Friday, June 30, 2017

Of Spaceships & Time Machines...

The Missus and I get our television at home through the good people at DirectTV.  Among the many things I love about DirectTV is its "Audience" channel, which is Channel 239.  For several years, five nights a week at 6:00 eastern time, it aired episodes of NYPD Blue in chronological order and commercial-free.  Dennis Franz has long been one of my favorite actors and his portrayal of Detective Andy Sipowicz, from his falling-down-drunk days in Season One to his man-in-charge days at the end of the series in Season Twelve was nothing short of extraordinary.  I simply have our DirectTV set to record every episode, which it does, and then we watch them at our convenience.  Joe has gotten hooked too.  

Earlier this month, DirectTV added another favorite of mine to its Channel 239 lineup.  Mad Men began airing at 6:00 pm eastern time on June 12.  With its introduction into the lineup, NYPD Blue has now moved up one hour to 5:00 pm.  With the possible exception of the Yankees with Judge and Sanchez, it is an unrivaled one-two punch.  Having binge-watched Mad Men during its final season, I was already a fan, including but not limited to Jon Hamm's extraordinary turn as Don Draper.  I think it took less than a full episode to ensnare Margaret and Joe.  

Wednesday night's episode was "The Wheel", which was the season finale of Mad Men's first season. Towards its end, one of the most remarkable scenes I can remember in any television show  I have ever watched occurs.  It occurs in the meeting that Don Draper and his colleagues from Sterling Cooper are having with Eastman-Kodak regarding the latter's new "wheel" slide projector and the advertising firm's pitch.  I encourage you to watch it in a quiet place with the volume up so that you can appreciate it.  And then to watch it again.

Not a bad thing, I reckon, to travel the way a child travels.  Around and around, and back home a place where we know we are loved.  Wherever your Independence Day plans shall take you, may you experience at least a small sampling of child-like travel.  

Is there anything better for which to wish? 


Thursday, June 29, 2017

As Two Becomes Three, A Look Back At When Two Became One

In little more than a month's time, Margaret's niece, Nicole, and Nicole's husband, Jason, shall join Suzanne and Ryan in the "New Parents Club - Class of 2017".  The stork has scheduled an early August delivery for the Scotts...although that very same bird had scheduled May 22 for Maggie's arrival only to see her arrive sixteen days earlier.  Feel free to take the stork's accuracy in predicting arrival dates with a grain of salt - and perhaps a small helping of Vlasic bread and butter chips.  

But I digress.  Worse yet, now my stomach is grumbling.  Damn hunger pangs.

While I find a cure for what ails me, let us take a not-too-long trip in the WABAC Machine to this very date four short years ago.  It was on this date in 2013 that Nicole and Jason were married.  And it was on this date four years ago that what follows now first appeared in this space...


A Sip of the Forgiveness that Life Provides

Four years ago on this very day - the final Saturday of June - my brother in law Frank's daughter Megan (his oldest child) was married.  Four years and two days later she and her husband have added three members to their tribe.  It has been a happy, productive (and no doubt tiring) four years for that dynamic duo. 
Today - in the very same church where her big sister was wed four Junes ago - Frank's second-oldest child - his daughter Nicole - shall marry.  I have had the pleasure and privilege of knowing Nic almost since Margaret and I started dating twenty-two years ago.  She is a terrific young woman.  And in Jason it certainly appears as if she has met her ideal complement.  A genuinely nice guy.  A good man.
The process begins today for Nicole and Jason.  To this point their story has been of their "lives".  Today that changes.  Their story is now the one of their Life. 
Call me an old softie but I am rooting for a happy ending....
....and I have every confidence that they shall get there. 
And they shall enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mr. Mercury, If You Please

You say black, I say white
You say bark, I say bite
You say shark, I say hey man
Jaws was never my scene
And I don't like Star Wars...
- Queen

Today is "Bike to Work" Day in the State of Colorado.  While I always am pleased to see just how physically active Rob and Jess both are in their day to day, I really, really hope that my son resists the temptation (forgive me, Freddy) to "get on his bike and ride" to his J-O-B today...

truth be told, I am relying heavily upon the fact that quasi-State holiday or not, bicycles are not permitted in the travel lanes of I-25... 

...on either side of the Colorado/Wyoming border.  


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sunday to Sunday

I was standing on the boardwalk about fifteen minutes before sunrise on Sunday morning, looking at the surf at the 17th Avenue Beach in Belmar, and having a brief conversation with my friend, Brian, before heading out on my morning run. He surfs and had ridden his bicycle up to the beach to check out the waves.  I know nothing about surfing so I relied upon him to advise me whether the waves were good, bad, or indifferent.  Apparently, they fell into one of the latter two categories.  After looking them over for a few minutes, Brian declared that he was going to go play golf instead.  As I headed north towards Avon, he headed back to his house to get his clubs.  

While making idle conversation, we both made note of the fact that the final week of June is already upon us.  Fourth of July is one week from today.  It seems like yesterday that the Missus and I talked about what we wanted to get completed in terms of household projects at the beach prior to summer's arrival.  I hope like hell we checked off all of the boxes on that list because, in an eye blink, one-third of summer is already in the rear-view mirror.  

Sunday is July's first Sunday.  Four "first Sundays" after it, I shall participate in the New York City Marathon one final time.  I am running this year, as I did last year, for Team Stomp the Monster.  Stomp the Monster is a New Jersey-based not-for-profit that provides financial and emotional assistance to people who are under attack from the Monster that is cancer.  They are great folks doing extraordinary work.  If you are positioned to help me help them, then I thank you for your support, be it financial, emotional, or motivational.  It all helps, I assure you.  

What is also a source of great comfort and great joy to me is that this year my sister, Kara, is running the NYC Marathon as a member of Team Stomp the Monster.  We both signed up well in advance of Mom's death earlier this month.  Stel does not need me to speak for her (ah, the liberating benefits of adulthood) but I know - for me - running in this race on this organization's behalf seems absolutely perfect.  

It is, in fact, exactly as it should be. 


Monday, June 26, 2017

Amazing Grace

Jill and I spent a bit of time on Saturday afternoon paying our respects to Alice McMullen and to the entire McMullen family at the memorial they had for the family's patriarch, Robert, who died earlier last week.  Among the family members who spoke to those in attendance was Robert Brandl, named for his grandfather and the oldest of the three children of Macada and Rudy Brandl.  Macada is the youngest McMullen sibling. Her time at W-H overlapped mine -as did Rudy's.  Rudy and Jill graduated together as members of the Class of '83. 

