Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Wisdom of Phineas

I fell asleep prior to the conclusion of Sunday night's Academy Awards.  In fairness to my fellow narcoleptic, Chrissy Teigen, she made it one hell of a lot deeper into the broadcast than I.  I called it a night prior to Casey Affleck growing his beard, I think.  

I woke up Monday morning to a great deal of breathless reporting about the great envelope screw-up of 2017, courtesy of Faye Dunaway, Warren Beatty, and your friends and mine at PriceWaterhouseCooper.  I appreciate the fact that it was one hell of an embarrassing couple of minutes for all concerned.  That being said, from the clips I saw on-line, it seemed to me that the people from La La Land and the people from Moonlight both handled the faux pas with grace.  And at the end of the evening, the people who won "Best Picture" were recognized and left the auditorium with Oscar in their possession.  

It was a far cry from that disaster at the 1997 Tony Awards when a seat-filler walked off with a Tony properly intended for one of the producers of Best Musical winner, Scarsdale Surprise"...

As my great, great grandpa Phineas used to tell me, "If the worst part of your day is someone screwing up announcing your name as the winner of an Academy Award, then you are having a pretty goddamn good day."  Phineas was the wisest old man I have ever known.  Proof of just how far down the scale of "worst day ever" entries what happened at Sunday night's Academy Awards is found in the story of Royce Young and his wife, Keri.  

I am not a fan of NBA basketball.  Full disclosure demands that I acknowledge that I was not aware of the fact that Royce Young earns his living writing about the NBA for espn.com until after I read the incredible tribute that he had written to his wife, Keri, which he posted on his Facebook page on February 17th, shortly before he left their home to travel to New Orleans to cover the NBA All-Star Game. 

Keri Young is pregnant.  She is carrying a little girl.  Keri and Royce Young have a young son, Harrison, to whom baby Eva would have been a little sister.  Keri Young's due date is May 7.  

At the nineteen-week ultrasound, Keri and Royce Young received stunningly tragic news.  Eva, alive in her mother's womb, does not have a brain. Keri Young, upon learning the devastating news, decided that she is going to carry Eva to term.  By doing so, the Youngs shall, upon Eva's death, make her organs available for other babies in need.  More important to Keri Young is the fact that by doing so, they will permit their little girl, whose life shall be but a fleeting glimpse, to meet her mommy and daddy.    

If Royce Young's tribute to Keri does not inspire you while simultaneously breaking your heart, then I know not what can.  I have read it several times and it guts me each time I do.  And I am enough of a coward to acknowledge that all I am doing is reading about it.  I shudder at the likelihood of my failure were I tasked with the responsibility with which Royce Young is tasked and I know, without hesitation that I would certainly fail if required to walk for even a moment in Keri Young's shoes.  

Read their story.  Spend just a moment in their lives, walking around for just a little while in their reality.  Then scroll back up to the top of this piece and play (or replay) the video to which I provided the link in the second full paragraph, which chronicles Sunday night's Academy Awards fiasco.  Ask yourself if old great great grandpa Phineas was not right, after all.

It is, of course, a rhetorical question.  And one to which the answer, on this particular day, hurts more than anyone wishes it did.  


Monday, February 27, 2017

Paging Mr. Peterson...

Yesterday was actually a bit jarring around these parts - inasmuch as February's final Sunday actually felt like February.  Truth be told, a forty-five degree, sunshine-inundated day in February is always welcome in my book.  Yesterday included.

On Saturday night, the Missus and I went to our favorite little joint for dinner, Uncle Vinnie's in Raritan.  As we were waiting for seats at the bar, we ran into an old high school friend of mine, Rob DiLeo and his wife, who were there eating dinner with another couple.  I have seen Rob exactly twice in the thirty-five years since his class graduated from W-H - and both times have been at Uncle Vinnie's.

I am a firm believer that everyone needs a place that envelops you in a feeling of being exactly where you want to be the entire time you are there.  For me, Uncle Vinnie's is such a place.  Excellent food, good people, and a joint that is small and intimate enough to make you feel as if you know everyone with whom you come into contact - whether an old friend or not.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Panel N-73

Whatever we were to each other we are still...
- Anonymous

February 26, 1993 was a Friday.  Unlike the weather we have experienced in February's final week this year, in 1993 late February felt and acted like...well, February.  Winter felt like winter in New York City. 

I was slightly more than half way through law school in February, 1993, having started the fourth of six semesters one month earlier.  In the Spring Semester, 1993, Friday was a day on which I had class only in the morning, which afforded me the chance to walk the couple of blocks to Newark Penn Station and catch a Northeast Corridor Line train that would deposit me in Edison shortly after twelve noon. From the train station, it was a quick walk across the street to my job - and to Margaret - at Payco, which is where I spent every Friday afternoon. 

Having taken two years off from the "school thing" after college, I found the level of socializing that went on at law school to be a bit unsettling.  I had not expected law school to bear any resemblance to college and, yet, inspired in no small part by the seemingly high number of my classmates who had matriculated to law school directly from college, it did.  Well, for them it did.  For me, it did not.  

One of the fellow inmates at the asylum with whom I bonded was Kelly Symons.  She, too, had delayed graduate school for a couple of years upon her graduation from college, which in her case was my old man's Alma mater, Fordham University.  Kelly lived in Manhattan.  On Fridays, after class, we usually walked to the train station together, grabbed a quick slice of pizza, discussed whatever the weekend's action plan hoped to be, and then went our separate ways. Whereas I headed to the platform at which the next Trenton-bound Northeast Corridor (local) train would arrive, Kelly would head towards the PATH platform.  She took the PATH train from Newark, through Jersey City, and then into Lower Manhattan and its final stop, which was the World Trade Center. From there, she caught whichever Uptown train took her home (Rob spent four years while at John Jay trying in vain to teach me the NYC Subway System). 

