Saturday, February 28, 2015

Tooth and Nail

I don't think there's any point in being Irish if you don't know
That the world is going to break your heart eventually.
- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

By the time I was about ten or eleven years old, all four of my grandparents were dead and buried, including Mom's mother, Grandma Kelly, who had (I presume) a heart attack while sitting at the dining room table at our home on Canal Road.  Jill and I were sitting at the table with her when it occurred.  As an event, it so overwhelmed my little boy brain that my principal concern was the beating I anticipated Dad administering to me when he arrived home from work given (a) my proximity to Grandma when it happened; and (b) Jill's status as Dad's favorite.  She was "Tiger".  I was his big-headed, Phenobarbital-swigging menace. I had little doubt which one of us was going to take the bullet for killing Grandma, which one of us clearly must have done.   I feared that Grandma's untimely end was going to serve as the first half of day-night doubleheader in the Kenny home. Thankfully, I was mistaken. 

I was fourteen years old when my mother buried my father.  Married life for Joanie K. and WPK, Sr. was not idyllic.  Not by any stretch of one's imagination or one's vocabulary.  Yet, in the immediate aftermath of his death, I was seized by the difference between what it means to be a child who endures the death of a parent as opposed to what it means to be a spouse who endures the loss of a partner.  A child - unless she is a red-headed orphan named Annie - does not choose his/her parents. As a general rule, we become cognizant of who they are and the role played in our day-to-day at some point subsequent to our arrival in their day-to-day.  We did not choose them.  

It is not the same for husbands and wives.  We choose one another.  We hitch our little wagons together, metaphorically speaking, and wade off into the Great Unknown, where we do battle with Life, experience its joys, its frustrations and its beautiful rewards.  

Sadly, the song is true.  "When you find somebody to love in this world, you better hang on tooth and nail.  The wolf is always at your door."   Sadder still is the fact that irrespective of how hard you fight and how long you hang on, when the wolf moves upon you it ends up through - and no longer merely at - your door.  

It is among the most unfair things that the decidedly unfair, rigged game that Life is does to any one of us.  And these days, among the people to whom Life is doing it is my sister Evan.  

And it sucks.  

-AK 

Friday, February 27, 2015

At the Point of Intersection Between Impotence and Anger

Sometimes No Truth is More Powerful Than
One Expressed in Anger by a Melancholy Man. 
- Pete Hamill

There is no feeling that makes me angrier than that of being powerless.   The feeling, grounded in fact and in knowledge, that irrespective of whatever I might do, whatever bribe I might offer to pay, whatever God I might curse, whatever deal I might make with Satan himself, am impotent to prevent events from continuing on their pre-determined course. 

At this moment, the tip of the spear (Sister edition) of the Kenny siblings - Evan - and the love of her life - my brother-in-law Glenn (whom she refers to affectionately as "MWH") are neck deep in a battle against the insidious, invasive piece of shit disease that is cancer.  It is a battle that they neither sought out nor deserve.  They have been engaged by an enemy whose only satisfaction will come from cutting a swath of pain and sorrow through their home.  

Cancer, I fucking hate you.  Leave Evan and Glenn alone, you prick.   




-AK 









Thursday, February 26, 2015

And Then There Were Two...

Months that is.

The 2015 New Jersey Marathon shall be run on April 26, which coincidentally is also the birthday of my oldest sibling, Bill.  While I am feeling pretty good thus far a bit more than halfway through my training, I will hedge my bet and make sure to mail my birthday card to him a couple of days ahead.  Just in case.  The legendary Frank Gonzales taught me (and countless others) - a bit more than a lifetime ago - of the importance of living life by "The Five Ps":  Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.  It was great advice then and it remains so today. 

As noted above, I am slightly more than halfway through my training program (3/4 of the way through Week Eight of a Sixteen-Week program) and thus far all systems are go.  I am continuing to push my mind to push my body into - and through - levels of discomfort that I hope will better prepare it - and me - for the discomfort that I shall undoubtedly experience during the race.  The goal is to condition myself to accept the discomfort and to, therefore, respond to it accordingly.  I cannot avoid it.  I intend merely to be able to manage it.  

All has gone well thus far.  Things shall really begin to get interesting this Sunday.  I shall kick off Week Nine with a sixteen-mile run.  From this Sunday through Sunday, April 5, my weekly Sunday long runs are of the following distances:  16, 16, 17, 18, 20 and 20.  Completion of the designated distance shall not be my principal focus.  Rather, my focus shall be on completion of it in miles completed at not more than an eight-minute pace.  

Two months to go.  Many miles still to run.  Discomfort management is - and remains - the order of the day.

-AK 




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

In the Words of Jimmy Page...

"Too good not to share...!"


Judging by this 6:13 performance, I would say that these children have acquired an impressive level of proficiency.  This is not only a performance worth watching, but it is worth watching more than one time, if for no other reason than so that you can focus your eye on different members of the ensemble.  I have a number of favorites - including the tandem in the front row, the little boy in the black sweatshirt in the third row who throws in the occasional head bob, and the four girls in the back (all of whom appear to be playing an instrument other than the xylophone - at least to my incredibly untrained eye).  

My favorite member of this ensemble is the little girl in the aqua/turquoise-colored sweatshirt who is a one of the three-player drum crew.  The little boy manning the kit in front of her is excellent as well (as is the third member of their troika) but she is simply terrific.  

As someone who has as little talent for music as, sadly, I do for essentially everything else, I find the performance of this talented group of children therapeutic.  I cannot help but smile watching them combine talent and enthusiasm to create something that appears to bring them a great deal of joy.  

It turns out that it brings a great deal of joy to others as well, including those of us whose child-like enthusiasms abandoned us a long, long time ago.   Terrific stuff.  Simply terrific.




-AK 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Hope For Just A Little More Rope

"Staring down that long steep slope, 
We gather 'round and we hold out hope, 
That at the end of the rope, 
There's a little more rope most times." 
- Carlisle's Haul 
James McMurtry

When one who is a self-proclaimed misanthrope offers an opinion as to something that he - said misanthrope - enjoys a great deal and that he thinks others might also enjoy, the natural reaction to such an offer is likely one of two things.  

