Saturday, April 30, 2016

Nothing Left But Lasagna

True sport is always a duel:
A duel with nature, with one's own fear,
with one's own fatigue, a duel in which
body and mind are strengthened.
-Yevgeny Yevtushenko

We have reached the point in the program relative to this year's New Jersey Marathon that, but for running the race itself, which the Blonde Bomber and I shall do tomorrow (in the company of several thousand friends we have yet to meet), all that remains unchecked on the docket is consumption of the night-before's dinner.  In years past, we have broken bread at Maria's in Manasquan.  I know not whether that is the appointed gathering spot this evening.  Irrespective of where we gather, bread shall be broken and carbohydrates shall be consumed.   

I shall spend dinner trying not to curse Gidg for being smart enough to have signed up for the half-marathon, no small undertaking in its own right, and having spared herself (to borrow a line from Pete Townshend) the "sweet ennui" that is Ocean Avenue between Long Branch and Asbury Park - a piece of real estate so nice that we shall run it twice.  

This is my fourth  and - barring a completely unforeseen development -  final New Jersey Marathon.  For someone who possesses no real skill to run this distance, I have covered it quite a few times over the past six years and shall do so again, in slightly more than six months, at the 2016 New York City Marathon.  I ran two marathons in 2015 and shall run two again this year.  Without intending to, I have morphed into the middle-aged equivalent of a hamster on a wheel in eternal, fruitless pursuit of the piece of cheese.  

Next year, I shall be fifty.  My goal - should I live that long - is to run one final marathon in 2017 as a fifty-year-old and then give up the ghost as it were.  If I am fortunate enough to win a place in the lottery for the 2017 race, then I would love for the final go-round to be one final jaunt through New York City.  If I am not, then I will put my back-up plan into action.  One must adhere to the 5P's.  Hanklin taught me well.   

The best part of this year's New Jersey Marathon for me has been Brooke, the aforementioned Blonde Bomber.  She has a contagious energy and an infectious spirit that has propped up this old curmudgeon on both of the long, on-course training runs we did together.  I have every reason - as does she - to expect that her debut tomorrow shall be a smashing success.  She has put in all of the hard work.  All she has left to do now is to run the race.  

Apparently, Mother Nature is working hard to ensure that hydration shall not be an issue tomorrow.  Rain is the dominant theme in the forecast for Long Branch and the surrounding area (a/k/a "the course").  It matters not.  It serves no purpose in any situation to worry about something over which you cannot exert even a modicum of control.  That is especially true when running a marathon.  It shall rain.  We shall get wet.  

It is what it is.  


Friday, April 29, 2016

Lessons Learned From A Three-Minute Record

The current CU-Boulder Alumni Association Calendar adorns a portion of one of the walls of my office.  It occupies sacred ground initially staked out by its ancestor when the Firm first moved to its present location in early August, 1999.  But for a brief four-month stint seven-plus years ago, the current inhabitant is stationed where its predecessors have been stationed in the almost-seventeen years since and where its descendants shall be stationed for the foreseeable future - or until the Missus and I make Lake Como our permanent, full-time home.  Once that happens, I foresee it occupying space on a wall in an office from which I can smell the ocean.  

I know from glancing at today's date on the calendar that this day is the final day of classes at CU-Boulder for Spring 2016 semester.  For the students who shall graduate early next month, if they do in fact have a class today - and if you are a second-semester college senior who scheduled a Friday class I know not whether to commend you or to condemn you - today marks the end of an era. Moreover, for any graduating senior who is not going to attend graduate school, including medical school or law school, today truly marks their final day of classes.  Forever.  And as an exquisitely-talented, diminutive Minnesotan educated all of us, forever is indeed a mighty long time.  

Too many years have passed for me to remember precisely what I was thinking and what I was feeling when I walked out of my final class at the University of Colorado in late April, 1989.  I know not whether that milestone struck me as carrying the same amount of weight as the completion of my last final exam did.  In 1989, graduation day was May 12.  My last final exam, which was in Professor Mapel's History of Political Philosophy (Poli Sci 439), was one week earlier - on the evening of May 5.   I absolutely crushed his final exam.  I had never been more prepared for an exam in my life.  I was the first person in our class to complete the test and when I handed my exam booklet/materials into him, I can still hear him asking me how I thought I did and me replying by telling him that I did not think I had answered more than one question incorrectly.  He smiled.  I told him that my college career was now over, I thanked him for being such an excellent professor (which he was), shook his hand, and headed out into a beautiful Boulder evening.  I was right, by the way, in terms of my self-assessment of my performance.  I got an "A+".  

My senior year at CU, we (Jay, John, Alex - and for one semester Alex's friend John Bradley - and me) lived in a shitty apartment building on Canyon Boulevard, which was north of campus.  I do not have any recollection what - if anything - any of my roommates had on his schedule that evening.  I remember simply that I was not in any particular hurry to get home.  It was almost as if from the time I walked out of the building where Professor Mapel's class met (it was either Hellems or Ketchum but I cannot recall which) and onto campus, my mind knew that I no longer really belonged there.  I was half an interloper.  There were no more classes to attend.  There were no more exams for which to study.  There were no more exams to take.  In a moment, everything had changed.  I had orphaned myself. 

Almost thirty years further on up the road, I marvel at the life that I have made for myself.  I do so, in no small part, because I am no less of a self-absorbed asshole at forty-nine than I was at twenty-two. To the extent that I have matured and not simply just aged in the not-quite three decades between then and now, credit for that metamorphosis belongs to my wife.  I have significant doubts whether - had I not met and fallen in love with Margaret when I was in my mid-twenties - I would have lived to see my late forties.  I am happy that I have done so.  

I assure you that you do not owe me an apology should you possess a different opinion.  

...and hear your sister's voice calling us home across the open yards.


