Friday, October 31, 2014

What Would Larry David Do?

The Missus and I were out of state last weekend, which means that I had no knowledge of the highlight of Sunday afternoon's New York Jets/Buffalo Bills game at Met Life Stadium until long after it had occurred.  I am speaking of course of the epic fight in the stands between one angry Jets fan and one less-than-hardy Bills fan, which was truly great entertainment.  Well, it was much better than the action on the field to be sure - at least if you are a fan of the boys from Q-Tip Tech.    

Tell the truth - speaking to the one or two of you who clicked on the link above to check out the video - you were not disappointed at all to find there what it is you found, right?  Consider that my Halloween gift to you.  A trick that led directly to a very satisfying treat.  You are welcome. 

I cannot fake caring at all that it is Halloween.  I also cannot fake being unhappy about the fact that the predicted shitty weather in the forecast for our little slice of heaven here in the State of Concrete Gardens should likely keep foot traffic to a minimum.  Rosie hates many things, a trait the origin of which is not as unknown to me as I might hope it to be, but principal among them is the ringing of the doorbell.  

Actually, it might be mere pie-eyed optimism on my part to think that rain and freezing cold will hold down the number of trick-or-treaters out and about 'NTSG tonight.  Two years ago, in the immediate aftermath of Super Storm Sandy, which left our neighborhood without power until Election Day, there were any number of idiots in our town who took umbrage at the fact that the Police Department would not permit children to go door-to-door begging for candy two days later. Many members of the aforementioned idiotocracy then marched their children through town approximately two weeks later after prevailing upon the Mayor and the Borough Council that Halloween must go on ("For the Children Damn It!") in search of Kit-Kats and Snickers Bars.  

I know not how they made out in the rest of our hamlet but when they reached my door they learned that I have less fondness for November Halloween than I do for November World Series baseball. Perhaps had the Yankees won the 2001 World Series my position on the latter would be different and, consequently, my position on the former would be positively impacted as well.  They did not.  It shall not...

...meanwhile, I am not unhappy that apparently scant few of my neighbors ever watched Curb Your least the First Season.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Oops Dreams

In the interest of full disclosure, I am constrained to acknowledge that irrespective of the time/date stamp that appears with this piece, I have composed it prior to Game Seven of the 2014 World Series having been played.  Thus, I write it not knowing whether the transplanted former favorite team of WPK, Sr. has captured its third World Series title in the past five years or the sweethearts of America's Heartland have completed their epic journey in from the cold by winning their second World Series title in the past twenty-nine years.  

Either way, from the perspective of a baseball fan with no rooting interest in the outcome of the Series, I have to say that the portions of it that I have watched I have enjoyed very much.  It makes me very happy as a fan of the sport that (a) this year's World Series has been evenly matched and fairly compelling; and (b) this year's World Series shall be completed in October.  Bravo on both counts. 

The place in my heart occupied by my love of baseball never has to worry about sharing space with and/or making room for professional basketball.  I did not realize - until I was making the great migration north on Route 287 in the wee small hours yesterday morning - that the NBA season had started on Tuesday night and that both of the New York teams played their season openers last night. I am aware of the fact that professional basketball is big business and, in fact, many people who I know and admire have a keen rooting interest in at least one of the NBA's teams.  It is - for whatever reason - a sport that has never held any fascination for me.  

If you are a fan, then enjoy your 2014-15 season, which has begun in the week preceding Halloween and shall, as I understand it, end at or about Father's Day.  Perhaps one year - albeit not this one - shall be the one in which the NBA, a professional league in which the majority of the athletes who comprise its teams' rosters are African-American, shall come to the realization that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Dream" was not to see twelve NBA games played on the Federal Holiday established to celebrate his birthday.  

Come to think of it, I doubt that Jesus ever blew out the candles on his birthday cake wishing for an NBA Quintuple-Header on his birthday...

....given that he was a manger baby, I am guessing that his preference was for a pony ride. 


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Of Roaming and Homes...

Happiness is a Wednesday masquerading as a Monday.  Thus today I am channeling at least more than my usual complement of happiness.  Ever since I walked through the front door of Farrrand Hall as an eighteen-year-old freshman almost thirty years ago, Colorado has been among the short list of my favorite places.  Having Jess, Rob and Tillie there now has only served to enhance the depth of my affection.

If only my Buffs had managed on Saturday to do something that they do with maddening infrequency these days and win the football game against UCLA (they rallied from seventeen points down on two separate occasions only to lose in double overtime), then it would have been a simply perfect trip.  

...maybe next year.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

...And Back to Reality

The Missus and I are homeward bound this morning.  We bade farewell to Rob and Jess - and Tillie of course - and journeyed south to Denver prior to heading east to Newark.  

You know that the time you have spent with ones you love has been time well spent when the time to leave arrives and you do not want to go.  

By that measurement alone, we had one hell of a grand time visiting with the Colorado branch office.  We shall see them again soon, which is a great thing.  We shall not, however, see them soon enough, which - truth be told - is neither a great thing nor a sad thing but simply a Life thing...

...although today is feels very much like a sad thing.  


Monday, October 27, 2014

Granted Wishes

For an asshole, I must confess that I have been treated a bit better by Life than I deserve.  All that I need to prove that hypothesis is Margaret.  

We have been together now for enough of our lives that we have celebrated just about half of each of our birthdays with one another.  Today, my wife celebrates another successful journey around the Sun.  No woman embraces getting older in the manner that Margaret does, which is why I can say without any fear of reprisal that today my beautiful bride is fifty-two.  

There is never a gift that I can give Margaret for her birthday that comes close at all to equaling all that she has given to me - and continues to give to me -every day that she has been a part of my life.  I exaggerate not at all when I say that she saved my life.  There is no fairer way to describe what she did - and what she continues to do.  