For whatever reason, on that Friday, we dispensed with our customary slice.  When we reached the station, we said our fare-thee-wells and then headed off to catch our respective trains.  I had not yet joined the "cell phone revolution" in 1993.  Once I was in the train, I was incommunicado until I arrived at whatever happened to be my destination.  

Upon my arrival at my job on that particular February Friday afternoon, a number of the people with whom I work, including Margaret, were discussing a horrible event that had occurred in Lower Manhattan while I was rumbling south on my train.  When they told me what had happened, I thought immediately of Kelly.  I called her from the phone on my desk.  After what seemed to be 1,000 rings (and which I am quite confident was nothing more than four or five), a rather shaken version of my friend answered.  In light of the events of the day, the very sound of her voice - shaken as it was - was music to my ears.  We spoke only briefly. 

On that cold, miserable February Friday afternoon, the horrible event that happened in Lower Manhattan was the detonation, at shortly after twelve o'clock in the afternoon, of a truck bomb in the parking garage beneath the North Tower (Tower 1) of the World Trade Center.    The decision, made in Newark shortly before noon, to eschew a pizza slice in favor of an earlier PATH train, saved my friend's life.  

That act of cowardice killed six people:  John DiGiovanni, forty-five years old, a Dental Products Salesman for Kerr Manufacturing; Robert Kirkpatrick, sixty-one, a Senior Structural Maintenance Supervisor for the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey; Stephen Knapp, forty-seven, Chief Maintenance Supervisor, Mechanical Section, for the Port Authority; Bill Macko, fifty-seven, General Maintenance Supervisor, Mechanical Section, for the Port Authority; Wilfredo Mercado, age thirty-seven, a Receiving Agent for Windows on the World Restaurant;  and thirty-five-year-old Monica Rodriguez Smith, an Administrator, Operations Department, for the Port Authority who, on the day she was murdered, was seven months pregnant with her first child, a little boy. 

Eight and one-half years later, on a drop-dead gorgeous September Tuesday morning, the North Tower and its companion, the South Tower, were destroyed in a terrorist attack in which thousands of innocents were murdered.  The building in which John DiGiovanni, Robert Kirkpatrick, Stephen Knapp, Bill Macko, Wilfredo Mercado, and Monica Rodriguez Smith died, died itself.  

The space once occupied by the North Tower of the World Trade Center is now occupied by the North Pool of the World Trade Center Memorial.  And there, together now as they were on what turned out to be the final day of each of their lives, one can find John DiGiovanni, Robert Kirkpatrick, Stephen Knapp, Bill Macko, Wilfredo Mercado, and Monica Rodriguez Smith.  They are now what they have been every day for the past twenty-four years:  loved and remembered. 

May it always be so...

Panel N-73 
(North Pool - World Trade Center Memorial)


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Welcome Back, My Friends...

...to the show that never ends.  

Once upon a Friday in America, submitted for your approval in support of the proposition that truth is indeed stranger than fiction...

If nothing else, William Renfro demonstrated that he is an online seller whose customers can trust his representation that the product he claims to have available for purchase is - in fact - the product he has available for purchase.  Only an honest man advertises the heroin he has available for purchase on Craigslist.  A smart man knows enough to find another means of distribution.  

Meanwhile at CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference), which wraps up today at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland (admit it - you chuckled a little bit upon reading the locale at which this particular hootenanny is taking place), Jason Charter and Ryan Clayton proved that if you provide sheep with a bright, shiny thing with which to play, they will play with it without reservation.  Happiness is 1,000 people waving little pro-Trump flags designed to look like the Russian flag as their hero took the stage at CPAC on Friday morning. 

Last, but most certainly not least, shortly after the President told the CPAC attendees (the ones waving their "From Russia With Love" pro-Trump flags and the ones in the hall going apoplectic attempting to take those flags away) that on his watch the United States would be the nation with whom no other nation or terrorist group would dare fuck...

...the ever-articulate Sean Spicer created an important exception to the Trump Doctrine, which apparently is that if you have a pen, a pad, a brain, and a point of view that is viewed as unfavorable to the White House, you shall not always be permitted to play in Mr. Spicer's sandbox. A position so patently absurd that Bret Baier of Fox News called "bullshit" on it, as Mr. Baier pointed out CNN and the New York Times had done on behalf of Fox News when the Obama Administration pulled the same crap.  

The late, great H.L. Mencken once rather famously observed, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard."  I suspect that somewhere he is laughing good and hard. 

Better hold your baby's hand tight once you take your seat...

...this one is a dark ride. 


Friday, February 24, 2017

Meanwhile, in the Constellation Aquarius

I joke that I became a lawyer in part to run away from hard science and math.  Actually, I became a Republican to run away from hard science.  While my day-to-day is spent in the realm of words and language, I am unabashedly a geek about all things NASA.  It blows my mind, now, that two-plus generations ago, men and women looked up at the stars and the moon and thought, "I bet I can figure out how to build a rocket to transport a person up there." Me?  I would have been the idiot in the corner looking at the moon and thinking, "What kind of cheese?"

I spent a few minutes yesterday morning watching NASA's live feed of two astronauts aboard the International Space Station using the ISS's grappling arm to "capture" the Space-X Dragon craft, which accomplishment led to me clapping and cheering - while seated at the desk in my office. Had anyone else been in the building, it might have been quite embarrassing...although I did feel better when NASA's feed switched over to Space-X Mission Control in California where - at 2:45 AM Pacific Time - people were applauding their success and giving one another the obligatory high-five.  For those who have not performed it - the one-person high-five is (in my experience) rather unsatisfying.