Thursday, April 28, 2016 Fifteen Words

Monday afternoon, as I was sitting at my desk eating a bit of lunch and drinking the day's umpteenth cup of coffee, I scrolled through Twitter in search of articles from political pundits and their ilk regarding the unholy Cruz-Kasich alliance.  Unholy may be too strong a term but it has been more than three-quarters of a century since the world has been privy to quite such a well-publicized non-aggression pact...and based upon how well that one worked out for all concerned, you will forgive me if I favor the gentleman from Michigan over either the gentleman from Ohio or the gentleman from Texas. 

While I was engaging in my "Twitter catch-up" I came across a tweet the subject of which eludes my memory but which tweet was linked to a quote attributed to the late Kurt Cobain.  Not only was I totally unfamiliar with the quote but I am almost entirely unfamiliar with his music, including but not limited to that which he made with Nirvana.  I am fairly confident that I never heard a single bit of Nirvana's music (at least if I did I did not recognize it as such) until young Mr. Cobain took his own life, at which time his music was obsequious.  He was twenty-seven years old.  

Regardless of the depth and breadth of my knowledge of his music, or lack thereof, I nevertheless have found him - as I have read about him over the course of the past twenty-plus years - to be a rather interesting and principled fellow.  Flawed?  You bet.  But then again, who among us is not.  If you - on the other hand - raised your hand, then be advised that what you smell burning is the cuffs on your pants.  You might want to get a handle on that situation before the lyrics to Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song" take on an entirely new meaning for you.  

Irrespective of whether the Seattle grunge scene was/is your "thing" musically, it seems to me that you are doing a disservice to yourself and to this life that you have been given the chance to live if these words do not speak to you philosophically...

A promise to one's self worth making, worth honoring, and worth keeping.  Not just today but every day thereafter.   


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

At the Point of Intersection Between Durocher and Dufresne

A long-time friend of mine attained a result last week that might have even given the great Leo the Lip cause to reconsider his assertion that nice guys finish last.  Having spent close to five years embroiled in a brutal, contentious feud with his one-time business partner, a gentleman who threatened his life, his livelihood, and his good name, Marc emerged victorious. 

On April 20, 2016, a jury in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona awarded Marc (a/k/a "the Plaintiff") one hell of a win.  In the legal biz, any time the jury's verdict includes an award of damages and the amount awarded has eight figures and two commas to the left of the decimal point, such a result is recognized as a victory for the plaintiff.  Even by those of us blackhearted bastards on the defense bar.  And when such a verdict is entered in favor of someone who I have been fortunate enough to know - and to call my friend - for close to thirty-five years, well it is more than enough to bring a smile to the face of this blackhearted bastard.    

Marc sent me an e-mail on Monday afternoon sharing the news of the jury's verdict with me.  He is as avid a Springsteen fan as I am.  I have seen him just three times in the past thirty years and each time has been at a Springsteen concert here in New Jersey - although photographs he had one of the nice young ladies in Giants Stadium take of us prior to the August 28, 2003 show have been lost to the sands of time - including both nights on Springsteen's birthday party weekend at Met Life Stadium in September, 2012.  

Pre-show at Met Life Stadium
(09/22/12 - MW and AK)

Pre-show at Met Life Stadium
(09/23/12 - MW, MK, & AK)

A smile appeared on my face almost reflexively when I saw that his e-mail included an eminently appropriate Springsteen lyrical reference from "Land of Hope and Dreams" ("Faith will be rewarded").  I must confess however that when I read his spectacularly good news, the first pop culture reference of which I thought was not a Springsteen lyric.  

In fact, it was not a lyric at all.

But rather a scene from one of my all-time favorite films extolling the virtues of a man who, much like Marc, crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side...

Andy Dufresne, a nice guy who ultimately finished first.  An exception to Durocher's rule.  

And now there are two.  Each one not merely an exception but exceptional as well.   


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Candle Power

In the Kenny Sextet of Siblings, there is space enough between the first-born and the final-born that the latter was in kindergarten the same year as the former graduated from college.  For years, Mom used to tell people she and dad had six children using the Catholic Church's recommended method of birth control.  Then she would laugh a little - I think at least in part at just how much havoc the two of them might have unleashed on the world had they liked each other just a little bit more.  Under that scenario, they might have had a dozen children.  

They did not.  Rather, they stopped at six.  I have spent almost a half-century now as our group's tail-gunner.  My brother Bill has spent even more time than that as our group's trailblazer, an achievement we recognize today in the celebration of his birthday.  

I am forever in Bill's debt.  No matter that I could never know all that he endured dealing with the full-fledged fury that was WPK, Sr. at the height of all of his "powers", not having experienced it myself, Bill never shied away from teaching me and from pushing me to learn. As a little boy,  I was a big-headed, phenobarbital-chugging epileptic who was far more likely to trip and fall at some point between here and the end of this sentence than I was to be picked anything other than last on any team, in any sport, in any gym class.  

Bill recognized that in spite of my spectacular physical limitations - and they were quite spectacular (nothing clears a hot lunch line quite as fast as a grand mal seizure) - I had the capability of digesting copious amounts of information, usually information intended for those considerably older than I. He taught me how to read before I reached my second birthday.  While he was an undergraduate, he made the Rutgers Library my safe place - a place where my mind guided me and where my body could not betray me.  I spent countless hours there with him and cherished it.  I still smile at the memory of the time spent there. 

Happy Birthday, Bill.  May it be more than for which you wished and everything that you deserve.  

And thanks.  Almost five decades after you first showed me their power and their promise, between the pages of a book remains my favorite, safest place.  


Monday, April 25, 2016

Long May Purple Reign

On Saturday night in Brooklyn, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band opened their concert by paying tribute to Prince.  Springsteen and Prince never collaborated with one another but speaking of Prince, Springsteen offered that, "Every time I saw him perform, I came away humbled."  

And so, on Saturday night, prior to taking his fans on a musical trip down to the river, standing on the center of a stage in an arena that was bathed in purple light, Springsteen paid tribute to Prince in the best way he knows how.