First, consider the source of the information, what a cantankerous prick of misery said misanthrope is, and ignore it altogether.  

Second, consider the source of the information, what a cantankerous prick of misery said misanthrope is, the odds against him actually doing anything for the benefit of another, and take his recommendation to heart.  

Under the circumstances, either response is easily understood and easy to defend.  If, working within the confines of this hypothetical, you opt for what is behind Door #2, then I hope you derive at least a percentage of the enjoyment that I have derived this past week from listening (practically non-stop) to James McMurtry's new record, Complicated Game, which is officially being released today.  

I am not in the prognostication business so I know not whether you shall enjoy it.  I know simply that I have been enjoying it as much as any record I can remember while I have listened to it over and over since this time last week.  

As a fan of his music, I hope this record does well for him so that he can continue to make a living doing something that I think he does exceptionally well and from which I derive a significant amount of pleasure.  

And if you decide to give it a listen, notwithstanding my preference for all creatures four-legged and my presumption that if you are able to read these words, you have not more than one-half of that amount of legs, then I hope you consider it time well-spent.  

-AK 

Monday, February 23, 2015

These Days

First things first.  I would be remiss if I did not - on behalf of the Missus and me - extend thanks and appreciation for all of the nice words and kind sentiments directed our way in the wake of the sudden death on Friday morning of our cat, Boo.  If you are a person who is not a pet owner and a human being mourning the loss of a pet strikes you as absurd, then please know that I understand your position completely.   Please know also that I shall not apologize for my position on the matter.  Nor shall I apologize for my statement, which I stand by, regarding my preference for animals over humans.  

I am sorry that Boo died - and remain at a loss trying to comprehend just what happened to her - but I am thankful that she neither lingered nor suffered.  Within the past several years ago, Margaret and I have had to put down two beloved four-legged members of the family.  On each occasion, the experience has been brutal.  Our little hater spared us having to endure it.  For that I am appreciative. After a lifetime of thirteen-plus years in which she appeared (on her best days) to barely tolerate us humans who were part of her day-to-day, it turns out she loved us after all.  Who knew? 

Her death now makes me the only being in our home who uses the basement treadmill.  Before anyone speed-dials PETA, Boo did not run on the treadmill.  Rather, she used to sit in the basement watching me run and then - almost immediately upon the completion of my run - hop up onto the machine and lie down on it.  Knowing how much she enjoyed the treadmill, I have now set her up in a spot where she can (a) continue to enjoy it; and (b) keep a critical eye on me to ensure that I run hard through every mile.




On Sunday morning, I kicked off this week's training for the New Jersey Marathon by hauling ass (relatively speaking) through fourteen miles on the treadmill.  My goal for this training run, which is the first one in this cycle to take me past the half-marathon, was the same as it has been for each and every training run, which was to run nothing slower than eight-minute miles.  Fourteen miles at eight minutes per mile works out to 112 minutes.  I banged my way through it in 107 minutes and thirty-nine seconds.  While covering fourteen miles in 1:47.39 shall not cause either Meb or my brother-in-law Russ to lose a minute's sleep, for me it was pretty damn satisfying. 

And given the way these past several days have gone, I am not about to turn my nose up at pretty damn satisfying. 

-AK   

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Walk on Frozen Water

So are you willing to wait for the Miracle, 
Willing to wait it Through
Are you willing to wait for the Miracle, 
Or don't you believe they're True? 
- Marc Cohn

If you were born on or after February 22, 1980, then what occurred on that Friday late afternoon/early evening in the Medal Round of the Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament probably seems to you to be the story of an epic sports upset.  Nothing more and nothing less than perhaps the greatest upset in the history of team sports.  In and of itself, a monumental achievement. 

To have been born and to have lived, however, in these United States prior to February 22, 1980 puts you in a position that those among our number who were not so situated, cannot fully comprehend or appreciate.  A position of understanding that what occurred in Lake Placid, New York was about sports - to be sure - but it was about so much more.  

In 1980, there were two nations sporting the sobriquet "Super Power", the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  One of the two spent the decade of the 1970's on its knees, bloodied and bowed.  And it was not the USSR.  When the 1970's began, the "Summer of Love" seemed to be as far removed from the American psyche as was the Battle of Bunker Hill.  We the people spent countless hours (at least on the day that our license plate indicated we were permitted to do so) waiting on lines in an effort to obtain gasoline.  Tens of thousands of American troops remained committed by a gaggle of allegedly very bright, white-haired gentlemen to an utterly impossible-to-win conflict in Vietnam.  By the time the war had ended, a number of the men who had committed the troops there were no longer in office and yet it was the soldiers - the individuals who had been drafted into Hell - who returned home to, in far too many instances, openly hostile receptions.  

The American people re-elected Richard Nixon and his running mate Spiro Agnew in 1972 to the office of the Presidency and the Vice-Presidency respectively.  Nixon won re-election in a landslide over South Dakota Senator George McGovern.  By August 10, 1974, both men were gone.  Agnew in a criminal mess arising out of his way of doing business as an elected official, including Governor, in Maryland and Nixon in a little burglary gone wrong called Watergate.   Gerald Ford, a Congressman from Michigan who ascended to the Vice-Presidency when Nixon appointed him to replace Agnew, who resigned in September, 1973, continued his historic ascendancy when he became President Ford upon Nixon's resignation of the office at 12:00 noon on August 9, 1974.  When President Ford appointed former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller to serve as Vice-President, it represented the first time in American History that the two highest elected offices in the country were each occupied by an individual for whom no one had cast a single vote.  Not one.  

The wobble through the 1970's continued of Ford's watch.  Roughly one month after Nixon resigned the Presidency, Ford pardoned him, which proved to be a move of questionable political efficacy when Ford sought election to the office in 1976.  America, by this point, had become so completely mind-fucked that a majority of the people who showed up on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November, 1976 to vote for President actually voted for Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter

By the time the world arrived in upstate New York for the 1980 Winter Olympics, Jimmy Carter's America was in fairly dire straits, economically and geo-politically.  In 1979, the United States Embassy in Tehran, Iran was overrun by Iranian nationals who appreciated the virtues of neither their deposed Shah nor the United States government who had propped him up on his throne.  Americans were taken hostage.  They would not be freed during the Carter Presidency.  In December, 1979, the USSR invaded Afghanistan even though the United States warned them not to do so - or else.  It turned out that the "or else" was an American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.  

