Tuesday, June 30, 2015

In the Skeleton Frame of a Burned Out Chevrolet...

At some point this morning, on the grounds of his high school Alma mater, our Governor shall formally announce his intention to seek the nomination of the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States, which shall bring an end, finally, to the worst-kept secret in Jersey politics.  It has been so poorly guarded that it has reminded me - and likely me alone - of the story that Carlos Marcello, the long-time Don of organized crime in Louisiana, reputedly had a sign on prominent display in his office (on the wall behind his desk directly above his his head), which sign served to remind the person or persons with whom he was meeting of Marcello's credo:  Three Can Keep a Secret...if Two of Them are Dead.  Don Marcello's sign can find no wall space at the Governor's campaign headquarters.   

For reasons not entirely clear to me, the Governor and his advisory team long ago abandoned the pretense of surprise surrounding today's announcement while simultaneously choosing/refusing to make his intentions known.  I read somewhere over the weekend that by officially cannon balling his way into the festivities today, he becomes the fourteenth GOP candidate in the Presidential pool.  Fourteen?  And worse yet, more are on the way.

This election cycle, in spite of the almost zero likelihood that whichever one of them wins the nomination shall carry California in the general election, the GOP field has taken on a characteristic usually associated with fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers:  They arrive late.  A significant number of them, of course, shall inevitably take on another signature characteristic of the Dodger faithful:  They shall leave early.  

I suspect that our Governor shall be among the early exits.  He does not call upon me for advice, of course, but if he did I would have recommended to him to sit this one out.  I say that as a New Jersey voter - and a registered Republican - who voted for him in 2009 and, again, in 2013.  I say that as someone who has previously contributed financially to his election efforts - and who receives a Christmas card each year as an acknowledgment of that fact.  I say that as someone who does not know the Governor but who suspects, based upon - if nothing else - our shared passion for Springsteen's music, if I did that we would probably get along just fine.  

I say that because when I voted for him in 2013, I voted for him to continue to work at the job to which we the people of the State of Concrete Gardens had elected him.  However, in the almost two years since he handily won re-election, his focus, his energy, and his time has been devoted not to the job he presently has but, instead it has been devoted to the job he covets.  It is a devotion that over the course of the past two-plus years, at times, has been both naked and blind.  It is devotion that will have him on the road to his newly adopted home-away-from-home state of New Hampshire almost immediately after formally announcing his candidacy in his hometown of Livingston, New Jersey this morning.   

As a reasonably-informed member of the electorate who has supported the Governor politically, I had spent some time and energy over the course of these past several months hoping that someone in his inner sanctum would speak the plain truth to him.  I had hoped that someone he trusts would go all Adrian Balboa on him.  Either such a conversation did not happen or it happened and he ignored it. 


And not a moment sooner.

-AK 


Monday, June 29, 2015

Houston, We Have an Anomaly

SpaceX is one of Elon Musk's companies and - according at least to what I have read - passions. Musk, whose bank account is almost as large as his IQ, has a contract with NASA (SpaceX does I should say) to resupply the International Space Station. SpaceX also has a contract with NASA to develop a capsule that will carry astronauts to the International Space Station.
Yesterday morning, the SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Its destination? The space station. However, slightly more than two minutes and thirteen seconds into flight - at an altitude of approximately thirty-two kilometers - the rocket blew up. Its 4,000+ pounds of food and supplies for the space station reduced to tiny debris particles in a matter of a few seconds. Thankfully as it is still 2015 and not yet 2017, no lives were lost. The Falcon 9 Rocket was unmanned.
I understand completely that such catastrophic events occur in the space business. I was a freshman at the University of Colorado, Boulder when Astronaut and fellow Buff Ellison S. Onizuka was killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. I also understand that when something occurs for which no one has a good explanation, being the person called upon to say something - anything - to the waiting world can be a daunting task.
However, the official SpaceX Tweet in response to what occurred on Sunday morning, which was sent out not too long after the incident occurred struck me - and perhaps me alone - as being too cute by half. "An anomaly on ascent". Really? Their gadget blew into a gazillion fucking little pieces. If that is what SpaceX considers "an anomaly" I sincerely hope that none of us lives long enough to see SpaceX have to respond to something even they would consider to be a problem.

-AK

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Greater Union...

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, 
That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
That among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...

Two hundred and thirty-nine years ago this Saturday, Thomas Jefferson penned those words as the heart of the Declaration of Independence, to which he and fifty-five other hardy souls signed their names.  Had the American Revolution ended badly for the home team, those who signed it would have likely been rounded up, tried for treason, and hanged.  

Eight days shy of America's two hundred and thirty-ninth birthday party, a five-member majority of the Supreme Court of the United States in the matter of Obergefell, et al. v. Hodges, Ohio Director of Health, et al., took a significant step towards delivering on Jefferson's promise.   One might have thought - based upon the language used by the Core Four who not only dissented - but who each authored his own separate, dissenting opinion - that the Court's decision suspended fundamental, individual liberties or something similarly drastic.  For any among our number who read any of the dissenters' opinions (to the surprise of no one, Justice Scalia's was the most "colorful") on Friday, the mere fact that the Sun arose in the east on Saturday morning must have come as an enormous relief.

The Court's opinion, which Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy authored (Notice his initials, anyone?), concluded with this paragraph, in which - at least to my eye and to my ear - Justice Kennedy achieved harmony between the beauty of the language and the power of the ideals it was written to convey...


#LoveWins.  And there is not a goddamned thing wrong with it doing so.  

Not a goddamned thing. 




