Saturday, March 25, 2017

"X" and the Marking of the Spot

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, March 24, 2017

And So It Goes...

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

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

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

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

And so it goes...


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Life in the Lottery

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

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

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

We shall see. 


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Teddy Roosevelt Was Right...

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

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

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

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

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

One dish. 

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

Bon appetit! 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Marvin Berry, The Boss, and Marty McFly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...everyone does.  

Thanks, Chuck. 


Monday, March 20, 2017

Hello, Spring!

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

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

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


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Bravo, Kansas City!

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

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

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

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


Saturday, March 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cue the music, George...


Friday, March 17, 2017

A Prayer Said on the Rising Road

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

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

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


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tickets In Hand & Suitcases Packed

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

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

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

...all aboard. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

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

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

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

But I digress.

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

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Blizzard Named Desire?

Would a Snowmageddon by any other name...

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

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


Monday, March 13, 2017

The Exceptions to Mr. Durocher's Rule

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

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

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

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

And the lessons they taught to all of us.   


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Good Day, Sunshine

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

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


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Call Me Mr. Melancholy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, March 10, 2017

This Is The Day To Be Rued

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, March 9, 2017

For Those Of Us Not Beholden To Hallmark

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

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

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

...and a reason for celebration too. 


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Celebrating the Lion's Arrival

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking northeast from 17th Avenue Beach -Belmar

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

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

Parade Day Swag - Mayor Brian Wilton, Lake Como

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

Parade Day 2017 Swag - Beach Haus Brewery

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Irrefutable Truth of Neil Young...

Whether you were already familiar with Amy Krouse Rosenthal or became so only through this piece of writing matters not.  I, myself, belong to the latter group.  Whether you are young or old, male or female, white or black, Republican or Democrat, rich or poor matters not at all either.  The power of her words - and the feelings that enabled her to write them - is not blunted by one's race, gender, creed, political affiliation, or gender identification.  

I hope that you take the time necessary, today, to read what she has written.  I might suggest - if you read it at work - that (a) if you have a door you close it before you begin so that even if your co-workers hear you crying, they shall not have to look at your tear-stained face; and (b) you allot time once you have finished it to read it again and, thereafter, to compose yourself.   

Mr. Young speaks the truth about love - as does Ms. Rosenthal, which is that even though it can break your heart, it remains the most worthwhile of pursuits.  


Monday, March 6, 2017

Aloha, Birthday Girl!

It is my great privilege to have been able to call one of this planet's rock-solid inhabitants my friend for almost forty years.  It is my great honor to know that she has called me her friend for that long too.  

Today, she joins the ranks of those of us whose age elevates us to the status of "Honorary Hawaiian" - for one year anyway.  

As good a soul as I have ever had the pleasure and privilege to know, and a better friend to me than (a) I have deserved; and (b) I have, no doubt, been to her.  May her birthday be everything she deserves it to be...

...and more.  

A number of years ago (almost six as a matter of fact) I wrote what follows now about her.  It is as true today as it was the day I wrote it.  No names have been changed.  In my experience, innocence is a very overrated commodity...




I noted in this space just about this time last week that the 31st of May marked the 30th anniversary of the death of my father.  Too many kids in this country and - I would surmise - in a lot of other countries grow up sans at least one parent.  Sadly, it is nothing close to extraordinary.  Except when it happens to you and you are a fourteen-year-old kid whose world has been rocked to its foundation.  Then - in that context and at that moment - it seemed quite extraordinary. 

The week that kicked off with Dad's death (he died on a Sunday) was among the longest weeks of my life.  Its length was tied directly to its solemnity.  No one laughed.  Hardly any one smiled.  We all tried not to drown.  We tried to keep clear of the quicksand that threatened to envelop all of us. 

The length of the days that week was extraordinary.  It seemed as if a lifetime passed between the day Dad died and the day of his funeral.  Perhaps it did.  I know not.  I know that there was more than one day during that week when I doubted my ability to make it from that particular day to the next.

While it has been thirty-plus years now, I remember vividly just how much I leaned on a very good friend of mine for help.  Jill was a classmate of mine at W-H.  We became friends almost immediately upon her arrival at school when we were 7th graders.  Her older brother Joel was a classmate of my sister Jill and those two were close friends throughout high school too.  One of my most fond and most treasured memories of Hell Week was my friend Jill's presence at our home, keeping me sane.  Talk about a life preserver.  I recall having no idea where to turn or what to do.  I do remember finding a particularly deep reservoir of solace sitting in the seats that we had on our front porch from Yankee Stadium, which we ended up with (how I know not) when the Stadium was renovated in the 1970's.  In hindsight, our front porch was "white trash" before it was cool I reckon.  Not a lot of folks have three blue stadium seats (bolted together of course) on their front porch in lieu of chairs or a glider.  We did.

