Friday, January 31, 2014

Younger Than The Wind & Sun

We were born before the Wind
Also younger than the Sun
-Van Morrison

The year whose arrival was breathlessly heralded only a moment or two ago is already one-twelfth of the way towards extinction.  Where did the time go? 

Stupid question of course.  Not surprising, however, considering the source.  Time went where it always goes - flying right past us.  As children, all of us on at least one occasion muttered the words "I cannot wait until I grow up".  Upon arriving at our destination we realized that the grass really was not greener on this side of the fence.  In some cases, it turned out not to be grass at all.  And we discovered much to our chagrin just how much it hurts when one falls on green-painted concrete.

Were there things that you resolved to do as 2013 ceded the spotlight to 2014?  Perhaps as January takes its final bow the time is ripe for you to assess where you are with regard to those resolutions.  As time marches on inexorably, it can become tougher and tougher to remain resolute. 

I have said it before and I find that it is - for me at least - a lesson that it is worthwhile to always be mindful of:  Life is a forward-moving exercise.  No WABAC Machine.  No Mulligan.  No DeLorean.  No Doc Brown.  There is nothing at all wrong, however, with glancing over one's shoulder every now and again, and looking back at the path traveled.  One should work hard to remember the journey that has brought you to that particular point on the horizon line.   

Time waits for no one.  And that is how it should be.  It advances as we advance, reminding us to accept the challenge every day to not stagnate but instead to grow, to frighten ourselves (at least a little) and to live our Life.  We get only one.  When it is over, it is over.  As my great grandpa Phineas used to wish he always said, "Life is a ride of indeterminate length.  Since you do not know how long it will last, you owe it to yourself to enjoy the trip as much as you can.

....And I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the Days of Old
And magnificently we will flow into the Mystic.
-Van Morrison

-AK




Thursday, January 30, 2014

'Cause My Life Just Wouldn't Have Been The Same....


On this day, in a time zone kind of, sort of far away, the Texas Tornado celebrates her birthday.  It is a milestone event for her - at least from my perspective - in that it is her first birthday as a "Missus".  Much has gone on in the life and world of Suzanne in the past twelve months.  I hope that in spite of all that has gone on she has had the opportunity every now and again to sit back for a moment or two and take it all in.  I hope she has had a chance to smile thinking of all she has accomplished and of all that lies ahead for her and for Ryan.  I have.  And I intend to continue doing so.  Nice thing about being a Dad.  It is a gig that comes with smile privileges. 

Margaret is the great miracle of my life - the high-topper branch on the tree that I had no business aspiring to reach and even less actually grasping.  But I did.  And once I did I had enough sense to realize my good fortune and do all I could to act upon it.  When I fell in love with Margaret I received in the bargain, of course, Suzanne and Rob.  During the two-plus decades that each has been a part of my life I have tried to serve as sort of a Life Guide - sharing with little to no embarrassment the litany of less than bright things I have done on my journey to date.  I have done so while thanking whoever or whatever it is that you folks who believe in such things thank for the fact that their journey will not be compromised by my DNA.  

A million little moments make up the tapestry of each of our lives.  Every now and again, one of those moments arises in our day-to-day that reminds us that in spite of ourselves perhaps the life that we lead is turning out pretty damn well.   Slightly more than four months ago, Suzanne provided me with just such a moment.  



She has chosen wisely, my daughter has, the partner who shall accompany her on the rest of their Life's adventures.  A smart man once observed, "You need a good companion for this part of the ride", which advice she was astute enough to take to heart.  On a day when I need a moment to reflect on the better parts of Life I spend a minute or two looking at the two of them, hand in hand, taking the first few steps of a lifetime's worth of steps as one.  It is more than enough to make this old man smile.  

Happy Birthday honey.  I love you very much.  Many thanks for that moment....

....and for this one too.


  
-AK



    

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Somewhere South of Mount Olympus

This time next week athletes from all over the world shall gather in the quaint little hamlet of Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics.  It has been hard to miss news of the upcoming Olympic Games - even for those of us who are not among the four dozen or so people who actually watch any of the networks of NBC - although you have been as likely to come across it in any other section of your daily paper as you are to see it on the sports page.  And that, in and of itself, seems to me as if it should be meriting more conversation than it has. 

It was just last week that the United States Navy announced its plan to station a ship or two in the Black Sea as part of the United States' "Extraction Plan" for our athletes and our citizens attending the Games.  Nothing says Olympic Spirit quite as much as a well-formulated extraction plan.  Help me Bob Costas, because I tend to have a hard time keeping such things straight - is it the third or fourth Olympic ring that symbolizes the extraction plan? 

The United States Olympic Committee has also formally advised our athletes that while in Sochi they would be well-advised not to wear anything identifying them as members of the United States team outside of the relative security of the Olympic Village.  Remind me again how it is that Sochi won the bid to host these Games?  Oh that is right - there is an abject lack of quality hotel accommodations in Kabul, Afghanistan and it is not possible to get a direct flight to Hell's Seventh Circle during the wintertime. 

And the warm, fuzzy feeling that everyone participating in and/or attending these Olympics is getting from the somewhat elastic definition Mr. Putin's folks assign to the concept of security is multiplied one thousand fold by the welcome embrace that any homosexual competitor or attendee is hoping is not awaiting his or her arrival.  For in Russia, while being a surly douchebag with a bad comb-over can get you elected President (well those things plus owning the folks who tabulate the ballots), being homosexual can get you in a lot of trouble.  So much so that V Put's hand-picked lackey (Damn You Autocorrect - I meant to write Mayor of Sochi) Antoly Pakhomov decreed just this past weekend that Sochi is a city entirely uninhabited by a single gay person.  Not a one.  http://tracking.si.com/2014/01/26/sochi-mayor-gay-people-olympics-2014-anatoly-pakhomov/?eref=sihp.

It appears as if the good people of Sochi, Russia are a hard-working, industrious and resourceful bunch, driven to succeed in spite of the road apple sitting atop their municipal pecking order.  Otherwise one wonders how a city whose populace includes not a single gay person could be the home to several gay bars and clubs.   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25675957.

I wonder as well - for the sake of Mayor Pakhomov - just how often V Put has seen his friend Antoly's last name spelled out in English.  Methinks that whenever he is up next for re-election the Mayor is not likely to pass out flyers reminding his constituents, "You cannot spell the name Pakhomov without the letters "H-O- M-O!"

It just occurred to me that when the Olympic Torch arrived in Russia, it must have scared the shit out of everyone on V Put's team from Captain Comb-over himself on down.  A traveling flame. 

Putin's worst nightmare.  

-AK   

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Shaking the Tree of Joshua....


