There are those no doubt - the cynics among us (in whose company I can usually be found) - who shall claim that LeGrand is being honored solely because of the paralyzing, spinal cord injury he suffered during a game against Army several Octobers ago.  Respectfully I believe their cynicism is misplaced.  Eric LeGrand is being honored today far more for what happens every day than for what happened on one gray October afternoon.  He is being honored for the man he is much more than simply for the player he was.  He is being honored because his perseverance is an inspiration.  He is a source of strength and of hope to far too many to count.  

A well-earned honor for an outstanding young man.  Keep Choppin' Eric.  Keep Choppin'....

....and congratulations. 


Friday, September 13, 2013

There 'Neath the Oak's Bough

Go Confidently in the Direction of Your Dreams.
Live the Life That You've Imagined.
- Henry David Thoreau

If I had a dollar for every less than swell thing I have done in my life, suffice it to say that I would be able to sleep through my alarm clock on something akin to at least a not-infrequent basis.  So, I am always more than mildly surprised when someone I love dearly escapes unscathed his/her affiliation with me. 

One week ago on this very day, my daughter Suzanne did just that.  On what turned out to be one of the Ten Best Days of the year, weatherwise, and one of the Best Days Ever for Yours Truly, she married my son-in-law Ryan before family and friends.  As the sun started its descent into the western sky, the two of them exchanged vows.  The looks on their faces as they strode down the aisle for the first time as Man and Wife shall warm me forever. 

Come what may....


Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Life In Pictures

I learned last Friday that 'Father of the Bride' the day of the wedding - at least when the wedding is at 6:00 PM - is a pretty easy gig.  Between making an early-morning trip to the hotel where Ryan and Suzanne had reserved a block of rooms to drop off the "goody bags" Suzanne and Margaret had prepared for each room and a late-afternoon gig as driver for my two favorite octogenarians, Joanie K and Joe B., I really had very little to do.  Truth be told, I probably could have gone to work and not upset the pre-nuptials apple cart terribly much.  I did not.  And while I spent most of the day doing a whole lot of nothing, I did not regret my decision for one moment.  Nope.  Not even one.
Margaret, Suzanne and the Bridesmaid Trio headed out to The Palace by 10:30 or so in order to start the primping and styling that was going to occupy the next several hours of their day.  With little to do and lots of time in which to do it, I occupied myself in a number of ways.  Chief among them - I went for a run.
While Mother Nature can indeed be a fickle bitch, she did my daughter, my son-in-law and our family the great service of ordering up one of 2013's Ten Best days of the year on Suzanne/Ryan's wedding day.  A sky full of sunshine and a day-time high temperature that barely scratched 70 degrees.  A simply extraordinary day. 
I took advantage of the weather and my unencumbered schedule to go running late in the morning - after children had been dropped off at school and after people whose daughters were not getting married that day had already started their work day.  As I ran, my mind's eye filled frame after frame with images of Suzanne.  I was not there from Day One in her life.  We only entered one another's worlds when Margaret and I started dating, almost twenty-two and one-half years ago.  So, we have been part of each other's day-to-day since she was six years old and I was - I was considerably less gray and wrinkled than I am presently 
And as I ran among the things I thought about and the images I conjured up was a summer's day twenty-two years ago.  Margaret, Suzanne, Rob and I spent the afternoon at Colonial Park in Franklin Township.  The kids played on the same swings and slides that I had played on as a little boy.  We rode in the paddleboats.  We fed the geese.  When we ran out of food, we were chased by the geese.  Apparently, Mother Goose - much like Mother Nature - is also a fickle bitch.  The rest of her brood is none too pleasant either. 
The nice thing about being an earnest - but not very fleet-footed - runner is that during my five-mile head-clearing jaunt 'bout town a lifetime's worth of images played through the movie house of my mind.  A condensed visual history of what an extraordinary woman Suzanne is and the course her life has taken since childhood that made her so. 
I am a lucky man.  Far more so than I deserve to be as a matter of fact.  And as if I needed to be reminded, the pictures told the story.... they often do.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Tolling of the Bells

