Sunday, March 31, 2013

It All Begins Anew Once More....

Today is the last Sunday - until perhaps October's first Saturday - on which the Yankees will not be playing baseball in 2013.  One of the truly great events on the American sporting calendar has finally arrived:  Opening Day of the baseball season.  While the schedule makers have in their infinite wisdom structured the schedule in such a way that the Yankees shall wrap up their season on the road against their long-time rivals the Houston Astros (the answer to the trivia question, "Which team is the last one to pitch a no-hitter against the Yankees?"), they have at least given us an Opening Day matinee of some significance.  At 1:05 tomorrow afternoon at the big ballpark in the Bronx, the Yankees shall play host to the Boston Red Sox.  If the thought of Yankees vs. Red Sox on a crisp, cool early spring afternoon at Yankee Stadium as this season's greeting to the great American pastime is insufficient to get your blood pumping, then do me a great favor.  Gas up your Citroen.  Once it is fueled, drive it off a cliff while munching on your tofu burger and a strawberry rhubarb muffin.  Presently, you are taking up good oxygen that I would prefer be left available to my grandchildren to breathe someday.  

Baseball is not a sport that everyone enjoys.  That is something of which I am aware although I cannot for the life of me figure out how or why someone is or becomes an anti-baseball person.  Hell, I have a lawyer in   my office who is not only a baseball fan - he is a Pittsburgh Pirates fan.   Given that he is only in his late thirties, he rooted for Willie Stargell's 1979 World Series-winning Bucs from either the crib or the playpen.  He has spent most of his life being subjected to a historically bad baseball team.  And yet he loves them.  And he loves the game.  

In spite of my best efforts to the contrary, you likely will continue to spend your time as you see fit to spend it.  Years ago my wife and both of our children realized just how useless my advice was and stopped paying attention to me and it.  I can scarcely expect better from people with whom I have an essentially impersonal relationship.  However, you should make time - if not every day then more often than not - during baseball season to check out the good works and good words of the Mighty Quinn.   Q is a passionate, smart baseball fan.  Sure his rooting interest lies at the Fens rather than in the Bronx but his love of the game leaps off the page.  While I am of the opinion he should be a stop on your journey through Al Gore's creation every day, it should especially be so during baseball season.  Plus, given all the great trivia stuff about which he writes, you can pick up enough obscure factoid nuggets to generate actual buzz at the water cooler.  

Opening Day is upon us.  Before you know it, this season will have assumed its place in the history books.  Enjoy it while it is here.  For once a young girl blinks her eye the moment that you were living in is gone....

....forever.

-AK 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

At Home in the Mist-Covered Mountains....

I learned Thursday evening that David Stout - a man who I had known since I was a very small boy - had died.  I know nothing of the circumstances.  I know simply that a man in whose footsteps I followed when we were both kids had died.  He was not yet fifty years old. 

Although Kara, Jill and I did not become students at Wardlaw-Hartridge until year two of the hyphenated school's common experience (Dad - who helped run the joint - had been nothing more than cautiously optimistic that it would survive its first year in its newly created state and wanted to make sure that it had before sending his own children there), David was a kid who I came to know long before I enrolled at W-H.  He was one of the regular participants in Dad's "Saturday Play Group."  In hindsight, my father's weekly recreation program for the (then) Wardlaw kids probably should have been given a name that more readily evoked thoughts of kids having fun than thoughts of kids sentenced to a term of indeterminate length in a treatment facility.  Maybe in the next lifetime we can correct that error.  

Regardless of the unwieldy and admittedly somewhat creepy name, Saturday Play Group was a fixed, enjoyable part of my routine from the time I was a small boy right up through the time of Dad's death in May, 1981.  Each and every Saturday during the school year we would head to Wardlaw at dawn's ass crack and await the arrival of kids of various ages, whose parents would leave them in Dad's care for the day to play sports.  And play sports we did.  Touch football, softball, dodgeball, basketball, soccer and floor hockey seemed to be on the docket every Saturday.  When I was a very little boy and Wardlaw was still Wardlaw with its lower school campus on Central Avenue in Plainfield, it was on Central Avenue that the Saturday gang assembled.  Upon Wardlaw's merger with Hartridge, the Saturday base camp became the new lower school campus on Plainfield Avenue, which had been Hartridge's locale pre-merger.  

David was one of Dad's guys.  He was a regular attendee at Play Group.  He was also an effortless, natural athlete.  He glided across the soccer field.  When floor hockey was played - as it was usually as the day's final activity in the mid-afternoon - he flew around the gym floor.  He was one of the leaders of his group of friends, which included Greg Blatz, Kirk Lattimore, Scott Rupp, Dwight Warren and Jay Dugenio among others.  

My big brother Kelly was - in those days - Dad's #1 Indentured Servant at Play Group.  He served as the Sergeant-at-Arms.  Kelly was several years older than David and his gang and those guys viewed Kel with equal parts admiration, respect and fear.  To promote a competitive spirit among the participants - and to keep little kids from getting pulverized by bigger kids - Dad and Kelly broke the Play Groupies into "little guys" and "big guys".  As a general rule, we swam in two different ponds.  

The exception to that rule was floor hockey.  I loved to play it and as a result of the time Kelly devoted to playing it and/or street hockey with me when I was a mere mite, I was quite good at it.  Good enough in fact to get bumped out of the "little guy" gang at Play Group and bumped up to play with the "big guys".   So, for the last year or two that David attended Play Group I had the great joy of getting to play floor hockey with him and his cadre.  He took a liking to me and knew I could play better than most of his friends.  Kelly usually named David as one of the captains for floor hockey and as a captain he was responsible for picking his team.  Far more often than not, he chose me to play on his team, which meant I got to play alongside him.  It is a memory so good and so positive that I am smiling as I write this.  

When I was a freshman at W-H and playing J.V. soccer, after having played football in 7th/8th grade, David was the Varsity Captain.  During our two-a-day summer practices, all of us practiced together.  He and Tom  Kopidakis would lead us through our pre-practice stretching each morning and afternoon.  One of the stretches we did was "the butterfly".  While seated on the ground, you bend your legs in an effort to have the soles of your feet touching one another.  If done properly, it effectively stretches the groin muscle.  If done properly, it also produces a fair level of discomfort.  I remember being damn proud of myself as a fourteen-year-old high school freshman that my legs were sufficiently limber so as to permit me to have the bottoms of my feet touching each other from tip of my toes to my heels....until I saw David not only replicate what I had done but lift his body off of the ground and balance himself above his feet while in the butterfly position.  Thirty-plus years later that remains one of the most extraordinary things I have ever seen an athlete do.  And he did it every day.  

David graduated from W-H in 1982 - right between Kara and Jill.  He is one of five Stout siblings who graduated from Wardlaw, Hartridge and/or Wardlaw-Hartridge.  He was preceded through our Alma mater's hallowed halls by his brother Robert and his sisters Leslie and Susan.  His sister Laura graduated  in 1988 - three years after I did.  In the long history of our Alma mater there has never been a family better than the Stouts.  This quintet earned more awards and honors during their collective time on campus than could be recounted here with any accuracy.  Leslie and Laura and both members of the W-H Athletic Hall of Fame.  For years, Mrs. Stout was one-half of the dynamic duo that ran the Mother's Store (alongside Mrs. Childers), which was a place on campus you could go buy needed supplies on a moment's notice or - as importantly - pop in for a cookie or a hug depending on the day you were having.  A few years ago, Jill and I saw Mr. and Mrs. Stout at W-H.  They had come to celebrate Laura's enshrinement into the Athletic Hall-of-Fame.  Neither of us had seen Mrs. Stout in a lifetime.  Yet she greeted both of us with a big smile and a hug.  