What would a weekend be in these United States without a heretofore unknown person becoming a "somebody" by walking into a public place - such as a school, a movie theatre or a shopping mall - and murdering one or more persons?  It happened again, of course, this past weekend in Maryland.  This time around - proving malevolence favors no one race over another - the killer was African-American.  His victims happened to be white.  One, Tyler Johnson, was a twenty-five-year-old man.  Brianna Benlolo, the second victim, was a twenty-one-year-old single mother.  On Sunday, as the killer's mother attempted to come to grips with the unfathomable act perpetrated by her son , expressing far more remorse for his actions than he probably did before he killed himself, news reports were filled with stories of the nineteen-year-old killer having seemed down and a bit depressed over the course of the past few months.  Approximately six months after he graduated from high school he was dead.  Furthermore, two others were dead at his hand.  

The most appalling part of all of this - at least to Yours truly - is that it is more likely than not that by the time we learn more information about the two young murder victims and the teenager who ended their lives, the shooting in Maryland will not be the latest such event.  Are we the people powerless to put an end to these occurrences, which pop up with the frequency of flash mobs?  Or have we simply blinded ourselves to the solution? 

It occurs to me that maybe, just maybe, old Professor Einstein was on to something.  That fella was known for his big brain after all.  Maybe the old saw about the world becoming connected through technology is nothing more than jive.  Maybe instead of connecting all of us, having a world of news, information, entertainment and content of all shapes and sizes available exclusively to us on our phones, our laptops and our tablets has had just the opposite - albeit unintended - effect.  Perhaps it has disconnected us.  Being permitted to look inward has enabled each of us to become a little less reliant on others of the species for benign, little things such as proper social interaction.  Why have a face-to-face conversation with another person when an e-mail, a text or a Tweet will do? 

And why bother to learn to process the types of things that befall most - if not all - of us by a certain age, such as getting our hearts broken or being mad or being upset about some such thing that at the moment it happens to us appears to be a life-ending, trajectory-altering event and which maybe, just maybe, by talking to someone about it we might come to understand that it is not in fact the end of the world?  Why bother indeed when in the flick of a switch I can power up, turn on and tune out.  

Mankind has put every machine it has ever created into use somewhere and somehow.  Yes, even the garbage that one sees advertised on late-night television.  But not every machine ends up being used in the manner in which its inventor intended.  Its use should depend upon us - the human.  It should never be the other way around. 

As we detach ourselves from one another, it has become easy for an ever-increasing number of us to no longer view those around us as necessary or as equals.  As human for that matter.  It has become too easy for too many to view the world at large as being populated by a cast of expendables - interchangeable, faceless cogs who exist not with us but for us.  

The game we play is a dangerous one.  We the people can figure out a way to survive -and in some cases to thrive - unless and until we lose our humanity altogether.  If and when that disappears, then we are indeed lost. 

Or to put it another way, less eloquent perhaps but more attuned to the day and age in which we live....



-AK 



Monday, January 27, 2014

A Journey Into That Dark Ether....


They say you can't take it with you, but I think that they're wrong
'Cause all I know is I woke up this morning, and something big was gone
Gone into that dark ether where you're still young and hard and cold
Just like when they built you, brother, they broke the mold....
-Bruce Springsteen


It is appropriate -  I think - to measure one's life in terms of the impression that the one who has lived that life has made on those with whom he came into contact.  By that unit of measurement Yours truly is a ghost.  However by that unit of measurement, the contributions that Tom Mendelson made on those around him and the world that we all occupy are more easily appreciated and readily ascertainable.  

Tom Mendelson died on Friday.  It had been my pleasure and privilege to have known Tom, his son James and to a lesser degree Tom's wife Diane since Rob came home from school one day in the autumn of 1996 and announced that he wanted to join the local Boy Scout Troop.  My indoctrination into the world of scouting was a weekend camping trip in northwestern New Jersey near Picatinny Arsenal.  Among my least-favorite things to do is sleep outside.  Also among my least-favorite things to do is to miss Yankees playoff games.  Rob's first camping trip in Scouting took place on the weekend that the Yankees went to Baltimore in '96 for what turned out to be the final three games of the ALCS so I am confident that even now my level of enthusiasm for the outing is leaping off of the page. 


As I am with metronomic-like regularity I was entirely wrong about the weekend camping trip.  I enjoyed it.  Rob loved it.  And he was hooked  While it helped of course that his best friend Dan Byrnes (the two are something akin to twin sons of different mothers) was already a member of Troop 148, what cinched the deal for Rob was Tom Mendelson.  Tom was a man who had done any number of amazing and interesting things in his professional life and who knew how to do a lot of really cool stuff.  He loved teaching kids and he loved having Scouts in the troop - like the ones he helped mold Dan and Rob into becoming - who embraced the whole "outdoor life" experience.  I must confess that when Rob came home at age 10 and declared he was joining Troop 148 I was uncertain how long his time as a Scout might last.  Once I had the chance to see him - and the other kids in the Troop - interact with Tom I knew he was in it for the long haul.  And he was.  Margaret and I are the proud parents of an Eagle Scout.  So are Joe and Lucy Byrnes - Dan's parents.  Neither of us would be but for the fact that our sons had the good fortune of meeting Tom Mendelson.


In the years since Rob graduated from high school and moved out of state, I had seen Tom only infrequently.  You could always count on seeing him any time there was an emergency in town - such as in the aftermath of Irene or Sandy - with his sleeves rolled up assisting others.  He left the talking to the politicians.  He and his cohorts from the Office of Emergency Management focused on the "doing", which he did extraordinarily well.


Margaret and I last saw Tom Mendelson this past summer.  On Saturday, July 20, 2013, our little hamlet 'NTSG celebrated its 100th anniversary.  As we were leaving the park next to the high school we walked past Tom who was manning a post outside the OEM RV prepared to offer assistance to anyone who might be in need of it - and considering that it was approximately 111 degrees out at the time I presume at least one person did.  We exchanged greetings and played catch up with regard to each other's now-adult children.  After we filled him in on the state of Rob's life, he told us (while smiling ear-to-ear) that he had recently become a grandfather.   Tom's son James (an extraordinary man in his own right and every inch his father's son) and his wife had just celebrated the birth of their daughter.  Not once - not even for a moment - did Tom stop smiling as he told us about the apple of his eye, his granddaughter Samantha.  Not once. 


The world can always use more people like Tom Mendelson.  I am grateful for the opportunity I had to get to know him and - more than that - for the interest he took in helping my son and countless others grow up and mature.  The impression he left was positive....


....and indelible


-AK



Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Story That A Picture Tells

There is a Land of the Living and a Land of the Dead,
and the Bridge is Love, the only Survival, the only Meaning.