Today is her birthday.  Yet today, as is the case every day, I am the one who is thankful for granted wishes.  


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Roads and Travellers

I appreciate my wife every day.  I appreciate her especially so on the infrequent occasions that we travel anywhere on vacation.  I run.  I try to be disciplined enough to run at least five times a week - whether we are home or someplace other than home.  Thus, included among my gear for our brief, four-day sojourn to the Colorado branch office of the family business, was a pair of running shoes and gear in which to run today and tomorrow.  

There are - I suppose - any number of ways in which one can take in one's surroundings.  If there is any better way to do it than on foot, I must admit that I am unaware of what that might be.  As much fun as it is to run past familiar places and recognizable faces, it is far more interesting to wind your way through an area with which you are not familiar.  

Especially when that area is one as visually beautiful as Fort Collins and its surrounding environs.  

Enjoy your Sunday.  I shall most assuredly enjoy mine. 


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Soupy, Mookie and the Miracles

Today is shaping up to be one exciting and exhausting day.  Early this A.M. the Missus and I shall board a big old jet airliner and journey West to spend an extended weekend with the Colorado branch of the family business.  We shall spend most of the time that we are in Colorado in Fort Collins, the beautiful city that Rob and Jess (and Tillie) call home. 

On this day, however, we shall spend our time in Boulder, the beautiful city that I called home for the four years that I matriculated my way towards my B.A. in Political Science.  The weather folks are calling for temperatures in the high 70's 'neath skies drenched in Colorado sunshine.  

We shall all be in Folsom Field this afternoon for CU's game against UCLA.  As if often the case with this generation of Buffs, today the team is a two-touchdown underdog.  As an Alumni and a fan, I shall root like hell for my beloved Alma mater.  As an atheist, I know better than to expect a miracle.

Then again, I have been in the very same building where shall be this afternoon and witnessed a miracle with my own two eyes and I have done so on this very date - October 25.  It was twenty-eight years ago today that Coach Mac I's Buffs upset the #3 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers 20-10 and, in doing so, defeated Nebraska in Boulder for the first time since Dwight Eisenhower called 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home.

If you are a numerologist of the baseball persuasion, then you might well believe in the mysticism of this date too.  At least if you are a fan of a certain ball club that in 1986 proved themselves not merely the Kings of Queens but the World Champions, which would not have happened but for what occurred on this very date twenty-eight years ago.

May lightning strike twice in the same place?  I have no idea.  But I know I shall have one hell of a good seat just in case it does.

Shoulder to Shoulder, It's Game Day in Boulder! 


Friday, October 24, 2014

Sticks and Tones

Serendipity is often times defined or explained as "a happy accident".  It is not necessarily an easy term to use in one's day-to-day.  However, given that 24 October is a date on the calendar marked by two events that appear to be wholly dissimilar from one another, today is a day on which I can in fact find a use for it.  

For those keeping score at home, today is United Nations Day.  It was on this very day sixty-nine years ago that the United Nations formally came into existence.  Parking in Manhattan has never been the same.  

It was also on this very day not quite sixty-nine years ago that the third child/second son of WPK, Sr. and Joanie K. was born.  By my best guess, today my brother Kelly celebrates the "Heinz" of birthdays, which conclusion I have reached through nothing more inane that calculating the difference between our respective high school graduation years and then adding that number to the age I shall be on my next birthday.  Any questions?  

The Kenny Men are - unlike the people who willed the UN into existence - not known for our diplomatic prowess.  When I was a boy, Dad used to tell me, "Life is not a popularity contest.  And if it is, we are not winning it."  It was advice that not only did I take to heart but - based upon my knowledge of them - both of my older brothers did as well.  

Norman Rockwell would not have painted a portrait of the Kenny Family.  Orwellian?  Perhaps. Rockwellian?  Not at all.  We the people who share the DNA do not always see eye-to-eye.  It is what it is.  

My brother Kelly is not - as I am - a man of words.  He is, instead, a man of actions.  A lifetime ago, before my hair went gray and before he and Linda had added the prefix "Grand" to their title "Parents", I worked for Kelly.  To say we did things at a fast pace would be an understatement.  He simply never stopped moving from the beginning of the day until the end.  And other than the occasional Sunday (and Christmas) off, he worked on every day of the week that ended in "y".  

Since he does not talk a great deal, those who know him know to pay attention to what he says.  Last Saturday Margaret and I spent a considerable portion of our evening in the company of several of my old friends.  The conversation turned from one topic to another until at one point I was telling a story about my father and about the morning that he died.  One of my most vivid memories of that horrible day - thirty three and one-half years later - was Kelly's brief yet forceful telephone conversation with Dad's brother, Jim.  No one - including Dad - liked him and it was for that reason (along with the fact he was some sort of broken down Parish priest) that we consciously referred to him as "Father Jim".  No one in our family ever confused him for a second with the universally adored "Uncle Jim", who was Mom's brother. 

Father Jim was not only an unpleasant douche bag to be around but he was also the kind of being that once you allowed him to enter your home you could not rid yourself of with anything short of an exorcism.  The thing about a leech is that once it sucks onto a host organism, it rides it to the bell - and beyond.  Father Jim was no different.   Within a few hours of Dad's death, word of his dying somehow reached his ne'er-do-well brother in suburban Illinois.  

