Jason's BLOG pages

 
 

 


Jason Grose's BLOG

October 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.


Sunday, October 31, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"It is generally inadvisable to eject directly over the area you just bombed."

- Unknown

2004 Marine Corps Marathon

Today, I am a runner; a marathoner.

It doesn’t matter what I have been in the past, the training I did or did not do, the gains I accomplished or failed to. The simple fact remains that today, the second hand sweeps the 12 and I am standing at the start line. Me against the road and the clock.

That was the mindset I awoke with today. If I could have snapped my fingers and been at the line, I would have not only had a really scary and cool ability, I would have been a lot better off.

You see, the time between waking up the morning of a marathon and getting to that start line is often as stressful as stressful gets. Today was no different.

I really tried to get everything ready the night before and set both the alarm clock and my watch. Unlike most races, I slept rather well and felt fully awake when the time came. Another advantage I had was the time change which had the potential to bump up the suckage from the get go (Actually, it was “Fall back” so the worst that could have happened is us showing up an hour early. Suck? Yeah, but better than showing up an hour late).

It was one of my better moments when I both

  • remembered to reset the clocks and
  • enjoyed an extra hour of sleep.

I had bypassed the total idiot label from the first moments into the day. Way to go, Jason!!!

This served to cheer me up until we got to the metro station. Then I fell headlong into my “Don’t Even Think About Looking At Me” mood. Alias: Jason on Race Day.

Sir Phil, on the other hand, bloomed as Mr. Congeniality. I found a seat alone while Sir Phil decided to chat with some people who, because I could hear their damn ramblings (remember my mood) from the other side of the metro car, happened to be volunteers bound to hand out cookies along the route.

This interested me to the same degree as belly-button lint.

I was brooding as time went by and by the second stop, Sir Phil had figured out that the car would fill up so he decided to take the seat next to me rather than both of us being subjected to strangers. So there we sat, next to each other without any words being spoken. I WAS Running-Jason. Beware of dog.

It was about this time that the Banter-King made his appearance. He materializes in different form at each race but rest assured, he always shows up. This day’s incarnation was a man who thought it his responsibility to share with the crowd at large every idiotic thought that entered his undercharged excuse of a brain. He followed every remark up with a nervous little laugh that sounded astonishingly like the sound of my personalized cue to beat a person’s head to a gelatin pulp.

It was strange to be on a metro train full, and I mean full to the gills, with marathoners. We were all dressed up in our myriad of different running apparel, all twisted up inside as the start time loomed in the painfully near future, and knowing the piper was out there wanting his payment.

The train was packed and when we got to our stop, we all expanded out of the confined space to end up with thousands upon thousands of other runners. The good news is that the race had not started. The bad news was that fact was about to end in 45 minutes.

Plenty of time, you say? Well, stop talking, then.

We had no idea where anything was and there were people everywhere. In this short span of time, I had to find a bathroom, find the bag drop area, lube myself up, stretch, get to the start line, and get my head in the game. And not kill myself or anyone in the process. That would be good but, you know, optional.

We bolted off in a random direction, unable to just follow the crowd because everyone was going everywhere, seemingly in different directions. We found a Lance Corporal and asked him a very simple question any Marine working the race should know:

“If a train left Boston traveling East going….”

Just kidding, the question was “Where is the bag drop?”

He pointed us in a direction and that’s the direction Sir Phil and I raced off to. Silly officers.

About 10 minutes later, it became evident that the Lance Corporal had a cranial-rectal inversion problem.

Doing the quick math, I had burned 10 minutes. It would cost me another 10 minutes to get back to the original spot of retardation, and then with 25 minutes left, I would be exactly where I was before: without a clue of the exact location of the bag drop.

Stress level shot way off the charts. This is not really what I needed as I was trying to calm down to run 26.2 miles. In fact, this was exactly opposite of what I needed.

We power walked and located the general direction of the bag drop. It seems me and about 1000 of my closest friends had the same thought because we got swallowed up in the crowd which ground to a standstill at a chokepoint somewhere near the start line, despite being at the side of the path.

We were being bumped around like two idiots at a punk rock concert when, quite unceremoniously, we bumbled out of the crowd into a clearing. Happy to find so much open space, I happily thanked the Almighty. It was about this point that I discovered we were dead center at the start line and the reason that it was clear was because they had cleared off all the spectators FOR THE BEGINNING OF THE RACE!!!!

So there we are, Sir Phil and I, standing about 20 feet in front of a few thousand people who were just about to bolt in our direction. I stared at the crowd with dinner plates for eyes. If I would have had a little umbrella, I would hold it over my head and utter “Mother” in a soft little voice.

“Hey! You’ll have to clear the area!!!” yelled a young Corporal who would have cared little even if I identified myself as a Captain and Sir Phil as a Major.

“Where do we go to drop our bags?”

“You can’t go through here. Go that way.”

So we did but were stopped by a Captain who told us to go back the other way.

We played this little game but I was getting irate. I went back to the Corporal who once again told us we could not get through. He once again told us to go back and I told him the Captain told us to go through here and if we went to him again, we would just be told to return here.

“In that case, you’ll have to backtrack all the way that way….” As he pointed with his walkie-talkie, tracing a route that would take us at least ½ hour and put us behind the crowd that was still trying to get to the bag drop.

I had officially had enough. I know because my official vein was officially popping out of my forehead.

I decided to pull my weak patronis and evoke my rank, as useful as it could be. I walked back over to the Captain ready to unleash when all of the sudden, I realized I knew the Captain. I don’t know why I didn’t recognize him before but I had worked with him in the course of my daily job of implementing our computer system. He was my main point of contact at Officers Candidate School.

Walking up to him, he had that look like, “No way, dude, I told you…”

But I headed off the confrontation by taking off my hat and saying, “Hey, it’s me, Jason. You know, Captain Grose.”

Instantly, recognition spread over his face and he smiled, reaching out his free hand to shake mine and apologizing for not recognizing me before.

“Listen, man, I got a real big problem, this cork is about to pop and I still have to get this bag to the drop and in line for the race. Can you help me out?”

“Sure, follow me.”

He ushered us over to the opening in the fence and the Corporal, maintaining his post, gave me the “I told you, you can’t go here” look until he saw the Captain ushering me. He was in mid-wave off as I followed when yet another really surreal moment of my life transpired.

I looked to my right just before going through the opening and what do I see? An elderly man walking two dogs right there in the open area, coming right at me. He looked oddly familiar and in a flash, I recognized who it was.

General Al Gray, former Commandant of the Marine Corps who was my first Commandant when I entered the Corps in 1987.

He was looking rather ancient by now and this legendary warrior, known for his Klingon-like spirit of leadership, was walking to my surprise, two oversized poodle-looking dogs.

I was frozen to the spot and only had a moment to decide what to do. I was in “no-man’s land” and was expected to exit via an escorted route I was ever-so-lucky to even have the opportunity to have. But how many chances do you get?

Just then, he was close enough to say something to and at the same time, the leash on his right hand slipped. His left hand went to catch it but it accidentally slid over his hand and looped onto his left arm, freeing his right hand.

Seeing this, I thrust out my right hand and announced, “Good morning, General Gray!!!”

He seemed a bit flustered and I could FEEL everyone around me tense because I wasn’t supposed to even be there. But he grabbed my hand and shook it more vigorously than I expected for a man of his age.

I caught the Captain’s eye and he had the “Get the hell through the gate” look in his eye so I turned to the General and said with a smile “Well, Sir, I’d love to stand here and chat but I got this race to win.

He smiled and wished me luck and as I walked past the Corporal who had denied me passage and had no clue who I was, I said, “Good morning, Corporal. Captain Grose.”

I was still horribly late and a long way from the drop off. While we had cut off a large section of the crowd, we once again found ourselves in snarled traffic. We were weaving in and out of the crowd and alas, I lost Sir Phil for the last time. Normally, I wait until the race starts but I guess I was in a hurry to move things along this year.

By the time I made it to the bag drop, I was already feeling the effects of stress and fatigue. I quickly rummaged through and grabbed my racing items and the Vaseline. Right in front of everyone, I applied a generous amount to my nether-regions. I was a bit miffed that they made me dump all of the contents of my bag (a bag especially designed to be a drop bag) into a clear, less sturdy bag. Putting a good bag in a chincy bag. Hmmmm.

I didn’t have time to argue though so I did it. But it provided another small shot of bad taste in my mouth. This was not going well and it hadn’t even started.

Ready to go, I got back into the flow of people heading back toward the starting line. I was amazed that there were so many people late and heading toward the start when the race was just about to begin. And I seemed to be the only one stressing about this fact. I just wanted to kill one, just one, so the rest could see…and know.

I resigned myself to the fact that I would get there when I got there and since I was wearing a chip, my time would be properly recorded from start to finish.

Just as this thought crossed my scrambling mind, the cannon went off and I heard the announcer say “And the chair racers are off!!!”

It seems they let the wheel chairs go five minutes before the runners. Which meant…I COULD MAKE IT TO THE START ON TIME!!!!!

As I’m baby-stepping in the crowd, I look to my right and see a start chute. It was roped off but just by a thin rope. Why wasn’t anyone ducking in there when the race was just about to start?

Hell, screw these people, I’m not going to let a little rope stop me from ducking into the crowd.

I did, mingled in the crowd, and stood there stunned that I was the only person in that big long, slow-moving line that thought of this. To the audacious go the spoils?

Now I get to discover the answer to the question, “Why wasn’t anyone ducking in there when the race was just about to start?”

Turns out there are a couple of answers to this:

1. The chute was about 100 yards from the start line
2. It was the “Finishing in about 3 hours” chute.

So, there I was, hoping to break the 4 hour barrier, in the company of gazelles.

Ohhhh, so THAT’S why no one was ducking under the rope. OK, I see….

BOOM!!!!

Remember those scenes in the Star Trek movies where the Enterprise would jump to warp speed and it would like elongate and blur?

That was everyone but me.

Remember those scenes in the Star Trek movies where the dumb bastard gets trampled by a thousand stick people? Me either but that’s what I was facing.

Supposedly, there was another treat for me at the beginning. R. Lee Ermey was advertised to start the race but I never saw or heard him. I was too busy doing that survival, run for my life thing. How I could be so careless is a mystery.

I ran the first 3 miles at about a 7 minute pace. And I was being passed like a bad plate of ribs. Plus, I was soaking wet which didn’t peg out my happy meter. I thought I was losing too much liquid too fast and I had not really hydrated like I wanted to this morning as a result of rushing to get to the start line. Bad planning and bad execution. So now that I was dumping water out of my pores like the legendary lady of the night in a sanctuary, I worried that I would run a deficit very early on in the race.

My sunglasses kept getting crooked. I knew the reason why and it was because they didn’t have much life left in them. The small screw that held one of the arms on was sheered so that the arm was being held on only by the click-in plastic construction of the frame. It was not enough to stay aligned but enough to stay together.

As I ran for my life, I constantly adjusted these warriors of the sunglass world. They had been with me on countless runs and I knew this race was their swan song.

They were actually my third pair of the same sunglasses and the only pair I had ever actually kept long enough to wear out. The second pair I bought was in Monterey and I left them in a classroom, only to return minutes later. But they never showed back up and I was miffed. That day, I drove to the Sunglass Hut and bought the exact same pair, and swore I'd severely beat the person I caught wearing them around NPS. "Where did you get those glasses..<sucker punch>..."

"Oh, they're yours...no hard feelings, right Professor?"

Over many. Many training miles and marathons, I wore these Nike sunglasses. I’m sentimental about these things and I wanted a fond farewell to them in the form of this last race. So it was with a certain amount of pride that I wore them and about 5 minutes into the race, I reached up to adjust these beloved spectacles…. and the no good piece of crap bastards broke on me!!!!

Son-of-a……!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK, now I’m sunglassless on the race. In the bag they went and I was to live on without them.

I finally noticed something about the Marine Corps Marathon. What you hear the most from people who had run it was the amount of people. Either the number running it with you or the amount of spectators.

If you’ve ever run in a big race, you know the feeling when it starts and you are elbow to elbow with a mass of human beings. Sometimes you are in the personal space of 5 or six people at once and you are all taking baby steps until everyone spreads out according to their ability along the course.

OK, now imagine that feeling for 26 miles.

The number of people was incredible and since you cannot train for this (unless you hire 5 or 6 really patient people to crowd you as you run, which would really look stupid), you have to deal with it at this race.

It also creates an interesting dynamic because for 4 hours, you are in constant flux. Simultaneously, you are passing people AND being passed at the same time. Constantly.

Passing people is cool. It makes you feel good. But that joy comes at a price of the person being passed, much like sucking away their will to live. Sucks to be you, Turtle-Lady.

So you are sucking up life force from these poor wretches while at the same time, having your life force sucked away by those people who are passing you (invariably dubbed as assholes despite your kindred behavior. You are excelling when you do it. They are assholes when they do it).