Having not seen David or heard from him or about him in close to three decades, I was very happy to have run into him at W-H several times during the course of the past few years.  He made a few trips up to New Jersey from wherever he was living - most recently North Carolina - for Homecoming/Fall Fair in October.  He always looked good although he perhaps had a touch more sadness in his eyes than I remembered from my youth.  Then again, who doesn't?   

A good family has suffered a terrible loss.  Sad, terrible stuff.  If you are - as I am - someone whose life has been made better through simply knowing the Stouts (and if you have ever met a single one of them you fall into this category), keep them in your thoughts.  Keep David in your thoughts too....

Now the sun's gone to hell
And the moon's riding high
Let me bid you farewell
Every man has to die
But it's written in the starlight
And every line on your palm
We're fools to make war


-AK

Friday, March 29, 2013

Naugahyde Divans Reasonably Priced

Today is a day of solemnity in the Roman Catholic faith.  Good Friday is the day on which - if you happen to be a fan of the RC version of the urban legend - Christ died.  As someone whose faith thermostat is permanently fixed on "agnostic", it is a day of which I am aware and a day in which I am not an active participant.  Feel free to wake me up for meals.  Oh wait, if memory serves fasting is for some reason a highlight of today's festivities.  If going without food makes a day a holiday, then there are people in sub-Saharan Africa for whom Good Friday has lasted for a generation or more. 

But I digress....

I presume that at some point today the newest wearer of the pointy hat, Pope Francis, will appear before the assemblage in Rome and offer words of wisdom.  Francis has enjoyed a honeymoon period since winning the gig upon Eggs' retirement at the end of February.  I know not whether that is due to (a) the quality of his character; (b) the colossal lowering of our expectations for what passes as evidence of quality of character; or (c) a combination of (a) and (b).  

Much has been written about him stopping at his hotel the day after his election as Pope to pick up his luggage and settle up his tab - not to mention his efforts to contact his newspaper deliveryman in his hometown in Argentina personally to cancel home delivery of his paper.  Far less has been written thus far about the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires' alleged unwillingness to act on behalf of Argentina's victims of its pedophile priests while he was in charge of the church there.  As long as he is a generous tipper; right?  

Anyway, while I am the man of little faith for whom those of you of a religious persuasion walk around shouting "Woe Ye!" at and I am wholly disconnected from the dual celebrations of Easter and Passover, I appreciate and respect the fact that many - including too many to count who are far smarter than I - are deeply invested in one or the other (if not both depending on the composition of one's family).  For all who are either observing the final few days of Passover or are preparing to celebrate the Easter weekend, I hope your observance brings you all that you hope for and more. 

Me?  I just hope the Cadbury Bunny leaves some solid milk chocolate eggs in my Easter basket.    You may have faith.  I have a sweet tooth.

-AK 


Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Days of Miracle and Wonder....

This week the day after Monday brought interesting sightings and developments.  And it brought them in places both near and far. 

Tuesday morning the Supreme Court of the United States, a court before which I am admitted to practice, which I say without a trace of modesty, and before which I have been so admitted for the better part of a decade and a half, took up the first of two days of argument on cases before the Court addressing same-sex marriage.  Tuesday's argument was in the matter of Hollingsworth v. Perry, which dealt with the legality of Proposition 8, which voters in California approved on the very same Election Day on which President Obama was elected and which decreed that same-sex marriages were illegal in California.  In passing Proposition 8 voters in California effectively gutted a decision of that state's highest court that had recognized the legality of such marriages.  

The Hollingsworth case united on the same side of the argument two of this nation's best legal minds, at least in the not-very-humble opinion of this particular legal mind:  Theodore Olson and David Boies.  Once upon a decade or so ago, Messrs. Boies and Olson opposed one another before the Court and argued a matter with which you might have some familiarity:  the little case of Bush v. Gore.   Olson's argument prevailed and his client became a two-term President of the United States.  He, Olson, became Solicitor General of the United States, which position he held on September 11, 2001 when his wife Barbara was among the innocents murdered by the terrorists who crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.  

I know not what the Court will do with the Hollingsworth case.  I do know however that as an attorney and as a person when I read post-argument that, "Mr. Olson added that he and Mr. Boies were trying to make the point that this is not a partisan issue but a question of civil rights", I smiled.  Some people just get it.  And it is not a "Democrat thing", a "Republican thing", a "Liberal thing" or a "Conservative thing".  It is simply an American thing for at its core - at least from where I sit - it is the right thing.   

Much closer to my neck of the woods, Governor Christie brought a smile to my face on Tuesday too.  He conducted the 104th Town Hall meeting of his administration right here 'NTSG.  A crowd estimated in excess of three hundred and fifty packed the gymnasium at the Our Lady of Mount Virgin Parish Center to listen to him and to ask him questions on a variety of topics - including his "hands on" proposal for dealing with homeowners at the Shore who object to the construction of dunes on the to-be-rebuilt beaches.  

As intrigued as I was by what I read on-line about what the Governor said, I derived more pleasure from looking at photos and video of the venue in which he said it.  While I walk the line between agnostic and atheist, both of our kids went to grammar school at OLMV.  Not too many years ago the edifice somewhat absurdly identified now as the "Parish Center" was in fact the center of the OLMV parish.  It was a vibrant school at which kids from kindergarten through eighth grade were educated.  The gymnasium served as the home court for the OLMV Vikings basketball teams - of which Suzanne was a member every year from 4th grade through 8th grade and of which Rob was a member in 8th grade.  Winter Saturdays of their youth were spent - in large part - in that gym either playing a game or rooting for their friends.  

Most of our winter Saturdays of my kids' youth was spent there as well.  While Margaret helped run the snack bar and/or the kitchen, I had the pleasure of helping coach Suzanne's team when she was in 8th grade and of serving in the same capacity the following year on Rob's team.  When I was not coaching I was one of the dads who was in charge of the scorer's table.  You see, the OLMV gym served as a host for the Diocese of Metuchen Basketball League.  Games between boys and girls from 3rd graders through 8th graders were played in it every Saturday - often beginning as early at 8:00 a.m. and not wrapping up until after 5:00 p.m.  As the father in charge of the scorer's table, which was manned by OLMV students (including Suzanne and Rob) and for which the students received an enormous "salary" of (I think) $10.00 for the day's work, I served as the barrier between the kids and the coaches of the various teams who mistakenly thought that they could (if they deemed it necessary) intimidate or otherwise act like jagoffs towards the kids.  The more numb my ass got from sitting atop the radiator directly behind the scorer's table, the shorter my fuse got.  By the middle of most afternoons, a coach who arched an eyebrow at one of the youngsters working at the table was likely to elicit a "Sit down Coach" from the adult in charge.  

Seeing Chris Christie in the middle of the OLMV gym - with nothing but a sea of people around him - made me smile.  It made me smile because it brought me back - for just a moment anyway - to what was a simply terrific period of time in my life and in the life of my family.   Nothing lasts forever.  Except perhaps a memory.  

And at day's end if you have that then what else do you really need....


