Friday, December 15, 2017

A Toast to Jeannie Shrimpton

I awakened on Wednesday morning at 3:00 am as is my habit.  At some point not too terribly long after my feet reintroduced themselves to the floor, my brother Bill sent me either a text message or perhaps a Facebook message communicating the sad news that Pat DiNizio had died.  

It is an odd thing, I reckon, to feel a reaction somewhere between sadness and grief when learning that a human being whom I never met had died.  Yet, my reaction to Bill's message was precisely that. Pat DiNizio was only sixty-two.  He was a loud and proud Jersey guy, and I mean that in the best possible way (and not in the Chris Christie "Get the Hell off of the Beach!" way).  History is replete with tales of artists who, upon 'making it big', seem to forget their own origin story and, in its place, effect an inflated sense of self-importance.  Pat DiNizio was not that artist

Proof that I understand little to nothing about the music business is my inability to understand why DiNizio's band, The Smithereens, never achieved commercial success equal to their critical acclaim. Their music, which I first listened to more than three decades ago, resonates with me as much now as it did then. 

That being said, I never saw The Smithereens in concert.  I did, however, see Pat DiNizio perform live.  In April, 2006, Margaret and I scored tickets for one of the rehearsal shows Bruce Springsteen performed with his Seeger Sessions Band at Convention Hall prior to the commencement of a world tour.  I cannot recall which show we saw, although I recall being joined by our friends, Dave Puteska and his wife (at that time, his girlfriend) Lindsay.  

When Springsteen's show ended, the four of us wandered a couple of blocks south to the Stone Pony to grab an after-concert drink.  The Pony was fairly empty as I recall.  On stage, playing a solo acoustic set, and into it as if he was playing for 20,000 adoring fans at the Garden instead of one hundred or so laid-back souls at the Pony, was Pat DiNizio.  He was outstanding.  We came into the Pony intending on grabbing a quick drink and then heading out.  We ended up staying for the remainder of his set, which included a number of Smithereens songs.  

I was a much younger man when I first made Pat DiNizio's acquaintance. Over the course of thirty-plus years, the fact that we never met has done nothing to lessen my appreciation of him, his talent, and the way in which he went about his day-to-day.  Not to mention the fact that when I was a nineteen-year-old college sophomore at the University of Colorado, he was the one who sang of a young woman who "held a bass guitar and she was playing in a band.  And she stood just like Bill Wyman, now I am her biggest fan."  A lifetime ago, for an eye-blink, I was desperately in love (smitten, one might say) with just such a young woman, and during the Fall 1986 Semester, every time he sang those words, I thought of her.  Alas, to paraphrase the late, great Tom Petty, "it was over before we knew it."  Truth be told, she knew it well before I did.  One does not get invited (her, not me) to study at Oxford for a semester without having a really big brain. 

Such is life for nineteen-year-old college sophomores... 

...behind the wall of sleep.    


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Still-Burning Beacons

Nine years ago today, I wrote about the experience of running my first-ever 5K, which I had done one morning earlier.  Jill had recruited me to run in The Big Chill with her.  So began my love affair with running and with that terrific Christmas-time event.

For Wilma and for Rob, the two people without whom the finish line on that cold December morning nine years ago might never have been crossed... me, at least. 


One Step Up

Yesterday morning I broke my maiden. Proving that this old dog is not yet too old to learn a new trick or two, I started and completed my first-ever 5K run. It is not an exaggeration to say that I would not have completed the final K or K and a half without the help of one loved one who was in my line of sight and another who was firmly implanted in my mind's eye.

My sister Jill - who I swear gets tinier every time I see her - runs marathons. Yesterday morning, as we assembled at the College Avenue Gym, which once upon a time was the home court for Rutgers University basketball - and was affectionately known as "the Barn" - in an era when the dividing line between the visiting team's bench and the home team's hostile fans was marked in the blood and gold. According to the information available on-line prior to the event, approximately 3500 people signed up to participate. Whether all who signed up in fact showed up on a seasonably chilly December morning on the banks of the Old Raritan, I know not. If I had shown any affinity for arithmetic I would have pursued my M.B.A. like so many of my smart friends. Instead, I went to law school to take a law degree. I have spent the past decade and a half or so practicing law to what I would consider - at the risk of sounding immodest (a lawyer sounding immodest, who'd have thunk it?) - to be a fair degree of success. I am fairly good at what I do and I think in the manner in which I conduct myself I have earned the respect of colleagues, adversaries and judges. I earn enough money that although I would respectfully disagree with PEBO (President Elect Barack Obama) as to whether I am "rich", the career path I have chosen has enabled me to do my part to provide for my family as one of the incomes in a two-income household.

The career path I have trod however is not one that provides a lot of "give back" opportunities - and the ones it provides I have been reticent to pursue. I owe my sister Jill a great debt for opening my eyes to this particular opportunity, which was both exhausting and exhilarating. The Big Chill is an event that has a wonderful purpose - it asks its participants to provide a new, unwrapped toy for a child (ages 3-14). There is no entry fee. The toys are then distributed by the New Brunswick Housing Authority to kids in need who, without the efforts of the good people who stage this event, would otherwise not have any Christmas.

I had never attempted to run 5K (or 5Ks - among the many things I know nothing about is the singular/plural usage in the metric system) until yesterday morning. I know not how much a K is - although I learned that 3.2 miles equals 5K. I do know that it was the final 1.2 miles - the indeterminate K for those of us who fail miserably at the whole conversion process (I am to non-metric / metric conversion what George Costanza was to the Latvian Orthodox religion) that represented uncharted territory for me. I run no more than 2 miles when I take my morning constitutional and from mile 2.1 to mile 3.2 my feelings vacillated between "I cannot do this" and "Holy Shit I am going to die right here".

