Sunday, April 30, 2017

Foot Sole-diers



This morning at beautiful Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey, the hardy men and women who are participants in this year's Long Branch Half-Marathon and New Jersey Marathon shall set off bright and early en route to what they hope - and I do as well - is a successful journey.  So much work has gone into preparing for today.  Whatever they hope to take away from this experience, I hope that they end up taking all that and then some. 

Between 2011 and 2016, I completed the New Jersey Marathon four times and the Long Branch Half-Marathon once.  I am running neither this year.  The New Jersey Marathon is a race that I presently possess no intention of ever running again for what it offers in convenience it lacks in excitement.  In this, my final year running marathons, I have two on my dance card.  It is not one of them. 

In retrospect, it  proved to be (for me, at least) a race that is far more enjoyable to write about than it is to run.  Here are the recaps (one sunny, one soggy) of my adventures in 2015 and 2016...

THURSDAY, APRIL 30, 2015

Sole Brothers

At some point on Sunday afternoon between having 3/4 of  a mile left to complete the Marathon and 1/2 of a mile to go, I made the acquaintance of a fellow runner.  I came to learn after the race that my Sole Brother's name was Greg Paglia.  However, at the time that he and I were completing our journey together I knew him only as Bib #2063

From the time we fell in together, we ran in close proximity to one another.  There was no sense of competition in our strides.  Neither of us was trying to edge ahead of the other.  Rather, there was a spirit of kinship, of shared purpose if you will.  Each of us felt as if our load had been lightened by the emergence of a comrade in feet with whom he could share it. 

It turned out that his family was located about thirty-five or fifty feet or so further from the finish line than where Margaret was waiting for me - along with our cadre (Gidg, Jeff, Brooke and Mike).  I do not know whether Greg's family proposed doing to him what my wife admitted to me she proposed doing to me, which was making a sign that read, "We Were Here.  You Weren't.  We Left" and then hightailing it over to Rooney's for $5.00 Bloody Marys and $5.00 Mimosas. 

Greg had moved on out to a gap of perhaps twenty feet ahead of me when I saw him see his family - leaning up against the rail - as they cheered him on.  He has a very young child (a little girl I think - based upon the brief glimpse I caught of her) and his wife was holding the infant in her arms as he ran past.  He did the most extraordinary thing.  He stopped, albeit only for a moment, and ran back towards his wife and baby so that he could give the baby a kiss.  There, less than one hundred feet from the dime he had been chasing for more than four and one-half hours, it was more important to him to take a half-dozen steps backwards than it was to take the first of three dozen or so more forward and across the finish line. 

I reached where he was just as he was completing the act of saying "Hello/Goodbye" to his wife and child.  I tapped him on the shoulder as I ran past him and when he turned to look my direction he smiled as if he had just seen a brother he had given up for dead or some such thing.  I slowed momentarily so that he could bridge the short distance between the two of us, which he did.  From that point forward, we ran together, as exhilarated as we were exhausted, to the finish line.  

Neither one of us came close to finishing first.  Truth be told, we finished closer to the pack's back than its front.  Yet, looking at us as we finally reached our destination, one would have been forgiven for thinking - even if just for a moment - that we were the day's big winners. 

Bib #1465 and Bib #2063
Finish Line - New Jersey Marathon

Then again, who is to say that were were not?  I have no delusions of grandeur when I sign up for a marathon.  I participate in them for the purpose of testing my mind and my body's ability to endure discomfort.  I also participate in them so that I can meet - even if only briefly - fellow travelers such as Bib #2063.  No one appreciates the journey as much as one who has endured it himself.  It is not every day that you meet a stranger who has in fact walked a mile in your shoes...

...let alone has actually covered 26.2 miles in them.  

-AK 

MONDAY, MAY 2, 2016

The Old Man and the Sea

Yesterday, in utterly despicable conditions, several thousand hardy souls (including yours truly) completed the New Jersey Half Marathon and the New Jersey Marathon.  Gidg conquered the Half and Brooke and I did likewise in the Marathon.  Gun time was 7:30 and as we assembled in the corrals pre-race it started to rain. 

The rain fell lightly at first, just enough to be an annoyance.  It quickly turned much more serious.  By the time we had completed nine miles it was pouring.  And once it started to pour, it continued to pour unabated...except for the brief period of time during which the rain turned to hail. Hail?  In May?  Yes indeed. 

The Blonde Bomber - Brooke - owned the Marathon irrespective of the weather.  I ran with her the first 13.1 miles, which we covered in two hours and four minutes.  She backed that up with another two hour and four minute effort on the race's back half.  A phenomenal race under any circumstances.  An extraordinary effort in view of the conditions in which she ran.  Her maiden voyage at this distance was a smashing success.  I could not be happier for her or prouder of her.

