Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Opening of History's Dustbin



History's dustbin awaits the arrival of yet another year.  We the people - not only of these United States but of this particular little blue marble that orbits our sun - are older now than we have ever been at any time in the annals of history.  If you accept as true that wisdom rides in age's sidecar, then are you exhilarated or terrified by where we are at this particular point in time?  I have an opinion on the subject, which may or may not be one that you share.  In a moment of personal growth that I hope serves as a portent of things to come in 2016, I resolve to not share it.   

Being a fool, at least in significant part, I harbor foolish hopes.  Among them is the hope that 2016 is the year that the phrase "Reality TV Star" is excised from the lexicon.  We have become a people whose population includes a substantial, significant number for whom "the lowest common denominator" has become a standard to which one aspires and, as a result, we have bestowed varying degrees of celebrity and wealth upon those willing to prostitute their spouses, their children, and themselves.  Fame is no longer earned.  It is manufactured, processed, and packaged for easy shipping to the waiting masses just like so much fucking Velveeta.    

Is it too late for Caligula to toss his toga into the ring of American Electoral Politics?  Sadly, it would appear that it is not.  A case could be made that he has already done so.  More now than at any time in my life I find myself hoping (against hope?) that the Avett Brothers are correct.  More now than at any time in my life I find it almost impossible to believe that they are.  Given the grimness of the field that is thus far assembled on both sides of the aisle, I find the prospect that they are incorrect to be more than a little terrifying. 

What do you know?  The new year has not yet officially arrived and I have already broken my resolution.  Suddenly, a lot of time has opened up on my schedule tomorrow.  I reckon I shall watch a bit of college football. 

May 2016 fairly treat you, those you love, and those who love you.  And may it - at least every now and again - treat you even better than that.  Wherever you are, whomever you are with, be careful out there and be good to one another.  

Here's to innocence, gone but not forgotten...  





-AK


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

No Kicking Up A Fuss

As the Missus and I were sitting around in our living room on Monday night, regaling each other with tales of the day that was in our respective work places, I quickly perused the Direct TV on-screen guide to see what might serve as the source of our evening's entertainment.  As luck would have it, we stumbled across a 8:00 pm airing of The Shawshank Redemption, which I turned to in time to catch it from its opening credits. 

Shawshank is one of my favorite films.  It is one that - should I happen across it while it is being aired on any channel, the channel that is broadcasting it becomes the remote control's resting place right up until Andy spots Red walking towards him on a Mexican beach.  It is also a film that I rarely, if ever, get to see from start-to-finish, catching it (as I tend to do) when it is already in progress.  Thus, Monday night was a real treat.  

One of my favorite parts of the film, although it breaks my heart every time I watch it, is the several minutes devoted to the post-release life (and death) of Brooks Hatlen.  His final words, which are actually contained in the text of his last letter "home", written to Andy, Red, and the rest of the gang he left behind at the prison, always strike me as being as beautiful as they are tragic.  That is because irrespective of whether one ever is incarcerated for the lion's share of one's life, everyone knows fear. Everyone knows what it feels like to be afraid.  

But not everyone has the tools - without any support system in place - to tamp down fear in order to ensure that it cannot blossom into panic or into despair.  Behind the walls of the penitentiary, Brooks had a support system.  Outside of those walls, living life as a "free man", he felt overwhelmed.  He felt alone.  He felt as if he had but one choice...

...which was really the same thing as not having any choice at all.  




Tomorrow we bid 2015 farewell.  While we shall no longer date our letters (and if you are the indomitable Joanie K. your checks) "2015" (well, not past February anyway), the travails and troubles that confronted us this year shall be there - on the other side of the ball drop - awaiting our arrival.  

Perhaps in the year to come, we might all do a better job of remembering that we do not own the exclusive right to hardship.  For once we learn to walk a step or two in another's shoes, we just might come to understand how important it is to kick up a fuss.  

-AK 



Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Blue Bloods

And as I hung up the phone 
It occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me.
 - Harry Chapin

Deputy Inspector Anthony Favale is a thirty-year veteran of the NYPD.  He has had, to date, a quite distinguished career.   Nothing he has yet accomplished on the job, however, can hold a candle to what he - and his wife Stephanie - shall experience this morning.  

Anthony and Stephanie Favale have three sons.  This morning, all three of the Favale boys, twenty-four-year-old Stephen and twenty-two-year-old twins, John and Alec, shall be sworn in as members of the NYPD.  To the best of the NYPD's record-keeping, it is the first time in the Department's history that three siblings have graduated from the Academy as members of the same graduating class.

If having one son or daughter who earns a living heading straight into danger while those in the general vicinity head in exactly the opposite direction with all due haste is a source of angst and anxiety (and it is, I assure you) then I cannot even fathom the impact of the multiplier effect when a parent has three times as many children about whom to worry.  