The crowd is another source of inspiration. Or so I’ve been told.

During this marathon, there are thousands and thousands of people lined up, sometimes 3 or 4 people deep on both sides. Again referencing normal races, you have this big crowd at the beginning and the end. Marathoning does not usually draw enough crowds to stock a 26 mile course with this many people so the training out in the middle of nowhere sets a runner up for the normal scarcity of cheerleaders along the race course.

Not at the Marine Corps Marathon, by a long shot.

I’ve heard people beam that it was the crowd that gave them that extra spark to carry on when their bodies screamed for rest. In fact, I’ve been told more than once that the one part of the course where the onlooker crowd thins is the hardest part of the course.

Enter Jason the Odd Runner.

First, I hated that there was a huge crowd. I don’t want people looking at me when I run, especially toward the middle and end when I feel like so much smashed dog feces, blended up with blood and urine and left in the hot sun for 6 weeks. It tends to make me very self-conscious as I lose any semblance of form and graceful movement.

Second, they are filthy liars.

“You’re almost there!”

“You look great!”

“Looking strong!”

“Come here and make out with me!!”

OK, maybe that last one was a hallucination. He was not even that good looking anyway.

God bless them that they are out there cheering me on but when my body is very low on the happy scale, irritability sets in. I know what you’re saying “Not you, Jason Grose.” Yes, yes folks, it does happen. Crazy as it sounds.

What logic dictates is a selfless act of cheering me on mutates to a seething hate. I’m out here, busting my hump, pushing myself today and all those endless training miles for months, and you are standing there with your fat ass, sipping your coffee, and existing as an unworthy shell of a human compared to my heroic effort to propel my sacrificial body 26.2 miles. How dare you assume to even look at me…

OK, I know. It’s really bad at times. But the next moment, I will see I little girl holding a sign advertising her hero worship for her daddy who is somewhere in the race and my heart melts and at the same time I feel like a uber-jackass.

I think it stems from the fact that my comfort level is based on the way I train. The old stereotype of the lonely long distance runner is very real. When I train, I’m out on my own, going places where I’m the only human being for miles and miles. No crowds, just me and the road. I like that feeling. So when the crowd is there, I almost feel them as an invasion of a very private matter.

But in a way, I didn’t even have to worry about this very much because I noticed that the crowd isn’t really even looking at you. The vast majority of them are there for a specific runner and they are busy scanning the crowd for their runner. So you get a cursory look and in my case, since I was wearing a red shirt, I would get a slightly longer look if that person was looking for their runner with a red shirt. But inevitably, by the time you caught someone’s eye, they had either already written you off as “not my runner” or just didn’t notice you.

When I made this realization, I looked out in the crowd and discovered NO ONE, not one person was actually looking at me. I could make faces, stick my tongue out, anything and it would make no difference. I was quite literally alone in a crowd.

So the fact that they were there bothered me in the sense of me wanting to be alone. The part of me that wanted my accomplishments seen (a very thin slice of me) did not get that satisfaction either.

There were some uses for the crowd, though. As a distraction, I did enjoy a few signs that were memorable. Some examples that come to mind were:

“If it were easy, I’d be running it.” (held by a very fat lady.)
“We’re nuts for tight butts.”
(held by two girls who looked about college age)
“Don’t cry, you’ll dehydrate.”
“Beer at the finish”
(held by two boys who looked about college age)

Then there were the ones that pissed me off. Let me rant:

Why were there so many people holding signs for their own political or social stance? Case in point was a sign that encouraged us to get involved with orphan children. Now I’m not as cold-hearted as to disparage the harsh reality of orphans. But are they really using their resources most efficiently by targeting an awareness campaign for marathon runners? We are kind of in the middle of something here.

Of course, being so close to the election, there were lots of political signs. But again, my main reaction was “I don’t care at this particular moment.” It’s not like I was going to have an epiphany and realize at mile 20 when I was about to crap out my spleen that the socio-political theories of the Bush administration clashed with the populist majority’s historical underpinnings. Again, I’m kind of in the middle of something here but good luck with all THAT.

One of the most infuriating thought had to be the galactic retardation of holding a sign at about mile 10 that read “Almost There!”

ALMOST THERE??!?!!??!

WHERE? To the half way point? You really think that sign at mile 10 is a good thing? Are you aware of the length of this race?

Why this sign set me off like a pop bottle rocket, I don’t know. But it did. Almost there. What an idiot.

Emotions obviously rose and fall as the race wore on. At the next moment I was brought out of my funk by a simple example of humor. A young man who still enjoyed youth to the degree he could run without a shirt had written his phone number on his bare back, encouraging girls to give him a call. I thought this to be a rather unique if not effective approach to date-gathering.

Another interesting detail of the race was that some runners put their name on their shirts which results in the crowd calling their names throughout the race. I think this would become real irritating if people kept yelling out “Go Jason!” for 4 hours, especially during the spleen-crapping phase.

“Ewww, Jason, you just butt-launched something that looks like something you really need to keep. You OK?”

At the halfway point, I was just under two hours. You might think this is good since it was a 4 hour finishing pace. But I didn’t like it. I knew I would slow down so the thought of finishing under 4 hours took a hit. Unfortunately, it bothered me for most of the race and the time took center stage, preventing me from actually enjoying the run. My mind was focused on one thing and one thing only.

Peanut butter.

Just kidding, the 4 hour mark.

At mile 20, I was sitting (not really) at 3:07 which meant that I had 53 minutes to run 6.2 miles. Doing the math now, unlike my ability to do it then, I had to crank out about six 9-minute miles. I actually thought I could do this, and then that picosecond passed and I realized that 9 minute miles at the end, post-wall, was not likely to happen.

It was actually freeing to realize this. I had run a good race and the heat was a factor everyone seemed to be suffering. I could concentrate on finishing the race without the constant weight of the 4-hour mark invading my every thought.

What was more sad was when I saw some lady with “Under 4 Hours” written on her lower back in big black letters. I saw her about the 3:45 mark in the race and we were not close enough for her to make it. I had the same goal but I didn’t advertise it on my body. I felt so much compassion for this lady and wanted to say something to her but I didn’t know what I could say. So I just left it alone, concentrating instead on… not dying. But I gotta think washing that off was another sad reminder at the end of the day.

At the end, it got rougher and rougher. I was at a familiar point in the race where I was just wanting all the pain to end. I didn’t care about anything, how I performed, what was going on around me; I just wanted to get to the finish line. And not for the accomplishment or the crowd; just so I didn’t have to run anymore.

I was not the only one to feel this way and there were a lot of people who succumbed to this feeling. The heat seemed to jump as we crossed a bridge which meant we were exposed with no shade. It seemed to make it worse and I found myself around many people who were walking. All I could do was walk a lot and run occasionally. I could go for a couple of minutes but right when I started feeling like I could keep up the pace, I would suddenly need to stop and walk. The feeling came quickly and would not be ignored.

As I got closer to the finish line, there were more and more people who had completely stopped. These people I could not understand whatsoever. I was hurting, that was for sure. But to stop? How could you STOP with less than a mile left.

But there they were, on the side of the road with masks of anguish. I could do nothing for these people. I was in survival mode and could only notice them and feel for their plight.

But at the same time, I was scared to death of them. They represented an unimaginable reality: if the body absolutely mutinies, it doesn’t matter where the finish line is.

I coaxed my body on, mentally begging it to go on and making all manner of promises if it just got me to the statue.

During my suffering, the finish line came up sooner than I expected. In every race, the last mile seems to stretch out farther than all the others combined so I learned not to mentally expect the finish line when my mind says it should show up. It’s always further away.

This day, it worked because it came up unexpectedly. Because of the crowd, the last mile is like the finishing chute and I tried my hardest to look as fresh as I could, running the last ½ mile with some semblance of athletic coordination.

I crossed the finish line rather anticlimactically. Every finish to a marathon is an emotional experience but after finishing more than a few, overcoming the impossible is not the big emotion like it was in the early races, especially the first. But there was a great relief that the epic physical battle was over for this day and I had an official time.

I finished in 4:24:37.

This year, my goal was to finish but also to beat some people in the process. I wanted to beat Kermit. In the running bag, we received a magazine that showed some stories about unique aspects of the Marine Corps Marathon. One was that some guy dresses up as Kermit the Frog and runs the race.

I had to beat Kermit. Because NOT beating Kermit was a shame I did not want to face. Last year, some Jabba the Hut looking woman-beast passed me at the 20 mile mark and slowly retreated over the horizon, exposing more and more of it that she had eclipsed as she got further away. I could not bear that reality again and this year it was Kermit.

But the list of people that beat me include the President, which I don’t mind but a few others that really bug me. P. Diddy, Will Farrell, Anthony Edwards, John Edwards, Billy Baldwin, Joan Van Ark, Kim Alexis, Michael Dukakis, Meredith Baxter, Keri Strug, and Michael Waltrip.

But on the upswing, I beat the pants (and panties) off of some notables:

Lynn Swann: eat that, Swan!!!

Then there’s Lisa Ling, TV Personality. How ya feeling, Lisa?

Oh, and Mr. Al Gore, you may fall in line too. No, Mr. Vice-President, BEHIND me…. There you go…

And lest we forget, Jennifer Amyx, the youngest girl's world record holder with an embarrassing time of 4:45. OK, she was 5 years old, but still!!!

Too young to brag about beating? OK, then let’s turn to Fauja Singh. A paltry 5:40:03. God, why did he even show up? Well, maybe as the Oldest Men's World Record holder at 92 he had an excuse.

I guess that ranks up there with David Lee Roth being on the list. I’ll take what I can get.

But the grand prize is yet to be unveiled. Drum roll please:

(you’ll have to either provide the drum roll or imagine it’s there…. Thanks).

I beat The Oprah.

Oh, yes, you read correctly. The Oprah was bested. So as to not be confused, she ran it in 4:29:20 and I ran it in 4:24:37. So for you math majors, you can plainly see that I completely annihilated her by a epic margin of 4 minutes and 43 seconds. Why, I was practically ready for my next race by then. She should be embarrassed. And send me money. Lots of it.

You may think this a minor accomplishment but I look at it this way. I don’t have a lot of money. I don’t have professional trainers nor do I have a dietician measuring out every morsel of food, finding the optimum combinations needed for maximum results. I must assume she does and with all that professional help, I gotta expect she could crack 4 hours. I know because I can almost do it using my barbaric, out-my-ass training methods.

Here is the entire list of notable I beat and who beat me, with my times inserted.

Coming through the chute at the end, I was done. And I wanted my medal. Funny how these little trinkets can represent everything about a race and I would have maimed quite a few people if I was told I wasn’t going to get my medal right at that moment. Luckily for me (since I wouldn’t have to attempt even one maiming in my debilitated state), there were Marines ready to don the medals right at the end of the chute. I even convinced someone to take my picture at the moment and then took his picture while he got his. Too bad we didn’t exchange information so I could send it to him. We were both a little off at that particular moment. So here he is and I have no idea who he is. But I thank him.

When I stumbled away from the medal area with moist eyes (yes, it’s always an emotional event to some degree), I was wrapped in a metallic blanket with the feel of aluminum foil. I know this is somewhat traditional but it was really hot, comparatively, and it struck me as strange that they would want to wrap you in foil like so many leftovers. Not that I didn’t feel that way and maybe my body would throw away all of it’s heat after stopping but it just didn’t feel right.

So after a minute or two, I took it off and held it in my hand. I had no idea how to find Sir Phil or if he was even still running. So in my confused state, I stood around looking lost, choosing standing over walking. But I was standing in the wrong place because everyone kept coming up to me expecting me to put the blanket on them, mistaking me for a marathon volunteer. After rerouting a dozen poor souls who came up to me expectantly, I decided I had better move. Since when did I look official?

I found a very dangerous area: an open seat. Now if I sat down (which was the unanimous vote from various polling stations within my body) I would enjoy near orgasmic pleasure. But then I would be required, at some point in my life, to get up again. Hmmmm, what to do.

OK, I sat down. And pleasure of this degree my body hath never known.

I sat there, content to do something I’m normally never content at doing: absolutely nothing. But it felt so good in my nothingness. I reveled in the complete lack of any action.

But this nirvana was short-lived because I had to find Sir Phil and I thought that the longer I stayed there, the harder it would be to arise to a bipedal animal again. It didn’t make it any easier that the crowd was crushing and knowing I’d have to fight my way through throngs of runners, friends, family, workers, and all sorts of bystanders who had absolutely no care in the world that I had minimal control of my walking function.

My next stop was the food tent where they had all kinds of standard post-marathon goodies. Topping the list for me was the bananas because of the potassium I would need. It seemed a little important to me not to have every muscle in my body convulse and cramp me into a fetal position so I thought that bananas were a good idea.