Ten years of self-loathing, self-doubt and self-destruction had left we the people of these United States feeling pretty shitty about ourselves and our country.  In spite of Carter's boycott of the Moscow games, the Soviet Union still sent its athletes to Lake Placid for the Winter Olympics.  No doubt, it did so in significant part because it welcomed the opportunity to flex its muscles not only on the international stage of the Olympics but to do so on American soil.  

In the final game that the two teams played prior to their respective arrivals in Lake Placid, the Soviet Olympic Hockey Team, which was essentially the Soviet Red Army Team - the most dominant hockey team on the planet, and the American Olympic Hockey Team, which was a team comprised principally of college-age players (and one Olympic veteran, Buzz Schneider, who had played in the 1976 Olympics) who somehow survived Herb Brooks' selection process and training program, played at Madison Square Garden.  On February 9, 1980, the Soviets dismantled the Americans 10-3.   

Thirteen days later, Mike Eruzione, Captain of the American team, collected a pass just inside the Soviet blue line, shot and scored the goal that put the United States ahead 4-3.  Eruzione's go-ahead goal occurred exactly at the game's fiftieth minute (the 10:00 mark of the third period).  For the final ten minutes, the Soviet players buzzed around the American half of the ice and peppered shots at goalie Jim Craig but Craig, who just thirteen days earlier had been overwhelmed by the Soviet attack, stood fast.  

As the time grew shorter, people all across the United States (watching the game on tape-delay) kept one eye on the clock and the other fixed skyward awaiting the arrival of the inevitably Earth-bound other shoe.   It never arrived.  Eventually, time grew so short that but one question remained to be asked.  

Thirty-five years ago, on this very date, a group of twenty American kids, led by their mad scientist coach, won a hockey game.  And in the process they did quite a bit more than that.  They helped remind a nation of people who had grown disillusioned and weary under the weight of a decade's worth of failed expectations, corruption and incompetence what it meant to be an American

A miracle?  If one considers what happens when a group of people, united in purpose, put aside whatever differences and petty disagreements they may have in favor of sacrifice and subjugation to achieve a sought-after goal to constitute a miracle, then indeed it was.  




-AK 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Little Creature. Big Hole.

A bit of sad business crept inside the four walls of our little home yesterday.  One of our two cats, Boo, died.  As far as Margaret and I were able to tell, the little monster we affectionately referred to as "Six Pounds of Hate" because her beautifully-expressive face always made her appear as if she was mad as hell, simply had a heart attack or some such event.  




She was alive and well when Margaret and I went to bed Thursday night at a bit after 10:00 PM - and was in fact in her customary place flopping all over Rosie in Rosie's bed on the floor immediately adjacent to my side of the bed. However, when I walked through the hallway on my way to take a shower at 3:30 AM yesterday morning, I saw her motionless on the floor.  She was gone. 

Boo is/was one half of a great story.  She and her brother, Dempsey, were introduced into our home as newborn kittens, having been found in a box on the side of a road by Margaret's former husband, Bob, as he was on his way to perform electrical work at a customer's home.  Boo and Dempsey were so tiny that their eyes were barely open.  They knew not how to do anything for themselves and they had been taken from their mother at such an early age that she had not yet had the opportunity to teach them what they needed to know.  It fell therefore to Margaret and to Rob to take care of them.  And take care of them they did.  For the first several weeks of their lives, Margaret and Rob fed them them and, essentially, mothered them.  That was October, 2001. 

Over the course of the past thirteen and one-half years, Boo became what pets become, which was an integral part of the fabric of our life.  Her brother, Dempsey, is the single-most, un-catlike cat I have ever encountered in that he is incredibly people-friendly and at times almost desperate in his need for affection.  Boo?  She spent her life interacting with us humans who shared space with her on her terms.  Her physical frame was small - Dempsey is close to twice her size - but her spirit was big. 




I far prefer the company of animals to the company of human beings.  Nary a day goes by during which - on at least one occasion - I do not have to suppress my "I Want to Punch That M*ther F*cker in the Larynx" reflex while interacting with other humans.  I have never had to do so  - not once - with any of the animals with whom I have been fortunate enough to share space.  




I know not what will happen to Dempsey now - although I am worried about him.  He and his sister spent the past thirteen and one-half years essentially intertwined.  Now, she is gone.  I know not whether his little feline brain can actually process "loss" and whether he understands to any degree whatsoever what has happened.  




I worry about Rosie too.  She has lived in the company of cats her entire life.  This photograph from May 2008, when Rosie was less than one year old, features Boo, Dempsey and Rosie as they often are/were:  together.  It is among my favorites - admittedly in large part due to the fact that each one's eyes are drawn to something completely different.



Boo kept those of us of the bi-ped persuasion at arm's length.  Yet, she had a soft spot in her little heart for Rosie.  They slept together at night and Boo made sure to spend a portion of her day, every day, nuzzling with her hairy, canine half-sister.  On one particular occasion, she allowed Rosie to return the favor of using her as a pillow.


  

The great, sagacious Dr. Seuss instructed us, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."  It certainly did.

Every day for the past thirteen and one-half years.    

-AK 

Friday, February 20, 2015

"A Sentient Being. A Thinking Animal."

Courage is Not the Absence of Fear
But Rather the Judgment that Something Else
Is More Important than Fear.
- Ambrose Redmoon

In spite of the shit-storm that we the people of these United States have worked tirelessly and idiotically to create for ourselves in the first decade and one-half of Century 21st, examples of strength and of courage abound.  They are there for us to admire, to draw upon and to follow each and every day.  This day is no exception. 

My words cannot do his justice so I shall not expose myself as a fool by pretending that they can.  I would instead implore you to spend a few minutes reading the Op-Ed piece that Oliver Sacks, M.D. authored, which piece appeared in yesterday's edition of The New York Times.  Dr. Sacks wrote it in response to having been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Dr. Sacks is eighty-one years old.  A life that has been measured in decades shall now be measured by weeks and months.  

