Thursday, July 31, 2014

As The Footsteps Lead Us Home...

I would be remiss if I did not mention that today is the birthday of one of my favorite people, Gracie.  I like to think that had the first six of us not scared the prospect of a seventh Kenny child out of my parents' loins entirely that she would have been the younger sister I never had.  A good human being she is.  I see far less of her these days than I would like, which means that I probably see more of her than she would like (if history is any guide).  I know however that she is doing well, which is something she most certainly deserves. 

Speaking of good people...

Tuesday evening the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation sent me the e-mail confirming that when Margaret and I registered for the 2014 Tunnel to Towers Run in New York City, which shall take place on Sunday, September 28, part of our entry fee covered a ticket to the August 23 game between the Yankees and the Chicago White Sox.  There may be no family in the annals of recorded history who has more completely transformed something horrific - the murder of their brother Stephen, 342 other members of the FDNY and countless other first responders and civilians at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 - into something incredible.  The work their Foundation performs is - if I may be permitted to raise understatement to dizzying heights - inspiring.  http://tunnel2towers.org/

Anyway, I must confess that I had been mostly ambivalent about the notion of making a trip into the Bronx on a Saturday afternoon in late August.  That is until the Yankees announced that August 23 shall be Joe Torre Day at the Stadium.  It is on that day that the Yankees shall pay homage to the manager of baseball's last dynasty.  His #6 shall be retired and he shall be enshrined forever in Monument Park.  A well-deserved tribute to the man whose twelve Yankees teams won 406 more games than they lost as he compiled the second-highest regular season win total of any manager in Yankees history, trailing only Joe McCarthy (not the "Red Scare" Joe McCarthy, the other one who was an actual human being).  His post-season resume, which included four World Series championships and six American League pennants was not too shabby either. 

Linking a good man with a great cause seems to me to be one hell of a fine way to spend a late summer Saturday afternoon. 

And so we shall. 


Tunnel2Towers NYC 2013 Sand Sculpture

-AK

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Conversion Therapy

For me, the summer running season is drawing to an end.  I have two more races on my calendar between now and Labor Day:  the Sea Girt 5K this Saturday in - you might have guessed - Sea Girt, New Jersey and the 10th Annual (and final) Jimmy D 5K in New Brunswick.  The final edition of the Jimmy D 5K shall take place on August's final day.  I am happy to be able to take part in both of these events this year as both are among my favorites.  I am more than a little saddened by the fact that this year's Jimmy D shall be the last.  Deputy Chief D'Heron's family - led by his daughter Erin Vargas - has done incredible work these past ten years turning a personal tragedy into a communal triumph.  I say with no small measure of pride that this year shall be my fifth Jimmy D.  

Running is - for me anyway - a solitary pursuit.  Even as a kid, I was not much of a bicyclist.  My preferred method of transportation prior to be old enough to drive was simply to walk.  Never owned a ten-speed as a boy.  "Fanciest" bike I ever owned was a Columbia three-speed Mom and Dad bought for me when I was eight or nine.  That is - I believe - the last bike I ever owned.  

This past Sunday morning as I was running through the streets of 'NTSG I encountered a small pack of cyclists.  Seeing them all clustered together in their matching "bicycle boy" outfits (including the built for speed helmets) reminded me just how much I loathe cyclists.  It takes all of the restraint I can muster to simply not push one over as he or she pedals by me in the opposite direction.  Cyclists are almost as obnoxious for runners to deal with as they are for drivers.  

As a general rule, they travel in clusters.  Moreover, since bicycles are modes of transportation they travel in the same direction as motor vehicles whereas runners/walkers travel against the flow of traffic.  NOTE:  If you are a runner and/or a person who walks for exercise and you run and/or walk WITH the flow of traffic, then you are walking on the incorrect side of the street.  You are to run and/or walk AGAINST the flow of traffic.  In New Jersey, it is not simply recommended that you do so, it is in fact the law.  N.J.S.A. 39:4-34 ("On all highways where there are no sidewalks or paths provided for pedestrian use, pedestrians shall, where practicable, walk only on the extreme left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing approaching traffic...Where sidewalks are provided it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along or upon an adjacent roadway.") 

The pack of cyclists I figuratively ran into on Sunday morning was less obnoxious than several others I have encountered over the course of the past couple of years.  Cyclists enjoy attempting to bully runners as our paths intersect - relying upon their numerical advantage and their apparent absence of an understanding of the basic laws of physics (specifically the rather significant effect a well-placed foot in the path of a bicycle wheel can have on the old adage regarding the tendencies of "bodies in motion").   Thus, as this pack approached me on Beechwood Avenue I was prepared for the worst.  It never made an appearance.  Instead they moved to their left, which put them further out into a travel lane on a road of which we were the only users, and nodded "Good Morning" to me as they whirred past. 

They were so pleasant in fact that I almost regret having kicked the rear tire out from under the last guy in their group...


...almost. 

Next time he is in the woods he shall be certain to thank me for having introduced him to running.  In fact, as he bit asphalt on Sunday morning "Thank you" might have in fact been the very words he uttered.  I was moving away from him at a pretty good clip so I could be mistaken.  The second word he yelled out was - I am sure - "You!". 

I am, however, less than clear as to the first one.   

-AK

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

House's Call


A sentiment that has likely never been more true than it is presently.  In this, our not quite-so-brave yet bright-shiny-new world we have morphed into the Land of the Artifice.  It has been said that luck is the residue of design.  Perhaps then lying is the residue of virtual communication.  I can be the person I want to claim to be whether I am or not just as long as I can keep all of those over whose eyes I am efforting to pull this whole sheep's worth of wool from paying attention to the man behind the curtain. 

Here is the thing though - and there really is no way around it.  When you are full of shit, you know it.  Even if it is impossibly hard for you to accept, you know it.  The virtual universe that you inhabit - the one occupied by Facebook friends and other nonsense - might be beyond impressed by the life you represent to them that you are leading but to what end.  Does it matter what the rest of the world believes to be true if and when you know that what you have been feeding them is a steady diet of bullshit?  Or does it matter only when you, yourself, have created such an effective artifice that you believe your own bullshit? 

If - for you - the answer to the latter question is "Yes", then you need to take a step back and start examining your life decisions with a far more jaundiced eye than you are doing presently.  For at day's end, if you cannot be honest with the reflection you see in the bathroom mirror every morning, then the one who will ultimately end up feeling most betrayed by the lies you have woven is you.  Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells once observed that, "You are what your record says you are."    

Tis true whether you earn your daily bread in the NFL or not.

-AK  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Joey From The Block

Yesterday was enshrinement day at the Baseball Hall-of-Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  Among the men whose name was called was Joe Torre.

