Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In Memoriam, 9/11

Twelve years. I don’t know if it feels like yesterday or decades ago. That day remains vivid in my mind, however. It was a clear blue Tuesday morning. What I have a hard time remembering was September 10, 2001. I remember going down to court the week before. The courthouse was not far from the World Trade Center. Coming out of the subway the Towers were to my left in the distance, dominating the skyline. I go to that same subway station and I have a hard time remembering how the towers looked from that view, especially with the gleaming One World Trade rising in their place. It puzzles me. Pre-9/11 seems like a dream. Maybe that’s why I can’t tell if it feels like yesterday or in the distant past. There seems to be no prologue. Just the post-9/11 world that I’ve become accustomed.

I can look back on my life of the last twelve years and so much has changed. I got married, bought a house, we have a son and a daughter. Life has endured, as America has endured despite what had happened. That was probably the hardest thing to foresee on 9/11. How life would go on.

Nearly three thousand people were murdered that day and their loved ones have had to find a way to live on, and they have. Then there are the 9/11 first responders who have died from cancer and other illnesses, or are sick now, brought on by the toxic fumes from the ruins. There are countless articles and exposés on them out now to commemorate the anniversary. To the survivors, this past decade has been an elegy.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


To my father, uncles, brothers-in-law, friends who are fathers, and all fathers going strong or dearly departed, Happy Father's Day!!!!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

Forty-two years ago this weekend, the United States celebrated its first Memorial Day as an official federal holiday. Hard to believe that it took so long for such a holiday commemorating the U.S. men and women who died while in military service to become official, but it did. The holiday original began in the 1860s to honor the Union soldiers of the American Civil War and was then known as Decoration Day. Many states of the U.S. South refused to celebrate Decoration Day. The alternative name of Memorial Day was first used in 1882 and did not become more common until after World War II. It became the official name by Federal law in 1967 and by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, Memorial Day became an official federal holiday. The act took effect in 1971.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


To my mother, wife, sister, mother-in-law, aunts, sisters-in-law, friends who are mothers, and all mothers going strong or dearly departed, Happy Mother's Day!!!!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Playoffs at The Garden

The best memories I have of Knicks playoff games at Madison Square is in the 1990s. It was the Ewing-Riley era. It started in 1992 for me when I was stationed in Korea and the games were shown on armed forces television. That was when the Knicks took the eventual NBA champion Bulls to 7 games in the second round.  The Knicks had the X-man, Xavier McDaniels, my favorite player besides Ewing.  Then it was 1993, their best season since the 1970s and the Knicks went up 2-0 against the Jordan Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Then Charles Smith ruined everything.
The next year was the best in my memory, with the Knicks finally making it to the NBA Finals.  They had many memorable home playoff games that postseason.  They had Oak's 20-20 game in the first round and Game 7 against the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals where a victorious Ewing waved his hands triumphantly to the crowd.  Then there was the Game 5 victory to put them up 3-2 against the Rockets in the Finals.  That was the last game they'd win in the series.
After that even though the Knicks still won 50 some games every year until the Millenium, the magic at the Garden wasn't the same.  Their biggest victories came on the road, like Houston's game winning shot in Game 5 against the Heat in 1999.
But, now, finally in the Melo era there is hope.  Their injury racked 54 win, Atlantic Division Champion season was the best in nearly 20 years.  Like 1994, they're the 2nd seed in the Conference and they have their best player since Ewing, a superstar in his prime playing at his very best.  Who knows if their championship draught will end any time soon, but at least starting today, Game 1 of the first round has the chance to create great new memories at The Garden.

Sunday, March 31, 2013


To all those who celebrate Easter, may you all have a Happy Easter filled with love and joy.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday, the True Date

Today is Good Friday, the solemnest day in the Christian calendar, which commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. The traditional year for the date of Jesus’ crucifixion is 33 CE (Common Era, aka AD), but this is based on the false premise that Jesus was born the year before 1 CE and died at the age of 33.