Several minutes after Robert completed his remarks, he took a place on the "stage" (apologies but not being a church-going fellow I do not know what the area is called) and sat at the piano.  He then proceeded to play a Scott Joplin piece, which the pastor identified as being one of Mr. McMullen's favorites, which piece he played magnificently.  His performance was simply stunning.  

Afterwards, as Jill and I joined the other guests and the McMullen family at the repast, we had a chance to meet Robert and to briefly speak with him.  I told him that as impressed as I was by his prodigious talent, what made the indelible impression upon me was his grace.  A fifteen-year-old boy, on the day he buried his beloved grandfather, carried himself in a way that Yours truly, three and one-half times his age, both admired and envied.  

In retrospect, I should not have been surprised.  Apples and trees after all.  Apples and trees. 


Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Greatest Gig Ever...

"Two Faces of Maggie"

Just one look - that is all it takes.  Irrefutable evidence in support of my hypothesis that being Pop Pop is the best gig I have ever had.  


Saturday, June 24, 2017

In Celebration of the Life of Joan Kenny

Three weeks ago today, my mother died.  Mom spent the final twenty years of her life exactly where she had always wanted to be.  She lived at the beach.  Her home in Jupiter, Florida was located directly across A1A from the Jupiter Reef Club. It was located "one-tenth of a mile" from the ocean, which fact she never, ever tired of telling anyone who asked.  The beach was Mom's happy place.  More than that, however, it was where she found peace.  

Therefore, it is at the beach that we shall gather to celebrate Mom, her life, and how much we loved her.  

Saturday, August 12, beginning at 4:00 PM, a Celebration of the Life of Joan Kenny (a/k/a "Mom Fest") shall be held. There shall be food. There shall be drink. There shall be music. There shall be pictures. More important than any of those, however, is that there shall be stories told and there shall be memories shared.  The festivities shall take place in Belmar, at the beautiful, newly rebuilt Taylor Pavilion, which is located on the beach side of Ocean Avenue between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue.  Feel free to consider this to be your invitation because, well, it is.

Mom's life is one worthy of celebration and the laughter on that August Saturday evening will undoubtedly be mixed with tears.  It shall be a celebration tinged with more than just a little bit of sadness.  

I can offer no better salute to Mom than this one, which comes from the heart and the soul of my sister, Jill.  I call it "Wilma's Words for Mom", a sobriquet that has about as little chance of gaining popular acceptance as "Mom Fest" but...

Wilma's Words for Mom

It's been exactly three weeks since the world has lost one of its greatest treasures, my mother Joan. I keep waiting for the excruciating pain that I feel at her loss to step back even an inch but alas, still not an event I have felt. Truthfully I am one of the luckiest people on the planet for not only did I get 52+ years with Joan Kelly Kenny as my mom, I had the last decade or so years where I saw mom almost daily for 3 to 4 months, and in the past 6 or so years 6-7 months a year.  What a blessing that I was able to know my mom as an adult. The woman possessed the wisdom of Solomon but unless otherwise pointedly asked never, ever uttered an opinion. Her reserve equaled her wisdom. What a truly remarkable human!

And lest you should think that mom walked an easy path in life, please allow me to set the record straight for all. Waking up on Sunday morning May 31, 1981 to NOT smell eggs and bacon cooking would be the first moments in the new direction for my mother's life. Awakening to realize that her 57-year-old husband had died in his sleep overnight from a final (and fatal) heart attack without any life insurance (from having said heart attacks earlier in his life) and without a will would have brought almost every other person to their knees but not my mom. She somehow seemingly knew what she was doing (or so was the perception of her then 16-year-old daughter) and we viewed and then buried my father in due course. One of life's greatest ironies is that those few days that felt so chaotic to me in my mind and heart would actually be looked back upon as 'peaceful' for after all the funeral machinations were over and done and everyone else went back to their lives, mom's along with Kara's, Adam's and my lives were forever on a changed path.

As if mom's plate weren't full enough as a result of 5/31/81, less than 2 years later mom's mettle was tested again with her diagnosis of stage IV metastatic breast cancer (winner, winner chicken dinner NOT!). Radical mastectomy and immediate chemotherapy along with radiation was mom's course of treatment- all to happen while working full time as a secretary for the Director of Development at the private school that Kara, Adam and I attended. Convalesce at home? Sleep in, lounge to heal her body? Absolutely not! I can remember most days where we would drive mom to Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield BEFORE school/work so that mom could get her treatments and then she would work a full day. That was my mom. She simply did what needed to be done and never bothered to complain about it (although she surely had plenty to complain about!) and just forged on. 

Eventually mom would sell the home she and dad built for their “retirement that never was” to help pay for her extensive medical bills for she was from a generation that paid their bills, she was never one to 'pass the buck' on anything in life.  As Adam and I made our way through college mom took jobs closer to where she was living eventually landing at Princeton University's Annual Giving office (honestly lost count of how many times her 'home' moved after she sold the home, again mom never complained). Mom worked for exactly ten years and one day to ensure that she would qualify for PU to pay for her healthcare coverage in perpetuity. She knew with her having had cancer she would never be able to afford insurance on her own.  For a time while working full time, mom would work some nights and weekends at a bakery part time as she needed extra money to pay for her dental bill that her paycheck couldn't stretch to cover. Once again, all was done as it simply had to be done. No complaints were ever heard.  Not from Mom.  It wasn’t in her nature.

I probably should have mentioned at the start that I am one of six children. While this is true, I can tell you that I grew up with just Kara and Adam with yours truly being in the middle. Our older three siblings were so much older that they were grown and out of our parents’ house by the time I was 10 years old. Needless to say, I don't know how they grew up but as they were living in other places and spaces by the time I was 10 they don't know how I (along with Kara and Adam) grew up either.  Mom often told me that she felt as if she had raised two separate families of three children, given the difference in our ages. No doubt, as he was at the time of his unplanned death, my father was commander in chief of the family. “Mr. Brady” he was not. With we younger three he was tough and demanding and would hear no excuses.  I have every reason to believe he was all the more so with his oldest three children.

All water under the bridge starting June 1, 1981.  Joan was now at the helm. Her command was equally as firm and directed but done in a kinder, gentler manner.  Mom was strong, not hard.  That was always her nature.  Mom was never one to yell even when as teens we tried to 'convince' her that our tales were true. She saw through them all, every time, for mom listened like none other and retained everything we said (which was never a good thing for us).  Living with mom finishing high school and during college breaks I knew all too well that mom was fully aware of what I was doing.  She knew always what her children were doing – even when we were thousands of miles away.  Right, Chuck?  Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of mom, whose beauty was boundless, was that from her children she expected progression, not perfection.  My knowledge of that always enabled me to be so honest in speaking with mom.  She listened.  She never judged.

