Sunday, July 31, 2016

98 Degrees...

...of separation between today and this day.  

Much to do between now and then to ensure that I am as prepared as I can be for this undertaking. A seven-mile training run is on today's dance card as the opening act of Week Three of the Sixteen-Week Training Program to which I hope to adhere.

With ground to cover and monsters to stomp, I am off.




-AK 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Gentrification of the Street...

"You'd be pissed off too if you just learned that
all of your human friends have been fired." 

It has been a number of decades since I have watched an episode of Sesame Street although when it was announced last year that it was going to move from PBS to HBO under the terms of a five-year production agreement, I was more than a little bit intrigued.  The prospect of Oscar the Grouch swapping garbage-hauling stories with Paulie Walnuts while Bobby Bacala explained the finer points of the money-lending business to the Count?  Are you kidding me?  That would have been must-see television.  And that is without even taking into consideration just how many tickle-fests Elmo might have gotten involved in at the Bada Bing.  

Alas, none of those collaborations has yet come to pass and - considering that Sesame Workshop has made it clear that I am forbidden from sending any more programming suggestions to it - or to HBO - they likely never shall.  Apparently, however, there are changes afoot on the Street.  Earlier this week, Sesame Workshop confirmed that three long-standing residents of its neighborhood have been evicted.  Bob McGrath ("Bob"), Emilio Delgado ("Luis"), and Roscoe Orman ("Gordon") have been fired.  McGrath has called Sesame Street home since the show's premiere in 1969.  Now, at age eighty-four, after forty-five years on the block, he has been informed that his services are no longer needed.  

For forty-five years, McGrath has asked the musical question, "Who are the people in your neighborhood?"  

These days on Sesame Street, for the first time ever, the answer to that question is, "I have no goddamn idea." 


-AK 



Friday, July 29, 2016

Life in the Heights

How we explain that when someone is cruel
Or acts like a bully, you don't stoop to their level.
No, our motto is, when they go low,
We go high. 
- Michelle Obama

The dueling carnival sideshows that were the National Conventions have folded up their respective tents.  I, for one, shall not miss them.  

I am a registered Republican.  I am not now - and have never been - a "party-line" fellow.  I am a pragmatist.  I vote for the candidate in whom I have the most confidence.  In 2008, I decided that candidate was John McCain.  In 2012, I decided it was Barack Obama.  Less than one hundred and twenty days remain until Election Day. At this point in the program, my candidate-related confidence is extremely low...almost to the point of non-existence. 

Monday night, Michelle Obama reminded me why - even when the system seems broken - it serves no purpose to walk around with one's head bowed, eyes cast downward in an effort to not trip over the lowest common denominator.  Go high or go home.  

Take note that the latter is not in fact an option.  

-AK 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Slice of Life

I took part in one of my favorite rites of summer last night.  For the seventh consecutive year, I ran (along with Gidg, Arnie, and a few thousand other sweaty lunatics) in the Downtown Westfield 5K & Pizza Extravaganza.  The 2016 Edition was the 15th Annual such get-together.  

It was, as it almost always is, stiflingly hot and humid conditions in which to run.  Better yet, it was - as it always is - one hell of a fun evening.  It is a remarkably well-attended event each year.  Once again, last night, enthusiastic crowds lined the course - including but not limited to the homestretch on Elm Street.  All things considered, I drove home last night from the race quite satisfied with my effort and the result it produced

It is my fervent hope that the good people responsible for this event's presence on the calendar continue to put it on for at least as long as I am able to participate in it.  They do excellent work for which I - and I would presume all of my fellow participants - am grateful beyond my ability to express.  


-AK 



Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Just a Couple of Searchers...

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. 
Live the life that you've imagined. 
- Henry David Thoreau

I have lucked into considerably more than I ever have had any right to receive.  I have spent a half-century honing my skills as an unrepentant asshole.  Consequently, and by way of a mutual-aid agreement, I have always been a man of few friends and/or close acquaintances.  I am happiest when the world is at least an arm's length away.  I might add - without even a whiff of surprise - that as I am fast approaching my fiftieth birthday I have yet to hear the world express a desire to get even a little bit closer.  Nor do I expect to ever hear such a request. It is what one might call a mutually-beneficial arrangement. 

In spite of myself, I have been married to one of world's great souls for close to a quarter-century. Her great accomplishment is saving me from myself.  Parenthetically, her motivation for doing so remains one of the world's unanswered questions.  

In spite of me - and believe me when I say that even if I was to ever learn immodesty what I am about to say is not being said in an effort to flex that particular muscle - Margaret raised two fine adult offspring.  Suzanne and Rob are not only a credit to themselves but to the world that each inhabits.  Each chose wisely and well when they married and paid appropriate attention to Springsteen's charge about the importance of selecting a good traveling companion.  Each has grown up to be a remarkably fine adult, an achievement for which they deserve - and the mother who raised them deserves - an incalculable amount of credit. 

Each of them - acting in concert with Ryan and Jess respectively - routinely displays extraordinary courage in the pursuit of their dreams.  Fearlessness without reckless is often times akin to a tightrope walk.  Each does it well and makes it look relatively easy in the process - a testament no doubt to just how hard they work at it...

...and the importance of never giving up on the search for the things that will come to them. 



-AK 


   

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Sons of Their Fathers...

