Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Brevity's Cruel Reality

A lifetime ago, when I worked for my older brother Kelly's construction company, this day of the week was not known as Tuesday.  Kelly christened it, "the day after Monday".  The rationale, which makes a great deal of sense, is that Monday is not actually the worst day of the week for a great many people who work for a living.  A number of us are fortunate enough to have at least Sunday - and in many cases both Sunday and Saturday as "work-free" days.  Thus, when we get up for work on Monday, our mind thinks, "Hey, this is not so bad.  Last time I did this I was rewarded with a day or two off."  

It is only when the alarm clock beckons on Tuesday morning that we fully comprehend the level of the deception.  Thus, in the world according to Kelly, the day after Monday is the cruelest day of the week.  While acknowledging my own bias on this issue - I mean it is my brother's baby after all - I must say that his logic is irrefutable and his hypothesis is unassailable.  

Reinforcing just how right Kelly has been for all of these years, two wonderful families, the Lackland family and the Rinaldo family, will gather this morning less than ten miles apart to bid farewell to their matriarchs.  For David, his sister Jennifer, his wife Tessa and his young son, Indy, today's gathering seems incredibly and impossibly unfair as it was a bit more than a year ago that they assembled (along with a multitude of other family members and friends) to say goodbye to David's dad.  

In his extraordinary memoir, Downtown:  My Manhattan, the great Pete Hamill observed that, "Time itself is long, even if the time of man is short." Today, two families victimized by Time's unrelenting march shall each come together to offer support to one another in this time of sadness.  In numbers, there is strength.  And it is the collective's shared purpose that gives it strength and ties together the solitary strand of each individual...

...in a manner akin to the buttons on a blouse. 


Monday, January 30, 2017

Candle Power

Today the extraordinary young woman who I have the privilege and pleasure of calling my daughter is celebrating her birthday.  Her life to date has been one hell of a thing to which to bear witness.  I have made out far better than I ever deserved to, given my own pronounced shortcomings, being able to come along for the ride.  

If all goes according to plan, then this birthday shall be the last one Suzanne shall celebrate before adding the title, "Mom", to her already impressive resume.  Her baby, a little girl, is scheduled to arrive shortly before Memorial Day, which I suppose speaks volumes to her Jersey Girl bona fides - even while in the womb!   

Happy Birthday, Suz.  Keep wishing big...and keep working to make those big wishes come true. Always know that any assistance you may need, wherever you may be, is in the same place it has been for all these years.   


Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Day Fit for Man and Beast

Ah, January at the Shore.  I must confess that as much as I love summer days and nights here, the misanthrope in me revels in the quiet that is winter at the Jersey Shore.  Tranquil does not even begin to cover it.  This morning, when I embark on the six-mile-training run that is on today's docket in preparation for the 2017 United Airlines Half Marathon, which is now less than two months away...for which the course - in real-life - is unfortunately markedly bigger than it appears on this course map -  I will likely see ten times as many people on the Boardwalk (running or biking) than I shall encounter anywhere else in town.  

And, of course, in addition to bringing my running gear, on this weekend at the beach I am joined by my faithful canine companion, Rosalita.  Her presence this weekend is of heightened importance since this afternoon, schedule permitting, she shall be my date for a terrific event that a local business, where Matt Knehr (who Margaret and I have known for most of his life) works, shall host.   

Whether Rosie and I are able to come out tonight (OK, this afternoon), if you are and/or can be in Belmar today, then spend a minute or two (at least) at Beach Haus Brewery.  You will have an opportunity to help a good cause and, also, to lend support for a locally-born, locally-operated business that embraces and assists the community of which it is a part.   Good folks who produce an excellent product, all the while doing all they can for the town they call home.  

Who knows, you might even find a "forever friend" to adopt and take home with you.  Margaret will not be there today with Rosie and me (baby shower) and I know she has a bit of trepidation that the two of us might be joined by a third traveling companion on our trip north this afternoon. 

Hmmm...sing us out, Mr. Hiatt, if you would...


Saturday, January 28, 2017

For Those Who Slipped the Surly Bonds of Earth

We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them,
this morning, as they prepared for their journey, and waved goodbye 
and 'slipped the surly bonds of Earth' to 'touch the face of God.'
- President Ronald Reagan 

Thirty-one years ago this morning, shortly after 9:30 Mountain Standard Time, most of the several hundred students who lived in Farrand Hall on the CU-Boulder campus were crowded around whatever television set we could find (and as the rest of the CU-Boulder community did likewise in whatever location they could themselves) to watch the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger.  The seven-member crew included a Buff, Mission Specialist Ellison Onizuka.  At or about 9:39 am, Ellison Onizuka and his six crew mates died when, just seventy-three seconds after its launch, the Challenger exploded.  

This morning, as it does every year on this date, the Arnold Air Society, which is part of Air Force ROTC Detachment 105 at the University of Colorado, of which Ellison Onizuka was a graduate, shall hold a Memorial, honoring life and legacy of Ellison Onizuka, his six crew mates, and the seven members of the Space Shuttle Columbia crew who died on February 1, 2003, claiming the life of CU alumna Kalpana Chalwa. 


