Friday, March 31, 2017

A Temporary End to the Thievery

Oh time is a thief
That will rob you of your years
And never return one yesterday.
-B.B. King

On an early-morning flight to Florida, to visit Jill and Mom.  Carried south on the wings of United Airlines and on the virtuosity of B.B. King...


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Twin Sons of Different Mothers

A sad bit of business, which is attached to this date, popped up in my "Facebook WABAC Machine" the past couple of days.  It served as a reminder that as fine a family as I have ever known, the Stouts, has now spent four years mourning the death of their son and brother, David.  At some point subsequent to David's death, I was looking through an old high school yearbook and happened upon this simply extraordinary photograph, which John Penvenne (Class of '81, towhead on the left) and David (Class of '82, towhead on the right) had placed in the 1983 Yearbook as part of an advertisement the pair had purchased.   

I wish I knew what it was either was contemplating as he sat with his eyes fixed straight ahead.  I wonder if all these years later, John remembers.  Truth be told, all these years later, it probably matters not at all. 

Often, I write because I simply do not know what else to do when something affects me and my day-to-day.  It was for that reason that on this date four years ago I wrote what appears here again this morning.  


At Home in the Mist-Covered Mountains....

I learned Thursday evening that David Stout - a man who I had known since I was a very small boy - had died.  I know nothing of the circumstances.  I know simply that a man in whose footsteps I followed when we were both kids had died.  He was not yet fifty years old. 

Although Kara, Jill and I did not become students at Wardlaw-Hartridge until year two of the hyphenated school's common experience (Dad - who helped run the joint - had been nothing more than cautiously optimistic that it would survive its first year in its newly created state and wanted to make sure that it had before sending his own children there), David was a kid who I came to know long before I enrolled at W-H.  He was one of the regular participants in Dad's "Saturday Play Group."  In hindsight, my father's weekly recreation program for the (then) Wardlaw kids probably should have been given a name that more readily evoked thoughts of kids having fun than thoughts of kids sentenced to a term of indeterminate length in a treatment facility.  Maybe in the next lifetime we can correct that error.  

Regardless of the unwieldy and admittedly somewhat creepy name, Saturday Play Group was a fixed, enjoyable part of my routine from the time I was a small boy right up through the time of Dad's death in May, 1981.  Each and every Saturday during the school year we would head to Wardlaw at dawn's ass crack and await the arrival of kids of various ages, whose parents would leave them in Dad's care for the day to play sports.  And play sports we did. Touch football, softball, dodgeball, basketball, soccer and floor hockey seemed to be on the docket every Saturday.  When I was a very little boy and Wardlaw was still Wardlaw with its lower school campus on Central Avenue in Plainfield, it was on Central Avenue that the Saturday gang assembled.  Upon Wardlaw's merger with Hartridge, the Saturday base camp became the new lower school campus on Plainfield Avenue, which had been Hartridge's locale pre-merger.  

David was one of Dad's guys.  He was a regular attendee at Play Group.  He was also an effortless, natural athlete.  He glided across the soccer field.  When floor hockey was played - as it was usually as the day's final activity in the mid-afternoon - he flew around the gym floor.  He was one of the leaders of his group of friends, which included Greg Blatz, Kirk Lattimore, Scott Rupp, Dwight Warren and Jay Dugenio among others.  

My big brother Kelly was - in those days - Dad's #1 Indentured Servant at Play Group.  He served as the Sergeant-at-Arms.  Kelly was several years older than David and his gang and those guys viewed Kel with equal parts admiration, respect and fear.  To promote a competitive spirit among the participants - and to keep little kids from getting pulverized by bigger kids - Dad and Kelly broke the Play Groupies into "little guys" and "big guys".  As a general rule, we swam in two different ponds.  

The exception to that rule was floor hockey.  I loved to play it and as a result of the time Kelly devoted to playing it and/or street hockey with me when I was a mere mite, I was quite good at it.  Good enough in fact to get bumped out of the "little guy" gang at Play Group and bumped up to play with the "big guys".   So, for the last year or two that David attended Play Group I had the great joy of getting to play floor hockey with him and his cadre.  He took a liking to me and knew I could play better than most of his friends.  Kelly usually named David as one of the captains for floor hockey and as a captain he was responsible for picking his team.  Far more often than not, he chose me to play on his team, which meant I got to play alongside him.  It is a memory so good and so positive that I am smiling as I write this.  

When I was a freshman at W-H and playing J.V. soccer, after having played football in 7th/8th grade, David was the Varsity Captain.  During our two-a-day summer practices, all of us practiced together.  He and Tom  Kopidakis would lead us through our pre-practice stretching each morning and afternoon.  One of the stretches we did was "the butterfly".  While seated on the ground, you bend your legs in an effort to have the soles of your feet touching one another.  If done properly, it effectively stretches the groin muscle.  If done properly, it also produces a fair level of discomfort.  I remember being damn proud of myself as a fourteen-year-old high school freshman that my legs were sufficiently limber so as to permit me to have the bottoms of my feet touching each other from tip of my toes to my heels....until I saw David not only replicate what I had done but lift his body off of the ground and balance himself above his feet while in the butterfly position.  Thirty-plus years later that remains one of the most extraordinary things I have ever seen an athlete do.  And he did it every day.  

