Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Toast to a Life-Long Alliance

When eyes meet in silence, a pact can be made
A life-long alliance that won't be betrayed
Won't be betrayed...
- Pete Townshend

One of the world's genuinely good humans is observing a birthday today.  I initially wrote 'celebrating' but Mark is Scottish and the Scots - with their general makeup and world view - make the Irish look like card-carrying members of the Sunshine Carpet Cleaning Company.  Thus, celebrating felt as if it might be a bit of a stretch.  Observing is a far safer wager. 

Either way, I hope that my old (albeit not older than me) friend Mark takes a moment or two today to enjoy the annual marking of the date of his earthly arrival.  Whether he will do something "crazy" such as work only a fourteen-hour day so that he might spend a bit of quality time with his two kids I would not pretend to know.  There are scant few people I have ever met whose work ethic makes my own seem embarrassingly soft.  Mark is one of them. 

He is, also, an exceptionally loyal and good friend.  Rare these days is the person whose word is his bond.  Mark is such a person.  As long as I have known him, my nickname for him has been "Bowinkle" when in fact the animated character he most strongly resembles is Horton, Dr. Seuss's elephant.  Each of them say what they mean and mean what they say.  

Happy Birthday, old friend.  And thanks for what is now fast approaching four decades of friendship. 


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Ascension From Rocky Top us the color is a flag of pride,
Because it identifies us as Lady Vols and, therefore, 
As women of an unmistakable type.  Fighters.  
I remember how many of them fought for a better life themselves.  
I just met them halfway.
- Pat Summitt

If you believe in the illusion that Life is fair, then Tinkerbell likely had to blow an additional shot of fairy dust into your coffee yesterday morning just so you could make it through the day once you had learned of Pat Summitt's death at the far-too-young age of sixty-four.  If you live an illusion-free existence, then you accepted the news as being par for the course in our celestial day-to-day, and appropriately broken to the world on a Tuesday, thus reinforcing its status as the week's worst day. 

Although she earned her living as the Head Coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers Basketball Team, which team she coached to 1,098 victories and eight NCAA titles during her thirty-eight years on the sideline, Pat Summitt's influence extended far beyond the ninety-four feet of hardwood she patrolled with unwavering intensity for close to four decades in Knoxville. I dare you to read this story that Princeton University's hoops coach Courtney Banghart shared on her Twitter account yesterday and not smile - at least a little.

Every one of the teenagers who came to Tennessee to play basketball for Pat Summitt earned her degree, irrespective of how much playing time she earned, and became an inextricable part of the fabric of Summitt's life as the coach did hers.  

She may have "just met them halfway" but, once she did, she remained with them forever...

...something which neither death nor time shall diminish.  


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Soul Food

I have no firsthand knowledge of just how many kernels of truth are contained in the old saw about the early bird and the worm.  I have a "no-worm" dietary policy, even when the slippery fellow in question has been basting in a tequila bath for an indeterminate amount of time prior to making my acquaintance.  Even when I was a full-time drunk - a lifetime ago - tequila was not go-to booze for me.  Candidly, other than when it is consumed in shots, tequila seems to end up in brightly-colored, cheerily-named drinks.  I am Irish.  I have zero interest in such silliness.  

Irrespective of how well the early bird fares vis-a-vis the great worm hunt, I can attest to the fact that getting out the door early in the morning to run creates the opportunity for me to see some visually spectacular images.  This weekend, while Saturday ended up being a sun-filled, warm Jersey summer day, it did not begin in an auspicious manner.  When I went for my run at sunrise Saturday morning, there was daylight but no sunrise of which to speak.  As dawn broke, the sun and the clouds were locked in a knife fight for control of the sky.  

Sunday morning's sunrise, however, served to reinforce my belief that weather has no memory.  Knowing that the Missus and I were going to go for our inaugural "northern" bike ride (over the Shark River Inlet and into, first, Avon-by-the-Sea and thereafter Bradley Beach) since we had ridden south on Saturday morning when Margaret broke in her new wheels, my running route on Sunday morning was south.  As per my custom and practice, before I headed south towards Spring Lake, I ran east on 17th Avenue to our beach, hoping to catch the sunrise.  I did and I was not disappointed by what I saw. 

17th Avenue Beach - Belmar 
June 26, 2016

I am a creature of habit and - as such - I tend to run straight along the water when I run south into Spring Lake and then return north to home through Spring Lake's downtown and, then, past Lake Como.  Sunday morning, instead of bearing due south on Ocean Avenue, I made a right turn onto South Boulevard, which is a Spring Lake street that borders Lake Como (the body of water) on its southern side.  In Lake Como, we have its companion street, North Boulevard, which performs the same function on our side of the lake. 

As I ran west on South Boulevard, with the lake to my right, two young people on their bicycles were riding east.  The young man, who was about fifteen feet ahead of his female cycling companion, was riding his bike in hands-free mode and as he pedaled past me I noticed that he had his phone raised up in front of him, preparing to take a picture.  I really did nothing more than follow the natural trajectory of his path of travel and swung my own head in a northeasterly direction in order to see what it was he was attempting to photograph.  