Friday, January 27, 2017

Moynihan's Theorem

To be Irish is to know, in the end, 
The world will break your heart.
- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

For Em, for Karan, for Charlie, and for their family, each of whom today owns a heart that the world has seen fit to break... 


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Postcards From The Long Strange Trip

While contemplating what, if anything, about which to write today (I contemplated and then decided against comparing DJT's taxpayer-funded construction project to a WPK, Sr. Idiot Project), I hopped into the WABAC Machine to see what was rattling around inside my skullcap on this very date last year. To the surprise of no one - least of all me - the answer was...


For a period of time in the latter half of January last year, for reasons that were important to me then and remain so presently, this space went dark.  Then, much to my chagrin I struck a pose akin to Alice McMullen's favorite existentialist, Henry David Thoreau, and made the journey back to civilization from the solitude of the pond.  Metaphorically speaking.  What follows are both sides of the coin, in the order in which they appeared...

...Til tomorrow. 



The Geronimo Adjustment

- James McMurtry

An experiment in peace-keeping that began on a Saturday morning many April moons agohaving proven only moderately successful - and even then on an intermittent basis - has reached its inevitable, predictable conclusion.  For now, at least. 

For a considerable period of time, this place had served as my elixir.  For a long time, it had effectively tamped down the noise emanating from all of the competing voices inside of my head.    I know not when.  I know not how.  I know not why.  All I know is that, for present purposes anyway, it has ceased to fulfill that function.  

Will it ever again?  There are too many questions to count to which I do not know the answer.  This one is among them.  If it does once more offer a port in the storm, then perhaps I shall return to it.  If it does not, then I shall not. Either way, I am confident that the continuing sovereignty of the Republic is not dependent upon that particular question's answer. 

Unless Prince Albert of the Valley creates an entirely new Inter Web, which eviscerates that which has come before it including but not limited to this little outpost, the thoughts and ideas that have been written here since that very first Saturday all those Aprils ago shall remain right here.  They shall be available for further examination and contemplation - although not for use and appropriation ("Ain't no property like intellectual property!") - at your leisure should you wish to revisit them.  Or, should you either lose a bet or commit a disorderly persons offense and be required to do so, which it seems to me is a far more likely scenario.  For present purposes, at least, (borrowing a line from myself and something I wrote a lifetime ago), "There are no more words to write."

So, allow me one to borrow a line just one last time (with meaning, of course) from the Poet Laureate of Freehold, "One sunny morning we'll rise I know, and I'll meet you further on up the road..."

Until then...


P.S. - Do yourself the favor of watching the 2 minute-plus clip from Cheers that has been provided for your viewing pleasure.  First, it is the final two minutes of one of the truly great TV comedies (in my opinion at least).  Second, if you do not watch it through to its conclusion, then the title of this piece will make zero sense.  It would be a shame, would it not, to have slogged through all of this bullshit for the past seven and three-quarter years only to have missed the final payoff?  


The Price of This Particular Form of Refuge

Einstein, a man much smarter than Yours truly, once remarked that insanity is defined as performing the same act over and over and anticipating a different result.  From Professor Einstein's perspective perhaps, therefore, I am indeed insane.  I know not.  Again, I readily acknowledge that his noggin was significantly bigger than mine - at least in terms of its contents.  I win hands-down in a contest of diameter and/or circumference.  Apparently, we would end up in a flat-footed tie in terms of cleanliness of work area - based upon information of which I have only recently become aware

"If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind,
of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?" 
- Albert Einstein 

Ah, the joy and torture of a cluttered mind! 

But I digress.
I did not know how much time I would take from this space when I stepped away from it for an indeterminate period of time.  Through no fault of its own it had become a distraction.  However, I underestimated the amount of stability it provides to my day-to-day.  

And I think that I acted a bit in haste - although I had contemplated doing what I did here for some time prior to doing it.  Truth be told, over the years I have developed the habit of writing a day or two ahead.  Sometimes more depending upon the subject matter.  This piece was originally written to be - as its name suggested - the second-to-last piece that appeared here.   But for a bout of insomnia on Saturday night, this dreck never would have been spawned.  I, for one, cannot fake giving a rat's ass about the Patriots or their quarterback.  

The great American philosopher Hillary Norman Peterson once observed that, "You can never be unfaithful to your one true love.  You'll always come back to her."  While I have little doubt that Margaret is my one true love, to whom I would never be unfaithful, I suspect that the cheeky nymph that is sanity likely has scored a spot on the "Adam Kenny True Love" medal platform.  I am a fairly fucked up cat.  But for all my whistles and tics, I manage to keep my shit together and I do so, on a day in/day out basis, far better than most of the supposedly sane persons with whom I interact.  

It turns out, upon further reflection that I needed to remind myself of the purpose that this ritual performs for me.  It is one of exercise and of exorcism.  I need both.  

Every form of refuge does indeed have its price.  That is beyond question.  

The only question is one's willingness to meet it.  I consider it answered.

For today, at least.

