Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ring Ring Goes the Bell

Today marks the final day of the first quarter of 2015.  Three months in the books.  Nine months to go.  Presuming you are a person who resolves - each and every January 1 - to do (or to not do) certain things, today might be a good day for you to take stock of where you are in that endeavor.  How resolute have you been these first three months?  

I am spending a little bit of time tomorrow morning doing something a bit out-of-the-ordinary for me.  I am participating in Career Day at Wardlaw-Hartridge.  As I understand it, Rudy Brandl of Wardlaw-Hartridge contacted only seventy-five or eighty other graduates who practice law in New Jersey with no luck lining up a panelist before settling on Yours truly.  I am looking forward to the event quite a bit.  As someone who spends almost no time at all in the company of teenagers, when I am with them I am always struck by two things:  How smart they are and how young they look.  

My goal tomorrow morning is modest.  I hope to leave them no more damaged than they are upon their arrival at the beginning of my presentation.  I spent the youth of my two children working damn hard trying to not to fuck up their lives.  I owe it to the room full of other's children with whom I shall spend a couple of hours early tomorrow morning to extend them the same courtesy.  


-AK 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hoosier Daddy

This is the first time in more than twenty years that I have not participated in a March Madness Pool.  This is also the first time in more than twenty years that I have not paid a great deal of attention to the NCAA Tournament.  Coincidence?  Perhaps.  Is it because I have no skin in the game that I have diminished interest in the games?  Perhaps.  

I have enjoyed, though, the little bit of the action that I have seen.  Margaret and I were out Saturday night - with Gidg/Jeff seeing Rich Vos at the Stress Factory - but we were home in time for me to watch the final few minutes of the Notre Dame/Kentucky game.  I am not a fan of either school and had no rooting interest in its outcome.  I enjoyed the hell out of it.  Two well-coached, hard-working teams of college kids played their hearts out right to the final buzzer.  It is a cliche, for sure, but it suits the situation:  It was a game that it was a shame either team had to lose. 

On Saturday, March Madness will cede center stage to April Insanity as the Final Four arrives in Indianapolis.  Kentucky, having survived Notre Dame, will play Wisconsin and Duke will play Michigan State.  Candidly, I do not anticipate watching much of either National Semi-Final Game on Saturday and on Monday I shall devote significantly more time and attention to Opening Day of the 2015 New York Yankees Regular Season than I shall to the final day of the 2015 College Basketball Season.  

Although I hope that irrespective of whoever wins on Monday night, Indiana's Governor Mike Pence is involved in the trophy presentation.  He is simply delightful, is he not?  I, for one, cannot get enough of him.  His intellect is surpassed only by his sincerity.  

And yes, if I lived in Indiana that would frighten the shit out of me too.  

-AK 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Preparing for a Knife Fight

I anticipate that today is going to be decidedly unpleasant.  Well, the morning shall be anyway.  Today kicks off Week Thirteen of the Sixteen-Week Training Program I have been on for the 2015 New Jersey Marathon.  It is a program to which I have faithfully adhered.  Well, until Week Twelve. 

I rarely get sick.  For better or worse, I have an exceptionally good discomfort/pain threshold.  So much so that when I had to have an appendectomy performed right around Christmas approximately seven years ago, the surgeon told my wife that I either had an exceptionally high tolerance for pain or I was a liar, because given the state of my appendix he found it impossible to believe that it only started to bother me less than a week before he removed it.  

Candidly, I am not certain that what I have dealt with this week constitutes "being sick".  I have missed no time from work and have, in fact, worked longer than usual days in the predictably idiotic attempt to make up for the week spent in the Bahamas.  Still, I have felt quite a bit like one hundred and seventy-five pounds of shit for most of the week.  And while feeling poorly did not keep me home from work, it did keep me from lacing up my running shoes.

Until this morning. 

This morning is the "long run" for Week Thirteen.  It is the first of two consecutive twenty-mile Sunday runs on my calendar.  It is not supposed to be fun.  It most certainly shall not be.  It is pretty damn important however.  "20" is considered in many circles to be the magic number when it comes to marathon training.  Once you have completed a twenty-mile run, the prospect of completing a marathon feels far less daunting.   

Here's to diminishing the level of "the daunt"! 

-AK 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Catch As Catch Can

There have been too many times to count during this winter here in the Northeast when the weather was so bad that it felt as if Spring might never arrive.  Today is March's final Saturday.  Snow is in the forecast for at least some parts of the State of Concrete Gardens.   "March:  In Like a Lion, Out on a Snowmobile"?  

This time next month my running partner Gidg and I will be doing our final preparations for the New Jersey Marathon.  For me, my "eve of" ritual consists of banging my head repeatedly against a wall, sobbing softly while repeating "Why? Why? Why?"  Her pre-Marathon ritual is something akin to figuring out the right playlist for her iPod.  

She received very cool news earlier this week.  After not being drawn in the New York City Marathon lottery, her name was picked for the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon.  October 25, 2015, Gidg will join a whole lot of other runners in what is often referred to as "the People's Marathon".  Great race.  I am very happy for her that she is going to be part of it.  I wish only that our lottery luck had been synchronized so that the first-ever Fall marathons for each of us would have been the same race.   Next year, perhaps.  

A truly awful story dominated the news cycle for a lot of this week.  Truth be told, it was an awful story before it was revealed that it was the result of a deliberate act.  Learning that it happened because someone made it happen ratcheted up the "AWFUL" meter a notch or two.  