My old bones made it home in slightly less than four hours and forty-five minutes, which I believe actually was about a minute faster than I had run the Marathon last year, which was run on a day far better-suited to run 26.2 miles than was yesterday.  

I said goodbye to the New Jersey Marathon yesterday.  It was one hell of a farewell.  

-AK
  

Saturday, April 29, 2017

An Occasion Worth Remembering...

It was slightly more than one year ago that the item that appears here today first appeared here.  Proof I suppose that my great, great grandpa Phineas was right and that some things are so great that they bear repeating.

For MW, the keeper of all that is righteous on E Street...

-AK 

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27, 2016

At the Point of Intersection Between Durocher and Dufresne

A long-time friend of mine attained a result last week that might have even given the great Leo the Lip cause to reconsider his assertion that nice guys finish last.  Having spent close to five years embroiled in a brutal, contentious feud with his one-time business partner, a gentleman who threatened his life, his livelihood, and his good name, Marc emerged victorious. 

On April 20, 2016, a jury in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona awarded Marc (a/k/a "the Plaintiff") one hell of a win.  In the legal biz, any time the jury's verdict includes an award of damages and the amount awarded has eight figures and two commas to the left of the decimal point, such a result is recognized as a victory for the plaintiff.  Even by those of us blackhearted bastards on the defense bar.  And when such a verdict is entered in favor of someone who I have been fortunate enough to know - and to call my friend - for close to thirty-five years, well it is more than enough to bring a smile to the face of this blackhearted bastard.    

Marc sent me an e-mail on Monday afternoon sharing the news of the jury's verdict with me.  He is as avid a Springsteen fan as I am.  I have seen him just three times in the past thirty years and each time has been at a Springsteen concert here in New Jersey - although photographs he had one of the nice young ladies in Giants Stadium take of us prior to the August 28, 2003 show have been lost to the sands of time - including both nights on Springsteen's birthday party weekend at Met Life Stadium in September, 2012.  

Pre-show at Met Life Stadium
(09/22/12 - MW and AK)


Pre-show at Met Life Stadium
(09/23/12 - MW, MK, & AK)


A smile appeared on my face almost reflexively when I saw that his e-mail included an eminently appropriate Springsteen lyrical reference from "Land of Hope and Dreams" ("Faith will be rewarded").  I must confess however that when I read his spectacularly good news, the first pop culture reference of which I thought was not a Springsteen lyric.  

In fact, it was not a lyric at all.

But rather a scene from one of my all-time favorite films extolling the virtues of a man who, much like Marc, crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side...



Andy Dufresne, a nice guy who ultimately finished first.  An exception to Durocher's rule.  

And now there are two.  Each one not merely an exception but exceptional as well.   

-AK

Friday, April 28, 2017

An Elixir for Feeling Uninspired & Mad As Hell

There are people I know, whose opinions on things musical I trust implicitly who are far more well-acquainted with Jason Isbell than I.  Truth be told, other than this particular tune, which I stumbled across quite by accident a week or so ago on WFUV, I cannot name another song in his catalog. So, I do not pretend to know whether this represents the pinnacle of his work, a horrid sell out, or something occupying a comfortable spot somewhere along the continuum.  

I know merely that from the first notes, I was hooked.  It is a piece of music that I really, really dig conveying a message that appeals to me and resonates with me.  Whether you too shall enjoy it is a decision entrusted completely to you and to you alone.  My mind is made up.  Your opinion shall have no impact on it at all.  Whether this piece of music has any impact on you is a question for you to answer...

...might as well start now, right?  




-AK 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Prayer for the Departed



FF William Tolley FDNY
End of Watch:  April 20, 2017

This morning at the St. Martin of Tours Church in Bethpage, Long Island, Marie Tolley and eight-year-old Isabella Tolley shall face a burden that no one should have to face.  They shall stand among the firefighters and the musicians who called their husband and father "Brother" and bid farewell to forty-two-year-old William Tolley of Ladder 135 Engine 286, killed in the line of duty one week ago today.  

Keep a good thought for the Tolley family today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter.  They have more than earned it...



-AK

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Power of Not Quite Fifteen

I was more than fourteen but not yet fifteen years old when my father died in his sleep.  I am the youngest of my father and mother's six children. 

My brother Bill, was more than fourteen but not yet fifteen years old when I was born.  He is the oldest of my father and mother's six children. 

Slightly less than three months ago, I turned fifty.  Today, the tip of the familial spear turns sixty-five.  In the fifty-plus years since I first invaded his space, he has taught me a great deal about life and about living.  He taught me to read before my second birthday and the importance of critical thinking not too very long thereafter.  They are two gifts I have carried with me since the moment he first bestowed them upon me and they are gifts I intend to carry with me for all the days of my life.  