His greatest achievement in a life spent in baseball, which as a player included being named an All-Star multiple times, winning the 1971 National League MVP and retiring with a .297 batting average, was being the leader of baseball's last dynasty.  The New York Yankees of the second half of the 1990's appeared in the World Series in 1996, 1998 and 1999, all three of which they won and during which they won twelve consecutive World Series games (coming back from two games down to defeat Bobby Cox's Atlanta Braves in 1996 and then sweeping the San Diego Padres in '98 and Cox's Braves again in '99).  They then won their fourth and final World Series on Torre's watch in 2000 when they blasted the Mets in five games to capture the only Subway Series played in my lifetime.  

Torre's Yankees made it to the World Series twice after 2000.  In 2001, when the September 11th attacks pushed the World Series into November for the first time his Yankees lost an all-time classic in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game Seven against the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Two years later - after besting the Red Sox in an epic ALCS - the Yankees lost to the Florida Marlins.  They would not make another trip. 

After the 2007 season, Torre and the Yankees went their separate ways.  The Brooklyn boy had one more managerial stint in him - going West to manage his once-upon-a-lifetime ago hometown team, the Dodgers.  Under his guidance, the Dodgers made it to the NLCS in 2008 and 2009 but lost to the Phillies both times.  Had his Dodgers defeated Philadelphia in 2009, then he would have managed in the World Series against the Yankees.  

In yesterday's New York Daily News, Anthony McCarron wrote a beautiful profile of Torre and his journey from the stoops of Brooklyn to Cooperstown's hallowed Hall.  If you are - as I am - a Torre fan it is worth reading.  

Congratulations to a good man on receiving his due.  

-AK 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Water 'Neath The Ferry

A lot of water has been run under and around the hull of my ferry since then.
And while Life is undoubtedly meant to be lived forward,
Occasionally it is nice to take a moment
To peer backwards through the glass
At a moment that meant something to you then and, to discover,
That is still means quite a lot to you presently...

...Something neither time nor memory can fade away.

I have lived in better fortune than I deserve.  Each of us has a Day of Reckoning coming I suppose and I harbor no delusions about the general tone and tenor of mine.  Margaret is to cremate me when I die.  I want my body to have a chance to adjust to the temperature where Eternity shall be spent.  I cannot undo the things I have done.  None of us can.  It is an option that - candidly - were it available to me to pursue, I would not.  The great Oscar Wilde once observed that, "No man is rich enough to buy back his past."  It would appear I have amassed a small fortune in S&H Green Stamps, then, for no discernible reason whatsoever.  If only they were redeemable at Skee Ball.   

Even the black hearted among us fall into it every now and again.  To that rule I am certainly no exception.  Among the pleasures I have derived from this life is being able to share my love of Springsteen music - and more specifically the love of Springsteen's live performances - with Rob.  There were not a great many interests I shared with my father - at least not during the fourteen overlapping years in which we were both alive.  I did not develop my fondness for alcohol until after he died.  Perhaps had he not died when he did, as I grew older we would have developed a shared love for something other than the New York Rangers - and sarcasm.  Such is life.  

It is one of the great joys of my life that from the time Rob was little, he became a fan of Springsteen's music.  And I do not mean a "fan".  I mean A FAN.   Case in point, while there are a couple of people who normally stop by this space who not only recognize "So Young and In Love" as one of Springsteen's songs but who can also sing a lyric or two, in all likelihood a considerable percentage of you cannot.  Rob had it on the play list for the DJ at his wedding reception.  'Nuff said. 

Fifteen years ago this summer, Springsteen and the E Street Band played a fifteen-night stand at Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford.  Earlier this week on the nj.com web site Stan Goldstein had a piece I enjoyed very much providing the happy recap of all fifteen shows.  http://www.nj.com/springsteen/index.ssf/2014/07/looking_back_at_bruce_springst_2.html

Truth be told, that particular venue has changed names so often in its lifetime it likely was not known as the Byrne Arena by the Summer of '99.  It was by me.  Still is.  Springsteen had just put the Band back together after having spent, essentially, the decade of the 90's separated from them.  Most of them anyway.  Roy Bittan being an exception who proved the rule.  

Thus, it was on the "Reunion Tour" that I took Rob to see my musical hero for the very first time.  I scored two tickets each to two of the shows, both of which came towards the end of the run.  I had no idea what to expect - either in terms of his reaction or their performance.  I had last seen them play together almost fifteen years earlier - in Denver's snow-laced Mile High Stadium on Springsteen's 36th birthday in September, 1985.  

The first of our two shows was Show #13 on August 9, 1999.  We had terrible seats.  We were almost all the way up in the very last row directly behind the stage, which did little to tamp down my anxiety level.  They opened with "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and about ten seconds into it, Rob was hooked.  If "Darkness" as the opener drew him in, it was the inclusion of "Frankie" in that night's set list that assured he never left.  Rob was markedly younger than most of the people seated around us in the nosebleeds but he knew his Springsteen music better than all of them.  Having listened to Tracks repeatedly in the months since its release, his thirteen-year-old ear recognized "Frankie" immediately and he sensed - even without knowing - that hearing it performed in concert was a decidedly unusual experience. 

Two nights later we returned for the penultimate show, which was a classic.  They opened with "Night", ended the encores with "Sandy" and in between played (among two dozen or so others) "Trapped" and "Freehold" (referred to in the set list as "In Freehold").  They also played a simply exquisite rendition of  "New York City Serenade", which they had not played in concert in close to a quarter century.  Our seats for the August 11, 1999 show were slightly better than those for our first show.  We were still up in the nosebleeds but now we were not directly behind the stage but rather in the neighborhood of Clarence's 3 o'clock.  Perhaps we were closer to his 3:20.  The shittiness of the seats had zero effect on our enjoyment of the evening. 

As we were leaving our seats at show's end, the two male halves of a pair of young couples who had been seated a couple of rows behind us were commenting upon they had just witnessed.  One remarked to the other that while he had enjoyed the show he was disappointed that neither "Born in the USA" nor "Dancing in the Dark" had been played.  As if sprung from his very own cage on Highway 9, Rob spun towards the two men (both considerably younger than I but considerably older than he) and lit into them for their lack of musical appreciation, asking them both how either of them could have felt let down at not hearing those songs in consideration of what we had all just heard.  One of the two of them looked towards me as if expecting me to intervene.  I just laughed and told them that I was as surprised as he was.  Thus endeth the interaction.  

Over the years, Rob and I have seen Springsteen in five different states:  New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Colorado.  We have seen him in venues as gargantuan as Giants Stadium and as intimate as the Tower Theatre.  We have seen him play solo shows, shows with the Seeger Sessions Band and, of course, shows with the E Street Band (both the iteration that included the late, great Clarence Clemons and Phantom Dan Federici and the ESB in its present composition).  

To paraphrase another of my favorite American songwriters, "Fifteen years now.  Where'd they go?  Fifteen years now.  I don't know."     And I really have no idea.  The once thirteen-year-old boy is a twenty-eight-year-old man, husband to a beautiful young woman with whom he is making one hell of a life for himself a couple of thousand miles or so away from the swamps of Jersey.   