During the week that was, I spent a lot of time sitting out there on that porch, expressing anger, sorrow, confusion and whatever the hell else it is that one expresses when he is fourteen and scared sh*tless.  And through it all, Jill sat out there right along with me.  We were 8th graders.  Our year-end class trip was to Great Adventure.  The trip was scheduled for the same day as Dad's funeral.  Jill blew off the trip to attend the funeral and then spent the rest of the day at our house as we all crawled from the wreckage of the week and made our way through the repast.  I hate Great Adventure but on that particular day I would have given my eye teeth to have able to be there.  She could have gone and opted out. 

I remember those moments as if they happened yesterday.  If I live to be 100 I do not think my memory of them shall ever fade.....but then again I did not think my eyes would ever need help to see things on a printed page either so who can speak with certainty although I would wager that my memory of those events will remain imprinted on my mind's eye until I close it for the final time.

Jill and I have been friends for more than thirty years, although it has been more than twenty years since I last saw her.  I had a chance to swap e-mails with her the other day - in connection with an event that the Alumni Board of our high school has planned for October 15th.  The event is an "All 1980's Reunion".  Jill, her husband and their children live out of state now and geography is among the reasons why she does not anticipate making this particular reunion.  I understand her position completely although I would love to see her, to meet her husband and to introduce them both to Margaret.  Life is a forward-looking exercise after all.  We spent a bit of time talking about the passage of time including Dad's death and the week that followed it.  When I reminded her how amazed I was then - and remain now - regarding her decision to go to a funeral instead of a class trip, she reminded me how easy a decision it was for her.  I remembered then what I suppose I had known since we were kids.  She was a remarkable woman - even when she was but a girl of fourteen.  I hope the world is treating the forty-four year-old version of her well.  She has earned it.

One cannot get ahead without being mindful of the place from whence he came.  Me?  I would not ever have seen this point in the program had I not gotten by with more than a little help from my friend during those brutally dark days.  A friend who reminded me that what follows the dark of night is the light of day.  And no matter how dark is dark,  the light of day is just around the corner


Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Keenness of Greenness

Today at 12:30, the 44th annual Belmar-Lake Como St. Patrick's Day Parade shall step off at the corner of North Lake Boulevard and Main Street in Lake Como.  From that point, the parade route proceeds north up Main Street in Belmar, right through the heart of town, to Belmar's border with Avon-by-the Sea.  According to the good folks at NOAA, the marchers shall head north under sun-drenched, albeit cold skies.  The high temperature is expected to be 36 degrees, accompanied by a brisk wind out of the northwest at 10-18 miles per hour.

The Missus and I shall be in attendance as we were last year.  We shall probably begin our Parade Day festivities by popping in to visit Matt Knehr at Beach Haus Brewery where one can sample the Parade Stout, which is terrific, and take in the action from the Brewery's balcony - as we are doing in this photograph.  

From there, I anticipate that we shall simply roam up and down Main Street, taking in the sights and sounds as we did last year.  

Wee Little Drum Major



Tinton Falls Fire Co. No. 1

Vietnam Veterans of America
Color Guard

PAPD NY/NJ Pipe & Drum Corps

If you can get to Belmar this morning in time to enjoy the day's festivities, then perhaps we shall see you there.  


Saturday, March 4, 2017

At a Point on the Spectrum between Joji and the Giraffe

It may be March's first Saturday but - based upon the amount of traffic the site has received - it certainly appears as if a significant number of people have fixed their attention on April.  I have zero objection to the amount of press coverage it has engendered.  After all, it is not everyday that an heir to the Toys R Us empire is born.  

I am not surprised to learn that while he was Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence sometimes conducted official business via e-mail on his personal e-mail account as opposed to his official "Governor of Indiana" account.  It is as unsurprising to me to learn that he did so as it was to have learned more than I ever wanted to know about Hillary Clinton's practice of doing the same thing when she was President Obama's Secretary of State.   

Truth be told, I suspect that Mr. Pence and Mrs. Clinton represent the rule, rather than the exception, on this particular issue, which I also suspect that the ideologues on both sides will never acknowledge for fear of losing one plank from their righteous indignation platform.  What surprised me was that then-Governor Pence's personal e-mail account is an AOL account.  Did he fail to keep his Prodigy account current?  Has G-mail not yet crossed the border into the Hoosier State?    