Somewhere, I suspect the diminutive Minnesotan, hearing Springsteen's voice and Nils Lofgren's electrifying guitar solo, smiled at least a little.  At least I hope he did.  


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday Next

The will to win means nothing
Without the will to prepare.
- Juma Ikangaa, 
1989 NYC Marathon winner

We have reached April's final Sunday. The good news is that May is right around the corner.  Of course that also means that the New Jersey Marathon is also right around the corner.  Seven days from today, a number of hardy souls  - including the Blonde Bomber and her middle-aged, graying sidekick who bears an eerie resemblance to Yours truly - will toe the starting line at Monmouth Park in Oceanport and begin an invigorating adventure that shall eventually deposit us on the Boardwalk in Long Branch some 26.2 miles later.  An equally hardy but intellectually superior number of souls - including Gidg - shall depart from Monmouth Park as well under the cover of dawn's early light on a 13.1 mile jaunt that culminate for them on Long Branch's Boardwalk.  

The training cycle for this year's New Jersey Marathon began for me on Sunday, January 10. Between that Sunday and this one, I have run distances on Sundays ranging from five miles to twenty miles.  My experience is similar to that of almost every other man and woman who shall run the Marathon next Sunday.  Training programs vary but their goal is essentially the same:  Build up the miles so that on race day when you call upon your body to hold it together for 26.2 miles, it does not respond with an unequivocal "You have got to be shitting me!"  

On this final pre-Marathon Sunday, I shall travel south from our 'home' beach (17th Avenue Beach in Belmar), through Spring Lake, and into Sea Girt before curling my way north and, finally, home.  Once upon a time the prospect of running eight miles on a Sunday might have terrified me.  It no longer does.  

Today, it simply serves to remind me that the hard work needed to be able to compete effectively against the race's distance next Sunday is almost complete and that all that remains to be done is the race itself.  


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Home Run

Today shall be a simply glorious mid-Spring Saturday morning in our little Paradise by the Sea.  This morning at 10 o'clock the 12th annual Lake Como 5K shall step off from Bar Anticipation.  It is a race that honors the memory of Lake Como resident Grania Maggio, who was struck by a car and killed on July 2, 2005 by a hit-and-run driver after leaving a Dave Matthews Band concert in upstate New York. 

It is also a race that benefits good people near and far. Proceeds from the event are used for the Wishing Tree of Lake Como at Christmas, which is a really neat tradition in which Margaret and I were able to take part last year for the first time.   Proceeds for the event are also used to support the Grania Maggio Study Abroad Scholarship Fund.  Ms. Maggio, who was thirty-three years young when she died, graduated from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science.  Her vocation was physical therapy.  Her avocation was running.  She was a Jersey Shore Running Club member who had completed the Dublin Marathon in Ireland and who was training to run in the 2005 Marine Corps Marathon with her sister Maire at the time of her death.  

The Scholarship Fund that bears her name honors a woman who helped others through her work as a physical therapist as well as through the time she donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  This morning's event is a great one for a great cause.  So, if you are in or near Lake Como this morning as you read this, throw on your running shoes and head to Bar A.  Grania Maggio dedicated her whole life to helping others.  This morning, you can pay her good works forward in less than thirty minutes and for the incredible, low price of $25.00. 

I am happy to save you a spot at the starting line pre-race and to save you a spot at Bar A post-race. Simply follow the signs and you will not be able to miss it. 


Friday, April 22, 2016

A Cause of Sorrow

Could not help but think about my long-time friend Karen Leach when I first saw the news early yesterday afternoon that Prince had died at the far-too-young age of 57.  My love of Springsteen's music is fairly well-chronicled.  Karen's love of Prince's music dwarfs my love of Springsteen's music.  

I cannot pretend to know a great deal of his music, of which there is - coincidentally perhaps - a great deal.  That with which I am familiar, however, I like very much.  I have several of his songs loaded into my iPod as part of my Marathon playlist.  One of them is a live version of Purple Rain that is more than eight minutes long and on which his guitar work is nothing short of extraordinary.  I recognize that most right-thinking people would not consider Purple Rain to be the type of song to which someone might listen while out for a long run.  But for the fact that I have always found it to be a simply terrific piece of music, I might agree with those people.  For me though, it is a song that just helps the steps I take feel almost weightless.  When I hear it, usually at some point past the halfway point of a long run, I get lost in it.  Given its tempo, it likely does not make my strides any quicker but it most certainly makes them feel easier.  

2016 has yet to complete its first trimester and yet another talented, accomplished musician has died. This is shaping up to be one f*cking ridiculously hard-to-take year in that regard.  As I write this, I know little of the circumstances surrounding his death.  I did read somewhere that he had to be taken to a hospital on an emergency basis earlier this month due to what was apparently diagnosed as some sort of flu from which he recovered sufficiently to perform two shows in Atlanta, Georgia on April 14, 2016 - as part of his "Piano & A Microphone" Tour.  

At some point, in the not-too-distant future in all likelihood, an official statement will be released pertaining to the way in which he died, which at day's end matters not.  What matters of course - as it does for all of us - is the way in which he lived...

...and the spectacularly glorious way in which he played.  


Thursday, April 21, 2016

They Perspired So That They Could Inspire...and Aspire

For the third year in a row, the Boston Marathon, which is truly a great American tradition and event whether you are a marathoner, a couch potato, or positioned somewhere else along the running-space continuum, was completed without incident.  But even as the murderous cowardice of the brother bombers recedes one year further into our collective memory, reminders and remembrances abounded. 

Patrick Downes crossed the finish line at Boyleston Street at 2:49 P.M., having completed the Marathon in 5:56:46 and immediately fell into the arms of his wife, Jessica Kensky.  On Patriots' Day 2013, the first of the two bombs that the terrorists detonated at or near the Marathon's finish line exploded at 2:49 P.M.  Among the seriously wounded that day were Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, who were there watching the finish of the Marathon and each of whom lost their left leg beneath the knee for their troubles.  Ms. Kensky subsequently had to have her right lower leg amputated when it refused to heal properly.    After he hugged his wife, Mr. Downes headed over to where the father of eight-year-old Martin Richards, the little boy who was murdered that terrible day three years ago, was watching and reached up into the stands to hug him too.  After the race, Mr. Downes told the media that he had run "with the city in my heart".  I reckon that he was fairly well ensconced in the city's heart as well.   

