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Jason Grose's BLOG

December 2003

 

 

 


What's a blog, you ask? It stands for "weblog" and it's basically an online journal of daily thought. We'll see how long I can keep this up (as though I don't have enough to do!)

If you must have a title, I'll go with: The daily thoughts/rants of a Marine Officer, father, scholar, husband, marathon runner, Flash cartoonist, computer nerd.


Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“VITAL PAPERS WILL PROVE THEIR VITALITY BY MOVING FROM WHERE YOU LEFT THEM TO WHERE YOU CAN'T FIND THEM.” 
- Unknown

I have been promoted three times as an officer and I have 3 promotion warrants. I have a duplicate and am missing one. Let me explain.

The other night, I was looking at the wall that has my college diplomas and noticed an empty spot that almost screamed for my promotion warrant. We still have remnants of the move and my warrant was in its frame, leaning against the wall. The frame had seen better days and when I opened it, I found my older warrants behind. Just for fun, I started reading out loud the promotion verbiage of the promotion to Captain (yes, me and the missus are just brimming with fun at the old Grose homestead). Here is what I said:

"To all who shall see these presents, greeting. Know ye that, reposing special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities of Jason D. Grose, I do appoint him a Captain in the United States Marine Corps Reserve ..."

Wait. Reserve? What the hell? Did that mean a reserve commission (something quite different than being in the Reserves)? I looked at my promotion warrant to 2nd Lieutenant which confirmed the word "Reserve" should not have been there. They had screwed it up!

Another weird twist was that the promotion form is MCR-1 for the regular warrant and MC-1 for the Reserve version. Seems backwards to me but all this was beside the point; I had a mistake on my promotion to Captain and it was not the first time something like this had happened.

Set aside the fact that I couldn't find my promotion to 1st Lieutenant and let's talk about my two promotion warrants to 2nd Lieutenant. When I first received it, I proudly put it in the frame and hung it in my office. One day about a year later as I was looking it over, I noticed that it was not signed by the Commandant. The warrants have two places at the bottom for signatures: for the Commandant and for the Secretary of the Navy. Of course they are not really signed by these people but the Commandant's signature stamp was missing. Wow, did this mean I wasn't really an Officer? I felt like an officer. But General Krulak hadn't made it official.

I called HQMC and they agreed to send me a new one. When it arrived with the required stamp signature, I noticed the typed info (my name, dates, etc) were not as ornately scripted as the first one but it would have to do. Then I noticed the last paragraph. It was supposed to read:

"Done at the city of Washington, this 1st day of May in the year of our Lord, nineteen hundred and ninety eight, and of the independence of the United States of America, the two hundred and twenty second."

Instead, since the actual year was 1999 (a year after the original warrant), HQMC incremented the year count and wrote:

"Done at the city of Washington, this 1st day of May in the year of our Lord, nineteen hundred and ninety eight, and of the independence of the United States of America, the two hundred and twenty third."

So let's recap. My first warrant had no signature from the Commandant. It's replacement had the wrong year count. My 1st Lieutenant warrant is MIA. And finally, my Captain promotion has me in the Reserves.

I figure my Major promotion warrant will have me in league with the New Guinea Air Force during the 1600's.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't outlive your money.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“In any organization there is one person who knows what is going on. That person must be fired.” 
- Unknown

As a former Adjutant (yes, there is no such thing as a "former Marine" but there IS such thing as a former Adjutant!) there is no once who hates paperwork, red tape, and useless procedure more than I do. I tried like hell to minimize it when I was an admin officer and never kicked back minor problems that didn't make a difference either way.

I wish I could say the same about the travel claims section. For the second time, my travel claim has been kicked back. The first time was because the form I used was not the latest (in fact only a few days older than the newest, nevermind the statement that the old one could be used for a grace period). What makes it so ludicrous is that block for block, it was the exact same form except for the form number and the date of the form version.

Fine, I'll just import the data to the new form but it cost me a walk between my office and the travel office. So be it.

Come to find out, I needed a modification because the original orders for my Lejeune trip only had me going for 3 days but I was authorized for 2. They sent the mod and I stapled it to the ridiculously thick packet for a three day trip.

Today my Gunny tells me that they made him redo his, again, after reflowing it on the new form because the orders said he had a government travel card and he didn't. The catch was that there is a block on the form that asks for the amount put on the charge card. Since the orders said he had one and he put "$0.00" in that block, well we can't have this obvious show stopper infect the Marine Corps reimbursement system, now can we? The whole system might crash like the Hindenburg. OH THE HUMANITY!!!!

To try to head off a reoccurrence, we looked on my orders and mine said that I didn't have a card so I was good to go, having also entered "$0.00" in that block. Today when I took it over to the travel claim section, something told me, in the very depths of my mind, that there would be another iteration of this retarded dance. I hoped it was just a pessimistic moment.

What I failed to do was to check BOTH my orders. I was submitting for two trips and I had only checked one set of orders. Sure enough, the other had me in possession of a card and the evil "$0.00" was infecting my form. How could I possibly expect this egregious catastrophe to slip past the eagle eyes of the travel claim office?

Once again, I had a lance corporal telling me I'd have to get a mod for the order. He benevolently accepted the other booklet-O-waste but I was once again turned away in order to obtain yet another link in the paper chain.

There is procedure for purpose and there is procedure for procedure, A.K.A. "It's always been done that way." Common sense plays no factor in this. The groin kick is that the bill is coming to me so said hoops must be jumped through if I want reimbursement. It is this reason that really chaps my hide.

Rant complete.

Free Advice for Today:
Lose without excues.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Monday, December 29, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“Isn't it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do 'practice'?” 
- Unknown

I had two goals for today: run a PFT and go to medical. They were unrelated, Smartass.

When I got in, I knew it was the day to knock out the PFT and to tell the truth, I just wanted to get it over with. It had bugged me all weekend and I was ready to just put it behind me.

As always, I sucked hard on the pull ups. This time I only got 10, half of the max. I’ll go ahead and say it as I always do after a PFT: I have to work on the pull ups. There, I said it.

The run was a different story. I had been doing a lot of cardio lately but a couple of things were working against me. First, I had not done all that much actual distance running. Second, I was a bit heavier than I like to be when I’m in running form. Third, I had never run the course before and had to get directions from the Gunny on where to turn. It was one of those nasty 3 ½ loop jobs and after dropping 50 points on the pull ups, I was in no mood.