Apparently, and something that candidly in my mind's eye brought back images of United 93 on September 11, 2001, Captain Patrick Sonderheimer valiantly tried to gain access to the cockpit including using an on-board ax in an effort to break through the reinforced door.   In the words of Ambrose Redmoon, "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear."  

Indeed.  

-AK 


Friday, March 27, 2015

And Not In A Shy Way...

My father-in-law, Joseph Bozzomo, is a force of nature.  

Joe - Lucaya Marketplace, 2014


Today, he is eighty-two years old.  

"Giusep" (as I - and only I - call him - my homage to his given name of Giuseppe) is a remarkable man.  He is as comfortable in his own skin as any human being whose acquaintance it has ever been my pleasure to make.  Much like Horton, he says what he means and he means what he says.  Every now and then, what he says gives you pause to scratch your head or reach for an adult beverage.  But that only happens every now and then and when it does - and someone calls him on it - he acknowledges it and laughs it off.   

Joe's Retirement Party, November 2013


I describe him as a simple man.  I mean that as the highest of compliments.  I do not mean "simple" intellectually, emotionally or mentally.  I mean "simple" as in "straightforward, no-nonsense, easy to read".  His family is for him now - as it has been for the close to three decades that I have known him - the single-most important part of his life.  If and when a member of his family does something with which he disagrees or something that disappoints him, he is not shy about making his feelings known - including sharing his belief that a better effort should have been made.  But those feelings are transient.  Those moments are fleeting.  At day's dawning and at day's end, his tribe is his tribe.  They belong to him.  His willingness to protect them, both from themselves and from the outside world, never wanes.  It never ebbs.  The Poet Laureate of Freehold sings of taking care of our own.  Giusep lives his life by that code of conduct.  

He has been forced, during what he sometimes jokingly refers to as his golden years, to soldier on alone.  Suzy B., his wife, Margaret's mother and my mother-in-law died on June 2, 2009 after a long, brutal battle against cancer.  Her loss took a lot out of him.  It did so for any number of reasons, not the least of which was that he was powerless to stop what was happening to her from happening to her.  The feeling of impotence that washed over him was as powerful as it was misplaced.  He felt - ridiculous as it sounds and as it is - as if he had let her down.  

I have never asked him about it, as it is not my place to do so, but every now and then when he tells a story about her and about something they did during their life together, a small yet palpable tinge of sorrow is detectable in his eyes.  I reckon that even if today's birthday marks nothing further up the track than the halfway mark that small tinge of sorrow shall always remain.

But it shall never grow beyond its present size.  Its growth is stunted permanently and irrevocably by the memory of the love that joined the two of them in the first place...

Summer of '62


...and all that happened simply because two people fell in love.  

Their children... 

Christmas Eve 2013

Meg/Adam's Wedding, June 2009

Florida, February 2013

Their grandchildren...

Christmas Eve 2010 

Fort Collins, Colorado November 2012

 Meg/Adam's Wedding, June 2009

...and their great-grandchildren.

Christmas Eve, 2013


Happy Birthday Giusep.  Keep on wishing big and keep on doing things in the only manner that you know how...




-AK 

  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A By-Product of the Night's Magic

Show a Little Faith,
There's Magic in the Night...
- Bruce Springsteen

In the event that you do not accept as true each and every musical proclamation that the Poet Laureate of Freehold puts forth (and after - in my estimation at least - the less than satisfactory product that was the High Hopes CD your faith might well in fact be a bit shaken), then your faith in the mystical powers of the night's magic might not be now what it once was.  

For you, Good Sirs and Madams, I offer a sip of all-healing elixir, and I offer it to you in nothing more complicated or complex than three simple words.  Three words that identify, by name, a man: Delmer Clarence Kallberg.   

A man who was born in Minnesota at a time when most of - if not all of - World War I had yet to be fought.  A man who served his country as a member of the United States Navy in World War II and survived, as a member of the aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Ticonderoga, an attack by two Japanese kamikaze pilots, which killed one hundred and forty-four members of that vessel's crew and injured two hundred more - including Kallberg.  A man who attained a law degree and then made the principal focus of his career in the Los Angeles, California area working for the Veterans Administration and taking care of the legal needs of his fellow veterans.  A man who married, in 1960, a woman who had a young son, Jeffrey, who Kallberg adopted.  A man who, at age ninety-eight, died in Los Angeles, California in 2013. 

His son, Jeffrey, described his father as "[not] a man who made friends easily."  Jeffrey knew of which he spoke - having been exiled by his father from the older Kallberg's day-to-day for a period of close to twenty years and having only gained re-entry into that day-to-day a few years ago when his father recuperated at home following a fall that had landed him in the hospital.  Father and son made the most of their second chance and in what proved to be the final few years of Delmer Clarence Kallberg's very long life the two found peace with one another that had heretofore eluded them. 

Delmer Clarence Kallberg had a reputation among those who knew him for being frugal.  Actually, his reputation was one of extreme frugality.  He lived simply and very modestly.  So much so that when he died and the responsibility fell to Jeffrey to settle up his father's affairs he was surprised to discover that his dad had amassed a fortune of several million dollars, courtesy of a number of very smart, very successful investments. 

He soon discovered that his father, the attorney, had prepared his own typewritten will, apparently banging it out himself on his own battered Smith-Corona (as off in the distance, somewhere, Warren Zevon smiled).  His will provided for his only child.  His will provided for the West Los Angeles VA.  And his will also contained a rather interesting, albeit somewhat non-specific bequest.  In the will's final paragraph, Delmer Clarence Kallberg directed that: 

"If there are any funds remaining they shall be distributed to
 the various charitable organizations on the so called skid row."