Even in a perfect world, 
Where everyone is equal
I'd still own the film rights and
- Elvis Costello


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Proof that XXI is Greater than LI

Thirty years ago, today, I was the proverbial cheese. 

From my dorm room on the fourth floor of Farrand Hall at the University of Colorado, Boulder, I watched the New York Giants play in their very first Super Bowl.  In Pasadena, California on that final Sunday of January, the Giants matched up against John Elway and the Denver Broncos, who were making their first trip to the Super Bowl since the "Orange Crush" debacle of the late 1970's, and whose journey to Pasadena had taken them through Cleveland, where "The Drive" had already attained infamy.  

In the room that I shared with Jay Bauer and Ed Knell, a small, intimate group of 35-40 friends and neighbors piled in to watch the Super Bowl with us.  Had we arranged seating in the room by allegiance, I would have been resigned to watching the action from the tiny sill of one of our two windows.  There were but two Giants fans in the room that afternoon.  One of them was me.  The other was the fellow who stared back at me in the bathroom mirror in the morning as I brushed my teeth.   

The Giants played dreadfully in the first half and were damn lucky to be down by only one point, 10-9, when the teams headed into their respective locker rooms.  Fortunately, in the second half, they came out as if Coach Parcells had handed out B-12 shots.  A one-point deficit transformed itself into a double-digit lead and, finally, a 39-20 victory, which was spearheaded by Super Bowl XXI MVP, Phil Simms.  History will show - I am constrained to admit - that Mr. Simms was far more gracious in victory than was I, spending the fourth quarter torturing the Broncos fans gathered in my room and, after the game, going door-to-door throughout Farrand Hall to torture the rest of them.  Of course, by game's end, only one of us (Simms or me) was sober.  Although it was three decades ago, I am reasonably confident that I was not the one. 

When the Giants won their second Super Bowl four years later, behind the relentless running of Ottis "O.J." Anderson, Simms watched from the sidelines, felled by an injury that occurred late in the season and forced him to cede his spot in the starting lineup to his backup and rival, Jeff Hostetler.  In four years, his Super Bowl stat line transformed from "MVP" to "DNP".  

But neither injury nor time has taken - or ever shall take - from him what transpired on the field of the Rose Bowl in Super Bowl XXI, on this very day, thirty years ago.  


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Quixotic Quest for the Nipple-Free Soul

We had talk enough, but no conversation;
There was nothing discussed. 
-Samuel Johnson

I am far more of a bystander than a participant in the day-to-day machinations of "social media".  I am also enough of an old fogey that until a CLE Seminar at the Firm a few months ago, I had no idea that social media entailed anything beyond Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  You want a line that is sure to generate a big laugh at your next gathering or meeting?  Raise your hand and ask what the hell people are talking about when they keep saying "Snap Chat".  I did. It killed.  One of our baby lawyers who was in the Seminar at which I asked that question still shakes her head and smiles wistfully whenever I see her around the office as if she half expects me to show her where we keep the butter churn or the mimeograph machine. 

It seems to me that for all of its failings, Facebook has served as a very effective forum since the march to the White House began in or about mid-2015 for underscoring the difference between friends and "Facebook friends".  Its efficient service, simultaneously, as a cudgel and a wedge comes as little surprise to me.  Not because I have an understanding of the algorithms Mr. Zuckerberg and his band of merry makers use to herd individuals with like interests or tastes towards one another but simply because of the rather limited function it performs in my life, which (since I am a woefully unimaginative man) I presume is at least analogous to and perhaps identical to the function it performs in the life of countless others.  

Facebook is a tool that has proved effective in allowing me to reconnect with a number of people with whom I have had no face-to-face contact or any in-person contact of any kind (telephone call/letter) in a number of years.  For me, it has served primarily as a way to re-establish contact with people with whom I was friends in high school or in college and with whom for no reason at all other than life pulled us in different directions I had lost contact.  Within that group, there is a significantly smaller group with whom my contact - once re-established using Mr. Zuckerberg's little toy - has grown into direct contact ranging from the occasional to the regular.  However, as a general rule, those old friends with whom contact has been reestablished on-line are people with whom the re-connection has not advanced beyond our respective computers, tablets, or iDevices.  For me (and if you are unfortunate enough to know me, then for you too) the arm's length relationship is more than fine. It was neither my hope nor my intention to foist myself into the day-to-day of every old friend whose acquaintance I renewed. I am content to cheer their successes (and those of their children and grandchildren) and mourn their heartbreaks from a respectful distance.   

I suspect that I am far from an outlier in that regard.  And I think that has at least a bit to do with the ongoing enmity that first began popping up on my Facebook page slightly less than two years ago on a regular basis and now, frankly, dominates it.  Among those who have used Facebook as a mechanism to enable a reunion - even if only in a virtual sense - with high school classmates, neighborhood friends, or lost loves - there may well be a tendency (one of which the person feeling it is not entirely aware) to envision the person with whom connection has been reestablished not as he or she presently is but, rather, as he or she once was - at least in our memory.  The difficulty arises, however, when one has to reconcile the black-and-white photographic memories of some long-ago prom, party, or football practice with one's reality.  Life is a forward-moving exercise and as it moves, we move.  Were we fossilized fish preserved in amber for eternity then we would remain as we once were.  We are not. We do not.  Candidly, we should not. And since for each of us life moves at its own pace, complete with unique rhythms and rhymes, our movement between that last point of commonality and this one may bear little to no resemblance to one another.  