Jill did not let me give up. Not only did she not let me give up - she spent the whole race running with me - as opposed to shouting "later Hansel, follow the breadcrumbs back to the car" - and running at what is her "usual" pace of 7 minute miles or so. By laying in the weeds with her little brother - a/k/a the anchor - and helping me through a 10 minute per mile pace, she assured that her time on the course was quite longer than it would have been had she not invited me to participate. And during the last mile, when I played little games with my own mind (you know what I mean - the "if I can make it as far as ..... then I'll be OK"), she got me home. She spent most of the final mile running anywhere from 50 to 100 feet ahead of me because she would have been forced to start running on her hands to accommodate my "pace" (bending the acceptable definitional limits of that word to - if not beyond - their breaking point) and I fixed upon her - running ahead of me - until we made it back to College Avenue. At that point, we were .2 miles from the finish (I know not if that even qualifies as a partial k or is perhaps a 'c' or an 'e' or something) and she dropped back so we could finish together.

While I had Jill fixed in my line of sight to help me find my way home, I had Rob fixed in my mind's eye. There I played on a continuous loop the sight of Rob and his mates completing their final PT assignment - a ten-mile run. And knowing that while running the ten miles they were called upon to perform a variety of other physical activities and knowing that at stake for them was nothing other than their hoped-for careers. No pressure right? Finish or go home.

And knowing as well that at the ripe young age of 22 my son had spent 17 and 1/2 weeks on his own working without a safety net and successfully completing one "do it or go home" assignment after another. And knowing also that the first rung on the ladder of his career has taken him far away from his home and his family and the only part of the world he had ever lived. And knowing that he has done it all because it is what he has been required to do.

He has sacrificed much more at his still young age than I have - even with two extra decades of living to fall back upon. And given how many reasons he has made me unbelievably proud of him, I thought it was about time the old man got on the board and gave him one back.

I spend every Saturday morning in the office, working. Not this weekend. This weekend I spent Saturday morning with two people who I am damned lucky to have in my life. And in the process I got to do something that I do far too infrequently - something good for someone else.

With my soul on empty and my face to the wind, I'm off and running. I'm off and running again. Indeed I am. And maybe I am not as barren a soul as I had thought and feared.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Reservoir of Unspent Love

While I do not have the empirical evidence to back it up, it certainly seems to me as if 2017 has been an especially sad year.  Perhaps even a cruel year.  Death has descended upon too many families (including mine) for me to accurately count.  It has done so in a way that has approximated some sadistic variation on a metronome, attacking with as much relentless regularity here in the year's final days as it has throughout the year's first eleven months.  

This has been a year in which everyone's family, it seems, has spent a painful moment or two in Death's cross-hairs.  It is an experience I would characterize as decidedly unpleasant.  Without asking for confirmation of this particular point, I presume that it has been nothing less than equally unpleasant for everyone whose footwear includes at least a single pair of shoes in which I have walked a step or two.  

On Saturday, my great friend Tom Swales sent me a text message to let me know that his dad, Tom, had died that morning in Jupiter, Florida.  Tom's folks had moved down to Jupiter a number of years ago - not too far from Mom - and when I needed to chat lawyer-to-lawyer with a Florida-barred attorney right after Mom died in early June, the attorney with whom I had the conversation was Mr. and Mrs. Swales' attorney, whose name I obtained through Tom.  

I have had the pleasure of knowing Tom (and latching onto him as a friend) since he and Jill first became classmates and fast friends way back when they were in the 7th grade at W-H, which was a time long enough ago that the Lower School and the Upper School were located on separate campuses in two different towns; that the Lower School students walked from class to class outside; and that the "-" had not yet been replaced by the "+" in the school's logo.  Halcyon days indeed. 

It is my great good fortune that less than a year after Margaret and I closed on our little piece of Paradise by the Sea, Tom did likewise.  He lives exactly three blocks north of us although, unlike us, he is already a full-time resident of the greater Belmar-Lake Como Metroplex.  Like us, he is on a "special" patron list at Anchor Tavern, a distinction for which he and I both blame Margaret, and rightly so.  

But I digress. 

Tom's dad was eighty-four.  That is an age at which, when someone dies, a person (likelier than not someone not intimately familiar with either the person who died or that person's family) invariably comments upon what a nice, long life the person had or some similarly-phrased well-intended yet utterly inane platitude.  When it is your father, eighty-four is not "a nice, long life".  It is too damn short. It is not fucking long enough.  It is unfair.  Trust me on this.  The calculus changes not at all when you substitute "mother" for "father" and "eighty-eight" for "eighty-four".  

As it turns out, the age, while a variable, ultimately is irrelevant. For whatever the age is, it is never, ever long enough.  The equation never balances.  It never balances because Time does not fight fair.  It never has.  

Generally speaking, each of us walks a path of indeterminate length as we journey from Life's first act to its last.  Our journey along our path begins at some point after our mother's or our father's began.  More often than not, it continues beyond the point where their journey ends.  As we make our way in the world, we hopefully come to understand that at the point on the path where our journey joined theirs, they began imparting on us not simply their wisdom but their adventures, their experiences, and their memories, which we carried forward with us thereafter.  At their journey's end, it is incumbent upon us to pay forward the treasures they bestowed upon us onto those whose journeys began at some point after our own.  We owe our children the history of our parents just as our parents owed us the history of their parents and our children shall owe their children our history.  

