Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Toast to Prisoners and Hostages...

Crumpled bits of paper,
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I'm afraid that's all we've got...

It was thirty-four years ago on this very morning that either Kara or Jill entered my bedroom on Wertsville Road in Neshanic Station, ostensibly for the purpose of informing me that our father was dead.  I cannot recall which of my sisters wore the garb of messenger.  I do, however, distinctly remember telling her, "I know."  While I had not yet left my room that morning and I had not yet laid eyes upon him on my parents' bed, I knew he was gone.  

I had known it in fact since the previous evening.  Dad had spent the day in Pennsylvania, opening up the Harvey's Lake house in anticipation for the upcoming Water Ski trip, which was less than two weeks away.  At age fourteen, I was not anywhere near the top of my father's favorite person list.  To be fair, at age fifty-seven his name was nowhere to be found on mine either.  In hindsight, I suppose it was our utter lack of a relationship that had compelled him to make the round-trip to Harvey's Lake that Saturday a solo trek.  He no more wanted my company than I wanted his.  

Were I one prone to being awash in sentimentality, right here is where I would drop the "Perhaps if we'd known how little time we had left together..."  I am not.  Therefore I shall not.  I subscribe to the Pete Hamill point of view on the subject, "Sentimentality is always about a lie.  Nostalgia is about real things gone.  Nobody truly mourns a lie."  I make no apology for it.  I am my father's son.  For that, I make no apology either. 

In the almost three-and-one-half decades that have passed since he died, I have developed a far better understanding of WPK, Sr. than I ever possessed during the almost one-and-one-half decades that our time on this planet overlapped.  He was an exceptionally talented teacher.  Of academic subjects, of course, but of life lessons as well.  That is why, I reckon, so many of his former students, men and women who are now no younger than forty-five and some of whom are substantially older than that still speak of him and what each learned from him with fondness.  One who makes an indelible impact on our life remains alive in our memory long after they pass from our day-to-day.  

On this very date thirty-four years ago, which coincidentally was also a Sunday, I knew he was gone because when I had last looked squarely at Dad the night before, his eyes betrayed his fate.  I made a point of doing something that I never did, which was to tell him that I loved him and to give him a hug and a good night kiss on his forehead.  He hugged me too.  He then headed off down the hallway, into his bedroom and into the forever then and there waiting for him.  

Being the excellent teacher that he was, he passed on not only that which should be done but also that which should not be done.  I have tried - as I am confident all of my siblings have also - to hold fast to the former and to avoid the latter.  I am my father's son.  My efforts in that regard have been less than successful.  Far more often than I care to admit, my efforts in that regard have been awful.  

The great Oscar Wilde observed that, "No man is rich enough to buy back his past."  Nor can a man live long enough to outlive his past.  Nor should he, I would hope.  We arrive at any particular point in our history by having taken certain, specific steps to get there.  Our past - to a degree - shapes our present.  Our present, in turn, shapes our future.  

I am my father's son.  A fact for which I make no apology.  


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Pride in the Herd

There has not been a time in the now-more-than-quarter century since I graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder that I have not been proud to be a CU Buff.  I am keenly aware of the fact that for the better part of the past decade the once-proud football team has fluctuated between abysmal and bad.  My Alma mater's lack of success on the gridiron has not impacted my love of the institution at all - not even a little bit.  Irrespective of the results on the field, the uniforms remain filled by young people giving their best effort while representing themselves, their families and their university.  That, in and of itself, is enough to earn my admiration.  Besides, our men's cross-country team and our ski team can kick the snot out of yours!  

While I am proud, every day, to be a Buff there are in fact days on which I am really, really proud to be one.  Earlier this week, Buffs4Life, a not-for-profit organization founded by former CU student-athletes for the purpose of providing support, financial and otherwise, to other CU student-athletes (former and present), coaches, and their families in a time of crisis, announced that effective this year, its annual Fun Run shall be known as the Kyle MacIntosh Memorial Fun Run.  The event, which shall be held this year on Father's Day, June 21, 2015, shall forever more carry the name of one tenaciously tough young Buff, Kyle MacIntosh, who earlier this year lost his battle to Ewing's Sarcoma.  

All of the proceeds from this year's Fun Run shall go towards helping the MacIntosh family.  Kyle's dad, Bill MacIntosh, shall serve as the Fun Run's starter, which hopefully will help - at least a little bit - soften the blow of spending this first Father's Day without his son.

Shoulder to Shoulder.  It is more than just a line in a fight song.  It is a creed.  It is a choice.  

It is what it means to be a Buff.  


Friday, May 29, 2015

Once Again...and for the Very First Time

History is in the mind of the teller.  So said Tom Hanks to his two young sons at the end of Radio Flyer.   History is not, however, exclusively a 'past-tense' exercise.  To the contrary, history is ever-evolving and is constantly-occurring.  Things pass into history in an eye blink.  

In sports, often times "history" is treated as a synonym for experience.  Again this spring it has been recycled by those who chronicle the playoff exploits of the Kenny family's favorite hockey team.  The Rangers have become renowned for their ability to prevail in "elimination" games.  It was a skill that they relied upon three consecutive times in their second-round series win over Washington and it is a skill upon which they relied on Tuesday night.  Trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning three games to two in their Best-of-Seven Eastern Conference Final Series, the Rangers posted a 7-3 victory.

In doing so, in addition to earning the respect of the headline writers at the New York Post, they tied the series at three wins apiece and forced yet another Game Seven.  Tonight - on home ice at Madison Square Garden - the Blueshirts shall skate against Tampa Bay one last time for 2014-15.  The winner next plays either Anaheim or Chicago for the Stanley Cup.  The loser next plays off of the blue tees at a local country club for beers and bragging rights.  At game's end tonight, it shall still be hockey season for only one of these two teams.

Here's to hoping that team is the Rangers...


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Shore As I'm Sitting Here...

I do not pretend to be smart enough to know whether one day can in fact serve as a portent of things to come.  Hell, I do not pretend to be smart enough to know what portent means without first consulting the Book of Webster.  No, not this Webster.  This one.  