The actual date for Jesus’ crucifixion is Friday, April 5 in the year 30 CE. Matching the Gospel accounts with the Hebrew and modern-day calendars, the year 30 CE is the sole viable choice because that was only year in Jesus’ late adult life where Friday was the end of the first day of Passover (which began Thursday evening). According to Scripture, Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew Calendar. Passover in the year 30 CE was on the night of April 4 (Nisan 15, 3790) and the Last Supper was a Passover Seder.

Knowing the precise date is easier than knowing where the term Good came from. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Some say it is from ‘God’s Friday’ (Gottes Freitag); others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag, and not specially English.”

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Promise of Spring

The first day of spring was last week and as it usually is this time of year, it still feels like winter. Nevertheless, spring remains my favorite time of the year. The sun shines more, the air is warmer, and everything seems more alive. There's always a sense of promise, a promise that things will get better. It's not always the case, of course, but it just seems that way.
Spring is about renewal and change and I'm going through that change right now. The firm I've worked in for the last thirteen years is shutting down for good this week, another victim of The Great Recession. Fortunately, I start at a new firm the following Monday and I'm excited. I'm also deeply sad because so much had gone into my old firm, there were so many memories, but now that will be all gone. I figured it out that I had never been in a place that long except for the house I grew up. It had been huge part of my life and I'll miss it greatly.
The official last day is Sunday, March 31, which is Easter Sunday. An important day for Christians, of course, and my family in particular as my son prepares for his First Holy Communion. Somethings end and something begins--the essence of Spring. Life renewed.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

March 17 has come again and that means another St. Patrick’s Day, one of my favorite holidays of the year. The holiday is named after the patron saint of Ireland, who was born in Roman Britain circa AD 387, was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland where he lived for six years before escaping, became an ordained priest when he returned home, and returned to Ireland as bishop and Christian missionary. Legend has it that me died on March 17, but there is debate as to whether it was AD 460 or AD 493.

St. Patrick’s Day began as a purely Catholic holiday and became an official feast day in the early 1600s. Today—except in Ireland where it is a holy day of obligation—it is a secular celebration of Irish culture. A little known tidbit is that the original color associated with St. Patrick was blue, but over the years the color green became associated with the holiday. Blue St. Patrick’s Day? Nahhhh.

My office used to have a breakfast spread for the holiday that I never miss. I love office comp! A few years back the office administrator got creative and had all the bagels and muffins dyed green. She also had the milk for coffee dyed green. It looked great, but no one dared eat or drink any of it. She insisted that the food in milk didn’t taste any different, but our stomachs couldn’t overcome the barrier our eyes had set up.

Friday, February 22, 2013

And the Oscar Goes To...

I've gotten back into the Oscars this year, mainly because it doesn't seem that the dastardly Weinsteins don't have their evil clutches on the top prize once again.  That is, unless they find a way to rig it so Silver Linings Playbook scores a major upset, similar to what happened when they stole the Best Picture award from Saving Private RyanShakespeare In Love was a good film, but in no way deserved the top prize.  But of course some Weinstein ballot magic did the trick.

A few years back I was absolutely mortified that The Dark Knight was not nominated for Best Picture. As a good consolation, a great film in Slumdog Millionaire won so I was happy.  Last year I couldn't care less who won after the travesty of the year before in Inception not only losing out to The King's Speech for the Best Picture Oscar, but Best Original Screenplay.  That, my dear friends, was an abomination.  That was on the level of Young MC winning the Rap Grammy over Hip-hop all-time greats.