Therein, however, it seems to me lies the rub - at least judging from any number of the exchanges involving persons whose names I recognize as having once occupied a common space (high school, for instance) but who have not spent more than a moment, perhaps two, in one another's company in a lifetime.  As an objective observer, to my eye a sizable number of these exchanges do not constitute a conversation, which Merriam-Webster defines as, "oral exchange of sentiments, opinions, opinions, or ideas", but instead, constitute two or more people talking at each other.  Ideas and opinions are not being exchanged but rather hurled back-and-forth like a dodge ball or a grenade. The objective is not to foster debate but simply to win the point. 

Maybe, just maybe, there is something therapeutic about Facebook's use as a means for "virtual friend exfoliation"?  After all, most of us has to give no more than a moment's thought to how our life would have turned out had we not remained joined at the hip, moving in lockstep, with our full complement of childhood and school-age friends. Why not? We have lived our life without their company - as they have lived their life without ours.  

Familiarity breeds contempt, it is true.  But, here in the second decade of the 21st Century, it has perhaps bred its own "alternative" offspring. Not its twin. Instead, a masterful forgery.  One that at first glance looks very much like the real thing but upon closer inspection is revealed to be something less.  Not a bad thing. Not a harmful thing either, as long as we recognize it for what it is and act accordingly...

...and realize that only in the halcyon days of our memory shall we walk as the possessor of a nipple-free soul. 


Monday, January 23, 2017

Time Well-Spent

The Missus and I spent Saturday evening (really, Saturday late afternoon) at the movies, which truth be told is a place where we spend very little time.  Working off of memory, I think the last time we had been to the movies prior to Saturday was last year when we saw Spotlight.  

We spend an incredible couple of hours watching Hidden Figures, which told the story of the under-acknowledged contributions made at NASA in the early days of this nation's Space Program by a group of African-American women, including Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.  

My unsolicited advice to one and all is to see this film.  I doubt very much that you shall regret the time you spend in the theater.  An extraordinary story, exceptionally well-told. 


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Another Confession To Make...

...and I make it cognizant of the fact that irrespective of a now-slightly-less-than half-century of staunch heterosexuality, it likely shall cost me my "Man Card" at least in certain circles.  Here it goes:

I shall likely spend more time reading The New York Times this afternoon than I shall watching either of the NFL's Conference Championship Games.  I not only have zero rooting interest in either game but the older I get the less interest I have in professional football altogether.  I am ostensibly a Giants fan and yet I watched less than one half's worth of their total game action this year.  On the other hand, when my beloved Buffaloes got their rear ends kicked on two separate occasions in December - early in the Pac-12 Championship Game and late in the Alamo Bowl - I watched every second of both routs.  

If today is a day for you on which professional football shall be front and center, then enjoy the hell out of it and if a team for which you root is among the four teams in action today, then may your team win.  My apathy is not intended to detract from anyone's enjoyment of the day.

Besides, I already have my box in the $10,000 Super Bowl Pool in which I participate every year so as long as the world lasts long enough for that game to be played two Sundays from now, and two teams show up for that game, I cannot fake giving an Irish rat's ass who it is.  

After all, to borrow a line from the great Randy Newman, it is not the participants that are important, but rather something else altogether...


Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Rock

The Baseball Hall-of-Fame shall welcome three new members this summer.  I must confess that I am entirely apathetic regarding the election of Jeff Bagwell and Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, both of whom were talented, productive players worthy of immortalization in Cooperstown but neither of whom was a player in whom I ever had any particular interest.   I had to chuckle a bit when I received an e-mail from the New York Yankees the other night, inviting me to join them in congratulating "former Yankee" Rodriguez on his election.  In light of the fact that Rodriguez - acquired from Detroit for Kyle Farnsworth at the 2008 trading deadline - played just 33 games for the Yankees, during which he hit a robust .219 while mashing two home runs and driving in a total of three runs, it would be more than a mild upset if Rodriguez's likeness in Cooperstown has an interlocking NY on his cap. 

On the contrary, I am very happy that Tim Raines is finally being recognized for the player he was and that, at long last, he shall be enshrined in the Hall-of-Fame this summer.  He was a superstar when he played for the Montreal Expos and, later, after spending five years with the Chicago White Sox, he arrived in New York in 1996 to play for Joe Torre's Yankees.  During his three years in the Bronx he was, along with Darryl Strawberry, an integral part of two World Series Champions. Raines no longer was a superstar and he was no longer the center of attention.  He was a supporting player.  And his played his role with aplomb. 

In 1999, Raines signed to play for the Oakland Athletics and in the summer of 1999 he was diagnosed with lupus.  He played less than forty games.  When the United States held tryouts for its 2000 Olympic Baseball Team, "Rock" Raines was invited to try out.  He signed a contract with the Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League - as did former Yankee Pat Kelly.  Rock's time in the Atlantic League was brief (seven games) but it was productive.  He batted .346.  