Therefore, I know not whether the beautiful morning that greeted Jeff, Gidg, Jaime, Jerry, Arnold, Sara and me (along with 12,500 or so of our closest friends) this past Saturday on Ocean Avenue in Spring Lake shall serve as the weather template for the Summer of 2015.  I know simply that in the five years that I have run the Spring Lake Five Mile Run, which is held annually on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, the weather this year was the best that I can remember.  My time was - as it usually is - just on this side of mediocre.  As the Hall of Fame football coach Bill Parcells once rather presciently observed, "You are what your record says you are."  My record says that when I compete in five-mile races, more often than not I complete them in the forty-three minute to forty-five minute range.  

The Missus and I spent our first Memorial Day Weekend at our little slice of paradise by the sea.  Saturday, post-race, was devoted principally to doing lots of nothing - and doing it in several different places.  We walked up to the beach and hung out there for a while in the early afternoon until the wind shifted and the temperature did likewise - from cool to uncomfortable.  No worries.  We simply retreated to our house, called an audible and drove over to Spring Lake.  We then spent the next couple of hours wandering through and around the various shops of Spring Lake.  When we ran out of things to look at there, we drove a few miles south to Point Pleasant Beach.  Once there, we wandered rather aimlessly up and down Arnold Avenue for a couple of hours - until we found a store that had something Margaret thought she might like for the house.  

By afternoon's end, the pedometer app on Margaret's iPhone confirmed that she had walked, herself, a 10K.  Yep, as a result of her various and several jaunts she walked a brisk 6.2 miles.  I assure you that she slept well on Saturday night...

...well, I assume she did anyway.  My eyes were closed upon my head making contact with the pillow so, truth be told, I am not well-equipped to confirm Margaret's sleep status.

I have no way of knowing whether this past weekend was an indication of how this summer shall go.  If it was, I assure you that you shall hear nary a complaint from me.  


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Reflections and Crystal Clarity

A bit of Memorial Day-related information of which I was unaware until I looked yesterday morning at Monday's entry on the day-by-day calendar that Suzanne gave me for Christmas, which I would have been aware of on Memorial Day proper had I taken ten seconds out of the five hours I spent at work on Monday morning bringing the calendar current.  According to my calendar, each of the 4,048 gold stars on the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. represents 100 military deaths during the war.  

Acquiring that piece of information prompted me to do a quick on-line search of America's WW II casualties, for no reason other than it seemed utterly incomprehensible to me that over 400,000 American soldiers, sailors, and flyers were killed.  I wish my reluctance to believe such an enormous figure had been borne out by the facts.  It was not.  The National World War II Museum's web site lists the total number of American military deaths in World War II as 416,800.  A staggering figure.  Yet one that pales in comparison to those of Germany, Japan, or the Soviet Union.   According to that web site, World War II killed a total of 15,000,000 soldiers, sailors and flyers, injured another 25,000,000 and killed another 45,000,000 civilians.  Eighty-five million people killed or wounded in less than a decade's time...and all at the hands of another human being.  

Amazing what those of us of the human persuasion are capable of when we apply ourselves, is is not? It is - at the very least - terrifying.    


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Whistling Through The Graveyard...

Today shall either be the end of the 2014-15 season for the New York Rangers or it shall not.  A win tonight in Tampa and the Blueshirts will have tiptoed through the mine field long enough to live to see a Game Seven at Madison Square Garden on Friday night.  A loss and by Friday morning they will be working on their golf games. 

I do not pretend to be smart enough to know whether tonight shall be the fourth consecutive elimination game in which they stave off elimination or whether this shall be end of what has been (to this point) a most enjoyable season.  As my older brother Kelly is wont to point out, "They play.  I watch."  Watch I shall.  Here is to hoping that there is a Game Seven to watch on Friday night.

And here is to hoping that they take Mariano Duncan's mantra to heart...


Monday, May 25, 2015

Hey Look Kids! It's Deja Vu!

Today is Memorial Day.  It is a day of solemnity.  It is a day of celebration.  Frankly, it is a day that is worthy of something better than my best effort. 

For that reason, this space today has been turned over to Rob, as it has been each of the past several years.  A piece he wrote when he was twenty years old, which at this juncture is almost a decade ago, captures the spirit of this day as well as anything I have ever read.  It does so far better than anything I have ever written.  

Enjoy.  And remember...

Just A Thought
I started thinking in this time of war what this day means. It is for those who didn't come back. They didn't come back to their mothers, their wives or their kids. They stormed beaches, fought and died in foreign countries. All that returned was a box and a folded flag.

I recently attended a Springsteen concert in North Carolina. I traveled by plane through this American land because I could, because I am free - and because of the generosity of some good friends. As Springsteen played a song called 
"Last to Die" I got emotional. The song asks, "Who'll be the last to die...." presumably in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It does not matter what you think of the American involvement in these wars. What does matter is that we remember these brave American servicemen and servicewomen.

Meanwhile I am enjoying a Springsteen concert, enjoying a beer and enjoying starting a career with the best government in the world; enjoying freedom. How can I do this? These are my brothers, my peers, guys my age fighting and dying. They volunteered so I didn't have to. They're not coming back to their favorite band, their favorite beer, their families or the state they grew up in.

Their children will not know their fathers. They will know only their sacrifice and some stories their mothers will tell. They sacrificed for someone they will never meet - you and me.

Remember them today.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Somewhere Howard Beale Smiles...

If you have ever dealt with the assholes who operate Silver Airways.  If you have ever had someone from Continental/United help themselves to your luggage and, thereafter, have had to endure being mind-phucked by some customer service representative who has been trained in the art of telling customers - in about fifty different ways - just how much she would like to help you but she really can't.  

If anything like that has happened to you, then maybe -  just maybe - you can relate to Naked Guy. Apparently, upon learning that his flight to Jamaica had been oversold, which presumably meant that the seat he thought had his name on it in fact had been promised to another he decided to express his outrage in such a manner that his point of view would be unmistakable.  

It is not everyday that one bears witness to another unsheathing his inner Howard Beale - as well as his outer everything else, which this gentleman apparently did for approximately forty-five minutes until the police arrived.    