Stephen's NYPD career shall begin on Staten Island.  Alec is assigned to a precinct in the West Village in Manhattan.  John, Alec's twin, shall carry his father's patrolman's badge to his first posting - in Coney Island, Brooklyn.  Stephen and John are each assigned to a precinct that Dad has called home during his three-decade-long NYPD career.  

May this generation of the Favale family (the boys also have a cousin who is a rookie cop in Brooklyn) fare as well as its predecessor (in addition to Deputy Inspector Favale, the boys have an aunt who has been a Transit Cop for twenty-eight years).  May both generations of the Favale family always honor and observe Jimmy Malone's First Rule of Law Enforcement. 

Today and every day thereafter...




-AK 



Monday, December 28, 2015

You Say You Want A Resolution

With Christmas 2015 in the rear-view mirror, we are just about as far away from Christmas 2016 as we can be.  

Chronologically at least.  

There are of course certain staples of the Christmas season that I never miss at the season's conclusion (and I presume I am not alone), such as around-the-clock Christmas music on certain radio stations, and those incredibly pretentious Lexus commercials.  Then again, neither of them really has a thing to do with Christmas.  Neither ever has. 

But what about those things, such as goodwill towards our fellow man, which things actually  embody the meaning of Christmas.  How deep into the cold of January shall those notions endure?  If at all.  

Tis the season for making resolutions is it not?  What a hoot it would be if we all made the same one - not kicking our fellow man in the balls just for sport - and monitored how well - or poorly - each of us did keeping that resolution.  I suspect that our results, much like the mileage of a Christmas bow-festooned Lexus, shall vary widely.  

Just a little food for thought.  

Appetite for consumption may vary.  

-AK 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Road Rules

So how was your Memorial Day?  Pardon my error.  It is a most unusual Christmas Day when I am able to go for a run 'NTSG wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of shorts.  In fact, I cannot recall another Christmas Day on which I have been able to do so.  Quite an interesting experience. 

Christmas is now in the rear-view mirror.  Attention, selfishly, now turns to the task of marathon preparation.  Two of them are on the schedule for 2016:  New Jersey in May and NYC in November. The goal for 2016:  Proper preparation for NYC in November.  Part of that preparation involves running in the Fred Lebow Half Marathon in Central Park on January 24, 2016.  Two-plus loops of Central Park.  There is no gold in "them thar hills" but there are hills.  Proper preparation prevents poor performance.   There is but one way to prepare for the hills of the New York City Marathon.  

The preparation cannot begin one day too soon.  And it certainly cannot begin on Marathon Sunday.

-AK 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Moments to Memories



I hope that Christmas was indeed merry for one and all.  That is the quintessential false hope, I reckon, for I knew prior to writing those words that it was not.  Earlier this week my great friend Gracie shared with me the terribly sad news visited upon one of the world's truly great souls, Eva Pelland, who worked at the Firm while Gracie did back in the day.  Eva's husband, Pete, died unexpectedly on Tuesday.  He was just fifty-five years old.     

There is no good time to endure the death of one's spouse.  The pain associated with that loss however may well be prone to intensify when the death occurs on or around a holiday, in no small part because the two become inextricably linked in the heart and in the mind of those affected by the loss.  

In case you suspected - even for a moment - that Life was not an inherently unfair and often cruel piece of business, there goes your proof.   Don Henley was right.  When you find somebody to love in this world, you do have to hang on tooth and nail for the wolf is, indeed, always at your door.  

A day shall come for all of us when the wolf not only appears at our door, but forces his way inside. It is inevitable.  But it does not mean that right up until that point in time we should not live the hell out of life.  Just the opposite in fact is true.  

Get busy living.  Fuck the wolf.  

And today, keep a good thought for those upon whom he has already paid a visit.  




-AK  

Friday, December 25, 2015

Tidings of Cheer and Pleasure...

The streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season.
And the merchants' windows are all bright
With the faces of the children...
- Jackson Browne

In the spirit of the holiday, I offer to one and all a simple wish:


May you spend this Christmas in the company of at least 
one of the persons you love most of all in this world. 

May you keep all of those you love most of all close to your heart
regardless of whether you shall, today, keep each other's company


So I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer...




Merry Christmas. 

-AK 










Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Celebration of Momentary Perpendicularity

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you.
So Happy Christmas
I love you Baby
I can see a better time 
When all our dreams come true...
- "The Pogues" 

At some point either late this afternoon or early this evening, the space I occupy shall be shared by the Colorado branch of the family business.  Jess and Rob flew east from Colorado on Tuesday night.  The Missus and I shall see them this evening and, again, tomorrow morning for a little while.  And then, gone again they shall be.  

Our children ceased being children too many years ago for me to accurately recall.  Suffice it to say, it was quite some time ago.  Once upon a lifetime ago, our home was a bevy of activity on Christmas morning.  I would awaken first, make the day's first pot of coffee, and then not too long thereafter be joined by my wife.  Suz and Rob would sleep (or at least lay awake in bed) for as long as either could dare stand it before emerging into the living room for the commencement of Christmas activities.  