To help me out, I slammed a Gu packet but I was not sure how things would turn out. I bolted at the start and nailed about a 6.5 minute first mile, way too fast for me. I was sucking wind for the next two but made better time than I thought. Of course I never knew exactly how far I was from the end due to the weird path and my split times did not map to the sluggish way I felt I was lopping along. I never got into the running groove and was gutting out every step. So you can imagine how surprised I was when Gunny tells me I got a 19:32. I took my head out of the gift horse’s mouth and knocked out the 100 crunches to nail a 240. Not my best but better than I expected, considering.

I got changed over and went to medical. Just in case it turned out to be something serious, I wanted to get the PFT over with. My condition had been bothering my for about 3 weeks and I thought it was time to get it looked at.

Are you wondering what I’m talking about? Can I be brutally honest? Can we all act like adults? Well, OK I had a similar problem right after my vasectomy a few years ago. I noticed a swelling, not where you are giggling at but behind that area, by the body wall. See, I knew it. I can hear you laughing. Well, it’s not all that funny, even though I told everyone I was busy growing an extra testicle. (Ok, I’ve reached a new level of honesty in this BLOG. You should be impressed just about now, and stop calling me Triceri-crotch!!!)

Now that my condition is out in the open (as it were), try to imagine my difficulty in explaining it to the desk nurse at medical. I missed sickcall so I had to come up with some pain or they’d send me away. So I told them I thought I had a hernia (yes, a red letter day for me). They tried to make me come back tomorrow but I wanted to be seen so they said I could wait. After 30 minutes, they said they could fit me in at 1500. Funny how that works.

The doc asked if I wanted to wait and not relishing the thought of 4 hours in the waiting room, I said I’d come back but I didn’t have a ride. The claim of pain was not total fiction thanks to the PFT performance so the doc said he’d get his corpsman to give me a quick ride back to my office. He led me outside and said they’d be around shortly.

I thought, cool, I don’t have to walk. What pulled up, to my utter embarrassment, was the ambulance. How degrading. Yes, I rode back to my office in a freakin’ ambulance. My self-image was plummeting by the minute.

What was most frightening was that the Corpsman asked me where I needed to go and when I told him the building number, he gave me a blank stare. Then he and his buddy pulled out a base map and argued about where exactly that was. Wait a minute, are these the guys who are supposed to get to an emergency on base as quickly as possible? And they don’t know how to get around the base? Pardon me but it occurs to me that they should know that base, and shortcuts to get from one place to another, like a New York cabbie. Scary.

I return to medical for my appointment and was called in to see the nurse. Yes, it was a female and yes, I not only had to explain my situation but she was the one who checked things out. The only thing she took away was the remnants of my dignity.

The good news is that it hurts. Why is this good news? Because tumors usually don’t hurt. But she couldn’t figure out what it was so they sent me over to radiology to get an ultrasound (“Look Honey, it has your eyes.”). Oh but the ultrasound person was not in this week so the “ASAP” the nurse put on my consul sheet translates to a week from tomorrow, according to the radiology department. Then my follow up appointment to figure out if my boys are doing OK follows up at a speedy rate of a week from Thursday. By then, the damn thing will be able to tell them itself what it is.

So out of this evolution, I get a bottle of Vitamin M (motrin) and two more appointments for next week. And my disdain for military medicine is so unfounded.

I can’t really top that story so I’ll cut the BLOG off here. (Did I really have to use that phrase?)

Free Advice for Today:
Check for toilet paper before sitting down.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Saturday, December 27, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“Very funny Scotty. Now beam down my clothes.” 
- Unknown

Another QA I had through email:

"On TV I see the Marines that salute the president when he arrives back in Marine 1, and the ones that guard the White House and I noticed that to me they were all enlisted. I have also noticed in color guards when all the services are represented it seems they are all enlisted. I was wondering if you knew why and how a Cpl and such end up with such a high profile assignment."

My answer:

The duty you speak of is taken care of by the Marine Security Guards (MSG) which is historically and traditionally the territory of the enlisted Marine. In fact, it’s one of the few areas in the Corps where Officers have little involvement and that makes it attractive to some. You have to apply for MSG after a tour in the Fleet and then go through training that is the only training harder than DI School.

In all of the services, carrying the colors has been the honor of enlisted. My big shot at it was at the start of a Seahawks vs. Packers game some years ago.

BTW, the Marine you see saluting the President when he’s debarking Marine 1 is the crew chief. He has to be picked by his peers to get the job which means he has to be the best at what he does and everyone who does the same job has to know it too.

Free Advice for Today:
Always take your vacation time.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Friday, December 26, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we talk.” 
- Unknown

Here is a QA I had through email:

"Do you have any takes on a Marine who is considering applying for an honorable discharge based on being a conscientious objector due to what he has experienced in Iraq during the fall of Baghdad? I need advice!"

My response:

"Well, my opinion is that the CO exemption is over used as a way to get out of an obligation. If a person has religious convictions or thinks he or she cannot perform duties inherent in military service, they should not join. If they do join and reap the benefits, they should either work through their obligation or in a few extreme cases, be let out but only after repaying the benefits they readily accepted.

I give no quarter to those who accept the benefits, make an obligation, and then claim conscientious objector status and want to just fade away. First, it’s no fair to those around them and second, not fulfilling an obligation is a cross between lying and stealing. Neither do I suffer gracefully."

Free Advice for Today:
Never ignore an old barking dog.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Thursday, December 25, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“WHEN YOU SECURE AN AREA DON'T FORGET TO TELL THE ENEMY.” 
- Unknown

A day off. Ahh, the sweetness of having nothing to do but relax.

Naturally, I got involved in my computer and spent too many hours getting involved with a totally new project, leaving the dozen others the stand by once again.

Today what I wanted to research is passwords and backup. I started with back up software and followed an article out of my computer magazine that explained how to use a batch file and a few free apps. After hours of tweaking, testing, and yelling, er, I mean, concentrating, I got it to ALMOST work. Yes, the frustrating event of almost getting there reared its ugly head. I actually had it working where it would zip up a range of files or do an incremental backup. Up to this point, I had always done this manually so that’s why I was excited about this program. But alas, the program stopped working for no apparent reason and I gave up. This was in itself a bit of a victory because I didn’t let it consume me for more than a couple of hours. I figured a better way would come along eventually.

