Saturday, December 31, 2016

Rooting for the Whimper

Not with a bang but a whimper...
- T.S. Eliot

I would be willing to wager - given the way in which 2016 conducted itself from the moment at which it arrived (or so it seemed) - no one would be heard to complain if it was to exit the stage in the manner Eliot suggested.  I, for one, certainly shall not. 

2016 was a Leap Year and in retrospect perhaps the planet would have been better served had we leaped directly from 2015 to 2017.  Perhaps.  Perhaps, however, seeing as we are still at least shin deep in '16, it is too early to fairly assess its qualities.  Perhaps, when viewed through the prism of history - as its predecessors have been - a better appreciation for it shall develop.  

Perhaps.

Wherever and however you mark the end of one year and the commencement of another, please do so in a manner that increases the likelihood of you being here with the rest of us in 2017...

...and increases the likelihood of others being here with those they love as well.  

Au revoir, 2016.  


-AK

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Calculus of Courage

Courage is not the Absence of Fear
But rather the Judgment that 
Something else is more Important than Fear.
- Ambrose Redmoon

Not every hero killed by the events of September 11, 2001 died on that horrible day.  Tragically, what happened on that Tuesday morning continues to claim lives, including the lives of the heroic men and women who responded to the scene that morning - and for countless days thereafter - initially in an an effort to assist survivors and, thereafter, to recover those who did not survive. 

Bill Fearon of Cedar Grove, New Jersey graduated from the New Jersey State Police Academy in September, 1994, and had been a member of the NJSP for slightly more than seven years when he responded to Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan to do what he could in the recovery effort.  His work there ultimately cost him his life. 

In 2015, following a MRI of his brain that revealed a spot on his left frontal lobe, Lieutenant Fearon was diagnosed with glioblastoma.  The diagnosis, which might have devastated a lesser individual, merely stoked the fighter in Lieutenant Fearon, who steadfastly refused to back down from it and who refused to allow it to define him.  "No Fear" was not merely something that adorned a rubber wristband.  It was his mantra.  It described how he lived his life and how, even when he was up against it, he dealt with his disease. 

On Wednesday, December 28, 2016, Lt. Fearon lost his fight.   At just forty-nine years of age, he is survived by his wife, Janice, and the couple's three children:  Ryan, Elyse, and Jessie.  Tomorrow, on the final day of what has been an unkind year worldwide, and particularly so in their little corner of it, his family shall gather for the immeasurably sad business of laying him to rest.


Lt. William G. Fearon, NJSP
9/3/67 - 12/28/16

"Every day I put my feet on the ground and I look forward to winning.
This is the mindset that I have. It's about living without fear."
- Lt. Bill Fearon, NJSP

-AK 
  


Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Habit of Excellence

We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act,
But a habit. 
- Aristotle

Tonight, deep in the place where "the stars at night are big and bright", the Colorado Buffaloes football team shall attempt to do something that it has already done this year on ten occasions.  It shall attempt to win a football game.  After a decade-plus of wandering in college football's wasteland, Coach Mac's Buffaloes shall do their level best, tonight, to have an Alamo (Bowl) worthy of remembrance. 

In San Antonio this evening, the Buffaloes shall line up against a very-talented opponent (and an old conference rival from Big 8 and Big XII days), the Oklahoma State University Cowboys.  Mike Gundy, the Okie State coach, was the Okie State quarterback three decades ago when I was a student at CU.  My memory of him as a player is that he was tough as hell and talented to boot.  His coaching career has proceeded very much along the same trajectory, and like many of us, he has encountered his share of interesting moments along the way, albeit not too many nearly as "interesting" as this one...




A number of young men for whom I have spent the past four or five Autumns rooting are playing their final game tonight as Colorado Buffaloes. It is a collection of young people who arrived in Boulder as children, endured an almost-unfathomable amount of hardship and disappointment as athletes, and have swum through a veritable river of shit only to emerge safe, sound, and on the bank on the river's other side. For the majority of them, tonight shall be the final time they take the field and participate in an activity they have played - and hopefully enjoyed - since they were small children. While I shall root enthusiastically for them tonight - as I have done for the last thirty-plus years and I really, really want them to win the game, I hope that each of them emerges from tonight's contest uninjured and - regardless of the outcome - proud of the effort each has put forth simply to have made it to this particular place at this particular time.   

One last time with feeling, gentlemen.  One last time with feeling. 




Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Answer to the Question "Who Is That Girl?"

Carrie Fisher died yesterday in a California hospital, one week after suffering a heart attack while aboard a flight that originated in London, England and landed in Los Angeles, California.  She was sixty years old.  While she is forever etched in cinema history and in the mind's eye of the movie-going public as Princess Leia in the Star Wars movie series, the first film-related thought I had of her yesterday when I heard the news of her death was not this one.  It was this one: 




Her "Mystery Woman" is in "The Blues Brothers Movie" for not very long at all but she is, nevertheless, an integral part of the film.  The daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, the latter of whom she wrote (describing the way in which he left his wife and then-young daughter for Elizabeth Taylor), "My father was best friends with a man named Michael Todd. Mike Todd was married to Elizabeth Taylor.  Mike Todd died in a plane crash, and my father consoled Elizabeth Taylor with his penis,"  was not a woman who suffered fools lightly, on screen or off.  