For a small group, we certainly produced our share of joyous noise.   If you are a parent of a small child (or children) for whom Christmas morning still is THE DAY on the calendar, then embrace it and enjoy that joyous noise.  Before your know it, it shall live only in your memory.

One of the trickiest paths to negotiate as a parent is the one upon which you travel when your child transitions from being a child to an adult.  You may have a period of time during which he or she - upon completion of high school - is still dependent upon you (at least to a degree) - but the hourglass flips from the moment that the graduation cap is tossed skyward and his or her "childhood" officially acquires an expiration date.  And once the sands start traveling downward, they do not reverse course.

Once grown, whether your child lives nearby, in an entirely different time zone, or someplace else altogether different, he or she is no longer merely your child but rather an adult living a life parallel to your own.    In all likelihood neither of you is skiing in virgin snow as it were.  Your steps are likely those once walked by your own parents much as those of your child are likely those you once walked yourself.  

The role each of you plays is that which is carried forward from one generation to the next.  It is the role each of us was born to play, which may or may not make it one that we find easy to learn.  Learn it we must.  For although the child is no longer merely the child, he or she still takes cues from us and looks to us for guidance.  

For the Missus and me, Christmas is not merely Christmas.  It is a celebration of momentary perpendicularity.  A moment in time in which the lives of our adult offspring, which lives normally run parallel to our own, undergo a temporary course correction, and cross paths with our own.

And when that occurs, it is a cause for celebration.




Even if it lasts only long enough for the Boys of the NYPD choir to sing one last verse of "Galway Bay"...  


-AK 



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Christmas Code

I am not a religious man.  I am not a man of faith.  I respect that there are countless others who are, including too many for me to count for whom I have a great amount of respect and admiration.  Their faith is, to me, a mystery.  Perhaps my abject absence of faith is equally mysterious to them.

When it occurred I know not but at some point in time the train not only jumped the tracks but careened down into the canyon below in terms of the commercialism of Christmas.  "I want" is a word choice - when spoken by a child of a certain age - that is not reflexively and immediately annoying.  It loses its charm - at least to my ear - when spoken by a person who is greater than a certain age.  These days, this time of the year, it is uttered with far too much regularity by "non-children".  Worse yet is when a non-child screws the pooch altogether and uses the words "I need" instead as the introduction to something so banal that is difficult for the listener to tamp down the throat punch reflex.  

Perhaps this confusion sprung up at the same time as Thanksgiving was reduced from a stand-alone holiday (you know, the American holiday from which all other American holidays flow) to a road apple on the Christmas Shopping Super Highway?  Maybe not.  I am not nearly as young as I once was.  These events may have occurred separately of one another.  It sure seems to me as if they are intertwined.  

From my admittedly selfish and undoubtedly uninformed perspective, Linus Van Pelt has articulated the true meaning of Christmas as well as anyone, whether a creature of flesh-and-blood or of animation.




Linus Van Pelt and Dan Akee never made one another's acquaintance.  Yet, upon learning just a little bit about the latter's rather extraordinary life last week, I could not escape the feeling that when Linus spoke of Christmas's true meaning, it was people such as Dan Akee of whom he spoke.  Sgt. Major Daniel Akee (U.S.M.C., retired) is a Navajo Code Talker.  He served this country in World War II in the Pacific Theater, including at Iwo Jima, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Marshall Islands. 

Sgt. Major Akee's birthday is Veteran's Day.  This year, he turned ninety-four.  At this rather advanced stage of his life, he is one of the final twelve surviving Code Talkers, the Native American soldiers whose incredible skill at encoding messages and transmitting them was invaluable.   He served his nation with distinction and after the war returned to his native Arizona where he and his wife, Martha, raised one dozen children.  

Martha and Daniel Akee have but one wish this Christmas.  They want to go home - where they have not been able to live for close to a decade.  Theirs is - at the risk of being accused of understatement - an extraordinary story.  For it is not simply their story.  Rather it is the story of their community, and of strangers, coming together to help them.  

It is a Christmas story.  One that Linus Van Pelt himself would be proud to tell...

...and even happier to hear.  

-AK 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Happy Place

As much as I enjoyed our first summer at the Shore, it is the off-season in Lake Como that has reinforced in my mind's eye that the decision to buy our little piece of Paradise by the Sea represents the smartest money I have ever spent. 

Sunday morning I did what I do every morning we are at the Shore - I went for a run.  It was a less-than-balmy thirty degrees when I headed out the door at or about 7:30.  It was a morning as beautiful as it was cold.  I ran up 17th Avenue to Ocean Avenue and - before heading north towards Bradley Beach - paused to take a photo of the sun coming up over our beach.  There are a lot more people on it in July than are on it in December but it looks no less beautiful now than it does then.

