Monday, November 30, 2015

The Inevitable Downward Trajectory of the Other Shoe

Yesterday, Rutgers University fired its Athletic Director, Julie Hermann, and its Head Football Coach, Kyle Flood.  One hell of a bloody Sunday on the banks of the old Raritan.  RU capped off  its busy day of personnel moves in its Athletic Department by hiring a new Athletic Director.  Funny, when Patrick Hobbs taught my Tax Law class during my second year at Seton Hall Law School twenty years ago, I never envisioned him as the man in charge of an Athletic Department at a major, Division I university.

I am not a young man.  I take no comfort in seeing anyone lose his or her job.  I am also a realist. Irrespective of whatever it is that someone does to earn a living, the bottom line is, well, is the bottom line.  And when your job is measured in terms of wins and losses, losing twice as many games as you win in a particular year is not a good thing.  And when it coincides with a year in which six of your players are, first, arrested, and, thereafter, thrown off of the team and, furthermore, you are suspended for three games (and fined $50,000) for violating your employer's rules and regulations, it becomes impossible to survive it. 

A lesson was imparted Sunday in Piscataway.  Irrespective of the strength of your arm and the heights to which you hurl it, the other shoe eventually succumbs to the force of gravity.  Having gone up, it most assuredly shall come down.  And when it does, it leaves one hell of a mark. 

-AK 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Month of Sundays

Albert Einstein was a pretty smart fellow.  He certainly hit it right on the head regarding his Theory of Relativity.  Today is November 29.  It was only twenty-eight days ago that I completed the New York City Marathon.  Twenty-eight days and yet it feels as if it was a lifetime ago.  

Coincidentally, a lifetime is how long it felt it was taking me to complete the NYC Marathon course while I was completing it.  Who knew that the Queesnboro Bridge connects Queensland, Australia to Manhattan or that First Avenue starts in one of the southernmost Florida Keys before reaching its terminus in the Bronx?  Do not tell me that I am wrong on either count for I have experienced each firsthand - or perhaps "firstfoot".  

But I digress.

My continuing effort to prepare myself to do better in the 2016 NYC Marathon than I did this year continues this morning in beautiful Monmouth County.  For the first time, I am taking part in the Navesink Challenge 15K, which is a 9.3 mile race that begins and ends in Bodman Park in Middletown Township, and competed on a course that is - to be kind - quite challenging.  If the elevation map does not give you an appreciation for the course's topography, then check out the video.  In hindsight, perhaps I should have done so prior to registering for the 15K.  

Who am I kidding?  I would have signed up regardless.  November shall end for me as it began.  Running in a park...

...and weeping softly. 

-AK 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

That Same Small Town in Each of Us...

I need to remember this,
So baby give me just one kiss.
And let me take a long last look
Before we say goodbye...
- Don Henley

The Missus and I shall spend this evening doing something that we try to do on an annual basis.  We shall spend time in Somerville, New Jersey as the town formally kicks off the 2015 Christmas season with its Holiday Jubilee.  If you are in the area, and you have children and/or are interested in reacquainting yourself with your inner child, then spend this evening in Downtown Somerville.  


Clydesdale Team on Main Street
Downtown Somerville - 2014

Bonnie and Clyde(sdale) 
Downtown Somerville - 2014

Margaret and Me - Division Street
Downtown Somerville - 2014
(A tree so tall it can be seen over my head!)


You can have a simply extraordinary time without feeling as if you need to wait in line to sit on Santa's lap so you can ask him for a bag of money to pay for it all.  Clydesdale horses!  Christmas trees!  What more do you need?  

Downtown Somerville is one of my favorite parts of the State of Concrete Gardens.  There are a number of restaurants, most of which are quite good, and a variety of shops and other businesses.  Margaret and I typically spend at least three or four Saturday evenings a year prowling around Main Street and - in the warm weather - sitting outside on Division Street and listening to whatever musical act happens to be performing on that particular evening.  

This evening's holiday kickoff coincides with Small Business Saturday 2015.  I am not much of a shopper but I love this particular event.  Among the many things I love about where we hang our flip-flops at the Shore is that our little town of Lake Como, as well as its geographic bookends of Belmar and Spring Lake, is dominated by small, locally-owned businesses.  Big-box stores are a ten-minute drive away - out on Route 35 -if and when you need to shop there.  Main Street, however, is an absolute delight.  A pastiche of little, stand-alone businesses owned and operated by local folks.  My favorite store in Belmar is Taylor Hardware, a fixture in the community for more than a century, and a place in which it has never taken Margaret and I more than thirty seconds to get the help we need and the tool we require for whatever we happen to be working on at home.  Belmar is also home to one of New Jersey's best, local, craft breweries, BeachHaus, which has the added bonus (for me) of being where one of Suzanne's oldest friends (from their grammar school days), Matt Knehr, works.  My favorite place in Belmar to grab breakfast is Hooked, which is located next to the train station. Family-owned and operated.  The sign outside of their front door does not advertise billions and billions served.  Instead it says, "Come In! We're Awesome!", which they are.  

No one in our household is happier about the fact that we shall be in Downtown Somerville for Small Business Saturday than Rosalita.  While Rosie never wants for treats, tonight we shall carry home with us a bag of the best snacks upon which she shall feast all year.  The Hungry Hound on Main Street is - if I may steal a line from my friends at Hooked - awesome.  If you own a dog, if you like dogs, or if you simply cried at the end of "Old Yeller" or "Marley and Me" (and you know you did), then it is a shop in which you should spend a minute or two.  The dog treats are home-baked and chock full of stuff that is good for Rosie to eat - unlike the pizza crusts for which she begs every Friday night.  Most of all, she loves the taste of them, which makes them not expensive but, instead, invaluable.  

The late, great Tip O'Neill once famously observed that, "All politics is local."  Today, let us borrow that concept and apply it to commerce.  When we help our neighbors we help ourselves.  Here's to Self-Help Saturday.  May its echo resonate through the year to come. 


