Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Ever-Broadening Gap Between Past and Present

Thirty-six years ago today, WPK, Sr. died.  I have run out of clever things regarding him about which to write.  Thus, in the interest of preserving the environment, today I shall recycle...

TUESDAY, MAY 31, 2016

An Endless Walk Down That Dark & Dusty Highway

It has been said, "time heals all wounds."  I do not agree.
The wounds remain.  In time, the mind, protecting its sanity,
Covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens.  
But it is never gone.
- Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy

Thirty-five years ago this morning - when the youngest of WPK, Sr.'s six children was three-plus months past his fourteenth birthday - WPK, Sr. died.  Today, the youngest of his six children is eight-plus months from his fiftieth which time he shall enter the decade from which WPK, Sr. failed to emerge.  Ask me again why I run.    

Below is what appeared in this space on this date last year to mark the thirty-fourth anniversary of his death.  

Rose Kennedy was right.

A Toast to Prisoners and Hostages...

Crumpled bits of paper,
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I'm afraid that's all we've got...

It was thirty-four years ago on this very morning that either Kara or Jill entered my bedroom on Wertsville Road in Neshanic Station, ostensibly for the purpose of informing me that our father was dead.  I cannot recall which of my sisters wore the garb of messenger.  I do, however, distinctly remember telling her, "I know."  While I had not yet left my room that morning and I had not yet laid eyes upon him on my parents' bed, I knew he was gone.  

I had known it in fact since the previous evening.  Dad had spent the day in Pennsylvania, opening up the Harvey's Lake house in anticipation for the upcoming Water Ski trip, which was less than two weeks away.  At age fourteen, I was not anywhere near the top of my father's favorite person list. To be fair, at age fifty-seven his name was nowhere to be found on mine either.  In hindsight, I suppose it was our utter lack of a relationship that had compelled him to make the round-trip to Harvey's Lake that Saturday a solo trek.  He no more wanted my company than I wanted his.  

Were I one prone to being awash in sentimentality, right here is where I would drop the "Perhaps if we'd known how little time we had left together..."  I am not.  Therefore I shall not.  I subscribe to the Pete Hamill point of view on the subject, "Sentimentality is always about a lie.  Nostalgia is about real things gone.  Nobody truly mourns a lie."  I make no apology for it.  I am my father's son.  For that, I make no apology either. 

In the almost three-and-one-half decades that have passed since he died, I have developed a far better understanding of WPK, Sr. than I ever possessed during the almost one-and-one-half decades that our time on this planet overlapped.  He was an exceptionally talented teacher.  Of academic subjects, of course, but of life lessons as well.  That is why, I reckon, so many of his former students, men and women who are now no younger than forty-five and some of whom are substantially older than that still speak of him and what each learned from him with fondness.  One who makes an indelible impact on our life remains alive in our memory long after they pass from our day-to-day.  

On this very date thirty-four years ago, which coincidentally was also a Sunday, I knew he was gone because when I had last looked squarely at Dad the night before, his eyes betrayed his fate.  I made a point of doing something that I never did, which was to tell him that I loved him and to give him a hug and a good night kiss on his forehead.  He hugged me too.  He then headed off down the hallway, into his bedroom and into the forever then and there waiting for him.  

Being the excellent teacher that he was, he passed on not only that which should be done but also that which should not be done.  I have tried - as I am confident all of my siblings have also - to hold fast to the former and to avoid the latter.  I am my father's son.  My efforts in that regard have been less than successful.  Far more often than I care to admit, my efforts in that regard have been awful.  

The great Oscar Wilde observed that, "No man is rich enough to buy back his past."  Nor can a man live long enough to outlive his past.  Nor should he, I would hope.  We arrive at any particular point in our history by having taken certain, specific steps to get there.  Our past - to a degree - shapes our present.  Our present, in turn, shapes our future.  

I am my father's son.  A fact for which I make no apology.  


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Marley and Me

...thus endeth today's lesson. 


Monday, May 29, 2017

Remember Them Today

Almost one decade later, my appreciation for what Rob wrote in 2008, his recording of his feelings and his thoughts about Memorial Day, continues to deepen.  It appears today here - in place of the regularly-scheduled silliness - in its appointed place.  As it should and as it shall continue to do for as long as I continue to do this...

Just A Thought
I started thinking in this time of war what this day means. It is for those who didn't come back. They didn't come back to their mothers, their wives or their kids. They stormed beaches, fought and died in foreign countries. All that returned was a box and a folded flag.