-Thornton Wilder

Just this past week it was announced that the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum, which is located of course at a spot imbued with solemnity and created out of a day that shall live in infamy, will open in mid-May, 2014.  http://nypost.com/2014/01/25/haunting-911-mementos-inside-the-wtc-museum/

In a perfect world, such a Museum never would have had to have been built.  September 11 would be what it had been for years - the birthday of Paul "Bear" Bryant, Harry Connick, Jr. and New York Yankee Jacoby Ellsbury.  Sadly, the world we occupy is far from perfect. 

I suppose that some will be taken aback that the Museum - in order to help offset the expense associated with its day-to-day operation - shall charge $24.00 to each adult who wishes to view its exhibits.  The families of those who died on September 11, 2001 shall not be charged, which seems wholly appropriate.  To say that those individuals have already paid a far heftier price for this space would be an understand of almost incomprehensible proportion.  

For those who have balked at the admission price - or who undoubtedly shall when they become aware of it - it is not unfair to ask how much they have spent and/or are willing to spend to enter the gates of an amusement park, concert hall or movie theatre and then to ask, "If you would spend it there, then why not here?"  The lack of a cogent, well-thought out response might diappoint you but it shall not surprise you.  It never does. 

While it is a place that I sincerely wish had no reason to exist, I am nevertheless looking forward to seeing it.  Not because I expect the exhibits contained within it shall be easy to look at but because I expect that looking away from them shall prove to be almost impossible.  It serves as a reminder that although Hollywood likes to entertain us with tales of alien creatures rampaging across the galaxy and laying waste to mankind, it is in fact a creature much closer to home that is principally responsible for doing so. 

Given that fact, "Never Forget" is not a slogan or a tagline.  It is some of the best advice one generation can give to the next. 


Never Forget. 

-AK  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Antidote for Self-Pity

We have fallen in love so much with our own hyperbole that we no longer are assailed by hurricanes but rather by "Superstorms" and in January we are no longer simply dealing with winter but rather with "The Polar Vortex".  Ridiculous.  Our penchant for overstatement has had a not wholly unexpected side effect.  It has made us soft.  So soft that these days we practically melt in our own mouths.  And the softer one is, the easier it is to pass one's time at the Wallow of Self-Pity. 

Snap out of it.  If you live as I do in the Northeastern part of these United States, then in  January it gets really, really cold.  Remember how cold it is today and tomorrow and more days than not from now through the first day of Spring when - on a 97 degree day in July - you are fucking whining about how it is really, really hot.  Unless you work outdoors to earn your living or are unable to afford a roof over your head to keep you and yours warm at night, being cold is nothing more than a transient condition. 

Before you devote too much of today to feeling badly about the weather, the continuing legal misadventures of Justin Bieber or whatever other nonsense you were contemplating to allow to overwhelm you, take a moment and consider the example set by Gabe Hurley.  A moment is all you shall need.  I assure you. 

I have written of Gabe in this space before.  It has been my great pleasure and privilege to have known Gabe - and to a lesser extent his parents and his older sister - since he and Suzanne were grammar school classmates.  He was always one of my favorites and - likely much to his chagrin - remains so to this day.  An extraordinarily energetic, upbeat young man with big dreams and the willingness to do what he needed to do to maximize his likelihood of realizing them.  

And in a moment everything changed.  

Gabe was catastrophically injured in a motor vehicle accident that was entirely the fault of another, which accident forever altered the trajectory of his life.  It happened four and one-half years ago and in the immediate aftermath of it the doctors who ultimately saved his life were not entirely sure their best efforts were going to be enough.  They were.  Through their hard work and expertise, he remained alive. 

But being alive and living a life are two different things entirely.  A lesser man - including the one who stares back at me in the mirror every morning - may not have been up to the challenge of bridging the distance between the former and the latter.  Gabe was.  And you know what?  He still is.  Every day.  http://news.rutgers.edu/feature/rutgers-alumnus-blinded-devastating-car-crash-builds-new-life/20140122#.UuC152co7Z4 

The young man who I have known since he was just a boy is most assuredly not a boy any more.  He is twenty-nine years old.  His body was badly broken.  His spirit was not.  Among the things that occupy his day-to-day is going around the State of New Jersey and giving lectures and talks to various groups - including high school students - about the importance of safe operation of a motor vehicle.  Having been significantly injured by another's reckless operation of a motor vehicle, Gabe knows from which he speaks.  Apparently, he makes quite an impression.  As one who has known him for most of his life that is certainly not a surprise....  




....not even close.

-AK
  

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Never-Ending Walk Up Calvary Hill

As a parent your most important mission is doing all you can to ensure the safety of your children.  As a parent your biggest fear is that your best shall not be good enough.  And if it is not that you might find yourself confronted with a parent's greatest nightmare:  having to bury your own child.

A lot of time - too much in fact - in this space is devoted to things frivolous or, on my really good days, inane.  None of today's time shall be so devoted. 

If you are a parent - as I am - then take a moment today to be thankful of the fact that no one is asking you to trade places today with the parents of Avonte Oquendo, Oscar Florczyk or Madison Holleran. 

Madison Holleran - the oldest of the trio - was only 19 years old, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, when she took her own life last Friday evening.  A great student and a top-flight athlete, she nevertheless reached the almost unfathomable conclusion that life had become too much of a struggle for her to withstand. To be so young and to be so inconsolably distraught is a terrible, terrible thing.   I would not pretend to know what drives anyone - let alone a young woman whose entire, amazing life remained to be lived - to jump from the roof of a parking garage.  I know only that the family that loved her unconditionally shall miss her completely.  It is a result that seems incredibly unfair to both her and them.

Oscar Florczyk was only eighteen.  On Monday night while driving northbound on the Garden State Parkway, the vehicle he was driving left the travel portion of the roadway, contacted several trees and caught fire.  He was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.  He was a senior at Linden High School.  A young man whose next big life event may very well have been the Senior Prom or High School Graduation.  Eighteen years old. 

Avonte Oquendo captured the attention of countless thousands of people in the New York area from the moment that he first disappeared after leaving his school in Long Island City on October 4.  He was only fourteen.  Avonte was autistic and did not speak.  Ray Kelly made trying to locate this young man alive and return him to his family one of the top priorities of his final few months as Commissioner of the NYPD.  Sadly, Commissioner Kelly's mission proved unsuccessful.  Last Thursday evening, remains that were subsequently identified as Avonte were pulled out of the East River.  He was fourteen years old. 

Keep a good thought today for the Holleran, Florczyk and Oquendo families.  Each of them can certainly use it.... 

....and they are damn sure entitled to it.