-AK 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

No Ordinary Joe

Today my father-in-law, Joseph Salvatore Bozzomo, is celebrating his eightieth birthday.  Margaret and I have been together for so long that at this point in my life, I have had my father-in-law as part of my day-to-day for close to a decade longer than I did my own father.   

And while no relationship is perfect - and ours is no exception to that rule - I consider myself fortunate that I have had the opportunity to grow up with him and around him these past twenty-plus years.  He has taught me a great deal - and not simply by drawing from his seemingly limitless reservoir of opinion statements.  Rather I have learned from him in the manner in which one learns anything that is valuable and worth learning:  by observation.  

Here is to hoping that a good man enjoys a happy birthday.  Based on everything I have observed for the past twenty-plus years he certainly deserves it.  

-AK 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Law of Being Average

A little less than two years ago, I tried a case in Essex County in which I defended an elderly African-American gentleman of whom I had grown particularly fond over the course of the case.  At trial the good guys (a/k/a "the defense") won and returned a verdict of "no cause of action" against the plaintiff.  It was a well-earned and well-deserved result.  

The plaintiff was a gentleman pathologically incapable of telling the truth - having told five distinctly different versions of how the accident happened in the lead up to trial and - much to the surprise of his attorney - a sixth, brand-spanking new version of it during direct examination at trial.  Every now and again trying a case is an experience akin to shooting fish in a barrel.  This was such a case.  The plaintiff was an atrocious witness - seemingly incapable of any semblance of consistency.  On the contrary my client was a benchmark of consistency, having told the police shortly after the accident substantially the same story that he told the jury.  

The disparate manner in which the two parties testified permitted me to use as the central theme of my summation, "Consistency is the hallmark of the truth", which I repeated several times throughout my closing argument in an effort to remind the jurors that when one is being honest it is easy to be consistent.  As mentioned above, the jurors apparently agreed with me.  We had a panel of eight and after they deliberated for a while they unanimously determined that whatever had happened to the plaintiff my client had not been the cause of it.  I like winning so I was - of course - happy with the result.  More than that, however, given that I was defending a little old man who had been diagnosed with bladder cancer about nine months prior to trial and whose trial testimony had to be videotaped during a day trip to rural Virginia because he was too weak to travel to New Jersey, I was happy to have produced for him a result that I thought - and still think - he was entitled to achieve.  

This year marks the final time that I shall oversee my annual March Madness Pool, which I have been doing for too many years to accurately count (although I am comfortable placing the total number of pools somewhere between fifteen and twenty).  Even with "only" forty-eight entrants of which to keep track this year, it is a lot of work.  Worse yet, it is work that I have even less interest in doing this year than I did last year.  2014 is not a likely candidate for a rebound.  

Any hope I had of going out on top in this annual test of collegiate basketball knowledge disappeared when Harvard wiped out New Mexico on Thursday night.  I decided to be oh-so-clever and pick New Mexico to win the National Title.  Forty minutes after their tournament started, it was over.  And I was left to remember why it is I have always despised their coach.   

This time in two weeks or so when the 2013 March Madness Pool Champion in crowned it shall not be me. It has never been me.  Not once.  Not now.  Not ever.  

Consistency is indeed the hallmark of the truth.  And the truth is that when it come to picking winners in the NCAA tournament, I stink.  Always have.  Always will....

....maybe just maybe consistency is not all that is cracked up to be. 

-AK 

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Comeback Kids

This summer promises to be an interesting and a trying one for folks who live and work at the Jersey Shore.  Memorial Day is two months away and the good people of Monmouth County and Ocean County still have much distance to cover on recovery's road. 
 
Saturday the Missus and I took a ride to Manasquan to see our good friend Lynne - who has lived through the carnage that Sandy carried with her - and to take part in the 10th annual Manasquan Mid-Winter Beach Run.  For the first time ever the "beach run" course did not include the beach.  Sandy saw to that.  On our way down to Lynne's, Margaret and I drove all the way down Main Street to First Avenue, which we then took all the way south to the Inlet.  I contemplated taking photos of what we were looking at but decided against doing so.  The thought of doing so seemed inappropriate - if not voyeuristic.  Even without the photos, the images we saw shall remain in our mind's eyes for the foreseeable future.
 
As shall the images we saw all day on Saturday in 'Squan.  Neither the number of runners in the race nor the number of those celebrating at Leggett's post-race equaled past years.  Yet while our numbers were less, our spirits were high.  It was a day celebrating not only a new beginning but also the resiliency of the Shore and the people who call it home. 

Jersey Strong....

....because that is how we roll.  As if there was ever any doubt.

-AK
 


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Barkevious and Mischievous

This is the type of thing that probably only I consider humorous/intriguing/whatever but since I pay the lease on this space....well you know the rest.  Friday afternoon I hopped onto the Sports Illustrated web site to check out start times for the afternoon's early NCAA tournament games and stumbled across this piece.   Unless you are related to one of the young men whose name appears in it, the ranking of these forty individuals is likely of as little moment to you as it was to me....until I scrolled down to #15.  I do not pretend to know what type of player the kid pegged as the #15 prospect in this year's NFL draft is, but I know he has one of the coolest names ever - Barkevious Mingo.   

According to Wikipedia, his first name is derived from his mother Barbara's marriage of the first three letters of her name to "the equally random letters Kevious." (Wikipedia's words - not mine although 'tis hard to argue their point).    Wikipedia teaches us further that in 2009 his name won the "Name of the Year" award.  How does it not win every year?  He might have the best defensive football player's name ever.  If I still bothered to attend Giants games I would write to their GM and beg him to draft this kid.  The P.A. announcer at Met Life Stadium would get famous just saying his name aloud several times each home Sunday afternoon.  Spend a few seconds saying it aloud - wherever you are reading this - as you would if you were that guy and you shall know immediately of which  I speak.  

My final NCAA March Madness Bracket as the organizer of the Pool was over before it even got started.  I decided to venture outside of the box a bit and pick the University of New Mexico Lobos to win the National Championship.  I fell asleep Thursday night before they played Harvard.  Apparently they did as well.  Happiness is not spending the next three weeks tabulating the results of the other forty-seven participants in the Pool.  Of course, the good news is that since my Bracket is beyond busted I need not spend any time checking it and tracking how many points I might be picking up as the tournament moves along.  

I was still processing the ramifications of my latest bout of March Madness self-immolation when I reached the office on Friday morning.  I know not whether I am simply slowing down with age, trapped in a bit of a funk or something else altogether but Friday marked the fifth consecutive morning on which I slept right through my alarm.  Usually I am out the door and on the way to work by 4:00 a.m.  Every morning last week I was not "ass in seat" until 4:40 or 4:45, which put me in Parsippany at 5:10 or so as opposed to 4:30.  To you this might seem like nothing.  To me it made for quite a frustrating week.  

Anyway when I arrived at the office at or about 5:10 on Friday morning I was quite surprised to find a youngish-looking fellow sleeping in the vestibule between the building's outer double doors and the inner security doors that lead into the reception area.  He was wearing a green Army coat, dirty jeans and boots and was sleeping using his duffel bag as a pillow.  Open on the floor behind him was a paperback copy of a book written by the Dalai Lama.   My initial thought upon seeing him there was, "Holy shit - there is someone sleeping on the floor of the vestibule of the building!" (I never claimed to be capable of complex thought).  My second thought was that perhaps there was something "amiss" with this particular gent and that I should call the Parsippany Police Department to remove him from the premises.  