We journey onward.  We move upward.  But as a wise man once observed there is nothing at all wrong with taking a glance backward every now and again.  Knowing as we do that when we turn back around again that boy will be gone... 

...some times you just gotta walk on. 


-AK        

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Night Unlike Any Other

I spent Wednesday night in one of my favorite places - Westfield.  Friends, too many for me to name (and sadly at this point in my existence far too many names for me to ever hope to remember), called it home a lifetime ago when I was matriculating my way through high school at Wardlaw-Hartridge.  It is a town for which I have always had a particular fondness.  Truth be told, I spend very little time in it, much to the relief of its residents.  In a good year, I might be there on two or three separate occasions.  More often than not, it is just one. 

And for the past five Julys that one has been the Downtown Westfield 5K.  It is held annually on a Wednesday night in late July.  Thus far, with the exception of the 2013 edition, the rule regarding the weather for this event appears to require a marriage of heat and extreme humidity.  This year's race was no different.  Thunderstorms were in the forecast and while they held off until I was halfway home their presence in the area was felt.  Happiness is not necessarily running in air so thick that you can cut it with a chainsaw.  I never know for certain where the line is drawn between "healthy" and "unhealthy" air quality.  However as a betting man, I would wager we had at least a toe on the wrong side of that line Wednesday night. 

It takes a special kind of evening to make one feel as if the weather conditions in which the Belmar Five Mile Run was contested were something akin to a crisp October morning.  Wednesday night was just such an evening.  The experience was not unlike what it would feel like running inside a sweaty sock...with the wearer's foot still inside and with his toes jabbing you in the face. 

But in spite of the really tough conditions it was - as it always is - one hell of a good time.  The people of Westfield come out in force to support this race.  As a "ham and egger" who runs for the feeling of satisfaction that comes with accomplishing a task and not for first place (or for eight hundred and first place for that matter), it exceeds my limited ability to put into words the feeling associated with heading towards the finish line and seeing hundreds of people standing on the sidewalks and in driveways on either side of the street cheering as if every person who runs past them is their own family member or friend. 

A terrific evening spent in a terrific town.  I know not for how long my body shall permit me to run and I know not for how long the Downtown Westfield Corporation shall put on its Midsummer Night's Dream but for as long as I am able and they are willing I shall spend a Wednesday night in July right where I spent this Wednesday night...

....standing on East Broad Street looking up at the marquee of the Rialto Theatre.  And being happy that I am there to do so.


-AK

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Rough-Knuckled Knock of Opportunity

Opportunity is missed by most People
Because it is dressed is Overalls
And looks like Work.
- Thomas A. Edison

This time next week it shall be August 1.  Summer shall cease to be measured in months but instead in ever-diminishing increments starting with weeks.  Look backwards briefly to see how many of the opportunities you vowed to avail yourself of this summer as you stood sucking down a Summer Shandy at a Memorial Day picnic you have in fact followed through on now that Memorial Day and Independence Day are images in your rear-view mirror that are not in fact closer than they appear to be.  Look ahead to the weeks and days that remain available to you to accomplish them.  Determine what you must do in order to ensure that they, too, do not become fodder for Whittier's saddest words of tongue and pen.  

More than ever look inward.  The person most responsible for your success and your failure in this life is you.  Among the many things that sometimes makes me want to go door-to-door punching those among our number who have raised "Victimization" to an art form is the failure - or perhaps the refusal - of those who love to groan aloud, "Why me?" to never pose that question to themselves.  Ask the reflection in the bathroom mirror at whose feet the responsibility for that should be placed.  Keep your head up straight and your eyes fixed straight at the glass in anticipation of the answer. 


Try to do it without flinching.  It may be tough medicine to take but that does not mean that you should not swallow it.  
 
-AK     

 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Present Tense

The Kenny Sextet is - in actuality - something more akin to two trios.  Bill, Evan and Kelly represent the first set of three while Kara, Jill and the big-headed teller of this tale comprise the second.  There is a gap in ages between Kelly and Kara that is greater than the gap between Kara and me.  I would tell a joke right here about Mom and Dad needing to catch their breath after Kel's arrival but I absorbed more than my share of Charlie Horses from my big brother when I was a little boy to even think with screwing with him now.  

Today is Kara's birthday.  My sister is one of the world's truly good souls.  She possesses an ability to divine the good out of anyone.  It is a gift that is so alien to my DNA - and to Jill's too - that when we were all kids growing up in the same house Jill and I used to wonder how it was that all three of us shared the same parents.  Easiest way to explain it I suppose is that when they were slapping together our respective genetic material, Kara got a far bigger helping of "Mom" than "Dad".  I, on the other hand...let us just say that at some point that "heavy pour" had to be compensated for and I have a pretty goddamn good idea just where that occurred.  

Stel might be one of the easiest people ever for whom to root.  The next bad turn she does to another member of global tribe shall be her first.  I believe firmly that this planet is occupied by two distinct groups of people.  Those who do not know my sister Kara and those who are beyond pleased that they do.  

It is an accident of birth that I have occupied space in the latter group since time immemorial and shall never have to give it up.  Happy Birthday Stel...

...may it be the day that you deserve.  

Wish big! 

-AK  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Off & Running Again...

Try not to become a man of success
But rather a man of value.
-Albert Einstein



I am a lucky man in that I have women in my life willing to teach me - the dictionary definition of an "old dog" - and to patiently restate that lesson as often as necessary for it to pierce the gynormous boulder-sized ornament atop my shoulders. 

Slightly more than five years ago something truly shitty happened.  Margaret's mom - Suzy B. - died in the wee small hours of June 2, 2009 - after having fought a valiant and ultimately unsuccessful war against cancer.  My pocket-sized mother-in-law - to steal a phrase from William Wallace - fought like a warrior poet for the final five years of her life.  It was a struggle that was heart-wrenching to watch.  It was equally so for me watching my wife serve as her mom's primary care giver and head cheerleader.  Margaret spent the final five years of her mother's life telling Suzy B. things - in terms of the latter's own condition - that neither of them believed when Margaret said them nor when Suzy B. heard them - but that both nonetheless needed to hear uttered aloud.  Do not believe anyone who tells you there is no such thing as a good lie. 

Out of the blackness that was the death of my mother-in-law, something beautiful was born and continues to flourish.  The two elder stateswomen in the Grandkid Corps - Suz and Meg - sprung into action and created the entity known as "Sue's Crew".  Its purpose is simple:  Honor the life of the grandmother they loved dearly by helping to do all that we can to help raise money to battle breast cancer and other equally insidious offshoots thereof in an effort to help at least one other family avoid walking a single step in the shoes Margaret's family was forced to adorn. 