The other standard fare was boxes and boxes of bagels, I assume for the carbs. I fall for this one every time because I grabbed one and sure enough, it was like putting a massive wad of tasteless bubble gum in my mouth. I had exactly zero amount of excess fluid to spare so the ball of dough just sat in my mouth being moved from one side to the other. I could have sooner swallowed a cue ball.

We should have made it more clear where we were to meet up. I remembered somewhere in the recesses of my already poor memory that Sir Phil had said we would link up where we did last year. But did he say that or was it a figment of my fatigue-induced dementia? Then the thought occurred: peanut butter!!!

OK, maybe it was the dementia.

I bumped my way through the crowd and decided upon the Bell Tower. But I didn’t know it was the bell tower and made a complete fool of myself trying to explain the large square structure that I was oblivious to knowing there was a bell in it, to strangers. As I was wandering toward the general area, I came upon the OFFICIAL link up point.

They had huge balloons with letter ranges on them and the idea was to meet someone under or near the balloon according to the name. Seemed like a good idea but the problem was that there were thousands of people milling around so even getting two people in the general vicinity of a huge balloon was not a guarantee that you would find each other.

Plus, we had never agreed to this so would Sir Phil go there so I could find him? Or was the bell tower the right answer?

All this was going through my tired head, remaining unanswered while still more came. OK, would I look under “P” for Phil and/or Patch, “J” for Jason, “G” for Grose, or either “M” or “I” for monumental or idiot?

I would start at the beginning and look under “P” but true to my retardation, it took me a minute to run through the alphabet and find which range “P” fell in. The mere fact that I had to dedicate even one brain cell and a few seconds to this task made me angry.

I checked all the places and didn’t see Sir Phil. But he could have been at any of them and it would’ve been really easy to miss him. I had no choice but to try the bell tower and what worried me the most was that it was a huge commitment to walk the 10 minutes to get there. But I trekked knowing that even if it took until nightfall, he would eventually find me there passed out in my own urine, feces, and vomit.

I made it to the bell tower and did a perimeter search. No Sir Phil. So I found a horizontal surface and sat down with my back against a cement wall. I took off my shoes (nirvana, part 2) and about 2 minutes later, up walked Sir Phil.

“Hey, Snapperhead, howdja do?”

Well, how much time ya got?

I really didn’t want to get up but he was ready to go and there wasn’t much of an excuse to sit there, except, you know, the whole marathon thing. So I did a slow-motion scramble, getting to my feet after a couple of tries, and we ambled toward the train station.

Well, that was the plan. The other thousands of people had another idea. We got caught in a crowd that made the pre-marathon bottleneck seem like loneliness. The surge of people trying to squeeze through the area brought everyone to literal gridlock. And if you know Sir Phil, this was simply unacceptable.

After going here (nope), and then there (nope again), and then here again, it occurred to me that if there was a simple way out, everyone wouldn’t be crammed up. If there was an easy way, someone other than us would have found it.

I was pondering these thoughts when Sir Phil decided that the best plan was hopping the stone wall that separated us from Arlington Cemetery.

Yes, THE Arlington Cemetery.

OK, let me start with the basics of why this was a bad plan.

It’s Arlington freakin’ cemetery. I mean it’s not like just the old cemetery down by the lake, it’s like, hero-central.

Second, I was not in the best state to be climbing walls. And by walls, let’s categorize that as anything larger than a curb…for the handicapped.

But up and over went Sir Phil and against my better judgment, I figured we weren’t like hopping on actual graves so it was … OK, it was wrong through and through. But like a lemming, I followed.

I thought it would be OK if we made it to the road because we would then just be strolling through the cemetery and as morbid as that may be, at least we would have some sort of argument if the officials came to call.

“Oh, we were just taking a tour.”

“In your marathon clothes?”

“These old rags?”

“You wouldn’t be two of the thousands of marathoners from that crowd just over that low wall, taking a shortcut because you didn’t want to wait for the crowd and thus take advantage of a National Cemetery so you could get to the train a few minutes faster?”

“Um, what was that?”

Luckily no one noticed but we did have to go out of our way a bit which, in my state, was akin to bamboo chutes up all my finger and toenails. What a sweet irony that after the marathon, we had to power-walk (Sir Phil’s idea) a few miles to the train station.

Here the fun continued.

It would seem to me a good idea to have extra trains for this event. Or… a normal amount of trains. But the powers that be decided that a shortage of trains this afternoon was the better idea. On top of that, they closed off one of the two entrances so everyone had to cram into a small area to enter the train station area. Brilliant.

After waiting in a line for about 15 minutes, we discovered it was to an elevator that was as slow as frozen molasses and only held half a dozen people at any one time. More brilliance.

Right when we thought about bolting, we got on the elevator and let me explain to you what it’s like to be in a cramped elevator with a collection of post-marathon BO specialists. No, I can’t. It would evoke uncontrolled vomiting (as though the controlled variety is that much better). But I digress.

We waited for the train and crammed ourselves on like sweaty version of a Tokyo rush hour. It was splendidly horrid.

Getting to Springfield, we found Truckasaurus and there has been a lot of times I’ve felt better about sitting my butt in the driver’s seat, but I can’t remember when. It was butt-paradise, if such a place exists.

OK, get Sir Phil home and the hell out of Truckasaurus, oh, I mean, drop Sir Phil off at his house, and get home. That was the plan. That was the only plan.

I thanked Sir Phil for yet another successful co-running where we lose each other within minutes and find each other at the end. Yes, we accomplished this once again this year and this race was no different. Again next year? You bet, Sir Phil!

But the night was not over. It was Halloween and despite my epic physical accomplishment (OK, my “epic” is too strong. How about “pretty tootin’ good”?), I had responsibilities. I had to escape my house under the cover of darkness and get out of handing out candy at my house. Dirty little heathens get enough candy anyway.

Actually, Carrie and the kids had gone over to the Sbragias house to do the Halloween thing over there and it was up to me to get cleaned up and drag my carcass over there for the evening. And my heart was SO into doing just that.

First things first, though. Ice bath for the legs, because I just had not experienced enough pain for the day. Lowering myself into the combination of cold water and ice, I wondered once again why I did these things to myself. That wonder increased tenfold when I lowered my waist into the water and all sensory alarms made a beeline straight from the offended area to that little portion of the brain that takes care of everything that is PAIN.

Fifteen minutes later, I relented and took a hot shower that pretty much feels like I imagine heaven is. It was good to be back among the living.

I had the motivation and energy of a sloth so the lone salad in the fridge was a good candidate for my only form of sustenance. I ate it because I couldn’t get excited enough to fix anything else despite my body probably needing a 10 course meal. But I ate the salad and got on the road to meet my family.

I was pretty useless for the rest of the night and probably came across as a Frankenstein wannabe. I found many comfortable places to sit down: the couch, the corner of the counter, the closet. It seems I wasn’t too picky.

Since this entry is like crazy long, I will limit my Halloween rant to a a single topic.

OK, when is the age when you are officially too old to trick-or-treat? I mean, real stubble? And those were the girls!

A few pushed the limit and maybe it was my state but it left a bad taste in my mouth to put a “Fun Size” Krackel into a pillowcase while looking a teen eye-to-eye.

Nuff said.

At the end of the night, I made it back and it was all I could do to get undressed and collapse into a well-deserved sleep. Much like many post-marathon endings, I more fainted than consciously went to bed. But before I fell into the abyss, the last fleeting thought was that of accomplishment. I had been a runner this day and no matter what happened from this day forward, it’s something that no one can take away from me.

I had completed a marathon and I earned the title once again: Jason Grose – Marathoner.

Free Advice for Today:
Remember that HOW you say something is as important as WHAT you say."
- 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


Saturday, October 30, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"The severity of the itch is proportional to the reach."

- Unknown

The day before the marathon: a struggle in itself.

If I was smart (and I’m not), I would have just stayed at home, relaxed, hydrated, and get my mind in the game for tomorrow’s race. But, no, that would be forethoughtful and obvious.

No, the better plan in my infinite wisdom was quite different. It started with going over to Sir Phil’s house at 0700 (up from 0600 if he would’ve had his druthers). He wanted me to drive my truck so we could load certain parts of his never-ending pursuit of Spitfire perfection, into the back of my truck. While we were going to be running around all day, might as well get some errands done, right?

We loaded the parts into my truck and took off to the Expo. The Expo is a tradition of just about every marathon where you pick up your package and get to shop around the plethora of running offerings. Every year, this event takes place at the Hyatt (or is it the Marriott? I don’t know, one of the “…iots”).

Finding a parking place was our first obstacle. Everything was roped off and very condescending signs were everywhere telling us of our unauthorized thoughts of parking there. We circled the place a few times before we found a parking lot and parked. When we got out, we walked a bit but I indicated to Sir Phil that I didn’t have a good feeling about the spot since the sign at the front of the lot said they tow happily if you are not authorized. This I didn’t need to happen so I went back and parked along the street next to a meter.

With a two-hour time limit and a few bucks in the meter, I still wasn’t feeling all that great. Sir Phil is a “get in, get packet, race through the Expo, and get out” type of guy where I’m more the “lingering at the different offerings of running socks all day” type. Two hours didn’t seem all that much time but Sir Phil offered to race back and feed the meter if I wanted to poke around inside. Somehow, I didn’t see that happening though.

When we got to the entrance, we saw the line. It looked like they were giving away free food or something because the line was as far as the eye could see, and then some. We walked the length of the line and found ourselves walking, walking, walking… When we thought we found the end, it ended up being just a street crossing and the line would continue.

I guess when you have thousands upon thousands of people running a race, you have to expect this but the other factor was an increased security check which slowed down the line to the pace of a caterpillar on valium.

Sir Phil had ingested an obscene amount of coffee and strangely enough, had to find a bathroom before I did. He finagled his way into the building just to find a restroom while I continued down the line to get a spot. When I got to the end (which was a ridiculous length away from the actual entrance) I fell in line behind an attractive woman. Now before you start calling me names, let me point out that if you are going to be forced to stand in an hour-long line, isn’t it better to be next to an attractive person rather than some troll? OK, it didn’t matter because I wouldn’t have even started up a conversation with her but the fact remains, I’m a guy and that’s just how guys think. I’d be lying if I claimed otherwise and so would you if you call me out on it.

After about 10 minutes, I see Sir Phil walking down the line with a confused, searching look on his face. I finally caught his eye and motioned for him to get in line but he just waved and passed me by. I should have known.

Sir Phil has many idiosyncrasies, one of which is cutting in a line. To him, the fact that I had “saved” a place for him didn’t hold water. So I looked at him walking away, looked at the pretty girl who I still hadn’t said anything to, and back to him.

Damn you, Sir Phil.

It was amazing how long the line had grown in just 10 minutes. Walking to the new end, cursing Sir Phil under my breath, I finally made it and sure enough, we were in the company of trolls. What’s worse, talkative trolls.

Recall that I don’t even want to talk to people I know and like before a race. I know this goes against all kinds of running etiquette and flies right in the face of why many people even participate in organized marathons. But that’s me.

Listening to these idiots was wearing thin. I was already chafed that I had been pulled out of my comfort zone and was spending the night at a stranger’s house before the race.

One of the organizers yelled out that the line, from this point, took about a certain amount of minutes. I thought he said 15 but some people around us thought they heard 50.

Yeah, it was 50.

We got to the building and it was the mouse maze. They had ropes that switched back and forth like the bank line from hell. Forever, back and forth, then again, and again, and again…and all the time trying not to catch the eye of the same people you kept seeing over and over. How many times can you nod to a person?

When we got through, the place was packed. Sir Phil was once again in search of a head and I lost him right away.

The organizers know what they are doing. They made sure that the first place you were dumped into was the Expo. You have to go through the venders before you got to the packet pick-up and I vowed not to fall for their little marketing ploy.

I bought a shirt at the first place I walked into.

(Hey, I needed a shirt for the run and I planned on it so stop snickering. It even had the event info on it so it was also a souvenir. Really ..it was…oh shut up.)

I continued through running Nirvana and stopped at about every little display they had. The only real items on my shopping list were a running shirt and a disgusting amount of Gu. The rest was just window shopping and since I didn’t see any “spare lungs” or “stronger legs” up for sale, I figured I would just stay with my list.

Sir Phil is the basic guy shopper. He does not browse, he hunts. He knows what he wants and then he hunts it down. Then he leaves as fast as possible. Obviously, our styles differed greatly. I am rather chick-like in my "gathering" method of shopping. I resisted the temptation of getting a sports bra though. The line has to be drawn somewhere.

So imagine my surprise when I turned around and saw Sir Phil getting a lecture on the finer points of current sock technology. He was getting his lesson and I watched in amazement as he actually pulled out his wallet to buy the new-fangled socks. This is a guy who wears the Wal-Mart special 16 dozen for a buck sock and underwear combination. The see him shell out real American money for uber-socks was shocking to say the least.