The Prodigal Padre's worst sin was that he was perpetually rude to Mom.  He disrespected her every time he was under her roof.  So, when the phone rang in the kitchen of the home where Dad had died only hours earlier and Father Jim began barking orders to whoever had answered it regarding what airline he was going to be arriving on, what time he was coming in and what was needed for him in terms of accommodations, Kelly took control of the phone.  In a conversation that lasted - by my recollection - less than one minute and consisted of fewer than fifty spoken words, Kelly informed Father Jim that he was not welcome in our home on that day or any day and that if he dared show up at Mom's doorstep, the opportunity to get some face time with his boss and maker was going to present itself.  

Conversation concluded, Kelly hung up the phone.  Father Jim did not come that day.  He never came in fact.  He never again bothered his sister-in-law.  Mom never again had to deal with that preening asshole.  

While I remain convinced that there is no real connection whatsoever between Kelly's birthday and United Nations Day, there is in fact a template for the type of "Irish diplomacy" practiced by my brother.  It is found however not in the era of Roosevelt, Franklin but, instead, in the era of Roosevelt, Theodore... 

...and so far, he has.  Here's to celebrating the miles covered to date and those that shall unroll before him in the year ahead.  


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Idiots of the World Unite!

I am excited - almost exhilarated in fact - to learn that we have officially run out of real problems with which we have to deal.  What permits me to make such a declaration?  This new item.   

Are you phucking kidding me?  We have successfully licked the plate so clean of honest-to-goodness things that adversely impact our day-to-day that we rally behind inane ideas such as the one promulgated by this "I have too much time and too little to do" do-gooder in Florida?  Either more than 9,000 sheep did or she figured out a way to sign, herself, her own absurd petition 9,000 times.  

Newsflash for asshats such as the one referenced in the preceding paragraph (and if you scroll through her rather enthusiastic comments that pockmark the entry on the web site you will quickly realize why her self-created flame of fame shall not be fanned here.  Note to her:  The exclamation point speaks for itself as punctuation.  You need not stack them in multiples of four six):  If you do not want to permit your child to have access to a particular toy or type of toy, tell him or her "No". Powerful little word it is, "No".   You might want to give it a try.   

Setting aside for just a moment that in order for your five-to-seven year-old child to really appreciate the significance of the "Breaking Bad" action figures, he or she would have to know something the show - thus suggesting that the stiffy you sport for Toys R Us does not extend (pun intended) to AMC - how about we refocus our energy on the task at hand, which is your responsibility as a parent to actually act like a parent.   Contrary to what Geoffrey the Giraffe might have made him or her (or you apparently) believe, your child does not have a Constitutional right to roam the aisles of Toys R Us unabated.

In the immortal words of Colonel Nathan Jessup, "This is frigging ridiculous."   

Note to Joanie K. and to Michelle J.:  Get out of Florida before the new NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Petitions) sets it sights on something of real importance to you and your neighbors in the Sunshine State, such as regulating the promulgation of electric fans during televised political events.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Stranger Passing Through...

I had a "Day After Monday" this week that was far superior in every imaginable way to its immediate predecessor.  Much of its success had to do with the fact that, literally and figuratively, I got it off on the right foot. 

My work day begins at or about 3:00 a.m., which is the time for which my alarm clock is usually set (although in the interest of full disclosure there are days on which I set it for 3:15 a.m.)  Yesterday, for reasons not entirely clear to me, I was wide awake by 2:30 or so.  For a few minutes I wrestled with the idea of remaining in the prone, non-upright position until my alarm clock officially announced the day's arrival.  But then, I decided against it. 

Instead, I got up, threw on some running clothes, went downstairs into the basement and ran a quick (for me) four miles on the treadmill.  I loathe running on a treadmill, which is why it is where I force myself to run during the week.  I view time spent on it as a necessity.  It is something akin to getting up and heading off to work in the morning.    The only time I permit myself to run in the great outdoors is on weekends.  Treadmill runs are sometimes tedious but I always get something out of them, even if I do not enjoy every moment of the experience.  

On the contrary, outdoor runs are glorious.  A feast for the senses as well as great exercise for my heart, my lungs and my legs.  They are, for me, a reward.  A reward for having survived another week earning my daily bread in the soul-sucking profession that is the practice of law.   And a pretty damn fine one if I do say so myself. 

So let the games start, you better run you little wild heart
You can run through the nights and all of the days
But just across the county line, 
A Stranger passing through put up a sign 
That counts the men fallen away to the price you pay,
and Girl before the end of the day,


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Of Bunting and Buffaloes

Tonight is Game One of the 2014 World Series.  Being that this is a year ending in an even number, it would appear that the National League Champions, the San Francisco Giants, are the team favored to win it all.  The Giants have - after all - won the World Series in each of the last two even-ending years (2010 and 2012).  Their opponents, the American League pennant-winners, the Kansas City Royals, have not won Diddley (Bo or otherwise) for almost thirty years.  It should be an interesting series.  As a baseball fan, I hope that it is anyway.  As a baseball fan, I am beyond happy that whether the Series goes the minimum of four games or the maximum of seven games, all of its games shall be played in October.  

The Missus and I shall be sporting our traveling shoes at week's end.  Saturday morning we are off to the great state of Colorado to visit the Front Range branch office of the family business.  On our way north to Fort Collins from Denver we are going to initially veer west towards the People's Republic of Boulder so that I can lay my feet upon some of my favorite real estate anywhere at CU and to watch the Buffaloes play UCLA.  I presume there is symbolism attached to the CU/UCLA football game starting at high noon.  I presume furthermore that if there is, none of it is symbolism that shall be helpful to the home team.   

It is what it is.  There are few places better to spend what is supposed to be a sun-drenched October Saturday afternoon than at Folsom with Margaret, Rob and Jess - even if I do anticipate that the latter shall make much of the fact that her Alma mater is 6-1 whereas mine is 2-5.  She would be a much better sport if her father-in-law ever proved himself to be.   Sadly, he is not.  The dude is, in fact, sort of an assh#le.  Trust me, I know him.  


