Sunday, November 30, 2014

Of Life and Legacies

At the very least, the absolute minimum,
you'll have a woman you love to grow old with.
- Neal Page

Today puts the bow on a nice, delightfully quiet Thanksgiving weekend.  Truth be told, neither the Missus nor I had a four-day weekend.  Margaret's company was open for business on Friday and while the Firm was closed, one of the many joys associated with the practice of law is always having more things to do than hours in the work day in which to do them.  So, I took advantage of a "dead day" on the calendar to work on several projects that I had not had time to work on prior to Friday.  

Margaret has a lot of fun at her own expense regarding the infrequency with which she cooks.  Conspicuous by its absence from the narrative - always - is her discussion of the fact that she works full-time and spends a considerable amount of her "free" time taking care of either her father or her husband, each of whom is, far more often than we would care to admit, a boy dressed in a man's clothes.  My wife is the dictionary definition of a person who has approximately half as many hours in each day to do the things she feels she needs to get completed.  

Thanksgiving in our home was quiet this year.  While I thought we might at some point in the afternoon or evening see the transplanted Texas Tornado and Ryan, we did not.  Dinner ended up being just Margaret, Joe and me.  And it was simply terrific.  Other than some very limited cutting or carrying of one thing or another by either Joe or me, Margaret put together the entire feast.  It was pitch perfect from start to finish.  

It was in fact the fitting ending to what was - for me - a very happy Thanksgiving.  I started my day by taking part (for the 3rd time) in the 4th Annual Patanella's Turkey Trot 5K Run/Walk in Green Brook.  I remember four Thanksgivings ago - in 2011 - when there was a spirited but rather small turnout for the inaugural edition.  This Thursday, there were close to eight hundred participants altogether, including a reported 600+ runners in the 5K.  We ran under gunmetal gray skies at 8:00 am and warmth was not - I assure you - the word of the day.  It mattered not at all.  This is an exceptionally well-organized, community event that - for as long as the Missus and me call 'NTSG home - I shall look forward to taking part in annually.  Thus far, the only time I have missed it was in 2012 when we spent Thanksgiving as Jess and Rob's guests in Colorado.  

I also carved out a bit of time Thursday morning to watch what is one of my favorite, under-appreciated Thanksgiving/holiday movies.   Steve Martin is - for my money - a national treasure and seeing the late John Candy in this film - given something to do above and beyond that which he was normally called upon to do on-screen - always reminds me of what a great talent he was.  It saddens me that Hollywood never quite figured out how to make proper use out of him...

 ...plus, the ending gets me every time.  Every damn time.  

-AK 


Saturday, November 29, 2014

One Final Shuffle

It has been a rough year for the Alma mater on the collegiate gridiron.  A season that once upon a lifetime ago appeared to hold at least the possibility of some success grinds to a halt early this afternoon at Folsom Field.  If the Buffs do something they have yet to do this season and defeat a fellow member of the Pac-12, then they shall finish their twelve game schedule with three wins.  A defeat to Utah, which is more than a distinct possibility, will make 2014 the second time in the past three seasons when the once-mighty Buffaloes have lost at least ten games.  Inasmuch as the Buffs have not had a winning season in a decade, it is not possible to chalk up their recent absence of success to mere bad luck.  They have simply been bad.

Today, however, marks the final game for twenty-one members of the University of Colorado Buffaloes.  For many of these young men, today shall be the final time they shall play an organized game in a sport that has likely dominated a considerable portion of their relatively young lives.  Six of the twenty-one student-athletes who shall wear the Colorado colors for the final time today have - over the course of the past five years -  endured three different coaching staffs.   Two of the twenty-one, Tony Jones and Terrel Smith, are Jersey guys who, much as I did a generation-plus ago, went West as a young man for college.  Both have already earned one college degree and are working their way towards a second.  While neither has a future in the NFL, both seem more than adequately prepared to succeed at the next level.

As kids, a lot of us dream of being star athletes.  In the movie that plays on a continuous loop in our mind’s eye, we make big plays in big games.  We compete for championships. For this group, the real-life version of the film has not played out that way. On-field successes proved to be few and far between.

All any of us can really control is the effort we exert doing whatever it is we do.  As a general rule, the outcome is beyond our control.  This group of twenty-one young men has not enjoyed a great deal of success while following Ralphie out onto the field at Folsom.  Each of them, however, has given an honest, best effort.  They have played with clear eyes and full hearts.  However, because they play in the real-life world of the Pac-12 Conference and not in the fictional world of the Dillon Panthers, far more often than not they have lost the games that they have played.  

As a proud member of the University of Colorado Class of 1989, I thank them all for their effort and I wish them well.  No one wanted them to succeed any more than each and every one of them did.  It simply was not meant to be.  That lack of success however is neither a measure of what they have done nor what they shall do as they head off to tackle whatever next great adventure awaits each of them.  

Shoulder to Shoulder Now.  Shoulder to Shoulder Forever.  

-AK 



Friday, November 28, 2014

America's Third Rail

Race is America's third rail.  As this nation wobbles its way towards its two hundred and fiftieth birthday a decade or so from now, it remains so.  One hundred and fifty years, give or take, removed from the War between the States, which saw America tear itself asunder over race, it remains as volatile and divisive an issue on November 28, 2014 as it was on December 20, 1860.  

I did not bear witness to the events of August 9, 2014 that resulted in the death of an eighteen-year-old man named Michael Brown.  I possess no firsthand knowledge of what young Mr. Brown did or did not do in what proved to be the final minutes of his life.  I possess no firsthand knowledge of what Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson did or did not do during the fateful encounter between these two strangers that resulted in Officer Wilson killing Mr. Brown.  

And you know what?  Neither do you.  Neither does anyone else.  

I have been practicing law for more than two decades.  A component part of my practice is the defense of local law enforcement officers in civil rights actions.  I am fortunate to have a person I love as much as anyone in the world serve the people of these United States, including me, as a federal law enforcement officer.  Do I have a pro-law enforcement bias?  Indeed I do.  Albeit for reasons that are more personal than professional - and significantly so.  