Each and every Autumn since Suzy B.'s death in 2009, Sue's Crew has participated in a breast cancer 5K Run/Walk somewhere in the State of Concrete Gardens.  For four of our first five years, we matriculated south to Great Adventure for the Central/South Jersey Chapter of the Komen Foundation's Race for the Cure.  Two years ago, we headed over to Union County to take part in the wonderfully-titled Race for Mom.  This year, we are lending our legs and our hearts to an event a bit closer to home...well, to my home anyway.

On Saturday, September 20th, Sue's Crew VI shall participate in the Janice Garbolino Memorial 5K Run/Walk, which honors the legacy of a woman who served as the Health & Wellness Director for the Metuchen, N.J. YMCA until she, herself, lost her battle with breast cancer in 2002.  While it should go without saying that we invite any and all who pop by this page to join us, subtlety has never been my strong suit.  So, it shall not go without being said aloud:  PLEASE COME BE PART OF SUE'S CREW VI @ THE JANICE GARBOLINO MEMORIAL 5K RUN/WALK, SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2014, LAKEVIEW SCHOOL, ROOSEVELT PARK, EDISON, NEW JERSEY. 

Subtle enough for you?  Here is the link to register:  http://www.ymcaofmewsa.org/garbolino5k.  I would apologize for my lack of subtlety except for two things.  First, breast cancer is a bully.  If you are a man fortunate enough to have (a) a mother; (b) a wife; (c) a daughter; (d) a female friend or relative; and/or (e) all of the above, then unsnap your skull cap and wrap your head around this concept.  Breast cancer may come after each and every one of the women you love.  It is a great non-discriminatory killer.  It cannot pretend to give a rat's ass whose home it wrecks and whose life it ravages.  You do not fight back against a bully with little flitting blows.  You stand squarely in front of him and punch him in the larynx, knocking him down over and over, until he finally stops getting back up. 

Second, see Reason #1...

  
-AK

 


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

File Under Professional


The gentleman actor who brought to life Bret Maverick and, thereafter, James Rockford died over the weekend.  James Garner was eighty-six.  I pretend not to know whether it was irony or coincidence that he died on the same weekend that the world marked the forty-fifth anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's walk on the Moon.  I do know that about fifteen years ago, Garner starred with Donald Sutherland, Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones in Space Cowboys as four "geezer" astronauts who save NASA's bacon:
 



Was this film the best one in which Garner ever worked?  Nope.  But just for shits and giggles - if you were someone who ever watched Garner ply his craft then try to name the movie or TV role in which you watched him do his work in which you thought he was anything less than a professional.  I thought about that as I was on my run Sunday morning.  I could not come up with one.  

A million years ago - when I was in law school - I was required to read "Barbarians at the Gate."  It turned out to be an extraordinary read.  I have read it cover to cover on at least two other occasions since. Garner starred opposite Jonathon Pryce in the HBO movie based on the book.  Garner portrayed F. Ross Johnson, the CEO of RJR Nabisco.  


It may be as good a measure of a man as any other - the things that others say about him when he dies.  I half wish that I could be brought back after I kick only for a day or two just to read what I hope shall be the starkly honest - and likely unflattering - things said about me.  The people who worked with Garner - irrespective of at what point in time their two careers intersected - were universally laudatory in their comments.  

Case closed...



-AK

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Beat of the Summer

The Missus and I spent quite an enjoyable Saturday afternoon and evening at the beach.  Our pilgrimage began in Bradley Beach.  Our search for a place to allow this old man to live by the sea took us there.  We extended no offers but we did see a couple of homes that intrigued us - including one for which the term "move-in condition" appears to have been invented.  

After scoping out prospective resting places for Yours truly, we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the hospitality of one of Margaret's customers.  Joe and his wife Ricki own a condo that is right across Ocean Avenue from - well, as its name might have hinted at - the Atlantic Ocean.  Quite a peaceful way to spend a summer's Saturday afternoon.  

Then, later on, we made the great migration south on Route 71 to 'Squan.  Saturday night was the Annual Edition of "The Kennys Being Bennies" that Margaret and I enjoy so much.  One night every summer for as long as I can remember we go to Point Pleasant Beach for the sole purpose of spending a couple of hours on Jenkinson's Boardwalk - soaking up the uniquely Jersey experience that is a Shore Boardwalk on a Saturday night.  Several years ago - most likely against their better judgment in a manner akin to which it has always been against my wife's - the Sisters Kizis began accompanying us.  Then once Jeff joined the travelling party he seemed to sense that I needed a wing man in my campaign to make us all continue to engage in this silliness annually and he has embraced the role with gusto.

So, off we went again on Saturday night, over to the parking lot behind the Kohr's stand ($20.00 to park your chariot) and then up into the maelstrom.  We ate cheese steaks and French fries at Little Mac's (save for Lynne who dined on a veggie burger).  We played Whack-A-Mole where once again this year my wife emerged victorious.  We played twice.  She won twice.  She was awarded a stuffed Dalmatian that she dutifully toted around with her until she found a little boy she deemed worthy of her trophy at which point - with the blessing of his Mom and Dad - she gave it to him.  

It took some detective work but we were able to locate Frog Bog.  For years, a Frog Bog game has been located next to Joey Tomato's Pizza and across the way from the entrance into Jenkinson's Bar.  However, it is there no longer.  When it appeared as if Frog Bog may have been vanquished from the Boardwalk entirely I was one unhappy human being.  Courtesy of the nice young lady working the imitation game "Lobster Flop" we learned that a Frog Bog is now up and running at the Boardwalk's south end - adjacent to the rides.  We all played.  We all lost.  Such is the way of the Bog. 

Once we tasted defeat (channeled our inner fly if you will) at Frog Bog we did battle on the Bumper Cars and then jammed ourselves into one car on the Tilt-A-Whirl in the hopes of generating maximum whirling action.  In that regard we were only partially successful but it mattered not.  We laughed and laughed.  As did the people standing around the ride who watched four adults cram themselves into - and then pry themselves out of - a car that fits three adults uncomfortably.  Lynne who soldiered on in spite of still recovering from a broken ankle recently sustained at one of Atlantic City's soon-to-be former casinos, wisely sat out the Bumper Cars and the Tilt-A-Whirl.  

Finally, as we always do, we ended our sojourn into the American experience at Kohr's.  There is no ice cream that is quite as delicious as Kohr's boardwalk stand ice cream on a summer Saturday night.  Our evening's romp completed and with Aurora rising behind us we trekked back to Lynne's in 'Squan, feeling a little queasy due to the combination of greasy food and stomach-flipping rides but feeling more than a little happy at having yet again enjoyed one another's company in a place we love to visit. 

Like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night...


-AK 





Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Original Whew Tang Clan

Aldrin and Armstrong on the Moon - July 20, 1969

It was forty-five years ago on this very day that two American astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, became the first and second human beings to set foot on the Moon.  There is no truth to the rumor that as Armstrong and Aldrin strolled around on the Moon the third member of the Apollo 11 team, Michael Collins circled the Moon in search of a place to park.  