As it turns out, there were in fact "funds remaining" in the Estate after all debts had been settled and specific gifts given.  There was more than $3.3 Million in "funds remaining".  Consistent with his client's direction, Kallberg's attorney, Ted Wolfberg, researched that there are approximately thirty  organizations doing charitable work on "skid row" in Los Angeles.  Each of those organizations has received and/or shall receive a gift of roughly $100,000 from the Estate of Delmer Clarence Kallberg.  One man's life has indeed profoundly and beautifully impacted the lives of others.  And the fact that neither he knew them nor they knew him matters not.  Not one bit. 

Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times, who wrote the piece that introduced me to Delmer Clarence Kallberg, which piece I vigorously recommend to everyone, described Kallberg in it, "as a reclusive, cantankerous soul with a generous heart."  

A reclusive, cantankerous soul with a generous heart.  Eight words.  In the case of Delmer Clarence Kallberg, eight is enough.  

-AK   

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Self-Consumed Cannibals

On this very day of the week, next week, we shall herald the arrival of April.  Perhaps its appearance on the calendar shall bring Spring to the forefront of the seasonal stage.  Either way, it shall bring us just that much closer to summer.  

Irrespective of the temperature outside (and perhaps appropriately so given his status as one of three or four adult humans in the Western Hemisphere who apparently knows less about science than even I do), Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas by way of Calgary, Alberta, officially kicked off the commencement of the "Silly Season" by declaring his candidacy for the nomination of the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States.  

His grasp of hard science notwithstanding, I shall not debate the Junior Senator from Texas's educational bona fides.  He earned his undergraduate degree at Princeton University, his J.D. at Harvard Law School and thereafter served as a law clerk for Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the Supreme Court of the United States. I cannot however, each and every time I see a news clip of Senator Cruz in action - energizing his base - help but close my eyes and see the face of this wannabe President instead.   Fortunately, the United States never had to actually spend a day living life under the Stillson Administration.  I, for one, hope that life imitates art in that respect. 

Senator Cruz's Alma mater was in the news earlier this week.  Princeton University's women's basketball team completed an undefeated regular season en route to capturing the Ivy League Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Women's Tournament.  The Tigers captured their first round game on Saturday against Wisconsin-Green Bay before falling to top-seeded (and home-standing University of Maryland) in the second round on Monday night.  Prior to Monday night's game against the Terrapins, it was disclosed that a death threat had been received against Princeton freshman forward Leslie Robinson.  

Leslie's dad is Craig Robinson, whose sister is Michelle Obama, whose husband is...well if you do not know to whom Michelle Obama is married then there just might be room for you on the Climatologists for Cruz Committee.  It takes a particularly cowardly type of douche bag to threaten to injure or kill a young woman for any reason but as an expression of one's disapproval of her uncle's job performance?  Despicable does not seem to be an adequate expression of just what type of behavior that truly is.  Not even close.  

While I was cleaning out my e-mail the other afternoon, I came across an e-mail I had received from "Team Upworthy" in April 2013, which shared with me (and countless others) the thoughts that comedian/actor/writer Patton Oswalt had offered in the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing.  


There are days on which I am less than certain that Mr. Oswalt is right in his analysis.  But there is never a day on which I do not hope like hell that he is.  

Irrespective of the weather.  

Irrespective of the silliness of the season.

-AK   

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pictures and Stories

I have never been accused of speaking too little.  "Have mouth, will open it" appears to be my unwritten  - but far too often spoken - mantra.  Today, however, shall serve as the exception that proves the rule.  

I took only a few photographs during the week that the Missus and I spent sunning ourselves in the Bahamas.  Of the few that I took, the overwhelming majority of them were ones that I took of the beauty that I was fortunate enough to bear witness to all around me.  The people of the Bahamas are simply terrific.  I have yet to encounter one of them who appears to be "wealthy" as we might consider that term to be defined here in these United States.  Yet, I have met only a few who appear to be anything other than happy.  A quite contented lot are they.  

As was I during the time that I was there...

Sunset:  March 16, 2015
Beautiful End to Day One of Vacation


Early Morning Sun - Grand Bahama Island
March 18, 2015


Jetty approximately one and one-half miles
West of our beach:  March 18, 2015


Westward view from the Jetty:  March 18, 2015


The Lizard of Lucaya:  March 19, 2015


Cemetery approx. 1.25 miles West of our beach. 
Less than 100 yards inland from the water.


Haitian Shipwreck Memorial:  July 19, 1978
21 Haitian Men & Women Drowned off of Grand
Bahama Island when their ship wrecked


Haitian Shipwreck Memorial Cross
Top portion of Memorial. Words "Peace Be With You"
are handwritten.  The lower-case "i" is my favorite part.


"In Loving Memory of Our Twenty-One Haitian
Brothers and Sisters Who Died at Sea on 
19th July 1978 
KE POSE YI"


Westward view down beach towards Jetty from path
that connects Cemetery to beach:  March 20, 2015


Final Bahamian Sunrise of Vacation:  
March 20, 2015

I have no idea whether our travels shall ever take us that way again.  I am very pleased to have had the chance to spend a bit of time in this simply beautiful and beautifully simple part of the world.  Even if I never see it again in this lifetime, I shall remember the beauty of what I saw for the remainder of my days.  

-AK 












  

Monday, March 23, 2015

Turning the Pages

One of the best parts of spending five days doing absolutely nothing of consequence in the Bahamas with the Missus - other than spending five days in the Bahamas with the Missus - was having the opportunity to read a lot of books.  Better than reading all five books that I had brought along to keep me company was the fact that all five of the books I read were, I thought, worthwhile reads.  