Lake Como at Sunrise (South Blvd. Spring Lake)
June 26, 2016

Having now seen for myself just how beautiful the sunrise looked over the lake, I bore around South Boulevard to 3rd Avenue (a slight turn to the north) because I presumed that I would have a chance to see something at least as gorgeous as I had seen moments earlier.  My presumption was correct. 

Lake Como at sunrise (taken from 3rd Avenue)
June 26, 2016

Sunday morning, I made the southern leg of my journey the inland leg.  I ran through Spring Lake's downtown district and once I reached Passaic Avenue, I turned left and headed east towards the ocean.  When I reached the intersection of Passaic and Ocean Avenues, I crossed over Ocean Avenue so that I could get up onto the Spring Lake boardwalk and then turn for home.  The early-morning sky looked pretty damn fine over Spring Lake too. 

Sun coming up over Spring Lake 
June 26, 2016

"Aloha, Keep Off Canoe!" - Spring Lake
June 26, 2016

Boardwalk & Lifeguard Stand at sunrise (Spring Lake)
June 26, 2016

Far be it from me to tell the early bird how to handle his affairs but I were him, I would lift my head up and take a look around every now and again.  A juicy worm makes for tasty eating, no doubt, but as my great-grandpa Phineas once observed, "bird cannot live by worm alone.  He needs a little food for the soul." 

A sentiment I could not have better expressed no matter how hard I tried. 


Monday, June 27, 2016

The Sea of Tranquility

I cannot remember precisely how he worded it - and George Carlin was such a genius with language that I do not want to guess at what it was he said for fear of not doing justice to his words - but I found myself spending hours on Sunday thinking of what Carlin said about humankind's relentlessly inane pursuit of "stuff".  

Margaret and I got up onto the beach before 9:00 AM and spent our day less than fifty feet from the water.  Shortly after we arrived, a little boy (maybe four or five years old) plopped down in the surf about twenty feet in front of us with his dad and a red plastic bucket.  For the next several hours, son and father worked together building sand castles.  They were so close to the surf that every fifteen minutes or so whatever work they had completed was washed away.  And neither of them cared.  The little boy laughed and laughed and his father never tired of starting anew on their oceanside construction project.  

Sunshine, patience, and a plastic bucket that was likely purchased for less than ten dollars.   All the ingredients needed to provide a little boy with an unforgettable day.   If George Carlin had been on the beach yesterday, I suspect he would have been grinning ear-to-ear.  

Him and me both.  


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Deeds and Words

You take things for granted - or at least I do - during my lazy summer days at the Shore.  Typically, the most thought-intensive part of my day is deciding how far I am going to go on my morning run.  I am a man in slow motion at the beach.  Action?  Not really. 

Yesterday afternoon as Margaret and I were sitting on the beach soaking up the sun, the two young men manning the lifeguard stand on our beach proved themselves to be men of action.  Two swimmers started flailing in the water - in trouble and in need of assistance.  Without a moment's hesitation these two youngsters (if I had to hazard a guess I would estimate each is twenty or so) dived into the water and rescued the two distressed swimmers. 

Not everyone is wired to place himself or herself in harm's way to save another - especially when that someone is a stranger.  These two kids - neither of whom likely makes enough to retire a rich man from his gig as a Belmar lifeguard - did so instinctively.  


Saturday, June 25, 2016

One Kool Kettle

On a quite-faded Post It on the computer monitor that sits atop my desk at work contains one of my favorite quote, upon which I initially stumbled in Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation.  It is from Emerson: 

So nigh is grandeur to our dust, 
So near to God is Man, 
When Duty whispers low, "Thou must",
The youth replies, "I can". 

The United States - in close to two hundred and fifty years of existence - has thus far been blessed with an abundance of youths, male and female, who have reflexively answered Duty's call.  Exactly two weeks following this nation's celebration of its two hundred and fortieth birthday, one such youth is being honored by President Obama at the White House.  

Charles Kettles retired from the United States Army as a Lieutenant Colonel.  On May 18, 1967, long before he attained the rank from which he retired, Charles Kettles was a helicopter pilot, flying the UH-1 (the "Huey"), which he ultimately did during two tours in Vietnam.  His day started as the commander of one of the Hueys that dropped eight members of the 101st Airborne into a landing zone near the Song Tra Cau River in the shadow of a 1,500 foot hill.  Almost from the moment the Rangers arrived, they were confronted by a substantially larger contingent of North Vietnamese troops, including many who had apparently been laying in ambush awaiting the Rangers' arrival.  The Rangers had been dropped squarely into Hell, which proceeded to break loose all around them.

Between the time he made his initial drop until he shut his Huey down for the final time many, many hours later, Charles Kettles made multiple trips back into the fray to rescue and evacuate Rangers - including one trip when he flew solo - no crew, no guns, and no support of any kind whatsoever.  It was a suicide mission for which he continued to volunteer and which he continued to live to talk about - against incredible odds - time and time again. 