Collins was the Command Module Pilot and in doing so, while his two teammates were on the Moon stepping and leaping, he orbited the Moon more than once while he was entirely by himself - including forty-eight minutes during each orbit when he was completely out of communication range with NASA or anyone else on Earth for that matter.  In his 2001 autobiography, Collins described how he felt as a feeling of  "awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation".   

Collins also disclosed - in a 2009 interview with The Guardian - that he was very concerned for Armstrong and Aldrin's safety when they were on the Moon.  He was also concerned that, in the event of their deaths on the Moon, he would be forced to return to Earth alone and, as the mission's sole survivor, be regarded as "a marked man for life".  http://www.theguardian.com/science/2009/jul/19/michael-collins-astronaut-apollo11.

Armstrong was apparently as much of a pie-eyed optimist as his crewmate Collins.  In a 1983 Esquire Magazine interview with George Plimpton, Armstrong disclosed that his famous "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" line was something he thought up ONLY after "the Eagle" (the LEM) touched down on the surface of the Moon.  He explained to Plimpton that "I always knew there was a good chance of being able to return to Earth, but I thought the chances of a successful touchdown on the moon surface were about even money—fifty-fifty ... Most people don't realize how difficult the mission was. So it didn't seem to me there was much point in thinking of something to say if we'd have to abort landing."  

Aldrin, New Jersey's contribution to the Apollo 11 mission, followed Armstrong down the ladder and onto the Moon's surface.  He may have been the second human to walk on the Moon but he was the first to eat there.  Surprisingly, the first Moon meal was not pork roll, egg and cheese on a hard roll.  It was a Communion host.  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2012/sep/13/buzz-aldrin-communion-moon.   Hell of a long way to go for a dry piece of wafer but to each his own I suppose.  

Forty-five years ago today, we the people of Earth placed two of our own on the Moon.  Now, it appears as if far too often we cannot get the hell out of one another's way (Hello - we shoot down passenger airliners now for F*ck's sake).  It makes their accomplishment seem perhaps all the more remarkable when one compares how far they went with how far we have failed to go in the four and one half decades since.  

Rather than one small step followed by one giant leap, it is one step up...



...and two steps back.  Get Houston on the line.  We most assuredly have a problem. 

-AK
      

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Staring Out Upon The Unbreachable Sea

A mother prays, "Sleep tight, my child, sleep well
For I'll be at your side
That no shadow, no darkness, no tolling bell,
Shall pierce your dreams this night."
- "Jesus Was An Only Son"

Twenty-three-year old rookie Jersey City Police Department Police Officer Melvin Santiago was laid to rest yesterday. 


Officer Santiago was killed last weekend while he and his partner responded to a report of a burglary at the Walgreen's Pharmacy on the corner of Kennedy Boulevard and Communipaw Avenue.  Officer Santiago was murdered - having been ambushed by his killer who laid in wait for the arrival of the police apparently so that he could kill one or more of them. 

There is no more unnatural phenomenon in the universe than for a parent to bury a child.  It simply runs afoul of the natural order of things.  It is a phenomenon that every parent, including Yours truly, hopes like Hell we never have to endure ourselves.  And it is a phenomenon that is so singularly heartbreaking and gutwrenching that whenever another parent is forced to endure it - as Officer Santiago's mother was yesterday - the empathy that the rest of us feel for the affected parent is palpable.  It matters not whether we know the parent or the child for whom they mourn. 

Much has been said and much has been written this week about Officer Santiago being "Jersey City's Son".  This gallant young man has been appropriately lauded for the life he lived.  Yesterday, his brothers and sisters in the law enforcement community - including countless ones who had never met him and many who had never been to Jersey City, New Jersey before - stood shoulder-to-shoulder paying their respects to Officer Santiago and to the family that mourns him.   At some point however - not today perhaps but sometime in the not-too-distant future - the attention of the media and the world at large will be drawn to other things.  That is not intended as a criticism.  It is simply a reflection upon the way in which life proceeds.  For most of us, an event such as this is a loss.  But for the family of Melvin Santiago, it is a Loss.
 
They shall deal with it forever...  

...as they stand on the shore and look across a sea whose distance cannot be breached.



-AK 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tuxedo Junction

On this very date, twenty-two years ago, two of the finest people I know, the former Christine Hoffman and the now (and always) David Joy were married.  They were married on a historically hot day in a historical (code for "non-airconditioned") little church in Vermont.  Had Doc Rud been aware of this place's capacity to hold heat and to induce perspiration he would have made his wrestlers in need of rapid weight loss spend their summer months there. 

It has been my great privilege and pleasure for too many years to count to have both of them refer to me as 'friend'.  It was my great honor to have stood up next to Dave as his Best Man.  In the interest of full disclosure given that he is almost a foot taller than I am, one had to not only look to Dave's right but also cast one's view downward perceptibly to see me. 

Christine and David's wedding remains the only one at which anyone has ever asked me to stand as the Best Man, a disclosure that I presume is of as little surprise to you as it is to me.  In my defense, I would point out that today is their 22nd anniversary.  Clearly, I did one hell of a job.  Then again, I suppose that they have had at least a bit more to do with their own success than I did. 

All these years later  I smile still at the memories of that day - and really of that entire weekend.  I think of David's mother, Mary, who had morphed effortlessly into the role of "Surrogate Mom" for me and for the third member of our little triumvirate of terror - Andy McElroy - when David and I were matriculating our way through our college years.  David lost his mom not too terribly long ago, which loss I am certain stings every day.  I hope that today though he can think of not only how great a day his wedding day was for him and for Christine but for their parents as well.  The ratification of a job well done on both parts if you will.  As a father who has lived that moment not one time - but two - within the past twelve months I can state with some confidence that it is as special a feeling as a parent can have.  

My congratulations to Christine and David on the journey they have made together to date.  My best wishes to them for continuing success on the journey to come.  They have earned it.  And they most certainly deserve it. 

-AK  

I see my friends these days considerably less than I would prefer - and given my effect on most other people probably just about as little as they would like to make them perfectly content.  I am happy, though, to have had the opportunity to have seen them on that blazing hot July Saturday 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Hollow Sound Of One's Own Steps In Flight

And at the moment
That my camera happened to find you
There was just a trace of sorrow
In your eyes...
- Fountain of Sorrow
Jackson Browne

Tuesday night I did something that I have not done in too many years to remember - I watched a bit of the MLB All-Star Game.  I did so not because I buy into the faux proposition that "This time it counts", which I do not.  I care not that home-field advantage for the World Series is predicated upon the outcome of the game and I surmise that if MLB really cared - and expected its managers and players to do so as well - it would tweak the game in two ways. 