NASA is having a pretty good week, I would say.  On Wednesday, they announced that their Spitzer Space Telescope had revealed the first known system of seven planets (Earth-size) orbiting around a single star.  How cool is that? (Hint:  There is only one correct answer to that question and it sounds quite a lot like "Incredibly F*cking Cool!")  If you are a science idiot as I am, then you might find this explanation of what the Spitzer Space Telescope discovered to be helpful to your understanding. I know that I did.   

Truth be told, the magnitude of what this discovery means is so far beyond my ability to comprehend that I shall never completely understand it.  I am likely to never grasp anything beyond little snippets of it.  And that is fine.  I understand enough to appreciate the wonder of it all...

...and to keep the little boy alive inside of me.  And in times like these, that is something worthy of appreciation. 


Thursday, February 23, 2017

An Evening at an Old Haunt

My Wednesday lasted several hours longer than it usually does - and for an excellent reason.  I spent last evening at Seton Hall University School of Law, where I served as one of the judges for the 2017 Eugene Gressman Appellate Advocacy Moot Court Competition.  This marked the second consecutive year that I have been lucky enough to participate as a judge in the competition.  I hope that - whether next year or at a later date - I am afforded a third opportunity. 

Apropos of nothing other than scheduling, the arguments that we the judges listened to last night were in the "Sweet 16" of this year's competition, as opposed to last year when I was a judge in an earlier round.  I was impressed again this year - as I was last year - by the preparation of the soon-to-be lawyers and, more than anything else, by their advocacy.  Once again this year, the 3-L student who wrote the "problem" that was the basis of the oral argument did an excellent job.  She not only provided the competitors with substance - regardless of which side of the argument he or she was one - but she provided the judges with quite a lot of issues to consider and with a lot of bases for questions.  

As a Moot Court judge, I tend to ask a fair number of questions.  While that is undoubtedly a by-product of having spent close to twenty-five years on the receiving end of questions, whether arguing a motion before a Law Division judge or an appeal in front of an appellate panel, it is also intended to get the young man or woman who is standing up in front of a panel of strangers a bit more comfortable with the task at hand.  

In my experience, it can be a bit unsettling to argue one's point passionately and articulately only to have the audience to which you are presenting your case stare back at you without comment.  I have always made it my goal - in every competition in which I have served as a judge - to try and help the competitors by creating an atmosphere in which they know that the judge who is speaking to them is engaged in the process - as are the competitors themselves. 

My hope this year, as it was last year and as it has been in every competition in which I have served as a judge, is that I held up my end.  The student competitors did not disappoint.  Regardless of how comfortable (or not) any one of them is on his/her feet, or how satisfied (or not) any one of them is with the result, they never do. 


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Month-Long Vacation in the Stratosphere

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm...
- Ralph Waldo Emerson 

This weekend felt nothing like "mid-February" at the Shore.  The annual Manasquan First Aid Squad Mid-Winter Beach Run was well-attended - as it always seems to be.  This year, unlike some years, the dress code was short-sleeved t-shirts and shorts.  Gun time was 11:00 am, at which time it was approximately sixty degrees.  Happiness is a February race that is run, in New Jersey, under sun-soaked, sixty-degree skies.  

Sunday morning I finally completed my first good training run of my training program for the 2017 United Airlines NYC Half-Marathon, which is Sunday, March 19, 2017.  While I would be happier to report that news were I not five weeks deep into the training program, I cannot undo what has been done.  Hopefully the genuinely good effort that I gave over 7.5 quick (for me, anyway) miles on Sunday will carry over and will stay with me going forward through the slightly more than three weeks that separate me from race day.  

There are a hell of a lot worse ways to spend a February Sunday morning than how I spent mine...

17th Avenue Beach - Belmar

Looking north from Shark River Inlet

Belmar Fishing Club from Shark River Inlet

North towards Asbury Park from Avon Pavilion

I had one hell of an enjoyable day.  Not as enjoyable as the one that young Nathan Testa spent recently... 

...but then again, I can neither sing nor play the guitar. 


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ode to the Hater, Two Years Later

In the two years since I wrote this, nothing has occurred to cause me to rethink my preference for quadrupeds over bipeds.  In fact, most of what has occurred in the interim has simply ratified the correctness of my position...

...although I am pleased to report that in the two years since his other half died, Dempsey has continued to thrive.  Rosie has also.  Occasionally, when the weather permits it, Dempsey will spend his day lounging in the back yard.  Invariably, he spends a bit of time napping in or near the spot where Boo is buried - as if he is checking in with her to ensure her that he is OK but also letting her know that he has not forgotten her.  


Little Creature. Big Hole.

A bit of sad business crept inside the four walls of our little home yesterday.  One of our two cats, Boo, died.  As far as Margaret and I were able to tell, the little monster we affectionately referred to as "Six Pounds of Hate" because her beautifully-expressive face always made her appear as if she was mad as hell, simply had a heart attack or some such event.  

She was alive and well when Margaret and I went to bed Thursday night at a bit after 10:00 PM - and was in fact in her customary place flopping all over Rosie in Rosie's bed on the floor immediately adjacent to my side of the bed. However, when I walked through the hallway on my way to take a shower at 3:30 AM yesterday morning, I saw her motionless on the floor.  She was gone. 

Boo is/was one half of a great story.  She and her brother, Dempsey, were introduced into our home as newborn kittens, having been found in a box on the side of a road by Margaret's former husband, Bob, as he was on his way to perform electrical work at a customer's home.  Boo and Dempsey were so tiny that their eyes were barely open.  They knew not how to do anything for themselves and they had been taken from their mother at such an early age that she had not yet had the opportunity to teach them what they needed to know.  It fell therefore to Margaret and to Rob to take care of them.  And take care of them they did.  For the first several weeks of their lives, Margaret and Rob fed them them and, essentially, mothered them.  That was October, 2001. 