She would listen and listen and listen. If never asked, she never offered her opinion. Not once ever. I am forever grateful for those incredible opportunities to have conversations with her about any subject.  I can simply say they were truly priceless. Mom made me a better daughter by listening as well as a better mother to my own daughters by teaching me how to listen. My missing mom is knowing that those future conversations in which I would look for her wisdom and perspective will never happen. The last conversation I had with mom was one in which Kara who sat perched with mom in her hospital bed had called to ask me to tell mom 'to let go' and that 'it was ok to go' for mom would listen to me. I did as Kara asked although my voice broke several times saying those few words and ended with my thanking mom for always being such an amazing role model and for loving me even on days when I had no love for myself and my telling mom 'I love you'. 

Would that I could tell her those exact words ever again for her to hear. I would say them today, tomorrow, forever.  

See, I told you I could not express the essence of Mom any better.  Now you know I meant it.   


Friday, June 23, 2017

Soppin' 'n' Boppin' 'n' Moppin' with Little Melvin and the Invaders

This afternoon, at 3:30 pm, two young people of whom I am quite fond, Veronica Catanzaro and Andrew Perez, shall marry.  I intend to sneak away from the practice of law for a bit to bear witness to this most happy event.  

Today, they begin.  May it never end.

Mr. Springsteen, might you and the band give the newlyweds something to which they can dance...


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Just This Once

Don't cry because it's over.
Smile because it happened.
- Dr. Seuss

A sad bit of news crossed my path the other morning.  I learned, via the maniacal precision of Facebook, Robert McMullen had died.  Mr. McMullen was eighty-five years old.  His son, Sean, was one of Jill's closest friends when the two were at W-H as members of the Class of '83.  Sean and I became good friends also, bonding over shared interests such as soccer.  I have also had the pleasure of calling the youngest of the McMullens, Macada, a friend for almost as long as I can remember. Through my occasional volunteering at W-H over the past several years, I have not only reconnected with Macada and her husband, Rudy Brandl (who was a classmate of Jill's and Sean's at W-H) but have also had the chance to meet their three children. Singularly excellent human beings, the McMullens, and this latest generation, the grandchildren, more than acquits themselves quite nicely.  

Mr. McMullen taught at W-H for ten years.  His time there post-dated mine.  I had gotten to know him however through his wife, Alice.  Mrs. McMullen taught English at W-H.  She was an excellent teacher and remains one of the best teachers I have ever had.  I loved her class - especially the good-natured way she and I did battle over Henry David Thoreau's Walden.  Thoreau was an existentialist and was one of Mrs. McMullen's favorites.  Truth be told, I found his work interesting and have re-read Walden a couple of times as an adult.  Knowing how much she loved it, and opting to be disagreeable, I repeatedly objected to it during class, exasperating her by pointing out that Thoreau abandoned his life "on the pond" to return to civilization and write his silly book, thus revealing him to be a fraud.  It did not, of course, which I knew, although I never shared with her my thoughts on the subject.  I simply allowed her to keep coming at me with her love of Thoreau.  She enjoyed the combat - as did I.  

To her credit, revealing just what an exquisitely gifted teacher she was, my stated disdain for one of her favorite books did not color her perception of me.  She never treated me anything but fairly the entire year.  I am hard-pressed to think of anyone who had Mrs. McMullen as a teacher who did not come away from the experience better for it.  She genuinely cared about the children she taught - and not simply while you were a student in her classroom.  She kept tabs.  She checked in.  

It was her "checking in" that formally introduced me to Mr. McMullen.  He was still on faculty at Plainfield High School during those years, teaching various math disciplines.  Anticipating that I might need a bit of help - not only with pre-calculus but also with the math portion of the SAT - Mom inquired of her friend and colleague, Alice, whether Mr. McMullen would be able to take me on as a pupil.  She asked and, without hesitation, he agreed.  I cannot remember for how many weeks our Saturday morning tutoring sessions lasted but I know I came out of them far better off than I had been when I began them.  I am quite confident that I represented one of his greatest mathematics reclamation projects although he was far too modest to make a big deal out of it.  

I had not seen Mr. McMullen in too many years to remember, although I have seen Mrs. McMullen on a fairly regular basis at W-H's annual Fall Fair/Homecoming.  A few years ago, when Margaret was with me, I introduced my wife to her.  I made Mrs. McMullen laugh at the memory of her giving my class a "quote" test on Herman Melville's Billy Budd to curb one of my classmate's almost-religious reliance upon Cliff Notes. For those unfamiliar with Billy Budd, it is less than one hundred and fifty pages long. There are any number of assigned reading books that scream out for Cliff Notes, but this was not one of them.  For those unfamiliar with Cliff Notes, back in the day they featured detailed plot summaries...and no quotations from the text.  A lesson my classmate, Don Cooper, learned the hard way.  

Here is the contact information for the Celebration of Robert McMullen's Life that shall happen at noon on Saturday, June 24, in Fanwood, New Jersey.  While I have always enjoyed seeing Sean, Macada, and Mrs. McMullen, I would trade my right arm for not having an excuse to see them this weekend.  A sentiment doubtlessly shared by all in attendance.  

In fact, I would bet you a dollar that just this once, Dr. Seuss would tell all of us that it is not only okay to cry, it is completely understandable. 


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Yesterday's Weather Report

The gift of hope is that hope survives.  
Keep your eyes front and see what's ahead.
Don't look up yesterday's weather report.
- Matthew Speidel

Today is the Summer Solstice.  It is the official start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the day in this hemisphere that shall have daylight longer than any other.  From this day forward until we reach the Winter Solstice, each day will contain less light and more darkness than the one that preceded it.  The regression will be gradual at first - until we reach November's first Sunday.  

I know not when my longtime friend Matt Speidel first offered the observation at the top of today's piece.  I know only that several years ago, he commented upon something that had appeared here by sharing it.  While I was initially disheartened and chapped by the fact that his comment was better than whatever it was I had written upon which he had commented, I ceased my tantrum long enough to realize just how right he was.  Every now and again I find myself guilty of looking up yesterday's weather report.  Often, I do it without meaning or intending to do so.  I simply allow myself to fall into that trap.  Whenever that happens, I remember Matt's straightforward, solid advice.  He is right.  Life is a forward-moving exercise.  

Monday afternoon, I was eating my lunch in the quiet of my office and I began perusing the New York Times' on-line edition.  My single-most favorite thing about subscribing to the Times is that my print subscription affords me unfettered access to the paper's website.  More often than not, I steal time during the day to digest a significant amount of information so that by the time I get home and have a chance to look at the day's paper, most of what is written there that I wanted to read, I have already read. 