David graduated from W-H in 1982 - right between Kara and Jill.  He is one of five Stout siblings who graduated from Wardlaw, Hartridge and/or Wardlaw-Hartridge.  He was preceded through our Alma mater's hallowed halls by his brother Robert and his sisters Leslie and Susan.  His sister Laura graduated  in 1988 - three years after I did.  In the long history of our Alma mater there has never been a family better than the Stouts.  This quintet earned more awards and honors during their collective time on campus than could be recounted here with any accuracy.  Leslie and Laura and both members of the W-H Athletic Hall of Fame.  For years, Mrs. Stout was one-half of the dynamic duo that ran the Mother's Store (alongside Mrs. Childers), which was a place on campus you could go buy needed supplies on a moment's notice or - as importantly - pop in for a cookie or a hug depending on the day you were having.  A few years ago, Jill and I saw Mr. and Mrs. Stout at W-H.  They had come to celebrate Laura's enshrinement into the Athletic Hall-of-Fame.  Neither of us had seen Mrs. Stout in a lifetime.  Yet she greeted both of us with a big smile and a hug.  

Having not seen David or heard from him or about him in close to three decades, I was very happy to have run into him at W-H several times during the course of the past few years.  He made a few trips up to New Jersey from wherever he was living - most recently North Carolina - for Homecoming/Fall Fair in October.  He always looked good although he perhaps had a touch more sadness in his eyes than I remembered from my youth.  Then again, who doesn't?   

A good family has suffered a terrible loss.  Sad, terrible stuff.  If you are - as I am - someone whose life has been made better through simply knowing the Stouts (and if you have ever met a single one of them you fall into this category), keep them in your thoughts.  Keep David in your thoughts too....

Now the sun's gone to hell
And the moon's riding high
Let me bid you farewell
Every man has to die
But it's written in the starlight
And every line on your palm
We're fools to make war


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Bad Penny

This weekend in Glendale, Arizona the NCAA shall crown its 2017 Division I Men's Basketball Champion.  Among its quartet of combatants, this year's Final Four features college basketball royalty from the University of North Carolina and the hoops' version of Barbarians at the Gate in the person of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.  South Carolina arrives at the Final Four as the Champion of the East Regional, which triumph required them to win four tournament games. Prior to this season, the University of South Carolina had last won a NCAA tournament game in 1974.  

One of my law partners, Jim Hajel, is a South Carolina alumni and is a fervent Gamecocks fan. Having zero skin in the game this weekend, my inclination is to root for his Alma mater.  That is although I cannot name a single player on their roster.  Not one.  The only person affiliated with the program whose name I know is Head Coach Frank Martin.  Prior to taking over at South Carolina in 2012, Martin coached at Kansas State University for five years, during which time his Wildcats and my beloved Colorado Buffaloes were rivals in the Big XII Conference.  

This past weekend, at or about the time that Coach Martin and his Gamecocks were vanquishing their SEC foe, the Florida Gators, at Madison Square Garden to win the East Regional and punch their ticket to the Final Four, I came across a quote from Coach Martin that touched upon (at least) the subject of the relationship between adults and kids. It interested me and perhaps it shall interest you also...

It also caused me to reflect upon something that I had written quite a long time ago, which is at least analogous to Coach Martin's point, and which through the magic of "copy and paste" appears here again today...


The Past Is Just A Good Bye

There are times when I feel colossally old - much older than my age. It usually occurs when I am in the presence of teenagers. A few weeks ago, on the way home from the office on a Friday night, I stopped at the closest mall to our home - here in New Jersey one cannot drive 45 minutes any direction without encountering a retail behemoth - Bridgewater Commons in order to pick up something for Margaret. Upon entering the complex, it felt as if I had walked into some half-assed remake of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. There were little cliques of kids everywhere and much to what I would imagine is the unadulterated delight of the retailers and the mall management alike, they appeared to be congregating in public areas, simply hanging out, as opposed to doing any actual shopping.

I was their age once, albeit more than a quarter-century ago. I cannot however recall ever being a mall kid. While perhaps my memory is fading over time (especially when time's ravages were helped along at one point by copious amounts of alcohol and other chemicals) and the light in which I have remembered myself is more flattering in retrospect than it was in real-time, my own kids were "that" age within the past decade and I have no recollection of either of them having been "mall kids" either.

At some point in time, the shopping mall appears to have morphed into some sort of Super Baby Sitter - almost always available rain or shine and always willing to work for free. Thank God for the mall right? Otherwise the generation of parents who pack every child into their car sporting an I-Pod to listen to and/or a personal DVD player with which to watch movies would have no artifice to which a child's care could be entrusted once Little Slowhead exits the vehicle.