It is the gift of the ever-forward-paying history that is our legacy.  And to bestow upon us one worth sharing with our children is the greatest gift our parents ever give us. For it is the gift that serves to countermand Time's brutally harsh effect.  It is the gift that keeps them alive in us long after we have said our last goodbyes to them.  It is the gift that keeps them right where they should be... our heart.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Alice, Lost In Wonderland

I get under the hood, 
it's like Alice lost in Wonderland...
I don't know nothing about that stuff.
But I think I understand the spiritual
& religious significance of the .396...
-Bruce Springsteen

While I was out for my sunrise run on Saturday morning, I was accompanied musically (among other songs) by the broadcast of Springsteen's epic performance at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles, California.  It shall be forty years ago this coming July that Springsteen and the E Street Band rocked the crowd at the Roxy as well as those folks listening out "in radio land" on KMET, which had Bob Coburn on site, broadcasting live, and Jim Ladd holding down the fort in the studio.  It is an extraordinary listen. 

Included among that show's treasure trove of highlights is the performance of Racing in the Street, which has always been my favorite Springsteen song.  It is the inspiration for the title of this little piece of silliness, which in hindsight might not have been the most complimentary way to honor it.  Apologies, Mr. Springsteen. 

At the song's end, although the protagonist, whose travails make Racing one of the less upbeat rockers in Springsteen's catalog, does not have in place an actual plan by which he can redeem himself, he has decided upon the all-important first step...

...from which his next step shall then be determined.  The song fades out with us not knowing what his next step shall be.  We know nothing about what his future holds for him beyond the pending journey to the ocean to be baptized anew.  The beauty of Racing to me has always been that it is equally unclear whether he knows what shall follow the baptism.  Is the rest of his life mapped out already or is it yet to be determined?  

Nothing in the world as inspiring as a man with a plan, right? 

Until we meet again...  

May the road always rise to meet you...


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Ahead, Into The Dark...

Six months ago yesterday, June 2, 2017, was a Friday.  I had driven down to our little Paradise by the Sea on Thursday night - with Rosalita - and treated it as the first official "WFTB" (Work From The Beach) Friday of the Summer of 2017.  Kara was in Florida - in the hospital with Mom, who had driven herself there a week or so earlier to be admitted as a patient, directly from a doctor's appointment (her heart doc, I think).  Things for Mom were not great but - at least as the sun rose that Friday morning - they had not yet shifted to irrevocably dire. 

Discussions took place during the day on Friday regarding the trouble Mom's heart was having holding a strong, steady rhythm.  To my recollection, the action plan as of Friday afternoon was that she was going to be fitted with a small, relatively unobtrusive device that would serve to (hopefully) correct that problem.  I went to sleep at the beach Friday night, having talked to Kara and to Jill several times throughout the day, knowing that Mom was still wandering through the deep forest but anticipating (or hoping perhaps) that Saturday, June 3, would bring brighter, better news.  When I finally fell asleep, I did so with the volume turned all the way up on my cell phone and with the phone in the bed next to me - ready to respond, I suppose, to any information that might be received over night. 

I find nothing in the world to be as cathartic and as soothing as I find running along the water, whether on the boardwalk or on the sand.  If I had a "happy place", then the ocean would be it.  I awakened on Saturday morning, texted Jill to get an update on Mom, and upon learning that her status, while not peachy, had remained stable and unchanged from what it had been on Friday, threw on my faithful Brooks Ghost 8's and headed east on 17th Avenue to the water.   

Full disclosure demands that I acknowledge not having an independent recollection of the direction I headed that morning, upon reaching the Belmar boardwalk.  Just the other day, however, while looking for another photo on my phone, which I not only never found but which I abandoned the search for once I stumbled upon these photographs, I found the pictures that I had taken on that morning's run, which began before sunrise.  And as my early morning runs usually do, it began overlooking the 17th Avenue Beach - our beach.

17th Avenue Beach - Belmar

From our beach, the photographic evidence reminded me that I headed north, over the Shark River Bridge into Avon and (in all likelihood) beyond.  As I headed north on the boardwalk through Belmar, I passed (as one always does) the Belmar Fishing Club.  On this particular Saturday morning, I ran by it a few minutes before sunrise.  The sky at that time of day is usually extraordinary and on that morning it did not disappoint.

Belmar Fishing Club

No runner in the history of running has less luck than I do trying to time the opening of the Shark River Drawbridge.  I have spent many a morning standing and waiting on the Belmar side or the Avon side - and on days when I run utterly unaccompanied by any luck whatsoever - on both sides of the bridge, as the fishermen head off in pursuit of the day's catch.  On Saturday, June 3, I apparently had to wait long enough on the Belmar side that I ran down onto the dunes on the Belmar side of the Shark River Inlet to grab a couple of shots before hopping back up to street level to wave to the anglers whose journey had temporarily delayed mine. 

Sunrise from the dunes on the Belmar side
Shark River Inlet

Morning Fleet leaving through Shark River Inlet

At some point, forty minutes or so later, I was back at the 17th Avenue Beach. I smiled looking out at the water and, in the foreground, Maggie's Playground (although from the colors of the sky, these photographs look to have been taken at run's beginning rather than at its end). Pop Pop's beautiful baby genius has not yet spent any time there.  This summer, perhaps.  The attorney in me stands by the decision to secure the naming rights. 

Maggie's Playground - Belmar

Less than twelve hours after these photographs were taken and my morning's run was completed, Mom died. As things tend to do, I suppose, at the end of one's life, things went downhill very quickly that Saturday.  I do not remember when precisely I did it, but at some point either late that morning or early that afternoon, I called Kara on her cell phone, which she held up to Mom's ear so that I could say goodbye.  I told Mom that I loved her, of course, and I thanked her.  I thanked her for being brave and for teaching me - when I was just fourteen and Dad died without a will and without life insurance and taking roughly 80% of the household income with him to his grave - how to be brave.  It is from Mom I learned the important distinction between fear and panic. It is a lesson I took to heart and have never forgotten.  

Six months.  It is a short time. It is a long time.  It is a lifetime.  