My father's sudden death was the defining moment of my childhood for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it served as its finish line.  In large part, although I was more than fourteen but not yet fifteen, I was prepared for all that came after it - and helping Mom as much as I could - because of the lessons Bill began imparting to me when he was himself more than fourteen but not quite fifteen.  A wise man once sang, "teach your children well."  Bill took that lesson to heart.  Indeed, he did. 

Happy Birthday, Bill - much love and many thanks.  

-AK   

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Views from the Road

Live is no different than the weather. 
Not only is it unpredictable, but it shows us
a new perspective on the world every day.
- Suzy Kassem

Perhaps my single-most favorite thing about weather is its apparent inability to recollect.  Weather conditions, including temperature, wind speed, and precipitation can flip completely on a moment's notice.  Weather is quite a bit like a drunk on a bender. It has a very limited recollection of what it had been doing prior to this particular moment in time, it is no idea what its next move is going to be, and it is likely to produce a moment or three of self-created drama before it runs its course.  

The Missus and I spent the weekend at our little Paradise by the Sea.  As is my custom and practice, I hit the road early enough on Saturday morning and on Sunday morning to get my 5+ mile run completed by 7:00 am.  And while, in some spots, I covered the same terrain on Sunday morning as I had covered on Saturday morning, the difference that one day made in terms of its influence on what was seen was nothing short of remarkable. 

Saturday was a day that dawned under gunmetal gray skies, which threatened rain and which delivered upon that threat on several occasions before nightfall.  Perhaps reflective of my sunny disposition, I sort of dig gray days.  I love the ocean and while I will freely acknowledge it looks perhaps more beautiful on a sun-drenched, blue sky day, it looks substantially more powerful in my estimation on a day that the sun is conspicuous by its absence. 

Just after daybreak - 17th Avenue Beach, Belmar


Lake Como


Spring Lake


Early morning view of the ocean - Spring Lake


Earth Day Plus One dawned so gloriously that it seemed as if the role of Mother Nature was being played by a stand-in  or, at the very least, by someone unfamiliar with the character's darker elements. What had been gray only twenty-four hours earlier was now awash in color.  


Shortly after sunrise - 17th Avenue Beach - Belmar



View from Belmar Boardwalk running north into Avon



Avon-by-the-Sea shortly after the day has dawned



Looking east from the Bradley Beach Boardwalk

-AK 







Monday, April 24, 2017

And Then There Were Twelve...

...more games that the New York Rangers must win in order to capture the 2017 Stanley Cup.  As someone who has rooted hard for the Blueshirts my entire life, a half-century that has seen them win exactly one Cup, I shall be disappointed but not terribly surprised if this season proves, again, to be one that ends somewhere short of a championship. 

Whether that proves to be the case remains to be seen but as of this morning, the Rangers are still standing and preparing for the start of the second round of the playoffs.  On Saturday night, they rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the first period to defeat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 and close out their first-round series in six games.  

Four wins down.  Here is to hoping that they have one dozen more in them. 

-AK


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Words and Thoughts

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
that struts and frets its hour upon the stage,
and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing. 
- William Shakespeare

I heartily recommend to all - irrespective of your political leanings - devoting a period of time every day to reading a newspaper.  I am well aware of the fact that Al Gore's monstrosity is awash in sources of information, ranging in quality from reliable to "Hey, let's make some shit up and see how many hits and retweets we receive".  I subscribe to the New York Times, which arrives on my doorstep every morning after I have already left for work, but which I am able to read on-line (my print subscription gives me unfettered access to the on-line version of the paper) during the day when time permits, and at night when I return home.  I also read the New York Post as well as parts of the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post on-line daily.  

Does it take a bit of time every day to get through my required reading?  You bet.  Yet as someone whose day begins at 3:00 AM and typically consists of anywhere from twelve to sixteen hours of work, substantially more often than not I carve out the time necessary to do it.  If we opt to, any of us can use "lack of time" as our default excuse for not doing something.  None of us feels as if we have more time than we need.  The problem, of course, is not lack of time but, instead, lack of commitment to making productive use of time.  Pointing our finger at the former as opposed to the latter makes us feel better, I suppose.  We, the people, have grown accustomed to blaming someone and/or something other than ourselves for any misfortune that might cross our path during our day-to-day.  

If you opt to take the plunge and subscribe to the New York Times then perhaps one of your favorite features of the paper's on-line edition shall be the "Right and Left:  Partisan Writing You Shouldn't Miss" feature that appears every few days and directs you to other publications that span the full spectrum of these United States and opinion pieces that appear in them.  It not only provides a cross-section of viewpoints, it exposes you to language, its employment, and its deployment. As someone whose love for language far exceeds my ability to use it, I find that to be a gift of incalculable value. 