I availed myself of the opportunity the other evening - and again on Wednesday afternoon - to read the testimony that Officer Wilson provided to the grand jury on September 16, 2014.   Am I willing to accept that his sworn testimony as to what occurred was truthful?  I am.  Am I as willing to accept that his sworn testimony as to what occurred was entirely accurate?  I am not.  And I am not for reasons having nothing to do with the veracity of Officer Wilson and everything to do with the way in which the mind of the average person reacts when confronted with sudden, extreme, life-threatening stress, which is precisely the type of stress that Officer Wilson described encountering on August 9, 2014.  

It has been said that, "Law is not justice and a trial is not a scientific inquiry into truth.  A trial is the resolution of a dispute."  The source of that quote, Edison Haines, also rather famously observed that, "With every  civil right there has to be a corresponding civil obligation."  Regrettably the latter speaks of a precept lost with equal alacrity to the miscreants in Ferguson, Missouri who looted and rioted and destroyed businesses owned by African-Americans and Caucasians alike during their multi-night, planned protests and to those who rejoiced at the grand jury's decision.  Fools everywhere and on both sides of the issue.  

Respectfully, what is needed on this issue is less Al Sharpton, less Ted Nugent and significantly more Ben Watson.  Of the three, only Mr. Watson appreciates the observation of a very wise man that, "Very often the difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the habit" and just how dangerously far past the former we the people of these United States are when it comes to race.  

Race is America's third rail.  

-AK 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Fanatics & The Faint-Hearted Need Not Apply

Thanksgiving 2014 has arrived in America.  And all is not happy on the home front.  Far from it in fact.  We were reminded again this week just how far we have yet to come in the critical area of race relations.  Although our criminal justice system is one that is dominated by ever-changing and interlocking shades of gray, Monday night demonstrated once again that far too many of us see only white or only black.  Having elevated color to a standing above "right" and "wrong", many on opposite sides of the debate reacted angrily, yet predictably, to the news out of middle America.   The more we change, the more it seems we stay the same. 

This past Saturday, the 22nd of November, was the fifty-first anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  Had President Kennedy not been murdered on the streets of Dallas that afternoon, he would have given an address that evening at a dinner in Austin, Texas.  Presidential historian Michael Beschloss - a man whose brain would have to be considerably smaller than it is to fit inside of my head - posted to his Twitter account on Saturday the final couple of paragraphs from President Kennedy's never-delivered remarks.  

You may choose - as I did - to read them aloud (even if only to yourself) so that you experience them in the manner in which they were originally intended to be experienced.  And when you do, you may ask yourself, as I have on more than one occasion after reading them, whether what President Kennedy was prepared to say that night, fifty-one Novembers ago, does not in fact resonate across the canyons of time and have as much bearing on life now as it did upon life then...

Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed.  And our duty as a Party is not to our Party alone but to the nation and, indeed, to all mankind.  Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom

So let us not be petty when our cause is so great.  Let us not quarrel among ourselves when our Nation's future is at stake.  

Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause - - united in our heritage of the past and in our hopes for the future - - and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.

A worthwhile thought for any given Thursday.  Especially so on Thanksgiving.  

May you and yours enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving...

...and an equally safe and happy tomorrow.

-AK 


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

They Shoot Horses Here, Don't They?

The powers that be who run Anheuser-Busch InBev, the brewing conglomerate that brings those of us who drink beer such middling to downright awful beer, including but not limited to Budweiser and Bud Light, have decided that the reason for their products' declining market share as well as its status as a sudsy pariah among beer drinkers 21 to 27 is its reliance upon its team of Clydesdales in its advertising.  

You did not misread the preceding paragraph.  According to an article that appeared on the Wall Street Journal's web site on Sunday, November 23, 2014, the brewer has decided that its non-existent market share among that age group of beer drinkers is due to its reliance on dated advertising.  Yep.  It turns out that it is all the fault of the Clydesdales.   

As someone decidedly older than your newly-targeted demographic who has not willingly consumed a Budweiser product since I was somewhere between age 21 and age 27, allow me to shed some light on what your problem actually is, Anheuser-Busch and in doing so, allow me to paraphrase the Ragin' Cajun James Carville, 

IT IS THE BEER, STUPID! 

Once upon a time you might very well have been the "King of Beers".  No longer.  There are far too many excellent small and even craft-sized brewers of beer in these United States - hell in Fort Collins, Colorado alone (a city of approximately 150,000 people) there are more than one dozen - for people to waste their hard-earned money drinking bad-tasting, poor-quality beer.   I, for one, would much rather enjoy something brewed by the Boston Beer Company, the Brooklyn Brewery, Leinenkugel's, Dogfish or either of my two favorite Fort Collins breweries:  New Belgium or Odell than anything Budweiser brews. 

If it is any consolation to you, your brains are not getting beaten in by fancy imports.  Nope.  Brewing excellent, high-quality beer has become an American pastime from coast-to-coast.  Once upon a time, when you were the 800 pound gorilla on the block, you could sustain your market share irrespective of the caliber of swill you produced.  Those days are long gone.  The likelihood of them coming back is very, very slim.  

Blaming the Clydesdales for Anheuser-Busch's declining market share is a move straight out of the Don Lemon playbook.   The problem is most assuredly not those majestic animals or the use of them in some of the most memorable pieces of advertising that have been aired on American television in the 21st century, including but not limited to this one:




Until Anheuser-Busch confronts headlong the fact that what spelled disaster for them was not reliance upon, in their advertising, the horses pulling their beer wagons but - instead - the quality of the product being carried on those wagons, the battle they are losing is one that they shall continue to lose.  And they shall continue to lose it for the most American of all reasons...

...they deserve to.  

-AK 



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Never-Ending Popularity Contest

As if the latter half of November did not offer so much to love in other ways, such as bare trees and mountains of leaves piled atop every conceivable surface, just for shits and giggles this year here in the State of Concrete Gardens we have added temperature fluctuations of thirty-plus degrees in spans of less than forty-eight hours.  Nothing says "Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!" quite so well as bringing the gift of bronchitis to Aunt Edna's table.  