While I did not watch any of the induction ceremonies from Cooperstown, New York on Sunday afternoon, I was not surprised at all to read in multiple media sources thereafter that the two-member class of 2016, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza, did themselves, their families, and the game that each loves so much and played so well proud in their speeches.  

Neither Junior nor Piazza played for a team for whom I root during their respective careers.  To the contrary, each man was for a time a principal nemesis of my beloved Bronx Bombers.  Yet, looking at each of them from across the field as it were I never felt anything less than admiration.  Each played the game with a great deal of passion and as a fan I never sensed that either left anything on the field at game's end, at season's end, or - when it came for each - at career's end.  Irrespective of what a person does to earn his or her living, I will always pull hard for - and defend to the point of hoarseness - the person who tenders a day's worth of honest work in exchange for a day's wage. 

I did not know - until I read it somewhere on Sunday night - that this dynamic duo shared a rather interesting characteristic relative to where each was chosen in the MLB draft.  Piazza - a 62nd round selection of the Los Angeles Dodgers - is the lowest draft choice ever elected to the Hall of Fame.



Junior, who was the #1 pick overall the year that the Seattle Mariners selected him - is the first-ever #1 overall draft choice to ever gain entry into Cooperstown.  Proof, I suppose, of the old adage that it is not where you start but where you finish that counts




Much is written - and with justification - about the "me-first" attitude of professional athletes.  The danger in painting with such broad brushstrokes is that it tends to obliterate the finer points and to make precise, detailed analysis exceedingly difficult.  We are less than two months away from the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.  In the aftermath of that horrible day, baseball's two newest Hall-of-Famers were among its most generous souls, giving help to those in need.  I most heartily recommend this video that MLB.com produced about these two players, the people affected by the September 11 attacks, and the way in which the lives of all concerned were profoundly and positively impacted by them getting to know one another.

Congratulations to each of them on an achievement that each plainly appreciated every bit as much as each deserved it.   


-AK 




Monday, July 25, 2016

The Old Man & His Sea

As the Missus and I were lounging by the water on Sunday morning, unbeknownst to us her hard-headed father was ankle deep in it.  Apparently at some point after 8:00 pm on Saturday night (when he got out of the shower) and 5:30 am on Sunday morning (when he tried to brush his teeth) the main pipe that brings the water from the street into our house broke.  

Joe - for reasons known only to him - opted to keep his Sunday matinee performance of "Old Man vs the Sea" to himself.  When I arrived home at about 2:30 in the afternoon, I found him wringing water out of a towel and into a garbage pail - in his fifth hour of knocking his brains out.  When I asked him  why he never called Margaret to let her know what had happened.  I am still waiting for the answer. 

With invaluable assistance from Ryan and Suzanne - including but not limited to the use of their Wet-Vac by the time Margaret and I went to bed last night we had restored the basement to its pre-aquarium condition.   And Joe?  Last night he slept like a baby.

Hopefully when he tried to brush his teeth this morning, the experience was decidedly routine.  

-AK

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Stella and Stewart

Today my sister Kara is celebrating her birthday.  Kara is one of the world's good souls.  She has never encountered a doubt which she has failed to extend the benefit.  She walks through the world with such benevolence that when the back half of the Kenny sibling sextet was entirely school-aged, Jill and I used to tease her that either she was adopted or Jill/I were deposited at the doorstep by the same wolf pack.  Stella - as she has been known for more than thirty-five years - is incapable of doing anyone a bad turn.  She is among the planet's easiest persons for whom to root.  If I comprehended the e-mail she sent me Thursday night, then she, Russ, and all three of their sons are spending her birthday kicking off their summer vacation.  May the birthday and the vacation both be excellent and joyous.  She deserves nothing less. 

In addition to Kara's birthday, today we celebrate Day Three, B.C. ("Between Conventions"), which sadly is the final day of this woefully under-appreciated three-day holiday.  Tomorrow the Democratic National Convention invades Philadelphia (as if the people of Philly do not have enough to deal with between watching the Phillies and facing the stark reality that Sam Bradford is the Eagles' starting quarterback).  Lord knows it will probably take Cleveland weeks to wash the stink of the Republican National Convention out of Quicken Loans Arena.  Buck up, Ohioans - you still have LeBron...and you no longer have Johnny Manziel. 

I did exact a measure of enjoyment out of the headlines I read last week from Cleveland positing that this year's GOP nominee had woken up the echoes (my homage to my favorite Crown Royal-toting former college football coach, once and future jagoff) of a three-time GOP Presidential nominee, Richard M. Nixon.  Each one possesses and/or possessed an extraordinary comfort level alighting from and hopping onto helicopters.  So there's that anyway. 

All of the talk about Nixon made me wax nostalgic for the paraphernalia that popped up in 1988. 




I realize that none of those three presently apply to the deceased Mr. Milhous. However, I was reminded late Thursday night that they all apply to a certain fellow left-handed Son of the State of Concrete Gardens: 


"He's Tan, Rested, and Ready!"
Stewart in '16 


To hell with Trump.  To hell with Clinton.  I know for whom I am casting my ballot.  The only one of the three who I actually trust.  

-AK 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Thank Goodness We Still Have Warner Wolf...

For those of you who might not be familiar with him, Warner Wolf has been an ubiquitous presence as a sportscaster in the New York television (and now radio) market for decades.  During his lengthy career he has been - at one time or another - the sports anchor on the evening news for the local ABC, CBS, and NBC affiliates.  Along the way, he coined several catchphrases, including "Let's go to the videotape!", which he parlayed into the title of his book.  