-AK 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Season's Greetings

Very nice, low-key Thanksgiving at our house yesterday.  It was - as Joe likes to describe it - a "Father, Son, Holy Ghost" day, which he, Margaret, and I spent together.  You have to hand it to my father-in-law.  He does not permit his son-in-law's lack of religious conviction to ruin his analogy.  It could be worse I suppose.  He could refer to us as "Moe, Curly, and Larry".  

I spent a bit of time yesterday morning in Green Brook at the Patanella's Green Brook Turkey Trot 5K.  It was the fifth edition of the event and the fourth time that I have participated.  I was there, five years ago, when there were approximately two hundred participants.  Yesterday, there were approximately eight hundred, including slightly less than six hundred runners.  I would claim to be disappointed by my 116th overall finish.  I would but I would be telling a fib.  

If you are among the folks who shall contribute to the insanity that is "Black Friday", then enjoy yourself.  Better you than me.  I shall be comfortably ensconced at my closed office.  The wonderful thing about the law is that work goes on even when the office is closed.  

Often times, it goes on much more smoothly as a matter of fact...

'Tis the season to be billing, 
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la.
You'll be shopping, I'll be chilling,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la. 

-AK

Thursday, November 26, 2015

From the Comfort of a Dreamer's Bed...

"Here in Britain, of course, it's Thank Fuck
We Got Those Jesus Bastards On The Boat Day!"
- Warren Ellis

Whatever your plans are for Thanksgiving and wherever those plans shall take you, do all that you can do to make the day enjoyable for yourself and for at least one other person too.  The other person whose day you make might, in fact, be a person whose acquaintance you shall not directly make today - or on any day for that matter.  He or she may, instead, be a person who benefits from your generosity, whether your generosity manifests itself in money, in time, or in some other way altogether.




Here, in the middle of the second decade of the twenty-first century, we the people of these United States expend an extraordinary amount of energy attempting to define the world - and our role in it - in terms of black-and-white.  Silly us.  Even once upon a lifetime ago, before America was introduced to the splendor of technicolor, and television was black-and-white, the world was then as it is now.  It is just so many shades of gray.    

And speaking of gray, while wrestling with how to make a multi-colored peg fit into a monochromatic hole, perhaps that time would be better spent inquiring as to why you are making the effort to do so.   On this, our "American holiday", during which a sizable percentage of the populous shall invariably spend a substantial part of the day viewing football, consider this.  

When football was played at the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims (a/k/a "the Jesus Bastards") wore the gray uniforms of the visiting team.  The privilege of calling the opening coin toss belonged to them rather than to their hosts, the Native Americans of the Wampanoag Tribe, which toss they won.  They elected to receive.   

Neither black nor white.  

Gray.   

Same as it ever was. 

Happy Thanksgiving...  




-AK
  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

DBH

And so it appears again.  Today, in offices across this great land, men and women of all races, colors, creeds, and whatever other trait or characteristic I omitted due to a pathological lack of interest in political correctness will observe a time-honored, white-collar tradition:  the Day Before the Holiday (or "DBH" for text-messaging purposes).   

There is no day as traditionally unproductive in an office setting as the DBH, although the day upon which a member of the office social network returns from a vacation (especially one that is somehow tied into either his/her wedding or the birth of a child) comes pretty damn close. Having spent several years working for my brother Kelly and his commercial construction company, in my experience the DBH is exclusively a white-collar event.  Perhaps Kelly might spend more time goofing off on the day before a holiday if he did not, more often than not, work on the holiday itself.  

Ah, the DBH!  It is on this glorious day that men and women throughout the office spend copious amounts of time regaling one another with stories of how their holiday shall be spent.  It is as if induction papers have been served nationwide and these co-workers (including those of whom scheme against one another - sometimes secretly and often openly) are preparing to be shipped off to a far-away land rather than, in the case of Thanksgiving, simply spending a Thursday afternoon with family and friends.   

And since today is an office "holiday", the time devoted to the inane Thanksgiving-related banter ("What are you cooking?", "How many people are you having?", and the like) is the time that on a normal Wednesday might actually be spent performing work.  Since one cannot celebrate a holiday in 21st Century America unless one's every movement is documented on one's social media accounts, the face-to-face time expended on the DBH cannot be parsed out of the time needed to update one's entire social network about one's Thanksgiving activities.  To suggest to the contrary is practically blasphemous.  

Whether your dinner party shall be a small group tomorrow or something considerably bigger, hopefully the adults among your number shall be either (a) age-level readers; or (b) not entirely inconsiderate assholes.  

Unless, of course, irony is on the menu...

Sign in the 3rd floor kitchen 
(Apparently, which sink 
was not identified clearly)

...in which case, invite a lawyer.  

-AK 


       

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

No Waiting On Romeo

Even if you are someone whose relationship with me is limited to this daily exercise in exorcism, it is reasonable to presume that by this point in said relationship (unless today is the day you have broken your maiden in this space) you have figured out how measured my interactions with the rest of the world are on a day-to-day basis.  

I love the people I love, who are - coincidentally - those for whom I would die or kill to protect.  I have zero tolerance for a bully or a coward, which are after all merely flip sides of the same coin. But for those for whom I feel neither a sense of devotion nor a sense of enmity, my default emotion is apathy.  When I read and hear, for instance, about those who loathe, despise, or hate a group as utterly vapid as the Kardashians, I wonder "Why Bother"?  They are not ubiquitous.  They are creations of television by television and for television.  Simply change the channel.  I assure you  that enough grown-up shit goes on in the world every day for you to become legitimately pissed off about without wasting a moment of actual outrage on them.   

The things I enjoy, in terms of the books I am reading or have read, the music to which I listen, which things I discuss every now and again here, I discuss without any commitment from anyone else to sharing my enthusiasm or any commitment from me regarding whether my enthusiasm is indeed shared.  Case in point,  on Saturday morning I finished reading Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea - The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex.  My motivation in reading it - in significant part - is the pending release of the film adaptation of the book, which shall be in theaters next month.  I am interested in seeing the film but wanted to read the book first so that I could enjoy the story the way Philbrick intended to tell it - just in case the film version proves to be a disappointment.  