-AK     

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Unbreakable

You will never do anything in this world
Without Courage.
It is the greatest quality of the Mind
Next to Honor.
-Aristotle

On the very first Saturday of 2014, the Monroe Township High School Varsity Ice Hockey Team played a game against Vernon High School at Skylands Ice World Arena, which is located in Sussex County, New Jersey.  Senior Mike Nichols, the Assistant Captain on the Monroe Township team, was checked from behind and struck the boards headfirst.  He sustained a severe spinal cord injury - a fracture of his C-5 vertebrae.  He was airlifted from the arena in Sussex County to Morristown Memorial Hospital where he has remained. 

Mike Nichols is the oldest of Steve and Christine Nichols' three children.  As a parent, nothing prepares you for something as life-altering as one of your kids sustaining a serious, potentially devastating injury.  There is no manual to consult for guidance, no yogi atop a high, remote mountain peak to dispense words of wisdom regarding how to handle it.  You just do it.  And thus far, Steve and Christine Nichols have done remarkably well.  http://nj1015.com/monroe-rallies-around-injured-teen-hockey-player-audio/

It is not an understatement to say that the Nichols family has been aided in their effort by the community to which their son belongs - Monroe Township High School - and the community in which they live.  Friends and neighbors have done what friends and neighbors do in times like this.  They have come together.  They have embraced the notion that for present purposes at least a little bit of Mike Nichols belongs to - and has been entrusted to - each and every one of them.  Links in a chain.  The strength of the organism lies not in its individual, separate pieces but in its singularity.  Its uniformity of purpose.  

I am neither a medical doctor nor someone who has ever played one on television.  It is neither my place nor my inclination to offer a prognosis as to Mike Nichols' long-term recovery.  I simply do what lay people do - I consult the Facebook page that has been created and on which his parents keep their community abreast of Mike's daily activities, etc.  The page is entitled "Pray for Mikey 23".  In addition to serving as a conduit for updating his condition it also serves as a repository for various fund-raising ideas and events that have been scheduled (and those that have already taken place) in an effort to help the Nichols family handle the very expensive proposition of their son's long-term care.  I would encourage you to take a moment to peruse it.  https://www.facebook.com/#!/prayformikey23

While their Assistant Captain and classmate has remained hospitalized since that fateful Saturday against Vernon, the Monroe Township Varsity Ice Hockey Team has continued to play on without him.  Their first game after the incident was the very next Saturday against Woodbridge.  They lost.  While Mike Nichols could not be with his teammates on the ice, he was with them on the bench.  His #23 sweater was hung in a place of honor behind the Monroe Township bench.  He did not play in the game.  Yet, he was there with them the entire time.  

That is how it is with links in a chain.  As long as the chain remains unbroken, the links shall always remain together - in proximity with and connected to one another.  It is a bond that remains inviolate.  Always has.  Always will.

Just like the spirit of a hockey player.... 



....Unbreakable

-AK        

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Act Naturally

Welcome to "the Polar Vortex - Redux" or some such thing.  If this week's weather has a cousin that decides to come to visit in this neck of the woods this time next week, then would that not make the Super Bowl a "must watch" - not for action on the field but for the "Race to Hypothermia" in the stands?  Apparently NFL Commish Roger Goodell has already expressed his intention to sit out in the elements and watch the game - having made that declaration at some time on Conference Championship Sunday.  Will he stand by his declaration if we the people of the State of Concrete Gardens find ourselves with Old Man Winter's fist firmly clenched around our throats on February's first Sunday?  Only time will tell.

I flipped the channel from the Rangers game against the Capitals on Sunday night to the NFC Championship Game in time to see/hear/experience the post-game interview that Richard Sherman of the Seahawks gave to Erin Andrews of Fox.  In fairness to Richard Sherman, I have no idea what 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree said to him and/or about him in Arizona last summer, which apparent slight Sherman subsequently offered up as his explanation for his rant although according to something I read on the Sports Illustrated web site on Monday, reportedly Crabtree challenged Sherman to a fight while the two were attending the same charity event.  http://tracking.si.com/2014/01/20/richard-sherman-michael-crabtree-charity-fight/?eref=sihp.   Yesterday I read a piece on nj.com in which an unidentified individual who attended the charity event and who apparently has no connection, familial or otherwise, to either Crabtree or Sherman, has reported that it was Sherman who challenged Crabtree to a fight at the event and not the other way around.  Suffice it to say, these two men are not likely to sign up as teammates for a three-legged race any time soon.   

If you spent the entirety of Sunday evening watching the NFC Championship Game, which the Missus and I did not, then you missed quite an incredible story on NBC's Dateline program.  In mid-January 2012 a woman named Kelli Lynne Groves was driving northbound on California's Highway 101 with her two daughters, the older of whom was ten years old and the younger of whom was only ten weeks old.  As they neared a town named Buellton the BMW sedan that Ms. Groves was driving was crushed under a big rig whose driver lost control of his truck, rode along the top of the BMW for upwards of fifty feet before his truck flipped over the side of a bridge and down into a ravine some seventy-five feet below.  The driver of the truck died.  Ms. Groves and her two little girls were left trapped inside of a car that was barely recognizable as a car - let alone a BMW sedan - teetering percariously over the side of the bridge.  


The remarkable part of this story is that Ms. Groves and both of her daughters - all of whom were trapped inside of the BMW for upwards of two hours -all lived to tell the tale.  The werewithal of the firefighters and EMTs who responded to the scene coupled with the engineering know-how and willingness to assist of a group of Navy Seabees who happened to be heading southbound on the 101 in the same general area of the accident at the time it happened proved more than up to the task of rescuing Ms. Groves and her two little girls.  And Ms. Groves never lost her head - in spite of being confronted with circumstances that would have made doing so seem not only understandable but expected.  

It is the type of story that tends to restore one's faith - even one as jaded as Yours truly - in humanity.  http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/46017312#46017312.  It is absolutely worth a look. 

And just so you do not labor under the mistaken impression that every member of Pete Carroll's Seahawk team is as impossible to root for as Richard Sherman might have tried to make himself out to be, spend sixty seconds or so with Derrick Coleman.  I had never heard of Derrick Coleman until I saw his Duracell commercial.   



Now I hope I hear about him for years to come.

-AK  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Dashing of Hopes

Einstein and Shakespeare, sittin' havin' a beer
Einstein tryin' to figure out the number that adds up to bliss
Shakespeare says, "Man it all starts with a kiss.
Einstein is scratchin' numbers on his napkin
Shakepeare says, "Man it's just one and one makes three,
That's why it's poetry."
-Bruce Springsteen

Approximately six weeks ago in this space I revealed my lack of enthusiasm for "High Hopes", latest Springsteen release, which dropped on Tuesday, January 14.  I acknowledged that - at the time I expressed my concern I had not the record.  The opinion I expressed was not well-received in some circles - although that particular post has inspired an extraordinarily freakish level of interest.  Since writing it in late November 2013 it has been viewed close to 2,000 times....or more than five hundred times more than any other thing I have ever written.  Quite odd.  I have been filling this space for close to six years now.  It never ceases to amaze me when a post somehow takes on a life of its own.  I have never understood it.   