I enjoyed looking at the various offerings, the specialty DVDs where they superimpose scenes they find of you onto the tape, the special plaques you could get to display your finishing medal, the gadgets, the clothing, and the endless literature for upcoming races all over the country. The Penguin guy who does the articles for Runner’s World had a booth but I doubted if either one of the workers there was actually him.

I took a slow progression through the Expo and lost (and found) Sir Phil several times. When we got to the end, I had found 2 or 3 places where they were selling Gu so I had to return back to get the best deal. Two boxes should do it since I can’t find any around here for less than $1.50 a pop. When all was said and done, I could get them less for a buck each if I bought in bulk.

Oh, I don’t know if I’ve explained but the Gu stuff is my latest “must-have” for my running. And since it tastes like flavored lugees, I prefer the least of all evils, the plain flavor that tastes like, well, your own lugee and the truth be told, that’s about all that’s acceptable, am I right? I gulp down one of these little rocket-fuel packs every five miles and I almost forget that I’m dragging my carcass 26.2 miles.

By the end, I have this enormous bag of freebies, two cases of Gu, and about every peice of literature of every marathon ever invented. I have a shirt and even found these little sweatband things that I figure I needed to wipe the sweat off my brow during the run (I’m always coming up with things I MUST have while running. A minimalist, I am not).

When we got through the Expo, we ended up at the place to get our race packet. It, too, had a bunch of useless stuff and when I got through the rat maze, I met up with a friend I knew from Monterey. He was having back problems so could not run the race but still volunteered to help out. I talked to him for five minutes and he told me if he would’ve known I was waiting outside for an hour, he would have got me right in. OK, that did me about, well, NO good but it was nice of him to point it out.

While we were talking, I distractedly found my chip and gave it to someone to activate. I mention this because I forgot I did this and later I was freaking out about it. The chip you tie to your shoe and it records the times you actually cross the important points (start, 5K, 10K, ½ way, finish) of the race. Your “chip time” might be minutes after your start to finish time because the start line is a few miles long!!!

We got out of the Expo and had to powerwalk it to Truckausaurus because the 2 hour limit was about up. Somehow I had absorbed all that I wanted to in the 2 hours and of course Sir Phil was ready to go an hour before.

Our next adventure was going to Motorhead which is a small mechanic shop specializing in old English cars. For me, it was almost the last place you would normally find me since I’m not a car guy, I’m not an English car guy, and I’m not a greasy mechanic shop for English cars guy. So I read my book while Sir Phil pined away with the mechanics. I felt pretty girlie but I didn’t care. I wanted to relax and get in all the mental and rest prep I could prior to the race. I would have rather been home anyway, relaxing and hydrating but somehow, I ended up in my present predicament.

It was well past 1200 by now and I had eaten a banana and some coffee. How I had not planned out my eating strategy the day before the race is currently unknown but let’s just classify it in the “imbecile” category for now.

Sir Phil’s idea was to hit the mall by the place we were staying. So a mall-hopping we went and I thought it was a pseudo-relaxing idea to roam around the mall. And they likely had that great pre-marathon food abounding in the mall so off we went.

My menu of choice was the Chinese place and Sir Phil found his legendary and traditional pre-marathon menu: two bean burritos from Taco Hell. How he gets away with that I have no idea but that’s always his fuel of choice before a race so I guess I shouldn’t question it. But it’s so….Sir Phil.

As long as we were in the mall, we decided to take a lap and other than viewing the average beeferage that has become modern American society, we decided to duck into an outfitter shop.

I never really thought about it and realized I was totally ignorant as to what exactly an “outfitter” really does. What I discovered inside was only outdone by the curiosity that I had never known such places exist. It was an outdoorsman dream. This was like Loch Ness; how could this have been kept a secret from me for so long? I mean it had everything I would ever be interested in; all the outdoorsman stuff that I’ve been dabbling in for years. Here, finally, was all the “stuff” to live that lifestyle!!!

I felt dizzy with excitement. I mean if it had electronics and books, I would have likely fainted.

I wandered all over the store looking at all the outdoorsy (it scares me that Word does not flag that as a misspelling) stuff I will never actually own. They had clips, hats, camping stuff, specialized underwear, outerwear, and everything-else-wear. I saw heat packs, dehydrated foodstuff, hiking paraphernalia, Camelbacks, and all kinds of manly goodies.

After about 40 minutes, I had all of the fantasy shopping I could take and I stumbled out of the store breathless. In my memory, it’s still a little dreamy with the soft filter and all!!

It was time to get to the place where we were going to stay for the night. Sir Phil had secured the key for an apartment. The owner, a fellow Tanker who used to work under Sir Phil and now sports oak leaves, had somehow got tickets to the Green Bay game and was not going to need his apartment for the weekend. He offered it up to Sir Phil because, I thought, he lived nearby the marathon.

That’ll teach me not to get the details. He actually lived near the train station we would be taking to the marathon. Big difference as you will see.

We got to the apartment and felt a bit like an intruder. I had tangentially known this guy back in 29 Palms (he was checking out as I was checking into Tanks) and I had seen him a few times around Quantico. He had divorced and was living alone, except if you count the cat who took a liking to my chest anytime I became horizontal.

For some reason, Sir Phil felt it very important to watch what is likely the most disgusting (and its humor is based on the very depth of its crudeness) movie I ever watched. Ford Fairlane. It was…Andrew Dice Clay. And 2 hours of my life I will never get back. I was embarrassed to have a Y-chromosome.

Some marathon traditions continue no matter the time or place. For some reason. Sir Phil and I must hit a store prior to every marathon. Usually, stuff like industrial-size bottles of Gatorade are purchased along with snacks to wile away the nervous hours on marathon-eve. Somehow I lost all semblance of control and ended up with a half dozen Krispy Kremes (DAMN YOU, YOU DELICTABLY GLAZED COFECTONARY PERFECTIONS!!!!!) as Sir Phil stocked up on the makings for spaghetti.

Returning to the apartment, we ate and then prepped. I had brought my DVD player because there was none resident and also brought my Braveheart DVD. It played in the background as we ran through our own pre-race routines which roughly translates to me going over every detail to the insane degree while Sir Phil poses for a portrait for most of the night, broken only by the need to pay the Bowel Gods.

All and all, I would have rather stayed at home in my own element, relaxed, and enjoy the night before the race in quiet meditation in familiar surroundings. I would have rather done this and woken up early to get to the race on time rather than trade my comfort and mental prep for a measly hour or so of morning routine. And I point this out not to cast a disparaging judgment on Sir Phil. It’s just we are made of different elements and while he had perfectly good justifications for setting all this up, my lesson for this race was to not assume someone else’s routine will work for you.

Next time I will know.

And I will skip the Krispy Kremes.

Free Advice for Today:
Make new friends but cherish the old ones."
- 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


Thursday, October 28, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"DIPLOMACY IS THE ART OF SAYING 'NICE DOGGIE!' - TILL YOU CAN FIND A ROCK."

- Unknown

I woke up in a panic. I thought I was caught by the oldest mistake in the traveler's book; setting the alarm for PM instead of AM. I wouldn’t put it past me because I can be painfully dense sometimes.

But I checked and it was set for AM. And the clock was set for the right 12 hour period. I had even thought about the other common fault of the tried and true alarm clock setting protocol; turning the volume on and above the lowest setting. But this was good to go, too. So why didn’t the alarm go off? Damn faulty, cheap-ass….oh, I guess it helps if you actually slide the selector to “Alarm.”

So I shot out of my bed, wondering why Gunny had not knocked on my door. It was past 7 and I realized we had not even set a time to meet and I didn’t have a copy of my plane itinerary. I recalled vaguely that we left at 9, or 10, or something. Yeah, I was a real mess.

I hopped in the shower (not actually because…never mind) and listened for the door. I had packed up last night so it was a matter of getting cleaned up and getting out of the room.

Leaving the room, I had that familiar sinking feeling that I had forgot something. It just kills me to shut that door for the last time, thinking that I left something like, I don’t know, my computer, a bag, my head.

Getting out in the lobby, I was asking the desk clerk which room the Gunny was in when he came up behind me, emerging from the breakfast area. He seemed calm so my ferret-on-cocaine look was obviously unwarranted. Somehow, I was right on time and even had time to partake in the Continental Breakfast which for me, consisted of a banana, a bagel, and a serving of what is likely the worst yogurt I ever put in my mouth. It had the bland taste of whipped tofu. Maybe it would have helped if I would have known to mix the fruit that had settled at the bottom. But it was too late. Yuck.

Gunny did not have a good day at the security checkpoint. I don’t know what it is but he seems to always have one thing or another piss him off at the airport. This time is was the security checkpoint guard who “highly suggested” he take off his shoes when going through the detector. I guess they can’t require this and since Gunny is all about the creases in the rules, he decided he didn’t need to remove his shoes.

The guard pointed out that he should take off his shoes and Gunny looked at him and said he was OK. The guard repeated the suggestion and Gunny once again said he didn’t need to take of his shoes. The guard then waved him through and he had only taken the first step through the detector when the guard announced that he had been selected for a random security check.

I knew Gunny was livid. He kind of brought it on himself but Gunny was all about the injustice of it and how “random” was being redefined.

After waiting for him for a few minutes, he stormed out of the area with a most pissed look on his face, vowing that he was going to cal TSA because it was a bunch of crap. I let it slide. He was not going to call TSA but needed to vent.

To me, traveling is becoming a tedious affair that I have to drop my usual lack of patience in order to get through it. So I numb myself up before I go and don my earphones and MP3 player, creating my own little world. Like holding my breath, I can only stay submerged for a finite amount of time.

When I got on the plane, I got my usual window seat and was once again, seated next to a 200 lb-busting gargantuan. This did not bother me as much because I was still submerged.

Just before the door shut, a guy gets on the plane with a little girl. Normally this wouldn’t bother me because the earphones do a good job of drowning out even little kids (a reason in itself that justify the $300 price tag!!!). But I noticed that this little girl was retarded. No, I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, I think she was actually retarded or something. It was obvious something was physically different but I’m not schooled in the intricacies of mental categorization. So I’m going with the potentially non-PC label of retarded. If you have an objection, email me at getalife@kissit.com.

Well, the two take up residence directly behind me and I get the girl behind my seat.

Now I don’t want to be mean but I don’t see any way around it. It started early one when the little angel decided to use my seat as a kicking post. OK, I won’t fault her for lacking the ability to retain public rules of common courtesy. But her Dad wasn’t retarded, as far as I know.

He let his little snuggle-muffin kick and kick and kick. Then there were the 20 questions, 18 of them being the same. Yes, her shrill little voice made it through my earphones and likely the pilot cabin door as well as his earphones. I'm guessing the baggage handlers were rolling their eyes, too.

Next came the orangutan portion of the competition with the top of my seat being the main attraction. Kick, pull, ask, kick, kick, ask, pull, pull, ask…

So now I’m stuck with Rita the Retard behind me flailing around asking questions at the top of her lungs while good old pops just sits there and is oblivious. I don’t care if his child has a learning disability, she must be smart enough to understand that kicking my seat and being loud is not proper public conduct. I mean, correct me if I’m wrong but it’s his job to kind of guide her the best he can in teaching her how to operate in the general public, especially since she’s already behind the power curve, right?

But if I say anything, I’m the ass in row 22 who berates retarded children. What am I supposed to do? If I say something to her, I’m a creep. If I say something to dear old Dad, I’m a heartless jerk.

So I gotta take it. And take it I do.

The whole plane ride, I get to experience the joy of the little sweetie pushing, kicking, bumping, squealing, etc. I thought about a tranq dart to the neck but the whole criminal court system would have frowned upon that. I thought about it for myself but that was no good either. I even thought I could self-medicate with the exorbitantly-priced alcohol offerings but that would just loosen my tongue and let the little darling know what I thought of her behavior.

I guess that I had to just accept the hard truth: when you buy a ticket on an airplane, you are really just buying the front of the seat. The other side is really out of your control.

Thanks for the lesson, Rita.

Free Advice for Today:
When traveling, stop occasionally at local cafes and diners."
- 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, October 27, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"IF AT FIRST YOU DO SUCCEED, TRY NOT TO LOOK ASTONISHED!"

- Unknown

Halloween is coming up and I learned that in Kansas City, they take this seriously. About as seriously as portion size. The Gunny wanted us to see just how serious.

It seems they have these huge warehouses that they use only for one purpose: haunted houses. With the money they make off of this during the Fall, they pay rent all year. And this is not just a few cobwebs and people jumping out. Oh no, this is serious “scare your shorts brown” kind of haunted house stuff.

Allow me to share the names:

You must first visit the Edge of Hell. Once you lose your mind and dignity there, scurry over to The Beast where the fun continues. And as if that was not enough, round out the night with The Catacombs. I’m not kidding, these are the real names.