History is sealed and unchangeable.  You can move on,
With a heart stronger in the places it's been broken,
Create new love.  You can hammer pain and trauma into
A righteous sword and use it in defense of life, love,
Human grace and God's blessings.  But nobody gets a do-over.
Nobody gets to go back and there's only one road out.
Ahead, into the dark...
-Bruce Springsteen


Saturday, December 2, 2017

These Three Things

It was four weeks ago tomorrow that #TeamFam experienced the 2017 New York City Marathon together.  In the past two years, I had the privilege of completing an incredible race with my #1 running companera, Gidg, in whose company I have run more races than either of us can remember or would like to remember.  I have also had the pleasure and privilege of crossing the finish line with my sisters.  In 2016, it was Stel who formed the third member of the Holy Trinity (along with Gidg and me) as we crossed the finish line in Central Park.  Last month, it was Wilma.  

Each of the past two Marathon Sundays was an extraordinary day for me.  It was a day that I shall cherish for as long as my ever addling-mind permits me to do so, which if it deteriorates at the same pace as my vision and my hearing may be a day whose appearance on the calendar is much closer than I would prefer.  

This year, though, as Wilma and I were running through the Bronx together and, later, when we crossed the finish line together, while I was selfishly very happy to have had the chance to run the New York City Marathon with her, my joy was tempered significantly by the realization that but for her extended battle with the Monster upon whom we spent that Sunday stomping, which she has waged ferociously for the past decade, I could not have matched strides with her.  Her place in the running galaxy is far closer to that occupied by her brother-in-law, Russ, than that occupied by her brother.

The other day, Wilma posted a photo on Instagram, which photo was an image representing the "three things" of which Jim Valvano spoke during his epic speech at the ESPY Awards: 

It occurred to me, while re-reading Jimmy V's words that on Marathon Sunday, each of the past two years but particularly so this year when I kept company with Gidg, Stel, and Wilma, I did all three of those things...


...which explains I suppose why it was I had one heck of a day.

Here's to today.  



Friday, December 1, 2017

A Source of Warmth on Cold Days

A happy trip today in the WABAC Machine.  As preparations continue for the first "W/O M" (Without Mom) Christmas of my life, I remember the stealth that Rob and I employed in December, 2008, which resulted in my flying him home from Wyoming for Christmas, unbeknownst to anyone else in our family, including of course his mother and his grandmother.  Should the world and I both suffer the misfortune of me living to be one hundred, neither time nor infirmity shall ever erase from my memory the looks on the faces of Margaret and Suzy B. when Rob walked into the Middlesex High School gymnasium (where the pair of wondrous women were watching wrestling) to announce his arrival.  

As it turned out, while my purpose in flying my son home for Christmas was to make sure that he did not spend Christmas, alone, almost two thousand miles from his family, it ended up serving an even better purpose.  Christmas 2008 turned out to be Suzy B.'s final Christmas.  Her long, nails-tough battle against cancer would come to an end in the early morning hours of June 2, 2009.  Had he not been home to spend the holiday with her and with us, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life... 

Rob and Nona 
- Christmas Eve, 2008


The Son Also Lands.....

With apologies to Papa Bear Hemingway, it fits. It simply fits. Last night, unbeknownst to everyone in our family except for the two of us, I picked Rob up at Newark Airport. He is, for the next several days anyway, "home". I wanted for once to give my life's love - Margaret - a Christmas present that did not make her crinkle up her nose or skim furiously thru her in-head copy of Roget's Thesaurus for a phrase that sounds more hopeful than, but is equally damning as, "That's nice." I wanted for once to give her a present that she would not want to give back. With the deft skill of my son, I succeeded.

The next few days will pass at a maddeningly quick pace, no doubt. The good times never seem to last, right? It matters not. I will gladly trade the letdown that is coming by late Sunday afternoon, when Rob is jetting west again for the next several days of joy.

As I explained to Margaret and to Rob last night as we sat in the kitchen eating a late dinner together, I am frustrated on a daily basis by my impotence and my inability to effect meaningful change on any number of aspects of my life. However, having our little family all in the same place for Christmas was something that was within my control. I had the ability to bring a whole lotta happiness into our home - in a year when happiness has at times been in short supply. And I did not squander my opportunity. The ability to effect meaningful change sure felt good.

Faith will be rewarded. And in our little sliver of earth 'neath the snow globe, it has. 'Tis the season after all.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Book of Eli

On a late November Tuesday afternoon, in a season that hurtled towards irrelevance on Opening Night and has remained in an almost-constant state of free fall since, the incompetent Head Coach of the New York Giants, Ben McAdoo, who wakes up the echoes of Ray Handley in everything he does and says, declared the time to be right to bench the franchise's face, Eli Manning.  

Apparently, after a long morning spent looking at the wall-length mirrors in the team offices at Met Life Stadium, Little Ben and General (Mis)Manager Jerry Reese, finally identified what the problem is on the lifeless, terrible team they have constructed.  Imagine their relief upon discovering that the problem is not either of them, but Eli.  Imagine their delusion upon discovering that the solution to the problem is...Geno Smith

And so, in all likelihood, an era of New York sports ends.  Not with a bang, but a whimper.  Not with a pat on the back, but with a kick in the ass.  A reminder perhaps, if of nothing else, of how hard it is for any of us, irrespective of what it is we do, to script our ending.  Had Eli Manning earned the right to a better fate? Certainly.  It is for that reason that those of us who follow, and who cheer for, the Giants feel now as we felt on Tuesday afternoon, which is as if the punch Eli took to his gut was absorbed to a degree by all of us.  Not only has he been deprived of the chance to have his famous final scene as a Giant, we have too. 

Understand though that what transpired on Tuesday afternoon would not have happened - and could not have happened - if the men who write the checks, Mr. Mara and Mr. Tisch, had not blessed its occurrence. McAdoo and Reese are the face of this decision, for sure, but neither would have announced it publicly had they not previously discussed it privately with the team's owners, whose approval was most assuredly a condition precedent to its execution.  