I ordered my copy of "High Hopes" through Amazon and it arrived at my house on the 16th.  Courtesy of the incredibly cheesy cross-promotion that ended up with several of the album's tracks airing as part of an episode of the CBS Sunday night drama The Good Wife I had taken full advantage of the free streaming of the record on cbs.com for a week or so prior to its release date. 

As is my habit when I get my hands on a new Springsteen release I play it to death.  I have listened to it - any only it - in my car since my CD arrived on Thursday.  I have listened to the entire record - end to end - dozens of times thus far.  To no small degree it breaks my music-loving heart to say this:  I am not a fan.  I do not like this record.  Springsteen's music has been an integral part of my day-to-day for fast approaching four decades now.  This "miss" (as I perceive it) shall not dilute that passion.  I remain an enthusiastic Springsteen fan.  This collection however is one that shall not ever occupy a warm place in my heart. 

If you have listened to it, are listening to it and you enjoy it, then I hope you continue to do so. I hope it continues to bring you listening pleasure.  I am not a music critic.  Unless we are counting the kazoo I can not play a single musical instrument.  I make no pretense about my personal take on this record being a definitive, holier-than-thou expression on the subject.  I am not Dave Marsh.  I am simply one man.  These thoughts are simply my thoughts.  Nothing more.  Nothing less. 

As someone who considers Springsteen to be his musical hero and the principal occupant of slots in the jukebox of his life, it gives me no great pleasure to express how disappointing a record this one is to me.  Worse than my feeling of disappointment over what is to me an assemblage of utterly non-memorable tracks that occupy space on it is my anger at the fact that one of my favorite Springsteen songs, "The Ghost of Tom Joad", has now been bastardized.  The lead vocal-swapping between Springsteen and Tom Morello irritated me sufficiently in and of itself.  However, Morello's two-minute guitar solo that overewhelms the song's final two minutes complete with chirps and other inane whammy bar-style sound effects was enough to make me think that Springsteen recorded this track with Van Halen in the 1980's.  Truth be told, it is worse than that for me.  The guitar solo's special effects reduces a great song to something akin to a shitty Steve Miller Band song - as if there is any other kind.  Worse yet from my admittedly selfish perspective:  it does not make "Dream Baby Dream" the most difficult song for me to listen to on this record.  That, I assure you, is no small accomplishment.

Perhaps it is a reflection of how far he has come in the past forty years that the same master craftsman who oversaw the Big Man's saxophone solo note by note on "Jungleland" appears as if he ceded control of the studio to the man he refers to in this record's liner notes as "his muse" and went out to take a leak while Morello was doing whatever the f*ck he felt like doing.  For the past three decades, one of the all time virtuoso guitar players in rock and roll has shared the stage with Springsteen.  To my knowledge, Nils Lofgren has never had free rein to make noise for noise's sake.  Yet, for reasons that make little sense to me (and I realize they do not need to as my name appears nowhere on the record) someone who is not even a member of the E Street Band was given just that type of carte blanche here. 

"The Wall" is, for me, a stand-alone masterpiece.  For me, it so far exceeds everything that comes before it and after it on this record it is as if it parachuted in from someplace else and ended up here by pure happenstance.  A few of the other tracks are - for me - fine as well.  "Frankie Fell in Love", "Just Like Fire Would", "Harry's Place" and "This Is Your Sword" merit a mention.  Too many of them give off the unmistakable aroma of "filler".  In my opinion - and that is all this is and not a damn thing more or less - it is a record replete with songs whose recording was wholly unnecessary and whose legacy shall be mere gossamer....

....or in the words of the Bard himself, "Sound and fury signifying nothing." 


-AK
    


Monday, January 20, 2014

The Incompleteness Principle

Thursday turned out to be one of "those" days.

I am an early riser.  I am up for the day at 2:45 AM and after I complete my morning run on the treadmill (and several minutes on the Total Gym if I am burning with ambition), I am showered, dressed and out the door for the office by 4:00 AM.  Happiness is a commute in the company of no others on Route 287 North.  Bliss is arrival at an office at 4:30 AM or thereabouts that is devoid of any other human beings. 

Anyway, on Thursday morning I did not get dressed in a suit.  Thursday was an "office day".  It was a day on which I had no appearances outside of the office, which enabled me to spend the entire day at the shop spreading love and goodwill among my fellow employees.  Nevertheless I quasi-suited up:  dress slacks, dress shirt, tie and a sweater.  Actually, in my never-ending quest to look like an aging member of any frat house at Whata Matta U. I was not wearing a sweater but a sweater vest instead. 

The sweater vest actually plays a critically important role in this tale of woe.  For it was not until some time after I had arrived at the office and had to use the bathroom that I realized that I had failed to put on a belt.  There I was - Captain Sansabelt.  Had I not put on the sweater vest before leaving the house that morning I would have realized that I was beltless and I would have remedied the situation before I left for work.  Then again, had I not been wearing the sweater vest, the moment would have arrived at some point where one or more of my co-workers would have come to the very same realization and rumors of my questionable mental status would have spread throughout the office.  Well, faster than they usually do on a Thursday.

But I digress.  

As someone who wears a belt daily I found the whole experience to be more than a little bit distracting.  I wondered whether an officer pulling me over for speeding or some other traffic infraction might be inclined to think that I am a person with a documented history of trying to injure myself and request assistance from what he or she might consider calling for backup prior to dealing with me.  Mostly though I wondered if everyone else knew - even a little - how idiotic I felt to be walking around beltless. What sort of idiot cannot remember to fully dress himself in the morning?  This past Thursday, I am constrained to admit that the answer to that question was self-evident:
.



I am pleased to report that after Thursday's meltdown I am back firing on all wardrobe-related cylinders.  I even managed to remember to wear my belt on back-to-back days.  It has been delightful to be able to concentrate my attention on something other than making sure my pants are not going to fall down.  

That is the type of thing that can make a sane man crazy....



....well that and letting an old man mess around under the hood of your car. 

But I digress.

-AK     

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Green Is The Grass

It is "Conference Championship Sunday" in the NFL.  Two weeks from today, more national media will descend on East Rutherford, New Jersey at any time since the last tip regarding the burial spot of Jimmy Hoffa in observance of the unofficial American holiday that is Super Bowl Sunday.  As a New York Giants fan, I have no skin (pig or otherwise) in the games today.  Given how irritating I find each to be, in the event that Jim Harbaugh's 49ers and Bill Belichick's Patriots end up facing one another in the Super Bowl I intend to root for the weather. 