Mr. Downes was the first 2013 bombing amputee who crossed the finish line on Boyleston Street on Monday afternoon, but he was not the only one to do so.  Adrianne Haslet crossed the finish line at approximately 7:15 P.M., having spent roughly ten hours on the course.  Ms. Haslet, too, lost her lower left leg in the bombing.  Her determination to complete the race on Monday was nothing short of extraordinary.  She experienced a problem with her prosthesis at or about the halfway mark, which problem required her to pull in for "a pit stop" at or about Mile 15.  The problem took ninety minutes or so to solve but with her new and improved prosthetic leg underneath and her immense heart to power her, she completed the final eleven-plus miles.  One hell of a way to break one's Boston Marathon maiden.  

Unlike Patrick Downes and Adrianne Haslet, Brendan Cox was not among those injured in the 2013 Marathon Bombing.  Way back when, young Mr. Cox was still in high school here in New Jersey.  These days, though, he is a student at the University of Maryland.  On Monday, he not only completed the Marathon in a time (3:28:35) that I could only hope to attain if I traded in my Brooks running shoes for an Acme rocket, he did so while running for a worthy cause:  A job.   He ran the race with the hashtag #RunnerNeedsAJob on the back of his shirt, which generated quite a bit of attention on social media.  It appears as if it might have also landed him a couple of interviews, which are certainly far more important than hits on Twitter.   In case you were wondering, young Mr. Cox is majoring in Marketing at the University of Maryland.  I know not what type of grades he makes in his major but I would think he has one hell of a future ahead of him in his chosen field.  

Adrianne Haslet said it far better than I ever could when she noted that the emotional impact of crossing the finish line for her was drawn in significant part from the fact that she thought of, "all of the definitions that this finish line has held."  For Adrianne Haslet and for Patrick Downes, on Monday it represented not only the completion of an amazing day's incredible journey but also the threshold each has crossed on the continuing path to blunt the long-term effects of evil by refusing to allow it - and refusing to allow those who perpetrate it - to hold down and to choke the life out of those who are good and the good deeds that they do.  

Boston Strong?  You better goddamn believe that they are...  

...and each has many more miles that they intend to cover.   


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

For Those Who Need Help To Remember Our Dreams

You don't remember your dreams, do you? 
- Big Head Todd and the Monsters

I was probably twenty or twenty-one years old when I first heard Big Head Todd & the Monsters play music live.  I was a student at CU - as were all of the members (Todd Park Mohr, Rob Squires, and Brian Nevin) of what was then a three-piece band.  "Back in the day" - as no kid anywhere says any longer - as they built their following on the local club and frat party scene - they played a lot of cover songs.  I do not pretend to be the Dean of the College of Musical Knowledge but even I could tell that these three were not simply killing time with the music stuff while pursuing their college degrees. They were simply that good.  I still have somewhere in our basement my cassette of Another Mayberry, their debut album that was released in the Spring of 1989, shortly before I graduated from CU, which I purchased of course at Albums on the Hill in Boulder.

Almost three decades further on up the road, they still are a tremendous listen.  Rob sent me a text message the other evening telling me that their new tune, "Wipeout Turn" is his new favorite song, which is damn high praise indeed, coming as it does from my son whose musical palate is far better-developed than mine has ever been or shall ever be.  His recommendation prompted me to check it out.  

Boy, am I glad that I did.   

Candidly, if you have no history with this band, as I do and as a number of my fellow Buffs from the mid-to-late 1980's do also, I know not whether this song shall pick you up and deposit you at a particular place in time along the continuum of your personal history.  I suspect that it shall.  And I suspect that when you arrive at that particular place, your face shall be wearing a smile.  

Maybe, just maybe, there shall be at least one dream of yours feared long lost to the ravages of time and distance that you are suddenly much better able to remember.  And if there is, then was the journey not worth the investment of time necessary to complete it?


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Fast Asleep by the Fire Side


Today is Primary Day in New York.  Unless the polls are incredibly off, it appears as if Mrs. Clinton shall emerge victorious in her party's primary and Mr. Trump shall do likewise in his party's.  Here in the State of Concrete Gardens, Primary Day is June 7.  Rare is the year in which the New Jersey Primary is of any significance whatsoever to the candidates in either party.  In this election cycle, however, it is an important election for the GOP candidates and, possibly, for the Democratic candidates also.  Only five months separate New Jersey's Primary Election from Election Day in November.  Five short months. 

The weather this past weekend was so incredibly nice that not even the specter of one of the Not-Quite-Fantastic-Five's ascendancy to the office of the Presidency of the United States could put a damper on it.  Sunday was an ideal weather day on which to embark upon a twenty-mile training run. It was warm but not hot.  I cannot lie and proclaim that I enjoyed the steady 5-10 mile per hour wind blowing out of the northeast that challenged Brooke and me all the way north from Asbury Park to Long Branch on the inward leg of our run but, all in all, even it was a small price to pay.  

I spent a few hours at the office on Saturday morning and then - on my way home from the office - ran a few errands, which I completed shortly after noon.  Once I arrived home, I turned my afternoon into an excuse to spend it in the backyard with Rosie.  Margaret was out with Suzanne so - under the watchful eye of my faithful canine companion - I set up all of our patio furniture, cleaned our grills, and otherwise prepared the backyard for Spring.  

Mission accomplished, I grabbed the book I am currently reading, pulled up a chair on the patio, and read for a couple of hours while Rosie napped away the afternoon a few feet away.  Neither of us spent more than about five consecutive minutes inside from shortly after twelve noon until shortly after five o'clock, which is when we finished grilling the London Broil that Joe, Margaret, and I ate for dinner.  I man the grill.  Rosie supervises the entire food-preparation process and tests small sample-sized pieces to ensure that the food is ready to be served. 