I ultimately discarded the second thought as unnecessary although I proceeded with what I consider to have been an sufficient modicum of caution.  When I entered the vestibule the sound of me in that rather tight space woke him up.  From a seated position on the ground/floor he told me his name (David) and how it was he came to be where he was (hitchhiking across the United States he had caught a ride to northern New Jersey with a trucker somewhere in Pennsylvania who had left him close to our office in the wee small hours of Friday morning).  He made no type of threatening gestures or movements.  He made no attempt to enter the building when I did so.  He simply asked me if he could sleep a bit longer.  Since my early-morning companion Lucy usually arrives between 6:15 and 6:30 I told him he could.  

Shortly after 6:00 a.m. - and before Lucy arrived - I went back downstairs.  He remained just where I had left him - sleeping curled up in a ball on the vestibule floor.  I woke him up and told him that it was time for him to go.  I sent him on his way with a travel mug of black coffee and a bottle of cold water from the mini-fridge in my office.  He thanked me for being nice to him, gathered up his stuff and walked out into the darkness carrying his mug of hot coffee in one hand and his paperback in the other.  

If you take the time every now and then to look around, you can see any number of interesting things....

-AK  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

That Which She Could Not Kill

The Missus and I shall spend a considerable portion of Spring's first Saturday in Manasquan, which is one of our favorite places....and if all goes according to Hoyle our not-too-distant future home.   Hurricane Sandy's Wrecking Ball tour of the Jersey Shore was sufficient to cause the Mid-Winter Beach Run, which is a Manasquan staple, to be rescheduled (it is approximately five weeks later than usual this year) and rerouted (in an homage to Willie the Shakes this year's course does not include the beach).  But try as she might, Sandy could not kill it.  

Today - in spite of Sandy's best efforts - the show shall indeed go on.   If the weather forecast is to be believed it is supposed to be in the mid-thirties at race time this morning with nary a cloud in the skies above 'Squan.  All in all, a hell of a nice day for a hell of a worthwhile event.   This race is my first since I converted the Central Park Marathon into the Central Park 20 Miler one month ago.  I would like to think that my testicles have descended sufficiently to provide me the fortitude necessary to cover at least 77% of this event's stated distance....  

After all, it is only a two-mile run. 

-AK    

Friday, March 22, 2013

Everyday - A Hero

In my short and decidedly unspectacular running career (giving that term an expansive definition neither envisioned nor sanctioned by the Einstein Estate) I have participated in three marathons - completing only two of them.  I failed to win either the 2011 New Jersey Marathon or the 2012 New Jersey Marathon.  I was not only not the overall winner, I was not the first-place finisher among men.  I was not the first-place finisher in my age group.  Sadly, I was neither the first runner named "Adam" nor the first runner named "Kenny" to finish.  

I mention all of that in a lame attempt to provide an adequate backdrop for the level of admiration and respect I have for 32 year-old Iram Leon.  Two weeks ago yesterday - on March 9 - Leon won the 2013 Gusher Marathon in Beaumont, Texas in a time of 3:07:36.  He won while pushing his six-year-old daughter Kiana in a stroller the entire length of the 26.2 mile course.  His winning time was approximately six minute better than his closest competitor.  

Mr. Leon's achievement is all the more remarkable for this reason:  he has terminal brain cancer.  The cancer is situated in his left temporal lobe.   His doctors have apparently advised him that before this strain of cancer kills him it will likely first deprive him of his memory.  Post-race he commented that he hopes the memory of this race not only lives in Kiana's mind for the rest of her life but that it remains enmeshed in his memory for most of whatever remains of his.  

Kiana is his only child and his inspiration.  His story - their story - is one that should be known and shared by one and all.   He tells it far better than my limited skill set would ever permit me to do.  Do yourself the very great favor of reading his blog, Picking Up a Hitchhiker, and getting better acquainted with him, his little girl and his philosophy on diminishing the specter of his death sentence by maximizing the days he has left to live.    


Words to Iram Leon to live by - and for each of us as well.   As the great Bernard Malamud once observed, "Without heroes we are all plain people and don't know how far we can go."   Iram Leon and his daughter Kiana stand as examples to remind us that we can always go one step more.  

-AK 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ascent Into Madness

With no disrespect intended to any of the eight schools who played Tuesday night and last night in the "First Four" - a trail that Virginia Commonwealth University blazed all the way to the Final Four in 2011 - at or about 12:00 P.M. (EDT) today the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship kicks off for all intents and purposes.  Irrespective of what Shaka Smart and his Rams accomplished two years ago, for the purists among us it is the four-day Bacchanalia during which the field is winnowed down from sixty-four to sixteen that represents what this tournament is all about.   By midnight Sunday, wastebaskets across the country will be occupied by the torn-up shards of what had seemed - a scant ninety-six hours earlier - to be a lead-pipe cinch winning Bracket.  If history is any indicator, mine will be among them. 

My Alma mater is in the field this year - as we were last year.  In Boulder, back-to-back appearances for the men's team in the NCAA field is kind of a big deal.  Prior to Coach Boyle's bunch turning the trick this year, it has last been accomplished in the time of Camelot a half-century ago.  The Buffaloes are the #10 seed in the Eastern Regional.  Friday afternoon at or about 4:40 EDT they will play their first game against the #7 seed, the Fighting Illini of Illinois.  All I know about Illinois is that among their twenty-two wins this season are wins against Gonzaga, Butler, Ohio State and Indiana.  That is not a bad quartet of victories to have on your resume.  I shall root hard for my Buffs - as I always do - to win on Friday afternoon.  Whether they shall or not, I have no idea.  Sports Illustrated has picked them to win.   What does SI know about college hoops you might ask?  Fair question.  Again, I have no idea.  However, SI is the publication that had the smarts to put Kate Upton on the cover of its Swimsuit Issue in back-to-back years.  Clearly there are people sporting thinking caps running that magazine. 

By noon today my desk shall be inundated with completed Brackets and $20.00 entry fees from those who participate in the annual March Madness Pool I run at my office.  At the risk of disappointing any and all who might want to fink on a lawyer for doing something "illegal", there is nothing illegal about it.  While my responsibilities as the one who oversees the Pool are all-encompassing, there is no compensation for my labor.  The Pool is winner-take-all.   If I succeed in getting fifty entries by the tip of today's first game, then on April 9 the winner will receive $1,000.  Whether he or she reports that windfall as "income" to the good folks at Internal Revenue I know not and care even less.  Among the responsibilities that I do not take on as administrator of the Pool is that of Mommy/Daddy for the adult participants.  

In two decades of running a March Madness Pool I have never come close to winning.  I doubt this year shall be any different.  What shall be different for me though is that this year represents my swan song in the Pool business.  Running it has always been a labor of love but these past few years the former has badly outweighed the latter.  Maybe in my final go-round fate shall smile her fickle smile upon me....

....and maybe Kentucky will actually show up to play its first-round NIT game against Robert Morris.  The great John Wooden preached, "Failure to prepare is preparing to fail."  Sage advice Coach.  Sage advice indeed.  

-AK   

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

All Hail the Reverse Hyphenate

For those among us who might persist in doubting the mental acuity of my favorite acid-tongued practitioner of the comedic arts, doubt no longer.  A number of years ago Denis Leary did a bit lamenting the utter douchebaggery of those in our society who perpetrate the "murder-suicide" and imploring those of that ilk to do all of us a favor and reverse their order to "suicide-murder".  The classic case of "addition by subtraction" as it were.   