-AK 
    

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Tunnels and Lights

Yet another soggy Saturday is on tap (no pun intended) for those of us who make our home in the State of Concrete Gardens.  I do not pretend to know what it is that June showers are supposed to bring but thus far this month they have done one hell of an effective job of bringing inconvenience and even misery to thousands of people across New Jersey.  

One week from today is Independence Day.  Already.  Proof I suppose that even when being pelted by rain, time still flies.  Perhaps by this time next week, Giuseppe will have limped his way home from in-patient rehabilitation.  The progress he has made in just this past week has been nothing short of extraordinary.  Yesterday was "Staple Removal Day!" so maybe, just maybe, he has made it far enough through the tunnel to be able to glimpse a bit of the light at its end.  

My faithful canine companion Rosalita shall get her first Shore experience later today when she accompanies the Missus and me to our little Paradise by the Sea.  Thus far, weekends we have spent at the beach have been weekends Rosie has spent successfully shaking down Giuseppe down for food that he "accidentally" drops for her.  But with him on the DL, and her not having yet mastered the art of opening the back door, the art of filling her own water dish, or the art of getting her food out of the cabinet, she needs to drive south with us to ensure adult supervision.  

I hope that the weather is nice enough at some point this weekend to introduce her to the swans that call Lake Como home.  We live just a few blocks from the lake so our walking route will take us past it.   I am fairly confident that Rosie has ever seen a bird up close and personal - although I am sure that she has zero familiarity with water fowl.  Methinks that these beautiful birds have not met too many neighbors who bring the noise with as much enthusiasm as Rosie.  

Here is to hoping that it proves to be the start of a beautiful friendship...

...or at the very least, a peaceful co-existence.  

-AK 


Friday, June 26, 2015

And For One Terrible Moment, Everyone Is Irish...

To be Irish is to know that,
In the end, the World will
Break your Heart.
-Daniel Patrick Moynihan

It was less than forty-eight hours ago that ten-year-old Christopher D'Amico, Jr. was enjoying some afternoon fun on Lake Hopatcong with his dad, Christopher, in a pontoon boat that the elder D'Amico had rented.  

It was also less than forty-eight hours ago that ten-year-old Christopher D'Amico, Jr. died as the result of an accident involving the rented pontoon boat that reduces the term "tragic" to understatement. 

Every parent's nightmare is to bury our child.  It is not the manner in which things are supposed to proceed in the normal course of human affairs.  Yet, it does happen.  And this very week, as ten-year-old children are saying "Hello" to summer, Christopher D'Amico and his wife Laura face the almost impossible-to-comprehend task of saying goodbye to their little boy.  Justice resides perhaps in the next world.  It certainly does not in this one for the D'Amico family. 

While he left this world far too soon and he left it abruptly and unexpectedly, Christopher D'Amico, Jr. also left it heroically.  Consistent with his wishes, his parents donated his organs to help save the lives of other children.  

If you are so inclined, Funds have been established on the D'Amico family's behalf by several of their friends and the details regarding them may be found here.  And here.     

Today, keep a thought for young Christopher D'Amico, for his mom, for his dad, and for the family he has left behind.  This week, it is their turn to experience firsthand the exquisite pain of being Irish. Sooner or later, irrespective of our birthright, it shall be ours.  Do for them as you would want others to do for you when the moment is yours and not any longer theirs. 

-AK 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Caleb, Colonel, and Citizen Kane

If you want a happy ending that depends, 
of course, on where you stop your story.
- Orson Welles 

There is a lot of bad shit in the world.  It is a commodity for which demand shall never outdistance supply.  

Today, at least, this space shall serve as a respite from the onslaught.  Why? I know not.  Am I feeling the holiday spirit perhaps?  Today is Half-Christmas after all, and with Christmas six months away we are probably only three months away from getting bombarded with advertisements for shit that we - and those we love, like, and/or for whom we are obliged to by something - simply "must have".  Ho! Ho! Fucking Ho! indeed.  

Upon further contemplation, I can state with confidence that I am NOT feeling the holiday spirit. 

What I am feeling is something significantly better - a feeling bestowed upon me for free by a little boy named Caleb Howard and his therapy dog, Colonel.   If you want to feel it, then read their story here and watch it here.  (You can link to the video in the story itself but I preferred to open a separate link to the video so I could read and watch at same time).  I dare you to learn the story of Caleb and Colonel with tearing up at least a little bit.   

In fact, I do not simply dare you - I Double Dog dare you!  It is cool for me to do so.  Colonel has my back.   

See you tomorrow.  A little Mr. Hiatt for your trip home - or to accompany you to wherever it is you go from here...


-AK







  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Music from the Carillon

The Missus and I have not seen a great deal of each other the past ten days or so.  She has been devoting her time and energy - appropriately - to Joe's journey through the American health care system as he acquaints himself with his new knee.  A considerable amount of her time is spent somewhere other than home these days.  Inasmuch as most of my adult life has been spent somewhere other than home, our points of intersection recently have been few and far between. 

Nevertheless we managed to end up in the same place long enough on Monday evening to talk about something that touches upon us only tangentially but touches far more directly upon one of our adult offspring.  Nothing serious, mind you, but something that appears for present purposes to be weighing more heavily than it should on the minds of those directly affected.  

I am not likely to end up on the Medal Platform for Father of the Year even if running unopposed.  That said, I have learned enough during my time on the job to know that often times it is the medium in which the message is presented that matters as much as - if not more than - the content of the message.     

As I ruminated a bit yesterday morning about the conversation that the Missus and I had had on Monday night, my mind kept circling back to one of my favorite John Hiatt songs.  

An argument could be made I suppose that it represents the perfect marriage between medium and message...




...although that really is not for me to say.  

-AK 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

On a Train Bound for Nowhere...