I recently attended a Springsteen concert in North Carolina. I traveled by plane through this American land because I could, because I am free - and because of the generosity of some good friends. As Springsteen played a song called 
"Last to Die" I got emotional. The song asks, "Who'll be the last to die...." presumably in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It does not matter what you think of the American involvement in these wars. What does matter is that we remember these brave American servicemen and servicewomen.

Meanwhile I am enjoying a Springsteen concert, enjoying a beer and enjoying starting a career with the best government in the world; enjoying freedom. How can I do this? These are my brothers, my peers, guys my age fighting and dying. They volunteered so I didn't have to. They're not coming back to their favorite band, their favorite beer, their families or the state they grew up in.

Their children will not know their fathers. They will know only their sacrifice and some stories their mothers will tell. They sacrificed for someone they will never meet - you and me.

Remember them today.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

To the Heroes of the Devil's Arcade

You said heroes are needed, so heroes get made.
Somebody made a bet, somebody paid.
The cool desert morning, then nothin' to save
Just metal and plastic where your body caved.
The slow games of poker with Lieutenant Ray
In the ward with the blue walls, a sea with no name
Where you life adrift 
With the heroes of the Devil's Arcade...

Springsteen's Magic CD has been on heavy rotation in my car the past several days.  I think the itch to listen to it again arose because of something my son, Rob, wrote close to a decade ago, which appears annually in this space on Memorial Day and which shall (SPOILER ALERT!) do so again tomorrow, in which he refers to "Last To Die", which appears on Magic.  

"Devil's Arcade" is the penultimate track on that record, and but for the death of Terry Magovern on July 30, 2007, shortly before its release, which led to "Terry's Song" being a late addition, it would have been the record's final track.   Over the course of the past several days, I have listened to it countless times.  I shall carry its resonance with me long after I last listen to it.  

Memorial Day is a day away.  But remembering those who have paid an impossibly high price to safeguard our nation and the things for which that bird and that flag stand is not something that should be confined to a single, twenty-four-hour period annually.  Doing so may have the unintended consequence of allowing at least some of us to believe that the debt owed to them is stamped "paid in full" through the attendance at a Memorial Day ceremony or the hosting of a backyard barbecue. Those who believe that are mistaken.  

For the debt we owe to them is one that can never be repaid.  That does not mean we should not continue to try to do so.  It means that we need to try a little harder.  

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
"Devil's Arcade" - Charlotte, North Carolina
April 27, 2008


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Here We Go Again...

Nothing says "Hello Summer!" at the Shore for me quite as much as does the Spring Lake Five Mile Run.  Today is race day.  A small, intimate gathering of approximately 12,500 runners will line up northbound on Ocean Avenue in Spring Lake, at the intersection of Ocean and Sussex Avenues, at 8:30 am to be launched off onto the course.  Some forty-plus minutes later, I hope that my tired bones have completed the journey and crossed the finish line.  

Actually, I have every confidence I shall do so.  I also have every confidence that my friend Jerry shall leave me in his dust as he does every year.  His goal (unstated of course) is to finish at least one Bloody Mary ahead of me.  My goal, also unstated, is to limit the damage to just that one.  

However you spend your Saturday morning, I hope you have as much fun as I shall.  



Friday, May 26, 2017

In Appreciation of the Spiritual Significance of the .396

Under the heading of "If you have not read it before, then it is new to you", something that appeared in this space at this time last year.  A safe and happy Memorial Day weekend to one and to all. Remember please that this weekend is not solely about barbecues, beaches, and shitty big-budget movies.  It is about much, much more.  Take a least a moment out of your reveling to remember.

And be careful out there...

FRIDAY, MAY 27, 2016

A Ride to Wash These Sins Off Our Hands...

For a significant number of us, at some point today we shall embark on the beginning of a three-day weekend.  There shall be more people than usual this afternoon and this evening hurrying from Point A to Point B than one might otherwise encounter on a Friday.  Wherever you are going, be careful getting there.  

While it is fairly well-settled, unless you are a Republican in Congress that we the people of these United States (along with our brothers and sisters all over the world) are killing the only planet that we can categorically state is presently suited to support human life, I assure you that we shall not complete Earth's execution by nightfall.  Whether your destination is the mountains, the beach, or someplace altogether different, it shall be there irrespective of the hour of your arrival.  

In an effort to keep today from turning into "Throat-Punch Friday" at my office, I opted to work "out of the office" today, literally and figuratively.  Accompanied by my faithful canine companion, Rosalita, and more than 1,000 pages of documents from an employment discrimination case in which I am involved, my Friday is being spent out-of-doors at our little Paradise by the Sea.  My great, great grandpa Phineas once observed that, "Sometimes, chilling is better than killing."  One sagacious chap, Old G-Squared P.  Advice to which proper attention should be paid, so I am. 