In the past decade-plus we have been exposed to those who ignored Mr. Leary's plea.  Those who viciously and senselessly murdered others - in some cases dozens of others - before turning their attention (and more importantly their weaponry) on themselves.  This week, however, the lives of countless students at the University of Central Florida in Orlando were spared when the killer amongst them - 30 year old undergraduate James Oliver Seevakumaran - whose mass-execution plot was foiled when (a) a roommate who he pulled one of his guns on and threatened to shoot was able to find safety in a bathroom from which he called 9-1-1; and (b) the campus police department's arrival at his dormitory within three minutes of Seevakumaran's pulling of a fire alarm in the building, which deprived old Jimbo the time he thought he would have to gun down his fellow residents as they exited their rooms in response to the fire alarm - opted to kill himself.  Apparently there is nothing quite so frustrating as watching your best-laid plans of mass murder go to hell in a handcart.  

This time around at least the good guys won.  And the evil d-bag?  He reaped precisely what he had sown.  Truth be told - and if this falls under the heading of "kicking a poor to middling psychopath when he is down" then so be it - a 30 year-old undergraduate majoring in business and living IN A DORM had likely already experienced the zenith of his business career with his gig at the on-campus sushi joint.   The fact that he carried malice in his heart seems fairly self-evident.  The fact that he directed it inward with mortal force in response to be denied the chance to direct it outward with impunity seems equally so.  And while the latter might be a reason for someone to shed a tear for this miserable prick, I assure you that  individual bears no resemblance whatsoever to Yours truly.

Keep teaching Professor Leary.  You never know how many are listening but as long as at least one is, it is a message worth repeating. 

-AK 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Epitome of Sound and Fury

The Missus and I watched 60 Minutes on Sunday night.  Truth be told, had a "Big Bang Theory" repeat been on somewhere, we likely would have watched it.  Alas, there was not one to be found so we went (for us) highbrow.   I used to watch 60 Minutes with much greater frequency before Andy Rooney died.  I simply enjoyed the hell out of that cantankerous old man.  I was reminded of his absence on Sunday night when the hosts did their traditional roll call at the beginning of the hour and Scott Pelley did not wrap it up by saying, "Those stories and Andy Rooney tonight on 60 Minutes."  The need for the conjunction lives no more.  Bummer.

Among the pieces that made up Sunday night's broadcast was a profile of a fella named Jack Dorsey.  As most of the world likely knew well in advance of Sunday and as I was intrigued to learn, Dorsey is the man who created Twitter.  Lara Logan's profile of him was - to my eyes and ears - quite interesting.  By the end of the piece he had sold me on the fact that my notion of Twitter - what it is and how absurdly silly an inane it  is - was radically disconnected from its reality.  

His sales pitch was so smooth and so effective that before I went to bed Sunday night I had downloaded the free Twitter app on my smartphone and had created my very own Twitter account.  If you are expecting one hundred forty character updates on breakfast menus and bowel movements then you shall be profoundly disappointed.  Other than posting the link to this daily silliness on it, I foresee scant little tweeting in my future - either short-term or long-term.   Feel free to check it out if you wish to do so.  As of right now, I am a Twitter force akin to Tim Pawlenty during the latest go-round of Republican Presidential primaries:  I have no followers.

Truth be told that I have so little idea of how the hell the technology works that my Twitter username is "@adamkenny89".  Why?  Because when I signed onto it through my phone that was what popped up as my username.  I have no idea how or if you can change it.  If I possessed the intellectual curiosity with which Mother Nature imbued the amoeba I would attempt to learn the answer to that question.  I do not. Thus I shall not.

Or perhaps I will....right after I learn what all the goddamn hashtags are supposed to mean.

-AK

Monday, March 18, 2013

Habitual Depth

Winter officially bids us adieu in the Northern Hemisphere this week.  One of the Equinox twins, Vernal, arrives Wednesday.  By this time next week we shall have entered March's final week.  Two weeks from day is April 1st.    Where does the time go?  Where indeed. 

Courtesy of Sandy and Nemo and all of the other cheerfully-named forces of nature that have kicked the balls of those of us who call New Jersey, New York and Connecticut home upwards through the roofs of our collective mouths it seems as if this winter has lasted an extraordinarily long time.  And for those among our number for whom basic necessities remain as elusive as gossamer, perhaps the arrival of the Equinox this week shall carry with it all of the weight and magnitude that one affords to a distinction without a difference.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps as daylight increases in incremental amounts every day and day-time high temperatures render sweaters and jackets obsolete with ever increasing frequency where once there was darkness a bit of light shall force its way in.  It has been said that where there is light there is hope.  Of course, it is a hell of a lot easier to speak in platitudes when you have not been punched in the solar plexus with vicious intent.  It is even easier when you have not been so attacked twice within the past six months. 

Life is a forward-lived exercise.   It has to be.  No reasonable alternative exists to picking up and carrying on.   Of course an alternative exists - giving up and surrendering to your fate is such an alternative but it is not a "reasonable" alternative.  For once you give up, once you abandon all hope you have nothing.  And once you cease believing that you can do something, that you accomplish something, that you matter and that your life is worth the fight you are finished.   A very wise man once observed, "Very often the difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the habit."   It is as true now as it was when my brother Bill first said it.  I wager it shall always remain so. 

Saturday morning a group of runners and non-runners (eager to offer support and share libations) shall gather in Manasquan.  The purpose of the get-together is the annual Mid-Winter Beach Run.  It is going forward on Saturday morning although (a) it shall take place on Spring's first Saturday as opposed to in the middle of winter; and (b) no portion of the race course shall include the beach, which is still recovering from the havoc Sandy wrought.  It is an event the proceeds of which shall be given to the Manasquan First Aid Squad.  It is a way to give something back to those who come to the assistance of their neighbors in their time of need.  

It is a reminder of the importance of all of us not only finding a place to sit in the canoe but also of us all paddling in the same direction.  You cannot spell the word "COMMUNITY" without the letters U N I T Y.  A lesson worth remembering.  Irrespective of how much darkness may envelop us.  

Perhaps, in fact, a lesson whose importance increases in direct relationship to the darkness.  A lesson that serves as a light to guide us home....

....no matter how lost we may believe ourselves to be.   

-AK 

   

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Joy Division

The great Irish poet W.B. Yeats, winner of the 1923 Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote:

"Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy."

Today is St. Patrick's Day.  Whether you are Irish everyday - as am I - or merely Irish on an "occasional" basis with today being such an Occasion, here is to hoping that today is nothing less than a temporary period of joy for you and for yours.  

'Til tomorrow then....

-AK

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Thinking in Terms of Bridges Burned

Tonight in Madison Square Garden the final "real" champion of the Big East Men's Basketball Tournament shall be crowned.  To be sure, next year at this time there shall be a basketball tournament bearing the same name - and including in its field several of the same teams - shall be contested in the very same arena.  It shall not be the same thing.  Regardless of whatever it becomes, it shall never be the same.
 
I was in grammar school when schools scattered all over the northeastern United States decided to get together and form a basketball conference.  Out of nothing but their grit, a great basketball league was grown.  A basketball league that in 1985 produced three of the four teams in the Final Four and whose two great rivals, Georgetown and Villanova, played a title game for all-time.  And now it is gone.  Grit succumbed to greed.  Something that once seemed as if it might last forever failed to live long enough to celebrate its 35th birthday. 
 
