Jason's BLOG pages

 
 

 


Jason Grose's BLOG

September 2004

 

 

 


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.


Thursday, September 30, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"It IS as BAD as you think and they ARE out to get you."

- Unknown

I got a great email today from a Chaplain I’ve corresponded with from time to time. He was an enlisted Marine before coming a Chaplain so it makes for a funny situation when he’s exposed to his new Navy brethren.

Case in point, here is a pic and the comment he made about it:

“I hope things are going well for you. Here’s a pic of our time in the field. Someone here at work saw it and said “I’d never want my Chaplain to look at me that way”. :) The “Marine” never goes away. Notice Gomer in the background.”

The rest of the email was:

I had quite an interesting time at Naval Chaplains School in Newport, RI. We had a Marine GySgt fresh from Parris Island as our Company Commander. It was interesting for a few reasons. He and I were at PI as recruits about 6 months apart so that made for some interesting conversations. Also, although he was there to be the disciplinarian, he was NOT in “DI mode” at all. For those of us that were prior enlisted Marines, it was a change of pace. For those with no prior service, they were terrified of the man. He was one squared away Marine! Meritorious Gunny, Series Gunny, Company Gunny, Drill Master, SDI, you name it and this Marine had done it at Parris Island.

My response was this:

LOL!!!

Great to hear from you. I have to agree, when your Chappy looks at you like that, it’s not a good day.

It occurs to me that every time you hear about a DI, it’s always the same description. I’m not discounting the quality of your particular Gunny, but I never hear “The guy was a DI at PI but what a piece of crap…” and the like.

(I had to stop myself from writing "... piece of shit." He is a Chaplain, after all and I'd likely induce that look from him.)

Free Advice for Today:
Encourage your children to have a part-time job after the age of sixteen."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"The gene pool could use a little chlorine."

- Unknown

I was surfing today (really?). No, not on water, but on the Net. I normally just check the MSN news (my browser homepage) and then CNN, GNEWS. Maybe a little OddTodd.

Perusing the headlines, I noticed a story about Media Player 10. Version 10? There’s a 10?

I understand that even knowing that I have version 9 is dangerously approaching geekdom but nonetheless, I knew. So a story about version 10 was huge for me. Why? Well read on you lazy ass.

I must have the latest software, especially if it’s free. I used to use WinAmp for listening to my MP3s but ever since my Microsoft buddy, Paul, introduced me to the virtues of the improved Media Player (back then all the way up to version 7), I have been a Microsoft MV purist.

So seeing they had a new version and I was unaware of this, I was shocked. You see, I have about every bell and whistle turned on to let me know when updates are available, at least for most Microsoft products I have. That I didn’t get notified of the latest Media Player was downright insulting.

So I went to the link and sure enough, it was out. Not even beta version but full blown “download me now and enjoy the latest Media Player” version. I thought I heard trumpets.

So a-downloading I a-went.

Everything went fine and it installed without a hitch. Here is what the new interface looks like.

Like most improvements of these kinds, it mostly had to do with the more technical features you don’t use all the time. Of course the interface was more modern looking and smooth but the big difference seems to be that it’s more tightly integrated with ripping songs of CDs and keeping track of downloaded music.

The thing that caught my eye though was a prominent button labeled “Radio.” Because I have so many MP3s, I don’t usually get into online radio stations but I gave it a try and saw what it offered.

I’m such a sucker. It had all these radio stations you could choose from but only a couple you could actually listen to without getting a subscription. The free ones were the lame-ass ones nobody really listens to (World Music AKA “World’s Biggest Loser Music”).

So being the sucker I am, I looked into how much their premium service costs. Ooh, one month free and then only $30 a year. That worked out to about paltry 8 cents a day. Hell, I could listen to it for free in a month and then decide if I wanted to actually pay for a year. Yeah, what an idea!

I almost felt the word “SUCKER” slowly burn itself into a scar across my forehead.

But it was no use. Before I knew it, I was entering my credit card information (with the promise from them that if I cancelled, nothing would be charged.) The next thing I did was go to my Outlook and set an appointment for the cut off date so it would remind me not to let the date slip by without a decision which, in essence, is a decision to let them charge me up.)

So I tuned in local stations, or what I thought was local. You get to chose your state and area so I thought, great, I could tune in my hometown station in Washington. I found it on the list and was excited to hear my real local stations from home sweet home.

(Burst).

That was my bubble.

The actual name of the station that came up was not “101.5 KISS FM”, but instead “LIKE 101.5 KISS FM.”

LIKE?

If I wanted “LIKE,” I would buy Britney Spears CDs because they are “LIKE” music but not really.

The station played some songs but I discovered it started to repeat after awhile.

I then found some other stations (80s Hits, Today’s Pop Hits, Sarah McLachlan Fan Favorites) and loaded them into my favorites list.

But the same thing happened; they started repeating.

Then I figured it out. They have just one big database full of songs and they label them with different flags. So the “stations” are no more than their own playlists and they pick at random according to how they are flagged. So a song by Nelly Furtado might show up on the Today’s Pop Hits station but could also pop up on the Sarah McLachlan Fan Favorites station.

Do I want to pay for a big online playlist? I have a month to figure it out.

Sneaky bastards.

Free Advice for Today:
Be suspicious of all politicians."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 2002

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"God must love stupid people; he made so many."

- Unknown

Just a generally bad mood. Allow me to mentally vomit...

I came home but just didn't feel right. Slept for awhile but woke up feeling lethargic and moody for no apparent reason. I felt like I had wasted time and I didn't run today like I should have.

Then my son asked me to put in a video card into his computer which had been sitting around since we bought it a week ago. I had put it off and was feeling guilty about it.

It was a bad time to tackle this problem. I had guilt about putting it off though and part of the reason he hadn't bugged me about it is because I have little patience with these things unless they come off without a hitch, which they never do. He was nervous about me getting into it and then blowing up through frustration. He finally mustered up to nerve to ask me and I agreed.

Not all went well. I put the card in and the simple step of disconnecting the cord from the monitor (a simple plug with two finger screws on either side) went awry. I ended up snapping it off and breaking the connector in anger. Normally this wouldn't be a big problem because the new card has a connector that you use. But (and I'm trying to stay non-technical here) here is the problem:

The new card needs the hardware driver which is the little program that comes on a disk and you install to tell the computer how to use the new card. Without it, it doesn't recognize the card so you see, the drivers need to go on there.

With any other piece of equipment, it's not a big deal but for a video card, it's different. The video card processes the signals that go to the monitor so you can see what you are doing (on-screen instructions). With another piece of equipment, you just plug it in, put in the disk, install the drivers, restart the computer, and it should work.

But that little scenario is tricky when you are dealing with video cards because you can't see what you are doing on the screen if it can't process the signals through the new card. I should have remembered this.

Ideally, you plug in the new card into the computer but leave the monitor connected to the old connection so you can get a signal. Then you can see the instructions and load the new drivers, turn off the computer, unplug the connector from the old video plug and plug it into the new card plug. Restart the computer (which now has the new drivers) and it should all work.

So you see, in that little plan, everything goes south if you've ruined the old connector. The drivers aren't loaded so the new connector on the new card is no use. The old plug is broken (which I need to load the drivers). So I'm stuck. I tried for a long time to finagle the old connection to get it to work and then new problems popped up that had nothing to do with anything I did, causing even more frustration.

I took the card out (on the off chance it was freezing the computer without the drivers installed) and tried to get the old connector to work but it now seems that the computer doesn't want to start at all. I pulled the ultimate computer sin: I made things worse than before when trying to make things better. I couldn't even get it back to where it started from.

This intensified my anger by quantum leaps.

I tried to remove the hard drive and put it in my daughter's computer (maybe I could put the drivers on that way and then put it back in Alex's computer, enabling me to use the new card plug) but that didn't work and I'm not all that sure I put Alex's computer back together correctly so now I introduced even more potential problems I can't isolate.

I got fed up and told Carrie I was done and washed my hands to the entire thing. If she wanted the boy to have a computer, she'd have to take it into a computer repair shop and see what they can do. I was officially off the project and it wasn't worth my sanity.

I know they will say he needs a new motherboard which pisses me off beyond description because when I started, it at least worked. Now it doesn't and we will now be faced with either spending more money to breath life into an old computer that worked before I hosed it up trying to improve it or render the boy without a computer he really enjoys.

So I made everyone upset, ranted and raged, broke the computer, let down my son, made his fears come true (asking me to help him but afraid it would come to this), and wasted my entire night.

It just takes time to cool. I blame it on a mutated perfectionism and a severe lack of patience when things I envision should work exactly like I logically map it out, don't go perfectly. I'm insulted when situations degrade into chaos and divert from my expectations. My famous rant at these moments is "It's not supposed to be like this!"

This has been a double-edged sword for me. It has fed my logical, intellectual, and academic sides. This striving for perfection, this vision of logical cause and effect combined with perseverance has been the cornerstone to my heightened vision of life and ability to articulate details often overlooked by the average person. But its evil twin has been uncontrollable anger and impatience with unexpected or illogical outcomes. Payment, I guess.

This is why I'm not a handyman. I cannot fix anything around the house. No plumbing, automotive, electrical, house repair, nothing. Carrie knows not even to ask. We learned long ago this only ends in disaster and destruction.

But I can be very inventive on the computer. Even inspired. I create things, concepts, designs, etc. It makes no sense. Computer repair is the gray area because it plays to both my strengths (inventiveness, logic, technology) but also to my weaknesses (repair, hands-on mechanical manipulation, patience).

So I guess I just need to cool and remember tomorrow is another chance for a memorable day.

Free Advice for Today:
Learn to recognize the inconsequential; then ignore it."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Monday, September 27, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"NyQuil, the stuffy, sneezy, why-the-heck-is-the-room-spinning medicine."

- Unknown

And now, the latest rant about the continuing misadventures of Jason and the Virginia Railway Express…

Just like most mornings, I parked Truckasaurus, put on my backpack, put on my headphones, turned on my MP3 player, grabbed my coffee, got out of Truckasaurus, locked the doors, and headed for the train. So far, no problem.

In fact, less of a problem than most. You see I cheat. I found a spot near the station that technically, I shouldn’t park at until 10:00 AM. It’s in the neighborhood near the station but I justify it because I park in front of an empty lot so I’m not taking up any of the residents’ parking areas. I know, tissue-thin but it saves me a good 10 minutes of walking in the morning and about 20-30 minutes of waiting in line behind all the other commuters trying to get out of the loser-guy parking lot way in the back.

Today I was in my own little world going to the station and when I got on the train, I noticed that someone had beat me to the seat that has the table. This, I categorize as an annoyance since it’s first come, first serve. It makes me more angry that I can’t really complain about it so combined with losing the seat, I’m peeved that I really have no argument.

I pick a seat with an unobstructed window view and put my bag in the open seat next to me. I crack my book and hold it with one hand as the other holds up my coffee cup. I’m settled and can feel my annoyance start to dissipate.

I’m a shifter when it comes to finding a comfort zone. I move this way and that every few minutes to find a new sweet spot. So with my hands full, this becomes a bit more annoying to rearrange everything, thus the table would alleviate the need to handle the coffee. Again, a very minor point.

At the first stop, I become acutely aware that the train has an unusually high rider population today. I can usually, about 98% of the time, have the entire seat to myself and so was not worried about my bag taking up the other seat. I didn’t even look up as people boarded, removing the possibility of eye contact. I know, it was a bit rude but like I said, most of the time there are plenty of seats to choose from.

After the train stopped the next time, I thought it only right to move my bag because it looked like there would be a lot of people boarding. As though on cue, I turned to grab my bag and there was a lady standing there waiting to snag the seat.

Another annoyance but not enough to even give a second thought.

Then she sat down.

Many things happened at once.

First, I hadn’t noticed that while her upper body was normal size (the only thing I saw when I glanced up), her lower body had approximately the same land mass as Manhattan.

When she sat down, it was like that scene in Jurassic Park when the T-Rex was walking around. Like setting a large beanbag full of buckshot next to me, matter too disgusting the even think about oozed well past the halfway limit of the seats. I found my leg up against the Puff Marshmallow Man.

Next on the list was the feeling of hot coffee dribbling down my hand and onto my leg. Her disruption of the local gravitational field combined with the tidal wave she created in the seat cushioning caused me to spill coffee all over myself.

Simultaneously, the next sensation was the wall of perfume that the rushing air escaping her mammoth ass pushed in every direction, as her planetoid mass settled into the seat.

As my gag reflex tried to deal with this sensation, I heard the sound of my headphone cord being ripped from my headset and the lack of sound that was just playing into my ears. Her Assasaurus had caught the cord and when she avalanched, she took the cord with her into depths unspeakable.

Of course she was oblivious to what had just happened and I had to pull the cord from under several hundred pounds of a lifetime of poor dietary decisions in order to retrieve my headphone cord currently experiencing a reality that can only be fathomed by an insane man’s death nightmare.