Maybe he was just trying out a new technique for expediting the process of getting through the TSA Security Checkpoint?  Crazy you say.  I say:  Show of hands of everyone who would prefer to have ol' Petey Pecker standing in front of you as opposed to behind you.  



Saturday, May 23, 2015

And Away We Go...

The Missus and I shall spend this weekend - at least until the office beckons on Monday - enjoying our first "Holiday Weekend" as homeowners at the beach.  By this time tonight, I dread that my driveway and front lawn will be strewn with discarded plastic cups and paper plates, courtesy of the just-arrived, well-lubricated crowd of young people who pop up (some might say like dandelions) at the Shore to coincide with Memorial Day's arrival.  I care not.  Actually, while I care I do not care enough to allow their presence to harsh my mellow.  Their presence has no impact upon our proximity to the magic elixir that is the ocean.  

Nor shall it have - this morning at least - any impact upon my proximity to the start line of the Spring Lake Five Mile Run.  I do not know who is more excited about this year's edition.  Me, because rather than driving into Spring Lake and finding a place to park, I shall simply run the mile and a quarter or so between my house and the starting line.  Margaret, because now that we are down here and so close to it, she does not have to come with me.  My wife is a hell of a good sport but she enjoys standing around at the finish line of races as much as I enjoy shopping for shower curtains or comforters.  

Enjoy your first unofficial Saturday of summer.  I know that Margaret and I certainly hope to do so.  


Friday, May 22, 2015

Time to Be Getting Gone

As a significant number of Americans prepare to herald (albeit unofficially) the arrival of the Summer of 2015 by loading themselves and, perhaps, a loved one (or loved ones) into a vehicle and heading off down the road a piece, this simple man has a simple request:  Do your level best to arrive safely and to spend your holiday safely.  If jails, hospitals, and morgues were places to be seen while on vacation, significantly more of them would be highlighted on Google Maps and in the Rand-McNally Atlas than are presently.

As a rapidly-aging man who to date, in close to a half-century's tenancy on this planet, has seen the New York Rangers win just one Stanley Cup, this simple fan has a simple request for AV and his Blueshirts:  Win tonight's Game Four against the Lightning.   I do not play golf.  Therefore, I cannot fathom a reason why anyone would be eager to get out on the golf course.  Rinks are much cooler.  I meant that in a figurative sense but I note that it works quite nicely in the literal sense as well.  

I reckon that means that my work here is done.  For today, at least.  Time to be getting gone.

After all, summer's here...



Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Wizard's New Apprentice

You can't live a perfect day
Without doing something for someone
Who will never be able to repay You.
- John Wooden

Two weeks from this very day shall mark the fifth anniversary of the death of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.  Coach Wooden died approximately four months before what would have been his 100th birthday. 

Having retired from the coaching profession upon the completion of the 1975 season, thirty-five years or so before he died, it is a certainty that he never coached Josiah Duncan.  Inasmuch as Josiah is, himself, just five years old, it is likely that Coach Wooden and Josiah Duncan never met.  Given that Coach Wooden died at or near the mid-point of 2010, there is roughly a 50% chance that Josiah had not yet made his entrance upon the Earth's stage at the time that Coach Wooden made his exit.  

For two people born roughly one hundred years apart, in different parts of the United States (Coach Wooden was a Hoosier and Josiah is an Alabaman), it is remarkable just how much the new emulates the old.  

It is a story too worth telling correctly to be entrusted into my workmanlike hands, so it shall not be. Rather, I shall invite you to do that which I did yesterday after having been made aware of this story by my brother Bill:  Read it and view it for yourself.    

Coach Wooden's wallet included a copy of the Seven Point Creed that his father bestowed upon him as an eighth-grade graduation gift:  

(1) Be true to yourself;
(2) Make each day your masterpiece;
(3) Help others;
(4) Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible;
(5) Make friendship a fine art;
(6) Build a shelter against a rainy day;
(7) Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day. 

Whether five-year-old Josiah carries a wallet, I know not.  I know however that when he starts carrying one, the first thing that shall be inside of that wallet shall be a copy of Coach Wooden's long-ago graduation gift.  Actually, judging from the manner in which this youngster carries himself, it is already in there. 

Along with a lot of other really, really good stuff. 


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

One Last Ride with the Warrior from the Land of the Midnight Sun

As I have gotten older, it has seemed to me that "late night television" is a relative term.  I get up at 3:00 o'clock in the A.M. six mornings out of every seven.  Thus, for me "late night television" is a show that begins at 9:00 P.M. or, in the late Spring and Summer, any time after sundown.   

Most of my viewing of David Letterman's hi-jinks has taken place in the form of highlights and snippets viewed on YouTube or some such place as opposed to staying awake at night to watch his show at the time it airs.  I take some solace from the fact that Letterman, who is sixty-eight years old, might in fact be asleep by the time the show airs as well.  Nice perk I reckon in taping a show entitled The Late Show with David Letterman in the late afternoon/early evening.  

To the extent that I have ever had any rooting interest - or viewing interest whatsoever - in late-night television, my allegiance (such as it is) has always been with Letterman.  I recall in college watching his original late night broadcast, which aired on NBC following The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  At some point - in the early to mid 90's if memory serves - Letterman boogalooed down Broadway to CBS in response to NBC choosing Jay Leno - and not Letterman - to succeed Carson.  I do not recall ever watching a single episode of Leno's Tonight Show although considering how long he occupied the host's chair, it is certainly possible that I did.  Or maybe I simply never did.  I know that had Leno spent as much time with the great Warren Zevon as Letterman did, then maybe I would have tuned into his program.  From Zevon's first appearance in 1982 to his final appearance in 2002, he always had a home on Letterman's program.  

Tonight is David Letterman's final The Late Show.  I shall not be awake when this one airs, unless the Rangers game runs late and I am still awake as the latter ends and the former begins.  At some point I shall watch at least the end of tonight's farewell to see how he signs off.  Having watched again yesterday how he signed back on the air on September 19, 2001 following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, I have faith that he shall take measure of the occasion and rise to meet it.   