The Missus and I took advantage of the oddly warm temperature on Sunday to put up our outdoor Christmas lights.  But for one brief test - once darkness fell - to see how they looked and what type of adjustments we needed to make - they were kept off and shall remain so until after Thanksgiving.  We cast an eyeball on the long-range forecast for Thanksgiving weekend and - at least from the vantage point of Sunday - it looked to be at best a mixed bag.  We decided that the better course of action was to hang them on a day when hypothermia was not an option than to wait until after Thanksgiving.  

We applied the same theory, in reverse, in January when we took them down to signal the end of the 2014 Christmas season.  As Margaret napped on New Year's Day and a large percentage of the planet attempted to recover from the first hangover of the new year, I worked outside on a fairly temperate day, took down the lights and put them away for the year.  More than a few of my neighbors looked at me as if I had punched Santa Claus in the mouth in the course of sleigh-jacking him.  When the "Polar Vortex" swept into New Jersey in mid-January and took up residency until late March, my actions seemed to make a lot more sense to more than just a handful of them - standing out there as they were dismantling Christmas displays in brutal weather conditions.  

As WPK, Sr. once told me when I was a boy, "Life is not a popularity contest.  And if it is, we are not winning."  Those words were true when he spoke them and remain so almost three and one half decades after his death.  Truth be told, much like my old man I gave up trying to win a long, long time ago.  

Life is a decidedly smoother ride when you have no soul.

Take my word for it.  After all, I am a lawyer...

-AK   

Monday, November 24, 2014

Abbreviated and Appreciated

It is a Monday kind of, sort of masquerading as a Wednesday serving as it does as the first day of what shall be for a significant number of us a three-day work week.  If you are a person who has to work on Thursday because you are employed in a retail establishment, then I have great empathy for you.  If you are an individual whose decision to spend a portion of your Thanksgiving away from your family while requiring someone else to do likewise so they can ring up your purchase of "essentials", then I have great loathing for you.  

Kudos to my long-time friend Owen McCarthy and the other good folks who serve as the governing body in Manasquan, New Jersey for putting together a damn fine event on Saturday.  After three decades of Turkey Trots, the couple who organized the annual tradition opted out of doing it.  In a relatively short amount of time, a lot of people worked together to drop the "1st Annual Manasquan Turkey Run" into the Trot's "Saturday before Thanksgiving" place on the calendar.   On a beautiful late November Saturday morning on which to run, several hundred people participated in the 5-mile run.  By the time I made it into Leggett's post-race, it appeared as if at least as many people were there participating in the post-race celebration.  

A hell of a nice way to kick off the final week of November...

...and the three-day work week is not breaking my heart either. 

-AK 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Worst Sign of the Zodiac

I am tired of cancer.  I am especially tired of cancer screwing with the lives of good people.  

Cancer has invaded the home of my oldest sister Evan and her husband Glenn.  

All of us who know and love them know that cancer has phucked with the wrong family.  Evan is a Kenny.  If a Kenny knew how to run from a fight, then maybe just maybe the six Kenny siblings would be able to all spend quality time in one location without running the risk of injuring one another.  All one needs to know about my brother-in-law is that he is Evan's soul mate.  The next backwards step either takes shall be their first one. 

One strong couple.  One tough fight.  Evan has Glenn's back...

...and all of the rest of us have Evan's.



-AK

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Just Us HobGobblers

For the past three decades, on the Saturday immediately preceding Thanksgiving, the Town of Manasquan has played host to its annual Five-Mile Turkey Trot.  Sadly, the Turkey Trot, much like all good things, has come to an end.  


Do not let the bedazzled chapeau fool you.
The Trot did not last forever. 

Thankfully, while the Trot may be dead, long live the Manasquan Turkey Run!  Sure the name is a bit off-putting but perhaps by this time next year its participants shall have grown accustomed to it or the race itself will have taken on a more appropriate sobriquet.  What is important is that with the demise of the Trot, a new event has sprung to life and, in taking the Trot's place on the calendar, has volunteered to run a mile or five in its history-laden shoes.  

Last time I checked, which admittedly was more than twenty-four hours ago, the weather in which to Trot/Run this morning in 'Squan seemed fairly pleasant for the second to last Saturday in November. The Trot had been one of my favorite rites of Autumn.  I shall do something that is admittedly more than slightly out of character for me and go on record as saying that I have a very good feeling about this new event.  

Irrespective of its name, its purpose remains the same:  A bit of exercise and a day spent in the company of some excellent friends.  Whenever that is on the menu, I shall order it every time.  


-AK 

Friday, November 21, 2014

It Is Not All Sausages and Fingers

"Slow down you crazy child.
You're so ambitious for a juvenile.
But then if you're so smart,
tell me why are you still so afraid."
-"Vienna" 
Billy Joel

I believe that sometimes the hardest thing for someone to do is to do nothing.  I do not mean "do nothing" in the sense of being lazy.  Rather, I speak of not giving in to the temptation to do "something, anything" when disorder begins to become the order of the day.  

It is hard for us humans, I reckon, to do nothing.  No less of a man than President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, for whom tomorrow marks the fifty-first anniversary of his murder on the streets of Dallas, Texas, implored his fellow Americans to "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Americans are persons of action apparently.  Morbid obesity notwithstanding. 

One must be careful though to not confuse activity with action.  The two concepts, while similar in certain respects, are neither identical nor interchangeable.  More often than we tend to realize, I suspect, in response to an uptick in the level of stress around us we ramp up our own activity level. We do so because, presumably, doing something is better than doing nothing.  

Maybe, maybe not.  

I have spent the entirety of my life preaching to anyone who shall listen or who is not able to move quickly enough to get out of earshot with dispatch that panic is the one human emotion I shall never understand.  It is entirely and absolutely wasteful.  It blinds one from the task at hand, which is addressing and dealing with whatever it is that prompted depression of the panic button to begin with, and it causes one to waste energy.  Any and all energy devoted to the task of panicking is energy that is not available to attack the original and (guess what) still-existing problem.  Panic may constitute activity. It never, ever constitutes action.  

Thus, a fair percentage of the time the best course of action to take when it feels as if the world around your is beginning to spiral out of control is simply to step back, inhale deeply and take stock of what is going on.  Riding out the storm shall serve you well.  Far better in fact than trying to out-accelerate the then-accelerating chaos. 