So now I’m pissed. Thoughts of unrepented murder were racing through my head. I was so mashed up to the side of the window that I had no room to even crack my book. I was reduced to looking out the window and trying to ignore the fact that I could feel vibrations through her jellified leg mass as she jabbered incessantly to the man across the aisle. My only saving graces were that I had headphones so I was spared the conversation and mine was the next stop.

I indicated I needed to exit so she hoisted her colossal butt-continent out of the seat to let me scamper away. I figured I needed an acceleration to achieve escape velocity. I just wanted to get the hell out of there and not look back.

Because she was so slow (warping the very fabric of space as she lumbered aside), I was not able to get all my things in order before rushing down the aisle and getting into the exit queue. And because she had ripped my headphone cord out, while I had to retrieve it from the 7th ring of Hell, the other end got pulled out of my pocket where I store the excess to prevent it just dangling.

As I rushed down the aisle, the now-dangling cord caught on an arm from an aisle seat, ripping it from the headphones for the second time this morning and the second time EVER. My red-hot anger flashed but the last shred of sanity told me to keep moving so I can get to the exit where I could set everything down I had jumbled in my hands and fix the cord once I got there. I was thinking that I was dragging the tip of the cord along the aisle floor as I walked which didn’t help my fury.

When I got to the exit and dropped my stuff, I looked down and none of the cord was visible. Where did it go? Looking back, I realized the cord was not only ripped out of the headset but also out of the MP3 player in my pocket. A passenger had seen all of this, grabbed the cord, and was coming at me to give it back. I embarrassingly thanked him, now just wanting to get off the train and away from the spectacle I had created.

I got back to my stuff and the train was just about to stop. It’s important that I make a dash for the door when it stops because I have to cross the tracks. Since I ride the first car, I have just enough time to debark, walk the length of the first car, and get across the tracks before the train starts rolling.

I had only a moment and tried to jab the tip of the cord into the headset on my head. But it was a blind move and I knew that I could stab blindly all day and possibly never get it right. So I put the coffee mug I was holding in the crook of my arm and tried to grab my headphones off my head.

Because I was in an awkward position, the coffee slipped a little and I dropped the headphones right off my head trying to save the coffee. I watched helplessly as my $300 headphones clattered to the ground.

Out of pure instinct, I bent over to scoop them off the ground. Just then, the train stopped and everything was thrown forward and then backward.

Combined, this was a bad moment in my life. When I bent over, I had forgotten that I had the coffee in the crook of my arm. By bending over, the coffee came cascading out of the mug and smack dab onto the headphones I was staring right at. It went down my arm and onto the book in my other hand. It also went all over my leg.

I was incensed.

I looked up at a woman watching the entire scene with her mouth wide open, eyes as big as dinner plates. An equal level of embarrassment washed over me.

I just crammed the headphones in my backpack, stuffed the cord in my pocket, threw my coffee-soaked book into the pack, threw it over my shoulder, grabbed my ¼ mug of coffee I had spilled twice, and headed off the train.

When I got to work and threw my bag down, I noticed that I hadn’t even zipped up the bag and it was flapping wide open during the entire walk from the station to my office.

It took most of the morning to get over and I was fearful because in my white-hot fury, I had defiantly asked God what else he had in store for me that day.

These kinds of questions tend to be answered.

Free Advice for Today:
Never apologize for being early for an appointment."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 2002
FIRST REAL BLOG I WROTE FOR MY WEBPAGE

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Sunday, September 26, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Out of my mind. Back in five minutes."

- Unknown

This morning was another long training run. Twenty miles. Yes, twenty. That would be two-oh… OK, you get the idea.

My original plan was simple. I had an 8 mile stretch so I would go the distance, turn around and run two miles back for a total of ten. Then I turn around and go back to the 8 mile mark (for a total of 12 at this point) and run the length back for a total of 20. OK, so it wasn’t a simple plan but it made sense to me.

It doesn’t matter because I had to trash the plan when I got to the 1 ½ mile mark and the gate was closed. I learned from last week that I shouldn’t cross closed gates on a Marine Corps base. Something about big things going boom.

OK, quick replanning.

The loop around TBS via the FBI Academy is about 8.3 miles. I took off with that and since I had my GPS, I could just run until I hit 20, making it up as I went along. The final route was the loop, out to the forbidden zone for a mile, a mile back to the loop, and the reverse of the loop.

The path is not important. What is important is that it was 20 miles and that I looped back passing the main TBS buildings. This was important because I could get water at the 12 mile mark.

What couldn’t wait for the 12 mile mark was a visit to the woods. I will not go into detail but let’s just say that it was criminal what I did to that poor tree. But it was better than any alternative. I will stop right there.

I did pretty good considering I was making up the route as I went along and the course was chocked full of hills. Big hills. Monstrous hills. I still clocked about 10 minute miles and was strong coming in at the end. It was a huge accomplishment to sprint the last mile rather than carcass-dragging.

For the rest of the day I had crazy energy and was a veritable ball of action. OK, that’s a total lie, I was vegetative most of the day. Carrie had to check pulse a few times and Buster tried to bury me twice.

But I had another 20 miles under my belt and life was good. At least the conscious moments of it.

Free Advice for Today:
Never take action when you're angry."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Saturday, September 25, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Out of my mind. Back in five minutes."

- Unknown

I really didn’t want to do it. I don’t watch much TV and I really wasn’t up to wasting any more time in my life donating my precious minutes by watching the intelligence-insulting medium of television.

But I got sucked in.

The Surreal Life is my shame. Oh, the embarrassment.

I caught bits and pieces of it and through sheer repetition, I had to catch the first one and watch this particular round. You may not be interested but here it goes.

They get the following has-beens and/or pseudo-stars together:

Bridgette Nielson (Rocky’s ex and Red Sonja)
Flavor Flav (Public Enemy)
Jordon Knight (from New Kids On The Block)
Dave Coulier (Full House)
Charo (Love Boat)
Ryan Starr (American Idol)

Then they make them live together and do all kinds of goofy things.

OK, quick takes:

  • Bridgette Nielson: nasty, over the hill Euro-trash. Ugly, slutty, drunkard, crass, lazy goon whose antics top the preceding ones to prove all this out in every scene.
  • Flavor Flav: still annoying but incredibly, I actually started to hate him less. Just a big kid.
  • Jordon Knight: from teen idol to average guy. Must be tough. Just kind of boring, really.
  • Dave Coulier: fatherly figure who comes across as a nice guy. But really, probably wondering how he got involved in all this and who he will kill first.
  • Charo: so genuinely happy that she’s likable. Scored points by matter-of-factly referring to Bridgette Nielson as “.. dat cray-see beetch…” Most amazingly, she is a guitar virtuoso who can tear it up on stage with a stool and a guitar.
  • Ryan Starr: beautiful, spoiled, selfish, prude bitch. That about covers it.

Not only did I get sucked into watching this, I actually looked forward to the rest of the episodes. It makes me wonder what flaw in my personality makes me susceptible to such mind trash.

God forgive me.

Free Advice for Today:
Remember that anything creative and innovative will be copied."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Friday, September 24, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"I'm not a complete idiot -- some parts are missing."

- Unknown

Sometimes the planets align and the dice roll our way. Tonight, it happened. Alex spent the night at a friend's and Stephanie had a birthday/sleepover. Carrie an I found ourselves alone for the first night in recent memory.

Off to the Olive Garden. I like the OG, despite the commercials that bug the very core of my being. But unlimited breadsticks and salads are hard to argue with.

I said over and over: I will not get the Tour of Italy, I will not get the Tour of Italy, I will not get the Tour of Italy…

I got the Tour of Italy.

How can you not? It’s a serving of homemade lasagna classico, a serving of lightly breaded chicken parmigiana, and creamy fettuccine alfredo. Argue with me! Go ahead!

Yeah, I gorged.

Our waitress didn’t look all that Italian, though. She was more corn-fed Midwestern Anglo-Saxon and when I pointed this out, my wife and I had a discussion about what a beautiful Italian was known for. The only clear example I could give was Sophia Lauren which I think was Italian, but was a generation or two removed from us. Then I wrongly explained that Italians were Hispanic when I actually meant Latin. Must have been the wine-testing we did before being seated. That or the fact that I’m an idiot.

We had a great dinner as I consumed massive amounts of homemade lasagna classico, lightly breaded chicken parmigiana, and creamy fettuccine alfredo until I thought I was going to explode over Betsy the non-Italian waitress. Yes, waitress. Not server, waitress. Sorry, a reoccurring rant.

After the fest, I wanted to go home because I have a big run in the morning and wasn’t feeling all that good. No, not on account of my dining experience but other running-related maladies. Carrie was tired too so we went home and had a nice quiet evening alone. Well, Buster the Neediest Dog on Earth was there but no screaming spawn.

I know what you’re saying; we have the evening to ourselves and we go out the dinner and then retire early. What can I say? Guilty as charged. But as I pointed out, I’m an idiot, a sentiment my wife likely seconded when I told her I missed the kids.

“You’d just ignore them anyway. You just want to know they’re here,” she chuckled.

Well….. yeah.

Free Advice for Today:
Never give up on a dream just because of the length of time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Quoting one is plagiarism; quoting many is research."

- Unknown

Goundhogs Day. It was just like that.

Tonight, it was Alex’s turn to drag us to school for open house. The fun was just palpable.

My son’s school is a bit like college. He has A and B days which have 4 classes each that last 1 ½ hours each. I like this because the teachers get a longer period to teach and the boy has less classes per day. Plus, he has 2 days to do homework.

But this schedule has an insidious backlash. Open house consists of the parents spending 7 minutes in each class, following the same schedule as the kids and the B schedule following the A schedule, back to back. Final effect: 2 hours broken up in 7 minute increments.

Actually it wasn’t that bad. It stayed within my attention span of 7 minutes, plus or minus 6.5 minutes (mostly minus). But then it went on, and on, and on, and…

One of the more eye opening moments was when we visited PE. The kid-teacher, and I will refer to him as that because he seemed only slightly older than my own son, had earrings in each ear. He pointed out that the kids were allowed to wear earrings too but his metric was that the hoops would have to be no bigger than to allow their finger through. As if this wasn’t bad enough, he used HIS OWN EARINGS as examples.

This is the look he got from me.

When it was finally over, I had learned a few things:

  • I was glad to be an adult, long past the gauntlet that is junior high
  • Civics teachers are not resistant to punk out kids even when parents are present
  • Hearing the final bell still brings a certain excitement to adults
  • Announcements are now via Power Point on a continuing broadcast from the office
  • Computer class is a glorified study hall that uses homework assignments as course work
  • Teachers still come in all shapes and sizes, to include a spectrum of general attractiveness

Alex was glad we came and saw his school. I was glad we went and saw his academic existence. But what I was most glad to see is that Alex had not reached the age when he’s embarrassed to be around his parents. And it will come. With me as a dad, yes, it will come. It’s just a matter of time.

Free Advice for Today:
Take advantage of free lectures on any subjects in which you are remotely interested."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder."

- Unknown

My wife gets People Magazine. Like a good Marine, I normally flip through looking at the pictures. OK, I do read an article if it catches my eye but it’s mostly consider it tabloid trash chocked full of what star ate lunch at what restaurant, etc.

The latest cover caught my eye. It had Britney Spears’ wedding picture on the front with her latest future ex-husband.

What struck me was that she was wearing white.

She was wearing white.

White.

Really? Are you really going with that, Britney. White? Really?

Come on Baby, I think you’ve been hit one too many times to get away with white. You are NOT that innocent.

Maybe a nice Nubian hue.

I know this is bandwagon territory but I have a visceral distaste for Ms. Spears. I would not bring up anything new or some great insight to the reasons so I will save the space. Let’s just say… ewwww. Enough, her 15 minutes are up.

Free Advice for Today:
Remember that a successful future begins right now."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"You're just jealous because the voices only talk to me."

- Unknown

Tonight I took part in the age-old custom required of all parents: the open house. And it was as painful and boring as historically endured in past years. But for my little girl, we parents must submit to this ritual, kind of like ancient bloodletting. The scholastic gods must be appeased.

OK, time to shed any veil of niceness. Parents are fat. Big, fat, horrendously obese mountains of human flesh wallowing the halls like modern dinosaurs.

Mothers earned it for giving birth? (Buzzer) Oooh, sorry, no, we were looking for “Fat chance, Bertha.” Yeah, “Fat chance Bertha..” Next…

Giving birth a decade ago and slammin’ Ho-Hos like Tic Tacs are completely independent actions with no cause and effect.

We got to the school and were herded (more appropriate for some than others) into the cafeteria where every seat was taken. Never mind that there were women standing, dude. That’s OK, you keep your seat.

We stood there just in time to hear one of the faculty come up to the podium and proceed to read a prepared speech about how wonderful it was to teach all of our little angels. She never even looked up from the paper and I swear that if I would have snuck up and changed words around, to include explicit descriptions of bodily functions, she would have read it verbatim with the same monotone voice.

Not that it mattered because the little angels she was talking about were running amok. It wasn’t hard to tell where they learned such manners when it was evident that the parents were more interested in discussing any manner of subjects with others. I’ll admit, I was not all that interested in listening to a canned speech poorly delivered but I had the common decency to listen without babbling rudely.