I found Philbrick's book to be extraordinary and recommend it to one and all to read.  It is both educational and fascinating.  Whether you opt to read it - now or ever - I shall of course never know.  And truth be told, it matters not at all to me whether you do.  My experience with the book and the enjoyment I derived from having read it is not dependent upon you at all.  

Similarly, I am very much looking forward to receiving next month my copy of Springsteen's The Ties That Bind:  The River Collection.  Unlike his most recent CD, High Hopes, which I found utterly dreadful - and suffering from a case of "TMM" ("Too Much Morello"), I am genuinely excited to hear this music and to listen to these stories.  Predictably, whether you share my enthusiasm for this offering or whether you ever listen to a single note of Springsteen's music is of no consequence to me.  My experience with this material exists wholly independent of yours, whatever that experience might be.  


-AK 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Tattoos of Memories

So take the photographs
And still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf
In good health and good time.
-Green Day

On Saturday morning, as a number of Turkeys, including Yours truly, were running through the streets of Manasquan, Liv and her Hillsborough Raider teammates were running in Holmdel Park at the 2015 Cross-Country Meet of Champions.  And run, they most certainly did. 

The Raiders backed up their second-place showing in the Group IV Championship Race one Saturday earlier with a second consecutive second-place finish in the Meet of Champions.  Four years of cross-country culminated in one Group IV title, one second-place finish in Group IV, and back-to-back second-place finishes in the Meet of Champions. That is a hell of a lot of podium time.

And a lifetime's worth of memories - including these captured by her grandfather..












It's something unpredictable 
But in the end it's right,


-AK



Sunday, November 22, 2015

An Eternal Idea

A man does what he must - 
in spite of personal consequences, 
in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures -
and that is the basis of all human morality.
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy

A little something upon which all of us might be inclined to spend a minute or two thinking about on this, the fifty-second anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy.  To steal a line from another quotable John (Hiatt), "You think you've come so far in this one horse town and she's laughing that crazy laugh because you haven't left the parking lot."

Were he alive today, one wonders whether President Kennedy might have an opinion as to how faithful we the people of these United States have been to honoring his template for human morality. Or how faithful the men and women to whom public offices and positions have been entrusted have been to this charge:

Let us not seek the Republican answer 
Or the Democratic answer,
But the right answer. 
Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. 




-AK





Saturday, November 21, 2015

Gobble Gobble Goo



To borrow a phrase from Prince, if I may, "Forever is a mighty long time."  It proved to be too long, in fact, for the Turkey Trot.  The Trot was a fixture in Manasquan for three decades, held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and serving as the unofficial kickoff of the "holiday season".

However, shortly after the 2014 Trot, the couple who organized it annually informed the local governing body that they were no longer interested in doing so.  In the words of the American pop philosopher Jackson Browne, "All good things got to come to an end."  The Trot, as it turned out, was among those good things.  

Thankfully, much like nature, the Manasquan Borough Council abhors a vacuum.  Thus, while the Trot is no more, the Manasquan Turkey Run has ably filled its space on the calendar.  Last year's first edition was a terrific event.  This morning, at shortly after 11:00 o'clock, the streets of "Squan shall be filled with runners of all ages and abilities, fueled by a common desire:  Completion of the five-mile course before Leggett's runs out of bar stools upon which to sit and enjoy an adult beverage, post-race.   




-AK 
  

Friday, November 20, 2015

Code Violation

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.
It is dearness only that gives everything its value. 
I love the man that can smile in trouble, 
That can gather strength from distress and
Grow brave by reflection. 
'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, 
But he whose heart is firm 
And whose conscience approves his conduct,
Will pursue his principles unto Death. 
- Thomas Paine


I suppose that if you are not a runner, then stories such as this one do not cause you to clench your jaw in anger.  They infuriate me.  

They infuriate me because of how much work goes into preparing to run in a marathon.  They infuriate me because I know that my running companera, Gidg, spent the better part of four months training to run in this year's Marine Corps Marathon but ended up having to sit the race out after injuring her back rather badly less than three weeks before the race.  Having won entry through the MCM's lottery, she was heartbroken that she was not able to participate.  If this gentleman did that of which he is accused of having done, then his action is a stick in the eye of everyone who completed the race as well as those - like Gidg - who registered to run but were unable to do so due to injury. 

The lengths to which human shall go in an effort to secure an unfair advantage over another never cease to amaze me.  I have many failings as a person.  Too many to list in one sitting here - not because of embarrassment but, rather, because of memory.  I am afraid that I would leave more than one out of my recitation simply because there are so many and recalling all of them is difficult.  However, conspicuous by its absence from my list of personal failings is "cheater".  I am - I suppose - my parents' child in that respect.  I would rather lose a fight fairly than win it by cheating.  

At day's end, presuming this faux marathoner did what he is alleged to have done, the person he screwed the most is himself.  I am a decidedly average marathon runner.  Hell, I am likely grading on the curve when I elevate myself to the rank of "decidedly average".  That said, the feeling of satisfaction - and relief - associated with the simple act of crossing the finish line upon the conclusion of a 26.2 mile journey is one that is almost indescribable.  And it is unforgettable.

I shall never understand what motivates someone to cheat at this endeavor, thus consciously and willfully depriving himself of that feeling.   




-AK 
    

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Love Can Break Your Heart

A lifetime of Novembers ago, Doug Flutie burst onto the national scene.  In 1984, his senior season at Boston College, the diminutive quarterback won college football's highest individual award:  The Heisman Trophy.  As if there was any doubt that he would win the award, in BC's final regular season game against the Miami Hurricanes in Miami, on the Friday of the long Thanksgiving weekend, as time expired he launched a Hail Mary pass for the ages into the gloaming and, thereafter, the waiting arms of Gerard Phelan for the game-winning touchdown.  