Safe travels to one and all.  Regardless of the traffic on your drive, smile.  

Summer's here...


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Because Tomorrow Is Not Guaranteed...

A year ago in this space, I wrote about two rather extraordinary kids, Lucas Lowe and Stella Usiak. Yesterday morning, as I was searching for whatever it is that masquerades as an idea for filling this space today, I used "the Google" to search for news on Buffalo, New York's dynamic duo.  Boy, am I happy that I did. And I suspect that once you read it, you shall be too.

First, a quick trip to "That Was Then"...


A Little Ditty About Lukas & Stella...

I am at a loss to think of something that occurs here on our Big Blue Marble that infuriates me more than children being afflicted with diseases and illnesses that threaten their lives and, even, end their lives.  As a man of little to no faith, there are few things to which I can point with more reliability in support of my intertwined arguments, which are (A) There is no God; and (B) If there is a God and he allows this to happen to children, then you can keep him.  I try to remain consistent to the teachings of my great, great grandfather Phineas, who was known for saying, "There ain't no Agnostic quite like a flexible Agnostic." 

Every now and again - or perhaps even less frequently than that - I come across something that both breaks my heart and warms the embers of the little briquette all at once.  Yesterday, such an event occurred.  

Lucas Lowe is twelve years old.  Stella Usiak is also twelve years old.  In addition to sharing age as a common characteristic, each is also battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a disease that has thus far put both of these youngsters through a remarkably similar-looking wringer:  Both were initially diagnosed with their cancer in 2011.  Both went into remission.  Both then relapsed.  Both underwent bone marrow transplants.  Both have spent more time in and out of hospitals than anyone of any age should ever have to spend.  Currently, both are patients at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York.  

And one more thing that these two rather extraordinary twelve-year-old warriors have in common: Lucas is in love with Stella and Stella is in love with Lucas.  Do not for a minute underestimate the sincerity or the depth of the affection these two youngsters have for one another.  Case in point, last fall Stella allowed Lucas to shave off her hair, which had just started to grow back after a round of chemotherapy when she learned that he had to undergo another round of chemotherapy and was going to lose all of his hair in the process.  

Give yourself a present today, whether you think you deserve it - and even if you are damn sure that you do not.  Invest a few minutes and get to know these two terrific kids, which you can do courtesy of this piece by Melissa Holmes, WGRZ-TV, Buffalo.  

Little ditty about Lukas and Stella, two American kids done the best that they can...

...and two American kids for whom the thrill of living shall never go away.  



...and now we return you to our regularly-scheduled programming, "This Is Now"

Spend a few minutes this morning watching and reading the piece that Melissa Holmes of NBC's affiliate, WGRZ, did slightly more than two weeks ago on  Lucas and Stella.  These two youngsters, both of whom are now twelve years old, continue to battle cancer.  And they continue to do so.  Side-by-side and hand-in-hand.  Remarkable stuff.  Not simply because of the depth of their courage but because of the breadth of their commitment to each other.  

Next time you find yourself uncertain as to what love is, cue up the story of Lucas and Stella.  These two children know better than a lot of us will ever know just how "non-guaranteed" tomorrow is and neither one of them allows that knowledge to deprive them of their today and however many more may come thereafter. 



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

One of a Million...

First, a shout out to my friend Lisa Ramos for having shared this image on social media yesterday:

I recognize that she shared it in response to the atrocity that occurred in Manchester, England on Monday night but I appropriate it here for an entirely unrelated purpose.  Every picture tells a story. In the case of this picture, more than one.

I do not know Kerry McGrath.  I do not know her big sister, Kathleen.  Truth be told, although I graduated from Wardlaw-Hartridge a lifetime ago, I do not know a single girl on this year's varsity softball team.  I do not know their coach.  I have a similar lack of familiarity with the Highland Park High School girls' softball program.  The only person involved in this story who I know at all is W-H's Athletic Director, Karl Miran, with whom I serve as a member of the school's Athletic Hall of Fame Committee (the "WHAHOFC" as exactly no one refers to it).  

Lauren Knego's piece, which I read on-line yesterday on makes me wish that I knew all of them.  You can read it here and watch the video that accompanies it.  Do yourself the favor of watching video with volume.  You will feel considerably less self-conscious if your eyes start tearing up as you sit in front of your computer if you have the sound of people cheering to keep you company.  

Anyway, that is what people have told me.  Figured I would pay that tip forward.  Just in case you needed it. 