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Teachers, Pupils & Things Once Seen That Cannot Be Unseen...

I suspect that if I was ever positioned to either seek election to the office of President of the United States or retained to provide counsel to one who sought said office, I would do all that I could to forestall making my intentions known.  We are yet eighteen months or so from Election Day 2016 and thus far too many Republicans to count have declared their intention to succeed Barack Obama (Senator Cruz and former Governor Perry, being loyal sons of Ottawa and Texas respectively announced, in the alternative, their willingness to accept secession to succession should it come to that although in the interest of full disclosure former Governor Perry was unaware of the distinction between the two).  

The presumed purposes of the seemingly ceaseless expansion of the Presidential campaign season to a length that approximates an NBA season (and much like professional basketball features events of little to no significance until deep into the contest) is to start the process of raising gobs of money (with the target being a gob big enough to (a) scare off prospective rivals; or (b) soak up all available money so that it is not available to the aforementioned prospective rivals) and to introduce yourself to 'Murica - or at least to the portions of 'Murica in which the earliest caucuses and primaries are slated to be held.   That is why, perhaps, the Governor of the State of Concrete Gardens has seemed to spend enough time in New Hampshire and Iowa since the first of this year to score in-state tuition for his child should he/she wish to attend college in either state. 

The downside to this period of extended foreplay is that every now and then a mouth opens and something genuinely inane comes out of it.  Do not take my word for it.  Ask Jeb Bush.  Or if you prefer, ask Marco Rubio.  Or for shits and giggles, ask Ivy Ziedrich but do not expect Governor Bush to call upon her again any time soon - or anyone whose question has not been vetted well in advance of the appearance so that the candidate's answer can be rehearsed over and over.  

Anyone up for a nice cup of tea


Monday, May 18, 2015

The Next Step In The Process

The Missus and I spent our first night in our new digs on Saturday night.  We were invited to a wedding in Point Pleasant and rather than drive the hour-plus home to Middlesex we opted for the much shorter trip to Lake Como.  Ah, the convenience.

We accomplished a great deal this weekend. So much so in fact that it actually appears as if people live there.  Come to think of it, people actually do.

Well at least some of the time...


Sunday, May 17, 2015

All I Can Do Now Is Wish You Well...

B.B. King died this week.  On Thursday night, in hospice care at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada, the 89 year-old legendary bluesman tripped the mortal coil.  Even if you are not the morbid sort, which i confess that I am, the eloquent obituary Randy Lewis wrote in Friday's Los Angeles Times is a worthwhile read.  According to youngest daughter Charlotte King, he died peacefully, in his sleep, in his own bed.  I reckon that any of number of us, Yours truly included, would sign up right now for that exit plan. 

I smiled reading Mr. Lewis's piece as he recounted two shortcomings B.B. King overcame in forging the style that became his signature sound.  First, he could not play his guitar leads while singing, which led him to create what has been described as a call-and-response between himself and Lucille, his guitar.  Second, the thickness of his fingers, which made it difficult for him to employ bottlenecks and metal slides, lent itself to him rocking the fingers of his left hand on his guitar's frets in a way that emulated a concert violinist.     

His was a career that spanned more than seventy years and featured a touring style that had him on the road in perpetuity, playing upwards of two hundred dates (or more) a year.  He made a slight concession to his age when he turned eighty.  He cut back on the number of live dates he played annually.  Pared it down all the way to one hundred (give or take), he did.  One hundred live concerts a year at eighty years of age.  It tires me out to simply write that sentence.  

At journey's end - and perhaps somewhere Kenny Rogers smiles - Lucille did not leave him.  Nor did he ever leave her.  The King is gone.  But the Thrill?  

The Thrill remains...   


Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Toast to Companionship

This evening the Missus and I shall have the great pleasure and privilege of being in attendance when Christina Byrnes marries Andrew Steinkeler.  The bride is a young woman with whom Margaret and I have been acquainted for more than twenty years.  She is the daughter of our dear friends, Lucy and Joe Byrnes.  Her younger brother Dan is Rob's lifelong friend and was Rob's Best Man when Rob and Jess married this past June.  

Today, my thoughts are principally with Joe.  Christina is his only daughter.  Having walked a proverbial mile in his shoes myself slightly more than eighteen months ago (it was closer to seventy-five feet but I believe in not permitting the facts to get in the way of a good story), I have an understanding as to what he is feeling.  A feeling that I have every confidence my friend shall express completely in the ear-to-ear grin he shall undoubtedly be sporting as he escorts his little girl up the aisle to where Andrew awaits.  

Here's to the newlyweds.  May much luck and much love accompany them on their journey.   


Friday, May 15, 2015

A Billboard on the Side of the Road

Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. 
And you know what happiness is?  
Happiness is the smell of a new car.  
It's freedom from fear.
It's a billboard on the side of the road that screams
 reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. 
You are okay. 
- Don Draper

I am not the drawer's sharpest knife.  Never have been.  While I am not sure - on a qualitative level - how good an excuse that is, until Don Yee attempts to offer a better one on my behalf, it shall have to suffice as mine for having ignored Mad Men for the first six and one-half years of its television life.  

Some of my time - over the course of the past six weeks or so - has been spent familiarizing myself with the show.  To that end, I set my DVR to record all of the episodes that I was able to access through A&E "On Demand", which took me back only as far as the beginning of Season Six.  I decided that even if I did not know the complete back story I would likely be able to pick up enough of along the way to make it worth my viewing time.  It was.  I had completed Season Six and the first half of this final season, Season Seven, by the time A&E kicked off its premiere airings of the final episodes of the series. 

Mad Men airs its final new episode on Sunday night.  I had resigned myself to the fact that at some point after its conclusion I was going to have to undertake the process of finding a way to watch it from its beginning.  I simply had not figured out how exactly I was going to attain that objective.  