The first of the five that I read was the book that St. Louis Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny released earlier this year, entitled The Matheny Manifesto.   The original "manifesto" was not a book but rather a lengthy letter that Matheny wrote to parents of prospective players on a youth baseball team that he had been asked to coach.   I am not a fan of the Cardinals but, after reading this book, I am a fan of their manager.   While the original target audience of Matheny's words and thoughts were young prospective baseball players and their parents, they apply with equal force and effect to any number of us.  If you are a parent of a youngster who plays sports or - as my sister Kara is - an adult who oversees a youth sports league, then an argument could be made that this book should be required reading.

I am more than slightly embarrassed to admit that I was not familiar at all with Bryan Stevenson or his legal career.  I bought his book, Just Mercy, because it appeared on the New York Times List of 100 Best Books of 2014.  It is extraordinary.  While it chronicles a number of significant cases in which Mr. Stevenson has been involved as an advocate, its centerpiece is his defense of Walter McMillian, an African-American gentleman in Alabama who was sentenced to die after he was convicted of a murder that he did not commit.  Worse yet for Mr. McMillian was the fact that local law enforcement in Alabama knew he had not committed the crime.  They could not have not known - considering the extraordinary lengths to which they went to frame him for it.  Just Mercy is an emotional roller coaster for it exhilarates as often as it angers.  It vividly illustrates the point that not only is bigotry obnoxious, when it is institutional it is extremely dangerous. 

The third of my five reads for the week was The Things They Carried, written by Tim O'Brien.  It is a collection of short stories featuring characters based upon the men of Alpha Company with whom O'Brien served in Vietnam.  It was stunning.  It is not an extremely long book and I was so engrossed by it that I could not put it down.  I devoured it in less than one morning's time.  As someone who was born shortly before O'Brien was drafted into the Army in 1968, the fact that most of my knowledge of Vietnam (other than that which I absorbed through my brother Bill and his friends at Rutgers University) comes from reading history books mattered not at all.  It is accessible to all, irrespective of the reader's age. 

Upon my completion of O'Brien's work regarding the Vietnam War, I read Phil Klay's Redeployment, which Klay wrote after he served in Iraq as a United States Marine.  This book was - as was the case with Just Mercy - a book that I decided to buy after seeing it included on the 2014 New York Times 100 Best Books list.   I cannot recommend this book heartily enough.  Do not read it expecting to wade through a lot of "rah-rah" nonsense.  If that is what you are searching for, then look someplace else.  On second thought, if that is what you are searching for, then buy this book.  It will save you not only purchasing the tripe you otherwise were intending to buy, it will ensure that you never waste either your time or your money buying it.  

The week's final read was A Drinking LifePete Hamill's memoir.  Hamill is one of my literary heroes.  His frank and often times unflattering examination of his own life as a drinker, which being a good Irish boy started rather early and lasted for several decades, during which it exacted a significant toll on his personal life (and to a far lesser extent his professional life) until he walked away from it in 1972, resonated to me and with me on a number of levels.  I had deliberately positioned Hamill's book as the last one of the week because of my familiarity with his work.  I anticipated that I would enjoy reading this work as much as I have enjoyed everything else of his that I have read.  I was not disappointed.  

Reading is one of the great joys in my life and has been since way back when Bill taught me how to read before my second birthday.  A week's worth of reading such as the one I just enjoyed reinforces just how much joy I derive from keeping the company of a good book.  

-AK  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

They Can't Revoke Your Soul For Tryin'

The Missus and I completed our Bahamian adventure yesterday.  We arrived home to Newark Airport at or about 1:15 PM and were home 'NTSG by shortly before three o'clock.  By all outward appearances, the day's events unfolded according to Hoyle.  

Except they did not. 

Grand Bahama Island has fast become one of my favorite places.  But for the sound of music emanating from various places, there is scant little ambient noise.  Margaret and I made it a nice habit - during our week in the sunshine - to walk on the beach every day.  But for the sound of the waves introducing themselves to the shore, there was little to no sound.  It was simply terrific. 

However, Grand Bahama Island is not the easiest place to reach from the United States.  Its name notwithstanding, there is nothing at all "grand" about the island's airport.  It is too small, apparently, to accommodate full-sized jet airplanes.  Thus, in order to get to it from New Jersey, we flew this year (as we did last year) into Fort Lauderdale on United Airlines and then took a flight on one of United's "travel partners", Silver Airways, from Fort Lauderdale to Freeport.  Silver Airways is not what one might describe as a consistent performer in the service department.  Thus, it was not a complete surprise when our 5:04 PM flight out of Fort Lauderdale last Sunday night actually took off at closer to 8:30 PM.  

At some point in the wee small hours of yesterday morning, Silver Airways decided to cancel its 7:50 AM flight from Freeport to Fort Lauderdale.  Their decision would have been of little consequence to us but for the fact that we had seats on that particular flight and - even better - flights on a 9:56 AM flight from Fort Lauderdale to Newark.  Upon our arrival at the airport yesterday morning, I had a concise, terse and almost (but fortunately not quite) life-altering conversation with the little douche nozzle manning the Silver Airways counter.  He told me - with more than an air of smug "Fuck You Very Much" in his voice that we had limited options available for getting from the Bahamas to Florida, by which he meant we had just one option - a 7:25 AM flight into Miami - and that if we missed our 9:56 AM flight out of Fort Lauderdale we were completely screwed since (as he put it so eloquently) "all flights to Newark are zeroed out".  