There would be a certain amount of poetic justice in Pete Carroll returning to the neighborhood where his worst moment as an NFL coach occurred - Dan Marino's fake spike - to coach his team in the Super Bowl, which gives me all the reason I need to root for his Seahawks to win the NFC Championship.  I also happen to dig the manner in which the Manning family conducts its business.  A couple of seasons back, Eli led the Giants to a Super Bowl win while playing in Peyton's home field in Indianapolis.  Were Peyton to have the chance to replicate his little brother's feat two Sundays from now, it would be more than OK by me. 

If the Seahawks play the Broncos in the Super Bowl, then I hope the mayors of Seattle and Denver come up with a friendly wager on the game's outcome.  Given that Washington and Colorado have both decreed the recreational use of marijuana to be legal, how about a tractor-trailer filled with freshly-rolled Fatties be shipped from the loser to the winner immediately after the game....along with a tractor-trailer filled with freshly-baked brownies. 

The winning team's locker-room celebration will not be a champagne-stained Bacchanalia.  Instead, it will be a mellow, smoke-filled, meditative session filled with the sounds of Ravi Shankar or Bob Marley and the Wailers.  Considering Pete Carroll also appears to be moving at 1000 miles per hour, I think a little post-game smoke session might actually be good for his heart.   Running off of the field at game's end, instead of declaring his intention to travel to a Disney property, the game's MVP could shout out, "I'm going to follow Phish on their winter tour!"  

How great would it be to see Roger Goodell standing down on the field at Met Life Stadium (hopefully in the midst of a freezing rain/sleet squall) preparing to hand the Vince Lombardi Trophy to a player or coach who has a victory joint ablaze and dangling from between his lips?  The thought of that possibility might be enough to make me stay up past 11:00 PM to watch a game about which I cannot fake giving a single rat's ass.  

Not likely....

....but possible. 

-AK   

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Up All Night With The Howling Wolves

I put away childish things,
I put away childish things....
-James McMurtry

This past week - courtesy of two incidents that occurred separately and distinctly from one another - and involved people who do not know one another and likely never shall, I was reminded yet again of a simple truth.  Whoever we are, whatever we do, we possess within ourselves great power.  It is power that affords us the opportunity to be our own greatest asset.  And it is a power that also affords us the chance to be our own worst enemy. 

If you glance down at your driver's license or whatever form of identification it is you carry on your person to prove you are who you say you are and your birth year reveals you to be older than eighteen, then I have a newsflash for you Slick....You are no longer a child.  Stop f*cking acting like one.  Make decisions, not excuses.  Create opportunities, not alibis.  And most of all, when you have decided upon a course of action, whether it proves to be a good course or a bad one, take ownership of the decision you have made. 

There comes a time in the life of everyone who is fortunate to live to adulthood when your clothing is purchased in the "Big Boy" or "Big Girl" department.  Since you are going to dress the part of a grown-up, it might be a delightful surprise for those around you - especially those who have been historically tolerant of and historically patient with you and your approach to life - if you acted the part as well. 

Here is the thing - and there really is no subtle way to say this - being young at heart and being immature are not flip sides of the same coin.  They are not the same currency whatsoever.  Right about the point in your life where the hand that wipes your ass is your own, you are expected to be able to differentiate between the former and the latter.  Your inability to do so might explain why you walk around with your nose wrinkled up all day - unable to escape that unpleasant, omnipresent odor whose origin you simply cannot locate. 

Life is hard enough without any one adult expecting the adults in his/her life to take on the additional burden of playing the role of adult for him/her.  When those around you - especially those who love you most of all - implore you to carry your own weight those are not merely empty words.  They are a plea for help.  And they are making it to the person best equipped to help you:  You. 

In closing, allow me to offer one final nugget of unsolicited advice on the "self-help" process:  STEP ONE:  Unwedge your head from your ass.  You cannot find your way if you cannot see where you are going.  STEP TWO:  Stop being the host and guest of honor at your own self-pity party.  Second newsflash Slick - at the deli counter of Life we all receive an order of Problems even though none of us can remember asking for them.  We already have ours.  We neither need nor want yours. 

Growing older and growing up are not interchangeable concepts either.  It is the fool who mistakes the former for the latter.  And if that fool is you, then buck up.  The greatest thing about Life is that it offers each of us a shot at redemption every day.  If that fool is you, then make today that day.


-AK

Friday, January 17, 2014

Just Like Dylan Thomas....

I do not know Robert Kessler.  I have laid eyes on him though - courtesy of the humorous and poignant blog he writes in which he documents his battle against stage IV non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.  His blog is rather cheekily entitled, "Cancer?  I Hardly Knew Her!"  You can check it out here:    http://cancerihardlyknowher.tumblr.com/

Kessler is a bit of a newbie to the battle against cancer.  And by that I mean nothing more than he only received his diagnosis of lymphoma on December 3, 2013.  I mean neither disrespect nor to make light of what is a very serious health situation.  Today marks the forty-fifth day since he was diagnosed.  Shit, the disease is still under warranty for f*ck's sake.  I hope for him as I hope for everyone who is attacked by one form or another of this horrible, insidious disease, which is nothing less than a full recovery and a long, healthy life.  Fortunately for him, his medical care is entrusted to skilled medical professionals at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan and not to some aging, science-deficient asshat who earns his living practicing law across the river on the Jersey side and who bears a sadly uncanny resemblance to Yours truly.

Since he earns his living as a writer, Kessler has found it therapeutic to write about his experience with his disease - hence the creation of his blog.  However, not wanting to subject anyone to reading something that he or she might find offensive or depressing he informs those who stop by his blog, "Read it or don't; I've got other things to worry about. Specifically, lymphoma.

Earlier this week he took up the fight for Lisa Adams.  Ms. Adams - who I do not know - has spent the past seven years documenting her battle against metastasized breast cancer on Twitter.  True confession time:  Until I read Kessler's blog entry from January 14, 2014 I not only had never heard Ms. Adams's name, I did not realize that Twitter had existed for at least seven years.  You can follow her here:  https://twitter.com/AdamsLisa.  

While doing something that remains intensely personal to her - even while sharing it with the world at large via Twitter - Lisa Adams managed to run afoul of two holier-than-thou, self-appointed and card-carrying members of the Legion of Decency who, as luck would have it happen to be married to one another.  Perhaps whoever coined the phrase "Misery Loves Company" also has an interest in the dating service that completed the love connection for Bill and Ella Keller.  Ella Keller writes for The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/profile/emma-gilbey-keller) and in a column that she wrote last week, which apparently generated so much backlash that her employer removed it from its website, she assailed Ms. Adams for doing what she is doing.  Apparently "move along there is nothing to see here" never was a concept taught at Ms. Keller's British prep school.  Too bad.  