I am not a regular listener of Michael Kay's radio program on 98.7 FM in New York.  On the afternoon of April 23, 2015 however, I did happen to listen to Kay's interview with Pete Rose.  Rose was on-air to discuss his application for reinstatement to Major League Baseball and the announcement that the new Commissioner, Rob Manfred, had made earlier that day concerning Rose being permitted to participate in activities connected with this year's All-Star Game, which shall be played in Cincinnati.  

During the interview, Kay asked Rose whether he had ever placed a bet while he was still playing Major League Baseball.  It was a fair question to be sure, given that Rose spent a decade and a half claiming that then-Commissioner Bart Giamatti had unfairly blackballed him in 1989 when he banned Rose from MLB for life while also denying over and over that he had ever placed a bet while he was managing the Reds, the infraction that merited his lifetime ban.  It was not until 2004, when Rose wrote a book - and stood to make money off of his disclosure - that Rose admitted to having placed bets on baseball while the Reds' manager.  


It appears as if baseball's rubber-band man and his elastic relationship with the truth has once again been less than forthcoming.  ESPN broke the story yesterday on its Outside the Lines program that documents which had been protected from disclosure since 1989 (so that they were not available to MLB to review when Rose's lifetime ban was handed down and were not among the evidence upon which MLB relied in punishing Rose), confirmed that Rose did in fact bet on baseball while he was still a player.  And not merely on one or two occasions either.  

Whether this means that Rose's chance of getting reinstated by MLB while he is still among the living has now disappeared I know not.  Frankly, I do not care very much whether he gets inducted into the Hall of Fame.  I know simply that should this disclosure prove to be true, it shall serve to reinforce what to me at least has - in my experience - proven to be true far more often than not:  Human beings are animals.  Animals are creatures of habit.  Human beings rarely, if ever, change.  

If these new allegations prove to be true, then Rose shall have revealed himself, in my eyes anyway, to be a rather ordinary human, his achievements on the baseball diamond notwithstanding. Nothing more. Nothing less.  As the great Oscar Wilde once observed, "No man is rich enough to buy back his past."  A lesson that, once again, Rose appears to be positioned to learn.  Truth be told, thus far he has proven to be a glacially slow study.  

And worse than that, he apparently has been proven yet again to be an atrociously bad gambler.

-AK   

Monday, June 22, 2015

What the Fuck is Wrong with Us?

The Summer Solstice arrived yesterday at 12:38 EDT.  Thus, summer's first full day on the job in 2015 is a Monday.  A season with a working person's attitude.  I like it.  I suppose we can presume that its last name is not Bush, Clinton or Trump.  Am I the only one who suspects that if Trump was to get elected President he would rename all of the seasons...or at the very least put his name in front of them. Except for fall.  "Trump Fall" would likely conjure up a memory of a time when the Donald was not quite as flush as he is presently.  

I spent a portion of the past few days ruminating over the domestic terror attack that the cowardly piece of racist shit - who shall remain nameless here - perpetrated on Wednesday at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  I hope that all of us did - irrespective of the color of our skin.  The question is rhetorical but I need to ask it anyway:  How much longer are we going to do this to ourselves?

The single greatest threat to humans is neither being killed and eaten by a shark (Full-proof plan: Stay on land) or mauled to death by a polar bear (Full-proof plan:  Stay away from the Arctic).  It is being killed by another member of the tribe.  Far too often the one who determines that we are not worthy any longer of being counted among the living is a stranger to us.   He knows us not at all but still wishes us harm.  Huh?

What the fuck is wrong with us?  

We bullshit ourselves into wanting to believe that those of us who are here presently neither shape the the attitudes of those who come after us nor bear any responsibility for them.  And I do not mean simply those who come after us in our own families, such as our children or a niece or a nephew.  I mean ALL of those who arrive here after ALL of us.  You do not believe me?  Okay Slick, you feel free to paraphrase Axl Rose and choose your delusion. Meanwhile, the rest of us swimming in the adult end of the pool will consider the following.

A human being is born incapable of speaking its native tongue.  A human being is born incapable of reading.  A human being is born without the ability to write.  A human being is born lacking the ability to wipe its own ass.  A human being is born without the ability to feed itself.    

A newborn human being most assuredly cannot assign any significance to skin color, national origin, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation.  The only thing a newborn human being probably can differentiate between - mere moments after arrival - is wet and dry, having just been expelled from a warm, wet place and into one decidedly less so.  

With all due respect to Ms. Swift, but for our willingness to continue to pay it forward when it comes to hatred based upon characteristics including race, ethnicity, and the like it would be a damn sight harder for the haters to hate.  

What the fuck is wrong with us?  

When the fuck are we going to repair ourselves? 


If we are unwilling or unable to repair ourselves, then let's take an affirmative step to weeding out the active, organized bigots..  A national lottery to win an all-expenses paid, one-way trip to either Seal Island, South Africa or the Arctic seems like a step in the right direction especially if the odds of winning are really good.  More than one Grand Prize winner every day would be helpful too.  

Until then, take comfort - as I do - in the presence of those among us such as Jon Stewart, with whom I can find but two faults.  First, he is leaving us in approximately six weeks.  Second, he is not taking with him Rick Perry, Jeb Bush and/or the the other candidates for the office of President of the United States who lacked the intestinal fortitude to call what happened in South Carolina what it was:  An act of race-based, domestic terrorism.