The Yankees played an early afternoon game against the Mariners in the Bronx on Saturday and the Rangers played a late afternoon playoff game against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.  I watched neither.  Instead I spent a few hours that were as spectacular as they were uneventful soaking up a bit of sun, breathing in a bit of comfortably warm fresh air, and enjoying the company of my long-haired, furry friend.  

She enjoyed it, I think, as much as I.  

"My Dog and Me"
- John Hiatt


Monday, April 18, 2016

Twenty and Out

And now the tapering begins.  Brooke and I put forth a hell of an effort yesterday in the final on-course training run for this year's New Jersey Marathon.  We were two of approximately three dozen hardy souls who descended on Long Branch by 7:00 yesterday morning for the purpose of participating in one last twenty-mile training run.  

This is her first go at this distance.  Her enthusiasm and her ability are infectious.  We completed twenty miles in a bit more than three hours and six minutes.  Our per mile pace was slightly more than ten minutes.  For Meb or Shalane Flanagan that would be cause for concern.  For me it is a cause for celebration.  And it is a result that would not have been attainable without the Blonde Bomber.  She literally and figuratively carried my old bones the last couple of miles.

Two weeks to go.  Ready or not, here we come.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Deal or No Deal

Two weeks from today is the 2016 New Jersey Marathon.  This morning, I shall accompany Brooke (a/k/a "the Blonde Bomber") on the final "long" training run of this training cycle.  We shall avail ourselves again this morning - as we did one Saturday last month - of the chance to acquaint ourselves with the course by participating in the on-course 20-mile training run.  Although this is the fourth time I have run this race, I had not taken part in the organized training runs that the folks who put on the race offer until this year.  I am sorry that it took me until this year to recognize their value.

This year shall mark the first time that I shall not participate in the Unite Half-Marathon at Rutgers University.  My running companera Gidg shall be among the several thousand runners taking part in that always excellent event.  I am pleased to see that she shall have as beautiful a morning to traverse the Rutgers campus from one bank of the old Rar-i-tan to the other as Brooke and I shall have as we endure the spiritual wasteland known as Deal.  



Saturday, April 16, 2016

Music's Something in the Air

April is proving to be the gift that just keep on giving.  Not only was yesterday NOT Tax Day but today is Record Store Day.  If you are an audiophile, it is your chance to spend on yourself today some of that hard-earned scratch that you did not have to share with everyone's neediest Uncle yesterday.  

And boy oh boy are there a lot of interesting things upon which you can spend some of that aforementioned hard-earned scratch.   The list that you can access through that link is the list of music that is available only today and only at a participating store.  There is also a list of really, really hard to find Record Store Day-exclusive releases and a list of releases that will be available in other places in a month of so but, today, can only be found at a record store that is taking part in Record Store Day.  

If you live here in the State of Concrete Gardens, then you have a wide variety of stores that you can visit in search of vinyl treasures, which list you can access here.  If you are in or near Woodbridge Township, then pop into Vintage Vinyl.  If you are in or near Summit, then call upon the good folks at Scotti's Records.  If you have ambition, a bit of time to devote to browsing, and a full tank of gas, then visit both and/or any of the countless other independent record stores taking part in the promotion.  


Friday, April 15, 2016

Thanks Again, Abe

You cannot avoid the responsibility of tomorrow
By evading it today. 
- Abraham Lincoln

Perhaps not but every now and again, you can wait until Monday before you have to actually write the check to cover it. Today is one of those instances. 

April 15.  It is traditionally the day in these United States that serves as the deadline for those of us who pay income taxes to send our individual tax returns (and payment) to the Internal Revenue Service.  Today is, typically, the day that the taxman cometh.  Not this year.  This year, it is the 18th of April and not the 15th that serves as the date on which individual tax returns must be filed for residents of forty-eight of the fifty states.  

A little bit of additional tax freedom (or perhaps freedom to hold onto our money for a bit longer) is owed to the fact that Saturday, April 16 is Emancipation Day, which is a holiday celebrated in Washington, D.C., which marks the anniversary of President Lincoln's signing the Compensated Emancipation Act into law, which he did on April 16, 1862.    Even though Emancipation Day is a D.C. holiday - and is not observed as a holiday in any of the fifty states - its presence on the calendar as a legal holiday is enough to trump tax deadline day.  This year it falls on a Saturday and since Americans enjoy nothing more than a three-day holiday weekend, when that occurs the legal holiday is bumped forward one day - to Friday, April 15.  

While I doubt highly that Emancipation Day is responsible for the girth of the Federal Tax Code, it is perhaps worth pointing out that there is a section of the Code (Section 7503) that addresses what happens to Tax Day when it tangles with a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday.  It loses

Residents of two states make out better than the rest of us this year.  They need not file their individual income tax returns until Tuesday April 19.  That is because April 18 is Patriots' Day, which is a legal holiday in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and in the Un-Commonwealth of Maine.  One presumes however that if that psychopathic dickwad from Texas is to somehow get elected to the Presidency of the United States, one of his first official acts as President will be to either make Patriots' Day a holiday in Texas or simply create a new holiday solely for his Longhorn Homies. SuperPatriots' Day perhaps?  

Just do not look for him in Boston on Monday.  Or sitting on a bench anywhere reading a copy of The Boston Globe.  Whether you believe Cruz to the Devil or you are one of those poor, misinformed folks who believe he actually is a reasonable human being, invest a bit of time and read this.  He will not be glad you did but your children and grandchildren, whether real or prospective, will thank you.  



Thursday, April 14, 2016

Visions Seen Through the Early Morning Fog

Today is the one hundred and fifty-first anniversary of John Wilkes Booth's firing of the shot that mortally wounded Abraham Lincoln.  On this day, it occurs to me that the candidates currently competing for the opportunity to hold the office that Mr. Lincoln held at the time of his death have yet to engender in me a sense of comfort relative to the ability of any of them to score well on his test.  