Monday, October 20, 2014

Good for the Sole

Quite a nice weekend in these parts.  After babying my legs for five days following the LBI 18 Mile Run, I enjoyed two very nice back-to-back 5.5 mile efforts on days that encapsulated what Autumn is all about here in the Northeastern corner of the United States.  I ran both days without music in my ears or sunglasses covering my eyes.  I love the sights and - even more so - the smells of Autumn.  

In another couple of weeks, October shall have ceded the stage to November.  Trees that are presently adorned with leaves of many colors will be barren.  Winter will be so close that we shall be able to taste it.  Until Old Man Winter arrives, I shall embrace every opportunity I have to enjoy the outdoors.

In between my daily constitutionals, the Missus and I spent some quality time at Wardlaw-Hartridge. I enjoyed very much getting to catch up with a number of long-time friends, many of whom I had not seen since this time last year.  As much as I enjoyed that, I enjoyed even more getting to meet people and to hear some truly amazing stories about their lives and not only how they got to where they are today but how they got to Wardlaw or Hartridge or Wardlaw-Hartridge in the first place.  

Among the individuals who was honored on Saturday night was Arthur Blake, who was a member of Wardlaw's Class of '74.  Arthur was presented for enshrinement in the Athletic Hall of fame by his younger brother Jonathan, Wardlaw's Class of '76, and himself a member of the AHOF Class of '04.  Each of them spoke from the heart about not only their relationship with one another but what it meant close to fifty years ago to have been among the first African-American students to enroll at all-male Wardlaw.  Arthur shared a conversation that he and his father had in their car after Arthur had met with Wardlaw's Headmaster Prentice C. Horne one summer day to discuss Arthur's commencement of his studies at Wardlaw that September.  As the Blakes sat in their car in Wardlaw's parking lot, son asked father, "Dad, what's a trailblazer?"  All these years later, Arthur Blake laughed as he told that story, adding that he soon found out the meaning of the word.  

A wonderful, educational time was had on Saturday evening, courtesy of the Brothers Blake and the evening's other speakers and honorees.   Again, it turns out that the great American philosopher Lawrence Peter Berra was right... if there ever was any doubt.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Math for Dummies

I very well may be the most math-challenged person I know.  Whether it was trigonometry, pre-calculus or calculus, I never comprehended the purpose of the seemingly ceaseless search for "X".  It was right where it has always been, which is bridging the gap between "W" and "Y".  Furthermore, if "X" was willing to invest all that energy and all that effort in remaining anonymous, then what right did the rest of us have to invade his privacy (or her privacy for that matter) and make "X's" identity known.  Move along already people, there is nothing to see here.  

But even Yours Truly, the 21st Century's Alley Oop of mathematics, understands the significance of addition and subtraction.  I have invested the time necessary to not only grasp but actually master the concepts.  

Thus, I can state with the utmost confidence that the world is a better place because of Bob and Linda Carey.  Moreover, it would be an even better place if we had more people like them.  Well, not exactly like them perhaps...that might be too tall an order for anyone to fill.  Although, based upon the videos and the photographs I have seen of Bob Carey wearing his pink tutu, it appears as if one really can catch a lot of air while wearing such attire.  The Careys are a remarkable story.  Impossibly easy people for whom to root...and not just when Bob sticks a particularly tricky landing.  

Conversely, and with an equal degree of confidence, I can state how much better a place the world would be if its soulless cowards all simultaneously tripped the mortal coil.  

The Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance is the first 09/11 Memorial that was erected in New York City. Its name describes it beautifully.  It contains a laser-engraved portrait of each of the City's First Responders who died on September 11, 2001 while saving the lives of others.   Among the twenty-three members of the NYPD who died that day was Police Officer Moira Smith from the 13th Precinct.  She was the only female member of the NYPD who died on September 11, 2001.  On Friday night, at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, someone vandalized the Wall of Remembrance - and specifically Officer Smith's laser-engraved portrait.  Authorities seem confident that they shall be able to apprehend the asswipe who committed such treachery - given the presence of security cameras at the site that captured the Caucasian woman estimated to be in her 40's or her 50's, using her hands to smudge white paint on the Wall and, in particular, on Officer Smith's portrait.  

Addition and subtraction.  Addition by subtraction.  Either way, it is an easy idea to wrap one's head around...

...even for a math dummy like me.  


Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Different Kind of Homecoming

We are taught to understand, correctly, 
that courage is not the absence of fear,
but the capacity for action despite our fears.
- John McCain

Diana Young Long is seventy-one years old.  She and her husband reside in California, which is where the couple retired to several years ago after careers that spanned four decades.  

1st Lt. Herbert V. "Buddy" Young, Jr. never met his daughter Diana.  His wife and her mother, Zolleen Young, was pregnant with Diana when Lt. Young - who had volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Force after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor - was shipped off to World War II.  Lt. Young was assigned to the Pacific Theater where, as a member of the 321st Bombardment Squadron, 90th Bomber Group of the Fifth Air Force Command he accumulated approximately three hundred hours of flight time during the course of forty-three combat missions.  

On April 10, 1944, Lt. Young volunteered to fly as a co-pilot in a B-24D bomber with a crew that was down a man.  This crew needed a man and Lt. Young, whose plane was too damaged to fly, needed a plane.  The bomber, christened "Hot Garters", was shot down on its mission, over the jungles of New Guinea.   Crews of other bombers on the mission reported seeing five parachutes deploy as the plane spiraled downward.  

Lt. Young's body was not recovered from the crash site.  As per protocol, on April 11, 1945, one year and one day after he had last been reported alive, he was declared missing in action.  The declaration came slightly less than two months prior to what would have been his twenty-fifth birthday.  