She could write, she could act, and - being a great deal braver than a lot of us (regardless of our birthright or our gender), she could talk about her own mental health struggles and her drug-and-alcohol-dependency-related demons in a way that liberated her and helped countless others.  

Her death leaves a void, not because of the roles she played but because of the life she lived.  If you went to sleep last night, feeling as if you had sensed a disturbance in the Force, then take solace in the fact that you were not alone. 

And if you think that she and Bruno Kirby were off-the-charts good together in "When Harry Met Sally", you are not alone. 




Here is to hoping that the two of them, wherever they are tonight, find a place to grab dinner together and renew an old, wonderful acquaintance. 


-AK  



Tuesday, December 27, 2016

An Impermanent Thing


A glimpse, by definition, is an impermanent thing.
- Cash  ("The Family Man")

Christmas is now two days behind us, in the rear-view mirror and fading from view, a bit more every day.  Soon, the feeling of "Christmas" in the air shall give way to the bitter cold of January and February.

We, the people, have spent the past thirty days wishing one another well.  Tidings of comfort and joy and all that.  Is it a fact that, as a general rule, people seem to be nicer to one another between Thanksgiving and Christmas?  Or is it simply a perception?  Does it matter?  Perception becomes reality, after all.  

The test of our mettle is approaching fast.  January shall be here by week's end.  In less than thirty days, the most obnoxious Presidential campaign in this nation's history shall culminate in the inauguration of our 45th President, an occasion heralded and feared in equivalent percentages.  What lies beyond Inauguration Day remains to be seen. 

You must remember this:  A glimpse is just a glimpse.  And a lie is still a lie.  

Shall we be merely impermanent or something altogether different...  




...as time goes by. 

-AK 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Happy Monday!

I do not take a great deal of time off from work - even on holidays - but today is one such example. I shall take advantage of the fact that most of the world is on "holiday" today by doing so myself. Sort of, anyway.  I brought some work home upon which I shall spend at least a piece of my morning.  Nothing masquerading as heavy lifting. 

This weekend was nothing short of extraordinary.  Today, with nothing too involved on the docket, will serve as a nice transition out of a Christmas weekend that was nothing less than an elixir for the soul and back into the work week.  

A four-day work week.  

Fa la la la la, la la la la...

-AK 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Art of Wishing Carefully

My father is dead a very long time.  If one wanted to use "A Christmas Carol" as one's frame of reference, this past May marked the "Fifth Marley" anniversary of his death.   

Not surprisingly, given that I was a couple of months past my fourteenth birthday when he died, WPK, Sr. and I had little relationship at all at the time of his death.  We spent the final eight or nine months of our shared time here circling one another like two dogs in a cage, a direct result of an incident that occurred the September before he died.  He did something to me that fourteen-year-old me considered to be unforgivable, which was of course something for which he never intended to seek my forgiveness. He never apologized.  I never forgave him.  And then, he died.  I am more than a little embarrassed to admit that at least a small part of me contemplated whether he did so to spite me - and never offer me the apology to which I felt entitled.  Sue me for such a thought.  I was fourteen and I was seriously pissed off.      

Irrespective of the evisceration of our relationship during what proved to be the final year of his life, we spent a sufficient amount of time together that I picked up more than a few things from him along the way.  In addition to my passion for the New York Rangers, I also inherited his love of "It's A Wonderful Life".  I cannot recall how old I was the first time I watched it with him but I recall him, at movie's end, telling me that Frank Capra's film taught an important message, which Dad informed me was, "Be careful for what you wish."  




For better or worse, being WPK, Sr.'s son has helped shape the prism through which I view the world and its inhabitants for the better part of fifty years.  The further removed I get from the relatively-brief time that we shared, the better understanding I acquire of certain things that he did and that he said.  

None better, perhaps, than what he meant about the importance of wishing carefully.  As a child, both when I still believed in Santa, and afterwards, when I knew that Dad was the overweight, white-haired gent responsible for delivering my Christmas bounty, my annual Christmas list was a massive undertaking.  Jill used to handle the prioritizing of requests for me.  There was at least one year when my list was more than fifteen pages, ranging from "Must Have" to "Could Probably Live Without, But Why Risk It".  And truth be told, other than my parent's refusal to buy me the Army Men set that was advertised on the back cover of every comic book I ever read as a child, I made out more than OK.  

I have not been a child for a long time and, long ago, to cite the great James McMurty, I put away childish things.  I no longer have an extended list of wishes, Christmas or otherwise.  Quantity is not important.  It matters not.  It never has.  It shall never be a substitute for quality.  Breadth shall never be a substitute for depth.