I choked up a bit reading Dr. Sacks' piece.  I did so, in significant part, because I was awed by his words and his spirit.  He wrote them as a man seemingly condemned to live out his days under the specter of the coming day being the worst day yet of his life.  Yet, he wrote them with a tone and a tenor of a man seemingly unfazed by that which lies ahead and sincerely appreciative of all that has led him to this point.  It is a point of view that I find both remarkable and utterly inspiring...

...read his words and see if you do not agree. 

-AK 



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Numerology

As a fan of the New York Yankees, I have spent this entire off-season anticipating that this coming season is going to be a long one for the Bronx's best apostles.  Between the decision to not bring back David Robertson and the decision to bring back Stephen Drew, it appears to me as if the team's hierarchy has spent the winter writing "Baseball By Dummies".  If you listen closely enough, and press your ear all the way down to the ground in order to pick up Hell's frequency with minimal interference, you can almost hear The Boss rolling over in his grave. 

My Irish optimism is mirrored by the folks at the Atlantis Casino Sports Book in Reno, Nevada, which just released its "Over/Under" for every Major League team.  The "O/U" Line (not to be confused with the "OU812" Line so tell Sammy Hagar to stop doing his vocal exercises) for the Yankees is eighty regular season wins.  A sub .500 "O/U" line.  One has to hearken back to the early days of the Showalter regime, as Buck was crawling through the wreckage of the Dent, Green and Merrill years, to find an "O/U" line for the Yankees that projects them to finish the season with no more wins than losses.  

And then, earlier this week, the cherry on top of my sundae of diminished expectations arrived in the form of the team announcing that Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte shall all have their uniform numbers retired this season.  Each shall have his own day, of course.  So shall long-time Yankee player and coach Willie Randolph. Given the inane number of Promotional Days on the team's schedule this year, I am impressed that each man was able to be given his own "Day".  April 25 against the Mets is "Brett Gardner Replica Bat Day".  Nothing says tradition quite as eloquently as that...unless of course it is Dellin Betances Figurine Night, which is July 8 against the Oakland A's.

As someone who loved Joe Torre's Yankees and whose son came of age as a baseball fan in 1996 and who spent many a night seated with me in the living room watching the Yankees of the late '90's and early Aughts battle their way deep into October (and when the real world intruded in 2001) and November, I take no issue with honors being bestowed upon Williams, Posada or Pettitte although I do think the retiring of numbers has gotten out of hand.  At this rate, the only Yankees who played for Joe Torre whose numbers shall not be retired are Alex Rodriguez, Chuck Knoblauch, Chad Curtis and - possibly - Denny Neagle.  Also, I am very happy for Randolph, who as a baby ballplayer in the late 1970's was dropped into the maelstrom that was the Bronx Zoo and never flinched, while playing a standout second base and seeming to be in the middle of at least every other rally.  He shall be honored on Old Timers Day, which interestingly enough this year is a night-time event.  To my memory, it has never been so before - at least in the recent past.    

No sport pays more heed to its own history than baseball.  No team in baseball does so more than the Yankees.  At some point in time however, the train has jumped the tracks in the Bronx. The Silver Spoon Twins have proven over and over in the years since their father, Boss George, died that while each is his father's son, neither is his father.  Now, rather than doing what is needed to field a team that might actually win the AL East on the field in 2015 and to not price their fans out of a seat at the Stadium, the H and H Boys have co-opted a memory that belongs to others in the hope that while fans in the stands cheer all that Randolph, Williams, Posada and Pettitte meant to them, they will ignore the train wreck into which this team's present has devolved.  

Even if my sense of doom and gloom turns out to be well-placed, the longest summer at the big ballpark in the Bronx will still be better than what we have endured - weather-wise - this winter. Happiness occurs, after all, at the very moment when grass replaces snow as the ground covering of choice.  

-AK 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Wisdom of Youth

True confession:  Until my friend Dave Lackland posted a link to this young man's story on Facebook this past weekend, I not only was entirely unfamiliar with the story but with the young man as well.  Now, after having had the chance to learn a very little bit about him, I find myself rooting very hard for him to succeed. 

I was twenty-one quite a long time ago.  Admittedly, the combination of time's passage and the number of "foreign substances" I ingested in my early twenties makes a great deal of that era of my life a little fuzzy.  I can say with certainty however that at twenty-one years of age I not only did not possess the fastball of Daniel Norris (he is ranked as the #3 left-handed pitching prospect in baseball), I did not possess his wherewithal either.  

Lest you think this is some type of publicity stunt, it is not.  Norris, drafted out of Johnson City High School in Tennessee in 2011, made but one purchase of any appreciable significance with the $2 Million signing bonus the Toronto Blue Jays paid him:  "Shaggy", his 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia micro-bus.  It has been his off-season home for the past several years - long before it caught anyone's attention.  

His advice for anyone pursuing a dream?  "Follow your heart, kid."  Regardless of how you earn your living or where you park your home at night that is quite excellent advice.  Quite excellent indeed.  

-AK 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Just Run



Sunday kicked off Week Seven of my sixteen-week training program for the 2015 New Jersey Marathon, which is being held this year on April 26.  While winter has been less than cooperative with regard to my efforts to run outdoors, my basement dungeon has been a lifesaver.  Running on a treadmill can be pure drudgery but skimping on training for a marathon can be injurious to one's health.  I would rather endure the drudgery than risk an injury. 

This week's long run was twelve miles, which is indeed a fairly ambitious distance to cover on foot but is still less than half of the distance to be covered on race day.   I was very pleased that I was able to complete it in less than ninety-six minutes.  I am continuing to adhere to my goal of running eight minute or less mile splits.   This is my goal not because I have any delusion of being able to do it twenty-six times in a row on race day but rather because I am continuing to force my mind and my body to be uncomfortable and to power through feelings of discomfort and anxiety.  Discomfort and anxiety are feelings that come rampaging through my mind - as a four-hour-plus marathoner - beginning at or about Mile 15.  My friend Gidg is the most mentally tough runner I know.  I have no delusions about ever being able to equal her level of mental toughness.  However, if I can get to 50% of her level, I will be more than tough enough mentally to beat back those feelings. 