You may not have known that as of July 23, 2016 there is just one company in the world that still manufactures the VCR.  In the event a millennial happens past this space today, "VCR" is the acronym for "Video Cassette Recorder".  As it turns out, as of July 31, 2016 there shall be zero companies in the world that shall manufacture the VCR.  

Funai Electric, a Japanese electronics company, which has been the last man(ufacturer) standing in the VCR game, is ceasing production of them at month's end.  Apparently, given that no one else makes them (although apparently 750,000 of them were sold globally in 2015), Funai has had difficulty acquiring the parts needed to make the device.  Personally, I never suspected that a digital clock that does nothing but blink "12:00" on an eternal loop would be an impossible-to-find item.  

I reckon that in addition to Warner, we shall always have Garth and Wayne and their VCR game...




...it is fun for the whole family. 

-AK 


Friday, July 22, 2016

A Man. An Honor.

While the Missus and I sat soaking up the sunshine on the beach last weekend, I spent a few minutes scrolling through Twitter and came across a tweet that made reference to Donald Trump not being much of a reader.  I did not know whether the tweet was something that Mr. Trump himself had said or something someone else had said about him.  I subsequently learned that it was the former.  The GOP Presidential nominee has apparently acknowledged in several interviews that he is not now much of a reader- and never has been much of one.  

I must confess that I was a bit surprised to hear him say it - and I say that not to denigrate him or to offer some sort of pseudo-intellectual observation on how his stated lack of passion for reading allegedly reflects upon his intellect.  I am inclined to leave the denigration of each party's candidate to the other party (because when the choice is between two options, both of which are unappealing to a substantial degree the campaign is destined to be waged at the "I know you are but what am I?" level of discourse).  Furthermore, I do not ascribe to the theory that one's intellect and one's passion for reading invariably go hand-in-hand.  My own personal experience has taught me that is not true.  My wife, who is very bright, does not read for pleasure.  Neither does my son-in-law who is also a very bright person.  

On the other hand, I not only like to read, I need to read.  Although I have no better than a pedestrian ability to use it, I find language fascinating and derive a tremendous amount of pleasure from its good usage.  Although my preferred form of consumption is books - and non-fiction as opposed to fiction by a considerable margin - one of the things that I find most interesting about reading is that you can find good writing in an impossible-to-count number of locations, including those in which you might not necessarily think to look. 

Yesterday while I was eating my lunch at my desk as is my custom (huge surprise I am sure that I favor "lunch as a necessity" over "lunch as a workplace outing") I spent a few minutes perusing Richard Deitsch's "Tech & Media" column.    I enjoy reading his column for much the same reason as I enjoy reading Peter King's "The MMQB" on the same site.  Each is sports-intensive. Neither is sports-exclusive. 

On Thursday, Deitsch's mailbag included a question that asked him "What are the top five most essential pieces of journalism for a young journalist?"   He replied by noting that it is impossible for him to offer any single definitive list of simply five pieces.  He then provided the gentleman who posed the question with what he, himself, considers to be the greatest-ever magazine piece,  and his selection for the greatest piece of writing to ever appear on the pages of his present employer

I was most intrigued, however, by his third and final selection, which he categorized as a newspaper column that "many consider to be the finest newspaper column ever written".  The column was written by the great New York City newspaper columnist, Jimmy Breslin (to whom I owe an apology as I mistakenly believed him to be dead and initially identified him as "the late Jimmy Breslin".)  He wrote it in late November, 1963 for The New York Herald Tribune.  

Whether Breslin's column is in fact the finest such marriage of words and newspaper that history has yet to read I would not pretend to know.  Hell, I do not know how anyone could make such a determination.  I know for certain that I cannot.  I know - having read it - that I found it to be an extraordinary read.  It was an examination of a sequence of historical events - the assassination, funeral, and burial of President John F. Kennedy - with which almost everyone has at least a baseline understanding from a unique and fascinating perspective.    

I consider the time I spent reading it to have been time well-spent.  If you read it, then perhaps you shall feel likewise. 

-AK 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Long-Overdue Return

When I cued up the premiere episode, which aired on HBO two Sunday nights ago, I could not recall where or when I had last seen John Turturro.  Less than one minute into his first appearance as criminal defense attorney John Stone in "The Night Of" I no longer cared where he had been.

I was too busy appreciating the fact that he is back.  For six more Sunday nights anyway.

You might want to check him out and the rest of the show as well.  I have very much enjoyed the first two episodes, which have been - in my estimation - quite excellent.

-AK

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Magnificent Seven

I have empathy for Melania Trump.  She is neither a candidate nor a public speaker.  I know not how she ended up in the mess in which she found herself on Monday night after she paid homage to Michelle Obama by dusting off the eight-year-old speech that Mrs. Obama had originally delivered at the 2008 Democratic Convention and sharing it with the attendees at the 2016 Republican Convention.  I doubt highly that it was a situation of her creation.  Frankly, I could not care less.  If in this election cycle - the Autumn of our Electoral Discontent - your decision for whom to vote for whom to not vote turns on a speech made by a candidate's spouse then might I humbly beseech you to start passing around the pipe full of whatever it is you are smoking.    