Slow down, crazy children.  Slow the hell down...


-AK
   

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tenses Past and Present

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 it still means quite a lot to you presently.

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


Something that the son (f/k/a "the Boy Child") shared online earlier this week jogged my memory back to this time of year, six Novembers ago.  Rob, who has far more steel in his spine than Yours truly shall ever possess, completed the rather arduous four-plus months of training that he needed to successfully complete simply so that he could have the opportunity to take his first substantive steps on the path that he had chosen for his Life and then, what seemed to be nothing more than a moment or two later, he was off in pursuit of that next great adventure.  

In a span of less than two weeks, and at the ripe old age of 22, he trekked north from Georgia to New Jersey and then west from the State of Concrete Gardens to Wyoming.  I shared the first leg of that journey with him.  We spent approximately three days traveling "home" from Georgia and allowed Washington DC to envelop roughly half of our travel time.  It was cold this week six years ago - almost as cold as it has felt in these parts the past several days - but under gunmetal gray skies DC was bustling and preparing for history.   Preparations were already well underway for President Obama's Inauguration.  We walked all over and used the Metro to hopscotch our way around town.  

As I recall it, we did not really have a plan per se.  We simply found a place to park the car and then started our self-navigated tour.  At some point we arrived home in New Jersey.  A few short days later, we said our goodbyes as he and Margaret headed west to Wyoming - and to the rest of his life.  

If I had better vision, then perhaps I could have seen then the man he would become in just six short years.  The beautiful young woman who became his bride in June was not then known to him.  If he thought for one moment six years ago that all he was living through then was the most significant changes he would ever live through, Life has graced him with the ability to laugh at his own naivete.  It also graced him with the ability to be ready for the really big stuff, such as Jess and marriage and two people living one life together, by giving him those less tall, but no less important initial hurdles to clear. 

LIfe is indeed a forward-looking experience.  But every now and again, a look back is just what the doctor ordered.  A reminder that even in a time as perpetually bleak as the latter half of November when the world appears to be dying, great things are indeed happening all around us.  

-AK     

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

If Ever We Were Fab

A lifetime ago - when I was a small boy and before my father died - my parents had a "summer" home.  It was nestled up in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania, in Luzerne County, in the little piece of Neverland known as Harvey's Lake.  

A rite of summer was our entry onto the lake - a 9 1/2 mile, natural body of water with but a single, two-lane roadway encircling it - at Joe's Grotto.  Even as a little kid, I knew what bad pizza was.  I renewed my acquaintance with it every time we ate pizza from Joe's Grotto.  It was adjacent to Joe's that the town fathers had affixed the Welcome to Harvey's Lake sign.  Each summer as we passed it, Kelly would read the sign's words aloud, pause for half a click and then add "now please set back your clocks 200 years."   Every year, all of the rest of us kids would laugh and laugh.  Dad would fix that "If I could reach you where you are sitting Mister" stare on Kelly while gripping the steering wheel so tightly in both hands we thought for a just a moment he might actually burst.  We would then make the left turn at the STOP sign, and begin the trek around the lake to our parents' home. 

It mystified me as a small boy - and the youngest of six children - how exactly my parents afforded a summer home.  For quite a considerable amount of time, Mom's primary job responsibility was within the four walls of the familial home and it was not until I reached either the 5th or 6th grade that Mom was able to matriculate back into the "outside of the home" workforce.  I know not how my father did what he did as the sole wage-earner, although as I grew older I developed a far better understanding about why his favorite place to visit was the island of Manhattan and why - try as he might - he could not persuade his heart to power his whole self for longer than fifty-seven years or so.

One of the things that was a fixture at Harvey's Lake was Hanson's Amusement Park.  My single clearest memory of Hanson's was the rickety old wooden roller coaster that was perched somewhat precariously over the two-lane roadway that separated the amusement park from the lake.   Although I recall having read somewhere years ago that Hanson's had closed down, I did not realize that it went out of business thirty years ago.  Dad died on May 31, 1981.  I recall making a trip up to Harvey's Lake for a couple of days that summer with Mom to check on the house and to visit Uncle Jim and Aunt Dot.  To my memory, I never set foot on the lake again after that summer.  

This past weekend, B-O-B shared with me a link to a news story documenting the demolition of the final remaining pieces of Hanson's Park.  If I understood the story correctly, the property that once housed Hanson's has been sold to a developer.  The developer intends to build homes on the property.  Harvey's Lake being the anti-mecca that it is, the developer's plan calls for the construction of four new homes.  

Maybe, just maybe, when people pass the Welcome to Harvey's Lake sign, they no longer are compelled to set their clocks back 200 years.  Anything is possible.  Do not feel obligated to take my word for it.  Stop in at Grotto Pizza and check it out for yourself.  If you are feeling hungry enough, you might even decide to have a slice.    

-AK 


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Muscle Memory

Too much nonsense on the brain last week.  Too much clutter.  Was off a step pretty much all week.  As a result, not once last week - from Monday through Friday - did I run.  Not even one time.  Running is normally the elixir for my troubled mind so when there is enough noise going on between my ears that I cannot bring myself to lace up the shoes and run towards silence, it is truly not a happy time. 

Fortunately, this weekend I quieted the voices in my head long enough to get in some much-needed roadwork.  Good for the soul and for the sole.  Running on and over the streets of 'NTSG I logged nineteen miles.  For some, not much of a workout at all.  For me, a pretty solid weekend's work.  

This time of year there are more leaves on the ground than there are in the trees.  As a runner, using sidewalks where and when available to make life easier for drivers and safer for me, this is truly the "leap of faith" time of year.  Presently it is leaves and shortly thereafter it shall be snow and ice.  Whichever occupies the sidewalk prevents me - the person scooting along topside - from knowing what danger, if any, may be lurking below.  

While it is a decidedly inexact science, to a large degree I rely upon muscle memory to avoid stepping onto - and into - sidewalk slabs in need of repair.  I tend to run over the same roads - albeit not every day and not every time I go out.  During this time of the year, I rely in large part on the information my brain has gathered over the course of the past six months regarding the condition of the sidewalks and the streets.  I rely, as well, on my brain's ability to remember if a particular area was in disrepair and to bring that memory up out of storage with at least one stride to spare before I encounter it again.