Cut down the nets.  Sweep away the confetti.  Kill the lights.  Fade to black....
 
....the famous final scene.  Played out in the "World's Most Famous Arena".  
 
-AK  

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Ides Have It....

Today is the day the Oracle warned us about.  Well not you and me per se but he did offer a bit of advice to a certain Roman emperor.  President Obama is lucky.  Worst thing likely to happen to him if he visits the Senate is his ears bleeding - and that is less of a concern now that Rand Paul has stopped his filibuster.  In the days of Julius Caesar, blood loss was far more significant.

The good people of Rome learned a lot on that March day way back when.  Caesar learned that a toga offers no practical protection to the sharpened knife blade of a skilled, driven assassin.  And Brutus?  Brutus learned that you can get sliced to ribbons by someone who is carrying no weapon whatsoever

Modern lessons from ancient times.  Hmm.  Go figure.....

....be careful out there. 

-AK












Thursday, March 14, 2013

Looking For A Big Toe

Proof once again that being God's comic is a tough gig.  In this space yesterday I mocked Dennis Rodman for his Asian adventure.  Yesterday he touched down in Rome to weigh in on the Papal selection process.  Almost immediately upon his arrival white smoke started billowing out of the faux chimney the Vatican erects for just such an occasion.  A new Pope had been elected.  

The College of Cardinals - not to confused with the Arizona Cardinals or the University of Phoenix - elected its first ever Latin American Pope.  Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, 76 years old, became the first non-European Pope since the 8th Century.  He immediately announced that he shall Pope Francis I.  

Two things leapt to the forefront of my mind.  First, if we call the Pope Francis will there be a Cardinal Hulka around to keep him on the right path?  To serve as his "Big Toe"?  To admonish him to "Lighten up Francis" when he gets too big for his pointy hat?  Second, at least in these United States the Catholic Church is an organization whose history of difficulties in the area of sexual abuse of minors has been well-chronicled.  The first thing the new guy in charge does upon getting the gig is start using an alias?  No one else is worried about this being a first step down a slippery slope?

I just hope my brother Kelly is ok today.  At great personal sacrifice,  he offered his services to the Church.  They did not even invite him to Rome.  'Tis an outrage I tell ya.  An outrage! 

-AK

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rod and Unreel Men

So let me see if I get this.  A week ago Sunday former NBA player and all-around freak show Dennis Rodman was on "This Week" with the little Greek dude who used to work in the Clinton White House (and who is now married to the actress who played Shmoopie in Seinfeld) being lauded as if he was the newly appointed United States Ambassador to Asslandia.  

Rodman actually was on TV discussing his recent trip to North Korea.  I could have sworn that he told George (and by extension us) that the little zipperhead who now runs North Korea is a swell little chap who just wants to be our friend and perhaps President Obama's teammate in a game of geo-political two on two.  Imagine Mr. Rodman's surprise when his new snuggle buddy declared that sixty years after the Korean War ended, North Korea was declaring that the armistice it had agreed to with South Korea...the one the two nations signed sixty years ago.  

Fortunately Hong Kung Phooey is about as legitimate as Justin Bieber in the "global menace" department.  Or as legitimate as Dennis Rodman is in the field of international diplomacy.  For present purposes North Korea's arsenal is equal parts stick and stone.  

If that changes, Ambassador Rodman will be certain to tell us.  George is keeping his seat warm for him.

-AK

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Never Bettered

In the early evening of an Atlantic City Sunday, in the beautiful old barn known as Boardwalk Hall, when history beckoned for Anthony Ashnault of South Plainfield High School he answered the call.  With less than twenty seconds remaining in the Championship match at 138 pounds Ashnault scored a takedown, breaking a 2-2 tie.  Those two points proved to be the margin of his victory over Gary Dinmore of Hunterdon Central.  Ashnault won the match 4-2.  He completed his New Jersey scholastic wrestling with one hundred and seventy victories, four State titles (in four different weight classes) and zero losses.

Ashnault celebrated his win by sprinting up the steps in the arena to find his Mom and Dad,with whom he has shared all of his victories.  He is but a boy - a teenager - and by working hard to hone and develop his innate skill he has already achieved something that may be duplicated but shall never be surpassed.  A remarkable accomplishment.

When it was over Ashnault told reporters that accomplishing what he had just accomplished had never seemed to him to be something extraordinary or unattainable.  It was not a dream.  It was a goal.  He simply set his mind to accomplishing and applied himself to attaining it.

Abraham Lincoln once observed, "Always bear in mind your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing."  I do not know young Mr. Ashnault but I would be willing to wager that he would agree with Honest Abe.  

Decide what to be and go be it.  He did indeed....

-AK

Monday, March 11, 2013

Saving Daylight....

A terrific couple of weather days this weekend here 'NTSG.   On Saturday I went for a nice tempo run of five-plus miles.   Very pleased that I turned them at an 8:30 clip.   For Emma Coburn that is a time akin to running on one's knuckles.  For me it is pretty damn fast. 
 
Better than the time that I ran was the time of day in which I did so.  Having spent Saturday morning at the office and the early part of the afternoon at the A&P, I did not head out on my run until mid-afternoon.   There is no nicer sight to see than the effect of the sun's warmth on an early March Saturday on children.   Kids were out in force all over town on Saturday afternoon.  I ran past cylists, in-line skaters, basketballers and kids just out and about walking with their friends, their dogs or both.  A lot of happy chatter in the air.  Wonderful to hear. 
 
'Round here it has felt as if winter arrived especially early this year.  Sandy's invasion at the end of October plunged many of us in the State of Concrete Gardens (and our neighors across the Hudson) into a state of darkness.  Several months removed from that catastrophe there are many who remain without life's basic necessities.  
 
Yet they remain resolute.  They remain hopeful.  It has been said that hope springs eternal.  And the well from which it springs?  I know not the answer to that question.  It would not surprise me to learn that - at least in part - it springs from warm, beautiful days such as those we have been fortunate enough to have in these parts recently.  For those days serve to remind us all that even when the night is at its blackest, dawn is on its way.  Where there is light there is hope....
 
....an extra hour of hope has arrived just in time.
 
 
 
-AK


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Watching Margarita Do Her Neck Twists

Last night the Missus and I did something that I had not done since I was a little boy.  We went to the circus.  The Big Apple Circus has taken up residence at the baseball stadium where the Somerset Patriots play in Bridgewater through next weekend.   My only other circus-going experience was a lifetime ago.  As memory serves Kara called into either WABC or WNBC AM and won four tickets for the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus.   On Thanksgiving night.  At the Nassau Coliseum.  
 
It was as I recall one of only two Thanksgivings I recall as a child that we did not  spend at our own home - the other being the year we went down the Shore to spend Thanksgiving with Uncle Chief and Irma, to whom he got married after Aunt Ann died.  For the Kennys to turn Thanksgiving into a road show, it meant something big had to have happened....or a poor unsuspecting young girl had to have picked the worst-ever prize in the history of AM radio to have called in and won.   
 
Truth be told I could have easily lived the rest of my life without setting foot 'neath another big top without having regretted it for a moment.  The impetus to become circus folks for the evening came - as most of the good ideas in our family do - from Margaret.  And while at first I had my trepidations about it - a Thanksgiving night in a half-empty arena in Long Island leaves a stink that takes a long time to wash off of a man - I am happy that she prevailed.  The whole show lasted two hours - more or less - from start to finish and occurred under one tent.  Considering that there were only sixteen rows of seats all the way around the ring there was neither a bad one in the joint nor one from which you did not feel immersed in the action. 
 