I read a piece that struck me as being simply extraordinary.  Better stated, I read what I consider to be an exceptionally well-written piece by Michael Powell on a young track-and-field athlete, Gabriele Grunewald, who is nothing short of heroic each and every day.  Her story resonated very powerfully with me.  It hit much closer to home than I wish it did and its prospective outcome is far less sunny than I would have hoped.  

I nevertheless thought of Matt's credo after I read it.  And I realized that when one's life is lived on an oval, one's eyes remain fixed on the track ahead and not on the ground one has already covered.  And as long as there is track ahead, there is hope.  

Irrespective of the weather. 


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bridge Building

There is a Land of the living 
and a Land of the dead,
and the Bridge is Love, 
the only Survival, the only Meaning.
- Thornton Wilder

Proof of Mr. Wilder's words abounds in the Borough of Belmar.  This Friday night is the annual charity fundraiser, the Mayor's Ball, the proceeds of which typically go to the Belmar Youth Club, which provides an off-season recreational program for elementary-school children (Grades Three through Eight) in Belmar and Lake Como. Elementary-school children such as Mitzi Hernandez, the thirteen-year-old who tragically drowned on Thursday night, and her twelve-year-old cousin, Emily Gonzalez-Perez who remained on life support at Jersey Shore Medical Center throughout the weekend following Thursday night's incident before succumbing to her injuries on Monday morning

This year, in addition to serving its intended purpose, Belmar's Mayor Matt Doherty has announced that the Mayor's Fund shall provide $20,000 from the proceeds from the Mayor's Ball directly to the the families of these two little angels. Families whose financial circumstances are such that the economic havoc this horror has visited upon them is something they simply cannot bear.  And it is something, thanks to the generosity of those in their community, they shall likely not have to bear.  

Belmar's Business Administrator, Colleen Connolly has also established a fundraising page "Belmar Angels" for the families.  If you are interested and also are able to help, then the link to the GoFundMe page may be found here

The Missus and I are simply part-time residents in our little Paradise by the Sea but it is an area with which I fell in love immediately upon our arrival.  We spend as many weekends as we can there in the "off-season", which I love even more than I love our summers at the Shore.  There is a real small-town vibe that permeates Lake Como and Belmar, which might be hard for the unfamiliar eye to detect when our little metroplex is wall-to-wall people between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  There is a real sense of community, which has - in the aftermath of every parent's most feared nightmare - once again come to the fore. 

That same small town in each of us?  It is one hell of a good feeling...

...even when it is being called upon under the worst possible circumstances. 


Monday, June 19, 2017

Riders in the Field Where Sunlight Streams...

It was on this very day, twenty-four years ago that Margaret and I were married.  All these years later she remains the great miracle of my life.  I hope one day to return the favor in kind.  Truth be told, the odds against that happening are pretty long.  See, those of you out there (and we both know who you are) who claim to know otherwise, I do not always believe my own bullshit.

Nor do I always have a sock lying around on the off-chance I might need one, as evidenced by the photograph below...

The Missus and Me - 06/06/14
Photo Credit: Lucy Byrnes

...but I digress.

For my long-suffering, eternally-patient bride, who signed on for better or for worse almost a quarter century ago and who remains eternally optimistic that the former is just ahead, up over the rise, I offer all that I have to give:  My gratitude and my love.  Both are yours for as long as you shall have them.  And me. 

Happy Anniversary...

...All Aboard! 


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dad's Bigly Day

If you are a Dad, then Happy Father's Day to you! May you enjoy the (a) tie; (b) coffee mug; (c) grilling accessory; or (d) all of the above with which your family has perhaps plied you on what is, after all, our "Bigly Day"!   

My genius granddaughter, Maggie, arrived in time to ensure that her mom and dad would each break their respective maidens in 2017.  Thus, just as Suzanne celebrated her first Mom's Day last month, today Ryan shall enjoy his first Father's Day.  I hope he enjoys the hell out of it...

...and out of all of the ones that shall follow it.  As he shall soon learn (actually my son-in-law is wicked smart so he likely already knows this), even when your daughter is working you over with one of her "merciless mind games" (his turn of phrase, which makes me chuckle simply to read), your gig is a pretty damn great one.  

Happy Father's Day, Gentlemen!  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Sad Reminder

Regardless of whether you are having a particularly good week, an especially bad week, or just a week that unfolded in a manner similar to the one that came before it, it is useful to be reminded that you do not hold a monopoly on all of the world's problems. It is also painful for those whose tragedy serves as the basis of your reminder. 

When I returned to the office on Monday, I learned that one of my partners had also just lost his elderly mom, who was (I believe) ninety.  She had battled her share of illnesses and problems, as people of a certain age often do, and on Sunday night, she died. He and his family buried her on Thursday morning.  

Margaret and I spent a portion of last evening at a wake.  One week ago, a cousin on Margaret's mother's side of the family died.  He died, suddenly, at home...and on his birthday.  He was just forty-nine.  As last night's wake confirmed, he is survived by a multitude of family and friends who love him, including his two minor children and his mother, each of whom now faces the unhappy task of living life without him.  As if this tragedy needed another layer, he was an only child.  

Thursday night, in Belmar, a tragedy occurred involving two little girls. They apparently became distressed while in the water off of the 9th Avenue Beach at or about 6:30 pm. There are no lifeguards manning the chairs at that time but rescuers responded and made a Herculean effort to save both of them.  The older of the two little girls, age thirteen, was pronounced dead at Jersey Shore Medical Center on Thursday night. Her twelve-year-old cousin, as of mid-afternoon on Friday, remained on life-support.  Much further south along the shore, in the surf off of the beach in Atlantic City, two teenagers, a boy and a girl, disappeared Thursday night and were presumed to have drowned. 

As you know, and I do also, significantly more tragedy has befallen the world this week than these few examples.

It always shall.  


Friday, June 16, 2017

Hey Mister Deejay Woncha Hear My Last Prayer...

Being Irish he had an abiding sense of tragedy,
which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.
- Yeats

During the "week that was" in Florida, emotional refuge was sought and found in the company of my sisters.  Kara, Jill, and I have always had a close relationship.  That being said, I am fairly confident that I spent more time with both of them between June 3rd and June 10th than I had spent with either of them in more than thirty years.  We spent a considerable amount of our time simply talking to one another, reminiscing about stories from our childhood and catching each other up on our lives and on the exploits of our children/adult offspring.  