It was biting cold both Saturday and Sunday - especially so on Sunday when I went for my run at about 8:00 am.  Saturday I ran with music.  Sunday, I did not.  I was accompanied by the sound of my breathing, the sound of my footsteps and the naturally-occurring ambient sounds, such as barking dogs and passing cars.  I did not see a lot of people out and about (other than those hardy folks taking their dog for a walk) but I did run past a couple of houses where kids (in both cases it was a boy) were shooting baskets.  

Towards the end of my run, I ran past a house where a young boy on the front lawn was doing something I did for endless hours as a child:  He was playing football by himself.  I picked him up in my field of vision from far enough away that I was able to see him throw a couple of "self-passes" and execute two pretty nice tackles...on himself.  Although I was approximately eight miles in - and feeling more than a little tired -when I passed by his house, I felt my face forming an ear-to-ear grin as I ran by him, which grin I wore for the rest of my run.       

I do not know if I shall ever again see that young man doing just what he was doing when I passed by him on Sunday morning.  I hope I do.  If not, then I suppose I shall simply have to rely upon muscle memory to remind me of what I saw and where I was when I saw it.  

I reckon that shall be fairly easy to do.  

-AK 

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Great Mark Twain Ran Over The Lazy Fox Assh*les

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool
Than to open it and remove all doubt. 
- Mark Twain 

Bruce Springsteen participated - along with a number of other musical acts, actors, journalists and public figures in the Concert for Valor on Veteran's Day, which took place on the Mall in Washington, D.C.  Springsteen performed a three-song, solo acoustic set ("Promised Land", "Born in the U.S.A." and "Dancing in the Dark") in the back half of the evening's program.  It was, however, his guest shot - along with Dave Grohl - during the Zac Brown Band's set that had the tongues of ignorants (and ignorance) wagging on Wednesday. 

Tuesday night, Springsteen, Grohl and the ZBB performed "Fortunate Son", a classic piece of rock and roll originally recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival and written by CCR's leader John Fogerty.  Wednesday morning, in a number of places, but most pointedly at the home of "Fair and Balanced" coverage, Springsteen and company were attacked not for the quality of the performance (personally, I thought Bruce's voice sounded raspy as hell but that he nailed his guitar solo) but for having performed an "anti-soldier" song.  Ainsley Earhardt of Fox News reported that Springsteen had, "Taken shots at the red, white and blue" while her co-host Steve Doocy contributed this gem, "Is it really appropriate to be performing it in front of so many vets who volunteered to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan."  "Fortunate Son" is, in the gospel according to Doocy, "a song that was intended to be an anti-war anthem."    

If only - in the era of the "Inter Webs" - there was a way for a responsible journalist to check with the source (and by that I mean the Mutha Fukka who wrote the goddamned song) about his motivation in writing it and what his song meant to him.  If only John Fogerty was still alive to ask directly.  What's that you say, there is a way to check?  What's that you say, he is still alive?  Apparently the Murdoch News Network spent all of its available money on illegally tapping cell phones of celebrities and public figures and had Zero Dollars left over to run a "GOOGLE" search.

Here is what John Fogerty had to say

"Fortunate Son is a song I wrote during the Vietnam War over 45 years ago. As an American and a songwriter, I am proud that the song still has resonance. I do believe that its meaning gets misinterpreted and even usurped by various factions wishing to make their own case. What a great country we have that a song like this can be performed in a setting like Concert for Valor. 

Years ago, an ultraconservative administration tried to paint anyone who questioned its policies as 'un-American'. That same administration shamefully ignored and mistreated the soldiers returning from Vietnam. As a man who was drafted and served his country during those times, I have ultimate respect for the men and women who protect us today and demand that they receive the respect that they deserve."

Fogerty was drafted in 1996, served Stateside in an Army Reserve unit and then was discharged in 1967.  Approximately one week before the Concert for Valor, Fogerty himself performed "Fortunate Son" on the White House lawn for a PBS Special saluting our military.  

My personal favorite Fox News contributor to this little tempest is Anna Kooiman, who if not for her age, might have served as the inspiration for a central character from a 1982 Don Henley song.  Ms. Kooiman said this on-air, "You're doing this for an audience of veterans, and it's almost a slap in the face.  These producers should have known their audience and known what they were getting with people like Bruce Springsteen."    

In fact, Anna, the producers of the Concert for Valor did know what they were getting when they invited Springsteen to perform.  

They were getting a performer who - for each of the eight years that Bob Woodruff has put together his "Stand Up for Heroes" benefit in New York City - has contributed his time and his talent to Woodruff's cause and to the Bob Woodruff Foundation.  If you paid attention last Tuesday night, might have heard Bob Woodruff say that during his introduction of Springsteen.  



-AK 

  







Sunday, November 16, 2014

Question of the Day...

Is a Dream a Lie if it don't come True,
Or is It something Worse...
- Bruce Springsteen

Something to ponder on a November Sunday morning.  What is the answer?  It is whatever you believe it to be I suppose.  I have my own opinion.  I shall not poison the well by sharing it.  

Enjoy your day.  

There is nothing else to see here...

...well, except for this: 




OK, now there really is nothing else to see here.

-AK 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bye, Bye, Blackbird...

I wholly grasp the concept that each day is the same length, which means therefore that each week is of equal length.  I grasp it.  I do not necessarily accept it.  This week has been one that has felt as if it has dragged on for interminable amount of time.  We have finally arrived at Saturday, a destination that my little brain tells me feels as if it took forever to get here. 

I am - and I readily acknowledge it - a creature of my environment.  I loathe this time of year.  The steady, relentless descent into darkness is upon us.  Certain sections of the State of Concrete Gardens saw the season's first snow on Thursday night.  Snow in mid-November.  While I suppose it beats the snot out of Hurricanes in late October, which we have also been the recipients of in the not-too-distant past, it is the type of weather-related development that takes the starch right out of me.  Go figure, right?  I seem so naturally sunny and upbeat.