Over the course of the past seventy years, repeated searches were undertaken to locate the remains of the "Hot Garters" and its crew.  Finally, in the Spring of 2014 the United States Army was able to positively identify remains unearthed during one of the expeditions as those of 1st Lt. Herbert V. "Buddy" Young, Jr., which news was met with tears from the daughter who never met him but who never abandoned the hope of bringing him home to her.  

On October 15, 2014, 1st Lt. Herbert V. "Buddy" Young, Jr. completed his long-overdue trip home.  He was interred at Prescott National Cemetery in Prescott, Arizona.  On his gravestone, simply and elegantly, it says "Killed in Action April 10, 1944.  Welcomed home October 15, 2014".  

Welcome home Lt. Young.  A grateful nation thanks you for your service.  More importantly, an ever-faithful, ever-loving daughter is simply happy to finally have her Dad home.  After seventy years.  

For the first time. 


Friday, October 17, 2014

"Leading Off & Playing Third Base - Marty McFly"

Don't bet your future 
on one roll of the dice
Better remember
Lightning never strikes twice.
- Huey Lewis & the News

I am saddened for my great friend Gracie and for all of her fellow Orioles fans that their celebration of "Bucktober" stopped one series short of the World Series.  Her sadness - and theirs - notwithstanding, anyone who is a fan of Major League Baseball has borne witness thus far this month to a truly extraordinary development:  the resurrection of the Kansas City Royals. 

As they prepare to host Game One of the World Series on Tuesday, October 21, 2014, the Royals shall be riding an eleven-game postseason winning streak that spans twenty-nine years.  At no point in time between the last out in Game Seven of the 1985 World Series and the 2014 American League Wild-Card Game did a single MLB postseason game take place in which the Royals participated.  Not one.  When one considers that from 1986 through 2013, three hundred fifteen postseason games were played between American League teams, one develops a much better understanding of just how long it has been between sips of water for the Royals.  

Will the Royals lose a single game this October?  Will their improbable playoff run culminate in the 2014 edition joining the 1985 edition as the only two World Series-winning teams in franchise history?  I reckon that someone may know the answer to those questions.  I know for certain that the "someone" is not me.  

Doc Brown? 



Thursday, October 16, 2014

'Neath the Cover of October Skies

Today's silliness falls under the heading - I suppose - of being a "pseudo-PSA".  On Saturday, October 18, the high school Alma mater of Kara, Jill and Yours truly AND the one-time employer of Joanie K. AND (truth be told) the place that WPK, Sr. loved more than anything else, which rewarded that love by working him to death (but I digress) shall celebrate its annual Fall Fair and Homecoming

I attended W-H for eight years - from 5th grade through high school - and Homecoming Saturday was always my favorite day on the school calendar.  Time has done little to temper my enthusiasm for it. 

Saturday afternoon, at or about four o'clock, one of the day's newer traditions shall take place.  For the past several years, it has been on Homecoming Saturday that Alumni Awards have been bestowed on truly outstanding recipients.  Full disclosure dictates that I confess that Jill is included in that number, having been deservedly enshrined in the Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.   

I have been a Member of the Athletic Hall of Fame Committee for the past two years - although I suspect that it feels much longer than that for the other members of the Committee.  I tend to have that effect.  I am very pleased that once again this year there is a diverse group of talent being enshrined into the AHOF.  

Among the Class of 2014 is the 1984 Girls' Softball State Champions, which went undefeated on the way to capturing the school's first-ever championship in that sport. Wardlaw/Wardlaw-Hartridge is a school that has a very long and proud tradition of fielding successful boys' basketball teams.  On Saturday, two of the most heralded players the school has ever produced shall be enshrined together.  Arthur Blake, Class of '74, and Rob Rizzo, Class of '89, shall both become members of the AHOF Class of 2014.  Each of them tallied more than 1,000 points during playing careers that pre-dated the three-point line.  I do not mean to brag but I managed to tally three points during my high school basketball career also without the benefit of the three-point line.   But enough about me.

Also being enshrined into the AHOF on Saturday shall be Tom Glasser.  He was a member of the Class of '78, which was the first graduating class of the newly-merged Wardlaw-Hartridge School. He was an exceptional track and field / cross-country athlete.

Tom Glasser - 2nd from left in top row
(Photo courtesy of John Ansbro)

As a grown-up, he was a partner at Sandler O'Neill, which offices were housed in the World Trade Center.  On September 11, 2001, while earning his daily bread, Tom Glasser was among the innocents murdered by the cowards who flew jet airplanes into the World Trade Center.  He is, to the best of my knowledge, the only W-H graduate who died that day.   

I am hopeful that a large contingent of his former classmates and his friends are on campus on Saturday to help honor his family, his life and his memory.

If you have a connection to Wardlaw, Hartridge or Wardlaw-Hartridge and are going to be in the vicinity of Inman Avenue in North Edison this Saturday afternoon, then do yourself the service of stopping by to take in at least some of the day's festivities.   


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Half-Freedom Road

I got a cold mind to go tripping 'cross that thin line,
I ain't making straight time.
- Bruce Springsteen

Steven Pratt was fifteen years old in 1984 when - following an argument with his neighbor Michael Anderson - Pratt shot and killed Anderson.  Pratt was tried as an adult.  He was convicted in 1986 and sentenced a term of thirty years at Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, New Jersey. 

On Friday, October 10, Steven Pratt was paroled from Bayside State Prison.  He returned home to Atlantic City. He came home to the home of his mother, Gwendolyn.  She was so happy to have her son home - having watched him be taken away to prison when he was still a teenager that she threw a huge welcome-home party for him.  