This rant is not directed at the "kids today" generation. Nope. Our kids take their cues - be they good cues, bad cues or miscues - from us. Once we were implored to teach our children well. Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

One wonders if we the parents are still committed to the effort. I suppose in fifteen years, if we are required to speak Chinese just to renew our driver's licenses, we will know for certain.



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Bearer of the Big Stick

Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor
in the life of an individual and of nations alike.
- Theodore Roosevelt

Sometimes you find valuable things in the damnedest places.  Sunday afternoon, I was puttering around in the back room of the basement looking for a box of old photographs.  I did not find the box.  However, I instead stumbled upon a box whose contents included The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris, which is the first book in the "TR" trilogy Morris wrote.  Truth be told, I cannot remember whether it is a book I bought for myself or one that someone gifted to me.  Either way, I was damn happy to have discovered it. 

It is stunning to consider just how relevant Roosevelt remains more than a century after his retirement from public life and almost a century after his death.  That is until you remember that intellect and integrity are transportable qualities.  Neither remains tied to a fixed point in time.  Instead, either has applicability and value now as it did then. It was Roosevelt after all who cautioned that, "Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corporate business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of today."  The more things change, the more they remain the same. 

In more ways than one...


Monday, March 27, 2017

The 84th Cup of Joe

Today is my father-in-law's birthday.  The one and only Joe is eighty-four years young today.  Keeping with his request, there shall be no party (although yesterday SalliJo, Kevin, Judy, and Rob crossed the river from the Staten Island side to join Suzanne and Ryan at our house for a small celebratory dinner).  He has directed Margaret that when he hits "100" she can throw a bash in his honor.  Until then, small family gatherings shall have to do. 

The countdown is on.  Happy Birthday, Giuseppe...


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Acting Like Summer and Walking Like Rain

Two months from today is May 26.  May 26 is the Friday that leads into the Memorial Day Weekend.  Is summer here?  Not quite yet.  Then again, it is not too terribly far away. 

We bid goodbye to March on Friday.  I am celebrating March's exit and April's arrival in Florida.  A quick jaunt to the Sunshine State to catch up with the Jupiter branch of the family tree.  According to the good people of NOAA ( it is supposed to be in the low 80's in Mom's neck of the woods.  Not too bad.  

Not too bad at all. 


Saturday, March 25, 2017

"X" and the Marking of the Spot

If you are participating in a March Madness Pool this year, as I am, and pinned your hopes for "One Shining Moment" on the Arizona Wildcats, then the free time you spend this weekend and next reading is something for which you can thank Chris Mack and his gritty, gutsy Xavier Musketeers.  It might take a little while for your disappointment to morph into appreciation.  If it helps, read this piece from Friday's USA Today entitled, "7 Reasons Bill Murray Is Having The Best Sports Year Ever".  It helped me.  Oh, irrespective of your political persuasion, watch the PSA video featuring Murray - in his Cubs jacket - engaged in a putting contest with President Obama in the Oval Office.  It is not only funny, but in light of this week's events in Washington it is timely too. 

While you have your reading glasses on and are all snuggled, seated in your favorite, most comfortable chair, there are other pieces that merit your attention.  For instance, the sad tale of the "Trump Troubadour", Kraig Moss, who has come to the realization that maybe, just maybe, not everything is at it appears.  

For quasi-comic relief, Energy Secretary Rick Perry weighed in this week, via an Op-Ed column in the Houston Chronicle, on the outcome of the Student Government Election at Texas A&M, of which Perry is an alumni and at which he was elected Yell Leader twice, not just once!  Perhaps your initial reaction was similar to mine:  Perry, a man whose intellect is questionable enough that you would think twice before permitting him to adjust the knobs on your car radio but who, nevertheless, is tasked with the responsibility of preserving America's nuclear secrets, has attained a level of aptitude at his new job where he can devote a portion of his energy (pun intended) to expressing outrage at an election in which the loser garnered more votes than the winner.   

Far less humorous, but important to read nonetheless, is the rather detailed piece written by Erin McPike of the Independent Journal Review about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.  Ms. McPike was the only reporter permitted to accompany Secretary Tillerson on his State Department 737 jet when he flew to China earlier this month.  I knew nothing about Mr. Tillerson prior to his transition from the private sector to government service.  He has not spoken much publicly in the first couple of months of the Trump Presidency, which makes the amount of time he spent with Ms. McPike and her report of their conversation worth the investment of time required to digest it.  

Irrespective of however much free time I carve out for myself this weekend - or next - I know one thing I shall not read...

To borrow a phrase from the Poet Laureate of Freehold, "I've seen enough.  Don't wanna see no more." 


Friday, March 24, 2017

And So It Goes...

Next week not only marks the end of another month - and how quickly time passes when one's life is measured in tenths of an hour on little green sheets - but also the end of a far-too-brief era at the Firm. One of our Associates is doing what people do, which is to say heading off in pursuit of what he reasonably anticipates shall be a new, exciting adventure. 

Duncan is good people, which for a die-hard misanthrope such as me should be considerably more difficult to acknowledge than it is.  Never having formally measured his IQ I know not for certain what it is, precisely, but I can hazard a pretty good guess. I know that every now and again, when speaking with him, I feel as if I am packing the intellectual fortitude of a potted plant.  And one in need of sunlight and soil aeration to boot. 