As I pondered how many needles could fit in each of my eyeballs, I hoped for the end to come soon. I was tired and was getting exactly nothing from this public announcement from hell except providing my support-through-presence for my daughter’s sake. I thought I sensed an ever-so-slight ripple in the speaker’s cadence which could have possibly indicated her coming to the end but my hopes were dashed when she started introducing each teacher who then came up on the stage to be recognized.

I thought, OK, I can push through this, especially since the kids got a kick out of cheering and clapping for their own particular teacher.

My acceptance to this was ever so brief. Teacher after teacher came up until the entire stage was filled. I felt bad because I know teachers deserve more than they get and even in the form of public recognition, it was something. But then I remembered they had been there all day and likely the last thing they wanted was to be at school until 8:00 PM and then as though adding insult to injury, return the next day for a full day of class.

We made it to Stephanie’s class where we received a brief from her teacher, complete with slides on an overhead projector. I sat in my daughter’s desk and she was so proud to show us around. She listened intently at the presentation while my wife chastised me quietly for poking at my daughter’s side when I got bored. “You’re worse than the kids!” she hissed.

I was tired, I was bored, I was …. Trying my best to make sure my daughter knew that we were there to support her and were interested in her daily routine. I admit, I could have done better but I think I did a decent job considering. We looked over all the things Stephanie wanted to show us and asked questions about her daily routine. We made sure she was happy with the arrangement and once that was clear, all my worries went out the window. She liked school, was doing well in the class, and seemed to be receiving a solid education.

Now if I could just remember how to play nice with others…

Free Advice for Today:
Remember that loving words quickly heal."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Monday, September 20, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Some people are alive only because its illegal to kill them."

- Unknown

I have a love/hate relationship with my cell phone. I love the convenience but I hate the reception (or lack thereof) and the cost. But since I live in the current decade, I am all but required to shell out the bones to carry yet another electronic leash.

You may recall I went through the childbirth of getting a new cell phone plan complete with new phones last year. If not, it was quite a ride and one I think will be prominent in many therapy sessions to come.

As though blocking out a horrid catastrophe, I totally blanked that my plan was a one year deal and expired in August. What did this mean? According to my wife, the plan continues but we are not obligated to stick with it. In fact, we are allowed to now drop our current plan and opt for a better plan but of course they don’t remind you of this because the plans just keep getting sweeter and sweeter for the consumer year after year. That and the cell phone companies are bastard spawn of Lucifer and the VRE establishment. Or is it Amtrak? No, I remember now, the Virginia service industry in general.

Before, we got 350 anytime minutes. This means we share this plan and we get 350 minutes to use between us which includes people who call us, which I see as a total scam. Seems like a lot, huh? Silly reader.

For nights and weekends, we get 5000 minutes. Why? Why not say unlimited? Am I really going to spend 83 hours a month on the phone? Annoying.

If you are keeping track, that’s too little minutes “anytime” and too many on nights and weekends.

Then we have rollover minutes which seems like a good deal. The minutes we don’t use get rolled over to the next month and keeps going until the end of the contract. So if you go over the 350 anytime minutes, the rollover minutes get deducted. Sounds great until you blow past those too and get charged 45 cents a minute with no indication you are doing so until you get the bill. This happened to us once (I went an hour over) and it redefined the term “Rollover” for me.

The new plan we saw gives us 450 anytime minutes, the ridiculous 5000 nights and weekend minutes, the rollover, and a new bennie we really liked. Unlimited mobile to mobile minutes. Since the majority of calls we make are to each other (and on the old plan the minutes were deducted for each phone thus double pumping us for each minute we talked to each other), we really took note when we saw this all for the same price.

Now if I can just get reception on base where I spend the majority of my days.

Free Advice for Today:
Praise in public."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Sunday, September 19, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"I work hard because millions on welfare depend on me."

- Unknown

I had an exquisite run today. Twelve miles and I could have gone double that. It was cool, I was strong, and life was good.

It’s runs like today that answers the question I often get: Why would you possibly want to run that for?

I parked at the TBS parking lot again and at about 3 miles out, a gate that had always been open was closed. I had to get 6 miles before turning around and didn’t think much of why it was closed. Hey, at least there wouldn’t be any cars to deal with.

As I got nearer to the 6 mile turnaround point, I realized why the gate had been closed. At about the 6.5 mile mark, there is a range where they shoot heavy weapons at old, rusted out tanks and vehicles. I became aware of the sound of explosions nearby.

I was not frightened at all about stray rounds. I knew I was at a safe distance.

But what I was scared of was being caught out there by the Marines shooting. I’d have a bit of explaining to do why I crossed a closed gate. I was glad I was at the turn around point and knew every step I took was a step closer to being protected from the wrath of a Range Safety Officer. Captain or no, I’d be doing some serious tap-dancing.

I made it back with no problems and experienced one of those pure moments in running where accomplishment and lack of physical pain combine to propel you to the apex of the world.

I’m getting stronger.

Free Advice for Today:
Never complain about the music in someone else's car when you're a passenger."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Friday, September 17, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it."

- Unknown

Ivan got his second crack at me today. The bastard missed his chance in New Orleans and made his way all the way up the coast just to make up for his failure.

We had plans to have dinner with the Sbragias and since Chad was going to Okinawa (Ooh-rah, just got back from a one-year China deployment) next week, this was the first and last chance to see him before the Corps whisked him away again.

I took the train home and was glad to be anywhere other than I-95 because the weather was creepy. The clouds were dark and angry. They swirled and you could just see potential tornados all over the place. Everyone on the train had their heads cocked up to watch the clouds. I was imagining the feeling of a tornado hitting a moving train and then had to stop before soiling my pants and screaming like a little girl.

I got home just in time for Carrie to announce we had to go. No problem, I thought. I-95 going north on a Friday afternoon is clear. Who wants to head toward the city on a Friday afternoon?

Answer: Virginia.

Our plan was to enter the highway at the 130 onramp and exit on the 146 off ramp. Sixteen miles on the freeway. No problem.

Problem.

We had to wait in traffic ON THE ONRAMP WAITING TO GET ON THE HIGHWAY!!!

The traffic was solid, bumper to bumper, slit my throat with a plastic spoon, crammed. Sitting there, I figured 5 miles per hour would get us there in time to spray the restaurant with high-caliber explosive tip 50-cal rounds.

I was amazingly calm. I had promised Carrie I wouldn’t commit mass murder or even get upset in the car. We passed the time recalling funny family memories and not screaming until we burst neck chords.

What happened was that a tornado had actually touched down and crossed the highway north of us by the exit we wanted to take. Since 95 is mostly a road cutting through woods, the tornado knocked down trees lining the highway. Lumber across a three lane highway tends to back things up.

A couple hours later we finally made it to the restaurant and had a good dinner. Of course the Sbragias apologized for the situation and we just as earnestly assured them we didn’t mind and it was obviously not their fault.

Going home was a satisfying trip going about 75 miles per hour and I gave a mental middle finger to Ivan.

Then the thought struck me: he did actually get me. Two hours to travel 16 miles.

Ivan, you bastard.

(I know Floridians would seek me out and beat me retarded if they caught me complaining about a two hour delay as the only repercussion of Ivan’s wrath. So if you are from Florida, forget what you just read. Thanks. – The Management)

Free Advice for Today:
Don't forget that we are ultimately judged by what we give, not by what we get."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Thursday, September 16, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"I used to have a handle on life, but it broke."

- Unknown

God forgive me but I have an admission to make: I committed a double sin today and it completely sent me soaring into the stratosphere. I WILL have my man card forcibly taken for this blog entry.

What did I do? First, I watched an episode of Oprah with my wife. I know, but stop gasping for a second. It was about Barry Manilow and I was … now stop it and stay with me. I know, I know but let me explain. Oprah and Barry Manilow, I know. I thought my manhood was just going to atomize out of existence with a popping sound, too.

By the end though, I was ... (working up the courage…) near a standing ovation at what I saw.

(… sounds of doors being kicked in and me getting beat like a rug…)

Hey, let me explain.

Carrie said I had to see this and if I wanted to watch this with her. She knows how I like to see people’s reaction to surprises (Price Is Right’s “A new car!!!” reaction is the classic example) so she knew I would dig the show.

What they did was to find the biggest Barry Manilow fans (called Fanilows) and brought them together to see the show starring the man himself. The best part was that they surprised some of them as they brought along cameras for the moment. They gave the background story why they were so crazy about the singer and then they somehow set it up where he would just show up.

The first one was an audience member who had her husband there and the woman had no idea what the show was about. Oprah read a letter the woman had written that said that she had promised her husband he would have sex on demand for the rest of his life if he could arrange for her to meet Oprah and Barry Manilow. Oprah pointed out he was doing good so far and then from the background, Barry belted out a tune and came walking out. The place went nuts.

I don’t care who you are or what you think about Barry Manilow. Seeing these people go bonkers was just an amazing sight.

The next scene was also smile-producing. It was a woman who had listened to him since she was nine and claimed to be his biggest fan. She was a pretty Hispanic lady with a big smile and they set up a fake interview with her back to a piano. Then they asked her what her favorite song was which happened to be “I Can’t Smile Without You.” While she was describing this, Barry snuck in, sat at the piano, and when she said what her favorite song was, he started playing it. She smiled big and said “Oh, there it is now..” and then started to sing along with it, oblivious that it was actually Barry singing along. When he inserted her name into the song, she turned her head and the camera caught everything as she realized it was actually him.

She screamed, stood up, cried, and kept saying “OH MY GOD” while backing up and putting her hands to her mouth. She gave him a hug and when she looked up at him again, she said “It’s totally HIM!!!

The next memorable scene was two women who were college roommates and had bonded in part because of their love for Manilow. They were invited to the show and had “won” a free makeover at a salon. So they’re sitting there with their hair half done, still with the smocks on sitting in front of a big mirror. Suddenly Barry walks in behind them and tells them they look beautiful.

The camera caught both of their reactions as they simultaneously realized who was behind them. It was so classic I had to watch it about 20 times just to catch every nuance of the moment. One gripped the chair as her eyes bulged and she shifted her weight up, reaching for her eyes while repeating “Oh my God..” The other one just sat there with her mouth wide open and stared at him like she was in a drugged haze. He gave them both a hug and they just stared, dumbfounded.

I just love these shows.

But the best was yet to come. As I stated, they filled the audience with hardcore Barry fans who all were obsessed with the singer. He has a new CD out and he sang a song that totally blew me away.

Now I’m not a huge Barry Manilow fan. I mean he’s OK but he’s Barry Manilow. I love Sarah McLachlan unashamedly but I gotta draw the line somewhere.

He sang this song, about love of course, and how he was not the man she deserved. He confessed that he would love her forever blah, blah, blah. But it was the end that was incredible. He delivered the line “I will Looooooove…” and carried the “love” with a soaring note that was awesome to behold. I mean he is Barry Manilow and he can still hit that soaring note to a crescendo.

So the line was “I will looooove you…” and he ended it it with a powerful last line of “from now onnnnn” hitting each note independently and with the force of a punch, carrying out the last word as the music swelled.

You would have to see it but let me remind you he was singing to a crowd of insane fans and he cut through them like a machete. I mean I never thought I’d say this about Barry Manilow, but he tore the shit out of that crowd and they went berserk. With that last stanza, he completely destroyed any sanity that crowd had and I know if I was impressed, they must have been delirious.

I turned off the TV smiling. Barry Manilow, whoda thunk it?

I have a bonus Barry Manilow story.

My dad was a cabbie in Seattle for a few years and one time Barry Manilow got into his cab back in the early 90s. Now you must understand that my father is worse than I am with saying things to famous people and he will embarrass himself at the drop of a hat. So the stage was set when Barry Manilow climbed in the back.

With all the seriousness in the world, my dad turned around with his arm on the back of the seats and said,

“Aren’t you the guy who writes the songs that makes all the young girls cry?”

Then my embarrassment of a father turned back around and proceeded to laugh his fool head off at his own stale joke.

I can just imagine what Barry Manilow thought of this but I bet if I ever met him, he would remember that annoying cabbie in Seattle who thought he made the wittiest remark ever conceived.

I weep for the genes I inherited and twice as much for the ones I passed on.

Free Advice for Today:
Never laugh at anyone's dreams."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Don't take life too seriously; no one gets out alive."

- Unknown

As I was getting ready this morning, I heard a knock at my door. It was just after 0700 and I wondered who could be knocking since we pushed back our meeting time until 0730. Opening the door, I saw Eric asking me if I was ready.

Crap, no one had bothered to tell him anything. He was ready to present.

“Come on in…”

I told him about the night last night and how everything was cancelled. I proceeded to apologize profusely because no one had told him but in classic Eric style, it was unnecessary. He took it in stride and listened to our antics from the night before.

We couldn’t get earlier flights out than what we had since everyone in the entire area was heading out of town. We were lucky to have any flights so we stuck with the 5:30 PM flights and Eric had a noon flight. The result was that we had the morning and thought that a morning visit to Bourbon Street for Eric was better than nothing. He had never been here so we headed out.