On Sunday, October 12, Steven Pratt was arrested again.  Less than forty-eight hours after having been paroled from a prison where he had spent twenty-eight of the first forty-five years of his life, Pratt was arrested and charged with murder.  Atlantic City Police responded to Gwendolyn Pratt's home in the pre-dawn hours on Sunday to find her murdered - dead from blunt force trauma to the head.  Murdered in her own home by her own son.   She was just sixty-four years old. 

One might wonder, "What type of piece of human dreck murders his own mother and does so less than forty-eight hours after having been paroled after serving close to thirty years in State prison for another murder?"  Sadly, that question is not merely a hypothetical.  Even sadder still is that its answer is not merely knowable but known.  

It turns out that an apple can fall very, very far from the tree after all.  

Eight years in, it feels like you're gonna die
But you get used to anything
Sooner or later it becomes your life.
-Bruce Springsteen


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Changing and Sparing

Only I can change my Life. 
No one can do it for me.
- Carol Burnett

It is important - at least every now and again - to venture outside of one's comfort zone.  That is one of the reasons why on Sunday I participated for only the second time ever in the LBI 18 Mile Run.  While I run regularly, I do not often run eighteen miles at one time.  Allow me to amend what I just said.  I never run eighteen miles at one time.  The last time I had done so prior to Sunday was when I participated in the first-ever Central Park Marathon in February 2013.  

The other principal reason why I run is simple:  I am my father's son.  WPK, Sr. might be one of the two or three most brilliant minds I have ever known.  Yet he lived his life either unwilling to or unable to take care of himself.  The old man wrestled with his demons as we all do.  But he never seemed to win the match against his.  I recall him saying too many times for someone with my terrible arithmetical skills to count, "I am the perfect weight for someone nine feet tall", which would have been swell had he not been approximately five and one-half feet tall.  

His body paid a terrible price for his wholesale destruction of it.  Ultimately, at age fifty-seven, it simply quit on him.  The heart for which he had done exactly zero favors during the entirety of their partnership finally decided it had had enough.  Death came for him in his sleep on May 31, 1981.  

I was fourteen when Dad died.  I shall be forty-eight in February.  When I was a much younger man, I embraced my father's "fuck it" attitude regarding my health.  I drank to excess.  I ate too much.  On occasion, I introduced my body to "foreign substances" that I should not have.  I cared little.  I was not in it for the long haul, after all. 

That changed when I met Margaret.  Funny how one's focus shifts when one has someone (or in my case three someones) for whom to live.  I was not - and am not - anyone's idea of an overnight sensation.  It took longer than it should have, probably, for me to cut back substantially on the bad food I ate and the amount of alcohol I drank but over time a change was made.  

And still it was not enough.  It was not until I took up running as my principal physical activity approximately five years ago that I truly accelerated the process of metamorphosis.  Is it coincidence that the closer I get to "57" the harder I push?  As someone who believes not at all in the notion of coincidence I have my own opinion as to the answer to that hypothetical.  

I am not a complete idiot.  I understand that I can run neither fast enough nor far enough to ever undo the self-inflicted wounds of a quarter century ago.  But I am enough of an idiot to believe that I can sure as hell try.  

That is good enough for me.  It has to be.   


Monday, October 13, 2014

The Bucket A-Go A Well

At approximately 10:20 yesterday morning, as the runners in the 42nd annual LBI 18 Mile Run were milling around the starting area in Holgate - at LBI's southern tip - I was stretching out in front of the Jolly Roger Motel.  Playing on the Motel's P.A. system?  "I Shot the Sheriff" by Bob Marley and the Wailers.   

LBI always makes me think of my great friend, Dave Lackland.  When we were kids - at W-H - Dave's parents had a home on LBI.  He lives outside of the United States these days so I do not pretend to know either (a) if his parents still have a home there; or (b) when the last time was he spent any time on LBI.  It matters not.  In my mind's eye, when I think of LBI I think of Dave.  

Working off of memory, I believe that it was through Dave that I heard Bob Marley's music for the first time.  As kids, he was far better versed in music than I was.  I do know that once exposed to Marley's music, as well as to that of Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff and other reggae music, I was hooked.  And for that I owe Dave. 

Yesterday, I headed north from Holgate and a tad more than three hours later I ran past Margaret waiting right near the finish line.  Eighteen miles and three hours later.  I had hoped to cover the course in or about two hours and forty-five minutes.  It was not to be.  A bit more than fourteen miles in I developed a wicked cramp behind my left knee.  The final four miles devolved into a bit of a knife fight between my left leg and the rest of my body.  Fortunately, the rest of my body had my mind on its side.  Slow and steady did not win the race (I finished in 397th place, which was a bit of a bummer as I had my heart set on a Top-395 finish) but it certainly enabled me to complete it.  

The greatest motivation I derive from something such as this event, which for me is an incredible challenge both physically and mentally, is knowing that I am running towards Margaret.  My wife is a champ.  She dropped me off at St. Francis Community Center at 9:30 yesterday morning and then waited patiently for me to finally reach her at Barnegat Light House, which happened at 1:30 P.M.  She is truly better than I deserve.  

One hell of a nice way to spend a Sunday.  Damn happy that I have her with whom to spend it.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Meeting Virginia

This morning, at approximately ten-thirty, I shall be here:

Holgate - Starting Area for LBI 18 Mile Run

My most sincere hope is that at some point between one-fifteen and one-thirty this afternoon I shall be here:

Barnegat Lighthouse

Between Point A and Point B lies eighteen miles of road, which road connects the southern tip of Long Beach Island, New Jersey to its northern tip.   On the map, admittedly, it does not appear as if it should take very long to get from one end of the island to the other:  

Map of Long Beach Island

I assure you (for me at least) it does. 