I have significantly less patience for our Governor. Once upon a lifetime ago, prior to becoming our governor he was the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey.  In case you had either forgotten that - or perhaps has not been aware of that fact - he certainly went to lengths to make you aware of it during his speech on Tuesday night.  Nice to see that he and America's Mayor both graduated with honors from the Howard Beale School of Public Speaking.  Thus, when I heard him declare on Tuesday morning that Mrs. Trump's speech did not constitute plagiarism because only seven percent of her speech was not her own, I knew not whether to laugh or cry.

What a refreshing attitude from a former law enforcement officer.  Best of all, his "7%" rule has practical applications  as a defense to allegedly bad behavior both in the legal world ("Your Honor, my client cannot be sued for divorce on grounds of adultery as he was unfaithful to his wife only 7% of the time that they were married") and in the real world ("Gee, Mr. Kenny, I do not see why you are upset, when I rotated your car's tires I re-fastened all but 7% of the lug nuts").    

Nice to know the Governor grades on such a generous curve.  Upon hearing his comments on Tuesday morning, I could not help but wonder if his repeated denials about Bridgegate are 100% true or just 93% true.  After all, what is 7% between friends, right?   

His cronies' trial starts in September.  Stay tuned.  

-AK

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I Love This City But I Wonder If This City Loves Me

The most compelling piece of visual media you shall see this week is not a video posted by a member of the self-promoting Kardashian family, nor anything remotely linked to them, any of their spouses, or any of their enemies (arch or otherwise). 

It is this:

July 8, 2016 FB post of Police Officer
Montrell Jackson, Baton Rouge, LA PD 
KIA - July 15, 2016

Montrell Jackson spent roughly one-third of his life as a police officer in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana Police Department.  On July 8, 2016, seventy-two hours after Alton Sterling, an African-American man, was shot and killed by one of Officer Jackson's fellow officers in a parking lot outside of a convenience store, this thirty-two-year-old man who was black and blue and who was a husband and father of Mason, a four-month-old little boy, used social media for a worthy purpose.  

Less than seven days after Officer Jackson said what he meant and meant what he said on his Facebook page, he was murdered in the line of duty in Baton Rouge. On Sunday, July 15, 2016, a coward ambushed Officer Jackson, his colleague Police Officer Matthew Gerald and Deputy Brad Garafola of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Department (both of whom were Caucasian in the event that is important to you to know) and killed all three of them.   

Officer Jackson's sister, Joycelyn, after learning of her little brother's line of duty death said, "It's coming to the point where no lives matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or whatever."  

I hope like hell Joycelyn Jackson is incorrect.  

I am less than confident that she is.

A realization that scares me to my core.  




-AK 




Monday, July 18, 2016

Riding Out the Twilight Hour

I remember being richer than a king 
The minutes of the day were golden...
"The Sea Refuses No River" 
-  Pete Townshend

Yesterday morning as I took my first training run for the 2016 New York City Marathon, I saw a lot of sights I always enjoy seeing when I run, such as the sun coming up over Lake Como and how the ocean looks as the sun begins to climb over the beaches in Spring Lake and Belmar. 

Sadly, I also saw a sight that I have seen on too many occasions, which sight I never like to see.  As I ran north along the boardwalk in Spring Lake, a Coast Guard helicopter flew over my head (also heading north) towards Avon.  That in and of itself is not necessarily unusual, inasmuch as every so often I see them doing exercises or training runs.  However, yesterday morning, the helicopter reversed course and headed south towards Spring Lake - at a significantly lower altitude.  The helicopter then doubled back, again, and started heading back towards Avon.  On this swing north, however, it dropped down to an altitude of less than fifty feet off the water and - rather than heading straight north - began moving in a pattern that from the boardwalk looked to my untrained eye an awful lot like a grid search.

I wrapped up my run on the boardwalk at 17th Avenue in Belmar.  When I completed it, I looked out towards the water and saw that a Coast Guard ship had joined the helicopter.  The only time I have ever seen that happen is when the Coast Guard is not conducting a training exercise but, rather, when it is running a recovery operation.  


It is a disturbance to the universe's natural order whenever a parent is forced to bury a child.  I did not know this young man.  I do not know his parents.  It matters not.  My heart breaks for them.  


-AK



Sunday, July 17, 2016

Standing in the Middle of Nowhere...

...wondering how to begin. 

Today is Day 1/Week 1 of the sixteen-week marathon training program whose purpose is to prepare me - to the fullest extent possible -for the challenge that is the 2016 New York City Marathon.  For better or for worse, at this point in my life, having undertaken this endeavor on at least one-half dozen previous occasions, I know precisely how to begin this particular task. 

Five miles today.  Only four hundred and nine more to go between today - July's third Sunday - and November's first Sunday.  Piece of cake.

Make mine carrot.

Mr. Davies, if it is not too terribly much of an inconvenience, please sing us out...


-AK 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Like a Lemon to a Lime, a Lime to a Lemon

Was it not just Memorial Day?  Today commences the back half of the summer of '16.  We have already passed the halfway point of July.  It never ceases to amaze me the speed with which time moves.  As I get older, I cannot help but notice that its pace is not simply fast, but frighteningly so.  

Thus far, I have very much enjoyed this summer.  The Missus and I have found much happiness in our little Paradise by the Sea.  I have zero interest in speed-dialing my way through the second half of it.  

That being said, I am pleased that on Thursday morning, I purchased two tickets for a November college hoops game at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn.  My beloved Buffs are coming east, which they rarely do, and playing in a tournament right before Thanksgiving in which the other three teams are Northwestern, the University of Texas, and Notre Dame.  As luck (whether good or bad shall not be known for some time) would have it, on Monday, November 21, which is the tournament's first night, CU is playing Notre Dame.  