In an odd coincidence, my split times for my long run Sunday not only were sub-eight-minute miles laid back-to-back for twelve consecutive miles, but they were mirror images.  I ran the first six miles in 46:12.  I finished my run in 92:24, which means that I ran the final six miles in...46:12.  What does that mean?  Probably not a whole hell of a lot but when one spends a hairball less than ninety minutes running on a treadmill, one clings to anything that makes the experience less onerous.  

This weekend I finally break into the "more than half-marathon" distance for my training run.  On tap this Sunday is a fourteen-mile run.  Thus far I have done well.  I have not missed a single run on my training schedule.  While I could certainly use to drop about seven-to-ten pounds, which would take a little bit of pressure off of my knees, my legs feel good and my confidence feels even better.  

Miles to go?  Absolutely.  But I cannot cover the distance any more quickly than one step at a time and so far I am doing just that.  

-AK   

Monday, February 16, 2015

While Abe Was Sleeping

If you are among those of us who is not at work today due to the Federal holiday-equivalent of the participation medal, then I hope you enjoy your Presidents' Day.  If you happen to live - as my brother and his branch of the family do - in Connecticut then you have my most sincere empathy for all of the snow you have endured thus far this winter.  I doubt highly that it is any solace to you at all - as you dig out from yet another storm - that March is less than two weeks away.  I hope it is but if it is not at this point in the season, I understand completely. 

Today is a day that friends, relatives and/or descendants of any person who has held the office of President of the United States can delude himself or herself into believing is a day designed to honor their friend or loved one.  It is not of course but since we the people of these United States cannot function without having every former stand-alone holiday converted into a three-day-weekend on which we can buy automobiles, shop for mattresses, and snowboard there is nothing save for an innate sense of self-respect that serves to deter the descendants of Ulysses S. Grant, Warren Harding or Herbert Hoover into acting as if even a small portion of today belongs to their ancestor.  

And you know what?  There is not a damn thing wrong with them thinking whatever they would like to think about it.  The Republic survived the Civil War in significant part due to the battlefield exploits of General Ulysses S. Grant.  And the Republic survived the train wreck that was his post-Civil War presidency.  Ditto for Messrs. Harding and Hoover and each and every ordinary (or worse) occupant of the big white residential property with the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue mailing address.  

All hail mediocrity!  If you made it to the top of the heap, whether you barely lived long enough to complete the swearing-in or never received a single vote - NOT ONE - for the office, then this day off is for you, from you and because of you.  The people who work at the Firm thank you.  My secretary Lucia thanks you.  

And, because you shall winnow the herd down to a few hearty souls by the time my evening commute rolls around, I thank you too. 

-AK 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Crash Landings

I know not where Time goes.  I know simply that irrespective of how many sub-eight-minute training miles I run back-to-back-to-back-to-back I cannot stop it.  Hell, I cannot even slow it down. 

It was scarily close to thirty years ago that the great American singer/songwriter John Hiatt recorded "Tip of My Tongue",  a track from his 1987 masterpiece Bring the Family, for which this was the chorus: 

I Broke your Heart
With the Back of my Mind.
From the Tip of my Tongue
To the End of the Line.

Over the years, Hiatt has described this song as telling the story of what happens when one person says something to another person, which "something" he immediately regrets.  He wishes that he could take it back - reel the words back up and into his mouth.  Of course, he cannot.  And as the song goes, he learns soon thereafter that it is not only for actions that there are consequences.   Or better said, he learns that when it comes to consequences, it is impossible to parse out the word from the deed.  Irrespective of whether the impetus is something uttered or something undertaken, wheels set in motion shall roll.  Their journey, unfortunately, is not always a smooth one.  

Hiatt wrote and recorded "Tip of My Tongue" quite some time before the Internet became the presence/occasionally malevolent force that it is presently.  It is a song from a time when birds tweeted.  People did not.  The times, as we know, they are a-changing.  

And if the world is an iteration or three colder in 2015 than it was in 1987, then it is apropos that a song written regarding the dangers inherent in the most intimate, personal communication can nevertheless serve as a cautionary tale regarding the dangers inherent in the least intimate, impersonal forms of communication.  

I would not pretend to be a better teller of this particular tale than Jon Ronson.  Therefore, I shall simply recommend to you - especially if you are someone who has a Facebook and/or Twitter account (and based upon how readers of this particular bit of silliness arrive here, most of you who are reading this have at least one such account) - that you invest the time necessary to read the cautionary tale that is the life of  Justine Sacco.   

It is, I think, an extraordinary story.   Although what it says about her in particular and the world in general, I would not pretend to be smart enough to say.   

-AK 




Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Ballad of the Happy Idiot

-Jackson Browne

A lifetime or so ago, I was fortunate enough to find that girl.  And try as she might, she has not been able to shake me.  I have been the gum stuck to her shoe for close to a quarter-century now.  I am nothing if not persistent. 

Persistence pays off.  It has for me.  I hope - on this day and every day - it has paid off for you as well.  

Most of all, I hope that she feels like my persistence has paid off for her too.  

-AK 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Feats of Strength

Shallow men believe in Luck. 
Strong men believe in Cause and Effect.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today is Friday the 13th.  For those of us with a superstitious bent, today's appearance on the calendar (and the first of two in a row to boot - Friday, March 13th I can see you from here!) can serve as a tailor-made excuse for failure, frustration and squandered opportunity.  But it can only do so if we allow it to do so.  

Here's the thing - and it is a simple thing.  And being a simple thing, it is the sort of thing that simple-minded rubes such as me cling to, because we can understand it.  I like things that are readily understood.  A reflection on my own under-developed mental acuity no doubt but I do not seem to run into as many of those types of things as I wish I did.  You, perhaps, suffer from the same sense of loss.  

OK, back to the simple thing.  Ready?  Here it is.  We can all serve ourselves and each other better if we just take Emerson's words to heart.  For phuck's sake, all he is requiring us to take to heart is one dozen words.   Two of those twelve are "in".  One of the twelve is "and".  Two of them - "men" and "believe" - are repeated.  Upon further examination, Emerson's Dozen can be pared down to nine different words.  Only nine.  If you have ever kept score at a baseball game, then by filling out the lineup you have already mastered the art of keeping track of nine different words.  