And then this happened.  I know that in the wake of recent and semi-recent disclosures Rolling Stone is not thought of as a reliable source of information but, for whatever it is worth, this time they got it right.  Although I had not made it home from the office on Wednesday night by the time the Marathon began (What is it with me and marathons, anyway?) - and having only been alerted to its existence by my big sister Evan's Facebook post on the subject - which I read while stopped at a red light on my drive home from the office on Wednesday night - my DVR knew enough to begin at the beginning and recorded "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", the show's very first episode, and has kept on keeping on.  

When will I have the opportunity to sit and watch them - the seventy-plus episodes of the show that I have never seen?  Candidly, I have no idea.  But now I know that if and when I want to view them, I can.  And I intend to do so.  I have really enjoyed the episodes that I have watched so far.  Don Draper is one seriously-flawed human being.  In that respect, he is eerily lifelike for a fictional character.  

I am happy to have finally taken the time to make his acquaintance. 

"Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
Season 1, Episode 1


Thursday, May 14, 2015

At the Point of Intersection Between Inflation and Exaggeration

There are scant few things that simultaneously amuse and terrify me more than the almost-insatiable appetite that we the people of these United States have for surface-skimming, which may help explain why - at least as of the Fall of 2014 - USA Today was the daily newspaper in this nation with the highest circulation, finishing ahead of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

I care almost not at all about either Tom Brady or the New England Patriots.  I care even less about the team's owner and all of the alleged shenanigans that have occurred on his watch.  I care not at all - ZERO - about whether in a football game that his team ultimately won by more than five touchdowns, Brady used less-than-fully inflated footballs.  I have watched football for most of my life but had you asked me - prior to this non-story becoming a story - what the NFL's process was for preserving the "sanctity" of the footballs to be used in that day's game, I would have expressed amazement that it has such a process.  Who fucking cares?  For those of you keeping score at home that was a rhetorical question.  

While I neither care that Tom Brady has supposedly been suspended for four games by the NFL nor believe for one goddamn minute that he shall in fact serve a suspension of that length, some of the utter nonsense that has spewed forth - principally from New England and/or those whose livelihoods are tied to the Patriots, Brady or both - has been so inane that it has made my hair hurt.  Enough already.  

As an initial consideration, all of those callers to sports talk radio and the hosts who earn a living inciting them who have adorned their "I Could Have Been a Lawyer" hat to take shots at Theodore Wells, allow someone who actually is a lawyer to disabuse of the notion that he, by some stretch of your very vivid imagination, is less intelligent and less well-versed in the law than are you.  Mr. Wells does not me to testify as to his bona fides.  His credentials speak for themselves.  He has forgotten more about the law since he finished writing his report than likely I - and most certainly you - shall ever learn if we live long enough to blow out the candles on our birthday cake celebrating our personal Sesquicentennial.   

Second - and this is directed to Brady's agent, Don Yee, who made certain to point out last week in his public declaration regarding the Wells Report the depth of the financial relationship between Mr. Wells' law firm and its client, the NFL ("The league is a significant client of the investigators' law firm; it appears to be a rich source of billings and media exposure based on content on the law firm's website") while curiously omitting any discussion of the depth of the financial relationship between his firm and its client, Mr. Brady.  I did not find said omission galling.  No, what I found galling about Mr. Yee's statement was the amount of hyperbole it contained, no better example of which leaped out at me than his assertion that the Wells Report - a document produced after a four-month investigation into the PSI level in footballs for crying out loud - contained "significant and tragic flaws".  

Hey Don, I know you and I do not know each other.  And while I have little difficulty in accepting that you are excellent at what you do for clients such as Mr. Brady, sit down and shut the fuck up.  "Tragic" is a word that should never be used in a conversation regarding the amount of air in a football.  Your use of it in your statement, which those of us who practice law for a living know was not released for public consumption until it had been examined, re-examined and re-re-examined by you and you had approved not only every word but had approved every punctuation mark, was patently offensive.  Perhaps it was even deliberately so.  

I, personally, tend to take a somewhat jaundiced view of one's use of language, especially when the one doing the talking is a paid mouthpiece.  "Tragic" in the realm of an object's PSI level might very well arise if an under-inflated tire on a tractor trailer caused its driver to lose control, which led to an accident injuring the driver and/or others.  There is nothing about the PSI level of an NFL football that ever, ever sniffs at approaching the level of tragedy.  You should be embarrassed that you had the audacity to commit that turn of phrase to a statement released on your letterhead and on behalf of your client.  However, you know you are proud of yourself for having done so.  Sadly, so do I.  

In the second-to-last paragraph of his statement, Mr. Yee noted the importance of context ("the Wells Report omitted nearly all of Tom's testimony, most of which was critical because it would have provided this report with the context that it lacks"), a point on which he and I are in agreement.   I respectfully submit that it is useful to place his use of the word "tragic" in context by comparing his usage of it in his statement to events that have occurred in the real world since he uttered it.  

While a report commissioned to investigate the air level of footballs is not "tragic", the execution-style murder last Sturday night of Hattiesburg, Mississippi Police Officer Benjamin Deen and Hattiesburg, Mississippi Police Officer Liquori Tate most certainly was.  Similarly, while hardly anyone outside of the United States can fake caring about the NFL - or by extension the discipline it imposes when it determines that a violation of its byzantine set of rules has occurred - one need not be Nepalese to appreciate the significance of that nation being struck by an aftershock that measured 7.3 on the Richter Scale and visited more death and suffering on a people still reeling from the earthquake that decimated them just last month.  Tragic is a word appropriately applied here to this situation. It is never to be applied here to this situation.  

At the end of the day, all that has happened in the world of play-pretend called the NFL this week is one arrogant, rich, Caucasian prick likely provoked the lifelong enmity of a second arrogant, rich, Caucasian prick by publicly disciplining a third arrogant, rich, Caucasian prick...who happens to be the most-famous employee of ARCP #2 and the person most responsible for ARCP #2's NFL team having captured four Super Bowls, including the most recent one.  

I know not what word best describes this faux saga - although farce leaps to the forefront of my mind - but I know what word does not fit it at all.    

It is not a tragedy.  

Never has been.

Never shall be.  


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

And Then There Was Seven...