First, the managers of each squad would not be the men whose teams played in previous World Series.  Rather, the managers of each team would be the two men whose teams - at the All-Star Break - have the best record in their respective leagues.  Second, not every team would have to be represented.  If the skipper of the AL All-Stars wanted to fill out his roster and his pitching staff with the roster of his "Best in the League" squad, then he would be encouraged to do so.  After all, this time it counts. 

But I digress.

I watched bits of the game because I am a Yankees fan and I have spent the past two decades or so watching Derek Jeter play with equal parts admiration and respect.  He has not only faithfully manned his position with aplomb since 1996 but has done so while representing his family, the sport in which he earns his living, the city in which he earns it and the franchise that has written him every professional baseball paycheck he has ever earned with dignity.  Derek Jeter has been a great player for the New York Yankees.  More than that, though, he has been great - not only for his sport  - but for sport.  The business of athletics needs men and women like Jeter, who earn the respect of their peers because of the free manner in which he has given it to those who have earned it from him. 

I smiled when he got his two hits - and I care not at all whether Adam Wainwright grooved one to him during his first at-bat.  I loved that Wainwright left his glove on the mound and then stood behind it when Jeter came to bat in the bottom of the first inning not only encouraging the protracted ovation Jeter received but ensuring that it could go on for as long as the voices of those quenched in the water of 10,000 Lakes could sustain it. 


 
I smiled more than just a little watching him play in the field.  I think what I enjoyed most of all was not the leather he flashed out there but that he got to do it while playing alongside Robinson Cano.  I have been a Yankees fan long enough that Cano's departure via free agency this past off-season awakened in my mind's eye the image of Andy Pettitte pulling on a Houston Astros cap shortly after the 2003 World Series.  Halfway through Cano's first season away from the Bronx his absence in the middle of the infield and the lineup is felt with a resonance akin to Andy J.'s absence from the rotation in 2004. 

But I smiled most of all watching Jeter take his "victory lap".  Kudos to John Farrell, the skipper of the Red Sox, for sending him out to play the field and then sending the White Sox shortstop out to replace him, which enabled yet another extended ovation from the crowd.  As Jeter made his way through the dugout, exchanging hugs and congratulations with his All-Star teammates and coaches, he did so in the business-like, brisk manner in which he does most things baseball-related. 

It was when he emerged from the dugout to once again acknowledge the crowd's ovation and to pay his respects to them that his eyes betrayed him - just a little bit.  For a brief moment it appeared as if the solemnity of the moment, which right up until game time last night he sought to dispatch with nonchalance, landed squarely on his shoulders.  It was as if at just that moment in time it occurred to him that maybe, just maybe, this was an event worthy of a little bit of fuss.  And that maybe, just maybe, he is as well...



...He would have been right on both counts. 

-AK

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The French Connection

I make a conscious effort to not delve into things political in this space.  I do so for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that I cling stubbornly to the life lesson imparted to me by my father a lifetime ago regarding one's politics being one's business.  I also do so for what to me is an equally important reason.  I do not choose my friends nor those with whom I have congenial, professional relationships by virtue of political affiliation.  I care less that one is a DEM or a REP and significantly more that one is an AHOLE.  News flash!  Neither of the first two has a monopoly on the third. 

I, in fact, categorize it among my pet peeves the sense of duty pretty much everyone else on the planet has to publicly proclaim his/her political affiliation while simultaneously attempting to use it to beat you about the head and neck.  A man who I have known for most of my life - although I have not seen him in more than thirty years - and who was significantly smarter than I was when were both much younger men and remains significantly far ahead of me presently - has said it much better than I ever could.   He sums up one of the issues plaguing we the people of these United States thusly: 

Gullible American voters have become conditioned to think of politics
 As nothing more than a contact sport, a mean-spirited game,
Instead of a vital and representative means of identifying
and implementing solutions to the country's problems.

That Jeremy West is a smart son of a bitch.  Always was.  Still is.  Regardless of what animal mascot to which you worship, you and I need to pay more attention to him and people like him - who mean what they say and say what they mean...even when it might not make him "popular" with everyone who knows him.  Too damn bad that presently he is an American who calls France his home.

Wonder if we can trade them Jerry Lewis for him?  Cannot hurt to ask. 

-AK   

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

To Serve & To Protect. To Love & To Mourn.

So Nigh is Grandeur
To our Dust,
So Near to God is Man,
When Duty whispers low,
"Thou must",
the Youth replies, "I can."
- Emerson

Melvin Santiago, twenty-three years young and a rookie member of his hometown Jersey City Police Department, was murdered in the line of duty in the wee small hours of Sunday morning.  Officer Santiago and his partner had responded to a call of a robbery in progress at the Walgreen's Pharmacy at the Corner of JFK Boulevard and Communipaw Avenue.  As their marked patrol vehicle entered the parking lot and Officer Santiago opened the front passenger's door in order to exit it, he was shot and killed by a perpetrator who had been awaiting the officers' arrival so that he could ambush them.

The coward who murdered Officer Santiago in cold blood - and who was subsequently put down like the piece of human deritus that he was by other members of the JCPD - apparently told a customer inside of the Walgreen's only minutes earlier that the customer should be certain to watch the TV news because he - the aforementioned coward - was going to do something to make himself famous.  Not in this space.  If you want to know his name, then there are plenty of places where you can read it.  Here shall not be one of them.   

Melvin Santiago graduated from the Police Academy less than eight months ago - in December 2013.  He was a Jersey City kid, having been born and raised there and having spent the last fifteen years of his life living on Stegman Parkway.  Twenty-three years young, he is survived by his mother, his stepfather and a thirteen-year-old brother. 

It is the fear of every parent to outlive our child.  There may well be no greater disturbance to the natural order of the Universe.  It is a fear that one lives with every day - irrespective of what your child or children do to earn a living - but that seems more pronounced when one's child does what Melvin Santiago did.

Without Heroes we are all plain People
And don't know how Far we can Go.
-Bernard Malamud

May we always be able to count among our number those like Melvin Santiago, whose service serves to inspire us to go just one step further and to do just one thing more.




-AK

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sweat Equity

Saturday was this year's edition of the Belmar Five Mile Run.  While it was a few degrees cooler than it has been for past editions of this event, Belmar's weather on Saturday featured a heavy dose of its almost-impossibly thick air.  And while Your truly did not run my best race - not even very close as a matter of fact - it was one hell of a terrific day. 

Margaret and I made the trek to Belmar as we always do with Gidg and Jeff.  This year, again, we were fortunate to see my old high school friend Jerry Della Torre.  As a tremendous bonus, Kara and Russ came to Belmar this year with Jordan and two of the youngsters who run for Russ on his high school cross country team.  Finally, this year our effort was headlined by our rookie of the year - Brooke.  She made the 2014 edition her maiden voyage in the Belmar Five and her husband Mike accompanied her - and accompanied Margaret, Kara and Jordan in cheering for one and all as we ran past.  