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Chameleons and Other Karmic Reptiles

What follows here, today, originally appeared here eight years and one day ago.  I wrote it to mark the occasion of my parole from a prison of my own manufacture, which was a very happy day indeed. I share it here again today to remind myself of the lesson it conveys about the correctness of Daniel Patrick Moynihan's observation about the likelihood that the world shall break your Irish heart.  

At the time I wrote this, eight years and one day ago, I was feeling pretty fucking smug.  I felt as if, in spite of myself, I did in fact have the world on a lyrical string.  Things were suddenly pretty goddamn good after having been anything but for four months.  I did indeed leave a bad situation at day's end that Friday and return to the Firm following the Memorial Day weekend, on which Margaret and I spent Saturday at Byrne Arena with the Sisters Kizis and a whole RV full of Springsteen fans. We were in the Pit, a row or two away from the stage and Liv, who was just a little kid then, joined Bruce in singing "Waiting on a Sunny Day".  The audience member who recorded it has a nice shot of Liv on the big screen at or about the five-minute mark, singing her heart out.  It was one hell of a start to the Memorial Day weekend.   

It was also that Memorial Day weekend, however, when Margaret's mom, Suzy B., made what proved to be her final trip to Somerset Medical Center.  She was admitted to the hospital through the Emergency Department on that Sunday night.  She never came home.  It was there that she died, in the presence of family, in the early morning hours of June 2, 2009.  

All these years later, as I read again what I wrote on that day, I am reminded just how quickly the world I inhabit turned from smug to shit. Lesson learned, Karma.  Lesson learned.  

FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2009

Washing These Sins From My Hands

In the wake of the success of his double album "The River", Bruce Springsteen appeared to retreat quite a bit commercially. Instead of following up the album that produced his highest charting single (as of that date) "Hungry Heart" with another full band album, he released the dark and brooding "Nebraska", which he recorded by himself at home using his 4 track recording equipment. Legend has it that he did not intend to release the record as a solo project but when he tried to teach them to his fellow E Streeters, he felt the full band treatment robbed the songs of their grit and their soul. So he scrapped the full band treatment and ultimately released commercially the songs he had recorded quietly, at home - alone.

Nebraska is - to my ear - one of Springsteen's better efforts. It is a record painted in dark, deep brush strokes. While there is not a track on it that I do not like, my favorite story is the one told on "My Father's House". In it, the narrator tells the story of his desperate attempt at atonement - his attempt to make amends for unspecified sins and his attempt to make peace with his father. In the end, in spite of his best efforts, he fails:

Springsteen has said frequently through the years that his dark side is his inheritance from his father's side - the Irish side of the family. We are a melancholy bunch, the Irish. And haunted we often are by failed opportunities and squandered chances.

And for quite some time since the calendar peeled '08 away in favor of '09, I was feeling the pinch. Candidly, I felt at times as if I had dropped into a hole and regardless of what I tried to do to pull myself out of it, the deeper into it I fell. Had I been able to gauge its depth I might have been able to tell whether I was closer to its bottom or its top. I could not so I did not. Instead I just kept falling.

And as suddenly as I had fallen into my downward spiral, an opportunity presented itself at redemption. Whether I did anything to deserve it is a question for others to answer. Whether I have ever done anything - stacking one atop of another all that I have done thru the first 42 years of my life - to deserve it is as well. But here it is. And so I go. Thank you Professor Peabody for working out the kinks in the way back machine.

Today marks the final day of my four month detour. And Tuesday marks the first day back on the path I was on before I ran squarely into the tree located between the tines of the road's fork.

And in between, we have reached Memorial Day. The unofficial start of Summer. My bride and I will spend a part of our holiday weekend in the company of good friends watching Springsteen and the E Street Band put the bow on the first U.S. leg of their world tour.

Summer is here indeed. And the time is most certainly right.


Monday, May 22, 2017

In Honor of Obes, Here Come the Meatheads

We have transitioned out of the time of year that I enjoy most of all as a homeowner at the Jersey Shore, the offseason, and into the period that is the Missus's favorite, the summer.  

Although the weather is a wild-card that impacts upon the number of people who shall spend their summer days on the sand or in the water, in my experience it has a negligible impact upon those upon whom the late, great Obes bestowed the sobriquet "Meatheads".  The Memorial Day Weekend is upon us at week's end and with it shall come the 2017 influx of Meatheads, the fun-loving, often boisterous, but always harmless groups of young people who rent homes within walking distance of the beach and then never, ever spend a single moment there.  

As someone who considers his purchase of a home at the Jersey Shore to be the smartest money I have ever spent, while I do not embrace the notion of the Meatheads, I recognize that their return this time of year is as certain as that of our swans to Lake Como.  I also recognize that their time among us merely serves to reinforce my enjoyment of our little Paradise by the Sea from Labor Day through Memorial Day.  