A good, young, smart lawyer's departure is a loss to any firm.  It stings more when the lawyer in question is also one hell of a good human being.  When that occurs, you find yourself extending best wishes to someone to whom you wish you did not have to do so.  

Not because you do not want him to excel at his next job but because you wish he was sticking around a bit longer at his present one. 

And so it goes...


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Life in the Lottery

Having decreed that fifty shall be the age at which I hang up my marathon shoes, yesterday I took my shot at completing the Swan Song Daily Double.  

The 2017 Marine Corps Marathon is Sunday, October 22, 2017, which is two weeks before the New York City Marathon.  Yesterday, along with Gidg and Brooke, I cast my lot in the MCM lottery.  Since it is the Marines who oversee this event, it should come as no surprise that by this time next week we shall know whether any of us is a lottery winner.  

My Swan Song Daily Double shall happen only if I strike lottery gold. If I fall short, then for the first time in three years, 2017 shall be a year in which I run only one marathon, and I shall say farewell to this distance in Central Park without taking part in the MCM.  If I get lucky, then I will spend one hell of a lot of time running from place to place from the middle of October through November's first Sunday.  

We shall see. 


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Teddy Roosevelt Was Right...

...when he spoke of the virtue of walking softly and carrying a big stick.  It is our actions, after all, which define us.  Do not talk me to death.  Talk was proven long ago to be the cheapest of currency.  The more the world changes, the more the world remains inviolate.  

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a long-time, close friend of mine in which I was reminded again of Roosevelt's wisdom. Not because of something she did.  Rather, because of something that was brought to bear upon her.  It angered me greatly.  Truth of the matter is, I woke up this morning still pretty goddamn pissed off about it.  

People treat each other shabbily all the time.  The more advanced we have become in terms of our technology, the more savage we have become in terms of our humanity.  When one is an asshole, Your truly being a prime example, and the end of the stick you attempt to jab into my eye is covered in excrement, it does not make me happy but I certainly understand it.  But when the person who is on the receiving end of your Dookie Dog is a good person, then your conduct is beyond my ability to comprehend.  

It is worth pointing out that my immediate lack of understanding regarding your blatant fuckery shall not temper my enthusiasm for balancing the scales of justice. Irish Alzheimer's Disease is, after all, the ability to forget everything except the grudges. 

As my great, great-grandpa Phineas was fond of saying, "Revenge is a dish best served over and over and over."  You need not bother turning the index card over to its back side, presently our kitchen is preparing a very limited menu.  

One dish. 

Are you feeling lucky enough to venture a guess as to what it is...

Bon appetit! 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Marvin Berry, The Boss, and Marty McFly

I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet...
but your kids are gonna love it.
- Marty McFly

It is truly a cause for celebration when a person lives a life that has as much breadth as length.  As the world mourns the death at age ninety of rock n' roll's original superstar, Chuck Berry, let us not fail to take the time needed to celebrate his life - and his legacy.  

At the moment when his career launched, in 1956, with the release of "Roll Over Beethoven", it was as if rock n' roll was a placid, idyllic lake across the surface of which Berry's influence extended outward in an endless pattern of concentric circles in a manner akin to a skipping stone.   Sixty-plus years later, the ripples across the water remain readily detectable. 

Among the items I find time to read every Monday is Peter King's MMQB column on the Sports Illustrated web site.  One of the things I find so enjoyable about King's work is the portion of the column he devotes each Monday to non-sports-related topics.  This week's piece, in the section King calls, "Factoids That May Interest Only Me" included a nugget pertaining to an April 28, 1973 show that Chuck Berry played at Cole Field House at the University of Maryland.  

Also on the bill was Jerry Lee Lewis and a young fellow from the Jersey Shore by the name of Bruce Springsteen.  Top-end price for tickets?  $5.50.  According to King's column, Springsteen opened with a four-song set that included "Spirit in the Night" and "Blinded by the Light"  and then after Lewis played his set, Springsteen and the E Street Band (who were on tour in support of the Greetings From Asbury Park, New Jersey album), returned to the stage as Berry's backing band for Berry's seventy-minute show. 

No less of an authority on the subject than John Lennon once observed that, "If you tried to give rock n' roll another name, you might call it 'Chuck Berry'."  A life lived to its fullest over almost a century, during which he spent sixty-plus years to the making of the joyful noise that is rock n' roll.  The creator of a legacy so significant that while Beethoven is free to roll over any time he wants, he no longer needs to do so in order to inform Tchaikovsky anything.

By this time, he knows.  He most certainly does...

...everyone does.  

Thanks, Chuck. 


Monday, March 20, 2017

Hello, Spring!

Winter in the Northern Hemisphere officially ends today.  Sure, snow remains on the ground all over the State of Concrete Gardens.  But snow on the ground does not change the fact that there are ZERO days left in the Winter of 2017. 

Nothing makes me happier than winter in the rear-view mirror.  Today, I am a happy man.