Our drive north from Mom's, which began shortly after 1:00 pm on Friday the 9th, began somewhat predictably I suppose as a somewhat sad, somber affair.  However as daylight ceded the stage to darkness and, thereafter, as the night of the 9th transitioned to the wee small hours of the morning of the 10th, the onset of profound fatigue was accompanied by abject silliness.  Jill has SiriusXM radio in her car (unlike her cheapskate brother) and after we finished listening to Game Four of the NBA Finals, she parked the dial on the Sirius "80's on 8" channel.  For the next several hours, not a single song played to which all three of us did not know the words.  To those driving in lanes next to us northbound on I-95, we must have looked like something akin to a half-ass Wayne's World ensemble.  We were singing and bopping our heads back and forth and up and down to the songs that became the soundtrack of our ride home.  

Too many times to count in my life - and I suspect in yours also - someone has expressed the thought that life imitates art. If one takes a prohibitively expansive view of the definition of art, and permits it to include movies made by late director, John Hughes, then for several hours last week our life did indeed imitate art.  

Anyway, something about the car ride and my reminiscing about it throughout this week led me back to something I wrote on Jill's birthday roughly three and one half years ago.  The memory of which I wrote is one that almost thirty-five years later still makes me smile.  As I have been reminded of rather forcefully this month, having something about which to smile is a very, very good thing...

...and in fact may have delivered me from nowhere


Birthdays and B-Sides

Early September 1982.  It was shortly after the first day of school of what was my 10th grade year at W-H.  It was the start of Jill's senior year.  Kara was in California having just started her second year in college at the College of Notre Dame in Belmont, which actually had a better football team in the early '80's that its namesake in Indiana.  Dad had been dead for a bit more than a year.  It was just Jill, Mom and me at the homestead two tumbleweeds past nowhere's middle - Neshanic Station. 

I needed new screw-on studs for my soccer cleats so after dinner Jill and I had hopped into Mom's little red Chevette (the ultimate automotive "B"-side) and headed off to the nearest sporting goods store.  Thirty-plus years later I have no recollection as to what store we went to - although I would suspect it was probably a "Herman's World of Sporting Goods" since I have a vague recollection of one being located in the strip mall on Route 22 East in Green Brook where the Perkin's Pancake House now stands.  Wherever we went we got what I needed and we headed home.

As we drove up Amwell Road - heading towards Wertsville Road and thereafter our house - I blurted out how much fun it would be if I could drive.  I recall making the type of argument that sounds incredibly well-reasoned in the mind's eye of a lunatic.  Given that we were the only car on the road and given that we were less than a couple of miles from home, Jill quickly ran through worst-case scenarios in her head and finding none of them to be overwhelmingly terrifying she relented.  We pulled over into the parking lot of the little church - I think it is the Neshanic Reformed Church - that was located on the right side of Amwell Road a half-mile or so before the first leg of Wertsville Road - and we switched positions in the vehicle.

Let history reflect that the first two or three minutes of my vehicle operations history were silky smooth.  Mom's Chevette was an automatic transmission and I moved effortlessly from the parking lot out onto Amwell Road and then began the climb up the little hill that led to Amwell's "T" intersection with Wertsville.  I was a natural.  No doubt about it. 

For reasons that probably help explain a great deal why as a child playing baseball I had a tendency to swing at and miss pitches a foot or more off of the outside corner of home plate, it was when I made the left turn from Amwell onto Wertsville that the wheels started to come off.  Literally and figuratively.  I took the turn a bit too wide - although not more than three feet or so - and managed to scrape the right side of the Chevette - including of course both right-side tires - along the huge, oversized railroad ties that the people who owned the home at the corner used as some sort of weird demarcation line for their property. 

Jill instantly recognized that the noise coming from beneath the right side of the vehicle was not one that a driver, experienced or otherwise, expected to hear.  I drove us not more than 50-100 feet down Wertsville Road - the technical term I believe is "leaving the scene of the accident" - so we could escape detection while assessing the damage.  The first prong of our plan was a smashing success.  No one came out of the house at the corner or any other one for that matter.  The second prong was very much less so.  I presume at some point within the past three decades some utility company has placed light fixtures along Wertsville Road.  Back in September '82 there were only three types of lighting available:  Sun, Moon and Head.  None of the three was a viable option for us.  Thus, our damage assessment was a bit "underwhelming". 

Luckily I did not flatten either of the tires, which enabled us - with Jill now calling the shots again on the bridge - to complete the trip home.  Better luck for us was seeing when we arrived home and pulled the car into the garage that it had not been dented or dinged at all.

However, it did appear as if it had been sexually assaulted by a Lincoln Log.  There were railroad tie shreds and scraps sticking out of rim around the front right tire as well as a number of other auto-fices on the vehicle's right side.  Not wanting to alert Mom to anything being wrong with the car we excised them as much as we could and then went into the house. 

The next day Jill drove all three of us to W-H.  When Mom walked around to the front passenger's door she stopped and stood silently staring at the right rear tire.  There, as big as a Sequoia in a forest appeared a sizable piece of railroad tie sticking out of the rim.  I know not how we missed it during our post-incident inspection the night before.  Clearly we had.  I was about to confess to what I had done when Mom volunteered that she knew what must have happened.  She then regaled us with a story involving a truck carrying lumber/buildling supplies on Route 287 one night the week before as she was driving herself home from work and how - although she could not remember it having done so - it must have spilled a bit of its load, which load included of course the Magic Railroad Tie.  Neither Jill nor I said a word.  I volunteered to remove it from the rim for her (having earned my Merit Badge in Railroad Tie Extraction less than twelve hours earlier), which I did without difficulty.  The three of us then got into Mom's Chevette and drove to school.

Today is Jill's birthday.  Wilma has come a long way since the night that her little brother made her an accessory both before and after the fact.  She has come a considerable distance more than have I.  There have been times however when we have walked along the same path - including college.  When I graduated from W-H in 1985 I took the advice of Horace Greeley.  This young man went West - to Boulder, Colorado - where as a freshman I got to learn the ropes from my big sister.  Jill was just starting her junior year.  Between the year I entered kindergarten and the year I graduated from college, there were but four years during which Jill and I were not students at the same school:  my final two years of high school and my final two years at CU.

I know not whether in the course of their teenage years her two daughters - my two beautiful nieces -Simone and Julia ever conspired to put one over on her.  I suspect they did.  And I suspect that having assessed the situation and come to realize it was really no big thing, she permitted them to have their victory.

Much like Mom permitted us to have ours all those Septembers ago. 

Happy Birthday Wilma.  Love you lots. 


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Tigers and Other Animals

I had the chance yesterday to catch up with a great, long-time friend.  Jill was there for me when we were kids and my father died.   