Eli Manning is not the first good person who deserved a better fate.  He shall not be the last.  He is, however, "ours".  Not simply because he has won two Super Bowls - and picked up two Super Bowl MVP trophies along the way - but because of the way in which he goes about his business.  On Tuesday, unquestionably the very worst day of his professional life, he handled himself with dignity and with grace.  On a day dominated by little men, he remained that which he has always been...

...a Giant. 


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Truth: Barefoot and Outgunned

As a casual observer of all things, I could not help but be reminded of Mr. Twain's prescient observation on Sunday afternoon while I read of the deal that was, the outrage that was, and finally the deal that was not between [The] Ohio State University's Defensive Coordinator (and former Rutgers Head Coach) Greg Schiano and the University of Tennessee regarding the latter's offer - and the former's acceptance - of the position of Head Football Coach at the University of Tennessee. Relationships, both personal and professional, often times run a course that is uncertain in its direction and its length.  That being said, the speed with which Mr. Schiano was relocated from his position as the "New" Tennessee Head Coach to the "Ain't Ever Gonna Be" Tennessee Head Coach, which relocation occurred in no small part due to the emotional outpouring of people identifying themselves as UT fans/alums/etc. on various social media platforms. 

The apparent crux of the outpouring had less to do with Mr. Schiano's prowess as a collegiate football coach (although I read a considerable number of comments objecting to his hiring that listed that as the commentator's principal gripe) and quite a lot more to do with Mr. Schiano's alleged knowledge of the crimes that disgraced former Penn State University Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky committed against children and young men, during the time (a quarter century ago or so) that Mr. Schiano and Mr. Sandusky were both Penn State employees.  

I note that other than published pieces regarding Sandusky's crimes, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's successful prosecution of him (and others), and the numerous civil lawsuits that arose out of the disclosure of the crimes, I have never read a single, official document from any piece of the litigation.  I have not read an indictment, a complaint, or an official report.  I have not read a single transcript of trial testimony or deposition testimony.  That being said, from what I gathered - monitoring the "Twitter" storm that enveloped Mr. Schiano by day's end on Sunday, the sole basis for his alleged knowledge of (and presumptive complicity in) Mr. Sandusky's horrible crimes was deposition testimony that another former Penn State Assistant Coach, Mike McQueary, provided as a witness in an insurance coverage action between Penn State University and one of its insurance carriers.  

In multiple articles I read on Sunday afternoon and, thereafter, on Monday morning, I came to understand that during this particular deposition, Mr. McQueary testified that a fourth Penn State Assistant Coach, Tom Bradley, had told Mr. McQueary at some point in time that many years earlier Mr. Schiano had confided to Mr. Bradley that he, Mr. Schiano, had witnessed Mr. Sandusky molesting a young boy and did not intervene to stop it, but simply walked away stunned by what he had seen.  According to Mr. McQueary's testimony, he and Mr. Schiano never spoke directly about this issue.  Rather, he testified that at some point several years after Mr. Schiano allegedly witnessed something and reported it to Mr. Bradley, Mr. Bradley recounted for Mr. McQueary what Mr. Schiano had told Mr. Bradley he had seen.  

It is further my understanding that this reference at his deposition in a civil lawsuit was the only mention Mr. McQueary ever made of Mr. Schiano, what he allegedly witnessed, and what he allegedly told Mr. Bradley, in response to innumerable questions posed to him by attorneys and investigators in the various criminal matters.  Mr. McQueary's deposition testimony was unsealed in the summer of 2016, at which time Mr. Schiano denied ever having witnessed Mr. Sandusky doing anything with any child or young man and ever having told Mr. Bradley that he had witnessed such a thing.  Mr. Bradley, himself, denied that Mr. Schiano had ever told him such a thing and, also, denied that he had ever told Mr. McQueary that Mr. Schiano had done so.  

As a lawyer who earns his living litigating civil matters, including trying the ones that need to be tried, I was struck by the inherent value a considerable number of people who commented on-line attached to Mr. McQueary's testimony.  I was especially struck by two recurring and interrelated themes, which were (a) it was offered under oath so it must be true; and (b) if it was not true, then why was Mr. McQueary not prosecuted for perjury.   

Suffice it to say, never having spoken to any of the principals involved, I know not whether Mr. McQueary's deposition testimony was truthful.  I do know, however, as someone who has defended hundreds of depositions and who has taken thousands of depositions in a quarter-century or so practicing law that if I had a dollar for every time a deponent lied and/or misrepresented the truth under oath during his or her deposition, then I would have had enough cabbage on hand to buy a much bigger joint at the beach. Conversely, if I had a dollar for every time a witness who provided "less than 100% truthful" testimony at a deposition in a civil action was thereafter prosecuted for perjury, I would not have had enough money to buy a cardboard box in which to sleep on the beach.  

By way of illustration, in late September I tried a motor vehicle/pedestrian accident case in Passaic County (my client, while driving to school, inadvertently ran into one of his classmates as she was walking across a street).  I deposed the plaintiff in late December, 2015, which was roughly one year after the accident that was the underlying basis of her lawsuit.  At her deposition, responding to questions her attorney asked her, the plaintiff provided willfully false testimony on a rather important issue.  

I did not confront her with her lie at her deposition. I waited until the trial to do so.  Then, I questioned her using documents that exposed her lie, which documents she knew (or should have known) existed when she lied under oath at her deposition. Better still, even after showing her the documents in front of the jury, she repeated to them the same lie she had told at her deposition almost two years earlier.  It took the jury a bit more than a half-hour to return a unanimous "no cause" verdict against her.   