I turned my attention to passwords. I had known for a long time that I had a less than optimal password system, not unlike most of the world’s: a few passwords to cover the plethora of sites I need one for.

I did a search on www.tucows.com and found some free software. In fact, I found a lot and tried a few until I found one I liked. It was rather straightforward and I spent the next few hours visiting each site I had a password for, listing it in the program, creating a random password, and then changing it on the site. Now I can get rid of the piece of paper I kept on top of my computer with all my secret squirrel info. The downside is that I have to be at my computer to access the program if I need to get into my password file. The short term fix is to keep a copy of it on my pen drive and keep it with me.

If you want to use the program, here it is: http://www.dexadine.com/acerose.html.

Carrie made a turkey dinner for us since we were away for Thanksgiving (eating another turkey dinner but that’s beside the point). It had all of the fixins and although it was major league in quantity and quality, I was not all that hungry when dinner rolled around. I was distracted by my computer projects but tried to put that aside during this much-awaited dinner. But the fact remained that I just was not that hungry and had to settle for one plate of food, promising I would dive into another serving later. I was a bit disappointed in my appetite but enjoyed the one serving.

The rest of the evening was spent watching the second installment of The Lord of the Rings. We are trying to get it done so we get caught up and can go watch the third one. But after hours and hours of watching dramatic, forlorn looks off into nowhere and dramatic sentences, one after the other, in hushed, far off voices, well, it got a little old. Just like the Aliens series, there’s only so much of it you can watch in one sitting or even across a few days. I found myself cocking my head back, gazing at some far off thought, and dramatically announcing breathlessly,

“I… must find my quest…and …. take a dump!!!”

And then I would wave my robe in a sweeping motion as I walked quickly from the room, keeping my gaze fixed.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't tailgate.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“THE CONTENTS OF A CLOSET/GARAGE/PACK WILL ALWAYS EXPAND TO FILL THE SIZE AVAILABLE.” 
- Unknown

Christmas Eve Day

Work goes on, sort of.

Today, I was required to put in a half day’s work but the problem is that no one else seemed to get this word and the place was deserted. I knew it’d be slow when I showed up at 0745 for the bus and I was able to get a “cool-guy” parking spot, which is the closest parking to the train platform. Normally, if you are not there by 0500, you will be parking in the back forty. That I was able to garner such a spot at such a late hour was telling.

My only goals for the day was to knock out a PFT and try to hit the PX for some last minute (OK, grand total) Christmas shopping. Gunny was at his normal seat, in civvies, when I arrived and it was no use to even get into uniform because I wanted to get the PFT over with. I changed over, stretched, stressed, stretched some more, and then was as ready as I’d ever be. After all these years, I still never do as well as I want to and as of late, I was not in the shape I was a year ago.

We wandered down to the Nerdery, for what reason I do not know. We call it that because it houses the civilian contractors/programmers for our computer system. We say it with the utmost respect and if you’ve ever known programmers, they do not mind, in fact desire, to be called nerds. In fact, I am a nerd-wannabe. Like Metallica says, sad but true.

There were only two people in the Nerdery and since I was procrastinating, coupled with the fact that I love to explain the Marine Corps to them, we got into a discussion about the PFT and all the intricacies it entails. Yes, I cornered them and bored them with the specifics sprinkled with personal stories. Poor bastards.

I could put it off no longer so we left and when we got to the outside door, we saw it was pouring rain. At first I thought it didn’t matter until I looked again and saw that it was torrential. Gunny suggested I take the PFT on Monday but I wanted to get it over with. I had no choice but to relent and we went back inside. I would have the PFT hanging over me like a yoke for the holiday. Damn!

Like I said, no one was around and there was nothing to do. At about 0815, my boss’s boss called and I couldn’t help but to think he was making sure I had not jumped the sinking ship like everyone else. He asked if I knew about the safety brief at 0900 and I did not, noticing I had received the email 3 minutes prior and hadn’t been to my email (because I was so busy, right?).

By this time, Gunny was keeping himself busy running cable from the Nerdery to our office so we would be directly connected to the Oracle server. We got tired of waiting for NMCI (the company hired by the Marine Corps to take care of our network) to run the cable, if they would even agree to (“that’s not in the contract!”), so we scrounged up 150 feet of cable, Gunny-style, and decided to run it ourselves. God I love the Marine Corps.

I told the Gunny we had a safety meeting at 0900 and I could tell he didn’t want to stop what he was doing, get in uniform, and attend the meeting. He hinted but I told him we would all be there.

The safety meeting was a thin excuse to get together and talk. The Marine Corps requires it and everyone feels obligated to go through the moves even if we all secretly understand that we are checking the box. Don’t get me wrong, in theory, they are a good idea but a Lieutenant Colonel holding a safety meeting for a Captain, two Gunnys, and a retired Major seems a bit ridiculous. The Lieutenant Colonel tried, God Bless him, but the meeting degraded to a bull session.

With box checked, the boss told us to go home. Gunny wanted to work on the cable and I was delayed with a phone call concerning, of all things, the computer system. I couldn’t believe at this hour someone wanted to do business and was even more surprised that the question was spurned by my presentation in Camp Lejeune last week. Someone actually listened and took my suggestion to call with any questions. I did the best I could with the answer and afterward, talked it over with Gunny. He seemed irritated at the questions but I told him we’d run it to ground, even if the answer was to wait for the new system to come fully online.

I asked Gunny to run me to the PX because I had no car. He seemed a bit grumpy but said he would, and we dove into the burning maw of last minute Christmas shopping. Like a man and good hunter, I knew my prey. I was hunting a hair towel and a exercise radio. After wandering around, I decided to ask someone who took me right to where it would be but they only had the sets (robe, slippers, towel). Good ‘nuff and she could return it if she wanted and I was off the hook. Oops, I mean, she’d love this!!!

The radio was not as easy. We went over to the electronics section only to see that they only had one kind and it was $50. I wanted the simple (read “cheap”) one and this one had too many bells and whistles. I’m really disappointed in the overall selection and prices at the PX electronics store but that is another subject.

After Gunny returned me and I bade him a merry Christmas, I changed over and made my way over to Q-Town where I was t meet Sir Phil for lunch while we waited for the first train south.