I was in a particularly pissy mood when I finally reached home on Thursday night.  On the heels of an evening commute that was such a royal clusterf*ck that it tripled the length of my normal drive time, I stepped into the kitchen just in time to witness my 82 year-old father-in-law (who has never met a decibel level he cannot exceed) demonstrate his new technique to get Rosalita, our six-year-old miscreant Shetland Sheepdog, to be quieter.  The technique appeared to call for him to shout, "Quiet!" to the top of his considerable lungs while simultaneously, and loudly, banging his walking stick off of any flat surface.  Whether the dog in fact stopped barking or simply was unable to bark at a level capable of being heard above the man-made din I know not.  I know simply that I was not in the mood to hear The Dog Deafener demonstrate his latest technique.  

I expressed my displeasure - likely more loudly and more forcefully than I should have - to my father-in-law and to my wife.  I realized that I might have said too much when I saw the looks on their faces when words finally stopped coming out of the center of mine.  Being my father's son, in lieu of apologizing, I stalked off to another part of the house.  

As luck would have it, Thursday night was a night when one of Margaret's friends popped by on her way home from work to hang with the Missus.  Sometimes there is no corner quite like a neutral corner.  And while I was luxuriating in mine, flipping back and forth between the New York Rangers game and The Big Bang Theory I came across something on the old "Inter Web" that gave me the strength to unwedge my head from my ass.  And to do so with dispatch.  

Ashley Picco was twenty four weeks pregnant with her son, Lennon James, when she died suddenly in her sleep on November 8, 2014.  Doctors at Loma Linda University Hospital in California delivered Lennon James by emergency C-Section.  Her husband Chris, now a young widower, was faced not only with the death of his bride but also with the fact that his newborn son would not survive.  

While carrying Lennon, Ashley Picco observed how much he responded whenever his daddy played his guitar and sang to him.  So, in the final days of baby Lennon's life, Chris Picco played his guitar and sang for his son as little Lennon fought to live, which fight he lost on November 11, 2014.  This family's story is a remarkable one.   

And if this does not break your heart at least a little, then upon your arrival in the Emerald City be certain to ask the Wizard to fit you for one.  I watched it for the first time Thursday night - as I was stewing in my own juices over the day that I had endured.  It brought my self-pity party to an abrupt end.  It also allowed me - in less than three minutes - to bear witness to as incredible a feat of strength as I have ever seen.   

I do not have the steel in my spine to walk a mile in Chris Picco's shoes.  But seeing him do what he is doing to cover the ground in them himself served as a reminder to me that it is important to keep straight those things that actually matter as opposed to those that are merely white noise...

...and that the sound of a blackbird singing in the dead of night is most certainly the former. 

-AK 


Friday, November 14, 2014

Slainte

A number of things percolating on my little brain this morning but none of them more important than this:  Suzanne and Ryan closed on the purchase of their first home yesterday afternoon.  Less than eighteen months after they married and less than five months after they migrated back to the land of their birth from the land of big and bright nighttime stars, they are officially "Homeowners".  

The best part of being a parent is watching your children grow into adulthood.  No two journeys are the same.  Each has its own triumphs and travails.  To be afforded the opportunity to simply watch those you love most of all attain something that is of paramount importance to them...

...well, it simply gets no better.  




-AK 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Pilgrimage Towards Christmasville

Thanksgiving.  The original American holiday.  Truth be told, we invented the sucker and did so so long ago in fact that back in the day the only people sitting around the table who were Americans were Native Americans.  The pasty-faced white folks?  Pilgrims.  America, the nation, was a century and a half away from being born.   

Given how few things are American-made these days, one might think that we the people of these United States might guard our homemade holiday with a certain fervor.  One would be wrong.  Thanksgiving has been reduced to a mere mile marker.  It has been converted from a Day of Thanks into the jumping-off point for full-scale Christmas-related, consumerism insanity.  

Among the never-ending list of things that piss me off, this occupies a rung fairly high up on the ladder.  Not because I have any great affection for turkey or cranberry sauce.  I do not.  Rather because the collective evisceration of Thanksgiving in the name of crass consumerism, to me, speaks volumes about the lack of depth that permeates 21st century America.  It is why a person you stop on the street is more likely to know the name of the second-oldest Kardashian than he or she is to know the name of the second man to ever walk on the Moon.  It is why that same person is more apt to be able to name more members of the cast of Duck Dynasty than members of the President's Cabinet - and to prove to you that it is not a Republican thing or a Democrat thing feel free to choose whichever President you want.  The result will likely be the same irrespective of political affiliation. 

I write in this space every day.  A lot of days what appears here is, in fact, pretty dreadful.  Occasionally it rises to the level of mediocrity.   It is my own shortcomings that has me on the lookout always for written words that I find express something that I have tried to say and/or am trying to say and have done so in a way that far exceeds my limited skills.   It is for this reason that ESPN's Trey Wingo caught my attention with this Tweet on Sunday: 




Well said, Mr. Wingo.  Well said.  Ladies and gentlemen, feel free to continue on to Christmasville without me.  Do not worry about me.  I shall catch up with you...  

...Eventually.

-AK 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Arrival at the Hole's Bottom?

Mistakes are to be highlighted. 
You can't have the Light
Without the Dark. 
- John Hiatt

Among the things that I consider to be insufferable in today's world is the proliferation of "Hey! Look at Me!" antics.  It is a problem, particularly, in sports at every level.  And for years it has seemed to be a bottomless hole of one inane, self-congratulatory act after another.  However, maybe just maybe this past Saturday night we reached the hole's bottom.  

The Utah Utes, at the time ranked #17 in the nation, hosted the #4 Oregon Ducks in a Pac-12 football game on Saturday night.  The Utes were ahead 7-0 in the early part of the second quarter when their quarterback threw a beautiful deep ball to wide receiver Kaelin Clay.  Clay - who had at least a step on the closest Oregon defender - caught the ball in stride and motored on into the end zone untouched to give underdog Utah a two-score lead.  


Clay got a little bit ahead of himself.  Before crossing the goal line into the end zone, he started his touchdown celebration.  The first step of said celebration is - as it turns out - the laying of the ball on the turf.  He did so and then continued on into the end zone, at which point he was mobbed by several of his teammates. 