Sunrise over 17th Avenue Beach
Belmar - 12/20/15

I had the bad luck to reach the drawbridge at the Shark River Inlet just as the bridge tender closed down access to the bridge so that he could open it.  I ended up waiting almost ten minutes before I could cross.  A lot of charter boats apparently head out for the day very early in the morning.  While I was not happy about not being able to run for close to ten minutes as one boat after another passed under the open bridge, I made productive use of my time.

Charter boat heading out to sea
Shark River Inlet - 12/20/15

Our happy place.  Margaret and I have found it.    

-AK 




Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter's Hazy Shade

The Winter Solstice arrives today.  At 11:48 p.m. ET to be exact.  The Winter Solstice is the precise moment that the Northern Hemisphere is tilted farthest from the sun all year.  It is the shortest day of the year in terms of daylight.  

It is also the official kickoff of winter.  While the weather in these parts shall certainly be colder over the next three months than it has been thus far in December - and snow shall invariably work its way into our day-to-day - from today forward to the Summer Solstice six months from now each day will contain a minute or two more daylight than its immediate predecessor.  

Baby steps?  Perhaps.  But undoubtedly steps in the right direction. 




-AK 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Better Days

For everyone here in the State of Concrete Gardens who wondered - whether silently or aloud - when it was going to begin feeling like December in these parts, consider that question answered.  I was able to get in my Saturday morning run shortly after getting home from the grocery store.  I was on the road at 8:00 a.m. and for the first time in quite some time I went out in full winter running garb.  Indian Autumn could not last forever I suppose. 

And perhaps it ended right on time.  Last night, Ryan and Suzanne joined the Missus and me in Princeton for our annual pilgrimage to McCarter Theatre's production of "A Christmas Carol".   Margaret and I have made attending the performance on the Saturday night before Christmas our tradition for the past six years.  

It did for me what it always does - it made me aware of the fact that it is Christmas.  





A good thing indeed.

-AK 



Saturday, December 19, 2015

A World of Bricks and Mortar

One week ago, many people observed the 100th birthday of Frank Sinatra.  Undeterred, they were, by the fact that Sinatra died seventeen-and-one-half years shy of being there with them. 

Continuing the tradition of marking never-to-be-realized milestones, today a considerably smaller number of people shall observe the 92nd birthday of WPK, Sr.  Once again, none involved in the marking of this event shall be too hung up on the fact that WPK, Sr. fell thirty-four and one-half years shy of being here today to critique the performance of whichever grandchild or great-grandchild would have been tasked with the responsibility of blowing the cake's candles out.  Perhaps the critique would have had a "gonif" or two sprinkled in, being a special occasion.  If it did, my two older brothers and I would no doubt cast a sympathetic glance in its recipient's direction.  Been there.  Done that.  

One of the neatest things any stranger has ever done for me happened several years ago when Rachel Leanza, who was then employed at the Browning School in New York City, forwarded me a CD that contained a dozen or so photographs of Dad from yearbooks in which he appeared during his years there as a teacher, coach, and Assistant Headmaster.  



The backstory regarding why I had contacted her to request any such photographs is long (and candidly of no moment whatsoever today) and it shall not be told here.  The important aspect of the story is the generosity of her gift, which I was then able to share with Mom and with all of the Kenny sibs.  Considering that only one member of the Next Gen - Jess - likely has any recollection of Dad and/or was born before he died - I thought the various branches of the family tree might enjoy looking at the photographs.  I know not whether any of them has kept them.  I know not whether Mom has kept the set I sent to her in Florida.  It is not my place to ask.  A gift, once given, belongs to the recipient.  

I was looking at the digital version of those photographs again this week and I came across something in one of the Browning yearbook photos to which I had previously never paid any attention at all.  At Wardlaw and, thereafter, W-H, Dad was famous (or infamous if you prefer) for his unbelievably corny school and/or student-themed poems or songs.  I had no idea that his love of all things cornball was one that he had developed while he was still teaching on the other side of the Hudson - until I looked again at this yearbook page and the words written beside the top and bottom photographs that appeared on it: 




Dad and I did not have a lot of time together.  He died a little less than four months after my fourteenth birthday.  Truth be told, a lot of the time we did have together we pissed away, including but not limited to the last year of so he was alive, during which time we said as little as possible to one another and kept our interaction to a minimum.  We might have loved one another but we sure as hell did not like each other very much.  

Whether it is a phase that we would have outgrown I do not pretend to know. I do not live in a theoretical world but, rather, one of bricks and mortar.  I know only that we did not.   

Although today is an appropriate day for a wish, I suppose...


WPK, Sr. 
12/19/23 - 05/31/81

...if I could just find someone to blow out the candles.