-AK

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Heavens & The Stars

Son, brother, father, lover, friend. 
There is room in the heart for all the affections,
as there is room in the heavens for all of the stars.
- Victor Hugo 


It never ceases to amaze me just how easy the great one make the whole "Dad" gig look.  Over the course of the first half-century or so of my life, I have borne witness to not only the mad skills each of my older brothers Bill and Kelly have demonstrated, as well as those brought to bear by Frank, Russ, Joe, and Glenn, but to those of my father-in-law Joe as well.  Each of them has done his level best for those he has loved the best.  It is a task performed not in the hope of receiving a tacky tie or a leaky ceramic coffee mug.  It is a task performed because it is what fathers are programmed to do:  keep a watchful eye on those who we love and upon whose love we depend the most. 

Neither Suzanne nor Rob is a child any longer.  Neither has been for quite some time.

Tilt-A-Whirl at Jenkinson's 
Summer 1991


I smile whenever I think of the two of them, the path each has charted, and the partner who has joined each of them on the journey.    


Suzanne and Ryan
September 6, 2013


Jess and Rob
June 6, 2014

On their journey from childhood to adulthood, they flourished - more often than not - in spite of my paternal influence than because of it.  Candidly, I always meant to be better at the "Dad" business than I ever proved to be.  My two greatest qualities were my ability to get them from Point A to Point B and my ability to not interfere with the normal, three-way communication flow that the two of them established with Margaret.  In that regard, I have spent many a quiet moment over the course of these past two and one-half decades realizing just how much of my father's DNA has been interwoven with my own and why the cocktail of his and mine shall end when I end.  It is a thought in which I take great comfort.      

I would like to think - or hope perhaps - that along the way some of my more benign insanity wormed its way into their day-to-day and found a home there.  In a manner similar to a virus.

Or a splinter...     




-AK 


  

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Toast in Honor of Mary Lee

When I was a little boy, we had a summer home.  My old man is dead almost thirty-five years and I have yet to figure out how the Kennys managed to afford a summer house on a lake at a time when most of us - if not all of us - still lived under the familial roof and all of Mom's work was performed at home.  Mom resumed working outside of the home after Kara, Jill and I started attending W-H, which did not happen until the latter half of the 1970's.  

Our house was on Harvey's Lake, Pennsylvania, which billed itself at the time as the largest natural lake in Pennsylvania.  Whether that is true, I do not pretend to know although it does say so on the town's Wikipedia page, which I am confident has been meticulously vetted for accuracy.   Summer days were utter bliss.  From sun up to sun down - other than a Mom-required break in the early afternoon to eat lunch and then again in the early evening to eat dinner - time was spent in and on the water, whether skiing, boating, or swimming.  I loved summer.  I would return to school every September with baked-brown skin and white blonde hair, having spent the previous two and one-half months doing a lot of nothing.  I was excellent at it.  Still am. 

The only downer days during the summer were rainy days.  In part because Dad - who knew less about fishing than anyone this side of Ahab - went to his grave convinced that rain caused fish to come closer to the surface of the lake, which in theory made them easier to catch.  I never quite grasped the concept of why exactly a creature whose entire life is lived underwater would take such an interest in rain.  Believe me.  Dad and I spent enough time sitting in our boat getting rained on while trying to catch fish - me using whatever piece of crap pole I could find and Dad using the utterly ridiculous Pocket Fisherman that he either ordered for himself or convinced Mom to buy for him.  To my memory we never caught a fish of any discernible size.  We certainly never caught a fish that we later ate. 

The Pocket Fisherman - as useless as it was as an implement for catching fish (unless you managed to throw it and strike a fish with it as the fish swam near the boat) was a nice complementary piece to the one hundred walnut sticks he ordered through the mail, thinking one could actually purchase one hundred walnut trees for $10.00, or the dress slacks he used to order through the mail in sheer disregard of the notion that one whose size was "Short and Fat" could not wear any pair of trousers.  Had Dad not died before the advent of cable television and channels such as QVC and the Home Shopping Network, he would have bankrupted my parents.     

Every now and again, however, a rainy, summer day would be spent - in part at least - at the movie theater located at the Wyoming Valley Mall.  And it was there, on one of the theater's two screens on a rainy afternoon in the Summer of '75 that I saw Jaws.   I was unaware - until I saw something about it on-line the other day - that Jaws was released theatrically forty years ago today.    
All these years later, both Spielberg's film and Benchley's book upon which it is based remain among my favorites.  Forty years ago, as an eight-year-old kid who had read the book multiple times, Spielberg's film scared the living bejeebers out of me.  It did not scare me while I sat in the theater watching it, dry and safe, protected by my older siblings as well as Mom and Dad.  However, there was not a single moment of a single day that I spent in the water, from the day on which we saw the movie until we packed up and headed back to New Jersey on Labor Day Weekend, during which I did not relentlessly scan the water around me for shadows and shapes.  

On sunny days, I continued to live in and on the water.  But I never relaxed.  I remained ever vigilant in my quest to spot a dorsal fin.  The fact that we lived on a lake was of no moment to me whatsoever.  The fact that the lake upon which we lived was so far from either the Atlantic Ocean or any body of water that came anywhere near the ocean was similarly unimportant to me.

What was important to me?  Knowing that the boat I had damn sure was not big enough to grapple with a shark...


...not even close. 

-AK 

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Carousel

Nostalgia. It's delicate... but potent...
in Greek, "nostalgia" literally means, "the pain from an old wound". 
It's a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. 
This device isn't a spaceship. 
It's a time machine.  It goes backwards, forwards. 
It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. 
It's not called the Wheel. It's called a Carousel. 
It lets us travel the way a child travels. 
Around and around, and back home again...
- Don Draper ("The Wheel") 

It was twenty-two years ago on this very day - under a blistering hot sun - that Margaret and I were married.  June 19 was the date chosen for our wedding for no reason other than we decided that we would get married on or about the second anniversary of when we had gone out together for the first time, June 21, 1991, which was a Friday night.  We wanted to have the wedding on a Saturday, which just happened to be the 19th.  