As Clay and some of his fellow Utes celebrated that which they thought had happened, a very astute young Duck named Erick Dargan scooped up the ball only to lose his tenuous grip on it to one of the few Utah players who grasped what was happening.  Another Duck, Joe Walker, grabbed up Dargan's fumble and headed towards the opposing end zone as fast as he could - traveling behind a convoy of blockers doing a reasonable imitation of a "Flying V" formation.  One hundred yards later, Walker scored.  

Once the officials sorted out the chaos, the referee broke the very bad news to Clay, the Utes and their thunderstruck fans.  A touchdown had in fact been scored on the play - by Walker for Oregon.  An extra-point later the game was tied 7 to 7.  

Final score:  Oregon 51, Utah 27.  Did Clay's mistake change the outcome of the game?  While it represented a fourteen-point swing, I doubt it.  In view of the final score, I was reminded of a line attributed to the Hall of Fame Quarterback of the Washington Redskins, Sammy Baugh, in the aftermath of the Chicago Bears 73-0 obliteration of Washington in the 1940 NFL Championship Game.  In the first quarter, with Washington trailing 7-0 Baugh threw what should have been the tying touchdown pass to wide receiver Charlie Malone but Malone dropped it.  Washington never threatened again.  Post-game in the locker room, Baugh was asked if the outcome of the game would have been different had Malone caught the pass and tied the game.  "Sure", said Baugh, "The final score would have been 73-7.'' 

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich called Clay's boo-boo, "A lesson for all of us."  Only time will tell.  I, for one, hope that Coach Helfrich is correct.  

Kudos to young Kaelin Clay.  His error of exuberance cost his team seven points.  In response, he did something that far too few of us, irrespective of our age or the error we have committed, have the steel in our spine to do.  He owned it.


Utah Utes WR Kaelin Clay's Tweet

 Mistakes are going to be made.  That is the easy part.  It is learning from them that is the hard part.  Based upon early returns, it appears as if Kaelin Clay has a handle on the hard part.
  
-AK 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

At Innocence's End

I have never worn the uniform of a branch of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.  I am proud and thankful for the members of my family - including uncles, cousins, nieces and my big brother Bill - who have done so.  I am proud of and thankful for the members of every family who have done so, who do so presently and who shall continue to do so.  

Today is Veterans Day.  You might be forgiven if - in the blitz of advertisements for car dealerships, department stores and chain restaurants - the genesis of as well as the purpose of this day has momentarily escaped you.  Your mission - and mine - is to recapture it, to understand it and to do all that we are capable of doing to honor those who wear the uniform of the United States of America. 

And not merely with parades and platitudes but with the things they truly need such as job training and health care - including but not limited to mental health in an effort to help those who have spent any part of the past dozen years in combat try to come to grips with the horrors they have witnessed firsthand.

Doing the right thing, today and every day, for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America is neither a Republican thing nor a Democrat thing.  It is an American thing.  And it is most certainly the right thing to do.  

We, the people of a grateful nation, should not simply say, "Thank you for your service."  Instead we should say, "Thank you for all you have done for me.  Now, what may I do for you?" 

-AK     

Monday, November 10, 2014

Good Golly Miss Molly

It has been a long time since I have had a memorable Halloween.  Unfortunately for young, 18-year-old Stefan Sortland, what he and his parents certainly hope proves to be his most memorable Halloween ever is the 2014 edition.  After reading of his exploits, I was almost tempted to ask my daughter-in-law and/or "little" Jess (my second-favorite member of the Colorado State University family) what exactly kids are being taught these days at CSU.  But considering the beat-down their Rams administered to my Buffs on opening night this season, I thought better of it.

The silver lining for young Mr. Sortland (other than having his mug shot displayed under a headline that spins the phrase "Insane, Masturbatory Rampage"), I suppose, is that he likely remembers little to nothing about how he spent Halloween this year.  If he does, he shall likely never look at Wheat Thins the same way.

Hell, I am not sure that I ever shall...

-AK 


Sunday, November 9, 2014

"Justice Will Be Done"


Scotty McMillian

An Open Letter to a Murdering Douchebag

Dear Gary Fellenbaum: 

I have little doubt that the world has inhabitants who make you - and your unspeakable cruelty - seem almost benign.  That fact neither excuses you, even a little bit, for what you have done nor makes the rage I have in my soul for you, for the worthless excuse of a mother, Jillian Tait, who aided you in your torture of her THREE-YEAR-OLD son, and for the almost-as-culpable asshole to whom you used to be married and with whom you and Jillian shared your home, Amber Fellenbaum, who did nothing to either prevent you from your torture of Jillian's THREE-YEAR-OLD son or to alert the authorities as to what was going on within the four walls of your trailer until it was too late. 

Scotty McMillian is dead.  A beautiful, three-year-old boy is dead.  He is dead because of your fists, and your whips and your smashes of his head against and into the walls of the trailer where he had the misfortune of living with you and with the piece of shit who brought him into this world - his mother Jillian.  A trailer with the tragically ironic address of 96 Hope Lane.   

You are allegedly such a cowardly, low-life mother fucker that you tied a THREE-YEAR-OLD little boy to a chair in order to beat him.  You tied his feet together and hung him upside down from his feet in order to beat him.  You beat him until you killed him.  Then you waited until you and his mother had eaten dinner, screwed like the barnyard animals you are and had a nap before anyone called "9-1-1" to report an "unresponsive child".  

I do not know Chester County, Pennsylvania District Attorney Tom Hogan and I cannot fathom the circumstances under which I will ever make his acquaintance, but I like him already.  I hope like hell that if the evidence supports it - and at first blush it certainly appears to - that irrespective of whether you plead guilty to your crime or force the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt that when your guilt has been proven and sentence has been pronounced - that your life is taken from you.  Irrespective of how the Commonwealth puts you to death - when that moment arrives for you - your passage from this world shall be far more pain-free than that which you inflicted upon Scotty McMillian, who was a THREE-YEAR-OLD.  