If I thought that hitting Bourbon Street in the early afternoon was weird, hitting it in the morning was surreal.

The first place we hit was a place for breakfast. The Major insisted we have a pastry that I forgot what the name of it was but it sounded like the French spray toilet thing. Bidoui or something. I’ll have to admit that for something that sounded like a butt-splashing toilet, the pastry was delicious. It was sprinkled with powdered sugar and I gobbled up 2 and a half of them with my coffee.

We finally made it to Bourbon Street but it just wasn’t the same. All of the crazies were fast asleep, resting from last night antics and getting prepped for tonight’s. With the hurricane heading in, we figured it would be one hell of a celebration.

We wondered the streets but all it ended up being was an explanation at every turn of what we had done the night before. Of course as we covered the later hours, things were a bit fuzzy and we had to take wild guesses. I don’t know how much fun this was for Eric but we hit a couple of souvenir shops and the only place open that was selling beer. I was not hung over but the thought of beer that early in the morning didn’t sit well, especially since I had French Butt-commode mixing with coffee in my gut.

We showed everything there was to see and even the gay part of town. It seems that if you go too far down the street, you get to the gay part and we’re not talking just happy here. We almost crossed over (geographically, not… never mind) the night before but we were saved by some do-gooder who correctly determined we didn’t want to cross that street and go any farther. I think the rainbow flags should have clued us in but we didn’t notice that until we were thwarted.

We got our fill and soaked up the urine and trash smell to last us for awhile so we decided to head to the airport to get Eric to his flight on time. We figured we could drop him off and then find something to do for a few hours since our plane didn’t leave until late afternoon.

We got on the freeway and while I had successfully escaped the evacuation out of Orlando last week, I was not so lucky with this one. The highway was a veritable parking lot. Our initial optimism that we could get Eric to the airport slowly diminished as we crawled along with over stuffed cars trying to get our of town.

Another pressing need had to do with the alcohol everyone but me and the driving Gunny partook in. Seems bladders needed emptied and guess what, we were stuck in traffic. Muh ha ha ha ha…

Leave it to Burger King to save the day.

Luck was on our side as we took an off ramp to find an alternate path to the airport. I thought that like eating at Burger King, every artery would be clogged but for some reason, this particular street that paralleled the highway was free and clear. The concept of traffic never ceases to amaze me.

By the time we got to the airport, we had just enough time to drop off Eric with front door delivery. What a deal for him. He’d be home and happy before we even left the ground.

We didn’t want to take the chance of getting stuck in traffic so we decided to turn in the car and camp out at the airport for the day. Although sitting in an airport all day was not a recipe for fun, the fact that the general population was freaking out, holding onto tickets out of the state seemed like we possessed the Golden Tickets to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

We sat around, we stood in line, we ate, we existed.

Finally we decided waiting at the gate was just as good as waiting anywhere else so when the security line calmed down to a near-sane depth, we made our move. We got through it and when we got to the gate, I decided a couple of hours was long enough to fire up my laptop and plugged it in. Meanwhile, Gunny went to the ticket counter to ask something as just as he got to the counter, the lady announced that they had four seats on the plane leaving to Atlanta.

Well, waiting in Atlanta was better than waiting in New Orleans under the circumstances so we stepped on some old lady’s neck to get the four seats and boarded the plane. It seems that even the security was eased because they didn’t even look at our tickets as they just waved us through, grabbing the slip of paper we gave them.

We got on the plane with instructions to find any seat we could. The Major who was behind me and bringing up the rear got stopped at the entrance of the plane for a moment while we looked for seats and I thought, oh well, he snoozed, he lost. Not very buddy-buddy of me but I saw there were plenty of seats and he would get on.

As though being punished for such thoughts, the stewardess sat him in first class. I hesitated before moving on, hoping I would be afforded the same luxury in the open first class seat next to me. The stewardess just looked at my hopeful eyes with no deference whatsoever.

I had never, ever, ever, sat in first class. I don’t even know what it would be like and I would likely be a Beverly Hillbilly doing so but I didn’t care. I thought I had a shot a a first-ever moment but it was not to be. Maybe she had read my previous blogs about my travels and what I think of the airline employees in general. Who knows. But the result was sitting next to a teenager who, if the look on her face was any indication of her view of the world, would have rather been peeling her arm with a potato peeler than sitting next to me.

When we got to Atlanta, our little scheme was to try to get on the next flight to D.C. rather than waiting for our actual flight.

But between us and an early arrival time home stood… her.

“Do you have luggage?” she accusingly asked with eyes half lidded, chewing gum, looking for a reason to deny us.

“Three of us do.”

“Then you’ll have to wait for your original flight.”

“We got on the last flight without our luggage.”

“They shouldn’t have let you. It’s against the rules.”

“YOU are ‘they’!!” I wanted to say, frustrated at the buck-passing.

The question that loomed was if our bags were on our flight from New Orleans or not. We got on so quick, there was no way they could have transferred our bags.

She asked our names and looked us up. It seems that when we got on the last flight, someone transferred our connection flight. I was shocked. Someone had gone out of their way to help us. Whhhhhat?

But we still had the problem of our luggage. If it stayed on the original schedule, our luggage would arrive at D.C. when we were originally ticketed for. We would be “home” but stuck in the D.C. airport for hours, waiting for our luggage to arrive. We headed over to customer service to see what the deal was and to ask if we could just have it sent to our houses.

“No, you chose to take the earlier flights.”

“But what good does it do if we have to wait around for our luggage?”

“Sorry, Sir.”

Something told me she didn’t mean either one of those words.

We got on the flight and the back half of the plane was empty. This meant one thing to me: up with the armrests and down with Jason. I waited until we took off and at the first possible moment, I put my little plan into action. With a seat buckle jammed into my kidneys, I tried my best at assuming some semblance of comfort. It lasted about 20 minutes and then I decided that renal failure was not a risk I was willing to take in order to be horizontal.

When I popped up from my mini-nap, I looked across the aisle, two seats up where all my carry on items were stowed to find a man sitting in my seat. Of all the open seats on the plane, and there were many, this guy just happens to feel the need to find my particular seat, oblivious of the fact all my trash in right in front of his big stupid face.

Just then, as though he tuned into my mental javelins I was heaving his way, he got up to go to the bathroom. I grabbed my stuff and moved a couple of seats back.

People!!!

When we got in after this day of waiting and wondering, we found ourselves at the luggage claim, grasping on the hope that our luggage made the unprecedented double changeover to follow us all the way to DC. I held out as much hope as I have for finding my virginity again.

So you can imagine how shocked I was when my suitcase came rolling out on the conveyer belt. There it was in all it black sameness to 2/3s of every other piece of luggage that it seems America uses.

OK, I had to begrudgingly hand it to the airline industry. They had got us on an earlier flight at the last second, found our luggage, got it on the plane we were on, transferred it to another changed flight at the connecting point in Atlanta, and got it to DC.

I take back exactly 1/10 of the bad things I’ve ever said about them.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't waste time playing cards."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Monday, September 13, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Earth is the insane asylum for the universe."

- Unknown

It was official business. Really, it was.

I was sent to New Orleans for a conference to teach a class. The seminar lasted all week but our portions were on Tuesday and Wednesday therefore we would travel today and Thursday. That was the plan.

The plane trip was uneventful. I traveled with my Gunny, a Top, and one of the new Majors. I was the only one who had never been to New Orleans so I looked forward to getting the tour from the salts and enjoy the opportunity to experience pseudo-Marti Gras.

We got there and checked into our rooms at the Navy Lodge but not before getting the Tour of the Lost Ones through downtown New Orleans. It seems Gunny’s memory of the area was a bit lacking except that he pointed out that he got lost on at the very same wrong turns he took last year.

After getting to our rooms and dumping our luggage, we headed out to Bourbon Street. It’s always strange getting to a party location early because it’s just not quite right. It seemed too abandoned, to light, too early. Merchants were hosing down the front and setting up for the nightly crush of people who we represented the leading edge.

We ignored that the place smelled of trash and urine. As the night went on, this became less and less evident, likely attributed more to our state than the presence of the source.

The first order of business was getting a daiquiri. It may seem girlie but in New Orleans, daiquiris are serious business. Almost every other place along the street was an open shop with walls and walls of daiquiri machines like Icee machines. You can get just about any flavor and then some you never imagined with combinations of scary concoctions. The Hurricane seemed appropriate but in the end, I started out with strawberry. I know, I’m so stereotypical but that’s what I went with. Gunny went for banana, the Major with pina colada, and the Top started with a beer and graduated to a Grenade.

The Grenade was a large plastic container with the bottom shaped like an old fashioned frag grenade with a long tube sticking up. What was in it is a bit of a mystery but its name was aptly chosen. Whatever was in it (pineapple being the only thing I was sure of) it had the kick of a mule to the throat. We guessed grain alcohol but someone suggested Everclear.

It was one of those drinks that the more you drink, the more seems to be left. Plus, as we got to the bottom, it got stronger. All four of us was siphoning of sips but we couldn’t seem to kill it. It was pure evil.

With a day of traveling and nearly toxic levels of alcohol in our systems, we decided to get our first meal of the day. I did not divulge my luck with restaurants and just let the others choose where to dine. I pulled the wool over the gods’ eyes because we found a classic New Orleans grub club that served us up some fine eats.

I had the po' boy because none of the seafood appealed to me. No fishy fish stuff for me, thanks. Gunny got the breaded catfish which he seemed to enjoy. I would have sooner eaten my shoes.

Top had never had crawfish so the Major ordered a plate. I lied out my ass and said I had tried them and not cared for them. I had no desire to put crawdaddies in my mouth….ever.

They bought and shared a pound of what to me appeared to be humungous cockroaches. Maybe the grenade found its mark because Top thought it was the best thing since beer but I held steady to the belief that I will leave this world without ever putting one of those nasty creations in my mouth. They even ordered another pound and we all feasted like kings. It was shaping up to be a great night.

The Major also ordered a bowl of red beans and rice. The only real exposure I had with this combination was Sir Mix-A-Lot’s classic “Baby Got Back” line “… red beans and rice dint miss her…

I don’t know if it was the celebratory atmosphere, the debilitating percentage of alcohol in my system, or the lack of any real food all day but for whatever reason, the red beans and rice was insanely delectable. I could have eaten the entire bowl and asked for seconds, thirds, and blown a stomach lining on the fourth.

After dinner, we wandered the streets that had, by then, turned into the streets most people associate with Bourbon Street in New Orleans. For a Monday night, there was a lot of people crowding the streets. A few daiquiris and beers later, we were right there with them on the narrow streets lined with shops ready to sell anything from gag gifts to beads. It was a tourist trap in every sense of the word with every facet covered. There was alcohol, music, food, strip clubs, and trinket shops.

One of the live music places had an interesting twist. The main centerpiece of the band was an enormous black man playing the accordion. The thought occurred to me how you get to be good at the accordion without being beat to death by the neighborhood kids? But this guy was good. I never thought I’d say this but he was playing the hell out of that accordion.

On either side of him were two young, skinny white guys playing, are you ready for this, washboards. They had them draped over their chest and had these metal finger covers and were just jamming to the song. The spectacle would have been impressive enough but add to the fact that they were mesmerizing and you get the scene we saw. All of us stood there in amazement at the toe-tapping beat and were caught in the lure of mesmerizing music. The Major even bought the CD and I wondered how I would ever explain an accordion and two washboards capturing our attention. The grenade wasn’t THAT good.

The entire night was just an old fashioned good time. We didn’t get sloppy drunk or anything but had enough to drink to grease the wheels of fun. By the end of the night, we had soaked up enough of the New Orleans scene to hold our heads up proudly and found ourselves in a gift shop buying gifts for our families before calling it a night.

There was a lot to choose from. There were stuff from the crude side to the downright silly. Shirts such as “I got Bourboned faced on Shit Street” or “F#$% You, You F**ing F*&*&!!!”

One of the more surprising things were a lot of blackface figurines. I guess it was somehow part of the culture but it seemed a little non-PC these days.

For my daughter, it was easy. I got her an ornamental porcelain mask. She loves these things but they tend to scare the bejeebies out of me. I also got each of the kids a beaded necklace to represent New Orleans. I’ll have to explain to them why they have beads in New Orleans but maybe skip the part about lifting the shirt (which the only example we saw was some big fat biker guy do it. Why the idiots up top felt the need to go ahead with the bead-throwing is beyond me. Don’t you realize you’re just encouraging fat guys to show their bareness? Ewwww!)

For Carrie, I saw some Cajon hot sauce and knew, in my slightly inebriated state, that was the perfect gift. I’m quite the romantic in this area.

Gunny was the only one, by design, able to drive. While we had a good time and successfully held our own on Bourbon Street, we did not overstay our fun. We got back to the hotel at about 11:00 where we found out that the entire conference had been cancelled.

Hurricane Frances was on a collision course with the Louisiana coast. They had considered canceling the conference last Friday but thought they could get the first part in. They miscalculated because just like when I was in Florida, the whole city started freaking out once they realized they were in the cross hairs. We had messages on our Blackberries, voice mail, and a visit from a representative that we were to try to get out of town as soon as possible tomorrow.