Choose wisely.  And, today, if fortune has smiled upon you and has permitted you to spend the day in the company of at least one of the people who you love most of all in the world and who, too, loves you most of all, then all that you need is already within your grasp. 

Squander it not. Never forget that while he had the most money, Henry Potter was not the richest man in town. 

Merry Christmas...

    

-AK 





Saturday, December 24, 2016

I Bid You Pleasure and I Bid You Cheer

And the families scurrying to their homes,
As the sky darkens and freezes,
Will be gathering round the hearths and tables,
Giving thanks for all God's graces, 
And the birth of the rebel Jesus.
-Jackson Browne

Today, for the first time since Christmas, 2016, the Missus and I shall occupy the same space as our adult offspring and their spouses.  If you had me in the Secret Santa, then feel free to return whatever it is you purchased for me to its store of origin, I have all that I want for Christmas.

Margaret is Italian.  For the past quarter-century-plus, Christmas Eve has been the focal point of our little family unit's Christmas celebration.  Once upon a lifetime ago, Margaret used to provide tactical support to her mother and her grandmother as they spent what seemed to be forever putting together a menu that would be summarily devoured in mere minutes.  Neither of them ever seemed to mind a bit.  In fact, I think both of them enjoyed just how quickly all of the food they had worked days to prepare simply disappeared.  

In the seven years since Suzy B. died, her death occurring only ten months after Nan's, the Christmas Eve celebration has taken on a bit of a different vibe. As the generation of Bozzomo grandchildren got older, they did what young people tend to do - embarked on careers, got married, and - in some cases - started a family of their own.  The past two years, we gathered at Frank's restaurant so that all eight grandchildren, their children, and their spouses, could spend Christmas Eve together in a space large enough to accommodate the ever-growing tribe. 

Life has progressed to the point, for all concerned, where Christmas Eve had become the only night of the year in which all of us saw one another.  It has also progressed to the point where the adult grandchildren, including those with children of their own, find it increasingly difficult to all be in the same place on Christmas Eve.  Logistics trumps love.  

This Christmas Eve, the Missus, Joe, and I shall be home on Howard Avenue.  Suzanne and Ryan (and Leo) shall be with us.  Rob and Jess shall be with us too.  While I shall miss not seeing Frank's branch of the Bozzomo family tree, I am very excited that Jess's parents, Denise and Joe, and her brother, Joe, shall join us.  Family is family, whether by blood, by marriage, or simply by Life's circumstances.  We are, tonight, where - if the world would even pretend to be fair for just a moment - everyone could be, whether celebrating Christmas Eve or the first night of Hanukkah, which is home.  

For me, I am fortunate enough to be precisely where I am supposed to be.

May you, too, be so fortunate.   




-AK 


    

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Ballad of the True Believer

We have arrived, finally, at the day before the night before Christmas.  I know not whether it is irony or coincidence that its arrival corresponds with what the calendar displays as the traditional end of the work week.  I know simply that inside the Firm's four walls, the number of people working and the volume of work being produced have both become more and more attenuated as we have navigated our way through this week from beginning to end.  

I have no idea now few fellow travelers will be at work today.  My secretary is off until after the first of the new year, having apparently embarked on the "Twelve Days of Christmas Vacation" program. Her final work day of 2016 was December 21.  With her or without her, work needs to be completed - and it shall be.  Once upon a lifetime ago, it felt as if the pace of the practice of law slowed a bit during "the holidays".  That is most assuredly not the case this year.  Merry Christmas to me, I reckon. 

Greg Lake died earlier this month.  He apparently had been battling cancer for quite some time and, as it does an infuriating percentage of the time, it ultimately prevailed, which it did on December 7, 2016.  He was sixty-nine years old.  

Full disclosure demands that I acknowledge that I have (at best) a rudimentary knowledge of his work in Emerson, Lake and Palmer and even less knowledge of the work he did in King Crimson. I enjoy very much however, Lake's contribution to the pop/rock music world's catalog of Christmas music, "I Believe in Father Christmas", which he wrote, he said, as a song in protest against the commercialization of Christmas

While I am not a huge fan of pop/rock Christmas music as a genre (Mariah Carey's voice sets me off on a quest to find a throat to punch), for as long as I can remember I have liked Lake's song. For me, as I suspect it is for most people who enjoy it, the payoff is found in the song's final lines... 

Hallelujah, Noel.  
Be it Heaven or Hell, 
The Christmas we get,
 We deserve.  

A truth, the provability of which, is not confined to a single day on the calendar or to this particular day.  A truth that is not, of course, absolute.  Frankly, I do not believe that Lake ever suggested that it was.  Exceptions that prove the rule, however, are far too easily found.