In the dozen years that have passed since the most terrible, horrific morning that I have lived through to date - a journey that has now spanned more than forty-six and one-half years - I have never once had to shoulder the burden that many had to that morning.  No member of my family was killed that day.  No one I knew personally or - more pointedly perhaps - who would have counted me among those that he or she knew was killed that day.  I have a tremendous amount of empathy for those among our number whose fortune paled in comparison to mine.  For those who had taken from them in a singular moment of almost incomprehensible violence a spouse, a child, a sibling, a parent, a friend, a neighbor or - even - the guy who occupied the cubicle across the office from your own, I know I have never walked a mile in your shoes.  I have done even less than that.  I have never laced them up and taken even one step in them.  And I know what you know, which is that I never shall. 

I have a sense of loss that may properly be the object of ridicule, derision or even anger for any of you who suffered real loss that day.  It may in fact be so viewed by all of you.  If it is, then know simply that your feelings towards me and perhaps to others like me - who were 'impacted' by what happened that day in a manner that must seem to you to be the most vanilla, most anonymous, most superficial sense of the word - does not affect the boundless reservoir of empathy I have for you.  It cannot.  You experienced true loss that morning.  Each and every day thereafter, you have endured it anew.  It is your burden to carry.  Your cross....  

....I wish you nothing more than continued strength - and continuing strength, which are in fact two qualities you possess in abundant supply.  It is your bottomless reservoir of them that has carried you this far - twelve years from the day on which an entire city - and by extension the nation of which it is an integral part- had its heart broken....

....and to a point where you have not just endured but have flourished.  Much like the mythical Phoenix, you have risen up out of the ashes.  Are you all the way back?  Perhaps not.  And perhaps what you shall be going forward shall not be a replica of what once was.  But it is most indeed something.  And not a "little" something either. 

Getting here has not been easy for you.  Yet here you are.  A constant source of strength for the rest of us.  Even those who you do not know.  Even those of us who wish with all of our might that we shall never be called upon to endure for a moment what you have endured for these past twelve years.  Every great structure requires a strong foundation.  You are ours.  Do not ever forget it.  Not on any day.  Most especially, not on this day....


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Heroes in Blue

Lord I ask for courage

Courage to face and
Conquer my own fears...

Courage to take me
Where others will not go...

I ask for strength

Strength of body to protect others
And strength of spirit to lead others...

I ask for dedication

Dedication to my job, to do it well
Dedication to my community
To keep it safe...

Give me Lord, concern
For others who trust me
And compassion for those who need me...

And please Lord

Through it all
Be at my side...
-"The Police Officer's Prayer"
--Author Unknown

On the morning of September 11, 2001 the first law enforcement response to the horrific events of that day came from the men and women of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department.  September 11, 2001 exacted a historic toll on the PAPD - as it did on the FDNY and the NYPD.  Thirty-seven members of the PAPD were killed that morning in the valiant struggle to save as many people as they could at the Twin Towers and the entire World Trade Center complex.

Uhuru G. Houston.  Officer Uhuru G. Houston was but thirty-two years young in September 2001.  He was not a physicallly big man - only 5'6" tall - but he carried himself with the confidence and the certainty of one who knew how to handle himself.  Mark Twain, while never having met Officer Houston, appeared to have him in mind when he observed that, "It is not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog".  In addition to walking a beat daily at the World Trade Center, Officer Houston was a husband and a father.  Shortly before his death at Ground Zero, he had moved his family across the Hudson River to a home in Englewood, New Jersey.  It was there that he and his wife Sonya and their two small children, their son Hasani (age 5) and their daughter Hannah (20 months), planned to make a better life for themselves.  They had in fact already done so.  They simply did not have as much time to live it as they had hoped.  