-AK 



Friday, December 18, 2015

The Ballad of the Fibber Fox

Margaret is a champ.  She has refused to allow the fact that she has been married to a complete moron (take my word on this - I know him) for close to a quarter-century ever impact upon her innate unflappability.  

Case in point.  At 11:14 a.m. on Wednesday morning, I sent her this e-mail: 

Subject: THINK IT'S TOO LATE

For me to go back to school to learn how to become a jockey?
I suspect that I’m too tall, too fat, or both but my mom always told me “You can do anything!”  
I’d hate to find out – after all these years – that she’s just a big fibber fox with dirty socks. 

This is the type of out-of-the-blue question that - when posed by one spouse to another - might befuddle its recipient, at least momentarily.  Unless of course that recipient is both (a) intimately familiar with the full scope and breadth of the sender's mental illness; and (b) singularly well-suited to respond to it.  Margaret possesses both of those traits.  

My in-box was graced by the pleasure of her response less than three minutes later:  

What?  Are you having a stroke?
Lmao! 

Having addressed the issue directly and succinctly, she assessed (correctly, of course) that no further attention needed to be given to it.  She overcame the intrusion into her day, foisted upon her by the Human Hiccup to whom she is married, and carried on without further comment.  

None was needed.  

Yet another reminder of just how lucky I am and, also, why my action plan (when she finally wises up and changes all of the locks, her cell number, her address, or all of the above) shall be simply to grow my beard long and wander off into the wilderness alone.  The civilized world does not need to be forced to interact with me without the benefit of her adult supervision.  

Nor I with it. 

-AK 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Forced Fulfillment of its Moral Obligation

"Our 9/11 first responders never should 
have been forced to travel to Washington
and walk the halls of Congress - 
legislation this important shouldn't have needed
so much convincing - but after dozens of trips, 
they finally got the job done and
convinced Congress to fulfill its moral obligation 
to our 9/11 heroes. I'm proud to represent them, 
and I'm grateful for their efforts."
- Kirsten Gillibrand, United States Senator (D-NY)
Lead Sponsor,  Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act




Senator Gillibrand is correct.  Her colleagues in Congress never should have demonstrated the guileless audacity they did in requiring the men and the women who stood in harm's way on September 11, 2001 and in the weeks and months that followed (while being lied to about the allegedly safe environment in which they were working) to beg for their lives.  But they did.  

Senator Gillibrand is correct.  While it never should have come to it (them having to convince Congress to fulfill its moral obligation to them), in the end these heroes did what heroes tend to do.  They won the day.  Among those who won the day was one who never should have been called upon to take up this fight - Jack McNamara.  Jack is the nine-year-old son of FDNY firefighter John McNamara, who died in 2009 as a result of 9/11-related cancer.  Nine-year-old boys should spend their Sundays tossing around a football with their friends.  They should not be required to spend a single Sunday holding up a sign begging Congress for help - "Don't let other dads die!!!" and reiterating the sad truth of his life - "I miss my Dad FDNY FF John F. McNamara".  Yet, due to this Congress's unwillingness to fulfill its moral obligation to our 9/11 heroes, nine-year-old Jack McNamara did.    

Conspicuous by its absence from Senator Gillibrand's statement is any mention of her role in achieving this victory.  It was substantial.  Ten years ago, Kirsten Gillibrand was not even a member of Congress.  She first won election to the House of Representatives in 2006.  She has only been a member of the United States Senate since January, 2009.  She was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Hillary Clinton when the latter joined President Obama's Administration as Secretary of State. Presently, she is serving her first full term in the Senate, having garnered a bit more than 72% of the vote in 2012.  Whatever she may lack in experience, she more than makes up for in terms of smarts and toughness.  

Judging from her decision to omit herself from the list of persons responsible for securing passage of the Zadroga Act, I think humility has a place high up on her "strong suit" list as well.    

Humble, smart, and tough.  Three core characteristics of leadership.  All of which contributed significantly to my receipt of this e-mail in the wee small hours of yesterday morning...



For Immediate Release: December 15, 2015

Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act
 StatementOn the Inclusion of the Reauthorization of the 
World Trade Center Health Program and the Extension 
of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund in the Omnibus.
World Trade Center Health Program to continue to provide 
medical monitoring and treatment for injured and ill 
9/11 responders and survivors; 
 September 11th Victim Compensation Fund extended for 
five more years with increased funding.

Washington—Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act
 released the following statement on the inclusion of the agreed 
to James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Re-authorization
 in the 2015 Omnibus spending bill:

“Including the re-authorization in the ‘must pass’ legislation ensures
that the World Trade Center Health Program will continue to operate
 and provide services for injured and ill 9/11 responders and survivors
 for the rest of their lives, and extends the September 11th Victim
 Compensation Fund for five more years with additional funding.