At about the three and one-half mile mark the Golden Gazelle - Brooke - ran past this old man as if I was standing still.  And ahead of me was where she stayed for the remainder of the face, finishing a comfortable forty-five seconds ahead.  Jerry and Russ did what Jerry and Russ do in a race of this distance, which is finished about ten minutes ahead of the rest of us.  But all of us finished what we started.  And that, in and of itself, made the race a success.  

But what made the day a success was the chance to do all of it in the company of family and friends.  Every summer, the Belmar Five Mile Run is among my favorite things to do for just that reason.  While there are years such as this one when my result is not what I had hoped, the day never disappoints.  

-AK 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

When My Baby Smiles At Me...




You will forgive the nation of Brazil if "Sunday the 13th" replaces "Friday the 13th" as the calendar's most ominous date.  For a nation whose worst nightmare was not the obscene gobs of money spent constructing the soccer stadiums needed to host the World Cup, which stadiums will likely be used rarely if at all from this date forward but was instead not having the home team be one of the two teams left standing to duke it out in the Final in Rio, today is beyond the pale.

It is on this very day that Germany, which annihilated the hosts in the semi-finals by a 7-1 count (for you non-soccer fans out there who cannot appreciate just how complete a humiliation this was might I suggest you YouTube Denver's Super Bowl effort against Seattle, or the Cowboys, the Redskins or Giants for that matter), will compete for the 2014 World Cup against Brazil's South American arch-enemy, Argentina.  There is no happy ending today for Samba Soccer.  Should the Germans prevail, they will accomplish something that no European side has yet accomplished in the World Cup:  They shall win the Cup on South American soil.  Should Lionel Messi and Argentina rule the day, then Brazil shall have to endure watching Argentina win the World Cup on Brazilian soil and with apologies to Ms. Peron it shall be Brazil that shall be doing the crying. 

I know that my brother Bill and the Connecticut Kennys shall be rooting hard for Germany to win today and while the team that I was pulling for second most of all to win the Cup (after the United States) was sent home on Thursday by Argentina (I really dig the Dutch), all things being equal I shall join him in rooting for Germany.   A German win would make him and the rest of his familial unit quite happy.  That is more than enough for me to put my allegiance on the German side.  

As someone who loves soccer, I hope that it is an entertaining, exciting match.  Four years ago, the Dutch were thoroughly outclassed by the Spanish in a game that was over far before "Full Time" was reached on the clock.  When Argentina triumphed over the Netherlands in the penalty kick shootout on Thursday, the play-by-play announcer on ESPN blurted out, "It's Messi v. the Machine on Sunday for the World Cup!"  A bit over the top?  Perhaps - although I assure you that you have not heard over the top until you have heard Gus Johnson on the mic (Thanks Fox for outbidding everyone for the broadcast rights to World Cup 2018).  Compelling stuff nonetheless.  

Here is to hoping that the game matches the hype.  Game on! 




-AK  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Six Degrees of Perspiration

Time itself is Long,
Even if the Time of Man
is Short...
- Pete Hamill

Here is to hoping that the time of this man is fairly short today...at least this morning when the gun goes off at or about 8:30 to signal the start of the 2014 Belmar Five Mile Race.  http://www.belmar5.com/.  This is one of my favorite events in which I run every summer.  I love it because it is - for me at least - a tough race.  Five miles on a warm (and often times hot), humid July Jersey morning with most of the race being run inland in Belmar, which deprives the runners access to the ocean breeze and the mist that sometimes carries over the beach and out onto Ocean Avenue. 

Two of the finest runners I know - my long-time friend Jerry Della Torre and my brother-in-law Russ Forsythe - are both running this morning and both of them run at a level that is simply beyond my ability to comprehend.  Frankly, it is a level that exists beyond my ability to aspire.  Nothing sort of an ACME rocket strapped to my ass, a favorable tail wind, roller skates and a 100% downhill course shall ever permit me to come within 8 to 10 minutes of their finishing times.  It is nice to know however that they too shall be enduring the conditions today right there with me. 

So too shall my all-time running companera Gidg, Jeff and Brooke.  I know not whether the Running Mahoneys - including last year's overall winner Travis - shall be in Belmar this morning but I hope they are.  For that is one of the other things I love about the Belmar Five:  its social atmosphere.  Perhaps it is the kindred spirit borne out of shared suffering.  I know not.  All I know is that this is a race where everyone runs like hell for five miles and then celebrates like crazy afterwards.

This race is one in which time is not only calculated but it is marked.  It was on this day - Belmar Five Day - last summer that the Missus and I booked The River House in Brielle for Jess and Rob's rehearsal dinner.  Even as I am sweating profusely this morning and feeling every degree of heat and every percentage point of humidity that Jersey has to offer, I will be able to smile.  For this race is now inextricably linked in my mind's eye to a simply extraordinary event, which is the marriage of my son and his beautiful bride.  

Enjoy your Saturday.  I most certainly intend to enjoy mine.  

-AK   

Friday, July 11, 2014

Damned Yankees?

Masahiro Tanaka's elbow has come acropper.  Carlos Beltran brakes his own nose while in the batting cage.  Someone dig the late, not-so-great Oscar Azocar's old uniform and glove out of storage.  It is beginning to look a lot like 1990 'round here.  In the words of the great American philosopher Lawrence Peter Berra, "It gets late early" at and around the big ballpark in the Bronx.  Suddenly, it has gotten very, very late. 

I have a great deal of admiration for Joe Girardi.  I enjoyed the way in which he played the game when he was the catcher on the 1998 World Series-winning team (among my favorite baseball highlights is Girardi hauling ass for all he is worth to third base legging out the triple he launched off of Greg Maddux in the Series-clinching Game Six) and I applaud the way he goes about his business as Yankees manager.  Right about now though I cannot help but wonder how much time he spends every day thinking back over his decision to sign a new contract after the 2013 season - as opposed to perhaps returning to broadcasting or even taking over as the manager of the Chicago Cubs. 

Girardi is a smart man - a Northwestern University graduate in fact.  It is inconceivable to me that Joey G. ever contemplated a scenario under which David Phelps would be his #1 starter.  Laugh not, if Tanaka's elbow brings a premature end to his rookie season in the American League, Phelps damn well better pitch like the ace of the staff.  By default that role will be his to fill.

In this, Derek Jeter's final season in the Bronx the Yankees have been extraordinarily ordinary.  The Hall of Fame football coach (and Jersey guy) Bill Parcells was known - among other things - for his spot on observation that, "You are what your record says you are."  And slightly more than halfway through the season, the Yankees are a .500 team.  Considering that they have scaled those less-than-dizzying heights being carried principally on Tanaka's back the prospect of navigating the season's final seventy or so games without him is something decidedly less than reassuring from where I sit.  