His heroics that day likely should have earned him his Congressional Medal of Honor, which President Obama shall award to him on July 18, even had he not completed one final miraculous mission.  It was not until after Kettles and the other Huey pilots had completed what they believed was their final troop extraction of the day, had returned to base, and had shut the helicopters down that someone realized that they were eight Rangers short.  Charles Kettles volunteered to go pick them up and bring them home.  

He tells the story of what happened next far better than I ever could: 

Indeed they did.  On July 18, 2016, President Obama shall express to Lt. Col. Kettles the appreciation of a grateful nation for him having done what he did that day fifty years ago...even if all he did - to hear him tell it - was his job.


Friday, June 24, 2016

True Blood

Give blood but it could cost more than your dignity
Give blood, parade your pallor in iniquity
Give blood, they will cry and say they're in our debt
Give blood, but then they'll sigh and they will soon forget.
- Pete Townshend 

As it turns out, Pete, they will not always soon forget.  As it turns out, FDNY Battalion Chief Lawrence Stack was not forgotten.  Not even for one minute.  Not once in almost fifteen years.  

Battalion Chief Stack left his firehouse in Brooklyn on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, in order to respond to the World Trade Center.  It took almost fifteen years, but this past weekend, he finally was able to make it home.

On that terrible Tuesday morning, Battalion Chief Stack, at age fifty-eight a thirty-three-year veteran of the FDNY, which he had joined following his six years of service to his country (including a tour of Vietnam) as a member of the United States Navy, was in his office in Brooklyn, working on a report of the deaths of three members of the FDNY who had died in the line of duty on June 17, 2001, when all hell broke loose in Lower Manhattan.  He was not ordered to respond to the World Trade Center.  He was, however, programmed to do so.   

Upon his arrival at the scene, he did what it is he did best - he rescued those in danger, including two FDNY Lieutenants who had been trapped in the collapse of the South Tower.  When the North Tower collapsed, he was killed.  He had remained behind - after leading others to safety - to await assistance moving a man whose leg was badly injured and who could not, himself, move.  

Battalion Chief Stack is one of one hundred twenty-seven members of the FDNY whose bodies were never recovered from Ground Zero.  In his case, only his turnout coat was found. His wife, Theresa, and the couple's two sons, Michael and Brian - each of whom has followed his father's footsteps into the family business (Lt. Michael Stack and FF Brian Stack are both members of the FDNY) had no remains to bury. 

As it turned out, shortly before he died, Battalion Chief Stack had participated in a blood drive for a young child in need of a bone marrow transplant.  Recently, Theresa Stack and her family learned that two vials of Battalion Chief Stack's blood still existed.  Two vials of blood might not seem like a lot to the uninformed but, to the FDNY, they constituted more than enough remains to bury Battalion Chief Stack with full departmental honors.  

One week ago today, on what would have been the Stacks' forty-ninth wedding anniversary, and almost fifteen years since that awful Tuesday morning in September when he had called her as he headed over the Brooklyn Bridge to tell her that he loved her and not to worry about making dinner that night, Theresa Stack said goodbye to her husband.   It took him a whole hell of a lot longer than he or she ever could have reasonably imagined that it would, but on Friday, June 17, 2016, he finally made it home.    

An arrival that - even on an otherwise sad occasion - was worthy of a celebration.  

Welcome home, Chief.  
FDNY Battalion Chief Lawrence Stack
End of Watch:  September 11, 2001


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Have Eyes, See Beauty

Those who live by the sea
Can hardly form a single thought
Of which the sea would not be part.
- Hermann Broch

Among the reasons why I am very excited that the Missus is so very excited about her new bicycle is that it shall now serve as her conveyance into a part of our Shore experience of which thus far she has failed to avail herself.  It will permit her to see - with her own eyes - sights that I never tire of seeing with mine.  

As a general rule, my early-morning runs begin in the same manner - irrespective of whether I ultimately head north towards Asbury Park (and occasionally beyond) or south towards Sea Girt (and occasionally beyond) - I leave my house and head east down 17th Avenue to the 17th Avenue Beach. Far more often than not, I am there either in time to see the sun rise or within minutes of it having done so.  It is a sight that never fails to move me...

17th Avenue Beach - Belmar 
Saturday, June 18, 2016

...even if the sight I am seeing varies from one day to the next.

17th Avenue Beach - Belmar
Sunday, June 19, 2016

On Saturday morning, I ran south on the Boardwalk until it ended, which it does in Spring Lake at the corner of Ocean Avenue and Brown Avenue, which is slightly more than two and one-half miles from our house.  On my way south I saw one of my favorite signs of summer in Spring Lake, which is the lifeguard boat on the sand immediately adjacent to the lifeguard stand, which awaits its positioning for the day ahead.

Spring Lake Lifeguard Boat and Stand
Saturday, June 18, 2016

On my trek south, I happened to look back over my shoulder and when I did I was able to capture a picture of the sun's ascent.