The Missus and I landed two seats on the 7:25 AM American Eagle flight into Miami - and paid American $50.00 for the privilege of checking our bags on the plane.  Our flight touched down in Miami shortly after eight o'clock.  By the time our bags made it off of the plane, we were staring at 8:20 AM.  We exited the terminal, told a cab driver that we needed to be at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport in order to make a 9:56 AM flight.  He smiled and assured me that he would get us there.  

And get us there he did.  We disembarked curbside approximately thirty-five minutes and $100.00 (including tip) later.  The Sky Cap with whom we checked our bags curbside not only got them onto the plane before the flight closed but he also got us our boarding passes.  Into the terminal we went as the clock flashed 9:04 AM - and into a crowd of what appeared to be several hundred waiting to get through the TSA Security Checkpoint.  After the high we had felt in actually making it to Fort Lauderdale in time to make our flight, the sheer volume of people needing to get through security was deflating.  

As we made our way through the line, we reached a point where two young TSA agents were stationed.  Margaret decided to trade upon her innate cuteness by sharing our tale of woe with one of them and telling him that through no fault of our own we were facing the very real possibility of missing our flight.  His face never betrayed his intention of assisting us but assist us he did.  He and his colleague funneled us out of the line we were in and into a route that had ZERO people between us and the security checkpoint.  We were through in less than five minutes.  

Murphy being an Irishman, our 9:56 AM flight did not leave Fort Lauderdale on time - in spite of United's representations to the contrary.  Although it left approximately twenty minutes late, it touched down in Newark at or about 1:00 PM, which meant that it landed fairly close to right on time.  Yesterday, all things considered, "fairly close" turned out to be more than good enough. 

It was great to be away.  It is equally great to be home. 

-AK 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

As It Is With All Good Things...

The hopefully-annual Caribbean adventure ends today.  By mid-afternoon we shall be home.  Tonight the Missus and I shall sleep in our own bed.  Vacation, always a good thing, has run its course. 

Having spent the past week doing nary anything other than (a) running on the beach; and (b) sitting on the beach reading a book, I have filled my reservoir of patience, needed for dealing with all things inane and idiotic, to its brim.  

If history is any guide, it shall remain filled until Monday afternoon.  Tuesday morning at the latest.  Such is life.  As the indomitable Joanie K., long-suffering fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers, grew up saying, "Wait 'til next year." 

There are indeed worse things for which to wait. 

-AK 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Swan Song

In the interest of full disclosure, I am forced to confess that here in the Bahamas none of the locals seem to give one rat's ass about the arrival of my favorite Equinox, Vernal, today.  In fact, none of them seem to have any idea whatsoever who he is or what the hell exactly I am speaking of when I invoke his name.  

It is easy for them I suppose to be casual about 'ol Vern.  The weather here yesterday - Winter's swan song - was 80 degrees and sunny.  The forecast today?  Eighty degrees and sunny.  One can readily see how such a forecast would breed complacency among the home folks. 

For those of us who receive our mail at a zip code located within the geographical boundaries of the northeastern United States, here is to hoping that Spring's official arrival is a harbinger of better weather days to come.  Here is to hoping as well that we actually get to enjoy a measurable Spring this year so that we have good weather to make us smile...

...right before Summer arrives and we start bitching about the oppressive heat and humidity. 

-AK 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

CU on the Mountain

I know not whether it stands as a testament to personal growth or something altogether less significant but as someone who spent the better part of two decades organizing and participating in NCAA March Madness Pools, this year I not only am not even a participant in one but because I am spending this week chasing the sun in the Bahamas I am not entirely sure who is playing whom, when and where.  

Were my Colorado Buffaloes part of the tournament field this March - as they had been for each of the three previous - then perhaps I would have opted in to one.  They are not.  It was a truly disappointing hoops season along the Front Range.  

That was not the case for the University's Ski Team however. On Winter's final weekend, the Ski U Buffs completed their "Quest for 20" by capturing CU's Twentieth NCAA Skiing National Championship

"Schuss, There It Is!"


-AK 



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Winter's Final Leg

One of the many nice things about spending Winter's final week in the Bahamas is that Margaret and I do not typically spend a great deal of time together (given work and other considerations) and we spend scant little alone time together.  This week we are doing just that.  And it is quite a nice thing indeed. 

I am just about two-thirds of the way through my Marathon Training Program for the New Jersey Marathon.  On Saturday, in advance of our journey to the Bahamas, I completed my long run for the week, which was a robust seventeen miles.  While the temperature was such that it lent itself to run outside, the "humidity level" was not.  There were periods of time on Saturday afternoon during which the rain fell with such pace and ferocity that I half-expected to see any three of a particular species standing together playing "Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock"

Thus I spent Saturday afternoon where I have spent a considerable number of mornings, afternoons and evenings during this training cycle:  On the treadmill in the basement.  Two hours, eleven minutes and four seconds later, I was finished.  

When we return home on Saturday afternoon, there shall not be an opportunity to log any beach miles, which I have faithfully done every morning this week.  There shall, however, be a chance to be outside.  And after a long - albeit productive - winter in the dungeon, it is something to which I am looking forward very much.  

-AK 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Cause for Celebration

In the early morning hours of March 17, 1988 (or at least what once upon a lifetime ago I considered to be the early morning hours) I was in my apartment in Boulder, Colorado when my older brother Kelly telephoned me.  The Kenny men are not know for our extended telephone conversations and the one that Kel and I had that morning was no exception.  He called to tell me but two things:  "We had a girl.  Linda and the baby are both doing well."