Now that we have established the universal truth that each of us possesses the ability to read and to comprehend Emerson's Dozen, all that is left for us to do is to put those words into action.  Contrary to popular misconception, it is something that can be done as easily as it can be said: 




Luck is, after all, a home-cooked meal.  We make it ourselves.  And you have me to help you.  At the beginning of this piece, I provided you with a dozen words to live by, courtesy of the great Mr. Emerson.  At its conclusion, I reduced your burden by two-thirds.   You only really have to remember four.  

How lucky can any one person get? 

-AK 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Jersey Boys

I know not whether it was coincidence or irony that on the same day that NBC announced that Brian Williams would be taking an involuntary, unpaid, six-month vacation from his position as Anchor of the NBC Nightly News, Jon Stewart announced his own voluntary and presumably permanent departure from The Daily Show on Comedy Central.   Two Jersey Boys whose bones have been made on television, each exiting the stage, albeit at different times (while Stewart is stepping away at some point in 2015, his specific date of departure has not yet been determined) and under decidedly different circumstances.  

Whether you are a fan of Mr. Stewart's program or you are a humorless dink, you shall miss him.  Over the course of the past seventeen years on the job (or as he put it when he announced his departure to his stunned studio audience, "Sixteen years and five months longer" than any other job he has ever held), Stewart transformed his program into a platform.   He reminded us - and some among our number he reminded repeatedly and in a manner that made them more than a tad uncomfortable - that humor need not always simply be a play for laughs.  It can be a tool for thought.  It can be a means by which serious issues of the day are discussed and are presented for consumption by an audience that otherwise might not be included within the target audience for such discussion by other "learned" individuals.  He reminded us that laughing and thinking are not mutually exclusive bodily functions.  Much like walking and chewing gum at the same time, through muscle memory and exercise, they can be experienced simultaneously. 

If pressed for three examples of why I, for one, consider Mr. Stewart to be an important voice addressing the important issues of the day - irrespective of the name of the network that airs his program, I would offer these.  First, the opening he did on September 20, 2001, which was the first night that The Daily Show returned to the air following the September 11 attacks.  The clip is lengthy but it is - I submit - worth the investment of nine minutes of your time.  I felt it was worth nine minutes of my time anyway.  Second, his announcement just two nights ago on-air at the conclusion of the program of his intended departure from The Daily Show.   

Third, and finally, included among Stewart's comments regarding the exhaustive media coverage of Brian Williams and his suspension from NBC News was this dart, "The media is on it.  Now this may seem like overkill but not for me.  No, it's not overkill because I am happy finally someone is being held to account for misleading America about the Iraq war.  It might not necessarily be the first person you'd want held accountable on that list but never again will Brian Williams mislead a nation about being shot at in a war we probably wouldn't have ended up in if we had applied this level of scrutiny to the actual fucking war.

If only.  Indeed.  

-AK 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Village and Its People

Irony, thou art a fickle bitch. 


"I just know that the Grammys, if they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us.  We ain't gonna play with them no more.  And Beck need to respect artistry and he should've given his award to Beyonce.

Because when you keep on diminishing art and not respecting the craft and smacking people in their face after they deliver monumental feats of music, you're disrespectful to inspiration.  And we as musicians have to inspire people to go to work every day, and they listen to that Beyonce album and they feel like it takes them to another place." 

All the while failing to appreciate, apparently, the fact that his spouse and the mother of his child is, herself, the Princess of the First Family of Faux and a woman whose fame is in her ass.  Literally and figuratively.     

Occupying a space and time far, far away from the First Family of Faux is Beck Hansen (a/k/a "The Artist Whose Work Won the Grammy for Album of the Year").  Beck's album, Morning Phase, contains thirteen tracks.  He wrote all of them.  He was the album's sole producer.  For good measure, in addition to handling the vocal responsibilities, Beck played fifteen different instruments.  Fifteen.  

Irrespective of whether Mr. West had Beck on his ballot or not, his suggestion that Beck's work is somehow disrespectful to the craft of music-making is - at first glance - obnoxious and, upon further examination, so detached from reality that it suggests that he might have downed a snootful of the bubbly his Missus had perched upon her derriere prior to his ascent and subsequent assault.  

It was once observed, rather famously, that for certain tasks It Takes a Village  Who knew that songwriting and production were among them?  

Great news fellow villagers, we have found our Idiot

-AK 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Mind's I

Make Sure Your Worst Enemy Doesn't
Live Between Your Own Two Ears.
- Laird Hamilton 

I am now officially into Week Six of my training for the New Jersey Marathon.  I kicked it off on Sunday by hoofing it eleven miles on the treadmill.  Boy oh boy, I cannot wait until the roads/sidewalks in and near my little town are sufficiently clear of ice, snow and other debris to permit me to run on them.  Perhaps this coming Sunday they shall be.  The Sunday that just passed they were not.  Thus, I descended into the dungeon and chugged my way through eleven indoor miles.  Fun?  No.  Productive?  Yes.  I completed my run in a hair less than eighty-six and one-half minutes.  Simply put:  I averaged sub-eight minute miles for eleven miles.  For me, that is a pretty damn productive training run.  

Satisfying as that result was, it has not caused my train to jump the tracks on the way to Delusion City.  The purpose of this exercise is not to trick myself into believing that "at this pace" I could run a three and one-half hour marathon on April's final Sunday.  I know that I cannot maintain such a pace for twenty six miles plus.  Its purpose is far more straightforward.  It is to push myself as hard as I can for as long a period of time as I can in an effort to not only test the limits of my lungs and my legs but - more importantly - my mind.  

For me, my mind is both my greatest ally and my worst enemy during something as trying and as taxing as running a marathon.  When I feel good, my mind powers my body.  When I feel something less than good, it requires a considerable amount of resolve to resist my mind's effort at talking my body into giving up altogether.  I am pushing myself harder training this time around than I have previously because I want to expand my mind's ability to tolerate discomfort.  If I can harness that - and have a mind that willingly accepts a level of discomfort necessary for me to run a solid race, then I will be pleased with the outcome of this year's New Jersey Marathon.   And I shall be so pleased irrespective of my finishing time. 