Throughout his college career and the decade plus professional career that followed, Doug Flutie repeatedly expressed his appreciation to his parents and all they did for him.  Yesterday, he used his Facebook page to announce some exquisitely sad news about his Mom and Dad.  

Apparently Mr. Flutie, Dick, had been ill for some time for which he had been hospitalized.  Early yesterday morning, he suffered a heart attack.  He died.  Mrs.  Flutie, Joan, was by her husband's side when he died.  Approximately one hour later, she suffered a fatal heart attack.  

Married for fifty-six years.  Dead within one hour of one another.  Proof perhaps that the heart does indeed want what it wants and that in this instance what it wanted was to not face even one more sunset without its soulmate.   I cannot imagine attempting to process the incalculable loss of both of one's parents on the same day.  I cannot imagine, therefore, the level of pain that the Fluitie family is experiencing today. 

Is there comfort to be taken from the fact that their parents left this life as they had lived it, together? I have no idea.

I hope so.  

-AK

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Pickpocket

The law is a sort of Hocus-Pocus science that
Smiles in your face while it picks your pocket.
- H.L. Mencken

I often tell other lawyers I know that I would make an excellent judge.  I am relatively bright, hard-working, and equally disinterested in the lives of all others.  Thus, I am smart enough to handle the majority of the day-to-day intellectual rigors of the job, diligent enough to learn those things that I do not know, and impervious to allegations of bias or favoritism.  

Furthermore, as I have repeatedly said to my wife over the course of the past twenty-plus years, I take no aspect of what I do for my living personally.  By keeping interpersonal relationships impersonal, I am better able to keep the world at arm's length.  Truth be told, I have zero interest in its encroachment beyond that point.  My favorite trophy is the Heisman.  Not because I am a long-time fan of college football, which I am, but because of the player's pose.  

Slightly more than two months ago, I resolved a very lengthy, very contentious, and very complicated case in which my adversary and I waged war against each other almost every day for the four years that the matter was in litigation.  Well, slightly less than four years.  The case settled on Thursday, September 10, 2015.   My adversary had filed the lawsuit on September 14, 2011.  

In more than twenty years of practice, 100% of which is devoted to litigation, I have never been attacked as personally and as repeatedly as I was by my adversary in that matter.  I lost count - at some point in 2014 - how many times he had accused me (either in an oral argument or in a written submission) of being a liar or worse.  It mattered not at all that his attacks upon my character and upon my good name were baseless.  He knew they were when he made them.  He made them because, well because he is an asshole.  An asshole does what an asshole does.  

When the matter finally resolved - after having been assigned out to trial in Essex County - and the settlement of the case was placed on the record in court, the plaintiff (whose injuries had been quite significant) was too ill to appear.  His wife, also a plaintiff, and the couple's adult daughter appeared on his behalf and confirmed their acceptance of the terms of the settlement.  Once the business of placing the settlement on the record had been completed, I approached them and told them that, on a personal level, I was happy that the case had been resolved and I wished them - and the absent plaintiff - much luck and good health.  

It turns out that the plaintiff experienced neither.  Not even a little bit.  Apparently, a short time following the settlement of the case, his medical condition took a turn for the worse.  He lapsed into a coma.  This past Friday, his wife and daughter - his only child - made the agonizing decision to remove him from the machines that were keeping him alive.  


-AK 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Think (Audio) Visual

Extraordinarily entertaining afternoon spent at Holmdel Park this past Saturday.  Liv and her Hillsborough Raider teammates were not able to defend their Group IV Championship but they were able to finish 2nd in the "Group of Death", which earned them a place in this Saturday's Meet of Champions.  I know not how many high schools in New Jersey field a Varsity Girls Cross-Country team.  I know simply that this Saturday morning, only twenty teams shall be on the course competing for the Meet of Champions crown.  Nice company to keep.  And damn fast as well.  

A lifetime ago, when I was a student at W-H, one of the extra-curricular activities in which I participated was the school's A-V Club.  We had one camera, which (if memory serves me correctly) recorded on VHS tapes, and was part of an apparatus that weighed just south of 1,000 pounds and required a team of Hannibal's most capable pachyderms to move from Point A to Point B.  The purpose of the A-V Club was to provide coaches with game films they could use for preparatory purposes with their assistants and with their players.  

Fortunately, our faculty adviser was Link Keur and Mr. Keur had an imagination that was not confined to the four corners of our club's stated purpose.  It was thanks to Mr. Keur that I had the chance to do play-by-play on games during which I worked the camera.  I enjoyed the hell out of it.  I did it on at least two or three varsity basketball games, which led to Head Coach Ray Kovonuk making an observation I have heard countless times in my life ("He talks too much"), which observation led to me not doing any more play-by-play for basketball.  Lucky for me, Mr. Keur was the Varsity Baseball Coach.  During either my sophomore or junior year, he green-lighted my request to do play-by-play of one of W-H's home baseball games. 

The camera position for baseball was dreadful.  I hauled the camera up on top of a container that was used for the storage of equipment, which container was located down the third-base line, about twenty-five feet past the third base bag and approximately twenty-five feet into foul territory.  It was a vantage point from which home plate was essentially obscured by a batter in the right-handed batter's box.  It was also a vantage point from which an unwary broadcaster/cameraman could get plunked by a foul ball.  My over-sized cranium and Mr. Keur's directive that I was to protect the school's camera equipment at all costs combined to make it, all in all, a slightly tense afternoon.  But as I remember it, I had one hell of a good time for even at the high school level, baseball is a sport that lends itself to the telling of stories and to the setting of the scene.  

I regretted that, in spite of my forays into basketball and baseball, I was never permitted to lend my voice to any of W-H's football games for which I manned the camera.  Well, I was never permitted to lend my play-by-play.  On more than one occasion, I blurted out something while rolling tape that I am sure got a chuckle or two when the coaches and players reviewed the game film.  