Paradise is still Paradise.  For the next several months, the big fella at the door is merely permitting more people to enter.   And somewhere, high above it all, Obes is no doubt looking down, shaking his head, and laughing.  


Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Hand To Hold On To...

...subject to any questions, this concludes today's briefing. 


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Guess Who's Gon' Be On The Plate?

If you are in or near the greater Belmar/Lake Como Metroplex this weekend, then you might want to bring yourself and your appetite by beautiful Silver Lake Park in Belmar, which this weekend shall host Belmar's 31st Annual Seafood Festival.  

Sebastian, my fine, clawed Crustacean, sing us home...


Friday, May 19, 2017

Time Ain't Nothing If It Ain't Fast

The early 1990's "Seattle" music scene exploded nationally with absolutely no input from me whatsoever.  I do not mean to suggest that I had a negative opinion of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, or any of the other bands that formed the tip of the spear of (presuming I am remembering this correctly) the "grunge rock" genre.  I started law school at Seton Hall in September, 1991 and between school, work, and my then budding-relationship with Margaret, I spent precious little time listening to music.  I was utterly unfamiliar with all of the Seattle-area bands.  Truth be told, I do not believe I had ever heard a Nirvana song prior to Kurt Cobain's death. If I did, I did not know it was Nirvana.  To this day, I have no idea what exactly teen spirit sounds like. 

I do not profess - nor would I attempt to because the world is already chock full of posers - to possess a great knowledge of Chris Cornell's musical catalog from the work he did either as a solo artist or as the lead singer of Soundgarden or Audioslave.  I have heard enough of his songs to appreciate both his ability to write them and his profound ability to sing them.  

As humans go, I occupy a comfortable spot on one of the tree of Life's lower-hanging branches.  That being said, I recognize tragedy when I see it.  Chris Cornell's death on Wednesday, at age fifty-two, was a tragedy even before the medical examiner determined that he had committed suicide only a few hours after Soundgarden played a concert at Detroit's Fox Theatre.  

Suicide touches too many families, including too many families who I have had the pleasure and the privilege to know.  Not knowing the man, I would not pretend to know what demon or demons he struggled with during his day-to-day.  Nor would I pretend to know what, if anything, happened on the last night of his life that prompted him to decide that the struggle had gone on longer than he could withstand.

It is for that reason that I find myself respectfully disagreeing with the legion of his fans who expressed anger and outrage at towards Cornell upon learning that his death had been ruled a suicide.  Having not ever walked a single step in his shoes, let alone a mile (proverbial or otherwise), I cannot lay claim to those emotions.  I am of the opinion that no one outside of his immediate family, whether defined by blood, by marriage, or by life, can lay claim to them.  Those emotions belong to those to whom Cornell belonged.  Often times, it seems to me, we the general public overstate the extent of our relationship with public figures who we admire or like.  In our mind's eye, that person belongs to all of us.  The truth of the matter is, he or she does not belong to any of us.

Chris Cornell did not belong to those who listened to his music, who purchased his records, or attended his concerts.  He belonged to those whom he loved and to those who loved him most of all. The privilege and the pain of anger and outrage over his apparent decision to take his own life belongs to them and them alone.

All that matters to those whom he loved and those who loved him the most is that once the decision was made, it was irrevocable.  They shall mourn him however they choose to for whatever length of time they choose.

And they shall love him and shall miss him much, much longer than that - regardless of the length of the mourning period. 


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Flashing Teeth and Wide-Open Eyes

Get your attitude straight, 'Cos it's all in your mind
And it's never too late to get a new design.
And if you wanna compete you gotta visualize,
Flash those teeth, come on open those eyes.
Think visual...
- "Think Visual" 
(The Kinks) 

I had the pleasure of engaging in a rather inspired conversation, via messaging of course, early yesterday morning with my great friend, Dave Lackland.  He is not merely a person who improves my standing in life simply through his permitted use of the term "great friend" to describe our relationship, he is a person who is perpetually opening my mind's eye wider and wider. 

Until shortly after five o'clock yesterday morning, I had never heard of Casey Neistat.  It took me less than four minutes to understand just how profound a chink that was in my own faux intellectual armor: 

I love to read.  Always have.  Always will.  But there is more than one way to ingest knowledge and information.  It is true that it shall always be on the printed page - as long as you know where to look.  But it also can be found here and here and in about a gazillion other places too.  