Moreover, it also occurs to me that there is more than one of them who ignites a palpable fear within me over the prospect of that individual being the one who shall be elected on the first Tuesday following the first Monday this November to sit for Mr. Lincoln's test.  A palpable fear. 

As you give some thought to your own fear - or lack thereof perhaps - about which of the candidates who are presented for our consideration shall be the one upon whom this nation shall rely to pass Mr. Lincoln's test, consider his prescience in a speech he gave to the Young Man's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois almost one hundred and eighty years ago:

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? 
I answer.  If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us;
It cannot come from abroad.  If destruction be our lot,
We ourselves must be its author and finisher.
As a nation of freemen we must live through time
Or die by suicide. 

-Speech to the Young Man's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois
Abraham Lincoln (January 27, 1838)

Irrespective of your political affiliation, remember this November to vote for the candidate you believe to be most capable of ensuring that this nation of freemen shall continue to live through time. The alternative is unacceptable. 

Furthermore, contrary to what the song might want you to believe, it is most assuredly not painless. 


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Will the Wolf Survive?

To be a fan of the New York Rangers is to be well-versed in the ways of suffering.  It was on this very date, seventy-six years ago, that Bryan Hextall scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs (in overtime no less) in Game Six of the 1940 Finals.  The Rangers captured the Stanley Cup that year in spite of having had to play Games Three through Six in Toronto.  Madison Square Garden was unavailable to them after Game Two because the circus was in town.  Pachyderms were a sure thing for the makers of the MSG events calendar.  The Rangers needing the building to play in the Stanley Cup Finals?  Not so much.  

In the seventy-six years since, our beloved Blueshirts have won exactly one Stanley Cup. If I live to one hundred, I may not live long enough to see them win another.  But even if I live to be one hundred, I shall never forget the sound of Sam Rosen's voice as the final few frantic seconds of Game Seven of the 1994 Cup Finals against Vancouver ticked off of the clock.  How great a moment was it?  Ask Mark Messier.  

Being a Rangers fan is something akin to being an Irishman.  If you do not know that at day's end, the world is more likely than not going to break your heart then you simply are not paying close enough attention.  Tonight in Pittsburgh, the Rangers begin their first-round playoff series against the Penguins.  In the past four seasons, the Rangers have played in the Eastern Conference Finals three times and, in 2014, they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.  The odds against them making a deep run this Spring seem longer than they have the past several years.  It will be an accomplishment of considerable significance for them to vanquish Pittsburgh and advance to the second round where, presuming I understand the NHL's playoff bracket correctly,   

Tonight it all begins anew once more.  It all begins anew.  So here is to hoping that the Blueshirts take the words of Keith Yandle to heart (and if you are a Rangers fan, then his piece in The Players' Tribune is an eminently worthwhile read).  Let's go to work, gentlemen...

...for it is time to feed the wolf. 


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Upward Go The Zippers...

Politics is the strife of interests 
Masquerading as a contest of Principles.
- Ambrose Bierce

I tend to be a tough critic of this state's Governor (a Republican) and the President of the State Senate (a Democrat), who is his primary sparring partner, especially over the ham-handed way they have teamed up to deprive the Supreme Court of New Jersey of its full complement of seven justices for the past six years.  Yesterday, dawn finally broke at long last in the sky above the pier where Frick and Frack have stood side-by-side in the darkness for that past six years commenting upon the water's temperature as well as its depth.  The logjam has been broken at long last.  

The New Jersey State Senate shall take up the nomination of the Governor's newest nominee to the Court, Walter Timpone.  If confirmed, which he shall likely be, Justice Timpone shall sit as the seventh member of our State's Supreme Court.  Having seven actual members of the Court shall be a nice change of pace for those of us who earn our living in the State's civil and/or criminal justice system and shall put an end to the use of an Appellate Division judge being "temporarily assigned" to fill out the Court, which practice has been in vogue for such a lengthy period of time it has evoked memories of "Permanent Guest Host" status during Johnny Carson's reign on The Tonight Show.   

Better late than never, boys.  At some juncture I hope that the Governor, the State Senate President, or both takes the time to personally apologize to Judge David Bauman, who sits in Monmouth County and who was the Governor's doomed nominee to the Court on two separate occasions, the second such one having occurred earlier this year.  Judge Bauman deserved a better fate than having what would like have been the crowning achievement of his professional career turned into political sport.  

Maybe in his next lifetime.

Until then, how about a song...


Monday, April 11, 2016

Danny's Boy

I know next to nothing about golf.  My father-in-law Joe and Margaret's uncle, Uncle Mike, both play the game, watch it on television regularly, and argue about it passionately.  Truth be told, I cannot tell one player on the PGA Tour from another.  That being said, I pay attention to the year's big events - including the Masters, which was contested this weekend at Augusta National.  

This year's winner - in what my two authorities assure me was more than a little bit of of a surprise - was a British golfer, Danny Willett.  It turns out that Willett is only the second British golfer to ever win the Masters - and the first one who is not named Nick Faldo.  Willett, who at 28 is practically a senior citizen in comparison to Jordan Spieth, the defending champ who experienced a Greg Norman moment on the 12th hole to turn a comfortable lead into a deficit from which he never recovered.  

It also turns out that Danny Willett is a first-time father.  His wife, Nicole, just had the couple's first baby.  Apparently, her due date was yesterday.  Although Willett had qualified for the Masters - he is apparently the 12th-ranked golfer in the world - he decided that missing Augusta was more important than missing the birth of his first child.  He told Nicole that he was not going to travel to the States for the Masters if the baby arrived as scheduled.  The newest Willett's desire to see what this world was all about - and his refusal to wait until his scheduled arrival date to start checking it out for himself - permitted his Pop to spend this past weekend earning a living.  

Good thing too.  Diapers and formula certainly do not pay for themselves.  