Wild Billy has a circus story.  Now, thanks to Margaret, so do I....
 
 
-AK

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Exit Sandman....

This morning at 10:00 o'clock the great Yankees closer Mariano Rivera shall formally announce that the 2013 season shall be his final one.  Given the spate of injuries that has befallen the Bombers since camp opened and the fact that with each passing day their lineup takes on the look of one that would have difficulty defeating Petaluma, California to win the American championship at the Little League World Series - let alone the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays and O's in the American League East, Mo might be thinking that once the season starts we might not get to see too much of him.  Figures he should break the news to everyone while we still all remember what he looks like. 
 
He shall leave at season's end as the most important player on the best and last dynasty that Major League Baseball has seen in its post-strike era.  I smile thinking back to him - skin and bones and ears - in the 1995 Division Series when he seemed to be the only Yankees pitcher impervious to the Mariners' pounding bats.  In the two decades since some flesh has been added to those bones, some of the hair has gone and what he possesses between those ears has remained rock solid.  What he has done on the field has been nothing short of historical.  He is the best big-money, impossible spot, simply have to have this reliever baseball has ever seen.  Someday a guy might come along to eclipse him.  And someday a guy might be elected Prime Minister of Israel and Pope in the same lifetime.  The former is as preposterous as the latter.  I assure you.
 
I have a very good friend of mine who is a lifelong, die-hard Red Sox fan.  While he has spent the past almost two decades rooting for Mo to fail in a big spot against his Sox - and going to bed far more often than not profoundly disappointed - Rivera has never been a Yankee for whom he has felt any animosity.  The manner in which he has always carried himself and gone about his business has made him a player who is impossible to root against.  The Yankees shall miss him when he is gone.  And they will do so not simply for all he has meant to them on the field.  
 
However the 2013 season ends up for the Yankees (and I have a feeling that Stump Merrill is going to be added to the coaching staff any minute now) I hope it is a successful one, a healthy one and an enjoyable one for Mo.  A class man deserves nothing less. 
 
 
-AK
 
 
 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Visionquest

Perhaps it stems from the fact that I was an atrocious high school wrestler. Perhaps it comes out of all of the pleasure I derived out of watching Margaret's two nephews (first Joe and then Frank) compete at incredibly high levels during their respective careers, which were highlighted by Joe's sixth place finish in the State Championships his senior year.  Perhaps it is just because - having been dreadful at it and knowing how hard Joe and Frank worked to be excellent at it - I know the courage required to be out there on your own.  No teammate to hide behind.  Nowhere to run.  Maybe it is for all of those reasons. I know not.  I know simply that I am a great fan and admirer of each and every youngster who has assembled in Atlantic City this weekend for the New Jersey High School Wrestling Championships.

There are as many great stories as there are wrestlers.  A senior from South Plainfield named Anthony Ashnault is attempting to become New Jersey's first undefeated four-time State Champion.  He enters this weekend as the favorite at 138 pounds sporting a 166-0 career mark.   Best thing about him according to those who know him is he is an even better person than he is a wrestler.  Damn high praise.  Next season he will wrestle as a freshman at Rutgers University.

Senior 170 pounder Jaeden Bernstein of Voorhees High School is in search of his first title. He placed sixth last season after being the second-place finisher at his weight two years ago.  Bernstein has accepted a commission to the United States Naval Academy.   The United States Navy can always use a wrestling, piano-playing virtuoso. Who could not?

If Bernstein is to capture his first title then one of the people he may have to best is fellow 170 pounder Ethan Ramos of Hawthorne High School.   Like Bernstein, Ethan Ramos arrives in Atlantic City as a Region Champion and as a returning place winner.  He finished fourth at this weight last year.  And while Bernstein is headed off to Annapolis to continue his education next year Ethan Ramos shall begin his collegiate life in Chapel Hill as a North Carolina Tar Heel.  What Ethan Ramos brings with him to Atlantic City that his rival does not is a twin brother who is also competing for a title.  Evan Ramos is the Hawthorne High 195 pounder and tonight he will begin his chase for a medal side by side with his twin brother and life-long training partner.  The Brothers Ramos are attempting to become the first set of twins to win a State title in the same year.  NOTE TO NEIGHBORS IN HAWTHORNE:  If you eing the doorbell at the Ramos home this weekend and get no reply they are not ignoring you.  They are otherwise engaged.

Robbie Maggiulli of Emerson Senior High School, a Junior who weighs about 195 and competes in the 220 pound class is likely considered a longshot to medal this weekend.  This is his first trip to the big show in AC.  Methinks he cares little about the odds.  Maggiulli was born with a condition known as bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and with conductive hearing loss as well.  The fact that he is essentially deaf does not hold him back.  In addition to his success as a wrestler he is a member of the National Honor Society and sported a 4.7 GPA last term.   

Vince Lombardi said, "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence."  While young Mr. Ashnault hopes to prove the former wrong he and all the rest of the kids who shall go all out and all in this weekend in New Jersey's gambling mecca are testaments to the latter.

Here is to hoping that each continues the chase for the rest of his life. 

-AK

Thursday, March 7, 2013

With a Side of Rice....

This year in the Harbaugh Bowl (sorry, the Super Bowl) while not a fan of either team - and sick to death by kickoff of hearing Ray Lewis Renaissance stories - I rooted hard for the Baltimore Ravens.  Not only because 49er coach Jim Harbaugh has consistently revealed himself to be a petulant douche whenever things do not go his way and I figured his post-game reaction in defeat would be much more colorful than that of his big brother John (way to not let me down Jimbo) but also because of the presence of Ray Rice on the Baltimore roster.

Ray Rice has been incredibly easy to root for since he first arrived on the banks of the Raritan River to play football at Rutgers close to a decade ago.  But for Syracuse's decision to fire Paul Pasqualoni RU would likely never had ended up being Rice's college of choice.  Rice had committed to Syracuse and when the Orange canned their head football coach, Rice reopened his recruiting.  What he did upon his arrival in Piscataway was nothing short of spectacular.  During Greg Schiano's time at RU he recruited a number of outstanding players to play for him.  None better than Rice. 

Rice's talents on the field actually pale in comparison to his off-the-field accomplishments.  Among the causes near and dear to Rice is trying to do whatever he can in an effort to help stop the seemingly endless incidences of kids bullying one another.  Among the bullying reports that had caught Rice's attention was one out of Philadelphia.  In January a twelve-year-old boy named Bailey O'Neill, who reportedly was a long-term victim of bullying, was beaten up in the schoolyard of his school.  As a result of being punched in the face, Bailey fell to the ground and began suffering seizures and convulsions.  He was hospitalized.

This past weekend with their son never having regained consciousness, and with no brain activity detected, Bailey's parents removed him from life support.  He died on Sunday.

Ray Rice had spent the past two months developing a relationship with Bailey and his family.  He took the death of a young man he had referred to as his guardian angel very hard.  And he has vowed to do all he can to ensure that Bailey did not die in vain.

Experience teaches us that betting against Ray Rice is a fool's errand.  I have been rooting for him for quite a few years now.  Never have I wanted him to succeed as much as want to see him do so here.  Nobody wins unless everybody wins.

Game on.  Go get 'em Ray Ray....

-AK

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

One of Those Days....