On Monday morning, as I was sitting drinking my first cup of coffee of the day,  I came across a piece of video on-line that, immediately, I found incredibly appealing. I am a big enough person to admit that when I saw that it was video produced by "MKA TV" I was more than a little bit envious.  Thirty-years ago, W-H had an A/V Club.  Today, Montclair Kimberly Academy (a school that thirty years ago W-H used to compete against in a number of sports) has its own television station.  Dylan was right.    

But I digress. 

Montclair Kimberly Academy hosted Mater Dei in the first round of the State football playoffs on Saturday afternoon and as the game ticked down to its final few seconds, the home-standing Cougars trailed 12-7.  They had the ball and time for one final "Hail Mary", which play inspired reactions from MKA's team of student broadcasters that were (for my money) as memorable as the play itself. 


Whether any of the kids on the MKA football team has a future on the gridiron, I would not pretend to know.  Similarly, whether any of the kids behind the microphones has a future in broadcasting (sports or otherwise) I could not begin to hazard a guess.  But for one moment on a mid-November afternoon, they combined their talents to tell one hell of an engaging tale.  

Pictures and stories.  May it continue to be a relationship that never grows old. 

-AK 
   

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Birthday Girl

Today the "tip of the spear" of the nextgens of the Kenny clan celebrates her birthday.  Jessica is the daughter of Evan, who is the oldest of my three older sisters.

Jess is her mother's daughter just as her mother is her mother's daughter as well. One needs look no further than Jess's own daughter, my extraordinary great-niece Zoe, to see just how exquisitely well her approach works.  

Happy Birthday Jess.  Enjoy the day - and those that shall follow it.

-AK

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Here for Eternity

Both your friend and your enemy think you will never Die. 
- Irish Proverb

If its arrival had not been marked previously, then the awful, barbaric events of Friday night in Paris finally heralded the moment in time at which the reasonable occupants of this planet came to grips with the fact that the cowards who perpetrated the mass executions of innocents need to learn the truth of that Proverb.  




And they need to learn it good and hard. 



-AK 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Liv to Run

I was living to run
And running to live.
- Bob Seger

Here in the State of Concrete Gardens, we are deep into high-school playoff season for the various fall sports in which this state's interscholastic athletes compete.  Football does not crown "State" champions as much as it crowns "Sectional" champions.  Respectfully, high-school football is carved up into so many different sections here in New Jersey that if the company that makes and sells the jackets that a high school football player will invariably purchase if his team wins a championship - any championship - ever goes public, tell your broker that you want to gobble up its stock like Tic Tacs.  Those jackets - and the sectional titles that accompany them - are ubiquitous. 

That is not the case in cross-country.  

Cross-country, both boys and girls, is a sport in New Jersey in which teams compete until there is a single state champion crowned in each of six school-population-based classifications.  Four of the six are public school classifications, ranging from Group I (the smallest) to Group IV (the largest).  The other two are non-public school classifications, which are split up into "B" (the smaller schools) and "A" (the larger schools).    

Today, at Holmdel Park, one dozen State championship races shall be contested, beginning with the Girls Group II race at 10:00 a.m. and wrapping up with the Boys of Group IV doing battle at 3:30 p.m.   While I wish all of the kids running today well, and that they may run swiftly and safely, the only one of the twelve contests in which I have any rooting interest has a 2:30 p.m. gun time. 

At 2:30 this afternoon, Liv DeLorenzo and her Hillsborough High School teammates will defend the Group IV title that a year ago they earned on this very same course.  Defending their title will not be an easy task.  The field is comprised of thirteen teams that are ranked in the Top 20 in the state, eight of whom (including Hillsborough) are Top Ten teams, including the top-ranked, second-ranked, and third-ranked teams.  Talk about the "Group of Death".

I do not pretend to know whether the Raiders shall rule their Group again, as they did last year. Knowing Liv - who once upon a time when she was much younger and not quite as swift afoot (7th grade - her, not me) I used to actually be able to run with, I know that grit and determination are as much a part of her makeup as is her talent. I have little doubt that she and the Raiders shall put forth their best effort this afternoon.  

And it is, after all, their effort over which they can exert control.  One can guarantee one's effort.  One cannot guarantee the result that said effort might attain.  It is that uncertainty that makes sports, and life, so goddamn compelling.  




-AK 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Destination Unknown

Life is a Journey,
not a Destination.
-Sam O'Herlihy

Life is indeed a forward-moving exercise.  We enter at a fixed point.  We travel a journey of indeterminate length.  Upon the completion of the journey, we exit at a fixed point.  

But irrespective of the direction in which Life flows, for many of us there is not simply one starting point and one corresponding finish line.  Rather, there are countless "firsts" and, of course, countless "last time ever" moments.  These events appear at different points in the narrative for each of us. These events are, also, unique to us.  We experience them as only we can and our experience - even if we are experiencing an event at exactly the same time as someone else - is uniquely our own.  

I love sports.  In high school, I played a number of competitive sports, with varying degrees of success. Well, except for wrestling at which I was utterly dreadful.  Had I not had the good fortune of encountering the only two souls more poorly suited for wrestling than was I during the 1981-82 season, I would have retired from the sport without ever having had my hand raised in triumph.  On the bright side, I possess to this day a Rain Man-esque ability to identify high school gymnasiums in central and northern New Jersey simply by looking at photographs of their ceilings.  Of course, I look at the photographs while lying on my back since that is the position from which I initially made my acquaintance with them. 

The sport I enjoyed playing the most in high school was soccer.  I played on W-H's Junior Varsity team as a freshman and a sophomore and, thereafter, on the Varsity as a junior and as a senior.  To the extent that I displayed any athletic prowess at all as a teenager, it was on the soccer field.  I am a decidedly average-sized person but being rather "sturdily built" (EUPHEMISM ALERT!), relatively bright, and the possessor of a very strong left leg (with which I could strike a soccer ball a considerable distance), I was well-suited to the soccer field.  