Today marks the birthday of William Shakespeare and, also, the anniversary of his death.  In his honor, a trip in the WABAC Machine, piloted on this particular jaunt by the late, great Alex McDougall, without whom I likely would not have developed the appreciation for Shakespeare that I have carried with me for close to forty years. 




WEDNESDAY, APRIL 23, 2014

Willie the Shakes & the McDougall Method

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”
-William Shakespeare
"MacBeth"

Willie the Shakes was born on this day four hundred and fifty years ago.  Were he still alive today, he would be really, really old.  He is not.  He died, in fact, at age fifty-two.  He had a playwright's sense of timing even in death - dying fifty-two years to the day from the day on which he was born.  Tough break for the stone mason at the cemetery I suppose having to carve a headstone that read "04/23/64 - 16" as opposed to two separate lines (one for the date of birth and one for the date of death).  

My education was not that different from the rest of the world I suppose in that at W-H, Shakespeare was thrust upon us in several different English classes.  The best time I had studying him was in 8th grade.  My English teacher was Alex McDougall, who was Martin and Ruth's father.  Mr. McDougall was a Scotsman and a trained actor who had performed in a variety of Shakespearan plays in small theatre companies in England and in the United States.  

In Mr. McDougall's class, we did not just read Shakespeare, we inhaled him.  Among the most vivid memories of my secondary school education are those of Mr. McDougall, who was a hair or two more than five feet tall, in full-on acting mode with his little face all scrinched up and his entire head turning beet red, which when set off against his stark white hair gave him the visage of the world's smallest killer tomato.  Picture if you will Linda Blair in The Exorcist both during and immediately after one of her 'episodes' and you have a pretty good understanding of the transformation that Mr. McDougall would undergo while reciting Shakespeare's words.  At the time, there were days when it veered off the tracks temporarily from entertaining to terrifying but it never once was anything less than enthralling. 

I enjoyed Shakespeare when I read his plays in high school.  Three-plus decades later I still do.  I think my appreciation for him is owed in significant part to the way in which the work was taught to me.  Alex McDougall's love for Shakespeare's work was genuine and absolute and he shared his love for it with those of us in his class with unbridled enthusiasm.   If there is a better way in which to teach such works to 13 and 14 year-old American school kids, I know not what it might be.  

For me, the McDougall Method made all the difference.   

“Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.”
- William Shakespeare
"Julius Caesar" 

-AK   



Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Day to Drop the Needle and Pray...

Happy Double Whammy Day! 

Today is Record Store Day AND Earth Day. A day so cool on so many levels that it almost makes up for Hallmark's countless blights upon our calendar.  Almost.  

Prior to the ascendancy of the ignorant fuck from Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt, to the throne of the Environmental Protection Agency, I had fairly confidently marked each of these events on my 2018 calendar.  Now, I find myself hoping that thanks to Pruitt's stewardship we do not find ourselves next year at this time observing "Remember the Earth" Day.  Fifteen years ago, I would have laid odds that the BBM ("Big Blue Marble") would be around long after the LP was just a memory. Now, not so much. 

If wherever you are today happens to be somewhere in the vicinity of one of the great independent record stores participating in Record Store Day - and if you are not sure than consult this handy and helpful list - and your store of choice happens to be located somewhere here on Earth, then remove the only stone you shall need from your pocket and pick out the two birds you intend to simultaneously plunk with it.  In the spirit of the day, kill them metaphorically and not literally. 

Now, get the hell out of here.  You have records to buy and dirt in which to dig...


-AK 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sixty Seconds in the Big City

Eight years ago, on this very date, what appears in this space today originally appeared here.  Within one month of my having written it, my work circumstances improved substantially.  Sadly, within six weeks of its original appearance, my mother-in-law lost her battle with cancer, which defeat still impacts Margaret in her day-to-day, and likely shall continue to do so for all of the days of her life.


TUESDAY, APRIL 21, 2009

The Mighty Little Acorn

I have been feasting mightily at the trough of self-pity for quite some time now. Well, in fairness to me, I take most of my meals in the trough of self-loathing, which is located cross hairs and perpendicular to the self-pity trough but from time to time I wander over to what is available under its sneeze guard.

On occasion however it is good to pull off the feed bag and give the old jaw muscles a break. It is good to look around and see what the hell is taking place. Sunday gave rise to one of those days.

Margaret's mom - my mother-in-law Suzy B. - has been battling hard against cancer for the past four-plus years. Cancer has attacked my diminutive mother-in-law with a vengeance one would think that the Supreme Being would reserve for dictators, mothers of beauty pageant contestants and Boston Red Sox fans - and something from which he would spare one of his most special creations. No such luck.