He made his debut in the Atlantic League on a brutally hot, humid summer evening.  I know this because the Patriots play their home games ten minutes from where I live so I bought two tickets and Rob and I went to the game.  Pre-game, Kelly and Raines sat - dressed in their Patriots uniforms - behind a table and signed autographs for everyone who wanted one.  Rob scored Kelly's and then, after the line to get Raines' autograph had thinned out a bit, went to Raines to get his.  

When he reached the table, the two of them apparently had a brief conversation about how Raines had arrived in New York just as Rob was starting to follow the Yankees (he was ten years old) and that while Rob had not seen Raines play in Montreal or Chicago, he loved what he did in New York and thanked him for helping the Yankees win the World Series twice.  As I watched from my seat, I saw Tim Raines look up at my son, smile, and then shake his hand.  Upon Rob's return to his seat, he told me about their conversation.  I asked him what Tim Raines had said to him when he shook his hand and he told me that he said, "Thanks."  He appreciated a then-fourteen-year-old boy sharing a baseball memory with him.  Me, I appreciated him taking the time for creating a memory for Rob.  I have never forgotten it.  Neither has Rob. 

Congratulations, Rock, on a well-earned honor. 


Friday, January 20, 2017

Walking The Line

The line separating good and evil passes not through states, 
nor between classes, nor between political parties either -
but right through every human heart.
- Alexander Solzhenitsyn

At 12:00 pm Eastern Standard Time today, John Roberts, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, shall administer the oath of the office of President of the United States to this nation's 45th President, Donald J. Trump.  What follows after that simple, solemn act belongs in equal part to each one of us as much as it does to Mr. Trump.  Irrespective of whether he received your vote, your scorn, or your apathy ceases to matter today.  At this particular barn dance, no switching of partners is permitted.  He is it.  

The hard work lies ahead.  It lies ahead for him as it does for us.  Vigilance is no longer optional.  It is now a core requirement.  Perhaps, whether Mr. Trump received your vote, his ascendancy to this position shall force the far-too-large segment of this nation's adult population that has contented itself with sitting curbside and watching the parade pass by to actually engage.  Engage in the political process.  Engage in the exchange of ideas.  Engage in doing what is neither a Democrat thing nor a Republican thing but an American thing.  

On Sunday, I began reading The Road to Character by David Brooks, who is (among other things) an Op-Ed writer for The New York Times.   I have not gotten very far into it yet - although given its depth, I am not displeased with my progress.  It is, thus far, a thought-provoking and fascinating read. 

I thought about what I have read thus far, which includes a passage in which the Solzhenitsyn quote that appears at the top of today's piece appears, in the context of the bi-partisan response to Betsy De Vos, who Mr. Trump has put forward as his nominee to serve as Secretary of the Department of Education, and her testimony before a United States Senate Committee earlier this week during her confirmation hearing.  While Ms. De Vos has her defenders, I was intrigued to see among people I know (almost all - if not all - of whom are significantly more politically animated on social media than I) an almost uniform reaction to her apparent lack of qualifications to perform the job for which Mr. Trump has nominated her, which uniformity crossed political, racial, and socio-economic lines. Suddenly, it was as if Ms. De Vos reminded us that "it", whatever it may be, is an American thing after all.   

Perhaps that is why, four and one-half decades after the Daily News posed the question, I choose to believe that the answer originally given still applies and that, "the dope's that there's still hope"...


...and much work to be done to ensure that this particular song remains the same. 


Thursday, January 19, 2017

It Appears As If I Laughed A Bit Too Loud

I have been a fan of Gary Larson's genius since I first laid my eyes upon his magnificent creation, The Far Side, a lifetime or two ago.  He, along with Berkeley Breathed in Bloom County and Bill Watterson in Calvin & Hobbes, brought to the "funny pages" work that significantly more often than not caused me to think as hard as it made me laugh. And rarely, if ever, did any of the three fail to make me laugh.   For as long as I can remember, among my favorite strips Larson ever inked for The Far Side was his uniquely Larsonesque take on Hell.  Now, perhaps, not so much.

On Wednesday, the President-Elect's nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency (the "EPA", which during Scott Pruitt's tenure as Attorney General for the State of Oklahoma has often been identified by another acronym, "Defendant"), testified that he, himself, does not believe that global warming is a "hoax".  He appeared "open-minded" on the issue of the role that human beings, the things we do, and the manner in which we do them plays in the baking of the planet.

At or about the same time as Mr. Pruitt was testifying before the Environment and Public Works Committee of the United States Senate, an august body historically responsible for a disproportionately-high percentage of hot air that has been discharged into the atmosphere, scientists from NASA and from NOAA jointly declared that 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded in the history of the planet.  It wrested that distinction away from its immediate predecessor, 2015, which itself had knocked 2014 from the top spot.  