Thank you, Dave, for the education.  As always.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Maggie May

She is now only eleven days old.  She still weighs less than seven pounds.  And yet, at the risk of placing too much pressure on her teeny tiny shoulders, the incredible, extraordinary Maggie has already cemented her spot as her Pop Pop's greatest opportunity at redemption.  Simply looking at her, whether in person or in photographs, makes my little charcoal briquet of a heart happy.  

I see her.  I see hope.  As a wise man once sang, somebody saved me...

...yes, yes she did.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Happiness Is...

I often joke that in my business happiness is a closed file.  For a file to be closed it has to have been resolved in some manner.  Living life as I do on the civil side of the justice system, significantly more often than not, the resolution to which I refer is a settlement.  

Yesterday morning, I traveled to the bucolic confines of the Brennan Courthouse in Jersey City, which in spite of the fact that it is almost impossible to get to by car without first experiencing a bout or three of road rage, is one of this State's truly beautiful public buildings.  A case that I have been defending for my favorite institutional client for several years finally had its trial date.  We were assigned out at the calendar call and, thereafter, spent the next several hours hammering out a settlement.  Her Honor, Judge Rose, was a terrific help to us in resolving the case.  At day's end, the plaintiffs likely went home thinking they had accepted too little and both defendants (my client and my co-counsel's client) likely felt as if each had offered too much.  In other words, it was an "as close to perfect" settlement as I ever attain.  

When our work was wrapped up, and I was saying goodbye to the plaintiffs' attorney, it occurred to me that a fellow attorney with whom I have had too many conversations to count over the course of the past two-plus years (particularly since the calendar flipped to 2017) I shall speak with only infrequently between now and whenever his clients' closing documents are provided to the defendants' attorneys and, thereafter, rarely if at all.  I shall miss our semi-regular conversations. He is one of our profession's true gentlemen.  I enjoyed litigating this case against him, not because we did not each advocate our clients' positions vigorously, which we did, but because we did so cordially and professionally.  

It is the nature of our profession that attention is paid to open, ongoing matters and little time is set aside to take a ride on the Nostalgia Wagon.  Little opportunity shall present itself for the two of us to chat at length unless and until we renew our acquaintance in some yet-to-be-filed lawsuit.  

Happiness is a closed file.  Every now and again, the blue skies of happiness are accented with just a touch of grey.  Yesterday was such an occasion.


Monday, May 15, 2017

The More Things Change... view of the events that have occurred in these parts during the first half of this month, this particular trip down memory lane seemed entirely appropriate.

TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2012

Vapor Trails

There was a perceptibly lesser amount of joyous noise around the house last night than there had been for each of the previous three. No mystery as to why. Yesterday morning, after her far-too-quick visit to New Jersey ended, Suz boarded a plane back to Houston. And with her she took at least a bit of the energy that had permeated through these parts while she was here.

I have written in this space before - and I shall again so be prepared - that Margaret is the miracle of my life. She is not simply because upon entering it she saved it. She is also because upon entering it she brought Suz and Rob with her. No man has ever received a greater gift. 

One supposes perhaps that in a perfect world one's children would grow to adulthood and settle within a reasonable proximity of their childhood home - all the better to enjoy things such as Sunday afternoon get-togethers, Yankees games and - of course - Springsteen concerts. But in the world in which we live and toil perfection is more than simply a lofty goal. It is a pipe dream. Our children grow up and go off to make their mark in the world wherever opportunity exists for them to do so. They honor the lessons of their upbringing by carrying them with them in their day-to-day wherever that day-to-day is lived. 

Even if it is not just around the corner. Even if it is a time zone or two away....


Sunday, May 14, 2017

I Got a Girl of My Own Now Ma...

For all the Moms who are MD (Mother's Day) Veterans, for all of the Moms for whom 2017 is their rookie campaign, and for one very, very special rookie, the eternal gratitude of one very happy Pop Pop.  Maggie is extraordinary.  Simply extraordinary. 

And for the one and only Joanie K, without whom none of this would matter.  Not even a little. 

Happy Mother's Day...


Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Importance of Not Getting Caught on the Wrong Side of that Line

Mr. Zuckerberg's WABAC Machine brought what follows here to my attention.  It ran in this space one year ago.  While it gives me no greater pleasure now than it did then that men and women lost their jobs, I am pleased to report that the Belmar Police Department has done a fine job protecting and serving those of us located immediately to the south of the double yellow line on 16th Avenue. 

Furthermore, property taxes in Lake Como actually are going down this year.  When is the last time you paid less property tax in one year than you had in the previous year?  Me neither. 

Governing is not all about ribbon cutting, credit claiming, and in the case of the Cheeto-in-Chief, sending not-too-subtle threats to the deposed leader of a federal law enforcement agency via Twitter. Often, hard decisions have to be made.  And when they do, it is imperative that one has an adult in the room to make them.  In our little Paradise by the Sea, we do...