Earlier this year Jill's mother, Ellen, died. To no one's surprise, given the closeness of their relationship, her death has affected her daughter, who loved her mother deeply and misses her tremendously.  Jill's is an emotion with which I am in touch.  We talked about the fact that although we both miss our mothers, we were grateful for the relationship each of us had with our mom. It is a thing in which one finds comfort I reckon. 

I knew, the night before my father died that he was going to die, which is why I made sure to say good night to him and to tell him I loved him. We spent the last year of his life circling each other like two dogs in a cage.  We did not like each other very much. Yet, I listened to my gut that last night he was alive and made certain that I said a proper goodbye.  

Two Saturdays ago although she was in an impossible spot Kara made sure that she held her cell phone up to Mom's ear so that those of us who were not there with them could say our goodbyes to Mom. I blubbered my way through our all-too-brief conversation and after we said goodbye I stood on the front porch of my little house in Lake Como and cried myself almost into a convulsion. I cried so long and so violently that I felt physical pain-not simply emotional pain.  My heart was broken. Most of my bones felt as if they were also. 

A few short hours later, Mom was dead. As heartbroken as I was to hear that news, I took then and shall carry with me forever the comfort I felt at having availed myself of the chance to say goodbye and to tell her I loved her for the final time.  Had I pissed it away, for whatever reason, I would see nothing but the reflection of an asshole's face staring back at me every morning in my bathroom mirror.  

Thanks, Mom, for sparing me that embarrassment.  For looking out for me one last time... you had every time before.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Freezing of a Frame & the Tethering of Time

If the decision was mine to make,
and Time was mine to tether,
I'd snap a picture of this moment now
and freeze this frame forever...

I would if I could but I can't so I shan't.  

While in Florida last week, Kara, Jill, and I looked through a lifetime of Mom's memories, which she had preserved in photographs that I do not believe I had ever before seen.  Any number of them were extraordinary.  One, however, was something more than that.  It was stunning. 

Mom was born in 1928 and presumably she graduated from high school in 1945 or 1946 when she was seventeen or eighteen.  I know not whether you suffer from the same infirmity but I have difficulty imagining people who I know from a certain point in their life forward as they must have been prior to my making their acquaintance.  In an instant I was reminded that long before she was Mom, she was Joan Kelly. Mom as a kid.  Who would have thunk it? But there she is, with her perfectly-coiffed hair, smiling at the camera, immune still from the ravages and heartaches of life that awaited her as they await us all.  

Hers is a face that bespeaks, perhaps, innocence and, most certainly, a sense of hopefulness. She was born less than eighteen months prior to the onset of the Great Depression and was a World War II teenager, growing up not in "post-war America" but as war raged in Europe and in the Pacific. It is an extraordinary photograph.  I must admit that I had never thought about it until I saw it but Mom, herself, was part of the Greatest Generation.  In retrospect, I do not know why I would have ever thought differently.  There could not have been a more perfect fit. 

Yesterday, while I was at the office, Margaret and Joe spent some quality time with Suzanne and Maggie.  As she does during her daily visits to Suzanne's, Margaret sent me photos of "the Franchise".  I share them almost reflexively with Jill and Kara.  During Mom's final, eleven-day stay in the hospital, Kara would, in turn, share them with Mom.  It occurred to me before Maggie was born that there was an excellent chance that Mom would never meet her in person. I wanted to make sure that Maggie was not a stranger to Mom.  To that end, I bombarded her with photographs.  She loved them.  And she loved the great granddaughter whose acquaintance she never got to make. 

Margaret's "picture of the day" yesterday was one for the ages.  It starred Maggie and Joe, looking at one another with a look that says all that ever needs to be said.  A look that spanned four generations and eighty-four years as if neither was much of an obstacle. A look that said right there and then nothing else in the world matter one damn bit.  Not to him.  Not to her.  

In a world full of rough customers and less-than-pleasant experiences, it is nice to be reminded what love looks like.  And it always makes me smile when I see it.  

Yesterday, I smiled twice.  That is one hell of a good day.  


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Toast to the Leader of the Band

Two Saturdays ago, my mother died.  She was eighty-eight years old.  This past Friday, Adam West ("Batman") died.  He was eighty-eight years old.  Mom was eighty-eight years old at the time of her death. Batman was eighty-eight years old at the time of his death.  Only one conclusion can properly be drawn from that evidence...

...Mom was Batman.  

Today is Mom's birthday.  Sorry, it turns out that it might take a bit longer than anticipated for me to convert my way of thinking to "today would have been Mom's birthday" and the like.  It will come, I suppose. It shall not come today.  Mom was ten days shy of her eighty-ninth birthday when she died.  What follows here, today, is what appeared in this space under much happier circumstances on this date last year and in 2015...

...although in the interest of full disclosure, the artwork to which I referred in these two pieces accompanied me home from Florida.

MONDAY, JUNE 13, 2016

The Rock of Joanbraltar

Today, the hero of my life, the bravest person I have ever known, celebrates her birthday.  The indomitable Joanie K is eighty-eight years old.  

The warts that I have accumulated over the course of close to a half-century on the planet belong to me and to me alone.  I own my mistakes, my shortcomings, and my failures.  She does not.  However, but for her example - including but not limited to her refusal to succumb to panic when her world imploded first in May, 1981 when Dad died and then again in March, 1983 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and was required to undergo an immediate radical mastectomy, my life would have followed a far different trajectory.  She was scared. I knew it.  She knew that I knew.  

Yet she never crumbled.  Everything I ever needed to learn about the distinction between fear, which can energize you, and panic, which can paralyze you, she taught me in those couple of years.  It was a lesson that I have carried with me every day since.  It is a lesson that I have tried to impart to my own two.  

It has been my pleasure and privilege to call myself "Joan Kenny's son" for almost fifty years.  I know not whether I have always proven myself worthy of that title.   I sure as hell hope that I have.  

She deserves nothing less.  

Happy Birthday, Maj!  



Candle Power

Hold on to your rosary beads
Leave me to my mischievous deeds
Like we always do...
-James McMurtry

It is an exaggeration to say that in the dozen and a half words that close out "Copper Canteen", which is the exquisite opening track on his latest CD Mr. McMurtry described the approach that Mom and I took to getting through my high school years, which happened to be the first four years following Dad's death.  An exaggeration?  Yes.  But not much of one. 

The incredible Joanie K. is celebrating a birthday today.  Presuming my arithmetic is correct, today is the eighty-seventh such celebration.  I cannot think of Mom and not smile.  She is without exception the strongest, bravest person I have ever known.  Qualities that are well-matched by a bottomless reservoir of humility and modesty.  