The Command Post is a great place to meet, talk, eat, and drink. We did all four and had a great time. We recounted times of old at Tanks when he was my boss and I was his Adjutant. I had a great time just sitting there and reminiscing for hours about the people we had known. Our relationship has developed that we can now share more personal views of people we knew where as before, we were obligated to keep a further professional distance. It was a good lunch and when it came time to leave for the train, I insisted on picking up the bill, having set this up with the waitress when Sir Phil went to the bathroom. I wanted to pick it up and treat a good friend to a meal even though he insisted he was a rich civilian sucking off the teat of the Marine Corps.

Christmas Eve at home

My present to myself was to stay home. The bliss of not dealing with the crowds and roads was the best present I could have had. I had all the family I wanted this year with me and looked forward to spending it with just them for the first time in years.

When I was a kid, we got to open one present on Christmas Eve and then had to wait until the morning for the rest. Carrie, on the other hand, had always opened all the gifts on Christmas Eve. I put my foot down and keeping with tradition… yeah, we open them on Christmas Eve.

Before the event, though, I announced we should sit and talk for a bit. I saw the look in their eyes and then something came out of my mouth I didn’t expect.

“You know, when I was a kid, the grown ups would make us wait to open presents and talk when all I wanted to do was open presents. Do you want to open one right now?”

They readily agreed with smiles and they each grabbed a present. After they opened it, the excitement bubbling over, they were ready to talk. We talked about our family here and elsewhere, how far we had come and how different things were this year than last. We talked about what Christmas was about and why we celebrate it. We also spent a fair amount of time talking about our most and least favorite Christmas (best for me was coming home from TBS and worst was in Saudi). Most of all, we spent a lot of time talking about the servicemen and servicewomen serving overseas and how lucky we were to have them there, sacrificing their Christmas joy and possibly their lives so that we could be together and safe tonight.

I know you won’t believe me but I could sense that my kids actually considered these thoughts in the face of massive gift existence. They asked questions and did not seem in a hurry to get the gift opening started. I was surprised and they seemed to actually appreciate the stories and our point of view. I think since their daddy is in the Marine Corps and they know kids whose fathers are serving that it’s a bit closer to home when we talk about daddies not being home and in danger.

The rest of the night was opening presents and was the least interesting portion for me. We all got “things” but I know I’ve reached adulthood when I consider the start of the evening the most memorable.

There were two more things of note. We bought Alex a new bike and had it hidden for weeks. A week ago his bike fell to pieces and we couldn’t believe our luck as we seemed less than interested in his calamity. Steph’s presents outnumbered Alex’s and it became apparent that she had a lot more to open. He tried to play it off and at one point, I pointed out the discrepancy and he tried really hard to justify the difference.

“These video games are really expensive, Dad. This one is $50, this one is…”

I chuckled inside that he didn’t want us to think he was upset about it. My plan was to have Carrie take Alex upstairs on some believable excuse and I’d wheel the bike out but we had not talked about it and Carrie blurted out that we had one more gift. So we made them both go upstairs and we got the bike out. For Steph we bought a little bunk bed for her dolls and that was her hidden gift.

We brought the kids down and had them close their eyes. When we gave the old “1, 2, 3, open!” Alex’s face was a unguarded mask of joy. What better moment in a kid’s life is there than to see a brand new shiny bike at Christmas? I still remember when it happened to me. Freedom.

Alex jumped around and was excited at his new 18 speed bike. The strength of the hug he gave me was worth more to me that a dozen years worth of Christmases.

Although Steph had received most of her presents upfront, she was still excited at the bunk beds we gave her. She hugged us too and it was wonderful that the kids were so appreciative at the gifts we bought.

I had one more surprise up my sleeve. The whole night, Carrie had been handing out presents and because we had nothing for her, she opened the gifts to the family. We had agreed to get a surround sound system after Christmas and that was our gifts. Of course, Carrie still gave me a slew of smaller gifts and the lack of presents for her was obvious.

I had Alex bring down my bag and while apologizing for not wrapping it, I pulled out the bath set and gave it to her. I think the fact that I made an effort meant more to her than some silly shower set.

I also had one more for her. I had purchased a charms bracelet and had four little charms on it: a “Mom” from Alex, a cat from Steph, a U.S. flag from me, and a dog from Buster. I sprung it on her and she was totally surprised. I knew something personalized for her would be special and plus, I now have the benefit of getting more for her on other occasions. What could be better? Every year she thinks I won’t go through the trouble to get her something but every year, I come through. You’d think she’d learn by now.

The rest of the night was spent with the kids playing with their toys and Carrie and I watching The Lord of the Rings. We want to see the 3rd one this weekend so want to see the first two to remind us what’s going on. For the rest of the night, we would look forlornly off in the distance and speak of everyday things in a wispy, deeply emotional way.

We’re geeks.

Free Advice for Today:
Be enthusiastic about the success of others.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Thursday, December 18, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“IT IS EASIER TO GET INTO THAN OUT OF TROUBLE.” 
- Unknown

The alarm went off at 0500 and I was not ready. I had not slept well due to my nerves but I knew I couldn't put it off. I had to get up, get ready, and go over the slides once again. I needed to get into "The Mode."

The rooms that we have are nice but the only thing I didn't like about it was that it shared a common little kitchen area and a bathroom with the room next door. I didn't know if there was anyone next door but the thought of being walked in on by a stranger was a bit nerve-racking. I took my shower and was diligently working through my morning routine, trying to calm my nerves.

As was apparent on the trip to 29 Palms, I am a traveling newbie. I knew it took a bit of experience in the art of traveling before one remembered everything and after double checking everything I had forgotten on the Stumps' trip, I was confident I had progressed to the "shit in one bag" category.

This balloon was popped in short order. For some reason, I have trouble with anything to do with hair care. For a Marine, this is normally not a problem because we tend to keep our hair so short than many Marines I know don't even use shampoo, considering body soap good 'nuff. I am an acceptation to this rule and I've received plenty of ribbing over the years because of this. Call it vanity if you must but the bottom line is that if I don't put in hair control products in my hair, I look like one of those hairy pencil tops you rub between your hands.

When I was in 29 Palms, I had forgotten mousse and you try to get mousse at a Marine base. I tried both 7 day stores to no avail and settled on getting some gel rather than braving the commissary. On this trip, I made sure I had the mousse and after my shower, put the magic in my hair and reached for my brush. No brush. I looked for the comb. No comb. I ran into the other room and rifled through all of my bags. Nothing.

OK, let me see if I got this: After 3 hours of fitful sleep, I have a presentation in a few hours that I’ve never given, to a bunch of Lieutenant Colonels and Colonels I’ve never met, some of who likely know the system better than I do, and I will look like Don King. Great.