In August, Mark, a man who I had known since we attended the same high school three-plus decades ago died, tragically, in a house fire, which fire also killed his elderly/infirm father, who lived with him.  Mark's son, who is now halfway through his freshman year of high school, and Mark's daughter, who is still in elementary school, certainly did not deserve a Christmas without their dad and their grandpa.

And far closer to home, a family I love with all of my heart is dealing with a set of circumstances that has both broken my heart and reinforced my position regarding the absurdity of the belief in some all-powerful, benevolent deity.  The hell that they are presently enduring is wholly and absolutely undeserved.

So, if you are fortunate enough this year to be experiencing a Christmas that is "Heaven", work very hard to not fuck it up...

...whether you deserve it or not.  



-AK 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Pledge of the Pachyderm



Never was a Babar fan.  Snooty-ass elephant strutted around all over the goddamn place wearing a crown and a three-piece suit while calling himself, "King".  Who exactly died and made him King?  And how in the hell does he tie that idiotic bow tie? 

No, sir.  For my money, Horton has always been a far more compelling elephant.  He is just a simple-minded, pure-hearted, lovable lug who wanders through life sans crown, three-piece suit or bow tie and does just fine for himself, thank you very much.  Babar may be some type of half-assed monarch but Horton is the embodiment of all that is good about an elephant.  Plus, he has a far cooler mantra. 

I shall spend at least a considerable portion of my day, today, in the Union County Court House.  As is my custom and practice, given that this morning's outing represents my final pre-Christmas court appearance, I shall wear my Looney Tunes Christmas Tie, which Rob picked out for me from a rack located right next to the register at the Stern's in the Middlesex Mall on a December day almost twenty-five years ago.  


While it is not much to look at it, it is in fact 100% silk, since polyester-tainted neck wear (much like the Lord) and I have an understanding, which is that it spends no time in my presence and I respond in kind.  I do not pretend to be a clotheshorse. However, I am quite persnickety on the subject of ties.  If I had a dollar for every hideous tie I encounter on my fellow white-collar professionals on a day in, day out basis, I could afford to sleep through the alarm at least two times a month.  This morning is the one occasion each year on which I relax my rule, which I do so that I may honor my promise. 

The fact that Rob probably has no recollection of me having made him this particular promise and an equally low level of interest in whether I honor it, matters not.  On the "Human Scale", I traditionally score fairly low.  I have innumerable failings, including those that make me not always the easiest person with whom to interact.  That being said, among my few redeeming characteristics is the diligence with which I honor my word.  It might be simply because I am a dork but I believe quite solemnly in the concept of "A promise is a promise".  I made it.  I honor it.  It is just that simple. 

It is the pachyderm's burden I suppose to have a memory that does not allow you to forget.  Then again, maybe not.  It is, after all, an honor to emulate Horton.  He is, after all, kind of my hero...

...and not solely because of the size of his head.  Although to be clear, the head size helps.  I cannot lie.  It really does. 

-AK       




Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It Is All About Soulstice

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, 
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, 
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, 
it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, 
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
 -“A Tale of Two Cities” (Charles Dickens)

Dickens was not describing the Winter Solstice but he very well could have been.  Its arrival on the calendar today heralds the official arrival of Winter.  It is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.  Those of us lucky enough to call the state to which POTUS-Elect Trump has banished the Not-So-Little Author Who Could Not are likely to see only nine to nine and one-half hours of daylight today.  

Winter is my least favorite time of year.  So it will likely surprise you that I bear no ill will towards the Winter Solstice.  I do not because although it paves the way for the arrival of January and February, it serves a far more significant, more benevolent function.  

Today is the day that shall serve as the base upon which days containing an ever-increasing amount of daylight shall be built, which construction effort shall culminate in the arrival of the Summer Solstice six months hence.  Much in the same way that Sarah Palin can kind of, sort of see the Soviet Union from Alaska (the real question is how she sees anything with her head buried permanently up her own ass), from my vantage point today, while Summer is still too far away to make out any discernible details, its outline can nevertheless be seen.  One simply has to gaze as far and as long as one can towards the horizon. 

If you want to catch a glimpse of it today, you best not dally.  It will be dark soon.  Very, very soon.

Fear not.  There is a way out of the darkness.  

You just have to follow it...


-AK 
    


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Old Haunts and New Productions

The Missus and I made the annual pilgrimage to Princeton on Saturday night, accompanied by the parents-to-be, to see McCarter Theater's production of "A Christmas Carol".  As I mentioned in this space on Saturday, 2016 marks a brand new production of the show, which Margaret and I have turned into a Christmas tradition in our house over the course of the past six or seven years.  Were the decision mine to make, I would not have revamped the production.  I found this new iteration left me wanting in comparison to its predecessor.  