A lifetime ago, a gentleman who has become one of my favorite people (a designation that subjects him to wide-spread condemnation to be sure), Jeff Swanson, and I began our careers at the Firm together.  Our first day was January 5, 1998.  In the almost twenty years since Day One, each of us has left the Firm although my departure proved to be temporary whereas his has proven not to be.  For years I tried to prevail upon him to return but my efforts were unsuccessful.  Last year, I gave up on him and instead recruited his wife, who is a legal secretary, to join us instead.  Presently, Laura works at the Firm for one of my partners. 

Jeff is a Notre Dame alumni.  Back in the day, I used to refer to him as a "Double Domer", in consideration of the fact that his undergraduate degree and his law degree were attained under the watchful eye of the Touchdown Jesus.  Over the years we have ribbed each other (somewhat mercilessly at times) over the athletic exploits or foibles (depending on the facts then and there presented) of each other's alma mater.  

Thus, when I saw that CU shall play ND in our backyard (metaphorically speaking anyway), I immediately reached out to my pal, Mr. Swanson, to see if he wanted to attend the game, which he did.  One less-than-three-minute transaction later, I had purchased two tickets for November's game. 

I am telling myself that irrespective of the outcome, it will be a hell of a nice night, simply hanging out with a long-time friend, watching college basketball.  Just in case, however, I found a site on-line where I could obtain a DVD copy of the 1995 Fiesta Bowl.  

If the Buffs lose in Brooklyn, I will give it to Jeff for Christmas. 




-AK  

Friday, July 15, 2016

You Cannot Spell Hell Without H L

Democracy is the theory that 
The common people know what they want
And deserve to get it good and hard. 
 - H.L. Mencken

And on a not entirely unrelated programming note, the Republican National Convention invades Cleveland, Ohio beginning on Monday, July 18 with the Democratic National Convention to similarly set siege to the City of Brotherly Love one week later.  

Cleveland sports fans, fear not.  While Tim Tebow will be within the geographic boundaries of your fair city next week, he will not be taking part in training camp with the Browns.  Rather, he is in town to speak at the RNC.  Professional golfer Natalie Gulbis, who is at least as well-known for her curves as she is for her swing, will also be among the luminaries (giving that word its broadest possible definition) from the sports world speaking at the Convention.  

Absent from the roster, however, is "Mama Bear" Sarah Palin.  Ms. Palin reportedly expressed concern regarding how long it would take her to travel from Narnia - or whatever fucking fantasy world she inhabits - to Ohio.  In all likelihood, she is far too immersed in her current Pokemon Go game to step away from it in order to travel halfway across the country. 

Too bad the RNC is not being held this summer at Putin's joint.  That is a much easier commute from Camp Palin.  Hell, she can practically see Vlad's house from her front porch.  On the other hand, the long flight from Alaska to Ohio would have given her ample time to catch up on her reading. I would think that when one reads all of the newspapers every day, one needs to set aside quite a block of time in which to complete that task.

Do not chortle too mightily, good people of Philadelphia.  The other side's circus comes to your town in ten days and if you thought Sam Bradford was a grumpy old crank, wait and see what happens if Senator Sanders does not get as many of his ideas included on the Dems' platform as he hopes to achieve.  

In the words of the great man himself, "Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good."

Can I get an Amen?





-AK 


Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Gospel According to Valvano

Yesterday, as I was driving home from a day spent working down in Toms River, I flipped on 98.7 on my car's radio.  It is ESPN's New York station.  I had not known that yesterday was ESPN's annual ESPY Awards show, which the radio station apparently promoted all day.

I had not known yesterday was the ESPYs in large part due to the fact that I cannot recall the last time I had watched the show.  And, in the interest of full disclosure, I did not watch it last night either.

But yesterday afternoon I happened upon the audio of Jim Valvano's speech at the 1993 ESPY show, which he made while shoulder-deep in the battle against the terminal cancer that would kill him less than one year later.  Twenty-plus years after I had first heard them, Valvano's words once again brought tears to my eyes.

Two days ago, I learned that a man who has been a friend to me and a mentor to me for too many years for me to count has just received a devastating diagnosis.  Evidence - as if any more is necessary - of the inherent unfairness of life.  When I listened to Valvano's words, I thought of my friend.



As I shall do often.

-AK

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I've Got Another Confession To Make...

I do not have the first goddamn idea what Pokemon Go is but if I encounter a person older than the age of eighteen participating in it, most particularly any adult whose pursuit of this particular entertainment at places such as Arlington National Cemetery and the National Holocaust Museum to  issue an admonition against playing it while on their premises, I very well may punch him or her in the throat.  

Enjoy your Wednesday.  

-AK

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Summertime on the Midway

'Cause tonight I'm gonna take that ride,
across the river to the Jersey side,
take my baby to the carnival, 
and I'll take you on all the rides...
-"Jersey Girl" (Tom Waits) 

The 2016 Summer Olympics shall begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in less than one month.  The United States Olympic Team shall feature incredibly skilled young men and women from all over the nation. Included among their number shall be a pair of sixteen-year-old Jersey girls. 

Sydney McLaughlin, who shall begin her senior year at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey in September, is among the most highly-decorated track-and-field athletes that New Jersey has ever produced - and we have produced more than our fair share.   It takes longer to list all of her record-setting accomplishments than it does for her to complete the 400 meter hurdles, which is the event that she shall compete in as a member of Team USA in the Olympics.  