It is almost inconceivable to me that the baby whose arrival Kelly heralded in that succinct yet substantial telephone conversation that St. Patrick's Day morning all those years ago is celebrating her twenty-seventh birthday.  Twenty-seven?  Where did the time go?  It went the same place it always goes.  It went into turning that tiny baby into a terrific young woman.  

Things done well take time to accomplish.  Twenty-seven years to date as a matter of fact.  So far.  So good. 

Happy Birthday Kate.  Keep wishing big, kid.  Keep wishing big. 

-AK 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Adios and vaya con Dios

I got my toes in the water,
Ass in the sand.
Not a worry in the World,
Cold beer in my Hand.
Life is good Today.  Life is good Today.
- Zac Brown Band

A bit of news to report to those of you who stop by this space on a regular basis - and who may in fact have done so today.  First, thank you.  Second, the Missus and I are spending this week outside of the navigational buoys of these United States.  To the extent that there is ever anything worth seeing here (a topic of considerable debate I would submit), this week, at least, there shall likely be less so than usual.

Also, you shall have to come to this spot directly to read it.  It is a week in the link-free zone.   

Enjoy the peace and quiet. 



-AK 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

From a Stool in the Empty Gin Palace

History repeats the old conceits
The glib replies the old defeats.
Keep your finger on important issues
With crocodile tears and a pocketful of tissues.
- Elvis Costello

Yesterday was Pi Day.  Today is the Ides of March.  It was on this date in the year 44 B.C. that Julius Caesar was assassinated by a conspiracy of "many Roman Senators" led by Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus.  

Imagine that.  A significant percentage of the members of the Senate plotting against the Emperor.

Such are the things of Shakespearean dramas and ancient history.  These are not the things that occur in these United States here in the 21st Century A.D.

Hmm.  It turns out that here in the Land of Cotton such things are not confined to the dust bin of history.  

I've got a feeling 
I'm gonna get a lot of grief
Once this seemed so appealing 
Now I am beyond belief.
-Elvis Costello

-AK 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Mystery of Transmogrification

Nature is an extraordinary thing.  Its many gifts would appear to include the ability to not remember.  This time last week, my front yard was secreted from view by mounds of snow that had involuntarily placed my grass into stealth mode close to sixty days ago.  Now, when I look at the yard it is as if winter never dropped in on us at all.  The snow has been eradicated completely.

I know that the transmogrification process shall take considerably longer to complete in the neighborhood occupied by the Connecticut branch of the Kenny Family.  'Round here, we experienced a Phoenix-like winter season in comparison to what the folks in New England endured.  Listen up New Englanders!  Your hometown team benefited from what might very well be the worst end-of-game play call in the history of the NFL in winning the Super Bowl in early February.  Win the Super Bowl, lose the Winter.  

For residents of New England who are not fans of the Patriots- my brother and my friends from Farmers Insurance leap immediately to the forefront of my mind - you simply got screwed coming and going.  While I do not pretend to know whether this offers any solace at all, I am constrained to point out that the Vernal Equinox shall arrive by week's end and the real start of Spring arrives on April 5.

Until then, feel free to entertain yourselves pondering the myriad of uses for a hand-held iguana maker.  If you cannot think of any, give my great friend Dave Lackland a call.  I am quite confident that he shall be able to help you brainstorm an idea or two. 

-AK 

Friday, March 13, 2015

The View From Atop The Slippery Slope

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, 
a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, 
and good men die like dogs.  There’s also a negative side.”
-Hunter S. Thompson

I love music.  I enjoy listening to music and, as is I suppose the case with most people, there are artists and types of music that I favor.  While I love it, I do not pretend to know anything about it.  I cannot read music.  And as the nun who rapped my knuckles for two years while my parents forced me - and her - to suffer through my attempt to learn the piano can attest (I managed to screw up Chop Sticks at the end-of-year recital), I cannot play music.  I cannot imagine anyone alive being further removed for having the label "music expert" affixed to his or her lapel - and that is even taking into consideration that I bounced back from my Chop Sticks disaster to absolutely nail Penguins at Play at the following year's end-of-year performance.  Much to the relief of all concerned, I abandoned my fledgling career as a pianist upon hitting that metaphorical high note. 

While I know scant little about music, I accept the notion that there are only a finite number of notes and chords that serve as the template upon which songs are created.  I also accept the notion that inevitably one song, whether intentionally or not, may end up sounding similar to another song - especially an iconic song that arrived a generation or two before its counterpart.  

As an attorney, unfortunately, I also accept the notion - and have had some firsthand experience with it in fact - that a jury may very well decide a case on emotion as opposed to evidence.  It appears as if earlier this week, a jury in Federal Court in Los Angeles, California did just that when it awarded the Estate of Marvin Gaye damages of approximately $7.4 Million.  The jury ruled that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke had copied Gaye's 1977 song, "Got To Give It Up", when they wrote the song, "Blurred Lines", which apparently became the single biggest song of 2013 (I say apparently because I must confess that I have never listened to it) and earned Williams, Thicke and the record company that released it millions and millions of dollars.  

To many people in the music industry, the jury's verdict - which Williams and Thicke announced they shall appeal - might be nothing less than a dangerous first step down a slippery slope.   Candidly, having read (after the verdict) some of the sworn testimony Mr. Thicke provided - both at trial and pre-trial at his deposition - I am not unconvinced that the jury interpreted their duty as playing "Pin the Tail on the Disagreeable Douchebag" and cast Mr. Thicke in that role.   