Over the course of the past thirteen and one-half years, Boo became what pets become, which was an integral part of the fabric of our life.  Her brother, Dempsey, is the single-most, un-catlike cat I have ever encountered in that he is incredibly people-friendly and at times almost desperate in his need for affection.  Boo?  She spent her life interacting with us humans who shared space with her on her terms.  Her physical frame was small - Dempsey is close to twice her size - but her spirit was big. 

I far prefer the company of animals to the company of human beings.  Nary a day goes by during which - on at least one occasion - I do not have to suppress my "I Want to Punch That M*ther F*cker in the Larynx" reflex while interacting with other humans.  I have never had to do so  - not once - with any of the animals with whom I have been fortunate enough to share space.  

I know not what will happen to Dempsey now - although I am worried about him.  He and his sister spent the past thirteen and one-half years essentially intertwined.  Now, she is gone.  I know not whether his little feline brain can actually process "loss" and whether he understands to any degree whatsoever what has happened.  

I worry about Rosie too.  She has lived in the company of cats her entire life.  This photograph from May 2008, when Rosie was less than one year old, features Boo, Dempsey and Rosie as they often are/were:  together.  It is among my favorites - admittedly in large part due to the fact that each one's eyes are drawn to something completely different.

Boo kept those of us of the bi-ped persuasion at arm's length.  Yet, she had a soft spot in her little heart for Rosie.  They slept together at night and Boo made sure to spend a portion of her day, every day, nuzzling with her hairy, canine half-sister.  On one particular occasion, she allowed Rosie to return the favor of using her as a pillow.


The great, sagacious Dr. Seuss instructed us, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."  It certainly did.

Every day for the past thirteen and one-half years.    


Monday, February 20, 2017

He's The One We All Say Hail To...

I wrote this five years ago.  Perhaps this time next year, this day might have a different name.  If you have the day off - enjoy it...


The Ascendancy of Mercury

Happy President's Day! Once upon a time in America we honored individually the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The duo are two of the most important men this nation has ever known. The former was the leader of the Continental Army in the War of Independence and is commonly referred to as "the Father of His Country". The latter an Illinois railsplitter who did nothing less than (a) save the Union; and (b) emancipate the slaves....and did so in what amounted to slightly more than a single term in office. 

However, in 21st Century America the concept of the National Holiday and the concept of the "participation medal" (a/k/a the "Thank you for playing our game" award) have run headlong into one another. Thus, instead of recognizing Washington's birthday and/or Lincoln's birthday, we have created one catch-all day. Presumably it honors not only those two men and the others whose time in office was viewed as positive but also those lesser lights who either harbored the delusion that they were bigger than the office (I am talking to you Mr. Harding....and most especially you Milhous) or who proved to be completely overmatched by the gig upon winning it (Yes Mr. Hoover I am referring now to you....and feel free to tap Mr. Carter on the shoulder for I am most assuredly speaking of him also). 

Truth be told, if you are enjoying a day off from either work or school today because this is the day marked on the calendar to acknowledge the generally nondescript Presidencies of gentlemen such as Van Buren, Tyler, Grant, Harrison (either one), McKinley or Fillmore - the last one of whom the official White House web site's biographical information begins with this paragraph, "In his rise from a log cabin to wealth and the White House, Millard Fillmore demonstrated that through methodical industry and some competence an uninspiring man could make the American dream come true", you care not at all about the dumbing down of this holiday. Too bad Fillmore held the office several generations before Henry Ford invented the Model T. That description would have made one hell of a bumper sticker. I know, I know. You have the day off. Got it. 

He was never an American President but John Glenn has long been an American hero. Glenn served the people of Ohio for a quarter-century in the United States Senate. Long before he first sought election to public office, Glenn earned his living in the most rarified of air. 

Fifty years ago today, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. On February 20, 1962 Glenn - in his capsule named Friendship 7 orbited the Earth three times during a five-hour flight. By the end of the decade Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would walk on the Moon. Steps that likely would not have been possible had earlier legs of the journey - such as Glenn's - not been successful. 

John Glenn is 92 years old now. This weekend he and his wife Annie - to whom he has been married for sixty-eight years - were in Florida as NASA celebrated the 50th anniversary of his flight with a reunion of its Mercury team. Glenn is one of the last two surviving Mercury astronauts. He was joined in Florida by the other, Scott Carpenter (that would be the University of Colorado's own Scott Carpenter). In saluting his long-time friend and former fellow astronaut and all of the other members of the Mercury program who were together again Carpenter remarked, "John, thank you for your heroic effort and all of you for your heroic effort. But we stand here waiting to be outdone."

Ain't that just like a couple of old astronauts....always planning for the NEXT mission.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sometimes I Grow So Tired...

Today is Sunday, February 19.  Four weeks from today is Sunday, March 19, the veritable cusp of the Vernal Equinox, which is a very good thing.  It is also the date of the United Airlines Half-Marathon in New York City, which is (a) an event in which I shall participate; and (b) an event for which, presently, I am woefully unprepared.  Time will tell - as it always does.  This time I may not enjoy what it has to tell me very much.  

Idle thoughts from my rambling mind (in no particular order):

- Listened the other evening to Springsteen's "Magic" CD.  Under the heading of "what goes around comes around" it struck me just how many of the issues he addressed on that record are as relevant now as they were when he released it  a decade ago.  Of course, the fact that we may well be living in the future of which he sang is not a thought that gives me much comfort.  