One week ago tonight, the New York Rangers were defeated 2-1 by the Washington Capitals in the fourth game of the teams' Eastern Conference Semi-Final playoff series.  The defeat was the Rangers' third in the first four games of the series and put them on the brink of elimination.  

Friday night, the Rangers were trailing 1-0 with less than two minutes remaining in the third period - and in their 2015 season - when Chris Kreider happened.  Slightly less than halfway through the first sudden-death overtime session, the Rangers' Captain, defenseman Ryan McDonagh blasted the game-winning goal past Washington's wall-like goalie.   Their deficit in the series was reduced to 3-2 with a trip to D.C. back on the calendar for Mother's Day.  

On Sunday night, the Blueshirts gave their moms (not to mention all of us crazy "mothas" out here who root for them) the perfect present.  They defeated Washington on the Caps' home ice 4-3 (after trying very hard to give away a third-period, three-goal lead in its entirety) to tie the series up at three wins apiece.  

Tonight the teams shall square off for the seventh and final time in this post-season.  One game, winner takes all.  For these two rivals, the territory in which they skate tonight is familiar indeed.  This series marks the fifth time since the 2008-09 playoffs that they have faced off against each other in the post-season.  The second meeting, in the Conference Quarterfinals (a/k/a "the First Round") in the 2011 playoffs was a five-game affair, which the Caps won.  The other three playoff meetings that have preceded this year's in the NHL's "post-lockout era" all went seven games.  The Caps triumphed in the first one, which was in the 2009 playoffs.  However, in 2012 and again in 2013 the Rangers ended the Caps' season with a Game Seven victory, including two years ago in the Conference Quarterfinals when the Blueshirts shellacked the Caps, 5-0, in D.C.  

I shall root, root, root for the home team this evening as I have for too many evenings to count in the first not-quite half-century of my life.  I know not how this series shall end.  I do know however that through six games these two rivals have put on a thrilling display of ice hockey, backstopped by the Herculean efforts of their respective goalies.  Brandon Holtby of the Caps and the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist have been nothing short of extraordinary.  Each of them has permitted just eleven goals through six games, including Game Five, in which an additional ten minutes of hockey was played.  When tonight ends, and the teams line up on the Handshake Line, these two deserve more than simply handshakes from their opponents.  A sustained ovation may be in order.  

And if it is, I hope like hell that it is Henrik and his teammates who are the ones with the smiles on their faces and a practice schedule for the Eastern Conference Finals on their minds...

...Let's Go Rangers! 

2014:  Game Seven Conference Semi-Finals
Post-Game Celebration at Pittsburgh 


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

An Open Letter to the Bees

I hope that all of the Moms had a happy and restful Mother's Day.   I am fairly confident that Margaret did.  We spent the morning bopping around at the beach getting the house into shape to open the summer season.  After we came home and vegetated for a little while, we headed up the mountain to Suz/Ryan's for a Mother's Day dinner.  A very nice day from start to finish.  I hope the Missus enjoyed it.  It seemed to me that she did.  

Work commitments and travels back and forth to the beach have curtailed my running these past couple of weeks.  While not running on a regular basis tends to make me a bit more obnoxious than usual, I think thus far there has been no perceptible shift in my demeanor.  That is likely due in large part to the fact that while work is work, everything going on at the beach is a very happy undertaking (even the seemingly-unexciting stuff such as painting and pulling up carpet), which has helped keep my mental oars fully engaged and in the water.

Before we headed down the beach on Saturday, I availed myself of the opportunity to go for a nice, quick (for me anyway) four-mile run through the neighborhood.  There is nothing I enjoy more than running outdoors.   However, there are few things I enjoy less than trying to breathe through all of my allergies.  Spring is in the air in the State of Concrete Gardens and pollen has ridden along with it.  It is a bit difficult to run when it is very difficult to breathe.  Nevertheless I was happy to have made it through the four miles that I had intended to run - even if at the end of the run I was gasping for air as if I had just completed a run of a considerably longer distance.  

The Spring Lake Five Mile Run is one week from Saturday.  Summer's unofficial/official start.  Pollen or no pollen, I am very much looking forward to it.  Well, admittedly more so if there is no pollen but, either way...


Monday, May 11, 2015

The Pilgrims' Progress

The Missus and I spent most of this weekend continuing to round the new digs into shape.  We were assisted greatly on Saturday by the Staten Island Cavalry Corps.  Stacey, SalliJo and Kevin all crossed the river to lend assistance both physical and mechanical.  Thanks to them we managed to get accomplished a number of items on the Missus' "to-do" list as we continue to race the calendar to Memorial Day.  

Yesterday, we spent a piece of Margaret's Mother's Day at the beach with Joe.  It was his first look at the new digs.  He seemed pretty pleased with what he saw, which might have had as much to do with the fact that he had hot coffee to drink and television to watch as anything else but I think that the smell of the ocean air was what carried the day.  

I know that it certainly did for me. 


Sunday, May 10, 2015

There Goes My Hero...

There goes my hero
Watch her as she goes...
-Foo Fighters

Mom & Me at CU Graduation
Boulder, Colorado May 12, 1989

Margaret, Mom & Me 
Bay Head, N.J. - August 2010

Mom and Me & My Masterpiece
Jupiter, Florida - February 2013

Rob and Mom 
Suzanne & Ryan's Wedding - September 6, 2013

I shall not apologize to Dave Grohl or his band mates for my "gender reassignment" of the pronoun from male to female for the title suits Mom perfectly.  Widowed far too young (she was less than two weeks away from her 53rd birthday) and left with the daunting task of getting the back half of the family sextet through high school and college alone and with roughly 80% of the household income interred with Dad, she never flinched.  As a fourteen-year-old boy I gleaned a lifetime's worth of knowledge about the distinction to be drawn between fear, which is a wholly healthy emotion, and panic, which will kill you if you allow it to do so, from the indomitable Joanie K.   She is - and has been for as long as I can remember - the bravest person I have ever known. 

We are a diverse bunch, the sextet of Kenny children to whom Mom gave birth, but all three of her daughters inherited her iron will.  Evan, Kara, and Jill are unique women, spectacular in their own way.  Each shares a common characteristic - a lion's heart.  It is an inherited trait. 