The most profound disappointment I have ever experienced in an athletic competition, even worse than being passed by an 80-plus year-old man in the final quarter mile of a 10-mile road race in Freehold Township several years ago (TRUE STORY!), was our loss to Morristown-Beard School in the State playoffs, which occurred in late October, 1984.  We had defeated Mo-Beard about ten days earlier - at Homecoming - but were nevertheless sent on the road to play them in the States.  The seeding committee's decision was ratified when they defeated us, which they did by a 2-0 score.  We had failed to qualify for the State playoffs in my junior season.  Thus, the sum total of my post-season soccer experience was one game.  One lousy, losing effort.  Nothing more.  

The late, great Daniel Patrick Moynihan said it best, "I don't think there's any point in being Irish if you don't know that the world is going to break your heart eventually."  My seventeen-year-old heart, if not broken, was damn close to it on that October afternoon.  I knew that not only had the game been lost but that the door on that part of my life, which was exceedingly important to me as a boy of seventeen, had swung shut forever.  Irrespective of what I might achieve - or not achieve - from that moment forward and for however long I might live, I would never pass that way again.  

Tonight, in Boulder, Colorado, fifteen members of the University of Colorado football team will follow the most wonderfully hostile American Bison in these United States out onto Folsom Field for their final home game as Buffaloes.  Among them is at least one or two whose football-playing days shall likely continue beyond college, including wide receiver Nelson Spruce.  However, for the majority of the fifteen, tonight will be the final time that they shall play a game that most of them have played since childhood in front of their home crowd.  

As a happy and proud CU alum, I have little doubt that their college careers have not followed the trajectory that each had envisioned for himself prior to putting on his Colorado uniform for the first time.  To say that the Buffaloes have struggled for this past decade is to grotesquely misuse the word "struggle".  Brighter days may indeed be on the horizon, which days - should they indeed arrive - will have been made possible in no small part by the contribution of the kids who came, who played, and who stayed to finish what each of them had started.  May each of them find success and - more importantly - peace as they close this chapter of their lives and prepare to dive headlong into the next one.  

Enjoy the journey, gentlemen.  You shall only pass this way but once.  Take the time necessary to soak it all in. 

Shoulder to Shoulder...

-AK 



  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tigers and Their Tails

Sometimes no truth is more powerful 
Than that expressed in anger 
By a melancholy man. 
- Pete Hamill 

Feel free to refer to the above as my blanket response to anyone, including my long-suffering wife, who thinks that I might have overstepped in this space a day or two ago when I called out a member of the Commonwealth of Virginia's Congressional delegation who - from where I sit - appears to be morally bankrupt.  I will, perhaps, reconsider my notion of ever participating in the Marine Corps Marathon, the finish line of which is in Virginia.  I will not apologize for speaking the truth. Actually, being my father's son, and being at least 4/5 a son of a bitch, I am loathe to apologize for anything. Ever.  Again, should confirmation of that fact be necessary, my long-suffering wife is available as your source.  

But I digress. 

I regret that all of the goings-on at the University of Missouri this autumn escaped my attention entirely until this weekend's declarations, first by a number of the members of the football team who are African-American and, thereafter, by Gary Pinkel, the head coach of Mizzou's football team in support of his players, regarding the Tigers' suspension of all football activities unless and until the President of the University resigned, which he did on Monday.  Apparently, life in Columbia, Missouri has been considerably less than idyllic for - at least - the past year and the wheels have begun to come off the Tigers' Fun Wagon altogether since classes began a few months ago.  I do not pretend to know nearly enough about all of the issues at play on the Missouri campus to discuss them with even a modicum of intelligence.   Missouri's Governor, Jay Nixon, referred to Mr. Wolfe's decision to resign as University President as, "a necessary step towards healing and reconciliation" on the Mizzou campus.  I shall defer to Governor Nixon.  

I must confess that - as a lawyer - I was intrigued by the position that Coach Pinkel, his assistant coaches, and his staff had staked out for themselves.  Missouri is scheduled to play a non-conference game this weekend against Brigham Young University at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  I read in several places on-line that pursuant to the contract that the two universities signed for this game, cancellation of the game by Missouri, which perhaps would have been treated as a forfeit for record-keeping purposes, would have cost the university $1 Million.  Realizing that it is an entirely academic point since Mr. Wolfe has stepped down and Missouri and BYU shall play this weekend as scheduled, I am curious as to by whom that $1 Million penalty would have, ultimately, been paid. 

I was also intrigued by the somewhat related (and now admittedly equally moot) issue of whether the University could have ordered its employees - Coach Pinkel, his assistants, and his staff - to perform their football-related activities irrespective of whether the players who had declared their intention to sit out the game had exercised their right to do so.  If Mr. Wolfe had not resigned, then whether Coach Pinkel's stance was considered principled, insubordinate, or something else altogether different might have been brought to the fore.  As a lawyer whose principal area of practice is not employment law, and as a lawyer who is not licensed to practice law in Missouri, I do not know what the Show-Me State's jurisprudence in the area of employee/employer relationships is, including whether there is a definitive answer to my hypothetical found in either Missouri's case law or its statutory law.  

I suspect, however, irrespective of what the law is on these issues that the young men who attend the University of Missouri and are members of its football team have learned a hell of a lot more this week than simply "X"s and "O"s.  

I would further suspect that such an education shall - in the long run -serve them well.  

-AK 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Piece of the Rock


If you were to argue for this nation treating every day as if it was Veterans Day, no argument would be heard from Yours truly.  In America, twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day.  Twenty-two.  Every day.  Whatever it is we are doing - or not doing - to assist those who put themselves in harm's way for the rest of us, it simply is not working.  Irrespective of your political affiliation, it would seem to me that you cannot argue that the present mechanism that is in place for our veterans is the best that we can do.  I hope like hell that it is not. 

I smiled when I read Mark Di Ionno's column in Sunday's Star-Ledger regarding the good works of one of my old law school classmates, Thomas "Tommy Rock" Roughneen.  Tom is, himself, a veteran and now is a Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserve.  He has two younger brothers (twins if I remember correctly) who are also veterans.   The Brothers Roughneen have - as us civilians like to say oh so cavalierly - put their boots on the ground in Iraq and in Afghanistan.  While I have only met Tom's brothers on one or two occasions, presuming that they share what I perceive to be a genetic trait common to the Roughneen family with their older brother, the next backwards step either of them takes shall be his first one.