Sun coming up over Spring Lake
Saturday, June 18, 2016

When I first started running along the water at the start of last summer, I never used to venture inland. I would simply run "out and back" using the Boardwalk to chart my course.  It took not very long at all for me to realize how obtuse I was being in following that "plan" (permitting that word the broadest possible interpretation).  Therefore, when I reached the southern end of the boardwalk in Spring Lake on Saturday, I did not turn around.  Instead I turned west and headed into the heart of Spring Lake.  I am not a religious man.  The Lord and I have an understanding - he stays out of my home and I return the favor.  However, my lack of spirituality is not so profound that it prevents me from appreciating a good-looking church when I see one, which I do every time I run past this one, St. Catharine's (I think) in Spring Lake:

St. Catharine's Church (?) - Spring Lake
Saturday, June 18, 2016

The best part of my south-bound runs is that the final part of my inward leg takes me past and around Lake Como.  As far as I can tell, with the exception of Wreck Pond, every contained body of water in Monmouth County larger than a puddle is designated as a "lake", which is a great ego boost for slow-moving runners such as me, who can declare honestly that I can run around Lake Como in less than ten minutes...and have done so on numerous occasions.  The small size of our town's namesake does nothing, however, to diminish its appeal.  

"Welcome to Lake Como" - Lake Como 
Saturday, June 18, 2016

Sunday proved to be the warmer of the two days last weekend, which you might have been able to surmise based upon the color of the sky at sunrise as opposed to how it appeared twenty-four hours earlier.  As I headed north on the Boardwalk, I was taken by the vibrancy of the sunrise and its effect on the sky

Sun coming up over the beach - Belmar
Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Belmar Fishing Club is located on the northern end of Belmar, immediately south of the Shark River Inlet that is the partition between Belmar and Avon-by-the-Sea.  On Sunday morning, as I ambled up Ocean Avenue (running against traffic as a runner should) to the bridge that would carry me over the inlet, I glanced to my right and captured this view of the Belmar Fishing Club with the sun peeking over its shoulder.  

Belmar Fishing Club - Belmar
Sunday, June 19, 2016

On Sunday, my run took me only as far north as the southern end of Bradley Beach, which is a distance of slightly more than two miles from our house.  When I headed south, instead of running west through Bradley Beach or Avon to Route 71 before turning for home, I simply turned around and headed south along the water.  As I crossed over the bridge into Belmar and, shortly thereafter, passed by Silver Lake, I was at peace with my decision.

Silver Lake - Belmar 
Sunday, June 19, 2016

Up until this point in time, I have essentially served as Margaret's eyes at the beach, sharing with her when I return home, pictures I have taken of the things I have seen while I have been out and about.  Beginning this week, she will see these things not as I see them, but as she sees does.  

And that shall most assuredly be something to behold. 


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Myth of Time

And in these days when darkness falls early
And people rush home to the ones the love. 
You better take a fool’s advice and take care of your own
One day they’re here; next day they're gone...

"New York Minute" - Don Henley

A wonderfully bright, insightful friend of mine (she uses really small words when she communicates with me - I get by) shared something on the Leviathan that is "social media" yesterday that immediately struck a chord within me.  

It did so not only because I often lament the relentless, predatory nature of time and the lie inherent in phrases such as "I have all the time in the world" and "I have nothing but time", which are uttered so often and with such deliberate nonchalance that we might occasionally delude ourselves into believing them.  

Rather, it resonated with me because it was only one day earlier that I had read the unbelievably tragic story of the Clarke family from Watchung, New Jersey.  On June 5, which was a beautiful Sunday evening, Jimmy and Jane Clarke were sitting outside of their little piece of Paradise by the Sea, which for the Clarkes is on Long Beach Island, reading and enjoying a quiet late spring evening.  Out of nowhere, a friend of their fifteen-year-old son, Peter, ran up upon them to share harrowing news:  Another friend of Peter's had gotten into trouble in the water and Peter and one of his friends - having gone into the water in an effort to save their friend - were now trapped out there alongside him.  The message was clear:  Peter and his friends needed help.  Peter needed his dad.  

Jim Clarke, fifty-five years old, never hesitated.  He threw down the book he had been reading, seated beside his bride of twenty-four years, and headed into the water - 100 yards or so - to rescue his son and the sons of two other families.  Jim Clarke was a man who accomplished the things he set out to accomplish and he accomplished his solo rescue of three teenage boys.  He got all three of them to shore safely.  

As he reached the beach himself, however, and staggered out onto the sand, Jane Clarke knew what a wife knows by simply glancing at the man with whom she had built a life:  Jim was in trouble.  He collapsed.  A short while later he was gone.  Dead at the age of 55.   

How quickly can life change unalterably and irrevocably?  In less time than it takes to finish reading the chapter of a book.  You have all the time in the world?  No you do not.  Not today.  Not tomorrow.  Not ever.  

And since you cannot control time's quantity, you owe it to yourself to maximize its quality.  Not simply for yourself, but for those you love, those who love you, and those who occupy your day-to-day.  

Here, I pay forward the great gift that Michelle shared with me - and with anyone else who happened to see what it was she had posted.  Whether the image remains fixed in your mind's eye matters not as long as the message does.  It is the latter - and not the former - that is important. 