The most recent incarnation of chemotherapy began with an infusion on Tuesday last and a daily regimen of pills thereafter. For reasons not clear to the patient, her daughter or any of the rest of us who were with her, on Sunday morning she became spontaneously and violently ill. When it did not cease, she went to a place where she has spent an unfortunate amount of time these past few years - the Nardoni Pavilion at Somerset Medical Center, which is where she remains this morning. And by her side, because she knows not where else she would be, is my bride.

One can speak of unbreakable bonds. Poets write of them. Coffeehouse singers sing of them. Margaret and her mom live one every day. And even in circumstances that are painful for them to endure and sad for the rest of us to watch, the strength of their bond is a marvel.

Every once in a while it is good to lift one's over-sized head up out of the trough and take a look around. There is a hell of a lot of life going on out there. And even in sadness, there is beauty. It is hard to see it through the tears sometimes but it is out there.

-AK


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Badassery

Only those who will risk going too far
can possibly find out how far one can go.
- T.S. Eliot

In the 2017 Boston Marathon, which took place on Monday under very warm April skies, thousands of men and women put themselves to Eliot's test and passed it with aplomb. 

Among their number were two retired American veterans, each of whom has lost his left leg to a combat injury.  Earl Granville, retired from the United States Army, apparently lost his leg to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2008.  His "disability" did not prevent him for competing in and completing the Boston Marathon, which he did while carrying his guide and running partner, Andi Piscopo, across his shoulders.




Staff Sgt. Luis Sanchez, U.S.M.C. (Retired) participated in Monday's Marathon on behalf of the Semper Fi Fund and did this year what he did last year, which is complete the 26.2 mile course on his prosthetic left leg with an American flag firmly grasped in his hand.  Sgt. Sanchez's flag bore the names of the Marines with whom he served in combat, including those with whom he served in Afghanistan in 2013 when an IED cost him his left leg. 



I do not know whether badassery is a word or merely a Sniglet.  But as was the case with Justice Potter Stewart and pornography, I recognize when I see it.  On Monday, I saw it.  As did anyone who happened to watch these two veterans in action. 

-AK 

  




Wednesday, April 19, 2017

It Is Not Old If It Is New To You...

Once upon a lifetime ago, most particularly in the era noted in the annals as "B.M." ("Before Margaret"), I was every bit of the asshole that I am now.  Truth be told, I was actually more of one then than I am now, in no small part due to my preferred method of self-medication for all of life's ills, which was the relentless consumption of my body weight in alcohol.  Being the son of a fully-functional drunk and being that father's son gave me all the leg up I needed to seamlessly carry on that particular family tradition.  While living through it, I paid little mind to whether it served me well - although the collateral damage through which I waded on my day-to-day suggested that it had not.  Once I was able to view that part of my life through the rear-view mirror, the wreckage became more readily defined. 

The decision to no longer quench the demons that occupy prime real estate in my head in an alcohol fire, while laudable on some level I suppose, did little to quiet them.  It merely pointed out the need for an alternative, perhaps even a holistic, cure.  From that small thing has this thing come.  Nothing more or less, I reckon, than the (usually) daily wrestling match...for nine years.  In case you missed it, what follows is a reprint of how and when this all began.  Written at a time so long ago that my son was still in college in New York City (his senior year at John Jay College of Criminal Justice), Margaret's grandmother, Nanny, and her mother, the immortal Suzy B., were both still alive, cancer had not yet declared war on my sister, and I had neither left nor returned to the Firm.  

I suppose that this proves - if nothing else - that Jerry Garcia was right all along.  It really has been a long, strange trip...

...and through it all the dog has always walked just like he was smiling.





SATURDAY, APRIL 19, 2008

Man on a Tractor with a Dog in a Field

It's Saturday morning and once upon a time - though never in my professional life - Saturday was 1/2 of the "weekend", presumably meaning it was time spent away from work. For me, not so much. Whether by choice or necessity, my available options for generating sufficient income to support my family are limited to....well, pretty much what I do now and nothing else. I was reminded again last night watching the end-of-series handshake as my beloved Rangers vanquished the Devils in the 1st round of the NHL playoffs of what my mom told me when I was a boy - I'd never play in the NHL unless I learned how to skate on something other than double runners. I never did and so in spite of the natural openings in the Rangers lineup thru the years upon the retirements of Rod Gilbert, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, no phone call. It's ok though b/c I've been mad at Emile Francis for about 30 years anyway for trading Eddie Giacomin....