Relatively speaking, of course.  Let us not get carried away.  


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Bravo, Kansas City!

In a nation inhabited by ignorant, vindictive, heartless pricks such as Mick Mulvaney, it is refreshing to know that people such as the good people of The Veterans Community Project exist.  

Please take a moment or two to read this story.  As long as it affects you, guileless, morally bankrupt skull fucks such as Mick Mulvaney shall remain what they are - transient douchebags with a limited shelf life who good people simply have to endure until the arrival of their expiration date.  

A date that inevitably arrives sooner than the asshole in question ever presumes it will.  

Mr. Domino, sir, take us home please...


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Rob Lowe, Jackie Bisset, and the Oxford (Comma) Blues

I like to read.  Among the things I like to read, and try to spend at least a few minutes daily reading, are legal opinions.  In New Jersey, our Superior Court releases them for anyone to read - for free - shortly after ten o'clock every business morning. In my office, I am in the distinct minority in that I read them every day.  If anything in a particular opinion seems to be of potential interest to anyone in the Firm - I copy the link to the opinion and circulate it via e-mail to my colleagues.  

A number of my colleagues routinely delete my e-mail without reading the opinion.  I know they do because I have a setting on my e-mail that informs me thusly. I have an e-mail folder that contains the most egregious, serial offenders.  Irish Alzheimer's Disease is very much a real thing.  Trust me.  I know of which I speak. 

I read because while I am a man of few loves, my love of language is among them.  I am painfully aware that my affection for it rarely manifests itself in my use of it.  In my next life, perhaps.  I know not who should be more terrified by the prospect of me having a "next life" - me or the rest of the world?  I assure you that it is a notion in which I have as little interest as do the rest of you. 

It intrigues me when legal matters are decided by an element or an issue in the case that seems at first blush to have little to do with the law.  An element or an issue such as punctuation.  

Less than one week ago, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit unanimously reversed the United States District Court for the District of Maine's decision in the matter of O'Connor, et al. v. Oakhurst Dairy, et al., which is a civil action involving a dispute between a Maine dairy and its delivery drivers regarding the scope of an exemption to the overtime law in the state of Maine.  Oakhurst Dairy prevailed at the District Court level. The court entered summary judgment in its favor and dismissed the drivers' complaint with prejudice.

In the O'Connor case, the Court of Appeals' embrace of the drivers' position could ultimately require Oakhurst Dairy to pay several million dollars in overtime.  Not crying over spilled milk is all well and good but when several millions dollars are at stake, I assure you that at least a tear or two was shed at the dairy upon its receipt of the court's decision.  

At first blush, it appears as if Oakhurst Dairy intends to seek relief from the court's March 13, 2017 opinion and order,which relief might ultimately lead it to the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Neil Gorsuch, a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, begins his confirmation hearing for a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, March 20.  He shall undoubtedly be subjected to rigorous questioning on a variety of subjects, including perhaps some culled from this list.  

Maybe, just maybe, the first question out of the box should seek to uncover Judge Gorsuch's position on the Oxford comma.  Of course, he may prove to be as hard to pin down on that topic as he has reportedly been on multiple other topics.  If he is, then he could be forever known as the  "Comma Chameleon", irrespective of whether he is confirmed to the Court.  

Cue the music, George...


Friday, March 17, 2017

A Prayer Said on the Rising Road

This week, two men have died who I was fortunate to have had the chance to know - albeit to a limited degree. While I knew neither well enough to deign to claim to have earned the title "friend" from either, my interaction with each was never anything but friendly.  Each was a man roughly the same age as I.  Each was deprived the chance to celebrate his 50th birthday.  Each a good man who deserved a substantially better fate.  Each whose death is, I submit, irrefutable evidence of Life's inherent inequity. 

Those who loved each man have, this week, grieved his loss - a process that shall continue long past the completion of this week and of the next.  For those who loved each most of all and for those who each loved most of all, the promise of better days ahead seems empty. The family, a term limited by neither kinship nor marriage but all-encompassing enough to include the great, lifelong friends who knew and loved them, each has left behind is distraught at the loss of one loved so richly and yet enriched by having had the opportunity to do so.        

Today is St. Patrick's Day, a day awash in besotted revelers who foolishly (albeit, significantly more often than not with no malice aforethought) believe that "what it means to be Irish" is to be stumbling drunk at 8:00 am on a work day.  On this St. Patrick's Day, the Tuyp family and the Newcomb family could easily teach those transient imbeciles what is the true meaning of being Irish...


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tickets In Hand & Suitcases Packed

Through the magic of social media, at some point early yesterday afternoon I learned that my nephew, Patrick (Sigrid and Bill's son), and his girlfriend, Jena, had become engaged.  Exhibiting a flair for the dramatic that has sadly eluded his favorite uncle named Adam (ours is an exclusive, proud fraternity) for a half-century, his marriage proposal came on the occasion of their celebration of Jena's birthday.  That is "other side of the pillow" smooth.    