And it’s not like I can just go next door,

“Excuse me Lieutenant, my name is Captain Grose and I need to borrow your hair brush before the mousse in my hair dries.”

After a few more desperate searches, I was left with my fingers as a comb. My confidence was soaring.

I was on the hook to give two presentations: one on the By Name Assignment (BNA) system and one on the TECOM Integrated Management System (TIMS). The BNA is an old, mainframe system that formal schools in the Marine Corps use to check on the seat availability. They can reserve seats through the system and once the student arrives, the school can use the system to track grades.

The BNA is old but is currently the program of record for this use and I’ve been assigned as the system sponsor, in essence the belly button of the program. A few years ago, my boss decided there was a better way and helped design an idea for a web-based system that not only did what the BNA does, but also absorbed the functions of about 6 other systems. He got the funding, hired the programmers, and got the higher ups to buy into it. The result in the TIMS and even though I’m officially the BNA sponsor, the TIMS is my main focus. For a guy just coming out of grad school with an IT degree, launching a web-based platform from the ground up is the most I could ask for. It’s classic IT and should look good on a resume, providing experience to back up the degree.

But on this day, I was the newbie schmuck giving the presentation on both systems with a tired, nervous delivery and hand-combed hair.

It actually turned out well. I had not practiced out loud but found myself talking authoritatively about both systems, spending an hour on each and delivering the info in a down-home manner that conveyed a “normal guy” view of the system.

I did this because I was new to the system and my audience was the upcoming COs of the formal schools. They needed to know what time it was, not how to make a watch. When I searched around for a Power Point brief of at a high level view of the systems, I was shocked that I couldn’t find any among the dozens I found on the shared drive. So I decided to make my own and if it didn’t make sense to me, it probably didn’t belong at this level. I researched each instance and tried to keep the brief easy to understand.

This had a twofold effect. First, it gave me a valuable baseline look at the systems and the research made me do my homework. Second, it made others answer some basic questions about the system.

I really surprised myself (but not my wife when I told her later) that I sounded to myself like I knew the system and I had given the brief before. I was asked a few questions and managed to field them all except the ones I had no clue and I told them so. I’ve learned that if you tell an audience you have no idea and will research it, they will trust you not to bullshit them.

There were two more things that added to the pressure, though. I had a fleeting thought at the start that I was giving a presentation at the instructor school where they taught proper presentation techniques. I likely broke every rule and am not skilled at the cookie cutter presentation skills taught at the course. I think that made my presentation that much more refreshing. At least that’s what I’m going with.

The other moment was when I stepped in front of the 30 or so people and I saw someone in the back row that made my blood run cold. I knew it couldn’t be but there was a women who resembled someone I detested way back in college. She was a Marine Option who got hurt all of the time and caused much havoc among the Marine Options during my time, for a variety of reasons. I had heard she failed OCS for the second time and then went enlisted. It was not beyond possibility that she got out and was working on a Marine base (she had an affinity for Marines, I think). After my presentation, she came up to me to ask a few questions and upon closer examination, I realized it was not her. But it made a tense situation a little tenser while I was on the hot seat.

Right after the presentation, I got to a computer and sent all of the questions I had myself and that I’d been asked, to my Gunny. I wanted to capture them while they were fresh. I realized that I loved being up there, as terrifying as it was, explaining the two systems. Now all I had to do was to learn the system better and these presentations would be something I’d look forward to rather than blackening my soul.

After the presentation, I went to visit one of my Drill Instructors. My encounter with Top Garcia can be found here.

Yes, today was a busy day because after all of that, I had a dinner date with dear friends. Mark and Alison had been the first friends we had in Yuma in 1988 and in the Marine Corps, in fact. He was a Sergeant when I started my avionics training in Cherry Point. We both were going to Yuma to work on the Electrical Equipment Test Set (EETS) and he eventually became one of my bosses. As best friends in Yuma, we spent a lot of time together on and off work where we’d often have dinner together and stay up late drinking.

Now Mark’s a First Sergeant and Alison, his wife, is the same old Alison (although I have to be careful when I go around and start calling her “old”). They have a house near the base and I met Mark at the Exchange. He was the same old Mark, maybe a bit crustier, and I was somewhat the same old Jason. He used to give me a fair amount of playful grief about just about everything but all of that has dampened since we both rose in rank. He would be hard-pressed to call me “Sir” except in front of other Marines and I would only refer to him as “First Sergeant” in the same situation. We are Mark and Jason and the years did not erase that.

I made sure to have him stop at a store so I could buy him man flowers (beer) and his wife flowers. When I bought the flowers, the lady said, “Make sure you have her clip the ends and put them in warm water."

I responded with a dead pan look and said “You assume it’s a ‘her.’”

She gave me a confused look and stumbled over her words before I let out a big grin and said I was kidding. Later, Mark told me I was lucky not to get a shotgun in the kisser. I guess that area is not in the joking mood over such matters.

The house was incredible. The three girls were teenagers who I hadn’t seen since they were prepubescent. I had a wonderful time.

I made the girls give me a hug even though none of them remembered me. “Just consider me the weird uncle that hugs too long.”

Mark would not let me buy them a present at the store but it was good to see them again. Ashley (“Ash-WEEE”) was our surrogate daughter before we had kids and Mark went on about how she used to love us. Ashley’s eyes conveyed “This dork?”

You know you have good friends when you can spend the evening in a living room and just talk for hours. Of course the girls were not up to that level of dorkness and retired to another room to watch TV with Alison’s parents.

This day had been filled with such drama. The stress of the presentation was only outpaced in strength by the thrill of performing well. The lunch with Top Garcia is an encounter I shall remember with a smile to my grave. Reuniting with friends from the earliest part of my career was a sentimental journey ending with a great night of catch up.

Now if I didn’t look like a pencil gnome all day, everything would have been perfect.

Free Advice for Today:
When attending meetings, sit down front.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“IF YOU FOOL AROUND WITH ANYTHING LONG ENOUGH, IT WILL BREAK.” 
- Unknown

Traveling again, but this time to Camp Johnson, NC to give a presentation on two systems I hardly knew nothing about. This should be interesting.