Will what transpired earlier this week indeed have a chilling effect on creativity, as some fear it might?   I would not pretend to be well-versed enough (PUN INTENDED!) to know but I am inclined to accept as justified the position of those who know much more about such things that the danger of its doing just that is very real.  

Not knowing where else to turn, I asked myself, "WWSWD (What Would Stevie Wonder Do?)"  Sir Duke's position on this issue is clear.  For a non-lawyer, his legal advice is surprisingly concise and decidedly on point.   Hearing him dispense it, I found myself glad that he opted for a career in music rather than the law for while he demonstrated quite easily how well he could do what it is I do for a living, I demonstrated with equal alacrity a lifetime ago just how badly I could not do what it is he does.

Once upon a lifetime ago, a great man once asked an eternally-timely musical question, which question seems particularly prescient under the present circumstances.   Based upon what has transpired over the course of these past several days, I know not whether the current answer to that question is one that would make him happy.

I suspect, however, that it would not. 

-AK 



Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Man of Malamud

Without heroes we are all plain people
And don't know how far we can go. 
- Bernard Malamud

Deputy United States Marshal
Josie Wells (End of Watch: 03/10/15)


If your family is - as mine is - a law enforcement family, then you are keenly aware of the fact that no day at work is guaranteed to be a "routine" day.  It is a thought that is never out of your mind.  You stamp down hard on it on a daily basis, however, so that it neither overwhelms you nor inhibits you in your support of the member of your family who places himself or herself in harm's way each and every day.  

On Tuesday, near a motel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Deputy United States Marshal Josie Wells died.  DUSM Wells was murdered by a fugitive upon whom an arrest warrant was attempting to be served.  The piece of human excrement upon whom DUSM Wells, a member of the USMS Fugitive Task Force, was attempting to serve the warrant is Jamie D. Croom.  The warrant for Mr. Croom's arrest charged him with double homicide.  He is suspected of murdering two people - a brother and a sister - on February 18.  

According to a statement the USMS released, DUSM Wells joined the Marshals Service, this nation's oldest Federal Law Enforcement Agency, in 2011.  When he died in the line of duty on Tuesday, DUSM Wells was a very, very young man.  In some published reports, his age was listed at twenty-seven while in other reports he was identified as having been twenty-eight years old.  Either way, he is far too young to have no more birthdays to celebrate.  

Keep a good thought for DUSM Wells, for his family and for his brother and sisters-in-arms who shall awaken today mourning his death while remaining committed to performing the task that each of them has taken an oath to perform.   Theirs is not an easy job on any given day.  It is doubly difficult on a day such as this one.  Go on they must.  Go on they shall.  And each and every one of us is better and safer for it.




-AK 
     

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

At the Point of Intersection Between the Wind and the Plains

Sooners are not racists.  
They're not bigots.
They are people who respect each other 
And care about each other.
-President David Boren,
University of Oklahoma

I loved college.  I loved pretty much everything about the University of Colorado.  For every rule, however, there is an exception.  For me, that exception was the Greek System.  

I neither pledged nor ever attempted to pledge a fraternity.  I am the youngest sibling in a family of six, two of whom are older brothers.  Having been launched into life on this planet with a full complement of brothers, I saw no need to add to my collection.  The decision to not "Go Greek" is one that I did not regret when I made it more than a quarter-century ago.  It is one that to this day I do not regret.  It is a decision that has not - not even one time - adversely affected my love of Animal House.  Not only that, it did not keep me from seeing Otis Day and the Knights when they played a show on campus at the Balch Fieldhouse in the Spring of '88.   Robert Cray, of course, had long since left the band.

Among the fraternities that comprised the CU-Boulder Greek System (although none of the houses had any official affiliation with the University itself) was Sigma Alpha Epsilon.  One of the more popular jokes on campus - or at least one of the jokes that I never tired of telling - was that one could not spell the word "ASSHOLE" without the letters "S, A & E".   Full disclosure dictates however me inserting this caveat to counterbalance that generalization:  Two gentlemen with whom I was friends while at CU and for whom I had/still have a great deal of respect were members of SAE.  I would submit that each stands as proof of the exception proving the rule.  

Earlier this week, an utterly vile piece of video, for which you shall not find a link here, surfaced on-line.  It was video shot on a bus trip to something called a Founders' Day Dance.  The young men on the bus were members of the SAE Chapter at the University of Oklahoma.  Their companions?  The young ladies representing the University of Oklahoma Chapter of the Delta Delta Delta sorority.   The collegians - including the one unknowing star of the piece - chanted a little ditty whose lyrics properly - in my estimation at least - resulted in a brutally succinct demonstration of the principle of "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction".  

It would be wrong however for the actions of these few imbeciles to stand for the University of Oklahoma.  It seems to me as if the heart of the Sooners is better reflected in the response of their students, including their student-athletes (and yes I saw the video of one of the members of the football team, an African-American player, letting loose with his own profanity-laced tirade at the SAE house but I am significantly more tolerant of spontaneous outrage than I am of organized bigotry), and the adults in charge of the institution.  At or about the same time as forty-seven current members of the United States Senate were writing a letter so despicable that Joe Biden was able to seize the moral high ground, a former member of that body was saying this instead, "I have a message for those who have misused their freedom of speech in this way.  My message to them is:  You're disgraceful.  You have violated every principle that this university stands for."  