Sense a pattern developing here?  According to not only NASA but the fun-loving rapscallions at NOAA, an agency whose acronym has evolved into a double entendre before our very eyes, it certainly seems that you should.  If the pattern remains unrecognizable to you, then perhaps this tidbit (also from NASA) will be of zero interest to you altogether.  I must confess that it interests me, with Maggie's arrival approximately one hundred and twenty days away, a whole hell of a lot: 

The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees 
Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th Century, a change 
driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made 
emissions into the atmosphere. 

Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 16 of the 17
warmest years on record occurring since 2001.  Not only was 2016
the warmest year on record, but eight of the 12 months that make up
the year - from January through September, with the exception of June - 
were the warmest on record for those respective months.  October,
November, and December of 2016 were the second warmest of those
months on record - in all three cases, behind records set in 2015. 

If it helps you to wrap your head around what NASA told us all yesterday, then think of it in terms of the Olympics. 2016 was an Olympic year, after all. If "All-Time Hottest Month" was an Olympic event, then 2016 would have captured eight gold medals and three silver.  Outside of the blood-doping Russians, no one group has ever thrown down such a dominant performance in Olympic competition. 

On the other hand, in practically every Coca-Cola Christmas-themed advertisement I have ever seen, polar bears appear to make wonderful companions and fine pets.  I very much look forward to having one.  We can use it to carry Maggie and all of her accoutrements back and forth to the beach - not to mention to teach her how to swim and fish. 

Pop-Pop, after all, is not a kid any more...  


...regardless of whatever Mr. McMurtry seems to think. 


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Last Man on the Moon

Gene Cernan died on Monday, January 16, 2017.  I am more than a bit embarrassed to admit that when news of his death came across my cell phone in the form of an alert from USA Today, I had no idea who he was or the many, incredible things that he had accomplished.  

Cernan was the last person to walk on the moon.  He did so in December, 1972, as the commander of Apollo 17, the last manned mission to the moon.  Apollo 17's mission is historically significant for what it accomplished even prior to Cernan and his crew mate, Harrison "Jack" Schmidt, making three separate excursions around the moon, during which the two men spent more than three days on the moon.  It was while Apollo 17 was on its way to the moon, on December 7, 1972, that its crew captured a view of Earth that was almost immediately christened "The Blue Marble".  A simply stunning, extraordinary image. 

In 1976, after a twenty-year career in the United States Navy, including three trips into space (two of which were trips to the moon), Captain Gene Cernan retired from the Navy and from NASA. Upon his retirement, among other things, he wrote his memoir, The Last Man on the Moon, and became a contributor on ABC's "Good Morning America".  At the time of his death, on Monday, he was eighty-two years old. 

Gene Cernan walked his final steps - and as of today mankind's most recent steps - on the moon approximately forty-five years ago.  As he prepared to leave the moon for the final time, climbing up the ladder behind Schmidt, he spoke words that are as hopeful now as they were when he spoke them, even if we seem sometimes to be as far away from attaining them as we are from the moon itself: 

America's challenge of today has forged Man's destiny of tomorrow.
And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came, 
and, God willing, as we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Fundamentalist

And perspective is exactly what is wanted. 
At a time when events move so quickly and 
So much information is transmitted, 
The ability to slow down and get perspective, 
Along with the ability to get in somebody else's shoes,
Those two things have been invaluable to me.
- President Barack Obama

I have loved to read for practically my entire life.  Teaching me how to read, which my oldest brother Bill did before my second birthday, remains the greatest, never-to-be-equaled gift that anyone has ever given me.  Reading not only fueled my hunger to learn but also provided me with a means for taking a walk around, outside of my own self.  

And as a phenobarbital-dependent, epileptic child prone to throwing down the occasional grand mal seizure, the world I occupied in my day-to-day as a little boy was not always one in which I had attained any measurable level of popularity.  Thus, being able to escape for periods of time into a world in which I was limited, only, by my imagination and never by my affliction appealed to me to a degree that I lack the ability to properly articulate.  

I smiled more than once when I read the transcript of President Obama's Friday, January 13, 2017 interview with Michiko Kakutani, the chief book critic for the New York Times, on the topic of "What Books Mean to Him", which appeared on the paper's web site yesterday.  Irrespective of your politics, including but not limited to for whom you cast your ballot in '08, '12, or '16, I think you might consider the several minutes required to read the transcript of the interview to be time well-spent.  If you are a less enthusiastic reader than I or simply have less time than that to devote to the exercise, then you can read the piece itself.  

The deeper we "progress" (giving that word the broadest-possible definition) into the 21st Century, the more removed we appear to be from the ability to "slow down".  Ah, the paradox.  That which we need most urgently is that which we resist most ferociously.  God forbid we do not seem to be as wired, as connected, as hip as the next person.  Go fast or go home, right?  


We might all be better served if instead of moving superficially through as many things as we can for as long as we can as the human equivalents of flat stones on the smooth surface of a mountain lake, we traded distance for depth.  Slow down.  Go deep.  Do not simply read, but, do so for content and comprehend.  Do not simply hear but, instead, truly listen.  The "limited attention span" Olympics will still be going forward on every regularly-scheduled channel when you decide to opt back into the silliness.  

They will still be going on when you opt back out, again, take in a healthy gulp of air, and dive deep...