As presumably you have already figured out, Jena said "Yes".  I know not any particulars (date, location, DJ/Band, mashed potato bar or two mashed potato bars) except for the most important one, which is this.  Having reached the part of the ride where one needs a good companion most of all, each has chosen the other.  No choice they made before this one nor any they make after it, carries this one's significance.    

My wish for them is that irrespective of wherever it is they shall make their home, may each always keep at least one foot firmly planted within the geographical boundaries of the land of hope and dreams...

...all aboard. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Toast to Marc Antony, Brutus, and the Original Doctor J

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones...
- Marc Antony 
"Julius Caesar" (William Shakespeare)

It was on this very date, a little while back that a historically mercurial leader had a really, really bad day at the Senate.  Interaction between the executive branch and the legislative branch can be a bear, even when you are all dressed in togas and wearing flip-flops. 

But I digress.

On Monday afternoon, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office produced its Cost Estimate for the American Health Care Act (a/k/a "Trump Care").  The document is thirty-seven pages long and is available for perusal (and printing up if you wish) here.   For those of you who prefer your written works to be in the style of Reader's Digest Condensed Books, the CBO prepared a summary of its thirty-seven-page Cost Estimate, which summary includes the following information: 

Effects on the Federal Budget
CBO and JCT estimate that enacting the legislation would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the 2017-2026 period. That total consists of $323 billion in on-budget savings and $13 billion in off-budget savings. Outlays would be reduced by $1.2 trillion over the period, and revenues would be reduced by $0.9 trillion.
The largest savings would come from reductions in outlays for Medicaid and from the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) subsidies for non-group health insurance. The largest costs would come from repealing many of the changes the ACA made to the Internal Revenue Code—including an increase in the Hospital Insurance payroll tax rate for high-income taxpayers, a surtax on those taxpayers’ net investment income, and annual fees imposed on health insurers—and from the establishment of a new tax credit for health insurance.
Pay-as-you-go procedures apply because enacting the legislation would affect direct spending and revenues. CBO and JCT estimate that enacting the legislation would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits by more than $5 billion in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2027.
Effects on Health Insurance Coverage
To estimate the budgetary effects, CBO and JCT projected how the legislation would change the number of people who obtain federally subsidized health insurance through Medicaid, the non-group market, and the employment-based market, as well as many other factors.
CBO and JCT estimate that, in 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under the legislation than under current law. Most of that increase would stem from repealing the penalties associated with the individual mandate. Some of those people would choose not to have insurance because they chose to be covered by insurance under current law only to avoid paying the penalties, and some people would forgo insurance in response to higher premiums.
Later, following additional changes to subsidies for insurance purchased in the non-group market and to the Medicaid program, the increase in the number of uninsured people relative to the number under current law would rise to 21 million in 2020 and then to 24 million in 2026. The reductions in insurance coverage between 2018 and 2026 would stem in large part from changes in Medicaid enrollment—because some states would discontinue their expansion of eligibility, some states that would have expanded eligibility in the future would choose not to do so, and per-enrollee spending in the program would be capped. In 2026, an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.
The CBO's Summary is available in its entirety (not just the portions I excerpted above) here.  I would commend it - at the very least - to you for your review and consideration.  In the interest of full disclosure, the highlighted language in the preceding paragraphs is my handiwork, not that of the CBO.  Frankly, you owe it to yourself to read - at the very least - the CBO's Summary so that you are not beholden to the "alternative fact-spouting" two-legged fucktard, Sean Spicer.                        
We devote a staggering amount of time in this country to the discussion of politics as blood sport.  It is well-established that the spoils belong to the victor.  The responsibilities of governing belong not merely to the victors, however, but to all.  Each of us has skin in the game.  Be engaged, be informed, and be prepared to discuss not the "black" and "white" that partisans on both sides of the aisle want to utilize as this nation's political color palette but the subtler variations of gray that have historically defined that palette and perhaps, for the sake of all, need to do so again. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Blizzard Named Desire?

Would a Snowmageddon by any other name...

...howl and rage with such ferocity...

In the immortal words of Phil Esterhaus and, later, Les Rudnyanszky...


Monday, March 13, 2017

The Exceptions to Mr. Durocher's Rule

It is a principle in the law that every positive law
has an "excepting clause".  And I thought, shoot,
if I look up "excepting clause" in the dictionary
I am going to find these kids' faces.
- Cardinal Joseph Tobin

This weekend, one month after having their season terminated and then resuscitated through divine intervention (courtesy of Cardinal Joseph Tobin), the 5th grade CYO basketball team from St. John's School in Clark, New Jersey captured their league's championship.  

The eleven-member squad, which is comprised of two girls and nine boys, had unanimously voted to forfeit their season when the adults who run the CYO League ruled in early February that the girls (who had played on the team with their male classmates from 1st through 4th grade - at which ages the CYO League apparently permits co-ed teams) had to be removed from the team, which competes in the CYO's boys division.  But for Cardinal Tobin's intercession, their season would have ended in early February.