We had advanced warning of this earlier today and managed to get our flight changed back to about 5:00 PM tomorrow but now that it was completely cancelled, we would try to get even earlier flights.

It was too late to stop Eric, our civilian representative, from coming down. He was already on his way and would just have to tell him in the morning that he wasted a lot of time and money. At least we got a boondoggle for one night. He wouldn’t even get that.

I laughed as I went to sleep. I had been flown down to New Orleans, let loose on the city for one night, and would head back home the next day. The sun does in deed sometimes shine on a dog’s ass, or something to that effect.

Free Advice for Today:
Be alert for opportunities to show praise and appreciation."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Sunday, September 12, 2004

Quote of the Day:

[William Wallace is dreaming, and sees the spirit of his wife]
William Wallace: I'm dreaming.
Murron: Yes, you are. And you must wake, William.
[pause]
William Wallace: I don't want to wake. I want to stay here with you.

- Dialogue from "Braveheart"

I didn’t even hear the alarm and at 0511, I looked at the clock and had the faintest inkling that I had been pushing the snooze button since 0433. It was going to be a rough one because I felt so much like turning over and getting another half dozen hours of sleep.

But this was not possible. I had already gaffed off the run yesterday and with travel next week, I don’t know how much running I’ll be able to get in. So up I got in the silent, dark hours of a Sunday morning.

I made a few last minute preparations, sent some email, and headed out into the dark. First stop was 7/11 to get ice for the post-run bath and two Gatorades. The total: over $5 which pissed me off but it’s 7/11.

Next, I had the 30 mile drive to work on a deserted I-95 in the dark. Oh, how painful this was shaping up to be. But I had a purpose. I was feeling better but I’ve started off feeling great on a 20 miler and dragged my carcass back.

I had to go to work to get my running pack and was fighting time because I wanted to get out to the start point and ready to step off right at the crack of dawn (sunrise = 0650). I almost made it and stepped off just after 0700.

The first few minutes were good and I was glad to see it. They say you can tell how your run is going to go after the first 10 steps and I was feeling really fine. When you have it in your head that you’re doing 20, the first one seems like child’s play. But I forgot to reset my GPS counter and this made a difference later. It was only about .2 miles at the beginning but I knew that even that small distance was important when you were lumbering at the end. It meant that I’d go almost a half a mile more once I returned.

So now my running time on my watch didn’t exactly correspond with my running distance on the GPS. The effect was that it looked like I was going slower than I really was because I didn’t see that 1 mile tick off at every rest walk.

The good thing about this was that it made me run faster because I wanted to make up the distance and get the two in sync. I had to make up that .2 miles and the way I did it was I skipped a couple of walk breaks and picked up the pace.

The bugs didn’t get me today. I must have got out there before they woke up but every other week, they were all up in my face at a certain mile stretch that I don’t look forward to. They simply never showed up and I was very pleased about this.

I got to about mile 8 and had caught up with the time, happy that I was clocking consistent 10 minute miles. I was in unchartered territory because I had only gone 7 miles max on this road and at 8, it let out onto a main street with no sidewalks. So the last two miles, I was running on a windy road which was a pain in the ass but the traffic wasn’t bad.

I got to the halfway point and the last mile was all uphill. The only saving grace was that I knew I had the downhill on the way back. My time was at 1 hour, 39 minutes which means I got just under 10 minute miles.

I was feeling really good, although my legs were understandably rubbery. I did a quick inventory and everything was fine. Feet were good, legs were rubbery but not shredded, and breath was ok. Form was still there and I had a good amount of water left.

Starting at mile 5, I started taking Gu shots. It’s unbelievable how much these things help and it’s like rocket fuel. I actually had to pull back a little, knowing I’d need the strength at the end.

On the way back, the sun had come out and I had to dig out my sunglasses. The weather here has cooled down but it was still pretty hot and the humidity rose a bit. It was much better than other days, though but I could feel it, and the distance, taking its toll. I just wanted to “die well” and put in a good performance at the end.

I had to stop and go to the bathroom and at this point (about mile 14), I was not about to go traipsing off into the woods. I hadn’t seen a car or anyone else in hours so I just got to the side of the road and called it good. As I was standing there wondering if that deep golden shade of urine was a serious problem, I rose my head to see about 6 bike racers zooming right by me. I hadn’t heard them because I had my headphones blaring and there I stood, the situation well in hand, as they flowed past me. They were all women.

I lifted my head to the sky with a smirk and said out loud, “Good one.”

At some point on the way back, I found The Groove. Sometimes it shows up, sometimes not but when it does, I’m just there for the ride. The song “Lose Yourself” by Eminim came on and the beat coincided with a quick but attainable pace so I got in step and to my surprise, all the pain and fatigue went away. I was gliding and had no sense of sensory input but the sound in my ears and the pressure of my feet hitting the pavement. I really did Lose Myself and I think I did about a 7 ½ minute mile.

Things started breaking down at about 17. I remember saying to myself “Only five miles” and then “4 miles Buddy!” (actually, I said out loud “I could leave a trail of SHIT for 4 miles …. And I just might.” **laughing at my own joke. Hey, I had run 16 miles, whataya expect?)

But when I got to “Only a PFT left,” my body was starting to rebel. I couldn’t keep form and I know I was slower than 10 minute miles.

At 2 miles, I was a wreck and my water ran out. No cramps but I had little control of my legs and every footfall was a shot of pain from my foot, shooting up my leg. I tried to use the thought that this was not even a considerable stretch of the Badwater but it didn’t help.

There is a water station at the 1 ½ mile mark and I was just trying to get to it. I should have hit it 4 ½ - 5 minutes after my 18 mile walk rest but not only did it stretch farther than that, I got to my 9 minute mark and it was still in the distance. I was beyond doing the math but it was obvious I was not maintaining the 10 minute pace.

I got to the water point and had a moment when I was terrified that there was not going to be water there. I pushed the button with a trembling hand and the sweet juice of life flowed out of the orange cooler. I would have cried but I didn’t have enough liquid to spare.

I filled the camelback half way, trying to stave off fainting as I was bent over. I then used two hands to lap up about a dozen handfuls of water, feeling each one bring me back to feeling somewhat human.

I still had 1 ½ miles to go. Starting up again was the most painful thing of the day; nothing was in sync and pain accompanied every step. I had tried to cheat by stopping my watch at the water point but when I went to start it up again, it was still going so I knew my time would be all messed up. I have no idea how long I stayed there at that break.

The next ½ mile was a negotiation period and a mental prep for the last mile. I was determined not to limp across the finish line looking like the walking dead. I was to finish this race with my head and knees up high, in a form I’d be proud of. I swear I felt like Braveheart when he was in the holding cell, praying that he would have the strength to die well. Please let me die well.

I got to the last mile and picked up the pace. It hurt. For the love of God it hurt. But I kept a respectable pace and the fact that the last 3 miles were a series of rolling hills, culminating on one big incline at the end made no difference. I was going to finish this race like I started it; strong and determined.

I could hardly see by the time I got to the top of the hill. My lungs were heaving and the muscles in my legs were screaming obscenities at me. But I kept form and laid one throbbing foot in front of another as I crossed the finish line to the sound of nothing but the crickets. I had done it and no one was witness except me and I wasn’t exactly all there either.

I looked at my watch and it said 1:49. Doing the math, that puts me in at 11 minute miles for the last 10 and that includes the extended stop at the 18 ½ mile water stop. Even without considering that, the average was 10:30 miles for 20 miles.

My goal was to finish proud and strong. This I did. But nothing was promised about the aftermath.

I stumbled around the parking lot toward the nearest bathroom where I made general stabs at removing gear and taking care of necessities. I was really hoping to run into no one because I don’t know if I could have carried on a coherent conversation.

I got back to the truck and made the last trek home, happy but suffering much pain. The joy of accomplishing a 20 mile run was put aside as I had to concentrate on getting home and taking care of my brutalized body. I had a bag of ice with me that would help and two Gatorades that provided a small amount of immediate relief.

I iced down my legs in the tub for 15 excruciating minutes followed by a warm shower. My intent was to get ready, take my son to lunch for our date night, get a haircut together, and return to blissful sleep. But Carrie had made me breakfast so I decided that shouldn’t go to waste and gobbled it down like I’d never eaten before. With lunch put on hold and a full stomach, I knew I had mere minutes before I needed to lie down.

For two hours I tossed and turned in bed as my legs repaired themselves. I slept, but not the relaxed sleep one would prefer but rather out of pure exhaustion broken only by small jabs of pain as the legs mended.

After a couple of hours, I had to get up and start packing for my trip tomorrow. As I pattered around the house trying to collect all the items I would need for next week, I was constantly reminded of my insanity of the morning.

Tonight I took Alex out to eat and we had both our favorite: Mexican food. Just like always, when I got the boy alone, he was a fountain of conversation. Most people think he’s a quiet, polite little guy but get him talking and he has a lot to say, and somewhat more authoritative than is possible for his knowledge base but that never stops him.

The rest of the night was packing and writing. Tomorrow, I leave for three days and hopefully I’ll have recovered by then.

Free Advice for Today:
Your mind can only hold one thought at a time. Make it a positive and constructive one."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Saturday, September 11, 2004

Quote of the Day:

William Wallace: Ego sum hominus indomitus. (But I am a savage.)

- Dialogue from "Braveheart"

Getting back late last night, the run wasn’t going to happen today. I was in no mood to tackle it anyway and a morning to sleep in sounded a whole lot better than pushing myself. I know from experience that you can have a good run by forcing yourself out but that only works on shorter runs. 20 miles requires you to be excited for it and even then, the endings are always a mental challenge. So to start behind the power curve…… no.

So I pushed it off until tomorrow but there was another reason. Getting ready for it, I discovered I left my running pack at work. I didn’t want to have to go in even earlier to get it so I thought I’d pick it up during the day when we were heading north for a birthday party.

Eric is the civilian program manager for the system I work on at work. He is basically my counterpart and his company is doing the technical work for the computer system we are implementing. But more than that, I’ve come to have a lot of respect for him both professionally and personally. That’s why when I got his invitation to his 40th birthday party, I never hesitated to reply. And of course it was sent via email.

Despite his note that teased him mercilessly about in his email ("Please, no presents just presence") which he insisted his wife made him put in there, I knew right away what I was going to get him. If you’ve ever seen the movie Office Space, you will understand. I got him a red Swingline stapler.

Eric lives north of the base which means two things. Either his house is old or it’s expensive. It happens his was both and witnessing his easy commute (traffic flowing opposite directions both morning and afternoon) I almost considered his expenses worth it. His house was a big, beautiful structure which he claims needs work as they perform all manner of fixing up. But the house looked fine for me, except… (there always has to be an exception…) for the neighborhood. I noticed it when we parked down the street that was absurdly narrow to the point that cars parked on either side made the two way street only wide enough for a center lane for one car to pass thorough. The “it” was signs in almost every yard. Kerry-Edwards signs. Everywhere.

The party was a good time and there were a lot more people there than I expected. I was one of the few military people there and it occurred to me that Eric is a lucky man to have so many people show up at his birthday party. But it doesn’t surprise me.

An odd thing happened to me. Eric introduced me to some of his friends and the first thing out of one of the woman’s mouth was “Oh, you’re the ultra-runner.”

This took my by surprise because a couple of things leaped into my head all at once. First, of all the ways Eric could have described me, he obviously had zeroed in on that aspect. In a way, that was complimentary and told me what Eric thought of my latest craze.

Second, my initial reaction was to correct her. I was so into my Badwater thoughts, I had forgotten that I had already run two 50 mile races and thus I qualified for the title. I was ready to inform her that I had not done the Badwater and in my mind, felt a tinge of guilt for gathering any kind of recognition before actually doing the Badwater. This has been a sore point for me because I hate to reap status for something I haven’t even done.

Combined, this caused a long pause. In the end, all I could say was “Yes, I guess.” It just hit me as strange that I was not ready to respond to such recognition.

The party was full of people but I knew very few of them, none of us were in a particularly good mood, and my mind was on the run in the morning so we decided to leave. Halfway home I realized we had brought Carrie’s key set so stopping by work was out since I wouldn’t have the keys. After all the delay, I was still going to have to get in early to retrieve my running pack.

I got home and set everything up for the early rise and the big run. God let me die well.

Free Advice for Today:
Be a leader: Remember the lead sled dog is the only one with a decent view."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Friday, September 10, 2004

Quote of the Day:

Longshanks: What news of the North?
Prince Edward: Nothing new, your majesty. We've sent riders to speed any word.
Longshanks: I heard word in France where I was fighting to expand your future kingdom. The word, my son, is that our entire Northern Army is AHHNILATED.

- Dialogue from "Braveheart"

Tonight, for the second time, I met a legend.

I got tickets to the R. Lee Ermey Celebrity Experience and took Carrie to the base for a “Gala Event.”