Needless to say, I did not even consider entering any of these. Granted that I’m too cheap to pay the hefty admission price, I thought it unwise to be seen screaming like a little girl in front of the other Marines. I was satisfied with seeing the outside and wondering just how scary it was inside. My boy would never sleep again in his life.

After the spectacle, we decided to go out and eat. Gunny, who had served two tours in Kansas City, offered up the other “must eat” restaurant. After last night’s Gluttony On Ice, I was hesitant to follow his lead but he made such a big deal of this place, it was impossible not to indulge him. I mean, after last night, there couldn’t be another dumptruck-o-food in the area, right? (vague laughing way in the background…)

Off to Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue we drove and when we got there, I realized that deep down, I was not at all surprised that the portions where big enough to clog a wood chipper. I decided to forego the Steaktropolis this time and stick with ribs. That should reel back the portions to manageable levels, right? (that damn laughing again…)

Did I really think I would be getting away clean this night?

OK, picture the Flintstones. Remember the ribs he ordered? Yeah, bump that image up a few levels and you’ll get the general idea.

After an hour, I was in a familiar state. I had a distended gut, heavy eyelids, and the knowledge that I had two enormous meals somewhere inside of me (trust me on this because I won’t tell you how I knew this. But you aren’t stupid…). That thought really grossed me out.

I looked over at Gunny with a look of pure hate. This man was trying to hurt me and for the second time in as many nights, he had succeeded. How anyone could be stationed here and maintain proper height/weight standards is a complete mystery.

Let’s not even go into the fact that I have a marathon coming up on Sunday. Yes, I have a few days and nights to purge my system but the thought of running 26.2 INCHES at this point was a source of great distress.

In an effort to aid digestion, we replaced a full stomach pump with a drive around Kansas City at night. As I sat in the backseat, wondering where my life I had gone wrong to end up stuffed to the gills driving around late at night in the middle of Kansas City, Missouri, we came upon Arrowhead Stadium. Right next to it was Kauffman Stadium and these two facts affected me only in passing interest. I mean, yeah, they were big, beautiful stadiums with a certain amount of history but it was like, OK, yeah, there they are. I gave the Grizwald head nod and we were off. Another check off on The List.

I don’t know, maybe it was the lead basketball sitting in my stomach. All I wanted to do was go back to the hotel and get horizontal.

Free Advice for Today:
Never tell a woman you liked her hair better before she had it cut."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

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BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Creativity is great, but plagiarism is faster."

- Unknown

Yesterday, I returned home from San Antonio and today I got to turn right around and fly to Kansas City. OK, I didn’t just get to the airport and turn around because that would be weird, but I did go home, dump my clothes, re-pack, and get some sleep for today’s little jaunt.

The Gunny booked us on Midwest Airlines. I knew exactly nothing about this airline except it was the latest in a long series of different airlines that I travel on for business and since there are so many, I can’t seem to build up enough air miles to get anything more valuable than a beer cozy.

When we boarded the aircraft, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was no first class. Or better said, it was ALL first class. Instead of 3 seats to a side, they have 2 big leather seats to a side from front to rear. And because I have never, and let me reiterate that because I’m 35 years old… NEV---ER had the pleasure of flying first class, I think I shed a small tear.

I placed my coach-class ass in the first class seat and acting much like Jethro Bodine, I shifted here, there, and back to here just to explore the extra few inches of buttspace afforded to me from Midwest Airlines. I was the proverbial swine in fecal matter.

Things only got better when they came down the aisle with a cart full of…are you ready for this?.... hot chocolate chip cookies. Yes, you read correctly, they heat and pass out 2 chocolate chip cookies to every passenger. Now let’s set aside the logistical stupidity of handing out gooey chocolate to the general public on a plane with leather seats and get back to the fact that they cart down the aisle hot cookies.

The only other strange behavior they do is to charge for meals like normal airlines charge for alcohol. You pay on the spot for their Box-O-Vomit. I gotta think they aren’t selling that many of those. Just a hunch.

I had never been to Kansas City and I gotta say, I was not overly impressed. I lived in Oklahoma for many years of my young life so the scenery was not foreign but I was never really in love with the Midwest. To compound this, the Gunny insisted on taking us to Strouds.

Strouds, I believe, is the old Indian name meaning “Fat Like Buffalo Ass.”

I was hungry. Or at least that’s what I thought. But my silly little normal-sized stomach didn’t come close to competing with what was in store for me. The Gunny looked over the menu like a seasoned veteran and seemed to be preparing mind and body for the onslaught about to occur.

I started waving the red cape right away:

“I’ll take the chicken fried steak.”
“What else, Sir.”
“Oh, OK, and fries.”
“Fine, what else.”

What else? Had this waitress invested in medical equipment?

“Um, I’ll take the baked beans.”
“OK, you get another side.”

Side of what? Beef?

“OK, how about mashed potatoes.”
“Do you want the works?”

I was starting to get the idea. I think “The Works” would involve the contents of some butcher’s excess bin so I declined.

When the feast arrived, I was stunned into silence. The plates, yes, I said “PLATES” of food for each person was like a serving tray. My steak alone looked like a medium pizza slathered in gravy.

“I’m sorry Miss, I think this is for the family of ten seated in the corner.”

Let’s just say if I ever need to get bypass surgery, I’m coming to Kansas City because just for the sheer quantity they must have to deal with, they’ve got to be good at it by now.

My second mistake (first being the lunacy of trusting Gunny to pick out the restaurant) was my method of attack. I don’t know, call me criminally insane but I thought that eating a bite of steak, a fry here and there, followed by a forkful of mashed potatoes was the way to go. Stupid, stupid man.

Looking over at Gunny, he dived into his acre of chicken fried steak, leaving all other edible items untouched. Fork after fork he attacked the steak like it said something disparaging about his mother. Soon, all that was left from the “steakerage” was stray gravy marks on the platter.

I, on the other hand, was not faring so successfully. I got about half way through steakasaurus when I faltered. I had eaten pretty much half of everything when my tanks registered full. And in the Land of Big Meals and Bigger Asses, this did not bode well. I received derisive looks from everyone around me and the cook came out and slapped me furiously.

Gunny shook his head as if to say “silly amateur.” In retaliation, I sat there stunned, slipping deeper into a food coma as the seconds ticked by. There was no way I could cram another crumb into my mouth, knowing it had to travel south to join the 43 pounds of Midwest cooking now residing in what used to be a normal sized stomach.

I shed a tear. Made of gravy.

The final insult came in the form of the dessert. Why did I order dessert, you ask? How monumentally stupid do you believe me to be? No, no, in Kansas City, the dessert comes with the meal, much like the cigarette comes with the blindfold.

The waitress arrives with a platter of (excuse me, I was just treated to a shot of bile as I remembered this) of…of…. cinnamon rolls!!

Good God, do these people have any respect for humanity in their wretched, blackened soul? Why don’t they just dip them in chocolate and deep fry them in lard? (Crap, I hope they don’t read this, they just might. So if you go there and they are serving deep-fried chocolate covered cinnamon rolls, launch blame my way.)

My declination came in the form of a thousand-yard stare and a reaction-less discharge of vomit dribbling down my chin.

The waitress carved a small notch on her well-marked serving tray.

The rest of the night was a blur, like the waves off of hot pavement. I seem to remember going back to the hotel. I must have paid my bill. Maybe walked like Fred Sanford toward my bed before falling over.

All I know for sure is that was entirely too much food for one human being to consume. And that people in Kansas City need help. Just cut the portions in half, folks. For the heart, the kids, the beautiful young girls destined for waddling. Just halve it.

Free Advice for Today:
Let people know what you stand for -- and what you won't stand for."
- 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


Sunday, October 24, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Someday, we'll look back on this, laugh nervously and change the subject."

- Unknown

Yesterday, I ran in the morning. With the impending marathon, I thought I should, you know, run. It kinda makes the whole 26.2 mile experience survivable.

The weird thing about the run was that Sandra had warned me about the oil. She said it would be slick and to be careful that I didn’t fall on my ass. OK, my interpretation, not hers. She’s too much a lady to point that out but it was the gist of the warning.

Getting out there, I realized what she had meant. I don’t know exactly why but the ground was covered in a thin film of oil that made it a bit slippery. The thought occurred to me that Texas is so drenched in oil, it’s actually seeping through the freakin' ground. Yet I get gouged for over $2 per gallon at the pumps. At least I refrained from plopping my ass on the ground.

Today, Tuffy wanted to take me to the BX (Base Exchange, what we in the Marine Corps call the PX, Post Exchange) at Lackland Air Force Base.

There is a big difference between a BX and a PX. The big difference is included in that statement: big. The “B” should stand for “Big-Ass” because it was like a super mall. With hundreds of dinks graduating every week with their family in tow, you can imagine how much business this place gets and the size was reflective of this fact.

I bought a few things for my family and Tuffy bought me a slice of pizza. I felt funny eating a slice of what passes for pizza with an Italian who likely equated the slice to a wedge made of horse apples. But it stopped my stomach acid from dining on my gut lining. Now there’s a rousing testimonial.

After the visit, it was time to go see some good ole Texas history. And what other Texas history is there in San Antonio but the elephant at the tea party. Yes, we were off the see The Alamo.

THE Alamo is now stationed in THE Center of THE City. Now I’m sure that way back when, it was out in the middle of nowhere but these days, not so much. In fact, it’s right in the middle of everything with office buildings at every edge butting up to the wall.

Getting in was free and it wasn’t because I was Mexican. I didn’t just barge in like those other guys; it’s a no-fee historical sight which hit me as strange. Now the parking, well, let’s not get crazy here. Tuffy wouldn’t let me even contribute but deep in the heart of Texas, you have to go deep in the heart of your wallet to see the free Alamo.

Walking onto the grounds, I noticed it was well manicured in a pleasing grounds keeping fashion. I’m sure the soldiers way back when never kept it up like that but then again, they got jacked. Coincidence?

If I understood the history correctly, I think the Mexican’s rode up to the site, the soldiers said SOMETHING and the Mexican response was “Who you tryin’ to get crasy wit ese? Don’t chew know I’m loco?

Maybe I’m paraphrasing but it all went downhill from there. And thus ends my nearly molecular understanding of Alamo history.

I got a whole bunch of pictures and I think the biggest comment made by most people that visit it is that the famous shot of The Alamo is really just a small part of what was really the Alamo. The entire camp site was huge, evidenced by a panorama set up by the curators. The “Alamo” building was just a small wall leading to a central building.

I managed not to pee anywhere on the building and I didn’t do any Pee Wee Herman stunts so I was allowed to leave there unscathed, Mexican heritage not withstanding.

It was nice to see that insane people don’t hold national landmarks out of bounds. While taking pictures of the front, I was treated to a local preacher who found it necessary to sit right where the main attraction site (the Money Shot) and yell at the top of his lungs a sermon he found very important. He had an open Bible and referred to it every couple of sentences, hunched over because the insane asylum obviously confiscated his glasses. But did this stop the old bearded nutball? Hell no, Crazy Hank just got an eyelash away when checking his reference.

You go, Crazy Hank.

After we had soaked up enough history and imbecile-gawking, we decided that sweating for 45 minutes in the Texas heat was sufficiently accomplished. We got in the car and headed home.

I guess I didn’t pay enough reverence to the Sacred House of Alamo because on the way home, the heavens opened up on us and proceeded to beshat an impressive amount of liquid on top of us. In fact, it turned into a flash flood before we even got home. Poor Sandra was attempting to drive in this Texas rainstorm but she had the same time of it as Barney Fife in hand-to-hand combat.

With the wipers on full, we could not see out the window and had to follow the road lines just to make sure we were still, in fact, on the road. At certain points, we thought the the sheer amount of water in the road was going to kill the engine as we made our way down the road, making big waves like a power boat on either side of the vehicle.

Sandra had enough when we entered the parking lot and found it important to jerk the wheel hard right and sliding into the lot, launching a tidal wave of rain and making the vehicle hydroplane. I think it scared her more than anyone else and it was the talk of the trip when we made it inside the apartment which, even though it was all of about 4 steps from the car to cover, we entered soaking wet.

Texas. Go figure.

Free Advice for Today:
Lie on your back and look at the stars."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

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BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Saturday, October 23, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."

- Unknown

Last night was a thunderstorm.

And I ‘m not talking a little boom here, a little boom there. I’m talking howitzer next to your skull.

I happened sometime in the middle of the night; sometime after I gently laid my head on the pillow and the time my sphincter attempted to collapse the fabric of space.

This was a Texas size storm and the old cliché about everything being bigger in Texas includes, I’m here to tell you, fear of thunderstorms. I could see the lightning through my closed eyes and shortly after, the, the, well, thunderous claps of thunder shook my room. I assume Tuffy was wondering if the Captain would be able to disengage the manly fetal position by the morning.