Instead, on Saturday, in the Championship Game, St. John's defeated Our Lady of Peace 40-23. Each of the children on the team received a "Union County CYO Champion" t-shirt and a trophy. Methinks that long after the shirts have been outgrown and the trophies have been reduced to dust collectors in cardboard boxes, each of these children shall long remember this season.  The games played.  The lessons learned.

And the lessons they taught to all of us.   


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Good Day, Sunshine

Happiness is driving home from work Monday in the daylight...

...for the first time since the first week in November.  


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Call Me Mr. Melancholy

Sometimes no truth is more powerful 
Than one expressed in anger 
By a melancholy man...
- Pete Hamill 

2017 shall be the final year for me running marathons.  Truth be told, it is not a distance that my body handles particularly well.  While I enjoy very much the feeling of satisfaction when the finish line is reached, the preparation that goes into getting to that point in the road (both the metaphysical road and the actual road), is something I enjoy quite a bit less.   Having taken up this lunacy when I was forty-four years old, I have decided that fifty is the age at which I shall alight from the marathon pain train and run more manageable distances. 

I had hoped to get into the lottery for this year's New York City Marathon so that it would be my final marathon.  Unfortunately, the good fortune that shined upon me in 2015 did not do so this year.  

Last year, after not winning entry through the lottery, I ran for Team Stomp the Monster, a charity team.  As a member of a charity team, the trade-off is simple:  In exchange for a guaranteed spot in the Marathon, you have to raise a predetermined amount of money.  Quid pro quo reduced to its simplest form.  Through the generosity of a lot of terrific people, I not only fulfilled my fundraising commitment last year, I exceeded it

There are many things that I do poorly but not as poorly as ask for help when help is necessary.  It is a flaw that is further exacerbated when the help required is financial.  I loathe asking anyone for money.  It makes me extremely uncomfortable.  This is so even when the financial assistance I seek is not actually for me but for another - in this case, Stomp The Monster, which is an excellent, Jersey-based 501(c)(3) not-for-profit whose mission is to assist cancer patients and their families by providing them support, financial and otherwise.  

Therefore, while it was not my intention to run the 2017 New York City Marathon as a member of a charity team, again, that is precisely what I shall do.  Once again, I shall lace up my running shoes and make my way from the Staten Island side of the Verrazano Bridge through the five boroughs to the finish line in Central Park.  

I am doing it, this one final time, because I am pissed off.  I am pissed off at the blood lust with which cancer pursues families, including my own.  I am pissed off at my own impotence.  I earn my living solving problems.  I fix things.  Yet, I am powerless to keep cancer from doing what is has done - and what it continues to do - to those I love, including my family.  My inability to protect any of them from it infuriates me.  It humiliates me too.  Possessing the ability to fix things is not worth a fucking damn when you lack the ability to fix THE most important thing.  

This November, one final time at this great race, I shall put my anger to good use.  If you are able to lend a hand and are inclined to do so, then you can do so simply by accessing my 2017 Team Stomp The Monster fundraising page, the link to which is here.   If you are not positioned where you can make a financial contribution, then simply keep a good thought.  Not for me but for those fighting the fight and those doing everything within their power to help them do so.  


Friday, March 10, 2017

This Is The Day To Be Rued

Too often we bask in our comfortable complacency and 
rationalize that the ravages of war, economic disaster, famine, 
and earthquake cannot happen here.  Those who believe this 
are either not acquainted with the revelations of the Lord, or
they do not believe them.  Those who smugly think these calamities
will not happen, that they will somehow be set aside by the
righteousness of the Saints, are deceived and will rue the day
they harbored such a delusion. 
- Ezra Taft Benson

Slightly less than two months ago, NASA and NOAA released the result of their independent analyses, which confirmed that in the one hundred and thirty-six year era of modern record keeping, the Earth's surface temperatures in 2016 were the warmest ever recorded. For good measure, the two agencies' results confirmed that 2016 was the third consecutive year to earn the title of "Hottest Year Ever". 

Twenty-one days ago, on February 17, 2017, the United States Senate confirmed former State of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to serve as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.  The vote was 52-46.  One Democrat, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and one Republican, John McCain of Arizona abstained.  Fifty of the fifty-two Republican Senators voted "Yes". Two Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, also voted in favor of his confirmation.  The only Republican Senator who voted against Pruitt's confirmation was Susan Collins of Maine.  Forty-four Democrats voted against Pruitt.  The two Independents in the Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, also voted "No". 

Today, here in the State of Concrete Gardens, Old Man Winter is predicted to give us the once-over, two or three times in fact.  Undoubtedly, the freezing temperatures and wintry precipitation shall lead a certain percentage of people who call this state home to chuckle aloud about the "alternative fact" of global warming.  There is a name for those people.  I am too polite to utter it aloud but it sounds an awful lot like "fucking morons". 

Two days ago, NOAA released data that confirmed February, 2017's status as the second warmest February ever recorded.  Yesterday, EPA Administrator Pruitt, during an interview on the CNBC program, "Squawk Box", said, " I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see." 