- I am not a fan of organized religion, including but not limited to the Catholic Church in which I was raised.  Nevertheless, a tip of the hat to the new Archbishop of the Diocese of Newark, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, who directed that the Diocese's Director of its CYO basketball league reverse the decision to remove the two female members from the St. John's School 5th grade basketball team, reinstate the team's record, and allow the 11-member, co-ed bunch play in their league's playoffs.  Those eleven children taught the rest of us a lesson about the importance of doing the right thing and Cardinal Tobin ratified their decision by rewarding them for it.  Well done, all around. 

- A lifetime or so ago, I had the great pleasure of spending some quality time with Greg Toal, Sr.  Here in the State of Concrete Gardens, where we have parochial, private high schools that play football schedules that would make some Division I college programs blush, Coach Toal is a legendary figure.  Long before he arrived in Ramsey, New Jersey in 1999 to rescue Don Bosco Prep and to build its football team from a doormat into a State-and-National Championship-winning behemoth, he had won State titles at Hackensack High School.  It was while he was the Hackensack head football coach that I first got to know him - having been introduced to him by my then-boss, John Libretti, when I worked in John's small firm on Hackensack's Main Street.  Middle of this past week, Don Bosco Prep announced that Coach Toal suddenly "retired" and then proceeded to regale the local press with a story that was so confusing factually, one might have thought that Sean Spicer had directed them.  Whether the impetus to leave his position was his or was someone else's is - presently, at least - an unanswered question.     

And now, as the song says, it is time for me to go...

...such a pleasant stay. 


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Dropping Puck

On May 1, 2016 the triumvirate of Brooke, Gidg, and Yours truly all competed in the New Jersey Marathon and Half-Marathon, with Gidg proving to be twice as smart as Brooke and me by competing in the Half-Marathon.  As the three of us idled at Monmouth Park early on that unseasonably cold Sunday morning - joined by several thousand other runners who we had invited to join us - it started to rain.  By the time we had reached the six-mile mark it began to pour.  Other than one brief "pinch me because I must be hallucinating" moment in Asbury Park when the rain changed over to hail, it rained for the entirety of the event.  One other thing - it never warmed up past the upper 40's.  Whatever happiness is, it most certainly is not the point of intersection between pneumonia and hypothermia. 

This morning, Brooke, Gidg, and Yours truly - joined by an impressive group of our running brothers and sisters, shall participate in the Manasquan Mid-Winter Beach Run, which annually raises funds for the good folks who volunteer their time and their expertise on the Manasquan First Aid Squad. On this - the third Saturday of February - at gun time, which is 11:00 AM - the temperature is expected to be in the mid-to-upper 50's.  The sky?  Not a smidge of precipitation in the forecast.  Not even a teensy, weensy smidge.  

Ol' Puck can have his midsummer night's dream.  I shall take this mid-winter morning's gift over it any time.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Forward to the Past

Between work and a CLE Seminar, yesterday got completely away from me.  As luck would have it, on this date last year I was far better organized.  

And besides, giving a little love to a world-class member of the Herd is never, ever frowned upon in this establishment...


One Tough Buff

This past weekend it was cold beyond the point of frigid here in the State of Concrete Gardens. Weather cold enough to freeze Cupid's quiver, for certain.  An unpleasant couple of days - even for soft, whiny assholes such as Yours truly whose only exposure to the elements occurs when I move between my car and a building, such as my house, my office, or a specific destination.  A tip of the cap to those who earn a living working in the elements - even when those elements conjure up weather that is indeed not fit for man nor beast - and who keep on keeping on irrespective of the weather. 

Saturday afternoon, as the mercury languished in the single digits, I spent a couple of hours watching the Olympic Trials Marathon from Los Angeles, California.  The top three male runners and the top three female runners shall represent the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio where, much like the Olympians on the swim team, they shall compete on a surface upon which they can run, which is not nearly as exciting for the swimmers as it is for the marathon runners.  

My favorite male marathoner, Meb Keflezighi, finished second among the men.  His second-place finish, in 2:12:20, earned him a spot on his fourth United States Olympic Team.  In May, Meb will turn forty-one.    In 2004 he won the Silver Medal in the Marathon at the Olympics in Athens, Greece.  In 2009, he captured the New York City Marathon.  Tragedy visited the Boston Marathon in 2013.  Meb won Boston in 2014, becoming the first American man to win the Boston Marathon since 1983.    

Kara Goucher, my favorite female marathoner (and not simply because she is a University of Colorado Buffalo, was a three-time national champion running for the Buffs in track-and-field and in cross-country, and her husband, Adam, is also a highly-decorated Buffalo) fell just short in her effort to finish on the podium.  She has battled injuries the past several years and, at age thirty-seven, had put together several months of excellent training.  She ran a terrific, spirited, ballsy race, which was good enough for fourth place.  She missed earning a spot on the Olympic Team by slightly more than a minute.  

Irrespective of what it is you do and the level at which you do it, your ability to control the outcome of your endeavor is far less than your ability to control the effort you put into trying to achieve that outcome.  At day's end, all any of us can do is all that we are capable of doing on that particular day.  Nothing more.  It may not necessarily be enough to enable us to realize our dream.  

Sadly, on a given day it may be just enough to break our heart...

After all, she is powered by the heart of a Buffalo.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Just Like Slow-Rolling Cinnamon

It's not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship
That makes unhappy marriages. 
- Friedrich Nietzsche

I suspect that the Missus and I celebrate Valentine's Day in a manner that could fairly be described as "dissimilar" to a number of people we both know - at least based upon nothing other than a quick review of social media posts from this week.  Whether how we do what we do would work for you I know not.  Truth be told, I care not.  