Sunday, April 10, 2016

With A Love Mean & True

You cannot figure out who you are 
If you don't understand where you come from, 
What were the forces that work on your life 
As a child, as a teenager, as a young man.
What part do you have to play? 
How do you empower yourself?
- Bruce Springsteen 

As a Springsteen fan whose three-quarters-of-the-way-across-the-country trip last week included taking in the Denver, Colorado stop on the the current tour, I have an incalculable amount of empathy for those fans who planned to spend this evening going down to the River in the company of Springsteen and the E Street Band - whether the affected fan is a native Carolinian or had traveled to Carolina to see the show.  

As a human being, I have an equally incalculable amount of respect for Springsteen's decision to cancel tonight's show in Greensboro, North Carolina.  As someone who makes his living as a performer, he has determined that the most effective avenue for him to be heard on the issue of North Carolina's newly-minted "Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act" (a/k/a "the Bathroom Law") is to put up by shutting up.   

If the first rule of rock and roll is that the show must go on, then Springsteen's decision serves perhaps as the exception that proves the rule.  It is a decision that has not been - and shall not be - universally well-received - and not simply by those whose investment of time and money in tonight's show has now been (forgive me) flushed.   

Inasmuch as Springsteen is a musician whose career has been defined by doing that in which he believes irrespective of whether it is popular, it is reasonable to presume that he consulted no polling data before he made this decision and he shall not consult any in the days and weeks to come to assess the manner in which he - and it - has been received. 

At the end of every hard-earned day, people find some reason to believe.  On this day, the Poet Laureate of Freehold has found his.  


Saturday, April 9, 2016

If Not At Home Then Where Exactly Would You Try This?

No doubt - at least in part - due to the fact that last week was an abbreviated work week, this week moved with as little alacrity as a middle-aged ham and egg runner covering the final mile in a marathon, a remark that I shall resemble three weeks hence.  For whatever the reason, this week moved at a clip that could fairly be called interminable.  My reservoir, which has a puddle-like depth on its best days, is bone dry.  I got nothing.  

But then again...

If you are/were a fan of the late, great Rodney Dangerfield (I probably just revealed where I stand on the whole "fan" issue), then I presume that you have seen Back to School at least once.  And presuming I am correct, then I presume that I am also correct regarding your appreciation of the difficulty associated with trying to stick the landing of the dive known as "the Triple Lindy":  

The spirit of Thornton Melon is alive and well - at least in the World Adult Kickball Association ("WAKA"): 

Apparently the stakes in kickball have been raised a tick or two since I last played it in Doug Anderson's gym class during my senior year at W-H.   Back then, my motivation was to end the game as quickly as possible so that Dave Joy, Mark Bowman, and I could catch a ride with Mr. A. to the Dunkin' Donuts on Park Avenue for a mid-morning cup of Joe and a nosh.  

As much as I love coffee, I am quite confident I would not have risked "Turf Ass" simply for the chance to drink a cup.  Dylan was right.  The times are a-changing.  Indeed they are. 

Enjoy your Saturday.  

Be careful out there. 



Friday, April 8, 2016

A Testament to Tone Deafness

I went in with the idea that this guy is a monster.
I came out of there with a very different feeling. 
I came out of there feeling that this is a guy who 
Has managed to say the wrong things at wrong time.
- Adam Schefter, ESPN

Whether irony or coincidence, on the same night that FX aired the season finale of its excellent ten-part series, The People v. O.J. Simpson, which told the story of last century's "Trial of the Century", which evolved of course out of an undeniably physically abusive relationship between a former NFL star player and his wife/ex-wife, ESPN aired Adam Schefter's "interview" (giving that term the broadest possible interpretation permitted under law) with former Carolina Panther and former Dallas Cowboy Greg Hardy.  

For those who do not remember, in July 2014 Hardy was convicted in a bench trial in North Carolina of two misdemeanors:  assaulting his former girlfriend, Nicole Holder, and threatening to kill her.  Both charges against Hardy arose out of a May, 2014 incident.   Hardy exercised his right to appeal Judge Becky Thorne Tin's verdict, which appeal ensured him the right to a jury trial.  On the February 2015 morning on which Hardy's jury trial was set to begin, the State announced that it was dismissing the charges against him.  Its star witness, Ms. Holder, had apparently informed the State months earlier that she was no longer interested in cooperating in the case against Hardy.  Her disincentive apparently was financially-motivated.  At some point between July, 2014 and February, 2015, Hardy paid her. She went away and the State's case went with her.   Shortly before Thanksgiving last year, a Mecklenberg County, North Carolina judge expunged Hardy's conviction

Hardy told Schefter that irrespective of the photographs that the police took on the night of the incident that documented injuries to various parts of Nicole Holder's body, he never laid his hands on her.  In fact, Hardy told Schefter that never in his life has he ever laid his hands on any woman - including but not limited to Ms. Holder - because he was born and raised in the Bible Belt and such conduct simply does not go on there.  

Schefter apparently never outgrew his childhood affinity for Kool-Aid.  Not only did he sit there starry-eyed during his face-to-face chat with Hardy without ever once challenging any of the complete bullshit that came out of Hardy's mouth, but when he, himself, was interviewed after the piece aired, his comments plainly echo that same "well if he said it, it must be true" naivete.  Case in point, Schefter's quote that appears at the top of this piece is taken from the transcript of his April 6th interview with Dan Patrick, who once upon a lifetime ago was ESPN's #1 Sports Center Anchor.  

Kudos to Michelle Beadle of ESPN for taking her employer to task for providing Hardy a platform and for pointing out - contrary to Schefter's apparent embrace of Hardy's transformation - that Hardy has never admitted any wrongdoing - including under oath at his July, 2014 bench trial.  Schefter needs to consult a dictionary in order to familiarize himself with the words "reiteration" and "transformation".  Here's a helpful hint, Slick - they are not synonyms.