Bill Keller, who spent almost a decade as the Executive Editor of the New York Times and presently is employed as an Op-Ed Columnist at the paper, weighed in with his own preachy, condescending and - in the opinion of more than one reader - more than slightly inappropriate attack on Ms. Adams - all in apparent response to the rather harsh treament his wife had received to her own piece:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/13/opinion/keller-heroic-measures.html?ref=billkeller

When the Times received its own  bundle of angry e-mails and other responses to Keller, B.'s column and its Ombudsman Margaret Sullivan sought input from Keller regarding them, he told her in part:       
Some of the reaction (especially on Twitter, which as a medium encourages reflexes rather than reflection) has been raw, and some (especially in comments posted to the article online, where there is space for nuance) has been thoughtful and valuable. I tried to be clear in the column that I respect Lisa Adams’s choices, and I meant it. I wish every cancer victim could have those options – to fight with all the resources of medicine, or not. By living her disease in such a public way, by turning her hospital room into a classroom, she invites us to think about and debate some big, contentious issues.
I think some readers have misread my point, and some – the most vociferous – seem to believe that anything short of an unqualified “right on, Lisa!” is inhumane or sacrilegious. But I’ve heard from readers who understood the point and found it worth grappling with.
http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/13/readers-lash-out-about-bill-kellers-column-on-a-woman-with-cancer/?_r=0

No better way to convince people who are complaining about your status as a patronizing, condescending, insensitive douchebag than the one hundred or so words he opted to employ.  Talk about making one's point for them and doing so emphatically. 

I feel constrained to point out the following - lest anyone mistake my position here for some sort of anti-New York Times bias.  I am in fact a registered Republican but not only do I not have an "anti-Times" bias, there are few journalistic institutions in this country that I have as much regard for as I do the Times.  An argument can be made that if more time was spent reading the New York Times and less time was spent watching the life-like exploits of the Kardashians or the Duck Dynasty clan our collective IQ would rise perceptibly. 

A lifetime ago, when my father was an educator working in New York City he taught Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. Mr. Sulzberger has been the Publisher of the Times since 1992.  He succeeded his father in that position.  I shall defer to my oldest brother Bill on this but I believe that he and Mr. Sulzberger were either classmates or at the very least contemporaries at the school where my father taught.   As a general rule, I enjoy being able to mention in casual conversation that Dad once taught the Publisher of the New York Times.  Gives the old man a little street cred and even we are almost three and one half decades removed from his death, a little street cred is always a valuable commodity.

More recently and more significantly to me, roughly a quarter-century ago Mom was in very dire financial straits.  Her aunt had died and Mom had been left a rather significant inheritance - in addition to being appointed the Executrix of the Estate.  However, Aunt Nancy died in New York and Mom, knowing nothing about the workings of New York's probate system, found herself being run ragged by the attorney who somehow controlled the process.  He was bleeding the Estate dry and was thwarting Mom's efforts at every turn to get the matter through probate so that the Estate's assets could be disbursed in accordance with Aunt Nancy's wishes. 

This prick had Mom over a barrel - until she sat down and wrote Mr. Sulzberger a letter.  She told him who she was and asked for any help he might be able to provide her.  He called her when he received his letter.  He told her that he had considered himself to be forever in Dad's debt for being the teacher he had been to him.  He told her to rest easy.  He would take care of it.  Less than thirty days after he telephoned her, the matter was resolved in its entirety.  All of her loved ones who Aunt Nancy had wanted taken care of were taken care of, including Mom.  Mr. Sulzberger will always have a place on my Favorite Persons list.  He helped save Mom when - truth be told - no one else could.  And he did it when he had absolutely no obligation to do so.  I have not forgotten it.  I shall never forget it.      

 
So, in addition to being enthusiastic fans of the New York Times, Bill Keller and I have one other thing in common - whether he realizes it or not.  It is not the place of either of us to tell total strangers how to deal with their own illness.  Moreover it is not the place of either of us to tell total strangers how to live their lives.  As a parent that privilege is reserved solely for our children and then only until they reach the age where they move into their own homes.  We still try to tell them how to live their lives to be sure but now, protected by the dual defenses of distance and invisibility (we can talk to them but not see them), their ability to flip us the bird while smiling and then go off on their merry way increases one thousand fold. 

I know not what the future holds either for Mr. Kessler or Ms. Adams as each deals with their respective illness.  I know however that each absolutely has the right to share their journey with whomever they choose.  And the great thing about the forum each has chosen is that no one who does not want to know what is happening ever has to know.  Neither is going door-to-door like a crazed Fuller Brush man spreading the word.  If you do not want to know, then opt out.  Your right to be free from hearing what either is saying is trumped today - and every day for that matter - by the right each of them possesses to say it.  One might have expected that two people who earn their living in the world of journalism might have a keener appreciation for another's freedom of speech and freedom of expression.   

Those of us who opt in to reading what Mr. Kessler and/or Ms. Adams is up to shall be just fine without a third-party attempting to police our right to do so.  I promise.....

....and for whatever it is worth, Thornton Mellon does too. 



-AK   

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Birthdays and B-Sides

Early September 1982.  It was shortly after the first day of school of what was my 10th grade year at W-H.  It was the start of Jill's senior year.  Kara was in California having just started her second year in college at the College of Notre Dame in Belmont, which actually had a better football team in the early '80's that its namesake in Indiana.  Dad had been dead for a bit more than a year.  It was just Jill, Mom and me at the homestead two tumbleweeds past nowhere's middle - Neshanic Station. 

I needed new screw-on studs for my soccer cleats so after dinner Jill and I had hopped into Mom's little red Chevette (the ultimate automotive "B"-side) and headed off to the nearest sporting goods store.  Thirty-plus years later I have no recollection as to what store we went to - although I would suspect it was probably a "Herman's World of Sporting Goods" since I have a vague recollection of one being located in the strip mall on Route 22 East in Green Brook where the Perkin's Pancake House now stands.  Wherever we went we got what I needed and we headed home.

As we drove up Amwell Road - heading towards Wertsville Road and thereafter our house - I blurted out how much fun it would be if I could drive.  I recall making the type of argument that sounds incredibly well-reasoned in the mind's eye of a lunatic.  Given that we were the only car on the road and given that we were less than a couple of miles from home, Jill quickly ran through worst-case scenarios in her head and finding none of them to be overwhelmingly terrifying she relented.  We pulled over into the parking lot of the little church - I think it is the Neshanic Reformed Church - that was located on the right side of Amwell Road a half-mile or so before the first leg of Wertsville Road - and we switched positions in the vehicle.

Let history reflect that the first two or three minutes of my vehicle operations history were silky smooth.  Mom's Chevette was an automatic transmission and I moved effortlessly from the parking lot out onto Amwell Road and then began the climb up the little hill that led to Amwell's "T" intersection with Wertsville.  I was a natural.  No doubt about it. 