Our Valentine's Day dinner was eaten, separately, and comprised of two completely different dishes that were eaten approximately ninety minutes apart.  I enjoyed some meatloaf when I got home from the office on Tuesday night.  Margaret was not home - she was on an expectant-mother-related mission with Suzanne.  On her way back to our house, she made what she intended to be a quick stop at her favorite sushi joint, Mr. Pi's in Warren Township, for her favorite - a green tea roll.  However, for reasons that remain unclear to me (it is not as if any of this time was devoted to cooking the aforementioned green tea roll) she did not leave Mr. Pi's with her food for more than ninety minutes.

For us, Valentine's Day consisted of a simple exchange of cards (the one I gave her was this little gem - which I modified slightly by adding, "including words that Bruce himself has not yet considered") and one present, which she gave to me but is really for both of us:

Happiness is a new welcome mat for our little Paradise by the Sea.  We shall take it with us to the Shore on Friday night and place it in its new home...and less than five minutes later Rosalita shall welcome it to the house by plopping herself down upon it and taking a nap.  

I am already looking forward to shaking the sand out of it this summer - and all of the summers that shall follow thereafter.  


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

For Consumption in a Moment of Quiet Contemplation

For any and all who overdosed on Valentine's Day-themed accoutrements yesterday, once you awaken from your diabetic coma and/or recalibrate your internal engine so that its non-chocolate component parts and its chocolate-based component parts achieve a level of simpatico, I want you to indulge yourself anew.  Worry not, this indulgence will add zero calories to today's intake and, for good measure, it is recommended by 5 out of 5 dentists who know how to read. 

Not everyone subscribes to The New York Times or, for that matter, reads (at the very least) the Sunday edition of the paper.  While I think it would better serve you, the individual, and us, the whole, if more people acquainted themselves with it (or a news source of comparable ilk, such as The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, or The Los Angeles Times), the purpose of today's exercise is not to ramp up the daily circulation of some of this nation's best newspapers.  I mention the Sunday edition of The Times today simply for identification purposes.  For it was there, on Sunday, in the "Sunday Review" section that I read Phil Klay's piece, "What We're Fighting For", which I found to be extraordinary. 

If you are not familiar with Phil Klay, then I would wholeheartedly recommend that you familiarize yourself with him.  He is in his early 30's, a graduate of Dartmouth College and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.  As a Public Affairs Officer in the USMC, he spent approximately thirteen months in country in Iraq's Anbar Province.  A couple of years back, he wrote a collection of short stories, "Redeployment".  It is a work that I cannot recommend enthusiastically enough.  

As we plunge deeper into the 21st Century - and the toys and tools we have at the ready - for all of their splendor - seem to have somehow inadequately equipped us for the ever-increasing complexities of the world in which we live, it seems as if we have searched out easy answers and pain-free solutions at every opportunity.  That is certainly understandable but regardless of what we all learned in elementary school, "Keep It Simple, Stupid" is not in fact a magic elixir or a panacea for problem-solving.  Not everything in our technicolor age can be reduced to black and white.  Regardless of whether we acknowledge it - and even though many of us refuse to acknowledge it (whether out of animus, ignorance, or panic) - the day-to-day in this world is lived primarily in the gray.  Is it neither black nor white, is it a mixture of the two, or, is it, perhaps, something else altogether?  A question whose answer lies inside of each of us, I reckon.  A question whose answer may not be exactly the same for any two individuals. A question, nevertheless, that needs to be answered and cannot and should not be ignored due to its degree of difficulty or complexity.  

Here is the link to Klay's essay, which appeared in the February 12, 2017 edition of The New York Times.  Whether you have already read it - or had not previously been aware of it - I commend it to you today.  I, for one, do not want to know your thoughts about what Klay has written.  If you notice, other than describing it as "extraordinary" a couple of paragraphs back, I have not shared my own. 

To me, at least, it matters not what you think.  Rather, it matters to me that you think.  

As I presume it does to you as well.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Heart of the Matter

I do not know the genesis of the Diocese of Newark's rule regarding the allegedly 'illegal' participation by two 5th grade girls on the St. John's School of Clark CYO basketball team, which participation had apparently been open and conspicuous for several seasons prior to this one.  

Nor do I know from whence an objection to that participation arose this year, which objection resulted in the Diocese's League Director informing the Athletic Director and Coach at St. John's School that the team would have to forfeit its final two games of the season, which were to have been played on Friday, February 10, and Saturday, February, 11, if the two girls suited up with their nine male teammates and, furthermore that the team's results for this season would be wiped out as well.   

By a tally of 11-0, the nine little boys and the two little girls on the St. John's School of Clark 5th grade CYO League basketball team voted that they would only play as they had all season - as a team.  If the girls were suddenly persona non grata, then their nine male teammates had their backs.  

I suppose that years from now, when one looks back at the official records of the Diocese of Newark CYO Basketball League, it will appear as if St. John's School of Clark did not field a team.  Truth be told, the school apparently fielded one hell of a team whose players, although only children, showed a "wise beyond one's years" comprehension of what is truly important.  

Well played, little hoopsters.  Well played, indeed.  


Monday, February 13, 2017

A Well-Earned Feather

I spent just one season on the wrestling team when I was in high school, much to the chagrin of every kid in my weight class whose school was on W-H's schedule.  I was as close to an automatic win for each one of them as he could have possibly hoped.  At the end of my lone season on the mat, I had more bruised ribs (three, courtesy of Liam Ryan of Roselle Catholic) than I did wins (two).