I suppose that it is at the very least an inconvenience to be a child and endure the death of a parent.  That was certainly my experience when it happened to me at age fourteen.  Had it had to happen however, I was fortunate in that had Mom died and left Dad and I to find our way together during my high school years, I have grave doubts that either of us would have survived the experience.  Dad was hard.  Mom was strong.  A distinction that is imbued with a considerable difference.  

For forty-eight-plus years, she has made a marked, considerable difference in my life.  Joanie K.  My mother.  My hero. 

And today, the birthday girl...

...and still the proud owner of the piece that represents the high-water mark of my career in the arts. 


Monday, June 12, 2017


Yesterday, after the Missus and I migrated north from the beach, our home was graced by the presence of the newly-minted parents, Suzanne and Ryan, and Pop Pop's little princess, Maggie.  She is the human equivalent of a B-12 shot.  Seeing her did my heart good.  

And my heart, for one, certainly needs all the help it can get.  


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Wave On Wave

Yesterday, after a long drive north from Florida, Kara, Jill, and I arrived at Kara's shortly after 6:00 am. We are Kennys.  We get an early start on the day. Jill and I hugged Kara goodbye and then continued on to Jill's home.  Jill and I unpacked her car.  Margaret met me there.  Jill and I hugged each other goodbye. 

By 11:00 o'clock yesterday morning, Margaret and I were sitting on our beach, in Belmar, watching and listening to the ocean and decompressing.  The beach was Mom's sanctuary. Her place of not simply happiness but of peace.  It is for me as well.  Yesterday, having said goodbye to Mom at her beach Friday morning, I was relieved to have brought her spirit with me to mine.

Where it shall remain for as long as I do.  


Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Week That Was

Yesterday afternoon shortly after one o'clock, we pulled the door shut on Mom's apartment.  Kara, Jill, and I then took the elevator downstairs to the lobby, bid farewell to Tom at the front desk, and began the sad trek home. Mom had known Tom since she moved into the building eighteen years ago and although I only met him a couple of times, Mom and the girls always spoke fondly of him. As we turned in Mom's keys, Tom gave Jill a hug.  He told her that Mom was among the sweetest residents with whom he interacted. He then told us that Mom was always extremely sweet to him, which he appreciated.

Lest you think that what Tom said was just something one says to a child mourning a parent, consider that at dinner on Thursday night, our waitress froze momentarily when she saw Kara.  She recognized Kara from the hospital. Lauren, our waitress, had been Mom's nurse in the hospital prior to Mom's transfer to ICU.  When she asked Kara how Mom was doing and Stel informed Lauren that Mom had died, all four of us started to cry.  Our sadness was understandable.  Lauren's was explained by the fact that in the brief time Mom spent with her, Mom affected her.  I told Lauren that we get that a lot. She smiled. Leave it to Mom to make someone she barely knew smile.

One week ago Wilma and I began the long, sad journey south. Stel was already there with Mom in the hospital. We were only a couple of hours into our seventeen-hour journey when Stel called, in tears, to tell us Mom had died.  We spent the next fourteen-plus hours knowing we would not arrive in Florida in time to say goodbye to her. We then the next five days doing exactly that.

It was a tough week. The week that was. I look forward to being able to talk about Mom's dying without crying. I can write about it but lending voice to the notion is something that I cannot yet do.  Perhaps this shall be the week when that occurs. Perhaps. It is a process that I do not intend to rush.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Joan and June

Today is June 9. On this very date, sixty-six years ago Mom and Dad were married. They were ten days shy of their thirtieth wedding anniversary when he died on May 31,1981. Tuesday next, June 13, would have been her eighty-ninth birthday.  Born in June. Married in June. Died in June. That was Mom, a modicum of efficiency. 

In the six days since her death, I have felt her loss more keenly than I have ever felt Dad's, which occurred more than thirty-six years ago. That stems from, no doubt, that I had an incalculably closer relationship with Mom than I ever did with Dad. It also stems from the fact that Mom moved through this world with grace. She never sought to bend everyone's will to suit her purpose. She gave and she took, never unfairly and never more than she needed. It is for that reason that people who knew her not only respected her but admired her and loved her.  

As did I.  


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Parental Guidance

Earlier this week, when exactly I know not as the days have tended to bleed into one another, I swapped messages with my great friend Dave Lackland, one of the planet's superior human beings. We are both fifty years old. Each of us is a husband. Each of us is a father. He is not yet a grandfather but since Indy has not yet joined the "double numbers Club" I am guessing that Dave and Tessa are neither surprised nor disappointed by that fact. 

Each of us is, as Dave correctly pointed out, an orphan. Considering the plight of children all over the world orphaned at a tender, too-young age, no one's heart breaks for a fifty-year-old adult who falls into that category. Nor should it. While Dave has a certain inherent "huggable" quality to his personality, Daddy Warbucks would not touch me with a ten-foot pole, let alone hug me.

I understood Dave's point, which was not "poor poor pitiful us" but was instead an acknowledgement of the fact that irrespective of your age, when both of your parents die, your mooring gets a bit looser and uncertain. For a half-century, my life has been guided by a simple credo:  Do not do anything that will embarrass or disappoint Mom. A quarter-century ago, I expanded that list to include my wife and children.  Two months ago, I expanded it again to include my granddaughter.  Now, for the first time in my life, I move forward through this world without Mom. I know not how the story ends because I write a new chapter in it daily and know not when its final chapter shall be written.

Mom was unquestionably the greatest teacher I had or shall ever have. We shall now see just how good a student I am. Class is most assuredly in session.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Magic of Mom: Loss and Found

I am an asshole. Were that it was not true. It is. I made peace with that fact years ago. In the course of my day-to-day I casually offend people, often times without even intending to do so. When your Delta Tau Delta name is "Does Not Play Well With Others" the opportunity for disaster presents itself early and often.

I have in this space written previously about my great friend, Alex, with whom I bonded like a brother during our four years together at CU, and the de facto termination of our friendship by him in apparent response to some offense I had visited upon him.  I know not what I did but I presume it was awful because Schneedz cut off all communication. E-mails sent to him were read yet elicited no response, whether extending a Birthday greeting or simply trying to catch up with an old friend.  

Monday afternoon, admittedly in an act of desperation, I sent Schneedz an e-mail to tell him Mom had died.  Alex knew Mom not just from our living together for three years but, also, from our having split time at my house in NJ and his house in New Orleans during Spring Break our freshman year.  I do not know why but I thought it important that my old friend know of Mom's death.  In part, I sent it figuring that when he did not reply to it, I would be forced to resign myself to the fact that whatever I had done to offend my old friend had caused an irreparable chasm in our relationship.