One of the great things about going on business trips, in the military as in civilian life, is that they either pay your expenses or provide you with transportation. On this trip, the deal was that I would share a rental car with the Top that was going with me because we were to drive the 6 hours to get there. I further made out (not the optimum term I want to use involving me and a Master Sergeant) because Top rented the rental, picked me up at home, and ended up doing all of the driving. He would claim the charges for the rental and gas on his travel claim and I was just the tag along. A sweet deal for me all around.

The trip there was uneventful, except that we stopped halfway to gorge at a steakhouse. We were in no hurry since the briefs weren't until the next day, although I was extremely nervous about the presentation. True to form, I ordered a club sandwich (at a steakhouse, mind you) and happily stuffed it down my pie hole with the knowledge that per diem was picking up the expense. How easily I am thrilled.

We had a good conversation and Top was a new person who hadn't heard any of my stories and vice versa. I'm very aware of cornering the conversation and am hesitant to string too many stories together for fear of, well, you've met those people. I earnestly listened to Top's tales and was once again honored to be let into the world of the senior enlisted. I think it took a span of time, of me telling of my background, before he felt opened enough to share some of his honest feelings about everything from marriage to enlisted/officer relationships. Ironically, he pointed out that I spend all my discretionary time with enlisted and he with officers.

We got to Jacksonville and checked into the rooms. It came as a surprise that they had us billeted in different areas but it shouldn't have come as a shock. In some things, I detest the separation of officer and enlisted (a fact that alienates me from my fellow officers sometimes) and it some things, I'm a hard ass. No rhyme nor reason and I try to evaluate every situation when it arises. Should there be a difference here? Is it necessary? I'm not saying I'm right every time but I take the time to try to analyze it.

They put me up at the same barracks (a hotel, really) that I stayed in when I was going through Adjutant school. It was a little weird and waves of nostalgia coursed through me as I remembered the people I knew there and the good (but mostly bad) times I had spent there. I had been away from my family for over 6 months and was training for an MOS I really didn't want to be a part of. I was lonely and depressed most of the time.

This time was a bit different. I was only there two nights and I was a Captain. Not that I had any interaction with anyone there but the feeling of returning full circle was evident. I saw a few lieutenants come and go and couldn't help but wonder what school they were going to. At Camp Johnson, they train the Adjutants, Motor Transport Officers, and Supply Officers: three of the reputably miserable, least-sexy, and looked down upon MOSs in the Corps. So I couldn't stop myself from imagining which trail of tears each of these Marines were heading down. Don't get me wrong, I do not share that view and not only because I was one of them. But I am aware of the reputation and the stereotypes each will have to overcome.

After getting settled in, I called Mark (an old friend, one time Sergeant in charge of my little Lance Corporal past) and found out he wanted me to come over tomorrow night instead of tonight. I foresaw this possibility and knew that one night was for Mark and one night was with Top, with the hopes he wouldn't hurt me too much. Top is a bachelor and in true Master Sergeant of Marines tradition, known to close bars. I was honored just to be included in his closed circle but a bit skittish at the possibility of getting into a world of hangover hurt.

Top had a good friend, a retired Gunny, who he wanted to go see. Glenn had started the Family Readiness Officer (FRO) program for the Marine Corps and still served the Corps in that capacity. We drove out to his house where he and his dad, a recent widower, were relaxing and I was privy to seeing two old friends who genuinely cared for each other, reunite. I felt a bit of a third wheel on top of the fact that I was an officer in an enlisted community. I was allowed into the circle and just like earlier in the day, had to earn my way into acceptance but after a good word from the Top (something I was surprised and proud to hear), Glenn seemed to only need that assurance.

We spent the evening drinking beer and telling stories. I had expected to go out to a smoky bar and drink too much for too long but we ended up staying there for most of the night. I wouldn't change a thing. Although these people were strangers to me, I had a wonderful time sitting there and hearing about old times I did not share. It was obvious that Top and Glenn were old friends and shared a deep relationship. I had a better time that I could have hoped for, or ever had in a smoky bar.

Glenn let me check my email and I printed off a few comments about my brief from Gunny and Eric, the program manager for the TIMS project. I had sent the brief out to them with specific questions and was glad to get some feedback to incorporate into my presentation. I would be presenting first thing in the morning so I had to get the changes into the brief tonight in the hotel room.

We left Glenn's house, stopped at Taco Bell for late night nasty, and I went back to the room to polish the brief. I was even more nervous now because I had never really practiced the briefs out loud and looking at the slides, I was still confused on some of the points. I was also extremely tired and after incorporating the changes, I talked myself into getting some sleep and leaving the practice for the morning, promising myself that I would get up early. Dangerous I know but in almost every brief I've ever given, I've found myself vocalizing the presentation for the first time when I'm standing there actually giving it. I've always done well but the nervousness this creates never gets better.

Free Advice for Today:
Read to your children.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Saturday, December 13, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“THERE IS A FINE LINE BETWEEN HARD AND STUPID. WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?” 
- Unknown

Today I thought I’d restart our family tradition of exploring the area we live in and what better place to explore than the D.C. area? So off to the Smithsonian we went. I thought I’d expose my kids to the wonder of our Nation’s attic. Yeah, that’s what kids like.

Since driving into downtown D.C. and finding a parking place is akin to stabbing glowing spikes through the private area of your choice, I took my Gunny’s advice and drove my car to a park and ride and rode the Metrorail. The unexpected benefit is that my kids had never ridden a train (or Metrorail, or the other 15,000 names they have for railed transportation around here).

The first problem we had, or more specifically, I had, was that I really needed to find a bathroom by the time we got to the station. When my wife asked the ever-so-helpful employee in the Pope-mobile booth, they lowered themselves down to our amoeba level and told her there were no public bathrooms. This was not the greatest answer in my condition so I asked the more specific question, “Where is the NEAREST bathroom?”

The Mall.”

Not the answer I needed!!

Then she put down the hand mike she was holding and had an extended conversation with the other worker who was equally immobile inside the booth. To my surprise, they decided to let me use the bathroom reserved for the workers there but not without another reminder from Jabba the Hut that it was not a public bathroom. In my condition, I was in no position to do anything but thank her profusely.

Let’s just skip over the next few minutes.

The kids really loved the train and were enthralled with the passing scenery. I was happy to be home with my family and enjoyed watching them absorbing the new experience.

We got to the Mall and found ourselves between the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building, freezing. It was a brisk day so we bolted to nearest building that I mistakenly thought was the Air and Space Museum. Once we came out of the metro station, we were immediately accosted by mapsellers and men selling warm clothing. These guys were of the annoying variety that try to shove a map in your hand, ask you were you’re going, and then try to collect. We successfully navigated past them and headed for the building. How obnoxious!