I'm the youngest of six. That strikes me as a humorous way for a 41 y/o husband and father of 2 college-age kids to describe himself but then again I have older siblings who still refer to me as either their "little" or "baby" brother. History really does exist in the eye of the teller I suppose.

Technically speaking I reckon today represents the end of this week and what a week it was. Professionally I've had better weeks. As a lawyer you sometimes end up in a spot where a client ignores the advice for which they're paying you b/c (much like most of us I suppose) they don't want to hear bad news and then when they get hit square in the face with the proverbial creme pie of bad news they scream at you for allegedly not telling them to duck. I landed squarely in such a spot this week and while it'll likely be a spot more akin to a gravy stain than a blood stain - it'll never leave that plain white t-shirt altogether but it'll fade to an almost imperceptible level over time as opposed to destroying the article of clothing completely - for present purposes I can see it and smell it clearly.

Personally though it was a hell of a good week. I did something that I've spent far too little doing his entire life - spent quality time just hanging out with my 22 y/o son Rob. He's finishing up his final semester of college - living, working and going to school in NYC. Wednesday night (coincidentally the same day of the week as the aforementioned gravy stain assumed its presently prominent position on the collar of my t-shirt) I went into the city and he/I went to watch the Yankees/Red Sox at the Stadium. It was a hell of a good evening - noteworthy really for its complete absence of a big event during it. We just sat in the LF bleachers and watched baseball together. We spent the night just watching the game and talking.

It's fascinating to me as a parent to see how a child is no longer a "child". The maturity both of my kids demonstrate clearly is a trait passed along maternally. Basically, upon graduating this Spring he's off into the working world and while he's still uncertain whether he's going to start out somewhere fairly close to home (such as D.C.) or somewhere not so close (such as the Southwestern U.S.), we all know he's going to be moving "away". It occurred to me not too long ago that but for the brief period of time between graduation and commencement of the 1st professional stop when he'll be living home (at the 'rents in NJ) he'll likely never live home again. It hit me that when I wasn't looking, my life has morphed into a Harry Chapin moment. "Cats in the Cradle" anyone?

The title for this little missive is lifted verbatim from a song by a country artist, Rodney Atkins, who my wife Margaret and I saw perform in May 2007 at Carnegie Hall (how'd he get there - practice, practice, practice of course....we simply took NJ Transit into Penn Station and then an Uptown Train) as the opener for Martina McBride. It's a great little tune preaching a simple lesson or two- spend more time cherishing what you have and less time worrying about what someone else has. Happiness is how you define it - not how anyone else does.

Like the eldest of my siblings, my oldest brother Bill, I am an enormous Bruce Springsteen fan. I'm excited that this time next week Margaret, Rob and I are going to be in North Carolina getting ready to see him/E Street Band play in Charlotte - a trip made possible by a friend's incredible generosity. I'm saddened though by the fact that Danny Federici, an original E Streeter and Bruce's friend and band mate of 40 years lost his battle with his particular form of cancer on the 17th. 

Daniel Patrick Moynihan was right when he said, "I don't think there's any point in being Irish if you don't know the world is going to break your heart."
-AK   





Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My Dog and Me

I make no apology for the fact that I like dogs significantly more than people.  Nor do I apologize for viewing Trumpelstiltskin with a jaundiced eye in no small part because of his self-proclaimed history of dog non-ownership.  It is not the only reason I do not trust POTUS as far as I could throw him - to be sure - but it is one of them. 

As luck would have it, on or about this very date one year ago, the canine who is the object of my affection was the subject of this space's contribution to noise pollution.  A decidedly pleasant journey in the WABAC Machine, with musical accompaniment provided by the always excellent Mr. Hiatt...


TUESDAY, APRIL 19, 2016

Fast Asleep by the Fire Side

Rosie

Today is Primary Day in New York.  Unless the polls are incredibly off, it appears as if Mrs. Clinton shall emerge victorious in her party's primary and Mr. Trump shall do likewise in his party's.  Here in the State of Concrete Gardens, Primary Day is June 7.  Rare is the year in which the New Jersey Primary is of any significance whatsoever to the candidates in either party.  In this election cycle, however, it is an important election for the GOP candidates and, possibly, for the Democratic candidates also.  Only five months separate New Jersey's Primary Election from Election Day in November.  Five short months. 

The weather this past weekend was so incredibly nice that not even the specter of one of the Not-Quite-Fantastic-Five's ascendancy to the office of the Presidency of the United States could put a damper on it.  Sunday was an ideal weather day on which to embark upon a twenty-mile training run. It was warm but not hot.  I cannot lie and proclaim that I enjoyed the steady 5-10 mile per hour wind blowing out of the northeast that challenged Brooke and me all the way north from Asbury Park to Long Branch on the inward leg of our run but, all in all, even it was a small price to pay.  