Her three sons were each wise enough to seek out and lucky enough to marry a woman imbued with  a beautiful heart encased in steely toughness as well.  Sigrid, Linda, and Margaret stand as evidence that each of Mom's three sons possesses more than a mere modicum of common sense and that each of the three of are teachable creatures, capable of learning.  Coincidentally, those are also inherited traits.     

Happy Mother's Day Mom.  You remain pound-for-pound the toughest old Irish broad around, irrespective of your fast-approaching 87th birthday.  

Much love and many thanks.  

"No matter how far we stray, a mother's love will follow."
Star Ledger - Mother's Day 1997


Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Danger of the Hide-Away Face...

Well, we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out and show ourselves
When everyone has gone.
Some are satin, some are steel.
Some are silk and some are leather. 
They're the faces of the stranger 
But we love to try them on...
-Billy Joel

I do not mean to be a downer on what the weather prognosticators (at least those of the biped variety) have predicted shall be a rather beautiful May weekend - at least here in the State of Concrete Gardens.  That being said, and with an apology for perhaps "harshing your mellow", I am now going to respectfully suggest that before you move on to today's next scheduled event, you spend fifteen minutes or so here.

At the risk of sounding biased (the piece's author, Kate Fagan, is a Colorado Buffalo and quite an extraordinary woman) this examination of the life and death of young Madison Holleran practically rises to the level of required reading.  She was just a nineteen-year-old  Jersey girl - a freshman student-athlete at the University of Pennsylvania - when she leaped to her death from the ninth floor of a parking garage in Philadelphia on the evening of January 17, 2014.   

The willingness of her parents, whose sadness is palpable, to share their daughter and their story with the rest of us so that other families reading of the Hollerans' experience may be better equipped to avoid experiencing it themselves is - to me - nothing short of extraordinary.  As is the "Community" page they have started "In Memory of Madison Holleran", which serves as a conduit for those struggling with depression or mental health issues and resources that are available, which resources might make a critical difference in their life.  

I hope that you take me up on my suggestion and read Kate Fagan's piece on Madison Holleran.  It will make you smile.  It will make you cry.  It will make you think.  It might very well make you want to pick up the phone and call someone in your own day-to-day who has been on your mind just to see how he or she is doing.  Good things all.  


Friday, May 8, 2015

When Left is Wrong

Six years ago today, everything changed for me professionally speaking.  

I had marked the transition from Aught-Eight to Aught-Nine by leaving the Firm I had called home for (at that time) eleven years to pursue what had initially appeared to be a "Can't Miss" opportunity but what had proven to be a dreadful, soul-sucking mistake.  An error of colossal proportions as it were.  

I awakened early that morning - as I do every morning - and headed north to Parsippany.  I had grown accustomed to the north/south commute on Route 287 over the course of a decade-plus.  So much so that when I changed jobs, I did not change zip codes.  I merely turned left onto Parsippany Road upon exiting the highway as opposed to turning right.  If my father only knew the full complement of consequences that accompanied that particular decision to turn left, then he might have reconsidered his position on the subject.

As a little boy, I used to think that Dad's goal was to circumnavigate the globe by making left turns. It seemed to me that whenever we were driving somewhere and there was even a smidge of uncertainty concerning how we were to reach our destination from that particular point in the road, Dad would turn left.  Invariably and inevitably, he went left.  It was as if his mantra was "Go Left Or Go Home!

Anyway, my decision to swap a right turn for this particular left turn had proven to be an exceptionally poor one.  By the end of the first week of May - for as luck would have it the calendar in 2015 follows that of 2009 so that year's May 8th was a Friday also - I was resigned to the fact that I had dropped myself into a hole from which I could not extricate myself.  Every day was a carbon copy of the one that preceded and an eerily accurate predictor of the one that would follow behind it. Each one was, indeed, an inferno.  

At some point at or about noon I had a brief yet substantive conversation with my then-former and now-present Partner, Howard, which conversation resulted in me - before I left for home that evening - informing my then-employer that my brief, unspectacular run there was over.  I wrote out a formal letter of resignation so that the Lord of the Mother Ship could be informed of my decision, sent it via e-mail to the Commonwealth and exited...

...through the door on the left of course.  I am nothing if I am not my father's son.  I drove home that night smiling ear-to-ear.   The next day, freed from shackles of my own creation, I wrote this (although this little nugget that I wrote on the penultimate day of my sentence is far more humorous - and with the advantage of six years worth of reflection - also incredibly unfair to the shop I called home during my "Winter at the Reservoir"). 

One needs not work very hard to sell me on the virtue of the second chance.  I am greeted daily in the morning's wee small hours by the mirrored reflection of a man who received one, which he may or may not have been entitled to receive.  One for which he remains very, very grateful. 


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Killin' It Like Kowalski

If it is not a truism it certainly should be:  No one buys a house at or near the beach because he enjoys cutting grass.  The lawn is a disfavored external accoutrement at the Shore.  Unless of course, you own property in Spring Lake.  For in Spring Lake, not only is having a lawn mandatory, using a micrometer to ensure uniformity of the height of its individual blades is as well.  Believe me on this, as one who runs annually on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend in the Spring Lake Five Mile Run, you are more likely to find a home in Spring Lake that is not owned and/or occupied by someone of Irish descent than you are to find a home whose lawn is awry at all.  It is as if the entire town is landscaped by the Christof and the other minds behind The Truman Show.  

Less than one week ago, the Missus and I closed on our little piece of the American Dream - at least our American Dream I reckon - a home slightly more than two blocks from the beach in Lake Como, New Jersey.  For those with inquiring minds, the Clooneys and the Kennys are not neighbors.  Their home is in the other Lake Como - in Italy.   

As luck would have it, the home we purchased has a postage-stamp-sized front yard.  We spent this past weekend down there working on some things, both inside and outside, and as I was puttering around in the front of the house (doing some scraping and painting - Margaret thankfully explained to me the correct order in which to perform those related tasks, which lessened my frustration palpably) I noticed that the grass needed to be cut.  I remembered that the persons from whom we purchased the home had left an old-school, manual mower in the garage.  I decided that I would take it out and see whether it was still capable of cutting anything - other than the air. 