I have only participated in this event, which has been held annually for forty-two years, one other time.  My result was less than spectacular, completing the run in a hairball more than three hours and ten minutes.  My hoped-for finishing time today is at or about two hours and fifty minutes, which I will be able to attain as long as I can string together nine minute and thirty second miles.  Irrespective of how I do, this is a wonderfully challenging event that honors two worthy causes.   


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Not Looking East...For Once

...between our dreams and our actions lies this World.
- Bruce Springsteen

If you reside in the State of Concrete Gardens as I do, you have spent the better part of the past week reading of - and learning about - a rather unseemly and unpleasant part of this world.   The news emanating from Sayreville appears to be poised to get considerably worse before it gets better.   And if I have to hear one more person couch what is alleged to have transpired in the locker room at this high school in the context of the importance of football to this "blue-collar community" I am going to look for someone to punch in the throat.  

If what is alleged to have occurred is proven to have in fact occurred (and I do not pretend to know whether it shall be proven or not), then this story, ladies and gentlemen, is not a "gritty, small-town USA, Friday Night Lights" story.  Rather it is a story of adults abdicating their responsibility to monitor and regulate the behavior of high-school-aged boys (a responsibility for which they volunteered by the way and for which they all received compensation) and at least certain of those boys acting upon that vacuum and creating a Lord of the Flies-inspired society within the four walls of their own locker room.  It is a story that reveals the lowest common denominator of human behavior.  

As someone who was born and raised on the East Coast and who has (save for four glorious years in Boulder, Colorado) lived on the East Coast for the entirety of my life, I have a pronounced East Coast bias.  I admit it.  I staunchly believe that the best and only way to see the American Midwest is through the window of a jet airplane from 30,000+ feet overhead.  And as for California?  Well, at least it is not Texas.  

My bias notwithstanding, I can state without reservation that among the best people I have met this week is a young man from southern California with a fantastically alliterative name.  Malik McMorris is a senior at Mater Dei High School.  While it is his accomplishments in athletics, principally football and track and field that led me to stumble upon him on Sports Illustrated's web site as he was named's first High School Athlete of the Month, it is his off-the-field "stuff" that makes him an impossibly easy-to-root-for young man.  

Ali Fenwick's profile of him is a "should-read".    It will take you several minutes to digest but I assure you that it is time well-spent.  In the space of a few thousand words, you shall not only get to know Malik and his dad Patrick but also their "rock".  Lucy Guerrero Martinez was a wife and mother in her late thirties when, in an ironic twist, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in October, 2012.  The disease killed her in January, 2014.  She was thirty-nine years young.  While she is no longer physically present in the life of her husband and her children, her spirit remains with them and her mark upon them is indelible.  

I came away from my time spent with Malik McMorris and his family feeling a bit better about things.  I know, as I suspect you do as well that the world will always allow vicious, predatory personalities to exist.  There shall always be room for them in all walks of life including, but not limited to, high school locker rooms.  Yet, the world is not the exclusive province of those who seek to do bad.  It is also the realm of those who do good.  Of those whose presence serves as a counterbalance to those...well to those who represent the lowest common denominator of humankind. 

As long as impossibly-easy-to-root-for individuals exist, this world remains a place worth preserving. Thank you Malik McMorris for doing your part.  And thank you Ali Fenwick for introducing this young man and his family to those of us who would otherwise never have had the opportunity to meet him or them.  


Friday, October 10, 2014

Know Better Than To Ask

Life is a journey. 

It is not a destination. 

It is important, therefore, while living in the present to keep one's eyes open and one's head up, fixed on the road ahead and the direction that one is traveling along that road.  There is no dress rehearsal.  One ride per customer.  Nobody rides for free.  Nobody rides for a second time.  

Moon over the Atlantic 

It is equally important, however, while living in the present that one never forgets from whence one came.  We are who we are in significant part because of who we have been.  The moments in our history that came before this one had a hand in shaping this one.  Just as this moment and all of the moments that preceded it shall have a hand in shaping all of those to come.  As the great Oscar Wilde once observed, "No man is rich enough to buy back his past."   Remembering it and giving due deference to it shall have to suffice.

Farrand Field at Sunset - October 2014
(Photo Credit:  L. Cuevas)


Thursday, October 9, 2014

The King and Us

I do not believe in God.  Well, that is not entirely accurate.  I do not believe that somewhere up there in the skies above us lives a deity who interjects himself into the day-to-day stylings of those of us down here on the Big Blue Marble.  Simply put, the Lord and I have an understanding.  I spend no time in his house and ask merely that he returns the favor.  

However, my decision not to embrace any type of organized religion should not be equated to a lack of faith.  Faith I have.  I must.  For it is faith and not rational thinking that makes one a fan of the New York Rangers Hockey Club.  A fan I am.  Therefore, faith I must have.  

Tonight the Broadway Blueshirts shall open the 2014-15 season against the St. Louis Blues.  If one uses history as one's guide, then one should likely bet against the Rangers hoisting the Stanley Cup as season's end.  That has happened just two times in the past three quarters of a century - in 1940 and in 1994. 

Last year's Rangers team made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals where they were vanquished by the Los Angeles Kings in five games.  I do not have a middle name but if I did, I am reasonably confident that it would not be "Optimist".  Thus, my head tells me that it is very, very unlikely that this year's team will come anywhere close to replicating the success of last year's group.  

To hell with my head!  And to hell with the Republic too (Just a little joke for any Fibbies who happen to be perusing this little piece of cyberspace today)!  My heart tells me what it always tells me in early October:  This Year could be our year.  Why not the Rangers? 

We are, after all, riding with the King...