In case you have been resistant to the "April the Giraffe" birth cam, keep in mind the sad, seemingly twisted tale of Joji, the Japanese porn junkie.  If he had passed his time watching April as opposed to...well as opposed to how he passed it then he might very well still be alive today.  


Friday, March 3, 2017

The 448

I have been a fan of high school wrestling ever since I watched my first match, which (at this point) must be almost four decades ago.  My appreciation of the sport and my enthusiasm for it were not affected at all by a disastrous freshman season I spent as Doc Rud's 108-pound grappler on W-H's wrestling team, which season was most notable for two things:  (a) my development of an ability to identify a high school gymnasium simply by studying its ceiling tiles; and (b) my inability to provide Tom Byleckie, who wrestled one weight class up from me, adequate time to read Rudyard Kipling's "IF" in its entirety.   Truth be told, I never read the whole thing either as my fellow freshman novice wrestler, Jimmy Fabricatore, was our 101-pound wrestler.  

If anything, a season spent witnessing my nose develop a close, intimate relationship with both of my knees only served to deepen my appreciation for the sport and for the kids who participate in it.  I admire high school athletes who swim or fence or are track-and-field athletes for the same reason I admire those who wrestle.  As a general rule, there is no one behind whom those competitors can hide.  A player who contributes the least to a championship team's success reaps the benefits of being a champion.  In high school wrestling, you attain only the heights you are able to scale on your own merit.  There is no tag-team.  Believe me, I spent many a winter afternoon as a 13 and 14-year-old freshman desperately trying to tag in our awesome 188-pound behemoth, Bruce Lackland, only to have the referee tell me that I was breaking the rules.  

This afternoon, beginning at or about two thirty, the final four hundred and forty-eight high school wrestlers still standing here in the State of Concrete Gardens will commence hostilities at the State Championship Tournament in Atlantic City's Convention Hall.  The combatants will compete in fourteen weight classes - thirty-two wrestlers in each weight class - in pursuit of a state title.  Two weekends ago, this pursuit kicked off in thirty-two different District tournaments statewide.  The top three finishers from each weight class at each District advanced to compete last weekend in eight different Region tournaments, from which the top four finishers in each weight class punched a ticket to the town that Donald Trump and the Chicken Man once called home.  

Margaret's nephew, Frankie, who earned a trip to Atlantic City in each of his final two years wrestling for Middlesex High School, is making the trip this weekend.  He is an assistant coach at his Alma mater.  Two of his wrestlers have survived and advanced to the season's final weekend.  

Bob Dinger, Middlesex's 138-pound wrestler, avenged a loss in the District 14 finals two weekends ago in last Saturday's Region 4 title match.  He is a senior. In his career, he has won more than one hundred matches. This is his first trip to AC.  He is the #12 seed at his weight class. Should he win his first-round match against Lacey Township's Luke Gauthier, the #21 seed, he could have to tangle with Bound Brook's Robert Cleary, the #4 seed. 

Joining young Mr. Dinger on the jaunt to the joint where saltwater taffy is king is Jeff Johnson. Although just a junior, Johnson is making his second trip to the State Championships.  Like his running buddy at 138 pounds, Johnson - the Middlesex 145-pounder - has already surpassed one hundred career victories.  Two weeks ago, he earned the District 14 title and last week, at Region 4, he lost a heartbreaking "ultimate tie-breaker" decision in the finals.  He is the #12 seed in his weight class and his State tournament begins with a first-round match against Colonia's John Poznanski, the #21 seed.  Should he win, then Johnson shall likely square off against fourth-seeded Cole Corrigan from Toms River North. 

Winning a State championship will require a wrestler to emerge unscathed from five matches against top competition in a forty-eight period, including two matches on Friday and two more on Saturday. Whether either of Frankie's Blue Jays can accomplish the task, I know not.  I know simply that for them - and for the other four hundred and forty-six competitors who shall join them - I wish (a) on-time arrivals for each round so as to avoid forfeiting; (b) successful weigh-ins every day; and (c) good health.  In the three years that Margaret and I trekked to Atlantic City to watch, first, Joe, and then Frank wrestle, it was an annual occurrence that at least one competitor was either disqualified because he failed to get out on the mat on time to start his match or because he failed to make weight or was felled by sickness or injury.  These kids and their coaches have all worked their tails off to make it to this point. 

Win or lose, may the outcome for each of them be decided on the mat.  As it should be.  After all, it is not the fact that the match is six minute long that is important.  It is what happens in those six minutes.  That is what matters...