We found ourselves at the Museum of Natural History which was one of the two we intended on visiting today so we were glad to get out of the cold and get molested by the security guard. Twice in two days, I felt so cheap.

The first thing we saw was a full size elephant as the centerpiece of the entry way. It was impressive for it’s size and, well, how many times do you see a full sized replica of an elephant? If your answer is anything but "almost never," then you're officially scaring me.

We decided to see the IMAX show about the T-Rex, ignoring the exorbitant price. What made it worse, though, is that I realized I had already seen it years ago in Seattle. The 3-D effect was great but the actress in it was more than a bit annoying. OK, how many 3-D close-ups of a scared teenager reacting to dinosaurs or fright can you take? Answer: 6 dozen less than I saw.

The rest of the visit was a lot of walking around. There is so much to see that you are embarrassed to just brush by some of the more boring stuff at first (plant fossils, microbiology, etc) but after awhile, you are just zooming past and only stopping at anything that catches your eye. "Yeah, yeah, million year old wood, whatever."

The big moments were (and I know this will sound strange) in the gem collection. We had made our way there to see the Hope Diamond but first we saw some really cool stuff. We saw this crystal ball that claimed to be flawless. (It didn’t actually speak to me but you know what I mean). It was the size of a basketball and flipped everything upside down. Wow, a big crystal basketball.

There were all these huge gem pieces set in jewelry from royalty but as impressive as it all was, I couldn’t shake the feeling it was just a bunch of rocks people go ga-ga over. Just not a coinsurer, I guess. The cat-eye things were neat, with a bright slit of color down the center. But the main attraction was the Hope Diamond that I noticed had dust on it. Come on people, it’s the Hope freakin’ Diamond! Someone could run a rag over it every once in awhile, whadya say?

As big as it is, no one could ever wear it.

“What do you have there?”

“Oh this old thing? It’s just the Hope Diamond I had laying around.”

“Wow, looks dusty.”

Since I make extravagant amounts of money, we decided to eat lunch. So much for the “free” museum tour. I think I shoveled out the GNP of a small country buying two burgers and two chicken tender platters. I could not enjoy the meal because I did not see the inlaid bed of golden nuggets underneath the food.

Taking inventory, I was getting tired, just ate a crappy meal that cost what NASA paid for Skylab, and I was getting bored. It was time to go but the kids wanted to see the stuffed animal exhibit. Fine. But how many flying squirrels can you see? I mean every where I turned there was the little bastards in mid flight. That and animal penises. A little too real, thank you Mr. Taxidermy Geek!

The smart thing would have been to go home. I am not smart.

We stopped at the Potomac Mills Shopping Center where the Christmas rush was in full swing. Do you know how many people were there? All of them.

I was tired. I was pissy. I was not a jolly good fellow. I rushed through the crowd like a slalom ski racer, trying to find a bathroom (oh yeah, I had to go, too) and leaving my family to try to keep up. By the time I found a bathroom, my mood was complete and I was officially not fun to be around. Ho, ho, kiss my ass.

My wife wanted to see the mall? Fine, we’re seeing the whole freakin’ thing. I really did not mean for it to seem this way but I was easily challenged and in my mood, it became a vendetta to find the end of this monster mall with the whining kids in tow. Only I was interested in seeing the far end and when we reached it, I felt no satisfaction. Coming was a bad idea. I was the Grinch.

We went home where I recovered from the days events. I had started with good intentions but putziness prevailed. This is why I must never screw my marriage up: who else would put up with this crap?

Free Advice for Today:
Don't think a higher price always means higher quality.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Monday, December 8, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“THE SECRET OF LIFE IS NOT TO DO WHAT ONE LIKES BUT TO TRY AND LIKE WHAT ONE HAS TO DO.” 
- Unknown

I awoke having no idea where the hell I was. Then I remembered, back in 29 Palms. Lovely.

The idea was to go for an early morning run and since my biological clock was set 3 hours ahead, a 0600 wake up was no problem. What was the problem soon presented itself.

I got in my PT gear, opened the door, and was assaulted by an arctic breeze that made my ovaries quiver. Retreating to the womb of Motel 6, I realized that I had not brought anything warm to PT in. I was, after all, going to 29 Palms where the surface is made of liquid plasma. How soon I forgot that in December, it gets damn cold!

So summoning up all of my manhood, I heroically climbed back in my warm bed and turned on CNN. No running for this cowboy today.

Coming back to 29 Palms was and interesting waltz down memory lane. Because the town and the base evolves at the same pace as the alligator, nothing much had changed. There was still a lot of sand, pools of water that smelled remarkably like sewage, and many unhappy-looking young wives who question the Maine Corps’ motives for banishing them out to the desert.

But the good things were also there: the amazing sunrise and sunset, the beauty of the desert scenery, the total and complete isolation from all human contact. Oops, that slipped in.

We met at the MCCES school house and briefed a bunch of people on the new system we are developing. We had the bored enlisted who wouldn’t care about the system until they are forced to use it. Then there were the more senior people who knew they’d be answering the younger enlisted people’s questions when we implemented and who actually saw the usefulness of what we were doing. And then there were the Freedom Fighters who overtly and covertly resisted everything we were doing. Change management at its finest.

I played the student because I’m new to the system and tried to look scholarly and like I knew what was going on. In actuality, I needed the class as much as they did but I served an unintended purpose also. When the Marines would see a Captain in the back, looking over the classroom, they tended to pay more attention. Little did they know that I was trying to soak up the info just like them.

At lunch, I made my way over to a good friend’s office. He is one of the original Four Horsemen and now is the HQCO Commander for 7th Marines. I surprised him by walking into his office unannounced. We ended up eating lunch at the Chinese food place and catching up. I described to him my current duties (solidifying my status as a pogue in his eyes) and I chided him for playing infantry officer when all he was an ex-cook supply officer.

After chow I returned to the classroom to go over the system once more. I wanted to finish up because one of the programmers and I were driving 3.5 hours to Camp Pendleton to visit the School of Infantry. We got a late start and ended getting in late. Eric needed to email some stuff back to his people so we found a Kinkos where he took about an hour to do his thing. I wandered across the street to Barnes & Noble where I wearily looked at all the books. I was so tired, it was hard to focus but I found the strength to peruse like a champ. I am truly a sick man.