On Tuesday afternoon, at shortly after three o'clock, my phone buzzed. In my In-box was an email from Schneedz.  He expressed his condolences about Mom's death, filled me in on his current situation (leading a group of his students on a climb of Mt. Kenya), and to make a plan to catch up when he returns to the United States later this month. 

Once again, the magic of Mom.  Her wonders never cease. Thus reaffirming my belief that if you knew Mom and were not a fan of hers, then you need to look inward. The fault lies with you. Not her. 

Thanks, Majaloo. Again. Always. 


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Story of Pictures

Today Rob and Jess celebrate their third wedding anniversary. I am not 100% positive about this, but I think that her trip to New Jersey in early June three years ago might have been her final trip back to the State of Concrete Gardens.  Whether it was or not, it was one hell of a good trip for Mom. In addition to Rob's rehearsal dinner and wedding. Mom came north to celebrate Julia's high school graduation with Jill and Joe.  Mom present and bearing witness to milestone events in the lives of her grandchildren.  Of course she was.  Her being there was not only important to her grandchildren, and by extension her children, it was important to her.  An elixir that soothed everyone's soul. 

Yesterday was spent beginning the process of cleaning up Mom's apartment and making arrangements. Kara, Jill, and I are walking steps that countless people have walked before us and that countless others shall one day walk. No new ground is being walked. We are keenly aware of that fact.

We spent most of Monday looking at old photographs and other items that one part or another of Mom's six-headed adult offspring Monster gifted to her over the years.  We smiled. We laughed. We cried. A pretty full day.  Jammed with the type of relentless, forward-moving activity designed to make those engaging in it forget why they were here and the sad reason underlying the activity. 

Worry not. We did not forget. Nor shall we. Not now. Not tomorrow. Not ever. 


Monday, June 5, 2017

An Era's End

On Saturday afternoon/evening, the indomitable Joanie K. bade farewell to this world. Her final scene played out as those that preceded it had, which is to say that it went precisely how she wanted it  to go. 

Mom was an extraordinary human being. I am blessed to have had her as my mother. She is the bravest, most resilient person I have ever met. I shall miss her for the rest of my life. I shall love her for at least that long. 

My hero. My rock. My mother.  Thank you for everything, Mom. Nothing I have achieved in my life would have been possible without the lessons you taught me. I shall carry them with me - as I shall carry your memory with me - every day for the rest of my life. 

Goodbye, Mom, and fare thee well.  May a favorable wind power your journey home.

I love you. I always will.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Good Day For Monster Stomping

This morning, if you are looking for something to do, or simply want to soak up some good karma simply by being in the company of several hundred people doing something wonderful, head over to Marlboro, New Jersey.  

Today is the 2017 Stomp the Monster 5K & Festival. Here are the event's particulars, including the how and where of race-day registration, starting times for the Kids Race, the 1-Mile Health Walk, and the 5K, and the all-important information regarding post-race festivities. 

Stomp the Monster is the New Jersey-based 501(c)(3) organization on whose team I ran in the 2016 New York City Marathon.  I shall, again, in 2017 run through the streets of New York City on November's first Sunday (presuming one affords "run" its broadest possible interpretation) as a member of Team Stomp the Monster.  They are great people doing incalculably important work.  Today, I shall be a member of their volunteer army, serving as a race marshal on the 5K course, helping runners stay on course and keeping cars off of it and off of them.  

If you are in the area and feel liking getting a bit of exercise for a good cause, then perhaps I shall see you there.  


Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Watchmen

You may know - or perhaps not - that Memorial Day (May 29, 2017) was the 100th anniversary of the birth of President John F. Kennedy.  As I presume you have heard by now, President Kennedy died conspicuously short of blowing out the candles on his 100th birthday cake.  If that news somehow has caught you unaware, then ask Siri to "use the Google" to do some research into the subject for you.  

On what turned out to be the final day of his life, President Kennedy was scheduled to deliver a luncheon speech at the Dallas Citizens Council. It is a speech of course he never delivered as he was murdered while driving through Dealey Plaza on his way to the engagement.  His speech, however, having been written, has lived on these past fifty-four years. 

In light of the present, toxic state of American politics and - more significantly - American governance (or lack thereof) it is nothing short of extraordinary to read what was on Mr. Kennedy's mind on that November morning more than one half century ago.  Among the things he intended to tell his audience was that no simple solutions existed for the problems then and there facing America.  "I want to discuss with you today the status of our security because this question clearly calls for the most responsible qualities of leadership and the most enlightened products of scholarship.  For this Nation's strength and security are not easily or cheaply obtained.  Nor are they quickly and simply explained.  There are many kinds of strength and no one kind will suffice."  In other words, resist the temptation to view the world you inhabit in black-and-white.  It is, in fact, many, many subtle shades of gray. To borrow a line from the great David Byrne, "Same as it ever was.  Same as it ever was."

I remain fascinated by those who this past November voted for a petulant, whiny, paranoid, charlatan who just happens to be a senior citizen with the expectation (I opted for a less judgmental word than delusion) that irrespective of the person he has repeatedly shown himself to be in the first seven decades of his life, he could somehow undergo an epiphany upon taking the Presidential oath. Actually, in fairness to the Cheeto-in-Chief, for whom I have no love and even less respect, the fact that he has remained faithful to his code is not a poor reflection on him.  He is human, after all.

I have long been fascinated by those who believe that human beings are wired in such a way as to be capable of great, life-altering, profound change.  Respectfully, I disagree.  Human beings are animals.  Animals are creatures of habit.  When push comes to shove, humans rely upon known behavior, ignoring whether prior reliance upon it resulted in a net positive or net negative outcome.  A fairly bright human, Albert Einstein, once observed that insanity is nothing more than doing the same thing over and over in expectation of a different result.  We are who we are.

On that terrible November day, President Kennedy intended to tell the luncheon gathering that:

Finally, it should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad
than she is at home.  Only an America which practices what it preaches 
about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice
affects our future.  Only an America which has fully educated its citizens
is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden 
dangers of the world in which we live. And only an America which is growing
and prospering economically can sustain the worldwide defenses 
of freedom while demonstrating to all concerned 
the opportunities of our system and society. 

We in this country, in this generation, are - by destiny rather than by choice-
the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we
may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our
strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time
and for all time the ancient vision of "peace on earth, goodwill toward men."
That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must
always underlie our strength.  For as was written long ago: 
'except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain.'

My first-born grandchild, Maggie, is twenty-eight days old today.  Lest anyone think for a goddamn minute that her Pop Pop intends to have 'waketh but in vain', I assure you that you are mistaken.  Man a post, if you have too have a protection-worthy future.  

I certainly fucking shall.