I spent a few hours at the office on Saturday morning and then - on my way home from the office - ran a few errands, which I completed shortly after noon.  Once I arrived home, I turned my afternoon into an excuse to spend it in the backyard with Rosie.  Margaret was out with Suzanne so - under the watchful eye of my faithful canine companion - I set up all of our patio furniture, cleaned our grills, and otherwise prepared the backyard for Spring.  

Mission accomplished, I grabbed the book I am currently reading, pulled up a chair on the patio, and read for a couple of hours while Rosie napped away the afternoon a few feet away.  Neither of us spent more than about five consecutive minutes inside from shortly after twelve noon until shortly after five o'clock, which is when we finished grilling the London Broil that Joe, Margaret, and I ate for dinner.  I man the grill.  Rosie supervises the entire food-preparation process and tests small sample-sized pieces to ensure that the food is ready to be served. 

The Yankees played an early afternoon game against the Mariners in the Bronx on Saturday and the Rangers played a late afternoon playoff game against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.  I watched neither.  Instead I spent a few hours that were as spectacular as they were uneventful soaking up a bit of sun, breathing in a bit of comfortably warm fresh air, and enjoying the company of my long-haired, furry friend.  

She enjoyed it, I think, as much as I.  



"My Dog and Me"
- John Hiatt

-AK 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Of Guile, Guts & Gu...

This year, the fiftieth in which the world has been graced with the presence of Yours truly, shall be the final one in which I run a marathon.  Truth be told, among the many things for which I have never demonstrated an affinity, marathon running occupies a spot on or near the medal stand.  My abject lack of comfort at the distance has not dissuaded me from tackling eight of them thus far.  

It shall not prevent me from running two more this year, the Marine Corps Marathon on October 22nd and the New York City Marathon on November 5th.  Hopefully, I shall still have my legs when I reach the finish line in Central Park.  If I do, then I just might bend down and kiss it - move I shall not risk if I lack confidence in my ability to return to the locked, upright position thereafter. 

I shall never run in the Boston Marathon.  On the larger scheme of things, it matters not.  Those who have run in it, and those who organize it annually, shall be uniform (I assure you) in their belief that my non-participation in the event has done nothing to detract from it.  It might actually be an enhancement.  

I wrote this last year, a couple of days after the 2016 Boston Marathon.  May those who run it today, and those in attendance to support them, have a beautiful, safe, and joyous day in Boston.  They deserve nothing less. 

THURSDAY, APRIL 21, 2016

They Perspired So That They Could Inspire...and Aspire


For the third year in a row, the Boston Marathon, which is truly a great American tradition and event whether you are a marathoner, a couch potato, or positioned somewhere else along the running-space continuum, was completed without incident.  But even as the murderous cowardice of the brother bombers recedes one year further into our collective memory, reminders and remembrances abounded. 

Patrick Downes crossed the finish line at Boyleston Street at 2:49 P.M., having completed the Marathon in 5:56:46 and immediately fell into the arms of his wife, Jessica Kensky.  On Patriots' Day 2013, the first of the two bombs that the terrorists detonated at or near the Marathon's finish line exploded at 2:49 P.M.  Among the seriously wounded that day were Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, who were there watching the finish of the Marathon and each of whom lost their left leg beneath the knee for their troubles.  Ms. Kensky subsequently had to have her right lower leg amputated when it refused to heal properly.    After he hugged his wife, Mr. Downes headed over to where the father of eight-year-old Martin Richards, the little boy who was murdered that terrible day three years ago, was watching and reached up into the stands to hug him too.  After the race, Mr. Downes told the media that he had run "with the city in my heart".  I reckon that he was fairly well ensconced in the city's heart as well.   

Mr. Downes was the first 2013 bombing amputee who crossed the finish line on Boyleston Street on Monday afternoon, but he was not the only one to do so.  Adrianne Haslet crossed the finish line at approximately 7:15 P.M., having spent roughly ten hours on the course.  Ms. Haslet, too, lost her lower left leg in the bombing.  Her determination to complete the race on Monday was nothing short of extraordinary.  She experienced a problem with her prosthesis at or about the halfway mark, which problem required her to pull in for "a pit stop" at or about Mile 15.  The problem took ninety minutes or so to solve but with her new and improved prosthetic leg underneath and her immense heart to power her, she completed the final eleven-plus miles.  One hell of a way to break one's Boston Marathon maiden.  