Before we got there, we went to Quantico town to eat at the famous Romans Pub to see if their touted chicken wings were truly spectacular. When we entered it looked promising because it was this run down pub and that’s usually the ones that have the best food, that is if you’re into artery-choking grease bombs that are the height of decadence.

The place reeked of smoke, had two other customers, and a cigarette smoking off-duty waitress waiting to go on shift. Everything about this place screamed PWT but Carrie was told they had the best chicken wings in the world.

We ordered some wings and a couple of sandwiches and waited. And waited. And waited. I was not surprised. The streak must be upheld.

The wings finally made their appearance and it turns out the hype was just that. All hype. They tasted like microwave wings with a thin sauce put on as an afterthought.

The sandwiches weren’t much better and I left most of mine. Now we know. Yet another place we will avoid in Q-Town which is a shame because my shit list is starting to look like the Quantico Yellow Pages.

When we got out of there and over to the theater, there was a line around the block. As we waited at the end, a car pulled out and let out one of the celebrities right in front of us. The problem was, I had no idea who these two people were so their celebrity status was kind of lost on me. It ends up it was Jonathan Banks from “Dark Blue” and “Beverly Hills Cop” and Penny Johnson-Jerald from “24” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” OK, I thought, but too bad I had no idea until I read the flyer inside.

They finally let us in and somehow made our way pretty close to the front of the stage, dead center. The stage was made up to look like the scene of Mail Call and had a bunch of musical instruments too with words projected in light all over the place. I guess to enhancethe dramatic effect, they popped some smoke or something so the pictures looked a little hazy. Either that or another reason the stars were so happy to be there.

We really didn’t know what to expect and didn’t even know who was going to be there until we got in and flipped through the program. They gave head shots and there were a lot of “celebrities” that were on the bill.

Now I don’t want to seem ungrateful because they put this together for us and it was free. But the concept of "celebrity" was being thrown around pretty loosely. Furthermore, not all of them really showed up which makes sense because what would an actor do but come out and receive applause?

OK, running through the program, you got the admin doctor from ER, the oldest son from Home Improvement, a guy from Fleetwood Mac (no, not Mick), Richard Greco from “21 Jumpstreet”, Ken Howard (the coach on The White Shadow), the bearded hillbilly on Home Improvement, LaLain from Lizzy McGuire, the boyfriend from Grace Under Fire, Tom Skerritt from Top Gun and many others, and George Stephanopoulos.

Most of these people were slated for the golf tournament and a ball they were throwing tomorrow night so my assumption that we wouldn’t see all these people tonight was correct.

So you see, there were different levels of celebrity but the one everyone was waiting to see was Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket.

Suddenly the lights went out. Then from a distance we heard a platoon of Marines shouting something. There was a single response and then a louder chorus of shouting. This repeated itself a few times until the doors slammed open in the back of the theater and a platoon marched in.

And then The Voice. It was R. Lee Ermey marching them in cadence and his voice, That Voice, resonated through the theater with no need for artificial amplification. He was wearing a pair of desert cammies and the famous Drill Instructor Smokey.

He marched them down the aisle as the crowd went nuts. He marched them to the front of the auditorium, below the stage where he stopped them and faced them. He then screamed at them to get their sorry asses on stage as they all scrambled in different directions to get up there. He barked at them the entire way until they were reassembled on the stage.

He then went into his monologue, much of the same exact dialogue from Full Metal Jacket. He altered the lines slightly here and there but mostly, it was him saying those lines that are tattooed in every Marine’s DNA. It was like watching the movie.

YOU ARE NOTHING MORE THAN GRAB-ASSTIC PIECES OF AMPHIBIOUS…POOP” got a laugh from the audience.

“IF YOU SURVIVE, IF YOU LEAVE MY ISLAND, YOU WILL BE A WEAPON, A KILLER HUNGRY FOR WAR…

It was such a treat to hear the dialogue and watching it up close. By the end, Carrie pointed out that his chest was heaving and I noticed his volume wasn’t as loud as 17 years ago but duh! If he would have delivered to the same intensity as he did in FMJ, he would likely have a heart attack right there on stage.

But he still had the fire. And he still had The Voice.

After this little treat, he introduced the show and acted as the MC for the night, coming out between acts to introduce the next.

The first one to come out was a comic who does a character named Arli$$. He was on MTV and plays this drugged out 60’s flower child. He was OK but I don’t think it was his crowd. Drug jokes for Marines just didn’t quite fit.

Then they had this little kid who could dance. His hip hop thing was impressive but again, had the wrong audience. This was never so evident as when he tried to rap and the line “Put yo hands in da air…” produced no movement from the crowd whatsoever.

There was a couple more comics and some were pretty good. Each time the Gunny came out, he got a bigger reaction that any of the acts.

Like I said, I hate to complain because it was great these people come out to entertain us. But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t point out the obvious.

Gunny introduced a guitar player who played with Fleetwood Mac for 10 years. He brought out a drummer and two other musicians to play a song no one had ever heard of. Then another. Then another. I lost track of how many songs they played but I was profoundly bored with hearing a full blown concert of songs I didn’t know by someone I had never heard of. It was embarrassing as the crowd failed to react and they just kept going with song after song.

After it was over, we piled out in the entryway and the Gunny had set up a table where he was signing autographs. The line was incredibly long but I was certain he would stay there until the last one got signed.

I made my way to about 10 feet back and got a bunch of good pictures. I had brought my DVD of Full Metal Jacket and practiced over and over what I was going to say when I got to the front, knowing I only had a minute or so while he signed the box.

When the moment came, this is what I said:

“Gunny, this is the second time we’ve met but you might not remember the first. I was a young Sergeant and we talked for 45 minutes between takes on the set of Pre in Husky Stadium.”

At this point, he looked at me with what I must assume was fake recognition and he very matter of factly said “I do remember that.” It was the way he said it, softly with a squint as though he was actually remembering it. If it was really fake, he would have smiled big and said “Oh, sure, I remember that…” all fake-like but he didn’t. I thought I detected a hint of legitimate recognition but then again, he’s an actor. I’d like to believe he was telling the truth, especially since it’s not a film a lot of people talk to him about and we talked for so long that day.

I told him I was with my then-girlfriend, now wife who watched FMJ with me two weeks before bootcamp and that it scared the shit out of me.

As we stood up to get a picture together, I mentioned to him that I’m now a Captain and he broke his side by side pose, turned to me and looked at me as if surprised, and said “A Mustang! The most respected type of Officer in the Corps.” He then stepped beside me again and Carrie took the picture.

As I was about to walk off, I had to get one more thing in.

“Back in 1994, we talked about a lot of things but for ten years there’s been one nagging question I never asked that day and I said if we’d ever meet, I would ask it. How many times did you have to hit Private Pyle to get that scene right?”

By this time I had stepped away and he already had the next poster in front of him to sign. He stopped, looked right at me, and held up his one index finger with his eyes fixed on my face.

“Once.”

“And I never touched him.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“We practiced that scene for weeks and got it on the first take. I did clip his nose just a bit but that’s all.”

“I can’t believe that, especially since his cover went flying off. It looked like you had just agreed that he’s take the slap as an actor and I wondered how many times you had to hit him.”

“Once.”

“That’s a hell of a good movie magic then because it looked damn real.”

“Yeah, they did a good job on that one.”

“Thanks for you time, Gunny, Semper Fi.”

“Semper Fi, Sir.”

I thought nothing could have ruined that moment for me. I was wrong. When I got home and opened up the picture off the digital camera, it was blurred. I had set up the camera to high resolution so I could get the picture blown up and framed. At higher resolutions, I guess you have to hold the camera still longer. The camera had been acting up all night and some of the pictures I took didn’t turn out either.

I was devastated when I got home and unfairly blamed Carrie. I knew it would just be a matter of time to get over it and I had to pout it out. It’s a shame but I went to bed mad.

Free Advice for Today:
Plant more flowers than you pick."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Monday, September 6, 2004

Quote of the Day:

[Murron is tied to a post about to be executed]
Magistrate: All of you know full well, the great pains I have always taken never to be too strict, too rigid with the application of our laws, and as a consequence, have we not learned to live together in relative peace and harmony, huh? And this day's lawlessness is how you repay my leniency. Well you leave me with little choice. An assault on the king's soldiers is the same as an assault on the king himself.
[he slits Murron's throat]
Magistrate: [about Wallace] Now, let this scrapper come to me.

- Dialogue from "Braveheart"

Hey, it’s Labor Day!

Hey, I’m still sick for the third day in a row!!!

Buster is loving this. He’s been my constant companion and hasn’t left me as I’m starting to get bedsores. The hacking cough is the only thing resembling exercise and my skin is actually starting to get raw from constant contact on the pillows.

I don’t get sick very often but when I do, it all comes back to me and I’m a pitiful sight. I seem to revert back 30 years when this happens. Ask Carrie.

If there was a soundtrack to my last few days, it would have to be the opening lines to Sarah McLachlan’s song Time (wow, that was mighty “Mary Catherine Gallagher of me…)

Time here all but means nothing just shadows that move across the wall
they keep me company but they don’t ask of me they don’t say nothing at all

This is really how I felt, just laying there all day and watching the shadows move across the wall as I slipped into and out of consciousness. Very few profound thoughts entered my head except how perfect Alka-Seltzer Cold and Flu medicine is and how the Vick’s Inhaler should be nominated for sainthood. I know they probably don’t do that for medicine you suck up your nose but it should at least be knighted.

When I could think clearly, I thought more about the Badwater. I watched the DVD extras and the main organizer described what the race means on a more profound level. I was attached to every word, waiting for the next to come. I would almost know what he was going to say next, my lips forming the words as he spoke.

I will run this race. I must run this race.

Free Advice for Today:
Never ask a childless couple when they are going to have children."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Sunday, September 5, 2004

Quote of the Day:

Robert's Father: I'm the one that's rotting, but your face looks graver than mine.

- Dialogue from "Braveheart"

Sick all day, worse than yesterday. I hate being sick. I know, no one LIKES it but the fact remains, sick sucks!!

I was able to remain coherent enough to watch Running On The Sun, a documentary about the 2000 Badwater race. I was amazed. Watching this, a person is either convinced he or she should never even entertain taking on such an insane challenge, or be motivated to get out there if it’s the last thing they ever do (which it might). I’m proud to announce that my reaction was the latter.

Then I collapsed for hours on end.

But before that happened, I decided I would run the Badwater. I will not attempt, I will RUN and COMPLETE the Badwater in 2009.

If you have never seen this documentary, which I will assume you never have because it’s a pretty niche film, you will have to find it and watch it to understand me. So many things about the race is tied into my personality and experiences that I felt I was there.

In fact, I have been in a way. The race goes right through Death Valley and in 2001, Sir Phil and I drove right through there going from the end of the Wild Wild West Marathon in Lone Pine to Las Vegas. I remember the heat at the rest stop and being amazed since we had not been out of the car since the relative coolness of Lone Pine. It was literally like stepping into an oven.

I also discovered that the Badwater goes right through Lone Pine, the location of my annual Wild Wild West run.

In the film, one of the organizers goes around and talks to the participants and I discover that I had seen him before at Lone Pine. In fact, I recognized his Badwater shirt at the race bag pick up and took a few pics of him. I never even knew that some day our paths would cross again.

The documentary follows a few runners through the race and tells their story. I was enthralled with the human drama. The New Yorker who was a happy go-lucky guy until he started unweaving and letting his New York attitude peek through. He was rather upset that his crew had left to get soup in Lone Pine and went ballistic on them when they returned much later than he expected. But in the end, he gave the most poignant moment of the movie. After finishing the race in the dark, he sat down with his glasses on a little skewed and a look of utter shock, fatigue, and disorientation. Trying to choke back the tears he said “The ending has to be the most difficult 12 miles of any race. It was just brutal.”

They showed guys vomiting on the run which I found more courageous than I can describe. His crew wanted him to stop but he just kept going as they constantly reminded him to slow down because he was going too fast. He came in second.

Then there was the Marine Major who seemed to be a shoe-in for the finish line but around 70 miles, his body started shutting down. Vomiting, cramps, and finally, his digestive system stopped. Since he couldn’t process any more liquid, they had to take him to a hotel and administer an IV and thus disqualifying him from the race.

I cannot imagine how hard this would have been for a Marine Major with a crew of his Marines, to have to admit defeat. He obviously had the mental part licked which is the hardest part. It was the body that gave up.

He did not pack up and go home. He came back the next morning and helped a British lady who was still in the race but just barely. She had spent everything she had just to get there and camped out for weeks, not able to afford a hotel room. Her training methods were primitive because she didn’t have access to much coaching or state of the art equipment. Her one-man crew was basically a volunteer that didn’t know a lot about what she needed but was doing the best he could.

So the Marines jumped in and gave her all the motivation and expertise she needed to continue.

She finished the race with a collection of Marines cheering her on. They did not go home after the Major went down. They went back and made sure another runner who needed them, made it to the finish line. The documentary thought this was unusual and in a way I guess it was. But not unexpected if you know Marines.

The Major has since finished the race a few times. In fact, he just got back from Iraq where he was deployed to during the 2004 race. So he decided to run the race in Iraq, in a flak jacket, dodging weapons of war on the way. He did it in 36 hours.