“This is a very important step of a long journey for those first responders,
residents and workers who were exposed to the toxins at Ground 
Zero in the aftermath of the worst attack on the U.S. since Pearl Harbor.
Just as Congress aided those who rescued service members and recovered
our Pacific Fleet over 70 years ago, that same honor and duty has
resulted in renewing much-needed aid for 9/11 responders and survivors. 
It's a message to the world that America will always help our heroes.

“Firefighters, police, construction workers, NYC workers, and other 
9/11 first responders put their lives at risk to respond to the attacks, 
and in the years afterward put forth an extraordinary effort once again.
Often sick and in wheel chairs they made countless trips along with 
survivors to Washington DC. They attended hundreds of lobbying 
appointments and scores of press conferences and rallies to make 
sure that their representatives understood the importance of this critical 
legislation. What’s more, they have done this twice—first, five years 
ago for the original passage of the Zadroga Act, and once again this year.
Because of their efforts—and their service and sacrifice—they will finally 
have peace of mind that the medical treatment and other assistance that they 
need and deserve will continue to be available.

“The responders and survivors didn’t do it alone, of course. Legislators on 
both sides of the aisle responded and, by standing together, passed this 
legislation:  Zadroga’s original sponsors in the House, New York 
Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, and Peter King; and the 
original sponsors in the Senate, New York’s Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and 
Charles Schumer and their staff, as well as the entire bipartisan New York, 
New Jersey and Connecticut Congressional Delegations.

“Today’s success would also not have happened without the support of Senators 
Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Tom Cotton of Arkansas 
as well as all of the 69 Senators and 272 Representatives co-sponsors of 
this legislation.

We also thank Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker 
Paul Ryan for their efforts to ensure that this legislation was included in 
the 2015 Omnibus Spending bill.”

House Sponsors of HR 1786

Senate Sponsors of S. 928

# # #
Benjamin Chevat
Executive Director
Citizens for Extension of the James Zadroga Act, Inc.
Join us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
If you were forwarded this email,
you can become a member of Citizens for the Extension of the James 
Zadroga Act, here.







-AK 
  

  


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Millennials and Falconry

To borrow a phrase from Dave Grohl, "I've got another confession to make"...

I have zero interest in the new Star Wars movie that is being released this week, its ubiquity notwithstanding.  If you are eagerly awaiting its release, then I hope it lives up to your expectations and it is most assuredly not my intention to rain on your celluloid parade.  If you want to be excited about it, then be excited.  I am not.  Using nothing other than the number of times its official trailer has been viewed on YouTube since its release less than two months ago, I readily acknowledge my minority position on this issue. 




I was, I think, ten years old (or thereabouts) when the original Star Wars movie was released.  I saw it in the theater.  I also saw the two that followed after it in the series, all of which starred Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and the voice of James Earl Jones.  At some point thereafter, there were several additional Star Wars movies made, all of which (I think) starred Natalie Portman and none of which, it seems to me, were particularly well-received by critics or audiences - although full disclosure demands that I acknowledge not having any memory of having seen any of the Portman trilogy, except perhaps in bits and pieces on HBO.

One cannot shake a stick, dry your hands, make toast or wipe your ass without encountering a Star Wars-licensed product.  A few weeks ago, I was with Margaret in Bed, Bath & Beyond and I did not see a department in the store in which there were not at least several movie-related items, covering the full spectrum from the ridiculous to the sublime.  Presumably someone - or perhaps more than one someone - is going to make a whole shitload of money off of this movie.  That appears to be the plan anyway.  

It is beyond my ability to process why men and women my age appear to be as intoxicated about this movie as are the four guys of The Big Bang Theory.  I am a Harrison Ford fan so it will be a nice change of pace for him to be in a film that is not in the Cineplex this Friday and available on Netflix next Friday, which has not happened for him  (Hollywood Homicide,  Cowboys and Aliens, Firewall, The Expendables 3(!)) in some time.  If it takes him playing an AARP-card-carrying Han Solo to get his movie mojo back, then may the box office force be with him.  I shall not apologize to him - or to George Lucas - for not doing my part in putting a little jingle under the tree for them this Christmas. 

If this weekend marks the date on which you shall re-enlist in the Rebel Alliance, then I hope your reunion with some old friends is an enjoyable one.  I am constrained to ask you to do me a favor if you would not mind...

...say "Hello" to Nick Ocean for me.




-AK 

  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Roses and Thorns

Congratulations to Serena Williams for winning the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year for 2015.  There is nothing I enjoy more than the measured, appropriate responses Twitter permits an individual to have to the "news" of the day.  Some jackass - responding to a Tweet from Sports Illustrated announcing her as the winner of the award - brayed that "I have never been as angry about anything in my life as I am about this!"   Initially, I laughed.  Then I thought this young fella could benefit from a bit of Sgt. Hulka's special brand of attention.  