...and the deeper you dive , the more you realize just how little you miss them.  If at all. 


Monday, January 16, 2017

A Thousand Words' Worth...

Sometimes no truth is more powerful than
One expressed in anger by a melancholy man.
- Pete Hamill

For the birthday girl.  This year...

...next year...

...Every year.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017

We Are 104

One cannot be a fan of the New York Rangers without knowing what it means to have your heart broken.  Last night, it happened yet again. 

On a day that confirmed the presence of multiple heroes in the McDonald family, Patti Ann and Conor allowed Rangers fans to do - at the Garden - what they had themselves had to do earlier in the day...


Friday, January 13, 2017

The Unsinkable Mrs. Brown

The following piece originally appeared in this space almost seven years ago, on Friday, February 13, 2009. Thinking about the incident that is featured prominently in it, almost forty years after it happened, never fails to make me laugh.  We were, for one evening, the "Irish Family Kenny".  To our rescue sailed the unsinkable Helen Brown, ably aided by her husband, Arthur, and their daughter, Roxanne. 

I suspect (or perhaps, it is simply a hope) that these days, Mrs. Brown, spends a portion of her time these days talking American History with her old friend, colleague, and boss, WPK, Sr.  Helen Brown died slightly less than two years ago, on January 28, 2015.   


Triskadekaphobia or Treat?

Today is Friday the 13th and as luck would have it - this being a year in which we look but do not leap - we will have the opportunity to enjoy another one this time, next month. (Do not get giddy in look ahead to April hoping against hope for a trifecta. It gets even scarier then - the 13th is a Monday.)

Friday the 13th evokes memories for me of certain events from my youth Beginning in the 5th grade, I went to school where my father was a teacher and an administrator. Either when I was a fifth grader, or perhaps when I was in Grade Six, Dad and the the school Booster Club organized a basketball game to raise money for the Club, which helped fund our school's Athletic Department.

The game was between the faculty and a team of Major League baseball players. (It was the pre-steroid era so none of us feared "roid rage"). The hook to the touring band of players was Jeff Torborg. Mr. Torborg was a Westfield native, a star player at Rutgers and had - in fact - for one season while he was between big league managerial and/or coaching gigs served as our school's Athletic Director and Varsity baseball coach. On what turned out to be a miserably cold and rainy winter's night, he brought his gang of ball players with him to Inman Avenue to "throw down" against the W-H faculty.

I still smile thinking of the event because it was an unqualified success. The players were not stars, although their roster included one future star - Willie Wilson of the Kansas City Royals - who might just be the greatest high school athlete we have ever produced here in Levelland, but they were all great sports. All posed for pictures for a long time after the game and signed autographs for whoever wanted one. Somewhere Rob has my autographed baseball that Mr. Torborg signed along with Willie Wilson, Glenn Borgmann, Johnny Briggs and the rest of their team.

The weather was a non-factor of course as the game was played at W-H's gym. Post-game however it became an enormous factor. On our drive home - with Dad behind the wheel, Mom riding shotgun and Kara, Jill and I across the back seat of the station wagon - we went thru a lake-like puddle and Dad's car died. We could not get restarted. We were but 5 minutes from school, which meant we were about 40 minutes from home. It was late. It was the pre-cell phone era. We were screwed.

Dad (if I remember correctly) found a nearby pay phone and had the audacity to call one of the teachers who worked for him and who had the misfortune of living nearby. And because she was the absolute salt of the earth, on a night not fit for man nor beast, in response to the call from her boss Helen Brown - my History teacher - and her husband, Art, came out to where we were to rescue us. And by "rescue" I mean not only get us out of our stranded car but put us up in their home for the night.

Mrs. Brown was a bit of a character. She was an incredibly good history teacher but she was generally considered to be a bit odd by most of her students.  In our defense, she was the only teacher I ever had who wrapped the pieces of chalk she used in Scotch tape, the efficacy of which I understand as an adult but which eluded me completely as a child. She had a Code of Conduct by which her life was lived that I could not get a whiff of on my best day. It was more than a bit mortifying to a "trying so hard to be so cool" 12 or 13 year-old to spend the night at a teacher's home and I was prepared to take to my grave the fact that I had been there. Unfortunately I failed to adequately communicate that fact to Mrs. Brown.

In History class on Monday, which as I recall was an afternoon affair, Mrs. Brown spilled the beans. She began innocuously enough by asking who among us had been at school Friday night for the basketball game and about autographs we had been able to collect and then - without warning - she gave up the fact that our family had spent the night at her family's home. Having kept that potentially embarrassing piece of information to myself all day up to that point, it was hard for me to pretend as if I had forgotten about it when, as soon as the bell rang signaling the end of the period, my friends descended upon me like fat guys looking to carve up the last hot dog.

In my pre-teen mind, I was incensed that she had "humiliated" me in front of my friends - especially when between my still-oversized head, daily dosages of medicine to combat my epilepsy and the fact that my old man ran the joint I needed neither her help nor anyone else's to accomplish that goal.