This February I marked my forty-eighth birthday, which means that "our life" has comprised approximately one-half of my life.  This half has greatly exceeded the first half.  I say that not simply because my recollection of the first half is not great and in spots, such as the spot between ages eighteen to twenty-three it is essentially non-existent.  I say it because but for meeting and falling in love with Margaret when I was a mere pup of twenty-four, I not only would have placed my chances at living long enough to have completed close to a half-century's laps around the Sun at somewhere between nothing and next to nothing, I would have gauged my interest in trying to have made it this far at a level less than the likelihood of making it. 

She is a remarkable woman, my wife.  She deserves a far better life companion than I.  I do not do self-deprecating, believe me.  If one was to compile a list of the many words that others have used to describe me, neither "humble" nor "modest" would appear on it. On the contrary, "lucky" certainly would.  As would "fortunate".   Both of them would take their place somewhere beneath "thankful". 

Margaret has amazed me every single day that I have known her, a gift to which I cannot attach a value and a gift that I cannot ever hope to repay in kind.   I hope simply that she looks forward as I do to the next twenty-two years upon the carousel.

And that, like me, she hopes the music never stops.  

-AK   

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Oracle of Dolenz

"There is the brink of insanity,
and then there is the abyss."
- Kevin Dolenz (St. Elmo's Fire)

I fear that at some point on this past Tuesday morning, we the people of these United States raced headlong past insanity's brink and plummeted directly into its abyss.  An overreaction?  I think not.  I really, really hope that I am wrong.  

To think, all these years I had counted upon Michael Stipe to advise me as to which sign of the apocalypse to look out for first.  While I had my ear to the ground listening for the Earth's rumbles, a carnival barker sneaked right past me.  

Before you dismiss the candidacy of the aforementioned barker, consider that what P.T. Barnum rather famously observed, "Nobody ever lost a dollar by underestimating the taste of the American public", more than a century ago remains true today.  

With all due respect to Mr. Stipe, I believe that against the backdrop of recent events Lenny Bruce - if not afraid - would be at least mildly concerned.  He might well take some comfort from the fact - as do I - that at least for the next six weeks Jon Stewart is keeping watch.    

-AK 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

His Famous Final Scene

The 2015 NHL season ended on Monday night.  For the third time in the past six years, it ended with the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup.  Irrespective of their individual politics, the Blackhawks are not looking forward to President Obama's departure from the White House, which shall come in the middle of the 2016-17 NHL season.  Chicago is an "Original Six" team.  In its storied history it has captured a half-dozen Stanley Cups, which means that half of its haul has occurred while Chicago's native son has occupied the White House.  Prior to 2010, the Blackhawks had last won the Stanley Cup in 1961 - when the White House was occupied not by a native son but by someone whose election to the Presidency very well might not have happened but for his connection to Chicago.    People of Illinois, if you want the Blackhawks to continue to experience Stanley Cup success in 2017 and beyond, while the present field of candidates numbers something just shy of one hundred, you have but one option.  

Whether you are - as I am - a lifelong hockey fan, you have to be moved (at least a little) by what happened on the ice after the game.  Jonathan Toews is the captain of the Blackhawks.  Tradition dictates that the Cup-winning captain receives the Stanley Cup at center ice from the NHL Commissioner, which usually serves as the impetus to a wild, rollicking celebration as the members of the winning team take turns hoisting the Cup and skating around the ice with it.  On Monday night, Toews accepted the Cup from Commissioner Bettman and after hoisting it above his head and letting loose with a few, appropriate exclamations, he delivered the Cup to a teammate.  But not to just any teammate. 

Kimmo Timonen is a forty-year-old defenseman who has more than a decade and a half of NHL ice beneath his skates.  He is an exceptionally well-regarded player on the international level, having been an integral part of the Finnish National Team for twenty-plus years during which time the Finns captured 4 Olympic medals (3 bronze (1998, 2010, and 2014) and 1 silver (2006)) and 3 World Championship medals (silvers in 1998, 1999, and 2001).   He had never been on a Cup-winning team.  Five years ago, he endured the painful experience of watching the Cup celebration as a member of the losing team when his Philadelphia Flyers were vanquished by Toews and the Blackhawks.  Last summer, Timonen was diagnosed with blood clots in both lungs and in his right leg.  He could not play hockey while he was taking the blood thinners needed to attack the clots.  Slowly but surely he worked his way back into something resembling playing shape and shortly before the 2015 trading deadline the Flyers, who were stumbling their way through a forgettable season, traded Timonen to the Blackhawks.

Roughly a week after the trade was made, in deference to his health and perhaps his age (his fortieth birthday was less than two weeks after the date of his announcement), Timonen announced that the 2014-15 NHL season would be his last.  After arriving in Chicago, he played sixteen regular season games for the Blackhawks, during which he amassed exactly zero points and two penalty minutes.

He laced up his skates for the Hawks fifteen times during their run to the Cup this post-season.  And on Monday night, after his captain had lifted the Cup above his own head and saluted the crowd, Toews made damn certain that Timonen knew exactly how much his teammates and his team's fans loved him and respected him - not simply for battling through his life-threatening health problems less than one year ago - but for what he has meant to hockey (both in North America and all over the world) for close to a quarter-century: 




If possible, watch the video with sound.  You might live one thousand years.  You shall never hear an exclamation of joy better than that of Kimmo Timonen.   After all, it was more than forty years and eleven hundred games in the making. 

It is going to be one hell of a parade in Chicago...

...and the celebration in Finland ain't gonna be half-bad either. 