Joseph M. Navas.   At age 44, Officer Joseph Navas spent approximately half of his life as a member of the PAPD.  A twenty-year veteran, he had been a member of the PAPD's Emergency Services Unit for seven years as of September 2001.  Saving others from tight spots was in his DNA.  Shortly before rushing into Hell at the World Trade Center that terrible Tuesday morning, Officer Navas had rescued two persons from the George Washington Bridge, from which they had apparently planned to commit suicide.  In 1993, he was one of the PAPD officers who helped those injured by what unfortunately has become known as "the first World Trade Center bombing".  He loved what he did.  He loved what he did almost as much as he loved his family.  Almost.  But not quite.  His wife of fifteen years, Karen, and their three children (Jessica 12, Joey 9 and Justin 3) were his center.  When he was not putting himself into harm's way to save another, he was with them - content to shoot baskets in his driveway, whether on the regulation hoop or the 3-foot high hoop, or to play catch with them.  


Monday, September 9, 2013


Never give up.
Never give in.
Fight 'til you lose....
Or fight 'til you win.
Never let up.
Never let down.
Never let the frightened....
See you frown.
Wield your weapons.
Conquer all fears.
Work 'til your sweat...
Replaces their tears.
Learn from your losses.
Savor your wins.
Prepare for the next one.
And battle again....
- "The Firefighter Within"

Donald Regan.  Firefighter Donald Regan was a seventeen-year veteran of the FDNY.  In the Fall of 2001 he was a member of Rescue Co. 3 in the Bronx, one of the FDNY's elite rescue units.  Firefighter Regan had been part of Rescue Co. 3 for five years.  During his FDNY career, he received a Department medal for bravery.  Donald Regan was a hell of a firefighter.  But he was far more than simply that.  He was a father, survived by his three sons and a daughter.  He was a husband, survived by Theresa, his wife of twenty-six years.  At age 47, he had reached the point in his life where not all of his children still called his home their home (an emotion with which I can most certainly relate).  Every Saturday morning he would go to his local post office, in Pine Bush, N.Y., and mail packages to his two who no longer lived nearby - sending them whatever they needed.  One of his "far away" children was his son Peter.  In September 2001 Peter was a member of the in the United States armed forces, stationed in California.  In 2004, Peter followed his dad's footsteps into the FDNY.  He is assigned to Ladder Co. No. 174. 

Firefighter Donald Regan was a man who always put his family first.  Shortly after his father's death in September 2001, his son Shane remarked about his father's willingness to drive "classic cars" - beaters with at least 100,000 miles on them - to ensure that he had enough money for his family.  Irony is a cruel mistress.  Donald Regan had finally bought himself a new car, a 2001 Chrysler Sebring, shortly before he was killed in action on September 11, 2001. 

Robert Regan.  Lieutenant Robert Regan of Ladder Co. No. 118 spent the final morning of his life in the company of five men who were indeed his brothers-in-arms:  Firefighter Leon Smith, Firefighter Scott Davidson, Firefighter Joseph Agnello, Firefighter Peter Vega and Firefighter Vernon Cherry.  An amateur photographer snapped a photo of the six of them speeding across the Brooklyn Bridge in their truck towards the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001. 

They were last seen in the Marriott World Trade Center Hotel evacuating staff and guests as both of the Twin Towers collapsed around it - and around them.  Tragically, as was the case for 337 of their colleagues, neither Lieutenant Regan nor his five comrades lived to tell their tale.

Lieutenant Robert Regan was a sixteen-year veteran of the FDNY.  He had been a civil engineer prior to joining the Department but - looking for a career doing something that would both enable him to give back to the community and allow him to spend more time with his young children - he joined the FDNY.  At the time of their dad's death in September 2001 his daughter Caitlin was sixteen and his son Robert was eleven.  A living testament to the character of their father, their mother Donna and themselves Caitlin grew up to become a graphic designer and Robert, a Marist College graduate, began his post-college life as an intern at NBC.