Despite my tired state and the late hour, we decided to stop and TGI Fridays to grab some dinner. Nothing on the entire menu would NOT cut years off your life. I went with the chicken sandwich, figuring that a few thousand calories would least amount of damage I could suffer. I was more tired than hungry but once the first nasty grease bomb hit my gut, I discovered was hungrier than I thought. The dinner was good and somehow, I was more awake afterwards for the rest of the trip to Pendleton.

We got through the gate OK, even with a rental car and a temp pass from 29 Palms and I was thankful. It was late (at least to me) and all I wanted to do was to crash and burn in the BOQ.

The night was full of potential show stoppers. Eric had orders from another trip months ago and we weren’t sure if the lady at the desk would buy off on them. We hoped she wouldn’t even ask but she did and I went first. My orders said nothing about Pendleton so I wasn’t completely safe either. But the lady only made a copy of them and gave me my key.

It was Eric’s turn and we waited breathlessly (with abated breath, thanks Marcia) while he handed them to her and she looked at them. This was a pivotal moment. She stated that these were “strange orders” but turned around to make a copy. Everything went through and we got to our rooms. It wasn’t until them that Eric tells me that it wasn’t even the old orders he had handed her. It was, in fact, the contract between his company and the Marine Corps. How she let this slide, I don’t know but I was in no state to question it. For the second night in a row, I got to a strange hotel room late and wanted to do nothing except fall away from this world for a few hours.

Free Advice for Today:
Try everything offered by supermarket food demonstrators.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Sunday, December 7, 2003

Quote of the Day:
“ONCE YOU HAVE 'EM BY THE SHORT AND CURLIES, THEIR HEARTS AND MIND WILL FOLLOW.” 
- Unknown

Traveling is, well, traveling. I was all psyched to be swooped across the country on the Marine Corps dime for the first time as an official big-pants person. The excitement soon dissipated as the reality of a cross country trip, on a Sunday, hit home.

The Gunny was driving so I sat back and relaxed as we drove to the airport after the obligatory getting lost finding his house and at one point having to go back to the house to get the tape player I forgot. I proved that I was a traveling newbie.

The trip from Washington D.C. to Phoenix was 4 ½ hours of butt-numbing tedium. Luckily I had armed myself with plenty of things to do to include a book on tape (Contact), two magazines (Runner’s World and PC), a book (Harry Potter), an Oracle book, and some work reading. This all guaranteed that I’d still be bored, regardless of the amount of material I brought to take my mind off of the fact that I was stuck on a plane with a hundred other bored people. My only saving grace was my new toy: a pair of sound-canceling Bose earphones. For the miniscule price of $299, I get to enjoy the comforts of having the outside world cancelled out while I retreat to the isolation in my head. Yes, scary, I know.

These little beauties were pricey alright but I had to splurge on them with the tissue-thin justification that I’d be doing a lot of traveling. They worked as advertised and the first morning I tried them on driving to the train station, I had to take them off because it’s a little spooky to be driving when you can’t hear the faintest hint of the engine.

Despite all these creature comforts, the trip was long. The movie was Uptown Girls with Brittney Murphy who I can’t stand. Don’t know why, maybe the slut character she played in 8 Mile. Who knows but it makes no difference since I was sitting in the row right behind first class and the LCD monitor was right above me, rendering the picture all posterized due to the intense angle I had.

So I read. And I listened. And I read. And I listened. My butt fell asleep. I adjusted my seating position often but to no avail. When I went in to the bathroom, after waiting five minutes standing up, feeling uncomfortable because my butt was in a stranger’s face and I had nothing to look at except all the people looking back at me. When I finally made it into the bathroom and was ready to leave, someone started pounding on the door. I was trying to zip up and they pounded again. This made me a little irate since I thought they wanted me to go back to my seat because of the turbulence. When I opened the door, come to find out I must have hit the panic button and it was the stewardess who thought I’d had an aneurism or something. No, not embarrassing or anything.

We finally made it in and we had a layover in Phoenix for an hour. The only thing open was a Burger King and against my better judgment, I horsed down a double Whopper. What the hell was I thinking? Like it always does, I had a gut ache for the rest of the night. You may ask “if it gives you a gut ache every time, why do you continue to eat it?” That’s a good question. When you discover an answer, let me know.

The next leg of the trip was to Palm Springs and we got the joy of riding in a little prop job. I should have recognized the bad Omen when they put a little kid behind me. Second clue was when it took off, the stewardess (I will always call them this, even if they are male. PC be damned, they’re stewardesses!) had failed to shut the pilots’ door and it flew open when we accelerated. It was a more than a bit humorous to see two heads swivel back and the look of someone being caught doing something they shouldn’t be doing. It was such a non-professional moment that didn’t instill confidence. Don't look back at me, DRIVE THE FREAKIN' PLANE YOU MORONS!!!!

The kid wailed the entire time (somewhere between an hour and 47 billion years) and what pissed me off the most was that it wasn’t a “my ears hurt” cry but a temper tantrum cry that her mother didn’t seem concerned about. I, on the other had, was very concerned about me causing serious bodily harm to both. Not even my $300 pair of earphones would filter out shrieking brat waves.

When we were approaching Palm Springs, it felt like we lost an entire wing. The turbulence and the propellers on either side of the plane decided not to play nice and we dipped and heaved violently. A thin sheen of sweat oozed out of every pore in my body as I involuntarily prepared for my imminent death. Gunny cried (not really but just in case he reads this, I wanted to put that in). The lady in front on the other side didn’t even pause her reading of People Magazine which made me feel a little better. Plus, there was a guy up front with all kinds of military ribbons (including 2 Silver Stars and a few Purple Hearts) on his coat and I thought if he lived through all that, God wouldn’t take him out by crashing an oversized mosquito he was riding. OK, I was reaching but where was that panic button when I needed it?

When we landed (not in a ball of fire, thank God), we debarked, got our luggage, and jumped in the Impala Gunny somehow got reserved for us. The rest of the night was a beautiful drive through the desert at night before arriving at the 29 Palms Motel 6. I’m not a snob, especially when I’m not really paying but I was very aware than the room I was in was, well, let’s say less than luxurious. But all I wanted to do was sleep and for the first time in 2 years, I fell asleep in the high California desert.

Free Advice for Today:
Use less salt.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997



Email -- jason@grose.us
Web -- http://www.grose.us/