Imagine just how frightening the view will be from the dugout.  And do not think for a minute that Joe Girardi has not thought precisely the same thing.  

He is a smart man after all.

-AK

   

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Be Courageous & Be Brave

I suppose that if I had the patience to do it, I would purchase the piece needed to adapt my iPod to the stereo in my car so that I can listen to the music I listen to, often, when I run while I drive.  I do not.  I have not.  And in all likelihood, I shall not.  Thus, I am a hostage to either whatever cds I have strewn about the passenger compartment or whatever is available on the FM band for my listening pleasure (giving that term the broadest possible definitional interpretation permitted by the Einstein Estate) as I make my trek to Parsippany in the wee small hours of the morning.

More often than not, I flip around the dial in a manner consistent with how one afflicted with adult ADHD should, catching snippets of songs, commercials and the like.  I suppose I should care more than I do.  Candidly, at 4:00 AM it is as much about finding noise to stay awake by as it is anything else. 

Wednesday morning, as I was flipping around the dial, I picked up the latter half of what was one of Suzanne and Rob's favorite songs when they were little:  "Forever Young" by Rod Stewart. 


Apparently, Margaret's ex-husband Bob was a big Rod Stewart fan (whether he is presently is a question to which I would not pretend to know the answer) and the kids used to listen to a lot of Stewart's music on the weekends they spent at Bob's house and while they were out and about in his car.  Margaret and I started dating in the Summer of 1991, which was the summer before Suzanne entered 2nd grade and Rob entered 1st grade.  Personally, Rod Stewart is an artist towards whom I have always been essentially neutral but since the kids were such fans I made it a point to buy a copy of a few of his cassettes to have available to pop into the tape deck of my trusty VW Fox for them to listen to whenever we were out and about in my car.

Stewart played a concert at Continental Airlines Arena in late September 1991.  I had just started my first semester at Seton Hall Law.  Being unconcerned as to what the reaction of other adults might be, I bought four tickets to Stewart's show so that Suzanne, Rob, Margaret and I could go.  At no other time in recorded history have so many people simultaneously called "411" in search of the phone number for DYFS as they did that evening as the four of us strode through the parking lot and into the arena.  Our seats were dreadful.   We sat in the very last row in the arena's upper level directly behind the stage.  The saving grace for us was that Stewart spent about 40% of the show singing in the direction of those of us seated behind him and given just how few "behind the stage" seats there were, when he did so my two felt - for a moment anyway - as if they had front-row seats. 

I smile whenever I hear "Forever Young" on the radio because it immediately takes me back to that evening.  Stewart was on tour in support of whatever record contained that song and when he performed it Suzanne and Rob sang along.  Both knew every word - as they did for most of (if not all of) his set list, which included a number of songs he recorded and made famous years before either of them first appeared. 

When I arrived at the office on Wednesday morning, I came across an item on-line that traced its roots back to one of my all-time favorite things:  Calvin and Hobbes.  If you have a minute or three to spare - and that comic strip occupies a special place in your heart and in your memory as it does in mine - then check it out: http://m.tickld.com/x/this-guy-just-changed-the-way-we-seecalvin-and-hobbes.  I think you shall be happy you did.  I know that I am that I took the time to read it.  

Nice to be reminded - and important to remember - that while the carrying case ages, grays, grows weary and eventually runs out of steam altogether, the soul that serves as its engine need not do so.  Our body shall ultimately betray us.  It means not to but it shall.  Its flaws are inherent and not capable of being engineered out of existence.  It matters not.  

It matters not as long as we remember to feed our soul.  It matters not as long as we do what we must to ensure that while one day Death shall claim us, being "old" never shall...



-AK    

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The New Great American Pastime

Fact:  George Costanza and Andrew R. Rector have never been photographed in the same place at the same time!  I make that proclamation with confidence for one reason - and one reason alone, which is that the George Costanza to whom I refer is not an actual human being but rather the character Jason Alexander portrayed on the late, great Seinfeld television series. 

Among my favorite episodes of that show were the one where  Elaine submits a cartoon to The New Yorker (a pig at a "Complaint" desk) only to discover that she unintentionally ripped off a Ziggy; and George is shown on television at the U.S. Open tennis tournament inhaling ice cream.  He ends up with chocolate all over his face and is held up for ridicule far and wide.  In this, the month in which we celebrate the 25th anniversary of NBC's airing of "The Seinfeld Chronicles" who knew that Jerry and his friends were going to once again provide us with examples of art that life deems worthy of imitation.

On Sunday, April 13, 2013 the Yankees hosted the Red Sox at the Stadium, which game was broadcast on ESPN as that week's edition of Sunday Night Baseball.  Among the fans in attendance was the aforementioned Mr. Rector.  The top of the 4th inning either started at some point past his bedtime or he was experiencing the effects of the tryptophan in the Butterball turkey he had snuck into the Stadium under his hoodie.  Either way, while the Sox were up at bat, Rector was lights out.  And as happens more often than not, one of ESPN's camera folks spotted him, which led to Rector being the third man in the booth (figuratively if not literally) for ninety seconds or so:


Here in 21st Century America no one seems willing or able to take a good joshing.  One would think that a twenty-six year-old man who appears incapable of keeping his eyes open - while sitting in a seat that either he or someone else paid good money for him to sit in - would have at least a modicum of a sense of humor about his own shortcomings.  Nope.  Instead of a sense of humor, young Mr. Rector has everyone's go-to accessory here in the modern day USA.  He has an attorney.

And from whatever spring one originally conjured up the observation about opposites and the power of attraction has never made the acquaintance of Mr. Rector's counsel of choice, Valentine Okwara of Jamaica, N.Y.  Based upon nothing other than the abject inability to use coherent language  - or a reasonable facsimile thereof - in the lawsuit recently filed on his behalf in Bronx County Supreme Court, 2013 admittee to the New York Bar Okwara appears to have attended law school with a zeal equal to that with which Mr. Rector attends Yankees games.  http://www.courthousenews.com/2014/07/07/69299.htm

Typically the biggest problem that plagues the Yankees at their home games is the number of fans dressed up as empty seats.  "Irony thou art a heartless bitch!"  Mr. Rector's lawsuit demands $10 Million as compensation for him having been defamed and for the mental anguish he has suffered.  Considering that the Yankees are paying C.C. Sabathia $23 Million this season and he was about as effective as Rector before he suffered what is feared to be a season-ending (and possibly career-ending) knee injury last weekend,  http://thecelebritycafe.com/feature/2014/07/joe-girardi-admits-cc-sabathia-likely-out-season, it is possible that the Silver Spoon Twins will not consider Rector's demand to be completely ludicrous. 

Perhaps they will try to buy him off and put this whole sordid affair behind them.  Since baseball appears to bore the shit out of him, he might prefer tickets to a different live sporting event. 

Tennis anyone...



-AK