On Sunday night, at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, young Ms. McLaughlin crushed the World Junior record (athletes 20 years of age and younger) in her event, running 54.15 seconds (the former world-record time was 54.40 seconds) to place third at the Olympic Trials.  Truth be told, she is not accustomed to finishing in third place but even though her spot on the podium was a couple of levels lower than usual, it fit her beautifully for it secured for her a spot on the team.  She is the youngest American track-and-field Olympian since 1972.    And in case you missed her Olympic-berth-qualifying race on Sunday night, you can watch it here. Or, if you prefer, you can perhaps simply rely upon these good folks who watched the race at the Stage House Tavern in Scotch Plains (the man with the clean-shaven head is my favorite) to let you know exactly how she well she performed: 


The U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team shall, also, include a Garden State dynamo.  Laurie Hernandez is a sixteen-year-old gymnast from Old Bridge, New Jersey who is one of the five gymnasts who earned a starting spot on the 2016 Olympic squad.   Among the disciplines in which she excels is the floor exercise, which might explain why she looks completely at peace in this photograph, which appears to show her effortlessly tilting her head all the way back as if she is checking for a piece of gum on the bottom of her left foot - while in midair (!) - without a care in the world.  

The star of this year's American team is Simone Biles, who at eighteen years old is the only female gymnast to ever win three consecutive All-Around World Championships.  But if Old Bridge's pride and joy can rise to the occasion - as she is apt to do - the United States might be well-positioned to celebrate a team victory as well as any individual triumph young Ms. Biles might enjoy.  And if you doubt for one moment whether Laurie Hernandez is ready for her close-up, rest easy.  She most certainly is:




Presently, neither Sydney McLaughlin nor Laurie Hernandez is of legal driving age here in the State of Concrete Gardens - although the former shall celebrate her 17th birthday in early August.  If they should find Olympic success in Rio, neither of them will likely have to drive herself anywhere for quite a while.  During a parade up the Canyon of Heroes, the person getting honored rides on the float.  She does not drive the car... 

...not even when she crosses the river to the Jersey side. 



-AK 

  


Monday, July 11, 2016

Running Through The Raindrops

This year's Belmar Five Mile Run - the 40th edition - had a significantly different feel to it than earlier years' editions.  Typically the weather on race day is hot and steamy.  Not this year.  Light rain fell throughout the race, which did two equally fine things for those of us who ran in it.  It held down the heat.  It made the air breathable.   

Whether it was the weather, the presence of the New Jersey Marathon's Rookie of the Year, Brooke Menendez running with me, the promise of post-race Bloody Marys at Bar A or a combination of all of the above I know not.  All I know is that for the first time in a very long time, I completed the race in less than forty-three minutes.  And I had a hell of a lot of fun doing it.  

Margaret and I had a terrific week at the Shore - one excellent day after another.  Saturday certainly held up its end.

Pleased to report that I did likewise.  

-AK

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Sweet Sorrow of Parting...

As is the case with all good things, today the "Summer Vacation of '16" must come to an end.

Fortunately, unlike the last vacation the Missus and I took, this one's final day shall not feature (a) my locking the car keys inside of the rental car; (b) a cancellation of our flight home - from a foreign country; (c) a 'substitute' flight back to the United States that landed us at an airport approximately sixty miles away from the airport from which our flight home to New Jersey was scheduled to depart less than two hours after we landed at the first airport; (d) a bribe to a Miami taxi driver to ensure that we completed the trip from Miami to Fort Lauderdale in less than sixty minutes; and (e) Margaret having to cry us out of the general security line and into the TSA expedited security line in order for us to make it to our gate before our plane pulled away from it without us.

Today, all we have to do is navigate our way through northbound traffic on the Garden State Parkway on a summer Sunday afternoon.  Never the most pleasurable of experiences but nothing to be confused with one of the Twelve Labors of Hercules. 

Well, not on most Sundays anyway.  I suppose that by dinnertime tonight we shall know better on which side of the line today's trek falls. 

-AK 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Taking the Fifth in Belmar

Today is one of my favorite days of the summer.  It is Belmar Five Day.  Today, at 8:30 am, a couple of thousand hardy souls will line up at the intersection of Second and Ocean Avenues for a five-mile trek through the streets of Belmar.  This year is the 40th anniversary of the race.  

The Belmar Five does not get the hype that its Memorial Day running buddy, the Spring Lake Five Mile Run, does but for my money - while both are terrific events - today's five-mile race is the harder of the two.  The weather this morning shall likely be what it is every year for this event:  Jersey in July.  It shall be seasonal (a/k/a unpleasant).  It is its degree of difficulty that makes the Belmar Five a permanent part of my calendar and that of many other runners as well.  

Here's to the next forty years.  

-AK

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Feast of San Guiseppe

Guiseppe ends his mini-vacation this morning.  Early Wednesday morning, Margaret and I picked him up in Middlesex and brought him down to Lake Como with us so he could enjoy a bit of time at the beach.  While his time at the shore was brief, by all objective indicia he enjoyed it very much.

And at day's end, life is best viewed as a qualitative exercise rather than as a quantitative one.  By that system of measurement, his time with us at our little Paradise by the Sea was time well-spent.

For us as well as for him.