Veterans are far better served by the invaluable, selfless works of Tom Roughneen than they shall ever be by the selfish, embarrassing antics of the Department of Defense and this nation's professional sports leagues.  Paid patriotism - to the tune of $6.8 Million - since fiscal year 2012?.  Disgusting.  Sadly, not entirely surprising.  

Honoring those who serve and those who have served.  A goal to which all of us - including me - should aspire not just today, but every day...

...because actions speak louder than words and, presently, the collective silence is deafening.     

-AK 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Yes Virginia, The Congressman Who Represents Your 6th District Is An Ignorant, Dangerous Asshole

The Commonwealth of Virginia has produced a veritable Who's Who of American statesmen, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.  

Representative Robert Goodlatte, is a Republican Congressman who represents Virginia's 6th District - and has done so since 1993.  He is the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.  In spite of the fact that, as of November 9th, two hundred and forty-three members of the House and sixty-three members of the Senate, have signed on as co-sponsors of the Zadroga Act, in order to ensure that it remains available to provide needed coverage for those men and women stricken by a variety of cancers and other life-threatening illnesses, Congressman Goodlatte has opted to put forward his own version of the Act.  

Under Congressman Goodlatte's version of the Act, the Zadroga Act would be extended for only five years - not permanently - and it would be funded at levels that could slash benefits by up to sixty percent.  Astounding?  Yes.  Galling?  You bet.  Sanctimonious fraud Goodlatte posted this statement to his web site on September 11, 2015:

GOODLATTE REMEMBERS LIVES LOST IN 9/11 ATTACKS

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Bob Goodlatte released the following statement today in remembrance of the lives lost in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001:

“The morning of September 11, 2001, started like any other. But in just a few short hours, our world had forever changed. 

The events of that day reverberated throughout every corner of the nation. Now, even as time has passed, as Americans we still feel a sense of loss and pain when we remember that day. We will not forget those who were taken from us far too soon. As we reflect on this day, I am also reminded of the response of the American people in the face of tragedy. The service of the law enforcement community and first responders, the willingness of strangers on the street to rush to help others, and the outpouring of support from across the country are all testaments to the resiliency of the American spirit and our determination to prevail. It is only fitting that many commemorate this day through volunteering and service to others.

“As we have become all too aware, the terrorist threat continues to evolve. We must remain vigilant in the face of renewed threats to our nation and also ensure that policies are in place to help keep our communities safe. I am thankful for the men and women who have served to protect these freedoms, and continue to keep our Armed Forces in my prayers. Much has changed in the past 14 years, but America will continue to remain a beacon of freedom throughout the globe.”

Just for shits and giggles, I highlighted the portion of the statement in which this asshole blows smoke up the asses of the first responders who "rushed to help others".  It must be nice to inhabit this prick's world, in which a hollow platitude is equated to actual assistance.  A man so impressed by the selflessness of first responders who rushed to help others that he cannot help but invent ways to screw out of the medical assistance they shall need those individuals whose selflessness has amounted to a death sentence.  

Heroes such as Marci Simms of the NYPD.   

On November 5, 2015, retired NYPD Lieutenant Marci Simms died.  Approximately eighteen months ago, Lt. Simms was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, which cancer she developed after she spent more than four months, in late 2001, toiling at Ground Zero.  Marci Simms was fifty-one years young. 

Lt. Simms, born in Brooklyn as the youngest of six children, joined the NYPD in August, 1998 after graduating from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  She worked, first, as Police Officer in the 83rd Precinct.  Her final assignment was as a Lieutenant at the 107th Precinct in Flushing, Queens, where she was stationed beginning in May, 2013.  

Marci Simms is survived by her husband, Keith, her brothers and sisters in blue, and the people of a City who she tirelessly served and protected, even to the detriment of her own health - and ultimately - her own life.


NYPD Lieutenant Marci Simms
End of Watch:  November 5, 2015


The Commonwealth of Virginia has produced a veritable Who's Who of American statesmen and leaders.  Congressman Goodlatte is not one of them.  Not today.  Not tomorrow.  Not ever.  

-AK 

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Glimpse in the Rear-View Mirror

Indian Summer,
The wonder, the hunger,
And the sound of distant thunder.
Indian Summer.
- Brooks & Dunn


If yesterday's Mercury readings were any indication, Indian Summer here in the State of Concrete Gardens just might have breathed its last breaths.  When I went for my morning run on Saturday, I did so wearing a short-sleeved shirt.  Approximately twenty-four hours later, I wore long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and a hat on my morning run.  

And just like that, November had returned to New Jersey.  

It can stay for as long as it might like, as long as it brings no snow with it.  



-AK   

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Thinking 'bout a Ghost I Hear at Night...

Failing to Prepare is 
Preparing to Fail.
-John Wooden

I had the time of my life one week ago.  Completing the New York City Marathon is a physical achievement of which I am - and shall remain - quite proud.  Nevertheless, I should have completed it in a better time than I did.  My failure to do so is directly attributable to my violation of the Gospel According to Coach Wooden. 

One cannot prepare insufficiently - or incorrectly - for the New York City Marathon and simply fake one's way through it on Marathon Sunday.  As I toed the starting line last Sunday, I knew that I had not put completed all of the preparation work that I had intended to complete.  I come equipped with no alibi and no excuse for my failure.  I simply failed to do it.  

In 2016, the New York City Marathon shall be held on Sunday, November 6.  I have already started my preparation for it.  While I do not know whether I shall win entry via the lottery again or shall run as part of a team sponsored by one of the Marathon's charity partners, I know that I shall be among the 50,000-plus runners standing on the Staten Island side of the Verrazano Bridge, waiting for my turn to tour the five boroughs.  I know that I shall prepare better for the 2016 edition than I did for the 2015 edition, including running more hills and strengthening my core.  