Although I am change-resistant and a notoriously tough grader on such things, I was not alone in my assessment of the evening's entertainment.  Suzanne and Margaret shared my opinion, and in order to be certain that I did not cloud either's perspective, I did not offer my two cents on it until after each of them had done so.  Ryan, playing the role of Dentist #5 in every Trident commercial ever made, spoke up on the new production's behalf.  He is not alone, my son-in-law, in his praise of this production, as evidenced by not only the rave reviews it has received but also by the response to it by the overwhelming majority of the people who were in attendance on Saturday night. 

While the show did not move me as it has in years past (every other time I have seen it at McCarter), the trip to Princeton to see it is one that I am confident we shall not abandon.  Before the show, the four of us ate dinner at the simply terrific Witherspoon Grill, which is located just up the block (or two) from Joe's old haunt, Lahiere's, the former home of which is now occupied by "Agricola".   

I had not been on Witherspoon Street since Joe sold the building and closed Lahiere's doors, which happened slightly more than six years ago, which is why I did not expect to see the restaurant's landmark sign still affixed to the building, which it is, looking very much the same way it does in this photograph.  



As we drove up Witherspoon to Nassau Street on our way to McCarter, I could not help but smile. For a moment at least, I felt as if I was in an old, familiar place.  The interaction was fleeting.  The effect was not. 

-AK 


Monday, December 19, 2016

A Toast from a Prisoner and a Hostage

Had WPK, Sr. lived to see today, then he would be here to mark the occurrence of his 93rd birthday. He did not.  Therefore, he is not.  

He died at age fifty-seven.  He died thirty-five and one-half years ago.  I was fourteen when he died. His death taught me volumes about the finality of death.  It taught me that those things that are unresolved and unsaid - at some point in time - become irrevocably so. 




In February, I shall be fifty.  In May, presuming everything that has gone well to date continues to do so, I shall become a grandfather.  

And through it all, I shall be then what I am now, which I have always been, which is my father's son.

Not for better nor for worse.

For life.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

WPK, Sr.
12/19/23 - 05/31/81

-AK 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Danger of Exceeding the Recommended Daily Dosage

Yesterday was a real "first-world problem" day at the Kenny hacienda.  Early yesterday morning, the Missus inadvertently washed her iPhone with a load of whites.  It turns out that Apple's technology is apparently waterproof only in the presence of colors.  Who knew?  Well, truth be told, we both sort of suspected it.  

Our efforts at rescuscitating her iPhone5 proved unsuccessful, although we put a considerable amount of white rice to good use in the undertaking.  We drove over to the Verizon store at the Bridgewater Commons Mall, which opened for the day (those lucky ducks) at 8:00 am and at which we arrived at or about 8:06 am.  We were incredibly well-assisted by a young man named Paul.  Memo to Verizon: Clone Paul.  He knew his stuff, was friendly, and showed one hell of a good sense of humor.  Your company - or any company for that matter - can never have enough Pauls. 

Margaret left the Verizon store with an iPhone7 and a rather crushed outlook.  The two minutes or so during which time her now-former phone was doubling as a submersible at the bottom of our washing machine apparently fried it (although we still have it fermenting inside of a bag of uncooked rice, just in case).  Paul was not able to get it to power up at all, which made it impossible for him to retrieve her contacts or her photos from it.  The Missus had apparently never paid a great deal of attention to the ceaseless reminders Apple sends about backing up her phone so, unless and until we can jumpstart it for even a moment, whatever photographs she had on it are gone forever. 

One apple a day may very well keep the doctor away, but a two-Apple day made my wife very, very sick.  Heartsick...

...for which medicine, modern or otherwise, has no cure. 

-AK 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Date With Ebenezer

This evening, we make our annual pilgrimage to mid-nineteenth century London in order to spend some quality time with Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Crachit, Tiny Tim, and the ghost of Jacob Marley.

Margaret and I have been going to McCarter Theatre to see its production of "A Christmas Carol" for the past six years.  The past couple of years, Suzanne and Ryan have joined us.  All four of us are going together, again, tonight. 

This year, however, McCarter Theatre is debuting a brand new production of "A Christmas Carol". As someone who is notoriously resistant to change, I find this more worrisome than exciting.  I loved the production that we have seen every year to date and I especially love the fact that we have made our trip there into - for lack of a better term - a Christmas tradition.  If this new production is not "annual pilgrimage" worthy, then it will likely deliver the kill shot to that tradition. 

No pressure, Ebenezer.  No pressure at all. 

-AK 

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Time of the Season

Christmas is now less than ten days away.  'Round here, it is brutally cold, which I suppose is one indivisible of Christmas.  It is one without which I could easily do. More candy canes. Less polar vortex. 

Limited shopping days and bitter cold temperatures are - generally speaking - solvable and if you know anyone for whom the latter is not a problem solved without help, then docnotvbecshy about stepping in and playing the part of a solution.  It may be the best, most important gift they ever receive. 

Bear in mind too in this "season of joy" that for any number of people it is something decidedly less so.  Life can be no less horribly unfair in December than it is during any other time of the year. In fact, given the general tenor of the world at large around Christmas, it can seem substantially more so. 