What is my point?  Simply this:  Everybody lies.  Did Mr. McQueary?  Did Mr. Schiano? Did Mr. Bradley?  I have no idea.  I would not pretend to know.  Here is the thing, though - none of the people who declared Mr. Schiano unfit to coach at UT because of what happened at Penn State - and pointed to Mr. McQueary's testimony in support of their position - do not know either.  Yet, far too many of them not only pretended that they knew, they flatly refused to admit that they did not. 

Innuendo became evidence.  Opinion became fact.  

Scary times in which we live.  Scary times indeed. 


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Sunny Side Down

File this one under the heading of "Jerk incapable of passing up chance to take another shot at person he did not and does not like".  No euphemism here, right? 

Here is to my least-favorite Person-in-Charge of an American institution of higher learning and the comfort I take in knowing that it is not my Alma mater from which he is presently cashing a paycheck. 


A Bad Egg

It is merely one man's opinion but in the opinion of this one particular man, the gentleman who presently serves as the President of The Ohio State University is a clown. It has been written that with age comes wisdom. From my experience dealing with E. Gordon Gee, it appears as if in his case age has brought with it nothing other than......well, age.

In case you missed it, President Gee recently decreed that two other universities - Boise State University and Texas Christian University - are not worthy of playing for the national championship of college football - because in the opinion of President Gee neither school plays a tough enough schedule to merit a berth in the BCS Championship Game. From my vantage point the fact that on the Friday night of the long Thanksgiving weekend, Boise State lost a game and watched its twenty-four game winning streak move from the present to the past tense lends no credence to Gee's asinine declaration. Boise State lost on the road to another team in its conference that is nationally ranked, which is kinda, sorta exactly the circumstances under which Gee's school (and why does the institution call itself, "The" Ohio State University - is there "An" Ohio State University running around out there somewhere?) lost to Wisconsin earlier this season.

"Well, I don't know enough about the X's and O's of college football," said Gee, formerly the president at West Virginia, Colorado, Brown and Vanderbilt universities. "I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it's like murderer's row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day." Talk about getting your money's worth. With one slight, Gee managed to insult not simply two other colleges whose football teams have been highly ranked for each of the past several seasons but also each of the colleges and universities whose football teams have opposed Boise State or Texas Christian as well as the other teams who compete against these two juggernauts in their respective conferences. Nicely done Mr. Gee. Nicely done.

About a million years ago - back when he was the President of the University of Colorado - I had the pleasure of spending some quality face-to-face time with him. In the Spring of 1986, shortly after EGG had been hired at CU, he spent some time going dorm to dorm to get acquainted with the student body. I lived in Farrand Hall, which was part of our new leader's tour. While his audience was apparently intended to be limited to Farrand's "God Squaders" (the kids at every college who walk around campus with the lips plastered to the posterior of the powers-that-be) they forgot to post a guard at the door of the room where the meet and greet was taking place. So, after having spent some quality time playing poker, smoking cheap cigars and drinking even cheaper beer, my friends and I made the long trip down from the fourth floor to hear the man himself pontificate.

Gun to my head I cannot recall most of what it was he spoke about. Having just read his faux self-deprecating remarks about not knowing anything about college football, I am reminded of the fact that one of things he spoke of was college basketball. At CU, we have a long and decidedly unspectacular history of college hoops - especially on the men's side. Other than the Golden Years (a/k/a the two years that Chauncey Billups played for the Buffs before taking his talents to the NBA) the Buffs have been fairly dreadful for the past three decades or so. You can look it up. Trust me, all the gory details are there in black and white. I arrived on campus in September 1985, just in time to catch what would be the final year of Tom Apke's tenure as the man in charge of the hoops program. In his final season on the bench, the Buffs won only eight of twenty-eight games and went winless in the Big Eight (0-14). At season's end, Coach Apke was fired.

Given that CU played at that time in the Big Eight Conference, which had some of the nation's better basketball teams in it, a fair amount of attention was paid to the coaching search. And in the first hire of EGG's Presidency, CU hired Tom Miller. Miller came to CU from Cornell, which had in the 1984-85 season finished in second place in the Ivy League. Apparently, that bridesmaid's finish - along with the money to be saved by not having to order new monogram shirts for the head coach since they could foist off on Miller those they had ordered for Apke - was enough to get Miller the job. On April 2, 1986 Tom Miller was hired as the 14th head mens' basketball coach in CU history.

While I do not recall specifically the night on which my path and EGG's path crossed at Farrand Hall, it was within a couple of days of the Miller hiring. When the floor was opened to questions from the audience, against the advice of counsel (my neighbor Bill Winters) I raised my hand and asked Mr. Gee about the decision to hire a coach who appeared to have no shot of making the Buffs competitive in the Big Eight. Our exchange became a bit spirited and much to the delight of those gathered at his knee to hear him talk, EGG pointed out just how great a job Miller had done leading Cornell to a second place finish in the Ivy League. There was far less delight palpable in the room when I pointed out to him that only a couple of weeks earlier in the NCAA tournament the Ivy League champs (Brown) had been dismantled by Syracuse in Round 1 by more than fifty points and asked him - had Cornell played Syracuse - whether he thought it likely that Miller's men would have even scored.