FRIDAY, MAY 13, 2016

At Watch's End

Once upon a lifetime ago, when I was a young, brash asshole and had not yet blossomed into the middle-aged, curmudgeonly asshole I presently am, I had a rather cavalier disregard about the livelihood of others.  By that I mean, unless the person suddenly being separated from his or her position was a member of my household, a member of my family, or both, I lost precious little sleep worrying about the impact that a "changed employment situation" (there is no one alive who can spin a euphemism quite like a lawyer who is a Republican, eh?) on an individual.  Thankfully, while I am still an asshole, I am no longer an asshole who ignores the consequences of such an occurrence or fails to appreciate them. 

At 5:59 P.M. on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, the Lake Como, New Jersey Police Department ceased to exist.  Our little town is plagued by a problem that many towns of varying sizes all across America are also plagued by:  Too few dollars chasing too many obligations.   In 2010, New Jersey adopted a 2% cap on property tax levies a municipality is permitted to impose.  In other words, if a town wants to raise its property tax rate by more than 2%, the proposal must be submitted to the townspeople for a vote.  The 2016 budget in Lake Como, as per the Council and the Mayor, as initially drafted (and including our fully-staffed Police Department) would have placed the Borough approximately $650,000 above the 2% cap.  

Effective 6:00 P.M. on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, our little Paradise by the Sea is now policed by the officers of the Belmar Police Department, in whom I have every confidence.  It does not make me feel any less badly for the officers of the Lake Como Police Department who, through no fault of their own - or of anyone's for that matter - went home on Wednesday night after work without a job to which they could return on Thursday morning.  

If only we lived in McKinney, Texas, then we would all have first-world problems to occupy us - such as how many season tickets to purchase in the new high school football stadium that is being built for $62.8 Million.  


Friday, May 12, 2017

Jesus, John Wayne, and Me...

Whoever you've been and whatever you've been, it never leaves you.
I always picture it as a car.  All your selves are in it. 
And a new self gets in, but the old selves can't ever get out. 
The important thing is who's got their hands on the wheel
At any given moment? 
- Bruce Springsteen

Today, May 12, 2017, is Spring Commencement at the University of Colorado, Boulder.  On this very date, twenty-eight years ago, I graduated from CU, along with with several thousand classmates, most of whom I never knew.  

Had Jill not ended up in Boulder, which truthfully happened only because Joe was already in Boulder, I never would have set foot on campus, let alone have graduated from CU.  I have drafted off of Wilma for a half-century now.  She has yet to steer me wrong. 

Almost three decades after I was magically transformed from being an undergrad to a grad, I am fortunate enough to have remained friends with a significant number of the small group of lunatics with whom I was friends way back when.  I was reminded, again, earlier this year of what excellent human beings each of them is.  Same as they ever were, I reckon.  Same as they ever were. 

Earlier this year I turned fifty.  Earlier this week, I became a grandfather.  If on this very date, twenty-eight years ago, you had pulled still-drunk-from-the-night-before Adam aside and offered him odds on him living long enough to see either of those milestones, he would have taken that action.  For all that has changed in the past not-quite-three decades, maybe that is the one constant.  Twenty-eight years ago, I was happy where I was.  

Today, I am as well.  

Slide on over,  I will drive. 


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Love and Logic

Sunday afternoon, I was sitting with Suzanne and Margaret in Suzanne's hospital room, holding my then-one-day-old thief of hearts, and talking to her as I did.  While I was babbling whatever it was I was babbling into Maggie's ear, her mommy looked at us and told her, "Listen to him when he speaks to you.  He's pretty smart."  

I smiled, appreciative of the compliment yet cognizant of the fact that when compared to Maggie's mommy, old Pop Pop is virtually Cro-Magnon Man. 

I was reminded of my daughter's overly kind words, and my immediate reaction to them, on Tuesday night when my beloved New York Rangers ended the 2017 season in the same fashion as they have ended every season, save for 1994, since 1940, which is without winning the Stanley Cup.  It takes a lot of "something" to be a New York Rangers fan.  One half-century into the exercise I have yet to put my finger on exactly what that "something" is.  

That being said, I am fairly confident in stating that whatever the "something" is, it is not brains. There is no intelligent, logical reason for one to give his or her heart to an endeavor that shall break it over and over.  You know how it shall end as it begins and yet you keep on coming back for more. 

Einstein had a word for that condition...



Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Over the course of the past several days, there has been one constant that has made me say, "Wow" repeatedly.  That of course is Pop Pop's Princess, little Maggie, for whom I feel love so strongly that my heart has undergone a Grinch-like metamorphosis.  She is simply extraordinary.  Stunningly so. 