-AK 

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Stories We Could Tell

Much has been written and spoken all across various media platforms for the past several days about Brian Williams and lies (misremembrances?) he has told pertaining to his time spent in Iraq.  And if he did in fact tell tall tales then he might pay for his lies with his career, which might in fact be the appropriate punishment for his transgression.  

However, one thing remains true - irrespective of how many lies (if any) he told, none of his Iraq-related lies killed any American service members.  

If only everyone who ever told a lie about Iraq could say likewise. 

Stay tuned. 

-AK 


Sunday, February 8, 2015

There's New Grass On The Field

By this time two Sundays from now, pitchers and catchers for every Major League Baseball team - with the exception of those disagreeable Canadians from Toronto, will have reported to Arizona and Florida for Spring Training 2015.  Battery components for the Blue Jays have no listed "report date" but are scheduled to have their first workout on February 23.  I suspect that the one day difference might have something to do with conversion rates.  Perhaps the 22nd in American is equivalent to the 23rd in Canadian?  Should the Rangers play any Canadian teams in the NHL playoffs this year, the "date conversion rate" is something to which I shall have to pay at least a modicum of attention. 

While I suspect that it is going to be another long, ultimately unproductive season for the Bronx's best Apostles, with the retirement of Peter and the return of Judas, I am nevertheless happy about the fact that its commencement is almost upon us.  Not because I have any interest in exhibition baseball.  I do not.  As a general rule, games for which the results do not count, occupy zero percent of my attention.  I do have interest in what they represent however:  Truck Day is in the rear-view mirror. Opening Day is dead ahead.  

A reminder that while various species of birds fly south, the flight habits of all should not serve as a confirmation that winter is upon us.  The southern migration of certain birds, such as Orioles, Cardinals and, eventually, Blue Jays, serves as confirmation that winter is gathering up its belongings and preparing for its exit.  And Spring?  Spring will soon be here...

...and not a moment too soon. 

-AK 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Bitter Taste of the Limelight

I would not pretend to speak for anyone else, but I for one am relieved that the Earth has not stopped spinning on its axis and that the Sun has not yet come crashing down upon us out of the sky.  Given the reaction to Pete Carroll's decision to throw a pass from the half-yard line in the final minute of Sunday's Super Bowl rather than allow his monstrous running back, Marshawn Lynch (a/k/a "The Beast"), carry the ball into the end zone for the winning score, I thought that at least the latter and perhaps both were legitimate possibilities.  

Do not misunderstand.  As someone who watches a fair amount of football - and who likes to pretend (in the way that middle-aged non-athletes like to do) that I know more about the game than the persons who get paid obscene amounts of money to coach it and to play it, I could not figure out what the hell was happening either.  But after I thought about it for a few moments, considered that it did not impact my collecting a piece of the pot in the Super Bowl pool in which I participated and - THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART - remembered that it was just a damn football game, I opted not to wish harm upon Seattle's coach.  

A lifetime ago, Kara and I were in Giants Stadium watching the Giants run out the clock against the Eagles when the home team decided that simply kneeling down was not enough.  We watched in stunned disbelief as the Giants snatched defeat from the joys of victory.   A brutal loss?  Indeed.  One from which there was no way to recover?  Not quite.  In the three and one-half decades since the Giants have played in the Super Bowl five times, winning four.  Larry Csonka was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.  Joe Pisarcik played several more years, finishing his career with the Eagles, and is presently the President of the NFL Alumni Association.   

Life being what it is, however, not everyone associated with that particular debacle escaped unscathed.  Bob Gibson was the Offensive Coordinator for the Giants in 1978.  He is the one who sent in the play that Pisarcik and Csonka failed to execute.  The following day, the Giants executed Gibson - professionally speaking.  He was fired.  At age fifty-one, his career in football was over.  He never worked in the NFL  again.

It is perhaps for that reason that in the aftermath of Seattle's Super Bowl meltdown,  Travis Gibson took to Twitter in defense of coaches he has never met and likely shall never meet and, far more importantly, to speak up on behalf of an eighty-seven-year-old grandfather whose recent battle with cancer has left him in poor voice.  "Let me go on record.  No coach should EVER be fired based on one play call."  

If you do not believe him, then take a look out of your window this morning at your first opportunity.  If the sun is indeed in the sky - where it is supposed to be - and not setting your lawn ablaze, then maybe, just maybe, you should reconsider your position. 

-AK 


Friday, February 6, 2015

Walt Kelly, American Prophet

I would be lying if I said that I am not happy that we have already reached the end of the first work week of February.  Considering what a miserable, cold, wintry piece of shit February is - as months go - its sole redeeming quality is its brevity.  While on one hand it appears to have just arrived, on the other far more important hand it is already one-quarter of the way out the door.  

Technology is a wonderful thing.  Without it, I would have to undertake the daily exorcism of my coterie of demons by some means other than this.  Given how atrocious my handwriting is and how much I loathe writing anything longhand, putting pen to paper as opposed to fingers to keyboard would not be a viable alternative.  

Technology is designed to assist us in our day-to-day.  It should not overwhelm us in our day-to-day. We should not use it to dehumanize one another.  Our love of it should never lead us to endanger ourselves.  Nor should it ever lead us to endanger others - including but not limited to those who have entrusted us with their well-being.  

And it certainly should not - it would seem to me - replace the experience of actually living in the moment as the moment happens.   Had Captain Ahab expressed as little interest in his whale as this fellow did in this one, Moby Dick would have been a 500-word essay.  
.  



-AK 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

With Attention Fixed Upon The Open Sky


I don't know what happens when people die.
Can't seem to grasp it as hard as I try.
It's like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
That I can't sing
But I can't help listening...
- Jackson Browne

As if I ever find myself in need of reminding about the alacrity of time, it has been six years already since my long-ago friend and high school classmate Stuart Solomon died.

Photo from 1983 W-H Yearbook

Six years ago, on this very date, he died while driving his car.  As I have always been given to understand it, it was Stu's heart that betrayed him.  He was just forty-one years young.  