For hours, it seemed, the storm churned. I could hear the heavy rains beat against the window and the lightning strikes were a split-second heads up that I was about to experience living in the middle of a bass drum. I wondered if the structure of Tuffy’s home would withstand the vibration. I wondered if my heart would do the same.

For breakfast, I was in for a treat. Visiting a full-blooded Italian, even one that is watching carbs, and you can’t go very long without having your appetite rewarded. This morning, I had the very best omelet I had ever had.

Note that I’m not an omelet fan. In fact, the only time I ate omelets was to get a large amount of eggs inside me while getting ready for the Marine Corps Marathon.

But when Tuffy excitingly announced that he wanted to make me an omelete with all the fixings, I could not deny him. Ironically, it was me who was about to be excited.

Tuffy’s one of those guys who not only knows how to cook , he likes to tell you how he does it. The fact that I have no knowledge of the intricacies of cooking made no difference. To me, it’s like a mechanic who blurts out the details of a complicated repair. He could start talking about flux capacitors and I’d nod my head knowingly.

So Tuff starts explaining how he cracks the eggs using some Vulcan pinch maneuver and then sprinkles in a variety of spices, fresh-grown herbs, and I think something about embryos from a rare Sudanese water rat. Maybe not, it was hard to follow when he got going.

Then he puts it in the oven but at a certain degree for a certain amount of time. Just enough to…well, just enough. Like I said, I’m not good at this stuff and with people like Tuffy around, I don’t have to be.

The other ingredients were too numerous to recall but they had their own specific amount, flavor, and reason for being in there. When it was all said and done (in that order), Tuffy brought to me a work of art.

I would like to say that I was just hungry or that I was sparing his feelings as a result of him putting so much work into it. But that would be a lie. From the first forkful I put in my undeserving mouth, I experienced taste Nirvana. God, I about cried as I tasted what is unequivocally the very best omelet I had ever tasted. Granted I don’t like omelets so it’s only proper I elevate my evaluation to some of the very best eats in any category I have ever experienced.

I can’t say enough about this (you may beg to differ). It was an incredible culinary experience. If I ever hit the lottery, the baddest TI the Air Force has ever produced and a hard-nosed Italian private investigator will be hired on as my personal chef. If he doesn’t take my offer, I’ll simply double his pay until he relents.

The rest of the day was for relaxation. Actually, it was storing up energy for the big event.

Every Saturday, without fail, Tuffy has his routine. He gets in a three hour nap in the afternoon, wakes up, showers, dons a meticulous clothing selection, and has his wife drive him down to Jack’s Bar.

I was allowed to partake in this particular ritual and it was one of the top reasons I even made the trip. This night was something to experience: drinking at a local Texas bar on a Saturday night.

Although someone was sitting in Tuffy’s usual seat, he let them live. The bar was one of those that has a bottle opened and in the air as we entered the place. Cold beer hit our hand before our butts found a chair. My kind of place.

Tuffy refrains from drinking all week just to save up for Jack’s. Even at the get-together two nights ago and the Blue Rope Ball last night, Tuffy stuck with Diet Coke. But tonight was a different story. He started a tab and the beer came one after another as we took in the atmosphere for hours. I'll note that Tuffy gets the Tofuri discount which, while not spefically calculated using any metric I'm aware of, results in a ridiculous amount of beer costing all of $30 total by the end of the night. I don't think that Jack's will franchise anytime soon. But they got a customer for life in Joe.

My plan was simple. I had a marathon to run in 8 days so I would do what any normal person would do: drank my fill like an idiot moron. Actually, I decided to alternate: one beer, one glass of water. As long as I kept that up, I could maintain my hydration and guarantee myself several trips to the bathroom.

Like a seasoned beer drinker, Tuffy held firm and never allowed himself to use the head. I, on the other hand, wore a path between my barstool and the urinal. I freely admit that I have the bladder the side of a walnut and as the night wore on, I was more free to admit it in direct proportion to the beers I had.

Every place has a loud-mouth jerk. Jack’s was no exception except this time, I had been warned of the fact. This guy was one of Tuffy’s friends and he assured me that the guy had a heart of gold, if not a mouth of shit. It wasn’t my domain and I was just a visitor so I didn’t think much of it.

It just had to be that this guy was a New York fan and the fact that Boston has whipped the Yankees in 4 straight games to get to the World Series really irked this guy. The first game of the Series was on and there was a never-ending flow of smack from this guy.

I was starting to get irritated and when I found out that the guy was once in the Navy, I started to worry that the combination of his mouth, my status as a Marine, and the accumulating amount of alcohol in my system would unravel my controlled demeanor.

He started to getting louder and more obnoxious. It was almost to the tipping point but then he started talking with Tuffy in a quiet conversation and suddenly I saw why Tuffy liked him. What Tuffy said was true, he was a friend but just had a unique way of expressing himself in public. I actually felt a reversal of judgment on this man and saw through the asshole persona that I think he purposely puts forth. It’s his shtick, his role he plays every weekend for the crowd at Jack's.

We had a great time drinking beer, telling stories, and meeting people the whole night through. At a certain point, the band started setting up and Tuffy informed me that they get some alternative or rock bands playing too loud and that’s his normal cue to get a ride home. When my head vibrated more than the thunderstorm claps, I understood why Tuffy used this as his signal to vacate. The other signal was the younger crowd filling the empty spaces as the bar took a definate El Mercado de Carne vibe.

Here is another part of the procedure. Sandra gives him a ride but one of the regulars or even one of the bartenders takes Tuffy home. Tonight was no different and one of Tuff’s friends offered to drive us the three or so blocks back to Tuffy’s place.

When we got back, I felt as though I had really had one of those memorable experiences. I was let in on someone else’s reality for the night and partook in a routine earned by repetition and familiarity. It occurred to me that Joe is one of those rare people who everyone likes being around and he selflessly spreads himself around to as many people as he can come in contact with. With me trailing behind this experience, I felt humbled to be associated with such a man.

And I kept to my beer/water routine. I have the tired bladder to prove it.

Free Advice for Today:
Believe in love at first sight."
- 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


Friday, October 22, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Variables won't; constants aren't."

- Unknown

It was time to become the toy soldier.

I don’t say that to belittle the uniform but just to point out that there is a process to doing this and it’s no easy affair. In fact, it's quite intricate and difficult to get right in the best of environments. Now consider I had everything packed up and shipped halfway across the country. I figured my odds were slim that I'd bat 1000. "Something would be punted" said the pessimist in me.

I awoke early and felt the normal pang of rising early. I had this irrational motivation to get everything right because having just finished Tuffy’s book, my mind reeled in the world of bootcamp. The world of measuring things to the 16th of an inch. The world of sharp corners and quick accomplishments void of mistakes.

So I awoke and felt the need to be awake. I mean REAL awake. And then I felt the need to make the bed right away. Do I do this at home? You can hear Carrie laughing in the background. But at Tuffy’s, there were the ghosts of thousands of dinks echoing in my head screaming at me that I had better make that bed sheet tight because Tuffy would accept nothing less.

Would 45 degree corners be too much?

I chuckled at my own irrational feelings. What was I, a rainbow dink?

I quickly straightened the room out, took a shower, and started the process to transform myself into a peacock. I laid out the uniform on the clean bed, set up all the accessories, took out the cover from its box, took the shoes out of their box, and cleaned them as best I could.

Last night I had a bit of a stress point. I couldn’t remember if I had remembered the belt loop to my blues belt. This might appear to be a minor point and the fact of the matter is that no one would have possibly noticed it if I had actually forgotten it but I would know. The thought crossed my mind right before I fell asleep and I would have probably slept better but I couldn’t face the thought of actually knowing it was missing.

Checking this morning, I looked in ever pocket of the Blues (pockets that are never used). I looked in each pocket, not even sure if these pockets were even real pockets until I checked.

No luck. Looks like my batting average was about to take a hit.

There had to be a stress point in every donning of the Blues and I guess this one was it. Until I noticed it was actually on the belt itself. Then I got nervous that since this was NOT the mistake, what WOULD make its appearance as the one glaring flaw in my uniform? Neurotic, you say? Why do you say that? Is it something I wrote? What do you mean?.....

Good God, this might be the One. The One Time I had everything perfect which is even more improbable considering I was hauling the Blues halfway across the country to actually get them on my body.

I got them put together and like all my dress uniforms, I had a way to put them on which, mid-stride at any point in the procedure, looked ridiculous. At various points in the procedure, I have just underwear and black socks. Then add the T-shirt. Then the shoes. Yes, white T-shirt, white underwear, black socks, and black dress shoes make for a nice look.

Next comes the dress shirt worn under the blues coat. Then, and only then, come the trousers. The shoes are already on so I don’t have to break the crease by bending down and putting on then tying the shoes. Never mind that I will be sitting in a car for 45 minutes. Old habits die hard.

Lastly comes the coat. This is a bit of a dicey situation since I have never been able to connect the neck hook by myself. I got everything buttoned up and wanted so much to present myself fully displayed but I had to come down the stairs with the neck undone. I received the normal reaction from Tuffy and his wife but was quick to point out I needed help with the collar.

I tell anyone that helps me the same thing:

“Go ahead and choke the hell out of me.”

If I don’t, they will be hesitant to apply the required pressure to the collar and we’d be there all morning. Sandra got it on the first try and with minimal damage to my esophagus. If it isn’t a bit uncomfortable (what I liken to a midget on my back choking me) then it don’t fit.

I was ready to go on display.

Driving in the backseat of Tuffy’s car in Blues is like playing hide and seek in a refrigerator. Don’t get me wrong, his full size car wasn’t inadequate to comfortably haul adults in the back seat, it’s just when I’m wearing the Cloth of the Nation that is fitted to me so that it’s a perfect fit standing up, sitting down is a bit … constricting. Like the boa kind.

We got to Lackland Air Force Base and parked. Unfolding myself out of the car and quickly assessing the damage, I smoothed out my uniform with a few tugs and yoga moves. I was set to make my appearance.

I don’t know what I expected. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that I was the lone Marine in a very large crowd. To make things more obvious, we had VIP seats in front of the stands so the Peacock was escorted to the front, paraded in front of the masses.

I knew I was a spectacle. I knew that the uniform receives a lot of attention. And I knew that the American public loves seeing a Marine in dress blues. But I couldn’t get over my personal feelings of humility. I know, those of you that read these blogs might beg to differ but in public, I am very low key and humble at any attention pointed my way. So being in front of hundreds of people in a uniform that draws eyes like spotlights, it felt like more of a duty than a personal showcase.

A few people from last night’s get-together came up to talk to Tuffy and me and I was introduced to more people than I could possibly remember. I was painfully aware of the looks I was getting and while I was happy to represent what I saw in their eyes, I felt humbled on the off chance any of those feelings were a result of anything I had actually accomplished.

With all of these thoughts swirling in my head, the ceremony started and the announcer gave a long list of general instructions for the crowd on how to render the proper protocol for the ceremony they were about to view. I had seen so many of these things, participated in a good number of them, that I was only half listening and counting my blessings that the morning was not as hot as it could have been.

It seems I should have listened closer.

OK, let me remind you: I’m standing there in front of hundreds of people at my back and a full military ceremony going on in front of me.

I stand with everyone else. I sit. We all stand again. I’m standing there at attention as the lovely sounds of our National Anthem rings in my ears. At that moment, I couldn’t be prouder. I’m standing there hearing the notes of my Nation’s song, wearing the Nation’s Cloth, and fighting the urge to let the tears roll down my face.

In my reverie, a realization hits me like a freight train. I was standing there taking all of this in and was not, in fact, saluting.

What the hell was I thinking?

What more obvious faux pas could I possibly make? A Marine Captain in full Dress Blues in front of a crowd and he fails to render proper honors to the most basic, the most well-known, the most drilled into protocol taught to us from day 1. After all the work to make a good impression, I end up standing next to Tuffy embarrassing myself to the core. The uniform garnered respect for the Marine Corps. The mistake was all mine. But I knew what made it worse is that to the crowd, there was no distinction.

And now I had another problem. I made this realization about 20 seconds into the song so now what do I do? Draw more attention to myself my whipping up a salute? Slowly raise my salute and hope no one notices? (yeah, right)

Thinking on my feet, I decided to just swallow the pride and resort to damage control. I felt my face burn as I popped a proper, if not belated, salute and cut a smart return after the last note rang out. What are the chances that no one saw? Yeah, that’s what I came up with too but I decided to act like nothing happened. What could I do anyway?

Humility was the buzzword for the day.

There was a lot of high powered brass in the crowd. In fact, some of the highest powers in the Air Force. The guest speaker was the Secretary of the Air Force himself, which accounted for the Secret Service coverage I noted on the way in. Also present was the General of the Air Force, the Air Force equivalent to the Marine Corps Commandant. And of course with the big boys come the “big but not as big as them” generals. They were “only” one and two stars around. You know, small-pants people next to the big-pants people.