But this year is a reprive from my Oscar animosity because I loved the two top films vying for Best Picture, Lincoln and Argo.  Two great films I know that Argo has the wind at it's back with upset wins at the SGA and PGAs which is a tell-tale sign of being a front runner, but I wouldn't be surprised if Lincoln pulled it out.  That said, I think Argo should win as it was a slightly superior film.  Here are my choices for who will (rather than should) win in the major categories on Sunday night:

Best Picture -- Argo

Best Director -- Steven Speilberg, Lincoln (I would've given it to Ben Affleck, but he wasn't nominated)

Best Actor -- Daniel Day-Lewis (remarkable performance)

Best Actress -- Jennifer Lawrence (Weinsteins are thrown a bone)

Best Supporting Actor -- Tommy Lee Jones

Best Supporting Actress -- Anne Hathaway

Best Original Screenplay -- Armour

Best Adapted Screenplay -- Argo

Best Editing -- Lincoln

Best Animated Film -- Brave

Best Foreign Language Film -- Armour

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

This is my daughter Elena's second Valentine's Day so I was able to get her my usual Valentine's Day gift that I give to my wife and son--Godiva chocolates--which Elena loved. Well, she loves to eat most anything, but she really is fond of chocolate.  So to Elena, my wonderful wife Betsy, my sis Ivonne, and my mom Marion, Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday

This morning I went to the Cathedral of Saint Patrick in NYC to get my ashes, as I’ve done for years past on Ash Wednesday. I’m a life long Catholic, with—admittedly—periods of agnosticism and atheism (a long story for another blog post). But I’ve been back to the home town religion for the last 25 years or so. I had been getting my ashes for so long, that I had lost track of the reason behind it. That’s a big no-no in Christianity. Jesus explicitly distinguished His followers from the pagans by noting that the pagans followed ritual without worship. In other words, they went through the motions without understanding why. For His followers, however, Jesus wanted them to know and understand by worshipping in their hearts and by their deeds. So a few years back I researched Lent and Ash Wednesday to make sure I knew what it was really about.

Yes, I know that Ash Wednesday begins the Lenten season in the Christian calendar, the 40 day period of preparation for Good Friday and Easter, but I had wanted to know more. According to the pamphlet handed out in St. Patrick’s, in explanation of Ash Wednesday:

“The ashes of Ash Wednesday not only describe our humanity, more emphatically, they are a proclamation of hope, reconciliation and peace. Ashes give symbolic expression to our trusting dependence in God’s merciful love.”

Okay. Now for the explanation for Lent in the pamphlet:

“Lent is the period of forty days during which we examine our lives in order to renew our faith. Through acts of love, we become more like Christ in our attitude toward God and one another. Let prepares us to take part fully in the celebration of the Easter Mysteries during the Triduum (3 days) of the Lord’s Supper, his Passion, Death and glorious resurrection on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, the holiest days of the Christian year.”

Being a history buff, I didn't stop there. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Lent and Ash Wednesday first arose at different times. The word Lent is Teutonic in origin and referred originally to the spring season. The significance of the number 40 invokes both Moses and the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, Jesus fasting for 40 days in the desert in preparation of His ministry, and Jesus lying 40 hours in the tomb.

A preliminary 40 day fast for Easter arose in the Fourth Century. This was not inclusive to the then separate custom of fasting during Holy Week. This preliminary fasting period became known as Lent. By the Fifth Century, Lent lasted for six weeks including Holy Week, but there was actually only three total weeks of fasting excluding the weekends. Soon there was a split, with some Christian communities insisting on 40 actual days of fasting and, thus, Lent would last eight weeks (40 days plus non-fasting weekends) with other communities sticking with the six week tradition. By the Seventh Century the six week tradition won out, but with six days a week fasting for a total of 36 fasting days. The tradition of beginning Lent with Ash Wednesday began in the Eighth Century. It arose from a devotional imitation of the practice observed in the case of public penitents. The ashes themselves are from the previously blessed palms from the prior year’s Palm Sunday. By the Middle Ages, Lent consisted of forty weekdays which were all fast days, and six Sundays with Ash Wednesday marking the start of Lent.

As to the fast itself, there has never been a hard tradition. Some Christian communities abstained from eating anything that was once alive, others abstained from all living creatures except fish, and others only ate birds and fish. There was a consensus, however, that for fasting days there was only one meal a day and it was taken in the evening. Over the years, the fasting requirements were relaxed and now in the United States no meat may be eaten on Ash Wednesday, Lenten Fridays including Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. The origin of making a Lenten sacrifice is more obscure, but probably arose with the relaxation of the fasting requirement.