For reasons that probably help explain a great deal why as a child playing baseball I had a tendency to swing at and miss pitches a foot or more off of the outside corner of home plate, it was when I made the left turn from Amwell onto Wertsville that the wheels started to come off.  Literally and figuratively.  I took the turn a bit too wide - although not more than three feet or so - and managed to scrape the right side of the Chevette - including of course both right-side tires - along the huge, oversized railroad ties that the people who owned the home at the corner used as some sort of weird demarcation line for their property. 

Jill instantly recognized that the noise coming from beneath the right side of the vehicle was not one that a driver, experienced or otherwise, expected to hear.  I drove us not more than 50-100 feet down Wertsville Road - the technical term I believe is "leaving the scene of the accident" - so we could escape detection while assessing the damage.  The first prong of our plan was a smashing success.  No one came out of the house at the corner or any other one for that matter.  The second prong was very much less so.  I presume at some point within the past three decades some utility company has placed light fixtures along Wertsville Road.  Back in September '82 there were only three types of lighting available:  Sun, Moon and Head.  None of the three was a viable option for us.  Thus, our damage assessment was a bit "underwhelming". 

Luckily I did not flatten either of the tires, which enabled us - with Jill now calling the shots again on the bridge - to complete the trip home.  Better luck for us was seeing when we arrived home and pulled the car into the garage that it had not been dented or dinged at all.

However, it did appear as if it had been sexually assaulted by a Lincoln Log.  There were railroad tie shreds and scraps sticking out of rim around the front right tire as well as a number of other auto-fices on the vehicle's right side.  Not wanting to alert Mom to anything being wrong with the car we excised them as much as we could and then went into the house. 

The next day Jill drove all three of us to W-H.  When Mom walked around to the front passenger's door she stopped and stood silently staring at the right rear tire.  There, as big as a Sequoia in a forest appeared a sizable piece of railroad tie sticking out of the rim.  I know not how we missed it during our post-incident inspection the night before.  Clearly we had.  I was about to confess to what I had done when Mom volunteered that she knew what must have happened.  She then regaled us with a story involving a truck carrying lumber/buildling supplies on Route 287 one night the week before as she was driving herself home from work and how - although she could not remember it having done so - it must have spilled a bit of its load, which load included of course the Magic Railroad Tie.  Neither Jill nor I said a word.  I volunteered to remove it from the rim for her (having earned my Merit Badge in Railroad Tie Extraction less than twelve hours earlier), which I did without difficulty.  The three of us then got into Mom's Chevette and drove to school.

Today is Jill's birthday.  Wilma has come a long way since the night that her little brother made her an accessory both before and after the fact.  She has come a considerable distance more than have I.  There have been times however when we have walked along the same path - including college.  When I graduated from W-H in 1985 I took the advice of Horace Greeley.  This young man went West - to Boulder, Colorado - where as a freshman I got to learn the ropes from my big sister.  Jill was just starting her junior year.  Between the year I entered kindergarten and the year I graduated from college, there were but four years during which Jill and I were not students at the same school:  my final two years of high school and my final two years at CU.

I know not whether in the course of their teenage years her two daughters - my two beautiful nieces -Simone and Julia ever conspired to put one over on her.  I suspect they did.  And I suspect that having assessed the situation and come to realize it was really no big thing, she permitted them to have their victory. 

Much like Mom permitted us to have ours all those Septembers ago. 

Happy Birthday Wilma.  Love you lots. 


-AK

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

An Homage to the Content of Character

The ultimate measure of a Man is not where he stands
in moments of comfort and convenience,
but where he stands
at times of challenge and controversy.
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Were Doctor King alive, today he - and this nation - would be celebrating his 85th birthday.  History teaches us that he was killed long before he had a chance to enjoy his 85th birthday.  So long ago in fact that he did not live long enough to celebrate his 40th.  

It is possible for one person to so touch the lives of those people with whom he or she comes into contact that the impact of that person's connection continues to reverberate long after that person has died.  Such is the case with Doctor King.  You may find it instructive today - as I did when I sat down to write this piece - to spend a few moments reading some of his speeches or - better still  - listening to them.  An extraordinary man who was unafraid to pay the price he ultimately paid in furtherance of that which he considered to be important.  

Important not just to him and to his children but to you and yours and to me and mine.  If you look out at the Lake of Time you still see the outward-expanding ripples moving forward in concentric circles from his life.  In the fourth and one-half decades since his murder they have not stopped.  And for the sake of all of us, I hope they never do.  

Wish big.  He certainly would appreciate the sentiment....


-AK  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Somethin' is Brewin'

Winds in the east, mist coming in. 
Like somethin' is brewin' and bout to begin.
Can't put me finger on what lies in store,
But I fear what's to happen all happened before.
- Mary Poppins

The Missus and I - on Date Night this Saturday night - went to the movies.  At her suggestion we went to see Saving Mr. Banks.  To my knowledge, I have neither read nor seen Mary Poppins.  It mattered not.  It took nothing at all away from my enjoyment of the film.  Neither did the fact that I had no goddamned idea who Mr. Banks was until he was identified in the movie as the father in Mary Poppins.

Truth be told, I could pretty much watch Tom Hanks do anything.  Ditto for Emma Thompson.  A nice surprise for me was the good work of Colin Farrell.  While he did not share a single moment on screen with Hanks or Thompson perhaps knowing he was sharing billing with them in this project helped him rediscover his "A" game.  It is your money.  Spend it as you see fit.  I did not regret spending some of mine seeing this particular film on Saturday night.

 
Saturday was also the day on which the proverbial other shoe fell on Alex Rodriguez.  The independent arbitrator reduced Rodriguez's suspension from 211....to 162.  He shall not play at all in 2014.  Predictably, Rodriguez issued a statement noting that the arbitrator's decision was nothing other than the latest salvo in MLB's campaign to ruin his career, his reputation and his life.  No one does the persecution complex jag quite as well as A-Rod. No one.

When A-Rod appealed his suspension in the second half of the 2013 season, I supported his right to do so in this space.  He exercised the right afforded to him under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.  However, it was that very same CBA that gave him the right to have his suspension ruled upon by an arbitrator following a hearing to be conducted in accordance with the terms of the CBA.  As per the CBA, the arbitrator's decision is binding and final.  Not just in Rodriguez's case.  In every player's case. 

Justice was served.  Alex Rodriguez received the due process to which he was entitled.  His mistake is that he has equated receiving that which he wanted with that to which he was entitled.  As anyone who has ever been involved in either our criminal justice system or our civil justice system could have told him, as often as not the two are mutually exclusive concepts.

If only he had bothered to ask....

Front Page New York Post 01/12/14

-AK