During this same admittedly Maggie-centric period, a few things have popped their head above my personal tree line long enough for me to take notice.  I loved that the Yankees spent this past weekend at Wrigley Field playing the Cubs.  I detested the fact that Major League Baseball - with two of its most storied franchises playing in the ballpark that grudgingly added lights and did so decades after the Cubs began playing there - scheduled but one of the three games in the afternoon.  Sure, I missed watching Friday's game, which the Yankees won when Gardner hit a home run on a 2-2 pitch in the top of the ninth inning because the game started and ended while I was at work, but so what?  It was afternoon baseball played in the last cathedral of afternoon baseball in the big leagues.  You know, old school.  

On a weekend that proved to be bone-chilling in Chi-town, the Yankees and Cubs played night games on Saturday and Sunday.  To make matters worse for the folks who paid their way into the friendly confines, Sunday night's game ended in the wee small hours of Monday morning.  Ridiculous.  If I was Commissioner of MLB, all three of those games would have been played under Chicago's natural light.  

When Cardale Jones was a freshman at the Ohio State University, he became the recipient of a lot of grief (and with good reason) when on the morning of October 5, 2012 he Tweeted: 

Why should we have to go to class 
if we came here to play FOOTBALL,
we ain't come to play SCHOOL, 
classes are POINTLESS.

With Cardale Jones playing quarterback for the Buckeyes in 2014, Ohio State won college football's National Championship.  Jones now plays in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills.  Last week, he found himself back in Columbus, Ohio.  

Twenty-four-year-old Cardale Jones graduated as a member of the Ohio State University's Class of 2017.  In so doing, he became the first member of his family to graduate college, earning his degree in African-American and African Studies.  And in so doing, he demonstrated not only a lot of pluck, perseverance, and determination, but an excellent, self-deprecating sense of humor.  Well played, young man.  Well played indeed.  


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Living Proof

In a world so hard and dirty,
So fouled and confused. 
Searching for a little bit of God's mercy,
I found living proof...
- "Living Proof"
Bruce Springsteen

I have indeed. 

Caption Credit:  Jill "Wilma" Christen

It's been a long, long drought, baby,
Tonight the rain's pouring down on our roof
Looking for a little bit of God's mercy,
I found living proof...

I have indeed.

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
Met Life Stadium - August 30, 2016


Monday, May 8, 2017

A Child Arrived Just The Other Day...

...and she is a beauty.  

Shortly after 5:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 6, a full sixteen days before she was predicted to do so, my beautiful granddaughter graced us with her presence.  While she had already tattooed her name upon her Pop Pop's heart some months ago, her decision to make her entrance early in the morning and on a Saturday to boot merely served to strengthen the bond. 

Baby Maggie arrived happy and healthy.  Upon doing so, she served as a reminder for a certain grizzled, cantankerous old crab-ass of the fact that no matter how much bad shit there is in the world, there is always room for hope.  

Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies...

...and Saturday morning it was born anew.     


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Tattooed In Dollar Signs, Suits & Ties

Better days are comin'
We're gonna wake up and break this curse
Better days are on the way
'Cause you know and I know
It can't get no worse...
-"Better Days" 
Southside Johnny

Another Sunday is upon us, here in the land of crazy dreams. Lucky us, here in the State of Concrete Gardens, keeping company with POTUS as he spends the weekend "working" at his Bedminster estate. I could not help but notice that Little Lord Tweetsalot claimed credit for saving the American people money because he chose to stay at his New Jersey estate - rather than his Manhattan penthouse - this weekend. When someone pulls him aside and reads the new Republican health care plan ("Trumpcare") to him, I cannot wait to see his face when it is explained to him that since being an asshole is a pre-existing condition, his new health care plan does not cover him for it.  

I know that - to steal a phrase from James McMurtry - "it's hard not to cry and fuss" about much of what goes on in, and comes out of, Washington, D.C. these days.  It may be useful to try to slow things down a bit, take a step back from the noise, and digest some of the whys and wherefores are a more relaxed pace. To that end, you may find it useful to consult the Kaiser Family Foundation interactive map, which tries to help clear away at least a bit of the chaff on the subject of premiums and tax credits.  Information is available in other places too, such as here and here and here and here.  Do not get your knickers in a twist if your go-to source of information did not appear in my admittedly short, informal list.  It is designed to be merely informative.  It is not exhaustive.  It is not definitive.  It is what any such list is - or should be:  a starting point.  

Now that you have a starting point, step lively.  We have a train to catch...