Be careful out there...

-AK

Thursday, December 15, 2016

In Consideration of the Source


- Rick Perry (July, 2015)


- Rick Perry (July, 2015)


- Rick Perry (May, 2016)


- Rick Perry (December, 2016)


From cancer to savior in eighteen short months.  Had Trump University offered a single course to its students that produced such a remarkable result, then perhaps our POTUS-Elect would not have agreed to pay $25 Million to settle the fraud cases that had been filed against it

-AK   

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Reading from the Book of Howard

Has it been forty years already?  Where has the time gone, Howard Beale, where has it gone?




Michael Stuban spent thirty-five years as an employee of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, and on Thanksgiving Day, 2016, he retired from the PTC as a mid-level manager.  As part of his retirement from the PTC, Mr. Stuban was required to complete a Exit Questionnaire, which he did. He was required to forward his completed Exit Questionnaire to the PTC's Human Resources Department, which he did.  He was not required to provide his completed Exit Questionnaire to his fellow employees, supervisors, and the Commissioners.   He did.   

Having read the article, which included excerpts of an interview with Mr. Stuban, and his completed Questionnaire, methinks that Sean Logan, Chairman of the PTC, doth protest too much. Whether the source of his discomfort grows out of his resemblance to certain of the remarks Mr. Stuban wrote in his Exit Questionnaire, or out of his annoyance about what he perceives as being the PTC's internal business being aired publicly, or out of something altogether different, I neither nor nor pretend to know.  Personally, I read a number of Mr. Stuban's comments as not being merely critical but as constructive criticism.  I also smiled at his self-deprecating assessment of himself as "an average" employee.  

For at least the next thirty-eight days or so, Michael Stuban has the right to speak freely, which is all he did.  Nothing more.  Nothing less. He owes no one an apology for exercising it, including but not limited to Chairman Logan and the Commissioners of the PTC. 

That being said, while I do not know how often the now-retired Mr. Stuben intends to drive on the Pennsylvania Turnpike but, were I him, I would review my monthly EZ-Pass statements very, very carefully. 

-AK  

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Askance Through The Looking Glass

Good for the tuna.
- George Costanza

Is it just me or to date have the POTUS-Elect's Cabinet (and other not-quite-Cabinet-level) choices left you with the unmistakable imprint of "Costanza" on your tongue's tip? 


With selections including a nominee to be Secretary of the Interior who may very well have a January 21, 2017 appointment at a D.C. tattoo parlor for a tramp stamp that says, "Drill, Baby, Drill!" and a nominee to head up the Environmental Protection Agency who believes that climate change/global warming is a fairy tale and whose personal mantra appears to be, "Fuck the Environment!", it is surprising - nay, stunning - to me that Mr. Trump has nominated a platoon's worth of retired Generals to positions including Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security, and National Security Advisor.  In the World of the Donald, Cat Stevens, the Dalai Lama, or - perhaps - Tim Tebow would have seemed to be a logical occupant of a place on the short list for any of those three gigs.

I must admit that a small part of me continues to wait - with equal-growing amounts of anxiety and anticipation - for Ashton Kutcher to emerge from stage left at one of the POTUS-Elect's staged gatherings to announce that Mr. Trump has "Punk'd" all of us, prior to the latter sharing the actual list of nominees and appointees with the nation.

Truth be told, I agree with Mr. Trump on one thing:  I do not find Alec Baldwin's work on SNL as a Trump imitator to be particularly funny.  But then again, I do not find Trump, the Original's work to be quality entertainment either. 

And unlike the Original, I can simply ignore whatever Baldwin does without suffering any consequences whatsoever.   

-AK   

   





Monday, December 12, 2016

The Frank Cross Chronicles

Christmas is now less than two weeks away - as is Hanukkah.  Temperature-wise, it is certainly beginning to feel a like like Christmas in these parts...or like winter at the very least.  In terms of weather, is there any vortex other than a Polar Vortex?  Asking for a friend.

The Missus spent most of yesterday running around, shopping and visiting, which meant that I was left unsupervised for significant portions of the day.  This time of the year that is not as frightening a proposition as it would be in the Spring.  You know, even I pay a bit of attention to the whole "making a list, checking it twice" business.  Even if - in my case - it falls under the heading of "the ship has already sailed". 

With Margaret out and about yesterday, I watched one of my favorite movies, "Scrooged", which is Bill Murray's take on A Christmas Carol.  These days, maybe, just maybe, we can all use a bit more of this sentiment than perhaps we once did...




-AK 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Bad Ass and The Hero

To sit back and let fate play its hand out and never influence it
Is not the way Man was meant to operate. 
- John Glenn

If somewhere in Hollywood, Steven Spielberg, Joss Whedon, Christopher Nolan, or J.J. Abrams conjured up a character who did all that John Glenn did, skeptics and cynics would likely deride the character for his apparent lack of realism. And someone would undoubtedly criticize the casting decision.  Truth be told, what actor could convincingly play such a role?  