After several minutes of back and forth, EGG forgot that he knew nothing about college hoops (he threw off the cloak of faux self-deprecation that he put on again just the other day) and decreed that under Coach Miller's leadership the Buffs would become national title contenders immediately and would be playing in the Final Four in Denver when we were the designated host school in 1990. EGG hoped that his decree would be the final word on the subject, as did the evening's moderator, but it was not. I laughed out loud when he said what he said, which understandably annoyed him. I then told him that as an out-of-state student I would be willing to bet him that what he had first said that evening was correct, which was that he was talking out of his a** and knew nothing of the subject of college basketball. I offered to make it interesting and to wager him a full refund of my four year out-of-state tuition versus a pledge from me to make donations to CU in an amount equal to that tuition nut over the success of the basketball program under Coach Miller. I told him that his optimism was unfounded and that under Miller's tutelage our basketball team would continue to be cannon fodder for everyone we played and that the only way anyone from the CU basketball program would get on the floor at the Final Four in Denver four years hence would be with a pass. I also told him that I was willing to bet that under Miller the team would never win more than a dozen games in a season and that Miller would be let go when the four-year contract he signed on April 2, 1986 expired. EGG refused to accept my bet, telling me that it would be inappropriate for him to take my money. He seemed really irate when I laughed out loud at that comment.

The evening ended with no bet being made. EGG and I never spent any time in one another's company again either. He did however spend some time with my sister Jill about a week after he stopped by Farrand Hall. Jill lived in Baker Hall and as the President of the Dorm was involved in scheduling the night that EGG stopped by there to chat with the residents. Upon being introduced to my sister, EGG asked her if she had any brothers and when she told him that she had a brother who lived in Farrand Hall he told her that I was, "quite a headstrong and opinionated young man", which are two traits that I clearly left in the rear-view mirror a long, long time ago.

What he could not have known that evening - and likely would never have admitted it even had he known - was that his headstrong and opinionated young jousting partner was 100% right. Tom Miller coached the Buffs from the 1986-87 season through the 1989-90 season. During his four years at the helm, the team went 9-19, 7-21, 7-21 and 12-18. When the 89-90 season ended so did Miller Time in Boulder. In 1990, the Final Four was played in Denver Colorado and the University of Colorado was the "host" school. The four participants were Duke University, Georgia Tech University, University of Arkansas and UNLV. Apparently, the dozen victories CU earned that year on the hardwood were not enough to garner an at-large bid to the Big Dance.

It is interesting - but not surprising - to see that twenty-five years further on up the road, EGG is still talking out of his a** on the subject of college athletics. Clearly he brings something to the table as a president of major American universities. He should continue to play to those strengths and adopt a vow of silence about those subjects about which he knows nothing. And in the interim he should remember that as the president of one school, he does nothing but besmirch the reputation of the school he leads when he belittles the achievements of student-athletes at other institutions.

Note to self: I shall check back in another quarter-century to see if he has learned anything. Second note to self: I shall not hold my breath in the interim.


Monday, November 27, 2017

One More Day In Mill Valley

As my enthusiasm for any number of things, including being disciplined enough to write every day, ebbs and flows, I find myself looking back through the several thousand of these little missives I have written for one that I can euphemistically elevate to the status of something worthy of a second read.  

Euphemistically, of course, because contrary to popular opinion, not even I believe 100% of my own bullshit...


The Book of The Bard

Amongst many things, my mother taught me the dangerous
but timely lesson that there is a love seemingly beyond love,
beyond our control, and it will take us through our lives bestowing
blessings and curses as they fall. It will set you on fire, confuse you, 
drive you to passion and extreme deeds, and may smite the 
reasonable, modestly loving parts of who you are. Love has a great 
deal to do with humility.  In my parents' love, there was kindness, 
a beyond-human compassion, an anger, a compulsive fidelity, 
a generosity and an unconditionality that scorched everything
in its path. It was exclusive. It was not humble. 
It was their love. 
-Bruce Springsteen

One of the great pleasures of my life - for the past four decades or so (ever since Bill introduced me to his music) - has been Bruce Springsteen's music.  For as long as I have loved his music, it has been his use of language - even more than the music that accompanies it - that has bonded me to it and, by extension, to him.  

That being said, he has never written anything that has spoken to me - or shall resonate with me - as has his autobiography, "Born To Run", which I finished reading yesterday.  As a man who is - to grossly understate the point - somewhat walled off emotionally (it is not an exaggeration to say that I have cried less than ten times in the thirty-five years since my father's death), I was profoundly moved by innumerable passages in the book.  He wrote of his father - and their relationship - in words that I have searched for for close to a half-century to describe my relationship with my father, during which we shared just a bit more than fourteen years.  

Those whose love we wanted but could not get, we emulate.  
It is dangerous but it makes us feel closer, 
gives us an illusion of the intimacy we never had. 
It stakes our claim upon that which was rightfully ours but denied.  
- Bruce Springsteen 

For me, childhood ended on a warm, not-quite-yet-officially summer morning thirty-five and one-half years ago.  I have lived almost three and one-half times as long (and counting hopefully) without him as I lived with him.  Fortunately, long after he bade us farewell, Mom continues to be pound-for-pound the toughest old Irish broad around.  Eighty-eight years old and still living life on her own terms.  She is, and remains, the first great gift of my life, without whom nothing that I have achieved, professionally or personally, would have been possible. 

We honor our parents by carrying their best forward 
and laying the rest down. By fighting and taming the demons 
that laid them low and now reside in us. 
It's all we can do if we're lucky.  I'm lucky.  
I have a wife I love, a beautiful daughter and [a handsome son].  
We are close.  We do not suffer the alienation
and confusion I experienced in my family.  
Still the seeds of my father's troubles
lie buried deep in our we have to watch. 
-Bruce Springsteen 

Reading Springsteen's book was, for me, an experience that was nothing short of cathartic.  I thank him for writing it.  I shall remain forever in his debt for having done so.  


Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Tooth, the Whole Tooth & Nothing but the Tooth

The Franchise and I shared a "point of intersection" moment this week, without even trying.  On Monday, I completed my third (and final) appointment for 2017 with Dr. Bara in the pursuit of good dental health, which needs to be qualified by my admission to having not set foot inside of a dentist's office for any reason in at least one dozen years prior to seeing her for the first time approximately six weeks ago.  