-AK  

   

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Same As It Ever Was

With Joe in the hospital acquainting himself with his new knee this weekend, the Missus and I did not escape to our little Paradise by the LC.  Apparently, we were among the small handful of people who did not spend at least a portion of the weekend in the greater Belmar metroplex.  It is not everyday that one sees the Mayor of a municipality tell people that they cannot come into his town because it is filled to capacity.  Yet, Mayor Doherty of Belmar made just such a declaration on Sunday.  I am probably the only person whose mind - upon reading His Honor's directive - immediately flashed to the late, great John Candy in National Lampoon's Vacation.  "The moose out front should have told you."  Damn moose.  

Sunday morning, rather than run along the ocean, which is a delightful habit it took me exactly no time at all with which to become familiar, I ran through the streets of Middlesex, Bound Brook, and Bridgewater.  I ran past a number of homes whose front lawns and front walkways were adorned with signs identifying the residence as the home of a member of one high school or another's graduating class.  

It occurred to me as I ran past the "Class of 2015" signs that this year marks the 30th anniversary of my own graduation from high school.  The only specific memory I have of that day - and it is a great one - took place prior to the ceremony itself.  Our class was assembled and seated on the bleachers in the gymnasium preparing to walk out to the front soccer field, which back in the day was where W-H's graduation ceremony occurred.  Em stood up and declared, "Graduation Party at my house!", in response to which her fellow members of the Class of '85 cheered.  I know I cheered.  I presume that the rest of the crowd followed suit.  

There are times when I have no idea where thirty years have gone.  And then there are times when I look at the face staring back at me in the bathroom mirror at three-something o'clock every morning and I can trace the passage of time through the lines on my face and the graying of my temples. These thirty years have gone where time always go, into the development of the personal history that moves me along this continuum of indeterminate length from its beginning to its end, whenever and wherever that may occur.  

Just as, in time, it shall do likewise for the Class of 2015.  And time?  Time isn't holding us.  Time isn't after us...

-AK

Monday, June 15, 2015

Patients and Patience

In the brief time that the Missus and I have been the owners of a beach house (six whole weeks and counting), this weekend marked the first time that we have spent no time at all there.  Our excuse is - frankly - an excellent one.  Early on Friday morning, Margaret's father-in-law Joe - eighty-two years young - underwent a total knee replacement of his right knee at St. Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick.  His recovery has - thus far - proceeded with sufficient smoothness to put him on track to be transferred from his current home away from home to an in-patient rehabilitation facility. 

His stay at as soon-to-be home away from home is - as I understand it - presently set as one of indeterminate length.  His progress shall dictate how long he shall be there before he is medically cleared to return home.  I have told him - kidding of course - that I have already paid the facility to keep him until the Tuesday after Labor Day.  It is a joke.  I have paid them to hold him through that Thursday. 

I spent a considerable portion of my Sunday keeping Margaret company at the hospital as she kept a watchful eye on Joe.  While there, I also was reminded firsthand of just how remarkable Suzanne is.  She is a Speech Language Pathologist, having earned both her Bachelor's and her Master's - with Honors - from Seton Hall.  Since she and Ryan made their journey home from Texas one year ago, Suzanne has worked in a local school system.  However the first five years of her career were spent as a top-notch Speech Therapist in the two finest in-patient rehabilitation facilities in this country - and perhaps the world:  Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, New Jersey and TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston, Texas.  Yesterday, she did not simply visit her grandfather - who would have been happy had Suzanne done nothing more than sat and made conversation with him and kept him company.  No, she cared for him as well.  In between visits by members of the hospital staff, Suzanne and Joe were a powerful two-member team, her providing the care and the instruction and him doing exactly what she directed him to do.   

It was quite incredible to watch.   Her supremely confident in her own training and abilities making him feel utterly at ease and him, feeling something that is hard for any of us to feel in the strange, alien environs of a hospital - irrespective of  our age, which was totally at peace.  He knew intuitively that he was safe.  

And it was an incredible sight to which to bear witness.  

-AK 


Sunday, June 14, 2015

There: Still, Now, and Forever...

Today is Flag Day.  Seventy years ago, as the United States was nearing the end of the bloody, global conflict that historians refer to as World War II, President Harry S. Truman issued the following Presidential Proclamation in honor of the day.  I am a Truman fan (he, too, had no middle name) and to my eye and ear what President Truman said then still resonates now...

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

It is our custom each year to set aside a day on which to render special honor to our Flag.

We celebrate Flag Day this year with a fresh sense of our strength as a nation. Solemnly, we accept the responsibilities placed upon us by our power.

We honor the men and women in the armed services and in the factories and homes who, with God's help, have given us our victories. We face the battle ahead with solemn gratitude for the triumphs of the past.

Our Flag has accompanied our fighting men on a hundred battlefields. It flies beyond the seas over the friendly lands our arms have freed, and over the hostile countries our arms have conquered. Our Flag will be planted in the heart of the empire of our last remaining enemy.

As we press forward to final victory, we are strengthened with the knowledge that for millions of people in other lands as well as in our own our Flag is a living token of human integrity and freedom.

Let us observe this Flag Day by raising our Flag and beside it the flags of the United Nations. It is especially fitting that we thus honor our Allies at a time when we are working with them to lay a firm foundation for world peace. Let this display of the flags of the United Nations symbolize our unity with our Allies both upon the battlefields of war and under the skies of peace. Let us again dedicate ourselves and our Republic, under God, to the united cause of peace and justice and the brotherhood of all men everywhere.

Now, Therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate June 14, 1945, as Flag Day, and ask that the people of our nation on that day do especially honor our Flag, and the men and women of the armed services who have served under it, and that they also pay honor to our Allies of the United Nations.