Both of Margaret's nephews, Joe Bozzomo and his younger brother, Frank, were slightly better high school wrestlers than I was.  In Joe's senior year, in spite of wrestling the entire season with a shoulder that he injured playing football in the fall, which would be surgically repaired in the spring, he won, first, the District 12 championship and, thereafter, the Region 3 championship at 189 pounds, which qualified him for the State Championships in Atlantic City.  There, he finished on the podium, in sixth place. 

Middlesex High School was fortunate that Chrissy and Frank, Sr. carefully planned the births of their two sons so that as the Blue Jays wrestling program bade farewell to Joe after his senior season, it welcomed Frank as a freshman.  They never wrestled together but, instead, provided a stopper in the lineup and a reason for Middlesex fans to chant "B-O-Z-Z-O-M-O" in multi-part harmony for eight consecutive seasons.  

In his four years at Middlesex High School, Frank placed in the District 12 tournament all four years, had one second-place finish in Region 3, and one Region 3 Championship.  Although he did not end up on the podium in Atlantic City, he qualified for the State Championships in Atlantic City in his junior and his senior year.  All in all, Frank spent a lot of his time on the mat doing things such as this... 

and this...

which led to a staggering number of these moments...

On Saturday morning, in recognition for all he did as a member of the wrestling team - a team for which he now serves as an Assistant Coach - Frank was enshrined in the Middlesex High School Wrestling Hall of Fame.  An honor he most certainly earned and most assuredly deserved... 

...and an occasion of sufficient significance that he actually wore a tie.  Nicely done, Hall-of-Famer.  Nicely done indeed. 


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Cake and Candles

Were Honest Abe alive today to celebrate it, "Happy Birthday" would be sung at his 208th birthday.  Even for a man of his considerable stature, blowing out that many candles is one hell of a tall order. 

Presuming he pulled it off - and considering we are talking about the American President who (a) emancipated the slaves; and (b) preserved the Union - it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he could, he would find himself entitled to quite a wish.  

For what would he wish? 

I wonder...


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Perusing Life's Spice Rack

When I run, my mind and body fuse together, 
creating an energy source that empowers me.
- Gail W. Kislevitz

Two interesting pieces of writing to enjoy - or to ignore - with your Saturday morning coffee.  For the record, this is neither of them. 

In the past several years I have completed one-half dozen marathons, including the New Jersey Marathon AND the New York City Marathon in 2015 and 2016, which means that from January, 2015, through November, 2016, roughly 75% of the miles I ran were part of a training plan for one of those four races.  I hope this year to celebrate my 50th birthday and to put a bow on my marathon adventures by running two more:  the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., which is a late October date, and two weeks thereafter, the New York City Marathon.  We shall see.  

This week, on-line, I came across a piece entitled "Why You Probably Shouldn't Run a Marathon", written by Megan Harrington.  Truth be told, there is a hell of a lot of good, common sense advice in her piece.  It tackling 26.2 miles is something that is kind of, sort of on your bucket list, then maybe you want to read Ms. Harrington's piece.  I read it too damn late to save me but, perhaps, it shall save you.    

And proof of - if nothing else - the two-sided nature of the proverbial coin, is this wonderful tribute to Don McNelly.  Mr. McNelly died on Super Bowl Sunday.  He was ninety-six.  He took up running marathons in his late 40's, after a good friend died of a heart attack.  From the time he started his journey at the 1969 Boston Marathon until the time he stopped participating in them, which he did in November, 2010, he finished seven hundred and forty-four of them.  You read that correctly:  744.  He completed at least one marathon in each of the fifty states, every Canadian province, and on all seven continents.  One other thing, more than one hundred of his "marathons" were actually "ultra-marathons".  

Is the moral to these stories, whether you do or you do not, it all works out?  I have no idea.  Enjoy your coffee. 

I am off on my morning run. 


Friday, February 10, 2017

Mr. Manfred, A Moment Of Your Time

I beg of you not to do this thing. 
- George Bailey

Dear Mr. Manfred: 

You and I have never met, for which you are most likely very thankful.  Trust me, I take no offense if you feel that way.  I have that effect on quite a lot of people.  In your position as Commissioner of Major League Baseball, you occupy an important position in the social fabric of these United States for as long as you hold your present office, America's Pastime is in your hands.  You are, as I know you know, a fiduciary.  In your present office, your fiduciary duty is owed to the great game of baseball, those who play it, and those of us who are fans of it.  

It is a duty that is not restricted by either geography or rooting interest.  It is owed, equally, to those of us (such as my siblings, Jimmy Fabricatore, Dave Rubino, and me) who root for the Yankees; to Schiff, Cesar, Dave/Christine Joy, and Tom Swales (Mets fans all); and to Phil, Diego, Jim Monaghan, Ed Seaver, and Q, who are members of Red Sox Nation.  Hell, it is even owed to those crazy fans among us, such as Jerry Della Torre and Chris Pelesky, who persist in rooting for the Phillies, and to Gracie, whose baseball passion is the Baltimore Orioles.   

We are on the cusp of one of the most wonderful times of the year:  the opening of Spring Training. Hope really does spring eternal this time of year, does it not?  Irrespective of whether one roots for the Cubs or the Padres, for the Indians or the Twins, this is the time of the year when countless, wonderful conversations begin to take place in which phrases such as "this could be our year" and "if our pitching holds up" pop up with a frequency found only in the lexicon of the pie-eyed optimist.  Or in the lexicon of a baseball fan.  This time of year, we might well be one and the same.

For me, who has been a fan of the game for as long as I can remember, the magic of baseball is found in its inexactness.  Certainly, the structure of the game - divided as it is into nine innings - suggests order and conformity.  However, the fact that an inning may last five minutes or eighty-five minutes - and still count as merely one inning, is part of what makes baseball baseball.  For me, at least.  