Unlike Patrick Downes and Adrianne Haslet, Brendan Cox was not among those injured in the 2013 Marathon Bombing.  Way back when, young Mr. Cox was still in high school here in New Jersey.  These days, though, he is a student at the University of Maryland.  On Monday, he not only completed the Marathon in a time (3:28:35) that I could only hope to attain if I traded in my Brooks running shoes for an Acme rocket, he did so while running for a worthy cause:  A job.   He ran the race with the hashtag #RunnerNeedsAJob on the back of his shirt, which generated quite a bit of attention on social media.  It appears as if it might have also landed him a couple of interviews, which are certainly far more important than hits on Twitter.   In case you were wondering, young Mr. Cox is majoring in Marketing at the University of Maryland.  I know not what type of grades he makes in his major but I would think he has one hell of a future ahead of him in his chosen field.  

Adrianne Haslet said it far better than I ever could when she noted that the emotional impact of crossing the finish line for her was drawn in significant part from the fact that she thought of, "all of the definitions that this finish line has held."  For Adrianne Haslet and for Patrick Downes, on Monday it represented not only the completion of an amazing day's incredible journey but also the threshold each has crossed on the continuing path to blunt the long-term effects of evil by refusing to allow it - and refusing to allow those who perpetrate it - to hold down and to choke the life out of those who are good and the good deeds that they do.  

Boston Strong?  You better goddamn believe that they are...  




...and each has many more miles that they intend to cover.   

-AK 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Greatest Easter Story Ever Told...




Easter Yeggs 
(1947)


...or at the very least, the funniest.  

-AK 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Public Service Announcement On Behalf Of The One For Whom We All Work

If you have stumbled out of bed early on this Saturday morning, with the taste of that last call Jager Bomb still firmly etched upon your tongue, desperate to make it to the Post Office before it closes so that the IRS sees the "April 15, 2017" postmark on your income taxes, then forgive me for seeming unkind when I say, using the words of the great American philosopher, Bugs Bunny, that you might just be a maroon, an ignoranimus, or a real tararagundeay.  

Pull off the pants into which you just jammed both legs simultaneously, toss off the baseball cap (a/k/a "the bed head protector"), gulp down three or four Advil, and crawl back beneath the covers. The Tax Man shall come for you as he shall for all of us - with the apparent exception of Mr. Trump.  But he shall not come today.  This year, in fact, he shall not come until Tuesday, April 18.   

Feel better?  Good.  Happy to have been of service. 

Mr. Harrison, if you please...


-AK 

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Friday of As Yet Indeterminate Quality

Today promises to be a somewhat quiet day at the Firm.  Here in the State of Concrete Gardens, all state courthouses are closed in observance of Good Friday. A number of firms I know are taking today as a holiday, which should hopefully hold the e-mail and phone call traffic down considerably. 

Not being a God-believing man myself, I have always been at a loss as to why exactly our State government shuts down for the day.  For the past eight Good Fridays, I have ruled out the possibility that it does so in order to allow our Governor the chance to fast without worrying about his hunger pangs interfering with his official duties. 

Since the permanent kibosh has been put on my proposed team-building event, a combination Easter egg hunt/Crucifixion (think "Winner Take All" with the highest spoils possible), I will likely spend the day holed up in my office working towards my day's personal goal, which is minimizing the amount of work I have to complete this weekend.  

Irrespective of the way in which this particular Friday turns out for me, it will likely be better than this guy's.  Or for that matter, this guy's.  

-AK 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hands and Hearts

A somber day on the docket for my great friend, Jill, and for the entire Sorger family.  Ellen Sorger, the matriarch of the Sorger tribe, died on Monday.  Today, Jill, her big brother Joel, and their dad, Jim, shall come together (along with their respective spouses, children, grandchildren, relatives, and friends) to do that thing that is the hardest to do:  Say goodbye to someone who you love with all of your heart and who loved you right back in equal measure. 


-AK 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Very Next Time...

Today is just another day without my family holiday. 
Just dont mean anything. and really ever since my Dad past away 
holidays slowly every year lost their meaning. 
Im sitting here behind a 240 Bravo medium machine gun 
and Im supost to feel the holiday spirit, I think not. 
It hurts to think about how holidays used to be 
and that they used to mean something when I was a kid. 
but Im reminded every day out here that Im not a kid 
and yesterdays not today and never will be.
-Sam Siatta, 
USMC

...someone tells you that great journalism is unimportant, after you tell that person (politely or impolitely, your choice) to perform a sexual act on himself once believed to be capable of performance only by a single male inhabitant of Nantucket, respectfully suggest to that person that he or she needs to read this

C.J. Chivers of The New York Times received a Pulitzer Prize earlier this week for his utterly remarkable, exquisitely heartbreaking feature piece on Sam Siatta, which originally appeared in the December 28, 2016 edition of The New York Times Magazine.  If you have not yet read it, then try to set aside the time today to do so.  And perhaps some time tomorrow as well.  It is not a short read.  

But it is time well-spent.  

-AK