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Big Wheels and The Chief

Margaret's position on running is well-defined.  One time each autumn, she leads our Sue's Crew team in whichever breast cancer fund-raising race we participate.  Immediately thereafter, she puts her running shoes back into the closet for safe-keeping.  With her blessing, I purchased her a magnet that adorns the rear of her vehicle, which magnet bears a striking resemblance to this one: 

However, since we have been spending a lot of time at the beach, the Missus had been itching to get a bicycle.  This past weekend, we scratched that itch.  Ably assisted by a very nice young man at the Belmar Bike Shop, which is conveniently located on the corner of 15th and Main, the Missus transitioned from one who desired a bicycle to one who owned a bicycle within a span of approximately thirty minutes.  

I am more than a bit embarrassed that I cannot recall his name for he could not have been more helpful.  He found a bicycle for her that not only appealed to her aesthetically but also suited her physically - thus maximizing the possibility that she will be able to ride safely and comfortably.  He spent several minutes with her - after she had decided on the bike we were going to buy - ensuring that it fit her properly - and thereafter equipping it with the accessories she wanted.  

This weekend, into the rear of Margaret's Rav 4 we shall throw Joe's old beach cruiser bicycle, which has gotten an amount of use equivalent to Margaret's running shoes in the seven years or so since we purchased for him for Christmas, and which shall now serve as my mode of two-wheeled transportation in the greater Lake Como/Belmar metroplex.  The Missus is already counting down the days until she makes her maiden voyage on the Boardwalk in the early morning hours on Saturday. 

Me too.  


Monday, June 20, 2016

It's All About Soulstice

Spring bids us adieu today and makes room for Summer's arrival.  In my opinion, summer has some pretty big shoes to fill.  Around these parts, the season that is leaving us was pretty damn fine.   This weekend included.  

If summer is as spring was, then everything shall indeed be alright...


Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Quarter Of A Century Later...

It is Not a Lack of Love,
But a Lack of Friendship 
That Makes Unhappy Marriages. 
- Friedrich Nietzsche

First things first:  Happy Father's Day to all of my fellow dads out there.  Fatherhood is not the world's easiest gig.  It is, however, among the most rewarding and, much like everything else, it is something from which you extract as much as you give.  Give as much as you can.  After all, this is not a dress rehearsal.  No sense saving yourself for the next go-round.  

But I digress.

June 21, 1991 was a Friday.  I spent it eating dinner at Chan's Garden in Dunellen, a wonderful restaurant that long ago ceded its place on Route 28 to a Ping-Pong Palace, and thereafter, having a couple of drinks at Tumulty's Pub in New Brunswick.  I remember the night and where it was spent as clearly as I do because of the person in whose company I spent it.  It was on that night that Margaret and I went on our first date.

Two years later, almost to the day, Margaret and I got married.  Today is our twenty-third anniversary. While I am not a moron and do in fact possess more than a bare minimum of gray matter (excluding facial hair), I have yet to figure out exactly what the essence of the attraction is from her perspective. Proof of the fact that I am not wholly bereft of intellect is that I know better than to ever ask that question aloud.  

For a human being of few redeeming qualities, I have lived a life most fortunate.  I doubt seriously whether I would be here, today, staring down the barrel of "50" had I not met and fallen in love with my wife half of my lifetime ago.  I doubt even more seriously that I would have had any desire to be here.  

Thanks to her, I cannot envision anywhere I would rather be. 



Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Golden Sound of Silence

Miranda turned fifty on Monday.  No, not this Miranda but, rather, this one.  Shame on me.  I am embarrassed to admit - as a lawyer -that I did not know it shared its birthday with Mom.  Parenthetically, I hope my long-time friend, Randi Wichansky Leeson (who also shares a birthday with Mom), is suitably impressed by the fact that I have never forgotten that fact - and we have known each other for more than thirty years. 

Anyway, apropos of nothing, the other morning as I was spending a few minutes reading my "Morning Briefing" on my New York Times app on my phone, I came across a piece under the banner of "The Marshall Project" regarding Miranda and its effect on our nation's criminal justice system during the past half-century.  The authors of the piece, Samuel Gross and Maurice Possley, have written something that I found to be interesting and enlightening.  Perhaps you shall find it to be so as well.  In the off-chance that you might, the link to it is here.      

After you read it (or if you decide you cannot spare the few minutes needed to complete it), then take this Miranda quiz that Emily Hopkins of The Marshall Project created.  I am relieved to say that I answered all five questions correctly...

...which is damn sight better score than this poor bastard probably attained. 


Friday, June 17, 2016

Certain Things Are Set In Stone...

Summer shall not even officially arrive until after this weekend's departure and I already have plans for October's third Saturday.  I was very pleased to learn this week - courtesy of Head of School Andrew Webster and Director of Alumni Relations Rudy Brandl, the latter of whom I have known since he and Jill were classmates at W-H, that on Saturday, October 15, 2016, WPK, Sr. is going to be honored with The Wardlaw-Hartridge School Distinguished Faculty Award, which award is presented annually as part of the Alumni Awards Ceremony that serves as the final piece of the annual tradition that is Homecoming/Fall Fair.  