This year's Super Bowl, which turned out to be an exceptionally entertaining game, notwithstanding, the recently-concluded NFL playoffs were a bore.  But for the Divisional Playoff Game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys, the games leading up to the Super Bowl were one-sided affairs almost wholly devoid of drama or excitement.  Now think back for a moment to the 2016 MLB playoffs.  An entirely different image emerges, right? With all respect to you and the other Lords of Baseball, its emergence is not coincidental or the result of happenstance but, rather, of deliberate design.  

As it exists presently, baseball is a laboratory in which drama and excitement are produced naturally and organically.  It is for precisely that reason that this idea - of placing a runner on 2nd base to begin each half of every extra inning - is so dreadfully misguided.  Might it end extra-inning games more quickly than they presently end?  I suppose it could.  In that vein, it might speed things up even more quickly if a team was not required to send a player out to 2nd base but, instead, could rely upon the "invisible runner"who served many of so faithfully when we were kids and did not have enough players to field a full team.  Captain Invisible never calls time and never does anything to delay the outcome of the game.   

I am just spit-balling here but off of the top of my head, I can think of a number of other ideas that might speed the pace of game play, such as allowing a fielder to record an out simply by hitting a base runner with a thrown ball - as in dodge ball.  Or, allowing a third strike to be recorded on the first ball a batter hits foul after he already has two strikes?  I played slow-pitch softball for a number of years and that rule really kept games moving at a brisk pace.  In a similar vein, put in a mercy rule so that if one team is trailing by 5+ runs after 6 1/2 innings if the visiting team and 7 innings if the home team, then the game is over.  Everyone knows how terribly long rallies in the bottom of the 9th inning can sometimes take to be completed, right?   

Respectfully, if the question that you are asking is "How do we make the game faster", then you are asking the wrong question.  

The question that should be asked is, "Will this idea make the game better?"  The answer, of course, is that it shall not.  It shall add a layer of "made-for-TV" artifice to a game that does not need it. Whether it expedites the process, frankly, I care not.  It cheapens the outcome.  And that is something I cannot abide.   

You, as the fiduciary of millions of fans, should not abide it either.  

Best regards, 


Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Dog's Year As Seen In The Rear-View Mirror

Rosalita - Super Bowl Sunday 2017

My faithful canine companion is fast approaching her tenth birthday.  Her face, much like mine, tends to give away her age although - as she is quick to point out - I have significantly more gray and white hair than she does.  

As luck would have it, one dog year ago - on this very date - when she was much younger but apparently not appreciably less insane than she is presently - appeared an homage to Rosalita.  She enjoyed it so much the first time that she asked me to run it again today.  How can I say no to that face?  She is my best friend, after all. 


Her Bear Necessities

Some embrace change. Me? I try to choke the life right out of it. Is it a character flaw? Undoubtedly. Am I likely to ever adapt? The number of times you have wandered past this space will help determine just how much time you need to devote to contemplating the correct answer to that last one.

It has been said that after time pets start to look like their owners. I suppose that is true. Milo and I each have more gray hair than we used to although since he lost one half of his left ear in a fight a few years back we no longer wear our Ray-Bans in precisely the same way. And the older he gets, the less he weighs. As far as I can tell he does not get up at 3:00 in the morning and run at least three miles every other day. Yet he seems to weigh less and less. It is as if his bones have been replaced by Popsicle sticks. Me? No such luck.

Sunday - fresh off of car shopping with the Missus on Saturday afternoon, Margaret and I were in PetSmart doing a little shopping for the hoofed members of the household. I was in line, waiting to buy a jumbo bag of dog food and enough cat litter to keep my cats, your cat and all of the cats presently inhabiting the Bronx Zoo shin deep in fresh pooping materials for the foreseeable future when Margaret found it. She saw hanging from a display at the end of an aisle a new toy for Rosalita. Our clinically insane sheltie has had the same toy since - if not Day One - then Day Two or Three. It is a little device we call "Baby Bear". When it first arrived it was a white plush stuffed animal. I am not entirely sure it was a bear. I suppose if had come with eyes or a face it would have been more readily identifiable. I am not much of an outdoors man I suppose, which invariably complicated the issue even more.

Time has not been kind to Baby Bear. Rosie is to Baby Bear what Ike was to Tina all those years ago - a veritable PEZ dispenser of tough love. Bear once was white but ceased being so long ago. Think snow on the roadside three days after any storm. Margaret has washed Bear repeatedly over the years. In spite of her best efforts, the older it has gotten, the darker it has become.

Rosie's favorite thing about Baby Bear has never been its color. It is its squeaker. Buried in one of its legs is a....well I do not know the technical term.....squeaker. Rosie spends countless minutes with the leg of Baby Bear in her mouth, biting down on its leg and generating noise.

While Baby Bear has retained its squeakability it has lost a bit of its panache as it has gotten blacker and blacker. On Sunday Margaret and I bought Baby Bear 2.0 - a lime-colored incarnation - for Rosie to play with and brought it home for her to meet. To date, her reaction has been slightly underwhelming. She wanders past it from time to time, picks it up by the chest and shakes it, plays with it for a minute or two before losing interest in it, putting it down and walking away. This new version of the Bear also has a squeaker in it. When she picked it up for the first time, she instinctively went to the leg to make it squeak. Nope. In this Bear the squeaker is buried in its back located nowhere near any of its four legs. Rosie did her best Dora the Explorer impersonation for approximately five minutes and then abandoned the pursuit.

Rosie is a better person than I am. She spent last evening trying repeatedly to find the squeaker in new Bear while looking lovingly at the dingy looking original Bear. She is trying to embrace change. I can see it in her little eyes.

Silly dog. She will learn. Maybe once she does she will share what she has learned with the resident old dog.