-AK




Thursday, July 7, 2016

In Honor of Charles Bruder

Spring Lake has one hell of a way of celebrating a centennial.  July 6, 2016 marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Charles Bruder.   

On July 6, 1916 Charles Bruder, a twenty-seven year-old bell captain at the Essex and Sussex Hotel, which is located on Ocean Avenue in Spring Lake, went for a swim on his lunch break.  Bruder went into the Atlantic Ocean where he was attacked by a shark.  The shark bit him four times.  Bruder died of his injuries.

The attack on Bruder was one of the attacks that occurred within a twelve day period in New Jersey, which attacks served at least in part as the inspiration for Peter Benchley's Jaws.  A book I love that served as the inspiration for one of my all-time favorite movies.  

Last night, Margaret, our friend Tom Swales, and I sat on the beach in Spring Lake and watched Jaws  on a big screen.  I have seen the film too many times to count but had not seen it on a big screen since the first time I saw it, which was almost forty years ago.  

Man, do I love vacation.  One hell of a way to spend a Wednesday night.  

We did not even need a bigger boat...

-AK

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Life in a Small Town

Vacation is zipping along at far too fast a pace.  Wednesday already.  A testament perhaps as to just how well it is being enjoyed.  

The Missus and I immersed ourselves in Lake Como yesterday.  The town. Not the body of water.  We went to Boro Hall shortly after it opened - after having first stopped by recycling - in order to pick up the permit for our front porch, which will be completed by this time next month.  

Last night we went back to Boro Hall for a special workshop that Mayor Wilton and the Boro Council held a special workshop regarding a proposal to change traffic patterns on several of our roads in order to address the perpetually frustrating problem of the significantly greater number of cars that are in town on summer weekends.  Margaret and I opted to do what we deemed was prudent,  which was to listen to the statements of our fellow residents without offering comment.  The comments were interesting - although there were a number of them with which I did not necessarily agree.  The process itself was interesting.  I am appreciative of the fact that Mayor Wilton and the Council allowed their fellow residents (a/k/a their constituents) an unlimited amount of time to express our points of view.  

Go on vacation, learn something anyway.  Not a bad gig.  Not a bad gig at all.  

-AK

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Monday in America

I hope that you and yours had a safe and happy 4th of July holiday weekend.  Margaret and I enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided to not end it.  In a manner of speaking anyway.  The Missus and I opted months ago to take this week as our week's vacation at our little Paradise by the Sea.  Rain is featured prominently in today's forecast but thus far I certainly have no complaints about the weather.  It has been perfect for doing a whole lot of nothing and thus far that is what we have done. 

Well, that is not entirely accurate I suppose.  I have done a considerable amount of running and Margaret and I have gone of daily bike rides - including an almost twelve-mile round trip trek to Club Kizis in Manasquan yesterday morning.  I know not whether going on bike rides with my wife will help me get my legs in shape for the 2016 New York City Marathon but four months from tomorrow I shall have my answer. It matters not.  I really enjoy them.  And Margaret appears to enjoy them as well, which at day's end is really all that matters. 

Monday's run took me north into Convention Hall in Asbury Park at which point I looped back - running south along the Boardwalk - to home.  

Sunrise coming up over 17th Avenue Beach
Belmar

Sun coming up over Shark River Inlet
Belmar

Bradley Beach

Madame Marie's 
Asbury Park

Beach sign - Asbury Park
(Good to know about the single-stream recycling)

After I made it home, the Missus and I got on our bikes to ride the almost six miles south to Lynne's home in Manasquan - which we completed with Margaret adorned in her Lady Liberty ensemble. 

Yankee Doodle Margaret

Overall, a good holiday here in 'Murica...



-AK






Monday, July 4, 2016

The Ministry of Paine

"You know that flag flying over the courthouse
Means certain things are set in stone.
Who we are, what we'll do and what we won't." 
- Bruce Springsteen 

America celebrates its 240th birthday today.  Happy Birthday to us.  Right?  Today is the first Monday of July, which means that tomorrow is the first Tuesday following July's first Monday. Approximately four months from now, on November 8, which is the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November, we the people of these United States shall elect a new President.  Barring something heretofore unforeseen occurring at one or both of the upcoming Conventions, the choice shall be between two candidates who are equally unpalatable to a sizable percentage of the electorate. 

An election to fill what it arguably the most important leadership position not just in this country but in the world has been reduced to a discussion of which choice is the "least worst" rather than the "best".  Ask not how we arrived at this moment in our history.  Rather, look at your reflection in the mirror as well as the faces of those with whom you interact on a day in, day out basis and do something that we the people of these United States are loathe to do in this, the 21st Century:  Accept responsibility for it.   Generally speaking, all of us has had a hand in this - albeit some at a level that dwarfs that of many of the rest of us.  Whether through action or through passivity, however, our Ship of State is sailing the course upon which we have steered it.  

"These are the times that try men's souls."  So wrote Thomas Paine two hundred and forty years ago, referring to the times in which America was born.  His words may be almost a quarter of a millennium old but he makes a point as prescient as if he had written them this morning.  Unless one's postal code is Utopia, then one has lived at least a portion of one's life in times that try men's souls (and women's souls as well).  America's Republic is a political organism that always looks better when viewed through the rear-view mirror of history than it does as it is being experienced in real-time.  