Kudos to President Boren for acting decisively.  I applaud him for doing what needed to be done to protect all of the students at the University of Oklahoma for whom he is ultimately responsible.  I applaud Bob Stoops, Head Coach of the OU Football Team, as well.  Bob Stoops has a well-deserved reputation for doing the right thing for the right reasons.  On Monday, his Sooners spent one of the days that the NCAA allots for Spring Practice doing something he, his staff and his players recognized as being far more important than, well, than practice.  

They went for a walk and in doing so proved, yet again, just how much louder actions are than words.
   

Coach Bob Stoops (Front Row - Center) and the
OU Sooner Football Team - 03/09/15


The great Theodore Roosevelt once observed that the fundamental difference between a leader and a boss is this:  The leader leads, the boss drives.   Roosevelt's lesson has been reinforced these past few days - on a number of different levels - in and around Norman, Oklahoma.  Damn hard lesson for some to have had to learn.  Here is to hoping they took it to heart. 

-AK 
  




Tuesday, March 10, 2015

No, I Do Not Wish They All Could Be California Girls...

On Tunnel to Towers Weekend in late September, 2013, I visited the September 11 National Memorial for the first time - with Jeff, Gidg and the Missus.  It is a somber, spectacular tribute to the men and women murdered on that terrible Tuesday morning.  

In spite of the power of the Memorial, there were two young ladies - to my eye they appeared to be older than teenagers but not much older than their early-to-mid twenties - who nevertheless engaged in the most asinine, 21st Century behavior possible:  They hopped up onto the Memorial itself so that they could take a "selfie" while having their asses planted on the names of several of the deceased.  As they sat there -preening like jackasses - passers-by (who were closer to them than our little quartet was) rather forcefully suggested to them that what they were doing was beyond offensive and they should stop doing it immediately.  Truth be told, I think that by the time the admonition was given to them they had successfully gotten their picture before they slid back down off of the Memorial and then disappeared into the crowd.  I must confess that it did not occur to me to call Security.  It occurred to me to pitch them over the side and into the Memorial Pool.  By the time we reached them, however, opportunity had ceased to knock. 

This past week, two idiots from California, a 21 year-old woman and her 25 year-old Sister of the Traveling Pants got themselves arrested at the Colosseum in Rome.  Their offense?  The pair slipped away from their tour group in order to carve the letters "J" and "N" into the Colosseum's brickwork, using a coin, before - wait for it - posing for a selfie in front of their handiwork.  

Mere moments after they did the deed, they were arrested.  Upon being arrested, the pair apologized to Italian authorities, including Piazza Dante Police Captain Lorenzo Iacobone.  They did so, of course, in the faux style that has become so popular in the 21st Century. They apparently told Captain Iacobone, "We apologize for what we did.  We regret it but we did not imagine it was something so serious.  We'll remember it for a lifetime."

In other words, "Look, if you all have gotten your La Perlas in a bunch over what we did, then we are sorry that you think it was a big deal.  Lighten up dudes.  The good news is we will never forget this experience for the rest of our lives...and we have a great picture to post on Instagram. Check it out under #WeAreFuckingClueless."  

Apparently, the countless signs posted around the Colosseum - in both Italian and in English - advising against committing an act of vandalism against the Colosseum, whose date of birth is B.C. and not A.D. for those keeping score at home, failed to alert these two attention whores to the fact that what they did is frowned upon in this particular establishment.   

Remember this story the next time you go to a zoo and the various apes hurl shit through the cages at those of us of the human persuasion as we walk by.  They do so because they are keenly aware of just how fucked they got by the celestial coin flip.  Not since Portugal and the Line of Demarcation has anyone been as screwed by an arbiter as our pals the primates.   

Caesar is angry, my friends.  And it is not Julius of whom I speak.   

-AK 

   
'  

Monday, March 9, 2015

Steps and Journeys...

If this winter has taught me anything, it is not to put too much stock in a single day's weather.  That being said, the Daylight Saving Time 2015 Era got off to quite a nice start here in the State of Concrete Gardens.  For at least a brief time during the afternoon, the temperature eased north of the fifty-degree mark.  So far, so good. 

The Missus and I spent a bit of time yesterday afternoon in Kearny with Evan at a Memorial Service for her MWH.  Evan and Glenn have a wonderful network of friends and family who turned out in force yesterday.  I am not certain what the legal capacity is of the Elks Lodge where we all were together.  I suspect however that had someone reported it to the local Fire Marshal, we would have had some 'splaining to do.  

And you know what?  I am quite confident that the explanation would have been deemed to have been quite a bit more than simply satisfactory.  

-AK 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Hello Daylight, My Old Friend

You're welcome. 

Without even having to be asked, I have delivered today's daily dose of silliness to you an hour earlier than usual.  That is, unless you live in Arizona, Hawaii or (at least certain parts of) Indiana.  The first two because it so warm twelve months a year that no one longs for an additional hour of sunlight.  The last one...well, because it is fucking Indiana and apparently no one in the Hoosier State can figure out a single, goddamn thing including but not limited to why Indiana is called the Hoosier State and what the hell a Hoosier is, exactly.   

Here's to hoping that your first Extended Play Day of 2015 has brought with it weather that enables you to spend some time outside soaking in that additional hour of daylight.  And presuming it has, a fair question to ask of you is, "Why are you not outside enjoying yourself right at this very moment?" 

Normally I do not relish the notion of Monday.  However, I am very much relishing the fact that after having spent six months in which I have not seen my home in the daylight, Monday through Friday, tomorrow night's commute begins the six-month period during which far more often than not I shall arrive home from work prior to darkness's arrival.   A small victory, you say.  

An immeasurable one, I say.  

Until tomorrow...



-AK