Whether the possibility that Pruitt is profoundly stupid enough to believe what he said or intellectually dishonest enough to know that what he said is not simply wrong - but untrue - and he said it anyway is irrelevant.  Either way, a man well-positioned to fuck all of us, irrespective of political affiliation, has unequivocally expressed his willingness to do it.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

For Those Of Us Not Beholden To Hallmark

Apologies for apparently being a day late and a dollar short on the whole International Women's Day celebration. Frankly, as a man who has basked in the glory of being the youngest child of a woman as tough and as resolute as any being who has ever lived - or shall ever live - I did not give due consideration to the setting aside of just one specific day on the calendar for her and for every woman I know who has followed in her footsteps and  who as emulated her. My wife, three sisters, two sisters-in-law, a gaggle of cousins, several nieces, a couple of great-nieces, one daughter-in-law, and one daughter - who is a couple of months away from introducing the next generation of bad-ass woman to my world - jump immediately to mind. 

If you are an individual who needed yesterday to jump start your understanding of and appreciation for the significance of women in your day-to-day, then I am less than optimistic about the likelihood of whatever you learned from yesterday staying with you going forward - regardless of its prominence in your Twitter feed.   

In my world, Joanie K is a bad-ass every day...

...and a reason for celebration too. 


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Celebrating the Lion's Arrival

This past weekend - March's first such contribution to the 2017 calendar - was considerably colder than any of its February predecessors.  It was a couple of days during which the sun's appearance was for lighting effect only.  It generated an amount of warmth that one might have referred to, if one was feeling charitable, as "negligible".

Under bitter cold, sun-soaked skies, I availed myself of the opportunity to run along the water on Saturday morning, and again, on Sunday morning.  As is my practice, I was up and out pretty early.  The upside about finishing my morning run by 7:30 am is that it leaves the rest of the day wide open.  The downside is that - on a bitterly cold day - it means that my run (from start to finish) takes place in conditions that are not a whole lot of fun in which to run.  This was especially true on Sunday morning since the northeast wind that had started blowing mid-afternoon on Saturday continued blowing with an unrelenting consistency.  

Regardless of the Mercury - or more properly I suppose the almost-complete lack thereof- both days this weekend proved to be beautiful.  The Missus and I spent Saturday night, with Lynne, at The Saint in Asbury Park, taking in some live music, courtesy of Crimson Voodoo.

Proof that even from ten feet away, the bass player
(hidden behind the keyboard player) gets short shrift
I must confess that Lynne and I had a far better time than Margaret did.  My wife is an incredibly good sport - even when being so requires her to spend an evening in a place that is located a considerable distance outside of her comfort zone.

Although her rather tepid reaction to Saturday night's festivities might serve to explain her complete lack of sympathy for me when I returned home from my run on Sunday morning as a shivering "Fatsicle".  The combination of the cold temperature and the wind served to keep foot traffic on the boardwalk to a bare minimum in the wee small hours of Sunday morning.  The other runner I passed seemed as confused as to what she was doing out there as I was regarding my own presence.  Before hypothermia set in, I squeezed off a few photographs of the morning's glory...

17th Avenue Beach - Belmar (3/5/17)

Looking northeast from 17th Avenue Beach -Belmar

Early morning sun over the Atlantic
17 Avenue Beach - Belmar (3/5/17)

Sunday was Parade Day in Lake Como and Belmar.  The cold temperature did little to hold down the number of people who invaded our little hamlet to enjoy the festivities.  Margaret and I actually live across the street from Lake Como's Mayor, Brian Wilton, who I shall embarrass presently by calling him out for being a good man.  As I started my run Sunday morning, Hizzoner ambled down his front steps to bestow a nice bit of parade-inspired, Lake Como-themed swag upon me, which I wore when the Missus and I picked up our friend and neighbor, Tom Swales, at his house prior to the three of us making our way to Main Street for the parade.  

Parade Day Swag - Mayor Brian Wilton, Lake Como

The three of us began our Parade Day as Margaret and I had done last year, enjoying the hospitality of Matt Knehr and the good folks of Beach Haus Brewery.  More Parade Day-themed swag was ours for the taking...

Parade Day 2017 Swag - Beach Haus Brewery

...which meant that by 12:00 noon I had already scored myself a free hat AND a free beer mug.  All in all, that is a pretty damn solid Sunday in my book. 

Tom, Margaret, and I spent a while at Beach Haus, enjoying some adult beverages and taking in the view from the Brewery's balcony.  Courtesy of Tom's mad photog skills and wingspan, evidence exists of our time there...

The Missus in one hand and Parade Day Stout
in the other.  A good day indeed. (3/5/17)

Tom, the Missus, and Me at Beach Haus Brewery
(our faces almost did freeze like this) (3/5/17) addition to the memories that is.  One hell of a terrific weekend spent in a place that I love with the woman I love and some very cool, dear friends.  Before we know it, beach weekends dominated by 90+ degree temperatures and sauna-like levels of humidity shall be upon us.  We shall enjoy them when they arrive.  

Until then, irrespective of however cold the day might dawn, down the Shore everything remains more than simply alright, thank you very much.