We are the nation of The Greatest Generation, The Great Society, and The Summer of Love.  We are, however, also the nation of The McCarthy Hearings, Mississippi Burning, and Watergate.  We are not merely the nation of ticker-tape parades up the Canyon of Heroes.  Such events are as much a part of our history as are riots that erupted across the country in Watts, Detroit, and Newark.  We are Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the pastoral home of the Little League World Series.  We are also Ferguson, Missouri, which not too terribly long ago represented the nadir of our national third rail, race relations.  

The Poet Laureate of Freehold once implored us to, "Show a little faith, there's magic in the night." Thus far, through two hundred and forty years of our American Experiment, regardless of the corner into which we have painted ourselves, we have been able to conjure up enough of the night's magic to eradicate ourselves.   This November, the presumptive nominees atop the national tickets are - for my appetite at least - decidedly unappetizing.  This is not, however, the first time in our history we have been forced to consider between two unappealing alternatives.  Even in these most trying of times, I have a little faith - in the rapidly-aging man whose face stares back at me in the bathroom mirror every morning and in a representative cross-section of the rest of us - that we shall rise above these limited choices.  We must endure them, survive them, and learn from what it was that permitted them to be thrust upon us.  We cannot allow them to define us. 

We owe it to those who came before us.  We owe it to those who shall come after us.  We owe it to ourselves.  

We owe it to that flag flying over the courthouse...


...long may it wave.



-AK 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Toujours Au Danger



Slightly less than seventy-five years ago, things looked fairly bleak for the people of these United States.  America's participation as a combatant in World War II began on a sun-drenched, Hawaiian Sunday in December, 1941.  As openers go, Pearl Harbor was an almost unfathomably difficult defeat from which to respond.  

Almost.

On April 18, 1942, less than six months after the Japanese sneak attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor had crippled America's naval presence in the Pacific,  Eighty men - flying in sixteen B-25 Flying Fortress Bombers that took off from the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet - launched an aerial attack on Tokyo and other Japanese cities located on the island of Honshu.  The mission's goal was not to end the war, but, rather to disabuse the Japanese of the notion that they were invincible. 

To borrow a phrase from the great American poet, Michael Tyson, 



After five-plus months of getting pummeled, America punched Japan squarely in the face on April 18, 1942, courtesy of the heroics of Lt. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle and the other seventy-nine Raiders. Sadly, time takes a toll on everyone and everything.  Doolittle's Raiders are no exception.  Seventy-four-plus years after those eighty men risked their lives to throw a punch, only one of them is still alive.  Dick Cole of Comfort, Texas, who was Doolittle's co-pilot in the No. 1 Bomber, is the last of the Raiders.  He shall be 101 this September.    

The penultimate Raider died less than two weeks ago.  David Thatcher was the Engineer and Gunner on the No. 7 Bomber, nicknamed "The Ruptured Duck", piloted by Ted Lawson.  In April, 1942, Sergeant Thatcher was the only member of his five-man crew who was not seriously injured when Lawson had to crash-land "the Duck" near a beach in China's Zhejiang Province and it was Thatcher who saved the lives of his crew mates by convincing the local Chinese guerillas to move the injured men inland to safety - and medical care.  

David Thatcher was ninety-four years old when he died on June 22, after having suffered a massive stroke on Father's Day.  He is survived by his wife of seventy-plus years, Dawn, and three of the couple's five children.  The Thatchers' son Gary, a U.S. Army Medvac, was killed in action in Vietnam in 1970 when the helicopter he was in crashed.  Brain cancer killed the couple's daughter, Debbie, in 2009.  

A single moment of daring.  Indeed it was.  And in that moment, everything changed.  Food for thought on this Independence Day Eve?  

I hope so. 



-AK  






Saturday, July 2, 2016

Of Course I Went to Law School...

I'm troubled. I'm dissatisfied.  I'm Irish.
- Marianne Moore

Every day of my life, I am the third act of Ms. Moore's trilogy.  On far too many days, I am the first two as well.  Not today however.

For today, my Irish ass as well as the rest of my "prone to burn if not protected by a sufficient amount (a/k/a "A LOT") of SPF-50 Sunscreen" self is on vacation.  Proof, perhaps, if of nothing else then that even dissatisfaction needs a holiday. 

To borrow a phrase from the late, great Warren Zevon, "I'll see you in the next life.  Wake me up for meals"... 


-AK

Friday, July 1, 2016

Equivalencies

Here's a fun fact (I can actually see my daughter Suzanne rolling her eyes in anticipation of what is to come):   July 1st in a leap year is literally and figuratively the mid-point of the year.  It is the 183rd day of the year and 2016 has one hundred and eighty-three days left in which to delight, amaze, and terrify us.  

In the movie of our life that plays on a continuous loop in our mind's eye, it may well seem as if it was just last night that we were raising a glass to - and singing wistfully of - old acquaintances.  Nope.  It was considerably longer ago than that.   I sometimes wonder why champagne appears to be the beverage of choice when one has a toast to make given that champagne's arguably two most readily-identifiable characteristics, which are the way in which is spills forth out of the bottle upon the cork's ejection and its effervescent bubbles that rise immediately to its surface before bursting and disappearing, define its fleeting nature.  On second thought, perhaps I have just answered my own question. 

Whether one views life as a sprint, a marathon, or a race of some as-yet-undetermined middle distance, it is a race in which time neither slows nor stops, irrespective of whether presently you are enjoying it or it is, instead, trying your soul.  It waits for no one.  Not today.  

Not ever. 

-AK