I direct the officials of the Federal Government and I request the officials of the State and local government to display the Flag of our Republic on all public buildings on Flag Day; and I urge the people of the United States on that day to fly the American Flag from their homes, and also to arrange wherever possible for joint displays of the flags of the freedom-loving United Nations, whose staunch collaboration has aided us to achieve the victories of war and will aid us to realize our hope for an enduring peace.

- President Harry S. Truman




-AK 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Candle Power

Hold on to your rosary beads
Leave me to my mischievous deeds
Like we always do...
-James McMurtry

It is an exaggeration to say that in the dozen and a half words that close out "Copper Canteen", which is the exquisite opening track on his latest CD Mr. McMurtry described the approach that Mom and I took to getting through my high school years, which happened to be the first four years following Dad's death.  An exaggeration?  Yes.  But not much of one. 

The incredible Joanie K. is celebrating a birthday today.  Presuming my arithmetic is correct, today is the eighty-seventh such celebration.  I cannot think of Mom and not smile.  She is without exception the strongest, bravest person I have ever known.  Qualities that are well-matched by a bottomless reservoir of humility and modesty.  

I suppose that it is at the very least an inconvenience to be a child and endure the death of a parent.  That was certainly my experience when it happened to me at age fourteen.  Had it had to happen however, I was fortunate in that had Mom died and left Dad and I to find our way together during my high school years, I have grave doubts that either of us would have survived the experience.  Dad was hard.  Mom was strong.  A distinction that is imbued with a considerable difference.  

For forty-eight-plus years, she has made a marked, considerable difference in my life.  Joanie K.  My mother.  My hero. 

And today, the birthday girl...


...and still the proud owner of the piece that represents the high-water mark of my career in the arts. 

-AK 
  

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Ballad of Wounded Knee

Thought for the day:  If Steve Austin - a man barely alive - had to be rebuilt today, just how much would it cost?  Defense contractors are reputed to churn out seven-figure toilet seats and hammers for crying out loud.  A $6 Million Man? This is what a $6 Million Man looks like in 2015 dollars:  Stephen Drew.   Here is to hoping that NASA would adjust for inflation prior to undertaking the rebuilding project.  If Drew is any indication, $6 Million stretches nowhere nearly as afar presently as it did back in Lee Majors' day.  

My father-in-law shall be doing his very own Steve Austin impersonation today.  He is spending the day in the company of his orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Tria, and Dr. Tria's team at St. Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick so that Dr. Tria can replace one of the two knees that his Mama gave him with one that modern manufacturing shall provide to him.  Why is an eighty-two-year-old man having his knee replaced? Why not.  After all, it is as true now as it was when Oscar Goldman first said it more than four decades ago, "We have the technology. Better than he was before.  Better, stronger, faster."  

All kidding aside, Giuseppe has a far more reasonable goal than hoping to score his own ABC television series:  He simply wants to be able to walk and to be able to so without fear of losing his balance and without experiencing ridiculous amounts of discomfort and pain. He wants to have a knee that he can depend upon enough that he can resume playing his weekly golf game, which he has not participated in at all this year. Given all that he has put into this life, I think what he seeks is nothing more than that to which he is entitled.  

He is more anxious about today's festivities than he has tried to show.  Ditto for his daughter.  There is an old joke about minor surgery being defined as surgery being performed on someone else.  When that someone else is your wife's octogenarian father, it is damn hard to scare up a belly laugh with that line.  

More than a half-century ago, Giuseppe made his bones with his singing voice on Ted Mack's Amateur Hour.  Today, if all goes according to Hoyle, then keep an eye out for him in January 2016 on Dancing With The Stars.  By then, he will have the wheels to go along with those pipes...

...and he already has the threads.



-AK 


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Raising a Pint to Captain Obtuse

Dear John Dunleavy: 

Hello.  I realize that you and I have never made the acquaintance of one another and, truth be told, are not likely ever to do so, which dramatically reduces the odds of us ever being able to have this conversation face-to-face. Therefore, I write. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I have never had a job as nifty as "Chairman of the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade" so I recognize that I likely do not have a full, complete understanding of all of the rigors associated with it.  While I would have anticipated that the ninety days or so immediately following the parade would be your "slow period", with your focus on shaking off your St. Patrick's Day hangover and squeezing out the last of your corned beef and cabbage-fueled farts, your day-to-day commitments as Chairman of the NYC SPD Parade apparently continue to consume a disproportionate amount of your time.  So much so in fact that your ability to keep up on world events has been compromised. 

Allow me to allow you to catch up on an item that apparently escaped your searching eye.  It was a bit more than two weeks ago that the Republic of Ireland (a nation with which I presume you have at least a bit of familiarity) became the first nation ON EARTH (a planet with which I presume you have at least a like level of familiarity) to approve same-sex marriage by a vote of the people.  And Mr. Dunleavy, in case you are keeping score at home, the vote was not close:  62% of the almost two million people who voted on the referendum voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.  

And yet, just yesterday morning, an item from www.irishcentral.com popped up in my in-box, the headline of which was, "NYC St. Patrick's Day Chairman says gays will "have a problem" marching in 2016".   Forgive my bluntness Mr. Dunleavy but...are you fucking kidding me?  To borrow a line from the great Idina Menzel, let it go.  Your stance on this issue, which has always been offensive (and not simply to me), was overrun in 2015. Remember? Irrespective of how many pints of Guinness one consumes, there is no WABAC Machine - much less three of them.