To their credit, but not to my surprise, neither of my familial running influences and mentors has offered a critical word about my maiden NYC Marathon performance.  Jill and Russ are great sources of inspiration to me.  This past week, I utilized my good friend, Google, to perform a bit of research into the NYC Marathon history of my sister and of my brother-in-law.  My research revealed to me that each of them has completed the Marathon in a time roughly two hours faster than my finishing time this past Sunday.  Two hours.  One hundred and twenty minutes.  

I am not delusional.  I know that each of them is a significantly better marathon runner than am I.  But their success now gives me a goal to which to aspire - not the goal of approaching their time - but the goal of achieving my best-possible time and not simply the best time possible under the circumstances.  

One should never doubt the wisdom of the Wizard...


-AK

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Hangin' on a Moonbeam's Coattails


Whether it shall be of any assistance whatsoever to the home-standing Buffaloes this morning when the nationally-ranked Stanford Cardinal come calling upon them at Folsom Field I know not, but today is National Bison Day.  




As a tax-paying American, it thrills me to no end, of course, that the same Congress that cannot muster the humanity necessary to permanently extend the Zadroga Act manages to find sufficient time in its day to pass a resolution honoring Ralphie and all those similarly-hoofed.  

This morning in Boulder as part of the celebration of National Bison Day (before you snicker, consider yesterday was "National Love A Lawyer Day" and we are, therefore, on an uptick as we head towards Veterans Day next week), the University of Colorado shall offer students who arrive at Folsom this morning before 10:00 am the chance to run on the field with Ralphie.  For those of you who may not be familiar with America's most lovable female bison, this is Ralphie V.  

Adorable as she may be, Ralphie is not a free-range buffalo.  Her interaction with animals of a two-legged variety is monitored quite closely by the students who are part of CU's Ralphie Handler Program. While Ralphie V is now an old pro at making the trek around Folsom, she was not always as warm and cuddly.   

I still recall Homecoming my freshman year, 1985, when my generation's Ralphie, Ralphie II, made her pre-game run on the apparently quite slippery artificial turf that then was Folsom's playing surface.  As she headed up the home sideline, she managed to shed one of her handlers.  Two more lost their footing as she made the turn towards the visiting team's side of the field.  As she barreled down the visitor's sideline, she lost her last remaining human handler.  She altered her course just enough to chase several of the Missouri players who were loosening up behind their bench up onto the top of the concrete knee-wall that separates the players from the fans.  

From the student section across the way, those Tigers looked as if they had been scared shitless, which is precisely how I would have looked had I been standing where they had been standing during Ralphie's Run. Whether one thing had anything to do with the other I know not.  I know simply that the Buffs defeated Mizzou that day by a score of 38-7.  

I presume that someone from the University Counsel's Office celebrated National Love A Lawyer Day by drawing up a wonderfully articulate and iron-clad waiver that each student who opts to shake off the cobwebs of last night's festivities (wherever they may have occurred) by running with Ralphie this morning, shall be required to execute before he/she is placed anywhere in the vicinity of harm's way.  

Happy National Bison Day to CU's best girl, Ralphie, who is the centerpiece of the best tradition in college football.  

Long may she run...




-AK 

Friday, November 6, 2015

For Just A Minute There I Was Dreaming

Your attitude is four times as important
As your actual physical ability. 
- Bill McCartney

Earlier this week, I spent one hour and forty-four minutes visiting a place where I first spent time more than a lifetime ago.  No, it was not the Queensboro Bridge, although it certainly felt as if I spent close to two hours on that span this past Sunday.  

It was Boulder, Colorado, circa 1985.  



For any and all who have no relationship with the University of Colorado, the most recent film in ESPN's "30 for 30" series will likely hold no appeal whatsoever.  There are also I suppose any number of people who in fact do have a relationship with CU for whom the film likewise will not move one's emotional needle at all.  

I am not such a person.  

"The Gospel According To Mac"  is an extraordinary work.  It is generally complimentary to former CU Head Football Coach Bill McCartney, who was the man in charge of the Buffs thirty years ago while my sister Jill and I were both shuffling off to be Buffaloes.  However, it is not a fawning, kiss-ass piece. Coach Mac was, and is, a flawed man.  Then again, are not we all?  I, for one, know that I am flawed.  At the very least, the ever-graying gent who peers back at me in the bathroom mirror in the wee small hours every morning certainly is.

Coach Mac's flaws are something that he did not run away from while he was earning his living as the head coach of the Buffs.  Likewise, they are not something from which he runs away, presently, as a seventy-something-year-old widower.  He acknowledged them then, as he acknowledges them now, in his never-ending effort to make himself the best version of himself that he can be.  To borrow a phrase from the great John Hiatt, "Mistakes are to be highlighted.  You can't have the light without the dark."  You cannot live your life without having experienced your fair share of both.  

I know not whether - were I ever in the position where Bill McCartney found himself on November 19, 1994 - I would have the wherewithal to do what it is he did.  He was fifty-four years old, at the top of his profession, and had just completed the fifth season of a fifteen-year contract extension (an extension that had included - at Mac's request - an opt-out clause following Year Five) when he walked away, never to return to any sideline.  Anywhere.   

In the midst of all of his professional success, he awakened to the realization that those things that he had prioritized had extracted a considerable toll on his wife, Lyndi, and his family.  When he resigned from CU in 1994, he did not turn his back on CU or upon coaching.  He simply turned his focus towards where he believed it should be aimed.  Where he regretted having not done a better job of having had it aimed throughout his coaching career.  Was he being unreasonably hard on himself? I know not.  Only one person fully knows the answer to that question.  I suspect that he would answer it in the negative.  

In 2013, he was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.  As a CU fan, and a Coach Mac fan, I was elated for him on his accomplishment.  I was saddened though by the fact that Mrs. Coach Mac died months prior to his enshrinement dinner.  

Further proof of the imperfect nature of Life I suppose, even in a place as beautiful as this...  


...where for just a minute, it was all so real.

-AK