Whether the indomitable Joanie K will be able to trek north from Florida I do not know.  Mom has lived in Florida for two decades now and when she is in New Jersey in the heat of summer she shivers almost uncontrollably due to "the cold".  I fear that mid-October weather in the State of Concrete Gardens might be too much for her to bear at this point in her life.  Similarly, whether all six members of the Kenny Sibling Sextet shall be able to attend the ceremony I do not yet know. Gathering all six of us in the same place simultaneously is not easy to do.  It is sufficiently difficult in fact that I am hard-pressed to think of such an occasion actually occurring at any time subsequent to Dad's funeral.  Thirty-five-plus years passes by in an eye blink.

It is dangerous business in the Kenny family for one of us to ever propose to speak on behalf of all of us.  That being said, I am willing to risk the potential ire of my older siblings by stating that we appreciate W-H honoring Dad, who dedicated the last dozen-or-so years of his life to it and to the students he taught there.  He is, to my knowledge, the first person to be awarded this honor posthumously and I think, coming as it does more than thirty-five years after his death, his being so honored speaks volumes to the legacy he forged while he was there and the resonance with which that legacy has echoed - and continues to echo - through W-H's DNA for all of these years. 

Furthermore, not only am I proud of the fact that W-H shall honor Dad on October 15, 2016, I am doubly proud of the fact that he shall share that day with a staggeringly impressive array of honorees. The 2016 Class for W-H's Athletic Hall of Fame is comprised of Eloise Cordasco (Class of '81), Steve Maxwell (Class of '82), Ryan Hegna (Class of '99), and (because attempting to parse out the achievements of one from the other two proved to be an insurmountable task - and I know of which I speak for I am part of the Committee to whom that task was assigned) the 1980 through 1982 Golf teams.     

Last and by no means least, this year's Distinguished Alumna Award is being presented to a hero of mine in my profession who I have had the privilege and pleasure of knowing since we both called W-H home a generation ago.  The Honorable Bridget McCormack, Justice, Supreme Court of the State of Michigan (Class of '84) is this year's recipient of the Distinguished Alumna Award.  She is a lawyer who gives the practice of law a good name, which is far from an easy thing to do.  The fact that she does so is a testament to not just the lawyer she is, but the person.  

It has been said that one can tell much about a man by the company he keeps.  I suspect that somewhere WPK, Sr. is nodding his head approvingly - with the end of one temple of his eyeglasses in his mouth, no doubt - at the company he shall keep on October 15, 2016.  As is the case with each of his traveling companions, his place among their number is well-earned. 


Proof, perhaps that the walk's value can sometimes be measured by the length of time it took to complete...


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Little Anthony Has Nothing On Me

Remember the TV spot for Prince Spaghetti from forty years ago?

Little Anthony has nothing on me.   Sure, he spent his Wednesday afternoon running as fast as he could in order to enjoy a dish of his Mon's spaghetti. Me?  I spent the wee small hours of my Wednesday morning running as hard as I could...all so that I could see sights such as this...

Sun coming up over the Atlantic 
-17th Avenue Beach

...and this...

Belmar Supporting Orlando
- Silver Lake

...and this...

Fishing boat heading north in the ocean
- Shark River Inlet

Sorry, Anthony.  Not only did I get to complete my run wearing far cooler shoes (and ones more appropriate for running than the ones you wore) but, quite frankly, I can eat spaghetti any day of the week - not simply on Wednesday.  


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Close-Up View of the Life Aquatic

Did you know that The Go-Go's first got together almost four decades ago?  Did you know that this August, they are embarking on a month-long farewell tour?  As someone who thought they had gone away more than thirty-plus years ago, I am compelled to acknowledge that my answer to both of those questions was "No".  In the interest of full disclosure, my lack of knowledge in this particular area is not a source of embarrassment.

But I digress. 

I know not what your travel plans - if any - are for the Summer of '16, the start of which is marked by the Solstice's arrival next week.  Perhaps, you shall spend at least a bit of time away on vacation, which very well may be all you have ever wanted.  If you are not going away this summer - or even if you are - might I suggest that you spend a little bit of time - as often as you can - in St. John, United States Virgin Islands.  My promise to you is that getting there will be considerably less expensive than you could ever have imagined.  

One of my favorite folks, my long-time friend Dave Lackland, calls St. John home.  When one's expertise is in all things marine biological, it makes sense for one to live where the marine biological life is plentiful.  The neat thing for those of us who do not live where Dave lives and who are fascinated by what Dave does is that he has created a window through which we can look in on his day-to-day and see what it is he is up to...including what he has achieved merely while puttering around in his yard...

In case I forgot to mention it, Dave's yard looks nothing like mine - and I would wager nothing like yours either.  Where I have grass, birds, and bunny rabbits, Dave has water, fish, and lemon sharks. Included among them is one who apparently was born in the "Lackland Lemon Nursery" last year and who, this year, has returned to her birthplace to give birth herself.   Two of my favorite things about the video of the expectant mother that Dave has posted for the world to see are (a) the Latin knowledge that he drops; and (b) Mama (or perhaps better said, Expectant Mama) Shark channeling her inner Sean Penn. 