It should not be difficult for a man who is in charge of a parade for Christ's sake to grasp the concept that life is, itself, a forward-moving exercise.  If you cannot, then pass the shillelagh to someone who can.  Get over it.  Get over yourself.  Feel free to do so in whichever order you prefer.  

Go Taters! 

-AK  

  

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Random Musings

I've always subscribed to an old Chinese proverb
that the palest ink is better than the best memory.
- Vincent Bugliosi

His name may no longer resonate in the collective memory of the American people but I was sad to see the alert from the Los Angeles Times announcing the death of Vincent Bugliosi.  Mr. Bugliosi, who died Saturday in a Los Angeles hospital at age 80, was the prosecutor who convicted Charles Manson and his band of crazies for the Tate-LaBianca murders that occurred in Los Angeles on the night of August 8, 1969.   His work ethic was legendary as was his commitment to the task at hand.  In the couple of years between the end of college and the beginning of law school, I read quite a bit about Mr. Bugliosi as well as a number of things written by Mr. Bugliosi.  Somewhere, across a lifetime ago, I came across this line in one of his books, "Preparation permits spontaneity".  His iteration of the Five Ps I suppose.  Not nearly as alliterative but equally prescient.

I know not what - if anything - it says about me as a consumer of sports in these United States but whereas I have watched exactly zero minutes of the NBA Finals, I watched most of the the United States Women National Team's first game in the 2015 World Cup on Monday night.  I love world-class soccer and the USWNT plays the game at a high level, which it has done far more often than not for the better part of the past two decades.  In fairness to the 2015 NBA Finals, I have consumed this season - and actually just about every season since the league has been in existence - an equally underwhelming amount of MLS soccer.  It is a brand of soccer that I find uninspiring - and no amount of teams whose names include "Real" or "Sporting" or "FC" is going to change that for me since it is the quality of play on the field and not the name on the jersey that dictates my level of interest.  Whether the USWNT will capture the World Cup for the first time since its memorable 1999 win in Los Angeles I do not pretend to know although methinks they are going to have to put forth a better effort than they did against Australia in their opener.  

As I was waiting for the morning's first pot of coffee to complete its brewing cycle yesterday morning, I came across this on-line... 


...and it occurred to me that it expressed a point of view worth subscribing to and an attitude worth aspiring to and did so in fewer than one dozen words.  I tend to be less good at doing this than I should be, which failing in my character I recognize.  Recognition is just Step One in the process however.  Knowing something and doing something are two completely different things and the former without the latter is nothing more than coffee-house bullshit.  

-AK 



Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Day Spent in Adult Swim

Far more often than not, this space is occupied by words and thoughts that - if not frivolous - are not necessarily worthy of inclusion in a Merchant-Ivory Production.  Today is not such a day. 

I got up in the middle of the night (Sunday night into Monday morning) in response to my faithful companion Rosalita having effectively communicated to me her urgent need to go to the bathroom. That fact, coupled with her absence of thumbs, caused me to get her out into the back yard with dispatch.  As I headed down the hallway, my eyes opened enough to allow me to read a message my sister Kara had sent to the Kenny Siblings.  I do not recall it verbatim but the gist of it was, "Sigrid believed to have heart attack.  Airlifted to hospital in Hartford." 

Sigrid is my sister-in-law.  She and Bill have been married for close to four decades.  While not even I am so morbid as to participate in any wagering regarding "Who Is Today's Best Bet to Have a Heart Attack?" were I so inclined, Sigrid's name would not appear anywhere on that list.  Irrespective of that omission, she apparently was stricken with one nonetheless.  

I am my brother's brother, which means that I share a trait common to the Kennys (at least to the men of the tribe), which is that I loathe the things over which I have no ability to exercise control.  We do not like problems we cannot fix.  Monday morning, as Bill, Michelle and Patrick dealt with this new bit of reality, I am quite certain that Bill did not breathe easily until he received confirmation two or three times over from the medical personnel who were attending to Sigrid that the worst of her experience was behind her.  And then, he still likely paced the hallway until he wore the soles off of his shoes.  

Based upon the updates that he provided, Michelle provided and the star patient herself provided (is not social media grand?), it appears that Sigrid shall be enjoying the creature comforts associated with hospital living (green Jello and 2:45 am blood draws) until Wednesday.  That piece of the story was the only piece that made me smile.  

A sentiment that I am quite confident was shared - to one degree or another - by every member of the Connecticut branch of the family tree.  

-AK   


Monday, June 8, 2015

Run Like An Egyptian

As afternoon ceded the spotlight to evening on Saturday, history was made at Belmont Park.  American Pharoah did something that no three-year-old thoroughbred had done in almost forty years.  He captured the Triple Crown.  His five-and-one-half length victory in the Belmont Stakes capped off one hell of a spring.  One hell of a spring indeed. 

The last time that a horse achieved what American Pharoah achieved was 1978.  Affirmed nipped Alydar at the wire, which duel capped off the pair's epic-three-race war in that year's Triple Crown.  In the thirty-seven years since, twelve horses had arrived at the Belmont Stakes having won the Triple Crown's first two legs.  Each of the twelve had failed to capture the final leg.  Last year it was California Chrome who tasted success first in Kentucky and then in Maryland before falling short in New York.  There were those who wondered whether any horse could accomplish the task. 

Shortly before 7:00 o'clock on Saturday, with Victor Espinoza aboard, American Pharoah succeeded where California Chrome and the eleven other horses that had tried to gallop in the footsteps of Affirmed had failed.  His run to history was also a journey of redemption for Espinoza, who had fallen short himself in 2002 on War Emblem and in 2014 on California Chrome.  




I know next to nothing about horse racing.  But I know a little bit about history.  And history was made on Saturday evening at Belmont Park.  

-AK