...and we shall ride however far he is able to carry us.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tails and Dogs

I do not know when the last time was that I set foot on the campus of Sayreville High School (a/k/a "Alma mater of Jon Bon Jovi") but I would be willing to wager it was at least several years ago.  I have a somewhat vague recollection of making a trip down to Sayreville one cold February Saturday morning to watch Margaret's nephew, Joe, wrestle when he was a senior at Middlesex High School.   Working off of memory, I think that would have been during the winter of 2008.  Prior to making that not-entirely memorable journey, I cannot recall when (if ever) I had set foot either on the campus or in the high school.  My point is simply this:  I scarcely know anyone from Sayreville and arguably know less than that about the high school, its athletic programs in general and/or its football program in particular. 

That being said, Sayreville High School's football program has become a front-page, above-the-fold headline here in the State of Concrete Gardens - and for all of the wrong reasons.  The game that the Bombers were scheduled to play last week against South Brunswick High School was cancelled several hours before kickoff for the always-ominous-sounding "undisclosed reasons".  The good news, relatively speaking, turned out to be that the school did not cancel the game in response to the football team's Defensive Coordinator having been arrested for possession of anabolic steroids.

The bad news is that, according to a statement put out by the Superintendent of Schools, the football program may have an issue with "hazing" and/or "bullying" (in the pieces I have read, it appears as if the District is using the terms almost interchangeably).   Worse yet, the Superintendent of Schools and the District decided on Monday night that the extent of the bullying and/or hazing is pervasive enough that they cancelled the remainder of the season for the high school's freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams.   No more football shall be played at Sayreville High School this season.  The future of the program and its coaches?  I would not pretend to know although, presently, it does not appear to be so bright as to require the wearing of sunglasses.  

Nerves are frayed and tempers are raised in Sayreville these days in response to the action undertaken by the Superintendent of Schools.  While it would seem to me that unless and until more information is known, such as what actually happened, the number of players involved, the coaches' knowledge of what happened, the coaches' tacit acceptance or confirmed endorsement of it, and the length of time it has been permitted to occur, a lot of people are staking out a position based upon emotion and not upon information.  There is neither anything criminal nor unusual about that.  

As long as the minds of those who have already assumed a position remain open to the continuing receipt of information, including information that might tend to cast doubt upon the correctness of one's initially-assumed position, then there is nothing at all wrong about someone manning the battlements on one side or the other.  If however the minds, once made up, cannot embrace the truth - whatever that truth may turn out to be - then at day's end no lasting lesson shall be learned here.  

If that occurs, then Sayreville, New Jersey shall remain thousands of miles and a world away from Dillon, Texas.  

And losing shall continue to replace winning as the order of the day...


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

For A Time When The Scene'll Seem Less Sunny

'Cause it's one thing to start it with a positive jam,
And it's another thing to see it all through...
- The Hold Steady

Took my first look at the long-range forecast for LBI in connection with this Sunday's LBI 18-Mile Run.  Temperature looks favorable.  40% chance of rain and 10 mile per hour winds blowing out of the north/northeast along a course that heads due north from Holgate look a bit less so.  However, as long as it is not pouring rain, a high temperature in the low-to-mid sixties under gun-metal gray skies will provide favorable conditions in which to run.  I would be happier if the entire course was downhill ("Tuck an Roll!  Tuck and Roll!") but masochists cannot be choosers I suppose. 

The Missus and I spent yet another Saturday at the Shore this past weekend.  There is nothing quite like spending several hours walking in and out of one dreadful-looking house after another to make one question the veracity of Mom's mantra, "Everything happens for a reason", or at the very least its applicability to this situation.  A lesson learned in long, lonely miles on the road applies with full force and effect to this set of circumstances:  It is more important to control one's mind than to control one's body.  As the late, great General George S. Patton pointed out, "If you are ever going to win any battle you have to do one thing.  You have to make the mind run the body."     

Stay positive.  Not always easy to do.  Yet, always absolutely critical to achievement of any task at hand.   


Monday, October 6, 2014

It Don't Come Easy

While I run - on average - five times a week, it is only on Saturday and Sunday that I take my show on the road.  During the week, I take full advantage of the fact that our treadmill is conveniently located in the basement.  I try to turn anywhere from fifteen to twenty of what I refer to euphemistically as "homework" miles on the treadmill during the week.  Then, I try to turn at least as many outdoor miles on Saturday and Sunday. 

Yesterday was the most autumnal-feeling Sunday we have had yet here in the State of Concrete Gardens.  I was up and out by shortly after 7:00 am.  The air was crisp and just a little damp.  The sun was principally a source of light as opposed to heat but while it was chilly, it was far from being uncomfortably cold.  It was - in a word - gorgeous. 

It was, in fact, the type of Sunday that I really, really hope awaits me this coming weekend.  On Sunday the 12th I am participating for only the second time ever in the annual LBI 18-Mile Run.  We start at the southern tip of LBI, which is Holgate, and run north to the Barnegat Lighthouse.  The first (and to date only) time I undertook the challenge of this trek was 2011 (I think it was the latter) and the Run took place on a historically hot October day.  I do not mean "warm".  I mean "hot" as in north of 80+ degrees.  It was, to be kind, not the most fun I have ever had on a Sunday.  Or in 3:10.31 on any day of the week for that matter.  

But it was one hell of an excellent, tradition-rich event, and it is one hell of a physical undertaking.  I believe that I am well-prepared for it.  I have, however, been running long enough to know that I will know much better this time next Monday than I do today just how well-founded a belief that is.  

FYI, if you stop by this space one week from today and there is nothing written here, then you shall also know just how well-founded (or not) my belief turned out to be.  

Barnegat Light House