Fortunately for all of us, Hollywood did not need to conjure up a character like John Glenn.  His mother and father created him, all on their own, in Cambridge, Ohio, on July 18, 1921.  The life he lived, which ended a little less than halfway through its ninety-fifth year on December 8, 2016, was beyond remarkable.  

No less of an authority than Tom Wolfe, author of The Right Stuff, which was written about John Glenn and his fellow Mercury 7 astronauts, referred to him as, "the last true national hero America has ever had."  Irrespective of whether one agrees with Wolfe, it is impossible to argue against the rationale for his position.  Glenn, a United States Marine, served his country in World War II and, again, in the Korean War, as a combat pilot, during which service he flew one hundred and forty-nine missions.  Not a bad prelude for becoming, at age forty, the first American to orbit the Earth, and thereafter a four-term United States Senator from Ohio.  For good measure, in 1998 (almost four decades after his first trip), he returned to space as a member of the crew on the Space Shuttle Discovery.  

He was the dictionary definition of a "Bad Ass".  And, yet, he was so much more. 

John Glenn is survived by his two adult children and his wife, Annie Glenn, who is ninety-six years old.  John and Annie knew each other practically their entire lives, having grown up together in New Concord, Ohio, from time that they were little enough to share a playpen, which they apparently did on numerous occasions.  The two dated while in high school and in college, married on April 6, 1943, and remained married for the entirety of the rest of his life.  While he was the "all-American boy" as a teenager, Annie struggled with a crippling stutter, which was categorized as an 85% disability, because 85% of the time when she opened her mouth in an effort to speak, she could not manage to make the words come out. 

He, the man who did everything and more, never hesitated to say "Annie" when asked who he considered to be his greatest hero.  His adoration for his wife stems from her relentless, ceaseless pursuit of a cure to her disability, which she finally attained at age fifty-three, courtesy of a physician in Virginia.  I would commend to your attention this beautiful piece that Bob Greene originally wrote in 2012, and which appeared again on CNN's website following John Glenn's death, about an American Bad Ass and the hero who he called his wife.  It is extraordinary.  

As he was.  

As they were. 

As she is.      

Godspeed, John Glenn...  


-AK 



Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Renewal of Acquaintances

I hope to set aside a bit of time today to watch at least a bit of the Army-Navy Game.  Kickoff from Baltimore is set for 3:00 PM.  The Midshipmen of Navy come into today's game riding a fourteen-year winning streak against their brothers in arms from West Point.  


Even without their starting quarterback and starting slotback available for today's contest (both players sustained season-ending injuries in Navy's loss to Temple University in last week's AAC Championship Game), the Middies are 11.5 point favorites.  

In the past twenty years, Army has managed exactly one winning season in football.  They come into this afternoon's game with a 6-5 record and a chance to guarantee themselves a winning season regardless of however they fare in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on December 27, 2016 where they will get a rematch against North Texas, who defeated Army 35-18 at West Point in late October.

Army has played this season with a heavy heart.  On the weekend on which the Cadets defeated Rice at home to start 2-0, sophomore cornerback Brandon Jackson died in a single-vehicle accident.  His teammates dedicated the season to him.  They have spent the autumn playing for him as well as for each other.  Senior linebacker Andrew King tells the story much better than I can.  I recommend that you spend a few minutes and read this piece that he wrote for The Players' Tribune. 

And if your schedule permits, I recommend that you spend at least a few minutes today watching the Army-Navy Game.  Irrespective of the team for which you cheer, it shall be time well spent.

-AK

Friday, December 9, 2016

That Which Is Impossible To Tether

If the decision was mine to make
& Time was mine to tether,
I'd take a picture of this moment now
& freeze this frame forever...

We are reminded daily of the impossibility of tethering time.  If it could be tethered, then benevolent souls such as Rashaan Salaam would be forever twenty years old and blessed with an ability to dazzle us in a manner that often appeared to be effortless.

Rashaan Salaam - November 19, 1994
CU v. Iowa State 

Rashaan Salaam, forty-two years young, died on Monday night.  He was found in a Boulder park, approximately a mile - and a lifetime - away from Folsom Field.   Although the cause of death has not yet been officially announced, his family has disclosed that members of the team investigating it have told the family that a suicide note was found near his body.  Apparently, he battled depression for a significant portion of his life.  Tragically, depression won.  Today, in Boulder, his family and his friends shall gather to say farewell to him.  

I graduated from Boulder three years prior to Rashaan Salaam's arrival on campus.  I never saw him play in person.  Sadly, I never met him.  Everything I have read about him, both prior to his death and in the past several days since his death, painted a picture of a wonderfully gifted, exceptionally humble man who loved the game he played but not the spotlight that was deservedly shown upon him for the manner in which he played it.  