If your interest in St. John and/or in the Virgin Islands is now sufficiently piqued that you want to see the world beyond Dave's front yard, then he can accommodate you too - whether you wish to explore domestically or internationally.   There are any number of banal time-sucks on the Internet (present company included).  The time spent there (here) could be better spent getting a little education and enjoying sights and sounds that will relax you - and likely improve your outlook irrespective of how the rest of your day shall be spent.  I spend a couple of minutes every day watching the "Iguana Dave" channel on YouTube.  I heartily recommend that you do too.  

I have no idea how one says "time well spent" in Latin.  I reckon if I ask Dave, he will tell me. Maybe I will ask him tomorrow. 



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Listen To What Stevie Said..,

I spent Monday afternoon in Plainfield at a deposition.  On my way down to the deposition from Parsippany, I was able to pick up the signal of WFUV, which at 90.7 on the FM dial is the radio station of Fordham University, Dad's Alma mater.   During the noon hour, 'FUV airs a program it calls the "FUV Mix Tape", which is essentially an hour's worth of listener requests.  

In the afternoon of this past weekend's carnage in Orlando, Florida, Monday's "Mix Tape" was replete  with songs the listener intended to represent his or her attempt to not only comprehend what had occurred but to comfort those affected by it.   A number of interesting songs were played, including one of my favorite Stevie Wonder songs.  

The version of "Love's in Need of Love Today" below is the performance Stevie Wonder gave in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the nationally-televised telethon.  Almost fifteen years later, and we find ourselves face-to-face with yet another day on which we all need a little love...


Monday, June 13, 2016

The Rock of Joanbraltar

Today, the hero of my life, the bravest person I have ever known, celebrates her birthday.  The indomitable Joanie K is eighty-eight years old.  

The warts that I have accumulated over the course of close to a half-century on the planet belong to me and to me alone.  I own my mistakes, my shortcomings, and my failures.  She does not.  However, but for her example - including but not limited to her refusal to succumb to panic when her world imploded first in May, 1981 when Dad died and then again in March, 1983 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and was required to undergo an immediate radical mastectomy, my life would have followed a far different trajectory.  She was scared. I knew it.  She knew that I knew.  

Yet she never crumbled.  Everything I ever needed to learn about the distinction between fear, which can energize you, and panic, which can paralyze you, she taught me in those couple of years.  It was a lesson that I have carried with me every day since.  It is a lesson that I have tried to impart to my own two.  

It has been my pleasure and privilege to call myself "Joan Kenny's son" for almost fifty years.  I know not whether I have always proven myself worthy of that title.   I sure as hell hope that I have.  

She deserves nothing less.  

Happy Birthday, Maj!  


Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Winner of the Battle of Wounded Knee

It was one year ago, today, my father-in-law did something that I was against him doing:  he underwent total knee replacement surgery.  My objection to him undergoing the procedure.  At the time he was eighty-two years old.  Moreover his pain threshold is not exceptionally high.  I had serious reservations about whether he would commit himself to the post-operative therapy process, which is strenuous, tiring, and very, very painful.  

I am happy to reflect back - twelve months later - on just how wrong I was.  There were some rough days - as there always are when someone undergoes a process of rehabilitation from major orthopedic surgery.  But Joe never stopped working hard.  He never stopped listening to his doctors and to his rehab therapists.  And today, one year later, all of that hard work has paid off.  A life he thought had been forever taken away from him has returned.  

Well done Guiseppe.  Well done indeed.  


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Friday My Way

There are countless things about the practice of law that I like not at all.  However I am forced to confess that earning my living as I do permits me a certain amount of flexibility in terms of "where" I earn my living that would be unavailable to me in any number of other professions.  

I took full advantage of that flexibility again yesterday.  This time I cajoled the Missus into joining Rosalita and me in Lake Como.  We drove down late on Thursday night.  Friday morning I went for a run, we ran some errands, and then spent the day sitting on the beach. Margaret slept while I did the work I had brought with me.  The Firm tagged me for the vacation day I took, which is a bit of a joke in and of itself since I ended up making money for me - and for the Firm - while I was "off".  I care not.  I am lucky enough to work at a firm where I am entitled to more vacation time than I can use.   

Yesterday was my kind of work day.  The type of work day that almost makes law school worthwhile.



Friday, June 10, 2016

A Lifetime in Twenty Minutes

As we lurch into the back half of the second decade of the 21st Century, it has become something of a cottage industry for people of my generation and older to look askance at "Millennials", shake our heads in a sad, slow, back-and-forth motion and wonder, aloud, how it is they are the people we allege they are.  Far too often, for the not mutually exclusive goals of self-interest and convenience, we throw our metaphorical hands up in disbelief as if we are utterly at a loss to explain their perceived deficiencies and their shortcomings.  