That British lady took care of her own blisters and they had a close up of her popping a couple on her toes. They shot fluid like a geyser, over and over. It was a graphic look at what the road does to the body.

One guy had his toenails surgically removed because he kept getting painful blisters formed underneath them. Now his toes were just fleshy extensions and looked rather disturbing.

A reporter ran it because his brother, a runner, committed suicide and this was a way for him to understand his brother and try to figure out what was going on in his head. He was going to write about it and before he began the training, he had never even run a half-marathon. (The Badwater is 135 miles). He wrote a book about this and I plan on getting it and reading every page.

I assume the book, like the movie, will highlight something that draws me to this race above all else. The race is an internal journey. Like a sensory deprivation tank, it forces you to analyze yourself and get to know all those dark spaces we don’t like to look into. Yes, there is a physical challenge and unspeakable training required but in the end, it’s a challenge to approach, find, and run with that distilled essence of who I really am. I plan to find Jason. The real Jason. And I have no idea what he’ll be like.

Free Advice for Today:
Never loan your chain saw, your ball glove, or your favorite book."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Saturday, September 4, 2004

Quote of the Day:

Longshanks: Bring me Wallace. Alive if possible, dead... just as good.

- Dialogue from "Braveheart"

One of the benefits of getting home early was we were able to spring Buster from the joint a few days earlier. Not that he realized it or anything. All he knew is that we were there to get him and that was enough.

As happy as Buster was with his reunion, I felt the opposite about a different type of reunion between me and some kind of flu bug or cold virus or Black Plague thing. Whatever it was, it knocked me clean off of my feet for the rest of the day so unless you want to hear about purple giraffes or 4-headed trombones, I don’t think delirium is much to read about.

So I’ll just leave you with the cover to the Badwater documentary that came in the mail.

40 people
135 miles
125 degree heat
Harsh winds
Sandstorms
Dust
Dehydration
Burn
H allucination
Pain
Run
Walk
Crawl
Stumble
Climb
Sit
Vomit
Nap
Run
Stop
Don’t stop
Ever
Keep going
Persevere
Win
Push
Cramp
Blisters
Heat stroke
Heat
Wind
Sand
Run
Trip
Fall
Crawl
Push
Finish
Just finish
Fainting
Falling
All this for a lousy belt buckle
I think I’ll do this again next year

Free Advice for Today:
Never let the odds keep you from pursuing what you know in your heart you were meant to do."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Friday, September 3, 2004

Quote of the Day:

Robert's Father: Longshanks acquired Wallace. So did our nobles. That was the price of your crown.
Robert the Bruce: DIE. I want you to die.

- Dialogue from "Braveheart"

Here was the thought: we are going to be in gridlock hell all morning on I 95. The radio yesterday said that it was going to be the largest evacuation in Florida history with 2.1 million people leaving on Friday. And we were going to be one more trying to get out of Hurricane Frances’ path. But we were going home so it was my thought that everyone should just get the hell out of the way and let me by.

I assumed they would see things differently.

The trip was eventful just in the fact that we were allowed to leave practically unimpeded. Because the storm slowed down overnight and that gave residents a little more time to board up the houses that were about to be blown over anyway, they put off getting the hell out of the path for a few hours, allowing us to be on the tip of the wave.

Also, since no one was going to work, the freeway was deserted and we cranked the Saturn just about as fast as the gerbils would run.

We made it home after a long day and went to bed, content to be sleeping in our own California King.

Frances, hit it, Sweetheart.

Free Advice for Today:
Pay as much attention to the things that are working positively in your life as you do to those that are giving you trouble."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Thursday, September 2, 2004

Quote of the Day:

Robert the Bruce: Now, I know you've sacrificed much. But fighting these odds looks like rage, not courage.
William Wallace: It's well beyond rage. Help me. For Christ's sake, help yourselves. If we join, we can win. If we win, well then we'll have what none of us has ever had before: a country of our own.

- Dialogue from "Braveheart"

Today was chaos. And reporting from Orlando while looking into the teeth of a hurricane, I must, and will, qualify that assessment.

The wedding got moved to today. So let’s recap: Hurricane Charlie destroyed the original church so they had to scramble to find another church. When they did that, the next hurricane stepped up to the plate and make them move the wedding from Saturday to Friday. Now it accelerated and they had to move the wedding from Friday to Thursday. Forget the extra day at Disney World, the rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner, men’s golf morning, etc. It was simply a quick run-through in the early afternoon and the wedding afterwards.

The first order of business was getting my haircut. The bride’s mother found one near the church (about an hour away) and because I’m the center of the Universe and the whole daughter getting married and plans changing by the minute thing didn’t phase me, I kept insisting on calling the mother for a variety of situations.

Leaving the Walt Disney planet, Carrie mentioned we should get gas but as we pulled in to the station just outside the resort, there were about 4 cars at each pump and my predictable reaction was “Gee, I might not be willing to wait for these fine upstanding citizens to gas up.”

That was the thought but somewhere between the brain and the mouth, it was mysteriously translated into something a bit more to the point is disparaging.

So we moved along and got into the area where we pulled into a gas station that had no cars waiting. Cool

All the pumps had bags over them. “Gee, they must be out of gas or something is wrong with the pumps. I don’t think I’ll be patronizing this fine establishment.”

Translation…. (removed due to graphic nature)

We tried this again at another gas station and then another, all with the same results. We then put the gas quest on hold and found the barber shop and went inside. I was happy to see that it looked more like a barber shop that a beauty salon and that it was busy. The only free barber was a woman with a cigarette in one hand and a phone in the other.

“I’ll be with you in a moment, hon.”
“Who can do a military cut?”

“All of us” as she turned around and continued to talk on the phone.

When she was done, I sat in her chair and she asked me how I wanted it done.

“Starting at zero and faded up the sides and back, please.”
“What do you start with here… about a 1?”

I knew that she was referring to the attachment on the electric razor but I had no idea and wanted to say “you’re the barber, not me. Use what you use…” But these things must be handled delicately lest I get the embarrassing attempt at a military haircut signified by an abrupt line between skin and hair.

Then the complaining started. Hers, not mine.

I understand people are freaking out and that the second killer hurricane in a month is bearing down but because I’m the selfish bastard that I am, I don't want to hear about it constantly. The barber could not stop telling me about how destroyed her mobile home is going to be. She stopped every 5 seconds to watch the television and then even took a call while I waited ever so impatiently.

You live in Florida. It’s hurricane season. You know it’s coming. You rolled the dice and now the snake eyes are coming and although I’m bleedin’ purple Kool-Aid for ya, I’ve had about enough of it in my own little sphere of existence that is my life.

When the haircut was over, it was a decent job. I was just glad it wasn’t a disaster and my measurement scale consisted of just good enough to avoid total embarrassment.

We got out of there to continue our quest for gas after the barber told me that all of the gas stations in the area were drained. This again sparked a selfish moment of anger. My mood changed to the tune of calling these people idiot-reactionists who freak out and justify everything by evoking the concept of the impending hurricane.

We drove and drove and drove, draining our already low level of gas. We were on empty but the light had not come on so that was a single feather of comfort. But the realization hit me that we could get caught in the area, out of gas, and unable to leave just because every moron in the area has a full tank of gas and 10 one-gallon containers full of gas sitting in their garage.

We did the only logical step: called the mother of the bride. Heck, they had nothing going on.

They gave us terminal guidance to their house and we pulled up to meet perfect strangers. Over the phone, they told us they had some gas so they could help us out if the situation became desperate. We were only there for a few minutes before Rob and I went for another quest for gas. It was good to talk ot him again and we found a 7-11 that had about 5 cars backed up. By this time, my warning light was on and I just prayed that they wouldn’t run out before we got through the line.

I never thought that filling up a car full of gas would feel like winning the lottery. It was like I had just accomplished the most unlikely goal and felt weird, feeling good about it.

Getting back to the house, I got a chance to talk to the best man who was Rob’s roommate during medical school. I had met him three years ago and the best way to describe him is that he looks and acts just like Ben Stiller. He’s a great guy, quirky personality and all, and leaves you feeling like you’ve met one of those truly original people in life.

So we got gas and a haircut but we were not out of the woods yet. I know everyone in the wedding had things they had to get done and the greater population was freaking out about the hurricane but the Grose family had more missions to accomplish to bring the day together.

I needed a shower. I wasn’t about to put on my blues after a haircut without rinsing off. It would just be torture. We also needed to eat so we stopped at the easiest place possible to knock this out and to the kids’ glee, it was McDonalds that we chose. Oh, the horror.

We got there and I thought, OK, just something to get in the gut so my stomach lining doesn’t dissolve. That should be made into a testimonial in a McDonald’s commercial: McDonalds, it’ll prevent your stomach acid from dissolving your stomach lining.

We got out only to find that the door was locked. A sign on the door said “Drive Thru only” (yes, they spelled “through” like that. Tip o’ the hat to the Florida educational system.).

Can someone possibly explain to me why an impending hurricane would require a McDonald’s to suspend their restaurant operations in the middle of the day? Don’t give me the lack of workers routine because most of the time they don’t have enough people to man the drive through and the restaurant anyway.

It was just another opportunity for them to use the impending disaster but for no apparent reason.

“Only use the drive through today.”
“Why?”
“Because of the hurricane, of course.”

We got our food, drove to the church, and ate in the car. By the time we were done, I got out of the car and discovered we were the only ones that took the 2:30 show up time seriously. People dribbled in and we got set up for the rehearsal.

The groomsmen did what they were supposed to. The golden rule for guys at weddings is that if it has ovaries and tells you to do something, just do it. The other universal constant we followed is that all men in this situation must make as many jokes as possible about the surrounding chaos as possible. And the more lewd, the better.

So was the case between me, Rob’s brother Fred, and the best man, Roly.

Among the topics of choice, one memorable one was the bridesmaids. Originally, the order was set and the way we were briefed about it neglected the fact that one of the brothers would not be showing up and that one of the bridesmaids was missing. So when we practiced, I was not paired with who I was told I would be escorting. In fact, I was escorting the uncle of the bride who stood in for the missing bridesmaid.

The other piece to this story is that we were told that the missing bridesmaid was this tall, beautiful blond college girl. Of course, this caused all kinds of speculation and conversation from the Jackass Brigade. Fred was originally going to paired with her which made sense because Fred stands well above 6 feet. But this caused no end to his boasting because he’s, you know, male.

After practice, chaos ensued and the result was that I would take Roly to his hotel room, get him checked in, use his shower, and get back for pictures.

We set off, only having the vaguest idea of where this hotel was and so the situation quickly emerged where you have a doctor and a Marine Captain, neither of which are from the area, driving around a freaked-out general population looking for a hotel we have no idea where it’s located. Roly got on his cell and after talking to a number of less-than-helpful people, finally figured out we were going in the right direction, just not far enough.

We got there and it had to look like two gay men checking into a hotel. Maybe it didn’t help that we were talking about taking showers and hurrying back to the church to get dressed.

It took longer to get there than we thought. We took longer in the room than we expected. This prompted a call from the groom asking when we were going to grace them with our presence.

We made it back to the church and everyone had something to do but us. I got changed over into my uniform and we waited in the groom's room for what seemed like hours. It was OK, though because it was my best, and last, opportunity to talk with Rob. It was good to reconnect with my old friend.

When we were in there, there was a newspaper reporter who caught wind of the wedding. This seemed to be a local interest thing and a potential feel-good story because life goes on even in the face of certain disaster in the form of Hurricane Frances.

She interviewed all of us and despite my explanation of why I had made the trip and our history together, none of it made it into the article. Here is what she wrote.

As we waited, we passed the time talking amongst ourselves and Roly and Fred traded opportunities to relay dirty jokes to the priest and Fred pointing out his superior status by being paired up with Blondie.

The wedding began and we marched out into the sanctuary and it became evident that Fred was not paired up with her but I had drawn that coveted straw among the groomsmen. This caused no end to my chuckling since Fred had spewed forth so much adolescent bragging. And things just got better when we came out and saw her for the first time, towering over the other bridesmaids, looking like a living Barbie Doll.

I was a gentleman and only cracked a few dozen jokes in Fred’s ear during the ceremony. My goal was to make him laugh and I almost succeeded a few times but had to settle with making him restrain himself throughout the whole event. The only small consolation he got was at the end of the ceremony when I stepped up to escort her out of the church, she stood about 3 inches taller than me. I jokingly introduced myself to her at the end, seeing how this was the first time we had actually met. If I had a spine, I would have insisted on introducing her to Fred just for the look.

The bride was glowing, of course. A taller than average beauty for Rob’s historic tastes, she entered the sanctuary a vision in white. The groom was very happy. It had all come together and they were ready to start their lives together despite the insanity going on around them. Seems like a perfect metaphor for life between a doctor and a nurse but then again, when is a wedding NOT a stress-filled collection of small crises chained end to end?