I had a really good time watching the ceremony, other than my idiot gaff. Watching men and women graduate bootcamp, regardless of the service, is a special treat to me and I gazed into the eyes of these men and women who spent the last 6 weeks going through hell on earth. And this was the moment they were released. It’s like no other feeling you could imagine and to witness it was a privilege I did not downplay for a second.

After the ceremony, I specifically sought out two elderly individuals in the crowd. Why, you ask?

Simple, they were wearing Marine Corps baseball caps. This is what Marines do. And I mean ALWAYS do.

The first gentleman shook my hand and gave a hearty Semper Fi. We didn’t need to say anything else as our eyes met and I could feel the connection. Looking into his eye, I almost felt a physical connection grab hold of me as I saw the generation of Marine that came before me peer into my soul, filling me up with pride.

The only thing that could have ruined the moment would be if he said “Aren’t you the jackass who forgot to salute the National Anthem?”

Luckily for my pride, he didn’t.

The second gentlemen was much older and his handshake was oddly stronger than his age would have you guess. He, too, offered me a hearty “Semper Fi” and informed me he had spend 35 years in the Corps before retiring. Right on the heels of that announcement, he quickly brought over his wife and tells me they have been married for over 50 years.

She sees my Blues and her old eyes light up like a Christmas tree. I don’t know if her husband was an Officer or not (we don’t ask, we are simply Marines and that’s that) but it seems that she was seeing a familiar cut of cloth and might have been remembering her husband so many years ago when he had a similar suit of armor. She kept touching my arm and beaming into my eyes with unquenchable pride, telling me stories of her WWII era Marine. It was one of the most humbling experiences of my entire career and for those moments, I was not just me. I was THE Marine Corps to this lovely woman and for that day, I somehow resurrected a happiness I saw in her eyes that I hope lasts for a long, long time.

The honorable treatment that morning was not done. Tuffy had set up a personal tour of one of the training barracks from one of the active duty Training Instructors. The two TIs that took us through the Basic Training Squadron tour was Section Supervisor, Technical Sgt McClure and a young TI named Staff Sgt Ray Craig.

Again, I was treated well above my station in life as these Sergeants escorted me around the barracks like some kind of king. I was impressed at the set up and the obvious professionalism of the TIs; a professionalism I’m sure is impressed on the “dinks.”

For the second time that morning, I made a fool of myself. “What did he do this time” is probably running through you mind right now. And since you asked…

The Sergeant was the consummate professional. Every time we entered a door, he would open it and let me through. It was a little complicated since we had Sandra with us and we kind of took turns with who entered first. If she was near the front of our little group, she would take it. But more often than not, I was in the lead and would be offered the open door.
On one occasion, we had to go up stairs and since I was let into the stairwell first, I was in the lead. But I didn’t know where exactly we were going so my idea was to rush up to the landing, let the Sergeant take the lead, and follow.

Well, this was a great plan. All the way up to the moment where the leading edge of my shoe caught the leading edge of the step.

You want to know how ungraceful a Marine Captain in full Dress Blues looks as he stumbles forward and has to catch himself with one hand since his cover is meticulously placed in his other hand?

That’s cold-blooded, you rubber-necker.

The scene culminated with me pulling up my foot in time to slam it down, catching most of my weight before I actually fell. But the sound my foot made in the echoing stairwell sounded astonishingly like the discharge of a very high caliber weapon.

“Are you OK, Captain?”

Yeah, that’s not embarrassing.

When we got to the barracks, Tuffy was a riot. You could tell he was seething with the need to inspect. Tuffy spent so many years as a TI, putting him in this environment and expecting him NOT to revert is like asking the proverbial tiger to change his stripes. It ain’t gonna happen.

Just when he couldn’t stand it any longer, he asked the Sergeant if he could take a look. The Sergeant nodded with a smile (knowing he was in the presence of the Master) and Tuffy took right to an open wall locker that was waiting to be inspected.

Tuffy inspected more with his hands than anything else. His hands expertly moved over each item as though they had minds of their own. I looked over and his back was to me. His posture was that of someone in a trance of concentration while his arms moved around in the wall locker. He was right back where he left off so many years ago.

After the tour, the Sergeant brought us back to his office and bestowed on me a very valuable gift. He gave me the unit coin and I was flabbergasted. Not only did I get an impressive tour of an impressive environment, I was then rewarded with a memento that meant more to me than this Sergeant could have known. I have always had a soft spot for recruit training and a deep-seated respect for those that dedicate themselves to making warriors. These Air Force TIs were no exception and that they felt me worthy to give me some of their valuable time and then on top of that, pay a huge respect to me by awarding a coin to me…well, not for the first time this day did I feel humbled and appreciative.

We spent the rest of the day relaxing until the Blue Rope Ball. It was the main event I had come to San Antonio to attend and I was really looking forward to it.

Looking back on it, the only thing I regret is only having running shoes. I had a nice shirt and new jeans because Tuffy assured me it was casual. But I realized after I arrived in San Antonio that all I had in the form of footwear was my running shoes and my uniform shoes.

The Blue Rope Ball is a banquet every year where they bestow only 10% of the best TIs with the coveted Blue Rope. And only past recipients and their guests are even invited to attend so it was an honor just to be in their presence. The TIs experience level seated at just our table exceeded 80 years of TI duty!

There was Chief Master Sgt (ret) Bob Bilke, an elderly but obviously still spry gentleman that was seated to the left at our table. If there was a Godfather of the group, this guy was the man.

For comedy relief, there was Chief Master Sgt (ret) Dave Wilhelm who kept us in stitches all night. He was Tuffy’s mentor and now good friend who makes an appearance in Tuffy’s Heroes. Meeting him was to meet a character out of a book, literally, and it was clear why he was so special to Tuffy. The friendship between them was palpable.

Also present was the "eating machine", Master Sgt (ret) Bob "Crash" Kirchner. As all at the table attested to, Crash got his name for the way he could crash into a pile of food. He was renowned for being able to eat enormous amounts of food, which seemed strange to me since the only extra pounds that he had was in the form of getting up in age a bit. He was not obese as you would expect from such a reputation. I also learned that he made an appearance on American Bandstand in the 50s. Yes, American Bandstand dancers are now old enough to be in their 60s.

Other unforgettable people at the ball were Captain (ret) Al Carmona an ex-TI, LtCol (ret) Eldridge Burns, one of the better Squadron Commanders Tuffy ever served with, and Tuffy’s good friend Chief Master Sgt (ret) Milton Martin.

I had a long conversation about TIs and the Marine Corps with TSgt Jim "Chip" Coleman from the Air Force Academy, a former Marine.

Next, I was impressed while talking with MSgt retired, Paul Stapper. He was a World War II and Korean War Marine turned Air Force and of course a TI.

Likely the most auspicious introduction I received was to Brigadier General (ret) Richard Coleman, a man Tuffy worked with when Tuff was first selected to teach in ITB (Instructor Training Branch) which was the TI School. The General was a Technical Sergeant at that time and Tuffy was a Buck Sgt. They have remained close friends since the late 60's.

General Coleman was "The Man" in charge of USAF Security and Law Enforcement and retired with more time on active duty in the USAF than anyone in the history of the Air Force... about 44 years, 6 months. He was also the individual, while he and Tuffy worked together at ITB in 1968, that was responsible for introducing the change from the brown campaign cover which could only be worn with the fatigues and "Tan" colored uniforms to the blue campaign hats worn today. Although he introduced the blue hat in 1968 and was tested by him, Tuffy and one other member of the faculty, the actual change did not come into effect until 1972 or 1973.

The night was a wonderful event and well worth the effort to get there to see it. I had a great time with Tuffy and his friends as we swapped stories at what I considered the Table of Honor. The friendship and camaraderie of these legendary TIs made it the only table I would have wanted to sit at.

Free Advice for Today:
Everyone loves praise. Look hard for ways to give it to them."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Thursday, October 21, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"You never really learn to swear until you learn to drive."

- Unknown

Today, I traveled to where the stars shine bright… deep in the heart… well, you know the rest. By the way, I will be referring to this little ongoing joke many times during the next few days so let’s just get it over with now. It refers to the Pee Wee Herman movie where he goes to the Alamo and to prove he’s actually there, he sings the first part of this song while in a telephone booth and everyone on the street stops and finishes the verse. It’s comedy at its best and a classic movie moment…or at least down near my sense of humor.

This morning I had to get to BWI. For those that don’t know, it is the furthest “close” airport to where I live, the others being Reagan National and Dulles. And since this trip was on my dime and I’m the cheapest bastard you’ll ever meet, I got a ticket to San Antonio leaving out of Baltimore/Washington International Airport. Never mind that it takes almost 2 hours to get there, it was cheaper. And cheap is good.

Speaking of cheap, let’s talk about Southwest Airlines. I’m surprised they even offer seats. I think they perceive it as a luxury and treat you accordingly.

OK, let’s start with the take-off time. LATE!!

Because I’m a traveling snob (headphones on, listening to music and reading a book), this didn’t bother me as much as making me look like a fool when I pointed out to the receptionist that I didn’t have a seat number. I found out that on Southwest, it’s stadium seating so first come, first serve. But at least I had an “A” ticket so I was in the first group.

Although the late take-off time didn’t bother me, I knew it would affect my connection in Houston and they told me as much over the intercom in the same Charlie Brown teacher voice that was made worse due to the fact I had sound-canceling earphones on. And announcements from the airport definitely qualifies as noise.

I will freely admit that I’m a white-knuckle flyer now. It didn’t used to be this way but anymore, even the slightest turbulence causes me to suck up half the fabric of my seat. To remedy this situation, I did what any normal human would do in such a situation.

“Beer, over here!!”

$3 for a can of beer. Was it worth it? In spades, my friend. It was just enough that I could still read my book but not care that I was careening through the lower atmosphere in a pressurized metal tube, completely out of control of my destiny and waiting for gravity to take over and slam us into the unforgiving earth below.

Landing in Houston, I was confused. Because I had refused to remove my headphones, I had missed all of the announcements. I knew we were late but wasn’t sure how late. By the time I got off the plane and checked my ticket, I realized I had less than 15 minutes to got to my connection. Would I still be ticketed for it since they already told me they were getting me on the one after the one I was originally scheduled for?

I didn’t know so I decided to go for it. At least they would be able to tell me where I caught the next one.

I looked up on the gate number. I was at gate 10. The gate I had to get to? Yeah, we’re talking 43. Perfect.

So now I’m doing the O.J. thing (no, not slitting blondes’ throats, (sorry, Tuff, anything for the funny)) and running through the airport. To make matters worse, I had to change entire concourses which brought with it the little extra bonus of going through another security checkpoint. Things were just getting better and better.

I got through the long line and thank God Southwest crappy scheduling held true and my connection was delayed. I made it but was unsure if my luggage had the same luck. Hell, it could be in Taiwan by now.

Getting into San Antonio, I was sure I was a dead man. The plane hit so much turbulence that I wondered how the world would go on without me and if they would think when they found my body with smeared feces all up my backside.

When I got in, I didn’t know where my luggage was. Would it be on the next plane they so courteously rebooked me on when they thought my flight to Houston would be late? And just in case there wasn’t enough stress, I called Tuffy and he was circling the airport waiting for me to emerge.

I say this every time I travel: I have to get luggage other than black. Everyone uses black and while I have enough confidence that I will find my own, I’m always afraid that some jackass will accidentally take it, thinking it was his. In this particular case, they would have scored a full set of Marine Corps Officer Dress Blues. We know what he would have been for Halloween this year.

I got my bag and met up with Tuffy and his wife on one of their circuits around the airport. It was strange because it was the first time we had actually met but we both knew a lot about each other. I had finished his book, Tuffy’s Heroes, on the plane and had finished his first book, The Ninth Commandment, some months ago.

Joe "Tuffy" Tofuri is a retired Air Force Training Instructor who spent most of his career training airmen before retiring and becoming a private detective. Although a work of fiction, he chronicled many of his experiences in Tuffy’s Heroes.

He had run across my website and written me for a couple of years. In that time, we had shared many emails, phone calls, and I even helped edit the Marine portions of his book. He invited me to San Antonio to attend the Blue Rope Ball and a graduation ceremony and I agreed to do it as a vacation and an opportunity to meet someone I had truly enjoyed conversing with. It just happened to be around a time that my travel schedule was insane but that’s beside the point.

We got back to his townhouse apartment and changed clothes for a little get-together at the SNCO club at Lackland Air Force Base. Driving through the neighborhood, I marvelled at the site of a city I’ve never actually been to before. The thought of waking up in Virginia and now tooling down the road in San Antonio was surreal to me. I was deep in the heart....OK, I'll stop.

I realized Tuffy had sacrificed more than I expected to come and get me because when we get to the club, most of the people had gone. The little party had started hours ago and only the truly social endured to see our arrival. We knew we would see them tomorrow but I felt a little responsible for Tuffy missing his friends.