Of course, the world being what it is, on the very same day that Sports Illustrated named Serena its Sportsperson of the Year, the Daily Mail published a story apparently attempting to shame her for taking a taxi cab to cover more than half of the course in her charity's very own 5K race in Miami this weekend.    I read that article, chuckled a little, and then chuckled some more as I thought of just how pissed off little Mr. Never Been So Angry must have been when news of her "transgression" reached him.  He must have had to print a retraction of his earlier Tweet, which undoubtedly made him very angry - perhaps even angrier than he had ever been in his life.    

Me, I am refreshed to know that at least one of us inhabits a world in which the athlete Sports Illustrated selects to honor in a given year rises to the level of being the thing that makes us the angriest.  As someone who has real-world problems with which to deal as part of my day-to-day, I long for the day when something so irrelevant makes its way to the top of my list of troubles - or onto it for that matter.  Perhaps that is because I live in a world where bullshit such as this happens

On the subject of someone who spent at least a portion of his Monday pissed off, how steamed do you think Pete "Moe Howard" Rose must have been when he received the phone call from Commissioner Rob Manfred that Major League Baseball is not going to reinstate him?  Candidly, I hope he was plenty pissed off.  Rose got caught red-handed (no pun intended) betting on baseball, while he was earning a paycheck managing the Cincinnati Reds.  He spent close to fifteen years denying that had done so - even after accepting his lifetime ban - before finally owning up to what he did in his autobiography.  Well kind of, sort of as it turns out.    

For whatever it is worth, Commissioner Manfred made it clear that Rose's banishment from MLB - meaning that he cannot work for a team or for MLB itself - and his eligibility for enshrinement into the Baseball Hall-of-Fame are two separate issues entirely.  I admire how deftly he dumped that issue squarely back into the collective lap of the Baseball Writers Association of America, the group that actually votes players into the Hall-of-Fame, which he did on the third page of his four-page written statement

Whether Rose shall remain on baseball's ineligible list for the remainder of his life, or mine for that matter, I know not.  I do not foresee him getting voted into Cooperstown in the near future either, Commissioner Manfred's homage to Pontius Pilate notwithstanding.  And frankly, the next tear I shall shed for Pete Rose over his banishment from MLB and from Cooperstown shall be my first.  

If he could win a set off of Serena Williams, then perhaps I would rethink my position.

But then again, no.

As it turns out, Oscar Wilde was right:  No man is rich enough to buy back his past.  

-AK 


Monday, December 14, 2015

Forever Gold

Nature's first green is gold. 
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief.
So dawn goes down to day,
Nothing gold can stay.
- Robert Frost




There are no more words to write, 
the hero is now gone.
We gotta pull together,
and stand and fight
For we must carry on...
- Sam O'Herlihy





-AK

Sunday, December 13, 2015

To Half and Have Not

A week that was the equivalent of swimming headlong through a river of shit for its first half took a pronounced uptick on Thursday.  I left the office early to tend to some business down in Lake Como, which included dropping off the Christmas present that Margaret and I purchased as part of the town's "Giving Tree".  While doing a genuinely good thing comes naturally to my wife, it is not my forte.   I find the over-the-top crass commercialism of Christmas to be more than a tad disconcerting - and have to exercise every bit of restraint that I possess simply to resist the temptation to hurl a brick through my television set each time a Lexus ad appears.  I find them to be offensively insufferable. 

As a general rule, I care not one whit about the rest of the world.  However, it bothers me when I think about little kids - who likely live in a day-to-day in which a gift is a non-existent occurrence - not experiencing even a little bit of Christmas.  I commend anyone, any place who organizes toy drives and/or clothing drives for needy children, including the good folks at the Borough of Lake Como.  The easiest thing in the world to do is to do nothing at all.  I applaud your decision to not do the easy thing.  

Having concluded my business in Lake Como, I headed north to New Brunswick and met an old college friend, Kimberly, for dinner.  She was in New Brunswick speaking at a Conference at the Hyatt Regency.  We had not seen one another in twenty-five years.  During the intervening quarter-century, one of us appears to have aged approximately twenty-five minutes whereas the other one walks around with a chin full of gray and white whiskers.   Note to self:  I need to ask Loku how it is that he and I are the only two Farrand Hall 4th Floor Alums of whom I am aware who have any gray hair.  Apparently, we drank from the wrong water fountain. 

When we had finished eating, each of us headed off to our respective destinations.  As I was walking to the parking garage, I checked my e-mail on my phone.  Thursday was notification day for those of us who entered the lottery for the NYRR's 2016 United Airlines NYC Half-Marathon, which will take place on March 20, 2016.  Having had luck in the lottery for the 2015 NYC Marathon, I figured I had nothing to lose entering the lottery for this race...  



.
..I was right.  

If only I had been nearly as lucky in my attempt to score Springsteen tickets on Friday morning.  I was not.  Such is life.  The Republic shall survive my non-attendance at a Springsteen concert (at least until President Trump's inauguration).  Plus, my failure ensures that it shall not be a Ramen Noodle Christmas...