Kudos as well to Steve Smith, Sr., who has earned his living in the NFL as a wide receiver since 2001.  Prior to joining the Baltimore Ravens as a free agent after the 2013 season, Smith was Hardy's teammate in Carolina.  In response to Hardy's incredible claim that he never laid his hands on Ms. Holder, Smith tweeted this:

"So I guess she Tripped on carpet of something...
my mom is a Survivor #DV and I am advocate against #DV."  

Too bad that the paid, professional media type who ESPN paid to chat with Hardy did not think to ask Hardy that question.   

Smith's response to Hardy's claim - as well as the responses of other players, current and former - serves as a reminder that there are a significant number of men who earn a living doing what Greg Hardy presently does and what Orenthal James Simpson formerly did who share nothing with either other than an occupation.  


Thursday, April 7, 2016

An Outlaw's Final Ride...

Listen close and you can hear
That loud jukebox playin' in my ear.
Ain't no woman gonna change the way I think,
I think I'll just stay here and drink.
- Merle Haggard

Poor Willie Nelson said goodbye to yet another old friend yesterday.  Country music legend Merle Haggard - who never would have been mistaken for either of the two idiots who comprise Florida-Georgia Line - died yesterday at his home in California.  Merle Haggard was seventy-nine years old. 

In fact, he was exactly seventy-nine years old.  Haggard drew his first breath on April 6, 1937 and his last on April 6, 2016.  In between, he crammed a whole hell of a lot of life into the breaths he took - including but not limited to the three years' worth of breathing he did when he was incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison in California following a conviction for burglary in 1957.  

It is not everyone - let alone every musician - who can answer "Solitary confinement" to the question, "Where did you spend your 21st birthday?"  Haggard could.  And he did.  He never ran away from his past. Rather, he embraced it and made it a focal point of the songs he wrote.

Including those songs whose lyrics just might break your heart... least a little.    

I remember Daddy praying for a better way of life,
But I don't recall a change of any size;
Just a little loss of courage, as their age began to show
And more sadness in my mama's hungry eyes...
- Merle Haggard 




Wednesday, April 6, 2016

One Last Round of Umbrella Drinks

Our weekend in Colorado with Rob and Jess was crammed full of great times.  It was as enjoyable a weekend as I have spent in quite some time.  We do not see the Colorado branch of the family business nearly as frequently as we might like, which means that from their perspective we probably descend upon them just about as much as they can stand.  I kid.  As far as I could tell, all four of us basked in the happiness of this weekend equally.  

Among the really cool activities that Rob and Jess had set up for us to participate in as part of the celebration of Rob's birthday was an Escape Room.  Neither Margaret nor I had ever taken part in such an endeavor.  It was a blast.  And thanks to their proper planning and making sure to invite their friends Heather, Reed, and Mike to participate along with us (along with Heather's mom - whose name I am embarrassed to admit I cannot recall), we actually solved all of the puzzles.  All of them - and with a whole two minutes to spare!  I assure you that had you been with us inside of the rooms (one of the wrinkles in this particular Escape Room is that by solving one of the puzzles you actually open up the door to a second room...and more puzzles) for the fifty-eight minutes that we spent in solving mode, you would have been quite impressed. 

So here is my Michelin/Zagat/AAA recommendation should your travels take you to Fort Collins, Colorado:  book some time with the good people who run the Somewhere Secret Escape Game.  You will be glad you did...

...whether or not you enjoy getting caught in the rain.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Flatirons and Wrinkles

Flatirons - Boulder, Colorado 
April 2, 2016

The final stop of our extended weekend in Colorado was a brief jaunt into Boulder.  Although Fort Collins and Boulder are only located an hour or so away from each other, little to none of Rob and Jess's day-to-day takes them from the former to the latter.  Truth be told, the stop in Boulder was a bone thrown to this old man.  And it is one that I greatly appreciated.

Although it was a lifetime ago that I called CU-Boulder home, I have never been able to shake the dust of the place off of my shoes.  I hope to never do so.  If a place has ever touched you in such a way, then you know what I mean.  If no place has yet never touched you in such a way, then I hope at some point in your life some place does so.  It changes you.  

Boulder, Colorado is a city of approximately 100,000 people.  The area immediately adjacent to the CU campus is known as "the Hill".   Prior to walking around there on Saturday afternoon, I cannot recall the last time I had been in that neighborhood.  It is -as I imagine that a lot of neighborhoods around universities are - transient in the sense that the businesses that comprise it come and go.  The Hill is now what it was thirty years ago - an eclectic mix of businesses - although the businesses on the Hill now are not those that were there once upon a lifetime ago.  

In spite of all of the changes in the composition of the neighborhood, there are some things that have remained constant.  One of them is "Albums on the Hill".  It is an absolute gem of a store where a lifetime ago Alex Schreiber and I used to spend countless hours perusing their incredible collection of used albums.  Among the treasures I unearthed there as an undergrad were vinyl copies of what were (at that time) all of Springsteen's LPs.  I still have them.


Rob had never been inside of the store - a glaring oversight on my part given the number of times that he and I have been in Boulder together - until Saturday.  He and I spent ten or fifteen minutes roaming around it, and chatted a bit with the owner on our way out the door.  Rob was surprised to learn the man who owns the store now is the same man who has owned it since it opened in 1987. The owner, Andy Schneidkraut, was surprised to learn that I had been a loyal customer of his way back when.  

Home in New Jersey on Sunday, I reflected a bit on our brief Boulder sojourn.  It made me smile.  But it also made me a bit sad.  As human beings go, I am no prize.  Consequently I am a man of few friends -an arrangement that works to the benefit of the world as much as it does to mine.  I have done more than my fair share of lousy things to other human beings in my half-century on the planet - and not all of them inadvertently.  Yet, I cannot fathom for the life of me what it is that I must have done that severed my connection to Schneedz.  At some point along the way I either did something to him that wronged him or failed to do something that he had been counting upon me to do for him, which failure injured him.  I know not what it is or when it occurred.  

If I ever see him again, I shall tell him that I am sorry...

...for whatever it is.