Given its outward appearance, I was not initially encouraged by my prospects of being able to use it.  Boy was I ever wrong.  Weathered and beaten-looking as it might be (and I assure you it is), it worked spectacularly well.  I cut my grass to a respectable height while leaving no carbon footprint whatsoever.  It is quite an acoustically-interesting experience as well, in that the spinning blades make a sound akin to something one would more readily associate with a barber shop than a front lawn.  

Margaret also thought it was hysterical.  She took a number of photographs of the lawn-cutting process, which she hopes to feature in her first gallery show, tentatively entitled "Old Man & Older Machine", including this one: 

It is not everyone who gets to rock his inner Walt Kowalski.  I do - although I am not as fiercely protective of my lawn as he was of his.  I know not how long grass shall have a home at the front of our home, including whether or not it shall be there beyond this summer.  For however long it lasts, my new old friend and I shall enjoy cutting it.  


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Walk Into the Heart of Darkness...

If you have no capacity for violence 
then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. 
If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, 
then you have defined an aggressive sociopath—a wolf. 
But what if you have a capacity for violence, 
and a deep love for your fellow citizens? 
Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, 
Someone who is walking the hero’s path.  
Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, 
Into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.   
- Lt. Col. David Grossman  

As I get older and even more disagreeable and cantankerous than I was a much younger man - and I assure you that I was no bargain "back in the day" - I have a more difficult time than I once did letting go of certain things.  The death of a police officer is such a thing.  Doubly so when I look at the face of this young man, whose acquaintance I never made, and am stricken by just how young he was.  He was a five-year veteran of the nation's finest police department.  Yet, he also appeared to have been a young man whose face had not yet needed a reason to formally introduce itself to his razor.  

Forever young he shall remain.  The opportunity to grow old having been taken from him through a senseless act of violence.  Those who do for a living what Brian Moore did to earn his are often driven to do what they do by a sense of duty, a sense of obligation that many of the rest of us simply do not feel.  The business of "serving and protecting" is not for everyone.   As we see every now and again, it should not necessarily be the business of all of those who have chosen it as their own.  

By all accounts, both the family who shall have the sad duty of gathering to bury their boy Brian on Friday and the city for which Police Officer Moore died while protecting have suffered a substantive loss.  A young man whose DNA was coded NYPD dedicated his life to protecting those around him.  Both those who he knew and loved and those to whom he was a stranger and vice versa.  The latter received the benefit of his service and his protection as an innate extension of the oath he took and was duty-bound to uphold. 

Whenever this happens, which is to say whenever a man or woman such as Police Officer Moore is killed in the service of the community he or she serves, my mind's eye is drawn through the surface level of the photograph and into the layers that lie beneath it.  It is drawn in fact to another photograph of another face.  A face that belongs to a young man imbued with a sense of purpose similar to that of Police Officer Moore.  And I wonder - as I do every now and again - and perhaps even more than I should:  Who protects the protectors?  Who is it who keeps an eye out for them?  

From my admittedly limited perspective, the responsibility for protecting the sheepdog rests with the flock.  If not the flock, then to whom does that responsibility fall?  If the flock is not willing to accept that responsibility, then what fucking right do we have to seek out and to rely upon the sheepdog to protect us?  

The problem with Lt. Colonel Grossman's recitation is that its last statement is a misstatement.  There is no guarantee that the sheepdog shall "walk out unscathed".  There is an ever-present possibility that the sheepdog - once engaged - shall not walk out, unscathed or otherwise.

Yet forward he moves, never relenting and never wavering, into the "universal human phobia".  



Tuesday, May 5, 2015

May No Whisper Go Unanswered

As a parent there is no fear that equals that of the fear of outliving your child.  I think that is so because as a parent you intuitively accept the fact that upon the arrival of your child into your life, your life's mission changes from whatever it might have been previously to the protection of that child.  

It is a sucker's bet to be sure.  Try as one might, as a parent one is always over-matched in the protection department.  There are simply too many beds under which to check.  Too many closet doors to open.  Too many bogeymen.  Not enough time.  

If you are a parent of a son or a daughter who works in the field of law enforcement, then you went to bed last night - and arose this morning - hoping like hell that the shoes in which the family of Police Officer Brian Moore of the NYPD is now being forced to walk are shoes that you shall never have to slip on your own two feet.  Officer Moore, based in the 105th Precinct in Queens Village, died yesterday from gunshot wounds he sustained two days earlier when he was shot in the face by an individual whose own history includes convictions for other acts of violence

Brian Moore was twenty-five years young.  He had been a member of the NYPD for five years. Policing the streets of New York City is something of a family business for the Moores.  Officer Moore's father, Ray, is a retired NYPD sergeant.  Brian's uncle is also.   

Police Officer Brian Moore could.  Police Officer Brian Moore did.  Today, and going forward from today, keep a good thought for the family from whom he was taken far too soon.  They deserve it.
For him and for themselves.

Fidelis Ad Mortem...

Police Officer Brian Moore, NYPD
105th Precinct - Queens Village
End of Watch:  May 4, 2015


Monday, May 4, 2015

For Those Who Wear the Cross of Their Calling

Today is Firefighters' Day.  As someone who has never - not even once - run towards something terrible while running away from it seems to be the far safer option, the men and women who do so regularly impress me beyond my limited ability to express adequately.  

Thank you for all that it is that you do - and all that you stand ready to do.  


Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Adventure Begins...

The Missus and I spent our first full day as homeowners in Lake Como yesterday.  We made the acquaintance of the good folks at Taylor's Hardware Store, with whom I suspect we shall become substantially more familiar before our first summer at the Shore.  Suzanne drove down to help Margaret organize some things in the kitchen and to brainstorm some decorating ideas. Gidg stopped by to deliver some wholly unnecessary and completely cool housewarming gifts. 

We spent several hours doing things that need to be done in order for us to transform this house into our home.  And it was one of the best Saturdays I have spent in too long for me to actually remember.