The irony of the preceding paragraph is not lost - even for a moment - on anyone who knew Stu.  He was a giant hulk of a man whose imposing physical presence was surpassed only by his gentle nature.  It takes a big heart to power a big human.  Stu's was as big as that of any person I have ever known.  He never did me a bad turn and I never saw or heard report of him doing one to anyone else.  It is cliche to refer to him as a gentle giant but that was indeed what he was.  

Not too terribly long after we graduated from high school, an occasion that is quickly approaching its thirtieth anniversary, Stu got very, very sick.  As I remember it, in the process of helping fight off whatever pestilence had set its sights upon him, Stu's heart became infected.  For a while, his family was afraid that he would die.  He did not.  Though weakened substantially, his heart refused to quit.  He battled back from very, very bleak circumstances, picked himself up, dusted himself off and did what Stu did:  He lived his life.  

And he continued to so for the next two decades or so thereafter.  He continued to do so right up until a cold February morning six years ago.

A big human being tends to throw a big shadow.  May Stuart's shadow continue to be present and visible to all who loved him and all those he loved...


-AK 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Here's to You, Mr. Robertson

Monday was a less than stellar weather day here in the State of Concrete Gardens.  While it did not prevent me from making my thirty-mile-plus commute from my home in Middlesex County to my office in Morris County and arriving - as is my custom and practice - in the wee small hours of the morning, many an office of my fellow attorneys and many a desk of the Firm's staff sat unoccupied for most of - if not all of - the day.  Even those among our number who live five to ten miles from the office decided -  in some cases as early as 8:00 A.M. - that irrespective of what weather was on tap for the remainder of the day, the effort to actually get to work was more than they could muster. 

Against that backdrop, I offer the story of James Robertson.  Mr. Robertson, who is fifty-six, lives in Detroit, Michigan.  He works full-time at a factory in Rochester Hills, Michigan, which is approximately twenty-three miles from his home, for a company named Schain Mold & Engineering.  It is a job he has held for a number of years, working a 2:00 PM to 10:00 PM shift, and which presently pays him $10.55 an hour.  

It is a job to and from which he has commuted principally on foot for the past decade.  On foot.  He does not earn enough to afford to buy, maintain and insure a car so when the last car he owned - a 1988 Honda Accord - died approximately ten years ago, he replaced horse power with sole power.  On average, he walks twenty-one miles of the twenty-three mile commute.  He does so five days a week.  Fifty-two weeks a year.  Irrespective of the weather.  According to his boss, Mr. Robertson has not missed a single day from work in all of the time he has worked for Schain Mold & Engineering.  Not one. 

His story is remarkable.  And - as it should have - it caught the attention of people all around the country, including Evan Leedy.  Young Mr. Leedy is all of nineteen years.  He is a junior at Wayne State University in Michigan.  Upon reading about Mr. Robertson in last Sunday's Detroit Free-Press he did quite a remarkable thing.  He shared Mr. Robertson's story on-line via a GoFundMe fund-raising page in an effort to raise enough money to buy Mr. Robertson a car and raised $130,000 - in less than twenty-four hours.

On Monday, the man who has walked the equivalent of a round-trip between Detroit and Los Angeles annually to get to his $10.55 an hour job - and who has shown up and worked every day - gave every indication that the incredibly strong legs that power his daily journey take their marching orders from an equally powerful mind.  Speaking to the media, Mr. Robertson observed, "I have to be careful how I act about this.  The same God who brings you all these blessings can take them away."   

Remarkable.  Simply remarkable. 

-AK 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Long May He Run

Long may you run. 
Long may you run.
Although these changes have come
With your chrome heart shining in the sun...
- Neil Young

On this - the forty-eighth anniversary of the date on which I traded my warm, cozy studio apartment (no view to speak of but one cannot have everything) for the cold, wintry environs of the State of Concrete Gardens (and if you think arriving in New Jersey in frigging February was my idea then you believe I am even dumber than I actually am) - and two time zones removed from where I announced my arrival, sad business is on tap. 

This afternoon, the family of Kyle MacIntosh shall bid a twenty-three-year-old son and brother farewell.  Such a thing should not have to occur.  Today, however, it shall.



Love does not stop.  Sadly, however, this leg of Kyle MacIntosh's journey has been completed.   

But his race is far from over...

...and long may he run

-AK





  

Monday, February 2, 2015

At Least We Will Always Have Punxsutawney

At some point today, you should avail yourself of the opportunity to watch "Groundhog Day", which if is not in fact the greatest movie ever made nevertheless has secured a spot for itself on the medal platform.  For anyone who might in fact be digging out from an actual snow event, the link in the preceding sentence will lead you to a list of times, channels and platforms where it shall be broadcast today.  

This classic film represents the high point of the joint venture of two very smart, very funny friends:  Bill Murray and Harold Ramis.  It represents as well the final work the two men ever did together.  Sadder still, it was during the making of this film that their once iron-clad friendship collapsed.  

As someone who counts their collaborations among the films that have made me laugh the loudest - including Meatball, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters and the seminal Stripes, I used to root for them to reconcile if for no other reason than to give audiences one final memory.  They never did.  And last February, time officially ran out on the making of a sequel.  Harold Ramis, who had battled an autoimmune disease for several years, died.  

Apparently, however, at the urging of his brother Brian Doyle-Murray (the Caddy Master in Caddyshack among other roles), Bill Murray paid Harold Ramis a visit shortly before Ramis's death and the two made their peace with one another.  Shortly before he died, speaking of his relationship with Murray, Ramis said, "I could help him be the best funny Bill Murray he could be, and I think he appreciated that then.  And I don't know where that went but it's there on film.  So whatever happens between us in the future, at least we have those expressions." 

When Ramis died, Murray eulogized him succinctly and poignantly, "Harold Ramis and I together did the 'National Lampoon Show' off Broadway, 'Meatballs', 'Stripes', 'Caddyshack', 'Ghostbuster' and 'Groundhog Day.'  He earned his keep on this planet.  God bless him." 

And as the movie of one's life fades to black, what greater praise can one hope to elicit than that? 

-AK