Today is the birthday of one of my dearest friends.  A shining example of her character's quality is memorialized here.   It is not an exaggeration to say that it has been my great privilege that she has called me her friend for close to three and one half decades.  Happy Birthday Mrs. Molee.  You have earned it. In answer to the age old question, "What do you get a dear friend who was there for you on what was at that point the darkest day of your life?" when you are a cheap, poor excuse for a friend person such as I am you are looking at it.

It is also six months from this very day that Suzanne and Ryan shall be married.  In case you could not tell I am very happy for them and very much looking forward to the arrival of their big day.   She is a daughter who has been a source of joy and hope for Yours truly.  Her happiness makes me happy.

And that too is most certainly a good thing.

-AK




Tuesday, March 5, 2013

If Only It Was Make-Believe

If I had a nickel for everything that I hear of and/or read about on a day in, day out basis that is simply beyond my ability to comprehend....well let it suffice to say that I would be able to sleep through the alarm at least three days a week.   Sometimes the news that makes me scratch my head also makes me smile.  Sadly, not always.
 
For instance, a story featuring a man-eating home is something I would expect to see on the silver screen long before I would see it on the CBS Evening News.  Yet just last week it was prominently reported on the latter.  A man in Florida named Jeffrey Bush was in his bedroom last Thursday night when a sinkhole opened up beneath him.  The sinkhole, estimated to be at least twenty feet deep, took Mr. Bush and the contents of his bedroom down into it.    Rescue workers looked for Mr. Bush through Saturday - at which time the search was called off.  Officials have now demolished the home.   The word "tragic" does not even begin to do justice to what has befallen the Bush family. 
 
Truth is indeed often stranger than fiction.  It is nicer though when it carries a happy ending along with it than when it runs the course it has run here.
 
-AK

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Gospel According To Me

I smiled the other evening seeing that Suzanne had given me a "virtual shout-out" on Facebook, sharing with those she knows in the on-line universe a piece of advice that I first bestowed on her brother and her when they were children.  A piece of advice that I shared with them only because it seemed to work for the first person with whom I shared it.

When I was a much younger man I had a particular set of demons that I struggled quite hard to exorcise.  Well that is not entirely accurate.  At some point - probably at or about the time I met and fell in love with the woman who is now my wife - I undertook the tough battle of exorcising them.  Up until that point, I was an asshole.  I spent copious amounts of time exercising my demons.  And did they ever enjoy a hearty workout.  Abusive to pretty much anyone and everyone with whom I came into contact.  Decidedly unrepentant about the damage I inflicted upon others.  The dictionary definition of a self-pitying d-bag.  

I am not a "twelve-stepper".  Never was.  Never shall be.  There are those I know and love who have benefited from their participation in such a program.  I am simply not that fella.  I cannot fake giving a rat's ass about the faux problems of strangers and there is a greater likelihood of me pouring lighter fluid on my butt and igniting my own ass hair than there is of me standing up before a group of them and doing likewise.  Thus, when I finally reached the point in my life when I acknowledged that I had a problem in need of a solution I opted for a solution that contained far fewer steps than twelve.

The piece of advice that Suzanne shared in cyberspace was in fact "Step Two" of the Adam Kenny Two-Step Program: 

Step OneStop feeling sorry for yourself
Step TwoGet your head out of your ass. 

Two steps that once I took them allowed me to work towards the life I now live.  They helped me manage my problem and wrest control of it from my demons.  At the risk of sounding immodest it is a Two-Step Program that works well regardless of one's problem.  In fact it works well even if you are not attempting to cure any particular problem.  It is simply a fundamentally sound way in which to conduct your day-to-day. 

Consider Step One for a moment.  Everyone has problems.  Mine are different from yours as yours are from mine.  Mine are more important to me than yours are to me because I own them.  But it does not mean mine are worse or less than yours.  And because they are not I should not presume that you have enough free time in your day-to-day to take on the burden of worrying about my problems in addition to your own.  No one owes me a damn thing.  Ditto for you.  The sooner you wrap your head around that concept the better off you will be.  If you prefer, then think of it this way.   Problems exist.  Time spent whining about them or wallowing around does not solve them. 

As for Step Two, consider this.  If your head remains wedged in your ass you will never know where you are going.  Worse yet you will fail to take in all the great stuff you see on Life's journey.

 Plus your hair will smell like poop all the time....  

....and that is not good for anyone.

-AK   





Sunday, March 3, 2013

Shoes and Feats

Today marks one week since my great flame out at the Central Park Marathon.  As has been my custom each of the past two years I took this past week off (from running) to allow my legs time to get a bit of rest and relaxation.  Even when you run 77% of a marathon as opposed to the actual race distance your legs need a bit of post-race TLC.

This morning I shall do something I love to do:  go for a run.  I have no set course or pre-determined amount of mileage.  I am just going to head out and allow my legs and the macadam beneath them to take me wherever they are going to take me.  I neither own nor have access to a WABAC machine.  I have no ability to undo what has been done or to do "better" that which I previously failed to do. Perhaps it is better that I do not have Profsssor Peabody's pride and joy at my disposal.

Life is a forward-lived experience after all....

....and at least I got shoes.

-AK

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The View From 'Neath The Harvest Moon

This time last month we were getting ready to head off to Florida on vacation.  I am still trying to figure out where the time has gone since we returned.   It seems as if every work day since I returned to the office has been at least fourteen hours long -  and has required me to spend more time than not out of the office at one appearance or another.  Meanwhile the Missus has been burning the candle at both ends - doing her full-time work gig while handling her other full-time gig, which is preparing for our pending move from our home to her childhood home.  Not a lot of down time in our world these days.  Not a lot of sleep time either.
 
I was reminded the other evening driving home from work of just how extraordinary my wife is and how hard she works just to overcome the anchor to whom she is married.  I was half-listening to the radio while sitting in traffic when I heard a lyric that caught my ear....
 
                          Somewhere down on the sand                          
 
 
I heard the lyric, recognized the song from whence it came and smiled.  That is the plan after all for the Missus and me:  a move to the beach.  Not this year.  Probably not next year either.  But soon thereafter.  There is work to do to get us there.  Everything comes at a price.  Freedom is not free....
 
....but it is worth every penny.
 
 
-AK

Friday, March 1, 2013

Spirit of the Radio

February ended on a very good note for me.   My drive home from the office last evening was nothing short of a pleasure.  And that was in spite of the fact that traffic was its typically onerous self.  And that was in spite of the fact that my head was - as it often is at day's end - paying homage to Mighty Max Weinberg. 
 
What made last night's trek home so wonderful was what I listened to while weaving and wending my way south on 287.  I was in the car long enough to hear the entire interview that Mike Francesca conducted with Andy Pettitte of the Yankees.  The pair spent an extended period of time talking about Pettitte's career in pinstripes and - what I found especially interesting - Pettitte's family and his involvement in the high school baseball careers of two of his sons.  It was quite an excellent listen.   Check it out for yourself
 
On February's final day and on an evening in which Spring was more than simply hinted out by the ever-lengthening afternoon and the forty-plus degree temperatures, listening to Pettitte speak not only amped up my excitement level for the season ahead but it also reminded me of all the afternoons and evenings of seasons past.  It reminded me of all of the baseball that I have watched and that I have listened to with Rob - who came to baseball-appreciating age just as Pettitte was beginning his Yankees career. 
 
I smiled all the way home. 
 
 
 
-AK