After the ceremony, we went to the reception which was in the room originally intended for the rehearsal dinner. The country club had backed out (because of the hurricane, of course) for the reception so they threw together a room at the church. It came out very beautiful and the effort it took to pull it off was a statement in itself about the families these two people now shared.

My uniform fit well except for the collar. It was pretty much like a monkey on my back, squeezing my neck but I had fun seeing all the people having a good time. There was a DJ and people danced. And when I say people, I mean everyone but me. OK, I did dance the slow dances and even a couple of times with Stephanie but the combination of Dress Blues and fast dancing, well, that concept just doesn’t exist for me.

But we had a good time and got a chance to spend just a little more time with the newlyweds before they were whisked away in a rented Hummer. This also gave us the last opportunity for adolescent jokes since the driver looked exactly like Ron Jeremy. Fred and I were all over that one at first sight.

The happy couple left and we bid our goodbyes, driving back to Shades of Green and getting ready to get the hell out of Florida first thing in the morning. I had done what I came to do but now that it was over, Hurricane Frances…. It’s all yours.

Free Advice for Today:
Be decisive even if it means you'll sometimes be wrong."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Quote of the Day:

Princess Isabelle: I've come to beg for the life of William Wallace.
Prince Edward: [scoffs] You're quite taken with him, aren't you?

- Dialogue from "Braveheart"

This morning was our family day to visit the Magical World of Walt Disney World and I learned so much about old Walt that by the end of the day, I wanted to vomit little Micky Mice all over the Small World, after all.

The day started on a humorous note when we were sitting on the bus that took us from the back 40 of the resort sector to the main square 150 miles of the MGM theme park. As we sat there waiting to depart, a full grown man walked up to the bus driver and with all the seriousness he could muster, asked the following question:

“Is this the bus to the Magic Kingdom?”

In context, this is a perfectly legitimate question here. But the fact that it was legitimately asked by a full grown man to another full grown man gave me no end of humorous thoughts. I imagined the same question uttered in New York where the guy would garner the coveted “Beatin’ of da Week” title for the very same question.

When we got to the MGM Park, the kids wasted no time and dragged us to the not-so-coded name of the most sought after attraction: The Tower of Terror.

We got through the line rather quickly and were strapped in the ride that consisted of a bucket-type seating arrangement with about 4 rows. It took us through this lame Twilight-Zone themed story about a haunted elevator we were supposedly on and then hoisted us up to see a hotel corridor with ghosts (that looked too darn real, thank you very much). It then took us up one floor and kicked us out across the floor to another shaft but this one was in pitch black.

Cue the terror.

We shot up very quickly. How quickly? Let’s use my esophagus sharing rent with my anus as a basic metric.

Then a window in front of us opened up and we could see we were real high. The view was short-lived though because right as we realized we could see, we dropped like the proverbial stone. Now, my anus returned the favor and paid a visit to my throat zone before continuing on to the cerebellum area.

This little trip through paradise repeated itself until my organs resembled a Frutopia shake. For some reason, a selling point to this ride is that it’s never the same ride twice and I assume it rises and falls randomly. How special.

OK, I had lost what little dignity I had by making a death mask when my intestines were playing Roulette but it was dark and we were all facing the same way. No harm, no foul.

On the way out, there was a foul.

Unbeknownst to me, they snap a picture during the initial ascent. You know, the one where the ride tries its darnedest to ram itself clear us your ass. Yeah, that one. So as you can imagine, the picture was not one I was going to use on my Christmas card. But at least in showed complimentary muscle striations in my forearms as I gripped the front of the ride. The fact that my neck showed the same texture and all my teeth were bared kind of offset the positive aspects but who would notice when my eyes had the look of stark terror to take your attention off my straining facial contortions?

After escaping, I mean exiting the ride (into the gift shop as they ALWAYS do as a not-so-subtle marketing gimmick) I vowed never to go on the ride if I lived to be Strom Thurmond old.

Five minutes later we were stepping into the car once again. Carrie, my intrepid wife, was unphased by our ploy to minimize the drops involved and would not join us once again. So there I was, for the second time, and for a second time, I looked on in horror at the scared wuss that was photographed despite knowing what was coming.

OK, enough of that crap, it was time to go on another ride. Next up: the Rockin’ Rollercoaster which was an Aerosmith-based theme where they would have you believe that the band got you backstage passes to their show but you were clear across town as the show was about to begin. The simple answer to the problem: hyperspeed trip in a “limousine.”

So I’m sitting there wondering what this is going to be like and knew it wasn’t a good sign that they had the pull-down restraints system made of hard plastic with your head sticking out and the sides coming down over your shoulders, latching a little to close to the tender vittles.

Then I heard the countdown in that rock and roll screech perfected by Steven Tyler.

“Are you ready?”

Do I have a choice? (in the same voice).

4-3-2-….

I never heard “1.”

The natural order of my universe went from reality to crapility in about .06 nanoseconds. The ride took off and I mean this in every sense of the word. We accelerated like an atom destined to crack apart into quarks. I think if you could have frozen time for just a moment, you would have seen my clothes, perfectly formed, still at the start and a buck-naked version of me screaming into pitch black.

That’s the last coherent thing I remember. The rest was a nightmare told my an insane loon. I remember it was a totally enclosed roller coaster, that we did a couple of loop-de-loops and a cork screw. Oh yeah, and I questioned my will to live.

When we came screeching to a halt (and I continued the screeching with my shrill terror-voice), I started laughing. Why? Oh, I don’t know, it just seemed like the thing to do and for the next few minutes, it was the only thing I COULD do.

The kids thought it was great. I’m attending therapy twice a week.

So after that was over, we did the next logical step.

“Let’s go on it again, Dad.”

“OK” I mumbled weakly as they led me by the hand and wiped the drool from my chin.

It was time to slow things down so we went on the Great Movie Ride. That’s their name for it. For me, it was the Great Big Cheesy Movie Ride with Scary Animatronic Nightmarescapes.

We had the annoying guide who was replaced with a gangster (the Bugsy Malone type, not the Snoop Doggy Dog type which, come to think of it, would be much scarier) halfway through and he spoke with that stereotypical New York gangster accent. It kind of lost its theme when he started going through the Aliens display and then the Wizard of Oz. Once we got there, it go real scary because all these little mechanical dwarves kept popping up and I think I let a small scream escape. I don’t do well around small people. Big hands.

We got through the ride and it was on to the next visit to parent Hell: the Honey I shrunk the Kids play area.

I don’t know if these were really some of the props used for the movie but it really didn’t matter. It was a place where kids can run around and yell their kid heads off while parents attempt to salvage a shred of a lucid moment.

One of the problems that amused me was that it was so sticky-hot that the kids, in their attempt to slide down the metal slides, ended up sticking halfway down when their bare skin spot-welded to the slide. They would get going and then “eeek” like a squealing car tire. Next would come the tears as they realize they aren’t gong anywhere.

Hey, a guy has to get his laughs where he can.

Next came the back lot tour. I don’t want to say that Disney World gets second rate, B-movie paraphernalia but … Disney World gets second rate, B-movie paraphernalia. They had some cars from movies I never saw but I have to give them kudos for the Indiana Jones motorcycles though. And… that’s about it.

Lunchtime, or better known as “Let’s see how many Wonderful World of Dollars Disney can suck out of my wallet for a smattering of junk food disguised as food."

I had noodles and veggies. The rest of the families had burgers. The total cost? I did not ask because I have an agreement with my wife. She uses our money to pay for food and the less I know about these transactions, the better I feel. I literally have to walk away in these situations and that’s what I did to find a table and watch a continuous cycle of cheesy Disney previews on the televisions stationed all over the eating area. At least it was air conditioned so I could, you know, breath.

After eating the monetary equivalent to Taiwan’s GNP, our next adventure was the Indiana Jones stunt show. OK, it was cool, I’ll give it that. It was bigger than life, theatrical, but still a bit cheesy like most of these kind of stunt shows. And what’s an Indiana Jones theme without the big boulder almost crushing Indy? Yes, they had that and then this weird stunt thing with an old-looking propeller plane. But the best part was the stunt women who really knew how to throw a realistic punch and the men who reacted rather dramatically.

The theater was outside so the heat was once again getting the better of me. If I’m running, I can deal with it. If I’m amusement parking, I can’t handle the mugginess before I start lopping heads off. So to escape, we took a stroll through the memorabilia section whose theme was villains in the movies. It was here that I saw my most memorable vision of the entire day.

Darth Vader: the suit. Yes, folks, it was the actual costume they used in the movie and despite it being enclosed in glass, that did not stop me from snapping about a thousand pictures of it, most resulting in a blinding flash of reflected light. I vowed to crush those responsible with my fist clutching mid air while I hummed the Darth Vader song.

People stayed at least arms distance away from me.

What came next can only be justified because of two things: it was air-conditioned and we were sitting down. Other than that, the Drew Carey Sound Experience was a painful reminder that bad acting can be faithfully reproduced on a movie theme ride. I don’t even want to go into it but most of it was in the dark and they did a lame job in trying to incorporate sound effects into the story line.

It had been a few minutes since we donated some cash to the Disney monster and it was evident that it really needed it. So the answer was ice cream to the tune of $2.50 a pop. I didn’t care at this point. Just let the money fly out of my wallet and let me wallow in my poverty.

I got the chocolate shell covered Mickey mouse shaped ice cream on a stick. I was so happy. I was a kid again and shamelessly bit and slurped the treat with fervor. It was almost worth the price and as this though entered my head, the back half of the chocolate shell cracked and slid off the bar. As if in slow motion, I jabbed my hand out to catch the sheet of chocolate only to miss it by centimeters and it crashed to the ground, joining my mood in shattering into a thousand pieces.

(Sing-songy) “You dropped your ice cream…”

Despite being in Disney World with children about, my very un-Disney response was a clipped but clear utterance of a word I won’t repeat in this blog. It was one word. And it covered the situation completely.

It seemed that I could control the weather because right after this happened, the clouds rolled in and then the lightning. Next came the thunder and the rain. It was so funny because we were walking past the Star Wars exhibit and it was playing the evil Darth Vader music as the weather turned ugly extremely fast. It was almost as if it was on cue.

Continuing with the ominous theme, I got a call from Rob. It seems that Hurricane Frances took a turn and was heading right for Florida. Where, exactly, you ask? The Florida part of Florida. It was the size of Texas and on a collision course with the sunshine state which was still recovering from Hurricane Charlie from a couple of weeks ago.

The wedding was moved from Saturday to Friday and the bride was in total meltdown mode. Everything was getting moved around and I told him just to keep me informed and we’d work with whatever happened.

I was about ready to go. I had about all the fun a human could possibly eek out of the most magical place on earth and I wanted to get back to my magical hotel room and take a magical nap. But Carrie had promised to take Steph on the Little Mermaid ride and no one was going nowhere until that happened, or experience the wrath of a jilted 10-year-old girl.

So Alex and I did the logical thing: we went to the Rock & Roller Coaster and Terror Tower one last time. You know, just for the pictures of me donating my dignity.

During the Tower of Terror, we were put in a car that had a severely disabled man who had to be helped. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a real good idea. I mean not to discount his need to have fun but jolting thrusts up and down to a man without the most basic control of his own body in the first place, I don’t know. It just didn’t seem right. But hey, his family was there and I assume he agreed to the experience. But what if he didn’t? That would really suck.

Anyway, we finally had enough rain for the day and headed for home. Getting back was not as easy thanks to the shuttle bus we waited for in the rain, trying to make lemonade out of human waste. When we got back, it was time for a little rest but first I needed to find a haircut, or at least somewhere I could go to tomorrow.

Sounds easy, huh? (snickering laugh).

Guest services. Pretty self-explanatory, if you ask me. But this was not what it seemed to be. First, we got the inept new girl who couldn’t find the red crayon in a new box. She flipped through multiple folders, none of which had even the closest lead to a barber but if I wanted processed Plutonium, I would probably be able to get it.

She called around to a few places but they were salons and the price was anywhere from $17 to $30. On top of that, they weren’t all that sure they could do a military cut. I was not about to don my blues with a week and a half old haircut but the prospect of showing up with a jacked up head that looked like an animal died on it was not that attractive either.

After 20 minutes of fruitless searching, this “Guest Servicer” unceremoniously passed us off to the other employee at the next desk, making her exit claiming to have to relieve someone from something. We were left in front of an empty desk so with little else to do, we got up, and moved over to the other two chairs in front of the other lady who was currently on the phone.

A few minutes later which was about ½ hour into the entire “looking for a barber” fiasco, she started the routine all over again and came up with the exact same results. The final slap was when she told us to come back at 0730 tomorrow morning to talk with the other helper who’s been doing this for 20 years. Once again, I knew the cosmic conspiracy to deny me basic customer service was at work.

To shed all of this like a snake does his skin, I went to the room and took a nap before attacking the treadmill to the tune of 6 miles. I used to love running on treadmills in 29 Palms but now it’s akin to having a root canal. This one had a little TV set hooked up to it so I got to enjoy The Simpsons and you would think that would make things go easier but it ends up it was just watching The Simpsons while vividly aware I was running in place.

Free Advice for Today:
Never put a candy dish next to the phone."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


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