We are the tellers of a tale and the architects of an artifice when we engage in such conduct.  While the self-reflective view is certainly unflattering, it is also unflinchingly honest.  For in significant part, they exist as they do because of us.  Not merely because we gave birth to them but, rather, because we gave them life - or more properly I suppose - we gave them a view of life so incredibly and inexplicably flawed that our feigned astonishment at their embrace of it is fundamentally and intellectually dishonest.  

If you doubt the veracity of these words, then consider these - reduced to writing and then read aloud in open court to a judge in a criminal case in northern California - by the father of the man who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman on the campus of Stanford University.  Respectfully, it appears as if - in the case of Brock Turner - not only did the apple not fall far from the tree, it appears in fact as if the apple dropped ever-so-gently from a low-hanging branch and thereafter remained nestled for all eternity in a protected spot on the ground immediately adjacent to the tree's base.  

To fully comprehend how utterly tone-deaf and obtuse the convicted felon (three times over) and his father are, consider not only Dan Turner's words but those of the felon, himself.    Brock Turner's statement is that of a person who was apparently taught at an early age to hone the skills of avoidance of responsibility and alibi-construction.  If the Boy Scouts gave a merit badge in these disciplines, then Brock Turner would have been well on his way to Eagle Scout by the time he was fourteen.

Being a father is about quite a lot more than the ability to procreate. Frankly, in certain cases - including my own - that ability has nothing to do with it.  My two, much to their relief I am sure, possess none of my DNA.  That fact however had zero to do with my responsibility to them as a parent.  The obligation to teach one's children well is not genetically-based.  

It is a father's responsibility to imbue in his son an understanding of right and wrong.  It is a father's responsibility to teach his son that Rule #1 of Life from which there can never be any retreat is this one:  A Man Stands Up.  A man stands up in support of those he loves.  A man stands up to fight for those things in which he believes.  A man stands up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves.  And a man stands up and accepts responsibility for his actions - especially when his actions are, at the very least, disappointing, and at their worst injurious to another.  

I am comfortable saying that Brock Turner apparently never learned that Rule of Life from his father, Dan.  Additionally, I am comfortable saying that he never learned it because dear old Dad apparently never deigned it necessary to teach it to him.  At this point in his life, it is reasonable to presume that it is a Rule the import of which shall be lost to Brock Turner forever.

I am the cynic in the room who emits the audible snort of derision whenever I am in the company of someone who proclaims himself or herself to be "changed".  In my experience, human beings rarely undergo any substantive, long-lasting change.  Human beings are animals.  Animals are creatures of habit.  Once behavior is learned, the human who has learned it is damn resistant to unlearning it. People engage in the same behavior over and over even though it has never garnered them any success because it is familiar to them.  Familiarity begets comfort.  The expression, "the Devil you know is better than the Devil you don't know" has attained cliche status for a reason.  It accurately embodies the "go-to" response of far too many of us far more often that we would be comfortable to admit.  

As a father, I am simultaneously heartbroken and outraged by what Brock Turner did to his victim - both on the night that he forcibly sexually assaulted her - and here again, more than one year later, when he assaulted her again in the context of his criminal trial.  Her Victim Impact Statement, the complete transcript of which the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office has posted on its website, is a brutal read.  It is, also, a must-read for anyone who for even one-half of one heartbeat bought one morsel of the Turner Family's "Woe is Us" routine.

In his tone-deaf statement to the court at the time of his son's sentencing, Dan Turner exhorted the judge to not reduce Brock Turner's life to "twenty minutes" as if one could not fairly gauge the entirety of Brock Turner's life by concentrating merely on the twenty minutes during which he sexually assaulted the unconscious woman upon whom he was laying - on the ground - behind a dumpster.  A sexual assault upon an unconscious woman, which was forcibly stopped by two male graduate students who happened to see what was going on while they were riding their bicycles in the area and who, upon seeing it, immediately pounced on Brock Turner to prevent him from running away (which he was attempting to do) and called 9-1-1 to get police and emergency medical personnel to the scene.

Dan Turner's plea is as intellectually dishonest as it is patently offensive.  It conveniently overlooked all that transpired in the almost eighteen months between the night on which his son committed his crimes and the day on which he was sentenced for them.  Not to mention the fact that it ignored a critical fact altogether, which I feel compelled to impart to Mr. Turner (old and young) so they do not continue to pay this particular example of their ignorance forward:

In a sexual assault, the victim is NOT the one who is straddling the 
unconscious woman on the ground beneath him trying to penetrate her
every way imaginable.  He is the PERPETRATOR.

Twenty minutes is indeed a snapshot.  However, Dan Turner, sometimes a snapshot is enough.  Every now and again, although the sample size is small in terms of its duration, it is substantial enough that the picture it paints is accurate.  Even when the look we get is as brief as twenty minutes.  As the song says, "I've seen enough, I don't want to see any more."  

Mr. Turner - speaking as one father to another - you failed abysmally when you failed to teach your son Rule #1.  He shall likely never learn it.  You have not.  Now, the least you can do is teach him how to Shut the Fuck Up.  Better yet, find a tutor, get a Groupon, and sign up for a group lesson.  It is a skill that you need as much as - if not more than - your son.