As someone who (at the risk of sounding immodest) has a fairly high threshold for withstanding physical pain, the pain on the left side of my face that prompted me to seek Dr. Bara's assistance turned out to be something that I likely should have had taken care of at some point in the last decade or so.  Live and learn, I reckon.  

Now, with my first root canal in more than forty years squarely in the rear-view mirror (my boyhood experience with this procedure being directly related to my failed attempt to do a back-flip on our sliding board in Harvey's Lake) and a brand-new filling where a gaping hole used to be on the bottom left side of my mouth, I am trying really, really hard to muster the enthusiasm necessary to tackle the Doc's 2018 to-do list.  She remains confident that the mess I made is one that she can remedy.  I remain skeptical but also mindful that each of us knows well what it is we do well and decidedly less about what it is that that others do well.  

Meanwhile, two generations away, my beautiful baby genius granddaughter, Maggie, is preparing for the appearance of her first two teeth, whose arrival is hinted at when you look the bottom front of her mouth.  Timeliness of caroling be damned, it is unlikely that they shall be here for Christmas.  

It matters not.  As long as she does a better job than her Pop Pop of going to the dentist and, unlike her Pop Pop, of acknowledging that brushing and flossing your teeth four times a day is not a substitute for receiving professional care more frequently than once per decade, once teeth begin their merry march into her mouth, she will maintain a relationship with them for years to come.  

As for her Pop Pop?  I simply cannot wait to see her flash what will undoubtedly be a drop-dead gorgeous, toothy grin.  


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Shop Local!

Here is to hoping that Mother Nature cooperates with the best-laid plans of Town Parents all across these United States today.  Today is, after all, Small Business Saturday...sponsored by that teeny-tiny outfit, American Express.

But I digress.

If you are in the greater Belmar/Lake Como Metroplex (a sobriquet, parenthetically, which has yet to catch on in either town), you can shop at Taylor Hardware, Belmar Paint, or Surf's Up Candle; eat at Hooked CafeJimmy's Place, or Reye's NY Style Pizza; or enjoying an adult beverage at Boathouse Bar and Grill, Beach Haus Brewery, or Bar A (have a Bloody Mary for me!). Wherever you go and whatever business (or businesses) you support, chances are excellent that the patron whose business you patronize not only works in the community but lives right there too.  The money you spend in your backyard may well get recirculated, and spent anew, in that very same place.  Neighbors helping neighbors all the while getting something they, themselves desire.  Think of it as consumerism for a cause.  

This evening the Missus and I shall make our annual Small Business Saturday pilgrimage to Downtown Somerville.  First, of course, we shall make our "as many Saturdays as we can in a calendar year" pilgrimage to Uncle Vinnie's in Raritan.  Rosie loves, loves, loves her homemade dog treats, courtesy of the good folks at The Hungry Hound.  Perhaps if they included Clams Oreganato on their menu, we would stop there before going to Uncle Vinnie's.  Alas, poor Rosalita, they do not. 

Downtown Somerville is chock full of great shops, restaurants, taverns, and cool things to see and to experience.  Tonight, the Christmas Tree on Division Street will be lighted as part of Somerville's Holiday Jubilee.  Hot cocoa stands are set up all over Main Street and - memo to my brother, Bill - you can even go for a pony ride in a wagon pulled by a team of Clydesdale horses.  Whoa Nellie! 

At the risk of invading the domain better left to Norman Rockwell and Frank Capra, Small Business Saturday is a really, really good thing.  It serves as a reminder that, if of nothing else, bigger is most assuredly not always better.  Big box stores are ubiquitous.  Their presence does not however make them in and of themselves evil.  They serve a purpose in our economy.  So, of course, do the millions of small businesses that connect town and cities of all makes, models, and sizes across this country.  

We the people of these United States have spilled a lot of ink and paid a lot of lip service recently to politicians whose rallying cry includes "the preservation of our way of life" while suggesting that such preservation requires little more than the construction of walls behind which to hide and/or to protect ourselves.  

I call "Bullshit".  

After all, it is with walled and barricaded nations much as it is with the individuals who inhabit them... is what is on the inside that truly matters.  Today matters.  It truly does.  If you can, then be a part of it.  Enjoy it.  

Here is to us and to that same small town in each of us and to the small businesses that give our town its color, its character, and its soul. 


Friday, November 24, 2017

He for Whom Christmas Came Early... did, tragically, the end of his all-too-short life.  

Whether today is a work day or an off day, before beginning your scheduled activities (including but not limited to contributing to the mayhem known as Black Friday), take a moment or three to acquaint yourself with a brave little boy and the equally brave parents, who shared him with the world knowing when they did so that they were, themselves, preparing to say goodbye to him forever.

Lindsey Bever and Kristine Phillips' tribute to nine-year-old Jacob Thompson is more than a "must-read", it is a "should-read".  It made me smile.  It made me angry.  It made something catch in my throat.  It made me look around to see where onions were being chopped so that I could pinpoint the source of my watering eyes.  

It reminded me that there are battles being waged daily in this world, which battles are far beyond anything that I have yet been called upon to wage.  The people who wage them, often times, are regular, mortal, flesh-and-blood characters.  They were not born with supernatural abilities.  They were not bitten by a radioactive bug.  They did not construct a suit that leaves them impervious to injury in a laboratory.  Yet, each of them is a hero.  Each displays courage that he or she might not have ever known existed deep down in their genetic code - until Life put them to the test and forced them to respond.  

Jacob Thompson celebrated Christmas in his hospital room on Sunday, November 12.  One week later he was gone.  He spent practically half of his life fighting hard against Neuroblastoma.  A little boy should not have to endure all that he endured.  A mother should not have to bury her little boy.  

Here is to an incomparably brave little boy, the family that loved him, and the penguins for which he had a passion (#livelikeapenguin)...