-AK 



Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Game of Their Lives

Time permitting this afternoon, I hope to be able to catch at least a bit of the Army-Navy Game.  I fear that it shall not be among the season's more competitive college games, given that the Black Knights of the Hudson come into today's game with a record of 2-9 whereas the Midshipmen are ranked #21 in the nation and owners of a 9-2 record (having lost only to Notre Dame and to Houston, both of whom are nationally-ranked).  Navy has stood the series' competitive balance on its head in the 21st Century, having lost just once (Army won the 2001 game 26-17). The Middies are on a thirteen-game winning streak.  

While I do not anticipate that this shall be a close game (and I hope that I am wrong), it is still a worthwhile watch for at least two reasons.  First, from the small-world view of a college football fan, it affords the opportunity to watch Navy's exquisitely-talented quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who holds a small gaggle of school records and earlier this season set the NCAA record for career rushing touchdowns when he scored his seventy-eighth.    Having earned the starting position about one-third of the way through his freshman season, he is looking to earn his fourth consecutive victory in the Army-Navy Game.  

It is also, to me at least, a worthwhile watch because of the young men on each team.  The United States has been engaged in combat in at least one part of the world since October, 2001.  Yet, every year young men and women matriculate to the campuses of this nation's Service Academies.  They do so with the express understanding that they are trading the opportunity to get a college education for a commitment to serve a fixed term of years in the United States Military.  It is a decision that takes a measurable amount of courage simply to make and an immeasurable amount of character to adhere to and to honor.  

The distinction between real, grown-up stuff and the enjoyable yet admittedly frivolousness of big-time college sports is never more apparent to me than it is at the Army-Navy Game.  Do not misunderstand, I enjoy the hell out of college sports and root fervently for my beloved Buffaloes. That being said, nothing points out the absurdity of a sportscaster referring to a situation as "do or die" quite as starkly as the realization that on the field this afternoon shall be young men for whom actual, real-life "do or die" situations await and that these young men, regardless of the academy for which they play, share a common trait.  

Theirs is a mission for which each of them has volunteered.  


-AK 

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Chosen Chance

You make up your mind, you choose the chance you take
You ride to where the highway ends and the desert breaks
Out on an open road you ride until the day
You learn to sleep at night with the price you pay...
- Bruce Springsteen

For as long as I can remember - and I have a pretty good memory (ravages of age, alcohol, and various/sundry other substances notwithstanding) - "Racing in the Street" has been my favorite Springsteen song.  The imagery that its last verse evokes ("She stares off alone into the night with the eyes of one who hates for just being born") is, to me, staggering.  

While Darkness on the Edge of Town, the album on which "Racing" appears is my favorite Springsteen album, given that I was just eleven years old at the time of its release, my complete appreciation of its depth and breadth is something that I acquired at some point subsequent to its release.  I have no specific recollection of when or where I purchased my first copy of Darkness, but I am comfortable stating that it was most likely in cassette form and it was most certainly not on its release date, which was June 2, 1978. 

I was only a few months shy of my fourteenth birthday when The River was released in mid-October, 1980.   We tend to grow up in leaps and bounds and I was in quite a different place, emotionally and otherwise, as a thirteen year-old teenager from where I had been as a little boy of eleven.  Kara and Jill bought me the album, which was a double-album, for Christmas.  By the time W-H's Christmas break ended, I had worn out at least a needle or two on Dad's Fisher Console Hi-Fi System that occupied a wall in the dining room in our house on Wertsville Road.  

In a lot of ways, The River was the first Springsteen album on which I felt he was talking to me and about a world that - if I did not occupy it - was a world with which I had more than a casual familiarity.  I discovered the power of the music at the time of the record's release, not at some point after the fact, which had been the case with the records that preceded it.  In addition to listening to it over and over, I spent hours poring over the lyrics of the various songs. His words, even stripped of musical accompaniment, struck me as nothing short of extraordinary.  

Christmas came early for me this year.  In celebration of the 35th anniversary of the release of The River, Springsteen released a simply beautiful box set, The Ties That Bind - The River Collection.  In addition to buying it for Rob (they do celebrate Christmas in Colorado after all), I 'gifted' myself a copy of it.  I had intended to wait for Christmas to open it but...

...this has been an extraordinarily irritating week at work.  A week in which every day could be "Throat Punch Thursday".  So, after staring at the white box with the Backstreets Records shipping label for a few days, Wednesday night I finally took the plunge and opened the damn thing.  


I did a bit of driving around yesterday, spending more time in the car than I might otherwise spend.  I spent every minute of my drive accompanied by the joyful noise contained on one of this collection's four CDs.  And the noise is joyful even when its tone is decidedly less so, which it is in substantial part...

But just across the county line,
a stranger passing through put up a sign
That counts the men fallen away to the price you pay,
and girl before the end of the day, 
I'm gonna tear it down and throw it away...


 

-AK