Finally, now that we know about Lent and Ash Wednesday, the the last big question is--why is Easter at a different time every? Is there a hidden Church calendar we don't know about? Does the Pope pray for divine inspiration when to set it? No. Easter is reckoned to the traditional start of spring, March 21 and the first full moon thereafter. Generally, Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon following March 21. This year the first full moon after March 21 is March 27 and Easter Sunday is on March 31.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Happy 204th Birthday, Mr. Lincoln

Two hundred and four years ago today, Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin on a farm in Hardin County, Kentucky. Lincoln’s birthday is a legal holiday in only 7 states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, and Indiana). Local government buildings are closed here in New York, including the courts.

Growing up, I had gotten used to having both Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s birthday off from school, but that changed in the mid-1980s with the joint holiday of “Presidents Day” on the third Monday of February. I put it in quotes because the official name is still “Washington’s Birthday.” Washington’s Birthday is actually a federal holiday while there has never been an annual Federal holiday honoring Lincoln. As they say, the South lost the war, but won the peace.

But maybe that might be changing with the changing demographics of this country and a new found interest in the 16th President, thanks to Steven Spielberg's wonderful film, Lincoln.  Spielberg is planning to send a free copy of the movie to every school in the country so students of today and tomorrow can learn a little bit more about one of our greatest presidents.

Friday, January 25, 2013

For Sergio

On February 2, we'll be throwing a big party for my daughter's 1st birthday. Her actual birthday is January 15, but with the holiday season right before it we wanted to give it a little time so family and friends can come out and celebrate with us.

January is a big birthday month for my family. My wife, father, sister, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law also have birthdays this month. There is another significant January birthday for me. My best friend, Sergio, would have turned 41 today. He was murdered 22 years ago today, January 20, 1991. He fell victim to a “random act of violence,” a crime that occurred all too often in New York City at the time. He was five days away from celebrating his 19th birthday. It was Championship Sunday, when the last four teams in the NFL playoffs squared off to see who would face each other in the Super Bowl.

Sergio was a big New York Giants fan and they were set to face the 2-time defending world champion San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game. Back then the NFL still played their Championship games at 1 pm and 4 pm, rather than 3:30 pm and 6:30 pm as they do now. The Giants had the late game, so Sergio took his younger brother out side to throw a football around as they waited. Sergio never got to see the big game.

The call from Sergio’s sister was the worst call I had ever received in my life. Weeping, she said he had been shot and didn’t know if he was going to make it. I frantically gathered up our friends and drove to his house. Police had cordoned off the house and there was a large blood stain on the concrete in front of the front gate. We rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. Sergio was already dead.

This tragedy forever altered my life. At the time I was in college studying architecture and madly in love with my high school sweetheart. Fate took me away from both. I dropped out of college and joined the US Army for the GI Bill. My sweetheart—who later became my fiancée—dumped me for another man and when I got out of the army, I pursued a career in law rather than architecture. I met my wife in college and we have two amazing kids. None of that happens if not for the events of January 20, 1991. That is the irony of life.

There has been an empty place in my heart over the last 22 years. I wonder what kind of man Sergio would have become. How his children would have grown up with mine. What memories we would share. Luckily, I have our other friends who are all like brothers to me. We’ve shared life and death together. We live each day thankful for each other and lamenting the loss of our dearest friend.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

... Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

From American Rhetoric

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Happy Birthday, Elena!

A year ago today at 8:18 in the morning, our daughter Elena Marie was born, weighing in at 7 lbs and 7 ounces and measuring about 21 inches.  She's added 10 inches since then and trippled in weight. Yeah, she's a big happy girl and we all love her tremendously.

She's a birthday stealer like our son, Alex, taking the birthday of my sister-in-law, Elly, her namesake. Happy Birthday to you too, Elly!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Happy New Year to one and all. May this new year be better than the last.