In relatively short order - and I do not know why or when specifically it happened - I realized that she had not sought to embarrass me. And more importantly, I realized just what an extraordinary gesture she had made on that cold, rainy Friday the 13th. She and her family had opened up their home to take in not one or even two stranded travelers but five of us.

A lucky day indeed on the unlikeliest of days.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dogs Sleeping Upside Down

True confession.  While a million things crossed through my mind yesterday (well, that is a blatant exaggeration as one million things have not crossed through my mind in close to fifty years' worth of yesterdays), nothing came into focus.

If I had actually planned even a little, I would have figured out some sort of "greatest hit" to post here today.  Nope.  I could not even pull that off. 

Good thing I have a lot of pictures of Rosie from which to choose, including this long-forgotten gem taken two weeks after her arrival...

Rosie Sleeping Upside Down
(October 2, 2007)


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Requiem for a Heavyweight

In the summer of 1986, NYPD officer Steven McDonald - working with his partner in Central Park investigating thefts of bicycles - was shot three times in the head and neck by a teenager as he questioned him.  McDonald survived the shooting but was left paralyzed from the neck down and respirator-dependent to breathe. 

Officer McDonald's wife, Patti Ann, was pregnant at the time.  Approximately three months later, Patti Ann gave birth to the couple's son, Conor. 

Steven McDonald was a die-hard fan of the New York Rangers.  And truth be told, it was his Rangers' allegiance - as much as his service to the people of New York - that introduced me to him. In the 1987-88 season, the Rangers introduced the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, which the fans vote on and which is awarded to the Ranger who goes above and beyond the normal call of duty. The Rangers have given the award every year since.  My favorite Ranger, Adam Graves, won it five times, which no other Ranger has equalled.  

Steven McDonald did not retire from the NYPD when he was shot in 1986.  In fact, he never retired from the NYPD.  He remained on the job, mentoring new recruits, lecturing at high schools, and sharing with the world his indomitable, unbreakable spirit.  He forgave the teenager who shot him and carried forward the message of "Faith and Forgiveness".  

And he carried forward the legacy of serving the people of the City of New York.  His son, Conor, who was born just months after his dad was injured in the line of duty, became the fourth generation of McDonald men to join the NYPD in 2010.  Last year, Conor McDonald was promoted to the rank of Detective. 

Steven McDonald, fifty-nine years old, suffered a massive heart attack at his home in Malverne, New York.  Yesterday, he died.  

From one member of Blueshirt Nation to another, thank you for your service, for your inspiration, and your example.  This world was a better place for you being in it.  May we all honor your memory by paying forward your example.  


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Wonderful World, Indeed

My sister, Kara, and my brother-in-law, Russ, spent at least several days last week in Orlando, Florida at one of the properties christened "The Happiest Place On Earth".  To borrow a line from Mr. Springsteen, they were not in Orlando on business, they were only there for fun.  Kind of, sort of. 

Thursday, January 5 through Sunday, January 8 was the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. According to the website, four races take place at Disney World over the course of those four days:  5K on Thursday, 10K on Friday, Half-Marathon on Saturday, and a Marathon on Sunday.  A runner may elect to sign up for all four races, a feat Disney refers to as the "Dopey Challenge", which is 48.6 miles of racing.  

Russ, 58 years young and a real-life running machine, accepted the "Dopey Challenge".  He not only accepted it, he obliterated it:  26:30 in the 5K, 44:08 in the 10K, and 3:25:48 in the Marathon.  In Friday's 10K he finished in 3rd place in his age group (55-59 y/o men) and 134th overall.  On Sunday, his 3:25:48 finishing time in the marathon was good enough for 2nd place in his age group and 263rd overall.  

Stel, who is about six months away from celebrating birthday #54, signed up for Saturday's Half-Marathon.  Unfortunately, the weather in Orlando, Florida on Saturday was fit for Donald Duck but not for those of the non web-footed persuasion.  Disney cancelled the Half, which bummed Stel to no end and deprived Russ of the chance to collect yet another top-3 age group finish.  Stel, with whom I ran this past November through the streets of New York, could have simply collected her Half-Marathon Medal and called it a weekend.  She did not.  Instead, she registered on one day's notice for the Marathon.  

If you are not a runner and/or if you are not a runner who has ever tackled serious distance races, such as half-marathons, marathons, and beyond, then I shall not bore you here with the minutiae of how one trains and prepares to race at such a distance.  I will say simply this:  I have completed a half-dozen marathons in the past six-plus years and, during that same time period, I have completed at least as many half-marathons.  Never would I consider - on ONE DAY'S NOTICE - bumping up from a half-marathon to a marathon.  

I should mention parenthetically that although the powers at Disney have a name for running all of their races (Dopey Challenge) and for running the half and the full marathon back-to-back (Goofy Challenge), there is no kitschy Disney name for what Kara did (although the "Not Recommended by Doc" leaped immediately to mind).  It mattered not.  On Sunday, Stel completed her second-ever marathon, crossing the finish line in 6:35:22, which shaved approximately five minutes off of her NYC Marathon finishing time.   

A PR on a day's notice.  I have no words.  

None are necessary.  This photograph sums it all up quite nicely, thank you very much. 

Dos Bad Asses