You are in fact, Gary, my favorite type of mouth-breeding, ass-dragging pussy:  The type who gets his rocks off on an unfair fight.  It takes not only one who is cruel - but one who is such a coward that the dimensions of your cowardice are incapable of being measured - to restrain a THREE-YEAR-OLD boy before using the full force and weight of the coward's 275 pound body to beat him to death.  

How about you agree to step it up in class just a level or two?  At twice your age and a bit more than half your size, I welcome the chance to make your acquaintance.  A nice, cozy 10 x 10 room someplace.  You bring whatever implement of torture you deemed necessary to murder a precious THREE-YEAR-OLD little boy.  Me?  I shall dust the cobwebs off of my 32 inch, 30 ounce Louisville Slugger that once upon a lifetime ago I used to carry with me in my car in the event that the need for "Asshole Interdiction" arose.   You might win the day but I promise you, I will be far better equipped to give you a beating than the defenseless THREE-YEAR-OLD you murdered.  

Enjoy prison, Asshole.  Perhaps at some point between today and your day of reckoning, someone will acquaint you with Rule #1 on the Cell Block - pretty much irrespective of institution - which is child killers are treated on the inside with the same affection they treated the child on the outside.  May you awaken every day that you spend inside hoping that it is the day the Commonwealth comes to take your life.  And may you go to bed every night sorry that this day was not your last and terrified over the prospect of tomorrow.  

Then, and only then, will you have any inkling at all of what it was like to be Scotty McMillian.   

Fuck You...and the Whore Named Jillian Tait You Rode In On, 

AK


Saturday, November 8, 2014

In the Words of the High Plains Drifter

On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, overturned lower court rulings in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan that had declared same-sex marriage legal in those states.  By a 2-1 vote, the court (in an opinion authored by the Hon. Jeffrey S. Sutton) declared that the determination of the legality of same-sex marriage should rest not with an "inferior" Federal court (meaning an intermediate appellate court as opposed to a court comprised of real stinkers) but should be determined either through the democratic process or by the Supreme Court of the United States.  His words.  Not mine.   Reading his words however did make me wonder just what it would take to have the Hon. Bridget Mary McCormack consider trading her responsibilities as a Justice on the Michigan Supreme Court for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  It appears that her services are needed beyond the geographical boundaries of the state she calls home. 

If you have never had the pleasure of watching a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit punt, then read Judge Sutton's opinion.  If you have never had the pleasure of watching one member of an appellate court absolutely excoriate her colleagues through the power of her language, then read the dissent of Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, which begins on Page 43 of the full-text decision (53 of 75 in the PDF).   Her Honor's dissent's opening paragraph concludes with this vignette: 

Instead, the majority sets up a false premise—that the question before us is “who should decide?" - and leads us through a largely irrelevant discourse on democracy and federalism.   In point of fact, the real issue before us concerns what is at stake in these six cases for the individual plaintiffs and their children, and what should be done about it. Because I reject the majority’s resolution of these questions based on its invocation of vox populi and its reverence for “proceeding with caution” (otherwise known as the “wait and see” approach), I dissent

The Sixth Circuit's opinion ensures that Judge Sutton's wish shall be granted and the legality of same-sex marriage shall now be taken up by the Supreme Court of the United States, which shall now be obligated to resolve the rift between the Sixth Circuit and the four other Circuits in which bans on same-sex marriage have been struck down as violating the Equal Protection Clause of our Constitution.   In October, the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals taken from the Circuit Court decisions that had stricken same-sex marriage bans, which delivered what has been described as a "tacit" victory to same-sex marriage.  

What that means the Court shall do when confronted with having to make a decision to resolve the dispute between the various Federal Circuits I do not pretend to know...

...which is why I hope they do nothing more or less than heed the wisdom of the High Plains Drifter.




-AK
  

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Knight Who Said "Oui!"

On Sunday in New York City, a mere two days before Veteran's Day, a 95-year-old hero of World War II shall receive the nation of France's highest honor.  He shall be knighted.  

Joseph Pocoroba, a Jersey boy for all of the (almost) century he has spent on this Earth - save for the years he spent fighting overseas in World War II - shall receive the insignia of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.  It is an honor being bestowed upon him at the direction of President of the French Republic, Francois Hollande.  It is an honor being bestowed upon him, as eloquently stated in the June 5, 2014 letter he received from Bernand Lortholary, the French Consulate General, that "underlines the deep appreciation and gratitude of the French people for your contribution to the liberation of our country during World War II.  We will never forget the commitment of the American heroes to whom France owes so much."   

Sgt. Pocoroba earned a Bronze Star for his actions during a battle near the aptly-named town of Bitche, France in December, 1944.  He and the four-man crew he commanded heard a radio transmission from an American platoon that was pinned down by the Germans and in danger of being overrun by them.  With nothing but coordinates received over the radio to guide him - and without being able to see exactly where he was firing - he and his men poured Howitzer fire into the German positions for four hours, which ultimately forced the Germans to withdraw from their positions and provided the heretofore trapped American platoon with the room it needed to escape.  In Sgt. Pocoroba's Silver Star citation, Major General Edward Brooks wrote: 

"Sgt. Pocoroba, in charge of a gun crew, directed fire continuously for over four hours.  Disregarding the intense counterbattery fire and his own personal fatigue, he continued to direct accurate supporting fire.  A platoon of one troop was surrounded and called for supporting fire.  Though having a clearance of only 50 yards between the friendly and enemy forces, the crew fired effectively and forced the enemy to withdraw far enough to allow the platoon to escape."

When the war ended in August 1945, Sgt. Pocoroba returned to New Jersey.  He married his best girl Doris and the two were still together fifty-seven years later when she died in 2002.  Typical of those who comprise "The Greatest Generation", he did not want to be singled out for this honor.  It took him three years to agree to accept it.  "My grand-kids were on me to get it,", he told Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press.  "I said, 'OK if that's what you want, but I'm no hero.'  A lot of guys probably did a lot more than I did."     

Thank you for listening to your grandchildren Sgt. Pocoroba.  And for the record, I must respectfully disagree with your characterization of yourself.  You are most assuredly a hero.  For what you did, not just one grateful nation - but two grateful nations - thank you.  

Congratulations on a most-deserved honor.  

-AK