The Salaam family now apparently has joined the ranks of American families required to deal with a loved one's suicide.  Included among them are families who I have known for most of my life.  It is a pain with which no one should have to deal.  Yet, far too often, another family does.  



-AK




Thursday, December 8, 2016

Take A Moment, Please

I cannot even muster up the energy to pretend to be surprised by the POTUS-Elect's selection of this man to be the person in charge of the EPA.  Honestly, given his selection of this man to be this nation's Attorney General,  Pruitt's selection to be EPA Administrator is frighteningly consistent.  If an enemy of justice can be chosen to be the chief enforcer of this nation's laws, then why cannot an enemy of the environment be chosen to run the Environmental Protection Agency? Good news for the EPA's employees, your fleet of government-issued Prius hybrid vehicles is about to get shit-canned in favor of a fleet of Hummers.  Enjoy the ride! 

But I digress.  

When the Missus and I were down at our little paradise by the sea this weekend, I overheard some people talking about a car that the police had found abandoned on the Route 35 bridge in Belmar, which spans the Shark River and connects Belmar to Neptune City, in the wee small hours of Saturday morning.  Officers and divers from various agencies conducted a land and water search for any occupants of the abandoned vehicle all day on Saturday before calling off the search at or about 3:00 P.M.    

Authorities have determined that the driver of the vehicle is Sarah Stern, a nineteen-year-old girl from Neptune City, New Jersey, who was last seen driving away from her family's home in Neptune City on Friday night, shortly before midnight, in her grandmother's Oldsmobile 88, which would be found abandoned in Belmar approximately three hours later. As I write this, no one (family, friend, etc.) has reported any contact from her since she slid in behind the wheel of grandma's car on Friday night.

Media reports have described Sarah Stern as being 5'5" tall and weighing 130 pounds.  I have not seen any reports anywhere of what she was wearing when she was last seen.  The Monmouth County Crime Stoppers program is offering a $5,000 reward for information into her disappearance.   

Take a moment today to not only keep a good thought for Sarah Stern, her father, and her family, but also to share information about her with anyone and everyone you know, especially if you live as I do in the State of Concrete Gardens.  

Monmouth County Crime Stoppers Poster
Sarah Stern, Age 19

Your time and assistance are both appreciated very much. 

-AK 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

In Furtherance of Our Righteous Might

There is a Land of the Living
and a Land of the Dead, 
and the Bridge is Love, 
the only Survival, the only Meaning.
- Thornton Wilder

As of today, the Bridge that connects Pearl Harbor to the present spans seventy-five years in length. Incredibly, it is a post that remains manned by more than one hundred nonagenarians.  Seventy-five years ago, these young sailors and soldiers survived an ambush attack that killed 2,403 Americans, an attack that brought an inexorable, abrupt, and irreversible end to their youth.  

For some of them, including then-sixteen-year-old Vito Colonna, the war that began at Pearl Harbor carried them through a tour of places that were figuratively Hell on Earth, including Iwo Jima. 

On December 8, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Address to Congress requested a  Declaration of War upon the Empire of Japan.  From that day forward through the dropping of the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945, America was at war.  It was a war fought - as wars inevitably are - by young men.  Rare is the statesman or leader who - upon instigating a conflict or being drawn into one by an enemy - actually does the fighting, the bleeding, and the dying.  

Seventy-five years after one of this nation's darkest days, we find ourselves mired in a national state of gloaming as the amount of heavy gray in the skies above us depends upon one's political point of view - perhaps more than at any time during the past half-century.  Slightly more than one month ago, this nation elected a new President of the United States, an event that prompted (among other things) the cancellation of classes, the postponement of exams, and the scheduling of appointments with grief/crisis counselors at college campuses across America.  

On December 8, 1941, in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, countless thousands of American college-aged kids went to war. On November 9, 2016, in response to the results of the Presidential Election, countless thousands of American college kids went into the fetal position...and did so with the blessing (and in some instances, at the direction) of their professors and instructors.  

Really? 

It seems to me (one man, one opinion) that among the lessons to be learned from Pearl Harbor and all that followed after it for the next forty-four months is that Americans responded to that horrific event - not by tucking our tails between our legs, wedging our heads up our asses, or running away towards Canada as fast as possible - but by backing up President Roosevelt's guarantee ("No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory").   

If we are no longer that America - a nation of people willing to sweat and to work and to fight like hell for that which is right and that which is just - then not only did 2,403 Americans die in vain seventy-five years ago today, Vito Colonna and the other one hundred-plus Pearl Harbor survivors have lived in vain every day since that terrible December morning.  

Personally, I refuse to accept that is who and what we have become and, furthermore, to allow it to become so.  I intend to man a post on that Bridge and invite you to do the same.  

There is plenty of space on it for all of us.

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial 
Photo credit:  Robert J. MacMaster 
(June, 2014 - taken while on his honeymoon)

-AK