But we stayed and had a couple of beers. Actually, I had a couple of beers and Tuffy had Coke since he saves up his drinking ration for Saturday nights at the local bar. There were two active duty TIs there, one male and one female and they listened to the stories being told by their forefathers. Of course I couldn’t help it and had to add in a couple of stories about my R. Lee Ermey encounter so many years ago and I discovered all the TIs really liked hearing about old Gunnery Sergeant Hartman.

The night was a total success, based on the fact that I made it to San Antonio without crashing into a giant ball of fire (or somewhere in the ocean), I met Tuffy and his wonderful wife, and had a couple of beers with professional TIs from the past and present. Oh, and I got a coffee mug from the MTIA. So, you know, that made my day.

Free Advice for Today:
Never sign contracts with blank spaces."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"My karma ran over your dogma."

- Unknown

Well, I made the decision today. MSN Radio Plus was not for me.

If I cancelled within a month, they promised not to charge my credit card. Of course they made me enter all my credit card information up front to even turn on the service but I knew this was because the vast majority of people, once they have gone through the trouble of giving the credit card info, were either not going to remember to cancel after a month or just be too lazy to do it.

Ahh, but they didn’t count on me being a cheap bastard.

Not only had I put a reminder on my Outlook but I actually remembered to check it before I left to go on a trip tomorrow because the due date would come up while I was away.

I know, I was shocked at such forward thinking, myself!!!

The story about how this started is here.

They make it easy to sign up. Oh, so tempting and easy. You can do it all online, just enter the info and BAM, you're listening to online music. Simple, easy, let-me-do-that-for-you-you-retarded-imbecile convenient.

But then try to take them up on the cancellation offer.

Oh, NOW it’s not so easy. Their cheery loyalty to simplicity simply wafts away like a fart in a hurricane.

After navigating through about 5 menus, buried deep within the interface, I find a link that promises some information about dealing with subscriptions. Following that, I am dumped to a generic help menu that deals with general subscription issues.

I expected this but it still started to piss me off.

Rummaging around some more, I finally got to the page that talked about canceling a subscription. So I clicked it and it was almost like a begrudging screen that said I might, or might not, be able to handle this via an online chat but most likely I’d have to call.

So you will sign me up, take my financial information online, and get me started right up but to tell you to cancel, I have to go to the phones. Classic.

Because it was a generic screen dealing with a plethora of subscriptions, they couldn’t tell me if I could chat my way out of it. But I gave it a shot. After being made to sign in again and a very long pause, here is the “conversation” I had.

Welcome to MSN Interactive Support
The MSN Interactive Support session has been accepted.

{Natasha} Thank you for contacting MSN Online Customer Service, my name is Natasha and I will be assisting you with your issue today
.

(Natasha? Really? OK, yeah, we’ll both pretend your real name is Natasha. Because it wouldn’t be a sultry, exotic female name to appeal to the stereotypical lonely geek losers you figure you’ll be dealing with. I guess Bambette is helping Poindexter at the moment.)

{Natasha} Hello Jason.

{Jason} I would like to cancel my trail subscription to the online radio service.

(Yeah, I accidentally requested to be off the “trail” subscription. But I guess Natasha overlooked my error)

{Natasha} I am sorry to hear that you would like to cancel your Radio Plus subscription.

(I’m sure you are, Natasha, I’m sure you are. But since I have an affinity for sexy Russian women, I’ll just forget I ever thought about canceling out my subscription…)

{Jason} I was told that if I cancel within a month, my card would not be charged.

{Natasha} Yes Jason.

(There was about a 5 minute pause here)

{Natasha} Jason, to cancel your account you would need to speak with our Cancellation Team. What I can do for you is give you the number to call and you can contact them after our chat.

(OK, so, despite this being an online chat service thing you got going, you don’t have the authority to perform this intricate financial transaction. I see. So I have to play chat AND I have to talk to your crack customer service people on the phone who are sitting in some dismal phone bank being paid minimum wage and caring more for the hangnail on their big toe than helping me out with this Wall Street takeover…)

{Natasha} However, for security purposes, I need to verify some account information. May I have your MSN e-mail address?

(PERFECT!!! And I have to jump through more hoops with YOU, before I get to call your “Cancellation Team” and play a rousing game of Phone Menu Bingo followed by the “Let’s See How Long This Nerd Will Wait On Hold” game.

{Jason} nottheadj@hotmail.com

{Natasha} Thank you for the information. Please give me a minute to pull up your account.

(Which turned into another 5 minutes…)

{Natasha} Jason, I have checked your account and see that you are subscribed to MSN Radio Plus and it is in good status.

(Oh, you don’t know how good that makes my soul feel. I think I’m gonna crap sunshine for a week!!!)

{Natasha} The number is 1866-672-4551. They are available Monday-Friday between 8am and 1am EST and Saturday and Sunday between 8am and 8pm EST.

(I wanted to see how long Nat would wait for me to respond. I was on hold a good 7 minutes before I even heard from Natasha again.)

{Natasha} Have you received the number?

(Another payback 5 minutes… petty, I know...)

{Jason} yes

{Natasha} Is there anything else I can assist you with?

(Just about done explaining myself on the phone to Bobo the Condescending…)

{Natasha} I have not received a response from you. Are you still with me?

(Eat air, Natasha…)

{Natasha} I am afraid I will have to close this chat as I have not received any message from you. If you still require assistance, please login again. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Thank you for contacting MSN Online Customer service.

(Natasha my dear, our paths will never cross again…unless I get a charge on my credit card. Thank you for making this whole cancellation such a simple and hassle-free experience.)

Free Advice for Today:
Don't confuse mere inconveniences with real problems."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"ONE SHOULD NEVER GENERALIZE."

- Unknown

Krispy Kremes are made by Lucifer himself.

One of the contractors came in today and decided to do something nice, in the form of two dozen glazed Krispy Kremes. It was horrendous.

I’m in the final weeks of my marathon prep. I’m trying to be good, get rest, hydrate, and watch what I eat. Then appears the very temptation that has ruined man's soul for (slap in as long as KK’s have been in business) years.

He meant well which made it hard for me to beat his head in with a brick. We’ll miss him.

All day they beckoned me. I have a long history with the KK’s and the only defense that I’ve been able to muster has been a simple yet effective measure.

Supply-point discipline.

Any other tactic, among the myriads of strategies, fall to the wayside like a quart of fat dribbling out a liposuction tube. I simply must stay away from them.

So in walks Mr. Good-Deeder and I’m trapped. They sit there in their little white box, staring at me all day. I DON’T HEAR YOU!!!! LA LA LA LA LA….

I almost made it. It was toward the end of the day and I thought, hey, it couldn’t hurt just to check in on the little fellas. Opening the box, 4 still remained. I had to get out before they stole my soul.

I scampered down the hall and visited the Nerdery (where all the programmers work). I thought I was safe despite the Nerdery being a popular hangout for all types of nasty treats: Ho-Hos, Twinkies, etc. I could resist those. It was possible. They did not have Hell's spell dragging me into the pit of Burning Eternity like other confections that rhyme with Hispy Freams.

As I entered the Nerdery, I saw it. No! It couldn’t be! Had it followed me? Was I hallucinating? There they were, right on the desk.

“What the F*&(& is that?”

“Oh, Ed brought those in this morning. You can have one if you want.”

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! REDRUM! REDRUM!!!

I ran back to my office, slamming the door. OK, it’s me and you. Bring one at a time or bring them all! I don’t care!!! Time to dance you little bastards!!!!

I was wild-eyed, back against the door, arms splayed out.

I then snapped out of it. I had to neutralize the situation, quickly.

Opening the door, I saw a young Corporal walking by.

“CORPORAL!!! COME HERE!!!”

She turned, saw a Captain giving her a very strong direct order, and jumped into the doorway.

“Yes, Sir?!”

“EAT THIS!!”

“Aye-aye, Sir!”

God, I hope she wasn’t diabetic.

The quartet had taken a direct hit but I still had 3 of the bastards mocking me.

“YOU, AT THE COPIER. YOU STILL HAVE A METALBOLISM. HERE!” as I crammed one in his hand. With a smile he thanked me.

Two to go. I sat in my chair and we stared at each other. The lid rose and fell slightly like an engine revving. I shot the finger at the box.

Then I saw the Corporal talking with another Marine. I grabbed one of the last remaining bastards and extended my arm out the door without a command.

“Ohhhh, Sir, I heard you were giving them away.”

A disembodied voice floated around the corner… “Just take it, for the love of all that is sacred in this world…”

I had won, I had prevailed!! I had….I licked the frosting off of my fingers.

Just like the werewolf in the old movies, I began to shake all over, holding up my hand that was turning into a paw.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…..OWWWWWWWUUUUUUUUU…..”

BRING ME THE LAST SURVIVOR!!! PLACE IT BEFORE MY FEET!!!

I didn’t care. Let someone say something. I had lasted as long as I could and I pounced on the unsuspecting pastry.

It took about three bites and I hardly tasted anything.

Afterwards, I sat there, wondering what happened as though coming out of a coma. It was over as fast as it began and I slouched in the aftermath of shame. The box, like a coffin, sat there mocking my lack of discipline. It opened and closed, saying,

“It took all day, you weakling jackass, but I got you. I got you good.”

So I crammed it in the toilet and …. I’ll let you finish the scene.

Free Advice for Today:
Steer clear of any place with a Ladies Welcome sign in the window."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

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Monday, October 18, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"IS LACKEY LOWER OR HIGHER THAN FLUNKY?"

- Unknown

Did you ever speak with someone over the phone and not be able to tell if it’s a man or a woman?

OK, not to be mean but I don’t think I can help it. It started a couple of weeks ago when I had to make contact with a point of contact through work. I called up and got voicemail but I could not for the life of me tell if it was an effeminate man or a masculine woman.

To make matters worse he/she has an androgynous name (no, it isn’t “Pat”).

So I thought, OK, I’ll be able to tell once I get this person on the phone.

Today that fateful day came and after 15 minutes, no joy. I had to be real informal because “Mr.” or “Ms.” just wasn’t happening.

So I gave up the quest to find the answer by the clues I already had (which was about ziltch) and decided to redirect my powers of deduction to figuring out a way to find out covertly. Thinking to myself, I discovered there is no really graceful way to introduce a question, in a business setting, that would elicit such information.

So I asked around the office, explaining the situation and asking for suggestions.

One co-worker told me to just refer to the person as “shim.” This didn’t really help me much.

Another offered to call this person and do an “anonymous survey.” When he suggested “sex” after asking “name,” I doubted his game and decided against such boorish tactics.

Somebody suggested I get them to talk about their spouse. But ignoring the fact that this would be a weird topic in a business setting to someone I didn’t know, I thought that the whole "significant other" situation might rear its head and I’d be set back further than I already was.

So I was left with the straight facts: I didn’t know and it wasn’t important. But oh how I wondered….

OK, folks, three GMail accounts down, three to go. I’m feeling like Willy Wonka here so read Saturday’s blog for the last three Golden Tickets.

Oh, and two days in a row that I’m caught up with the blog. Yes, I feel like the Chosen Immortal.

Free Advice for Today:
Return borrowed vehicles with the gas tank full."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

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Sunday, October 17, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"What do shock absorbers do? Do they absorb shock?"

- Unknown

I’ve had my Garmen GPS for a couple of years now. It’s a handy little gadget (that didn’t come cheap) but it helped me to stop having to drive out on Friday nights and tying trash bags around tree branches at mile markers for my long runs on Saturday. With a GPS, I can just measure my distance as I go.

Of course it does so much more than what I use it for but for a few hundred bucks, I am able to measure the distances I run for up to 12 hours on two AA batteries.

Today I ran 12 miles and it occurred to me I really don’t know how this thing works. I mean, I understand that it picks up a bunch of satellites and triangulates my position and all but a thought occurred to me that I couldn’t quite nail down.

OK, say I start at point A. We’ll go with this being my starting point.

Am I going too fast?

Using the satellites, it knows where point A is on the Big Blue Marble and records it in a memory location. Cool.

I then move in a straight line a mile down the road. I stop at point B. You guessed it, this is my ENDING POINT. You ARE a quick study.

So then the satellites say I’m at point B. It takes point A and point B and knows that I went a mile. Seems pretty easy, huh?

Here is where I got confusified.

I start at point A and I go out 6 miles, turn around, and come back. My point B is exactly my point A. So how does it calculate the distance I’ve traveled?

I thought, well, maybe it takes increments. It takes a measurement every say, one second. Then it adds it. So it might be a cumulative addition of small distances. I don’t know if this is right. What would the increment be? How would it know? Seems kind of wrong thinking.

Then I thought, hey, it knows you are going in this direction and the when you start backtracking, it knows and starts adding instead of using straight A to B calculation. This seemed like a whole lotta thinking for the little guy to be doing so I dismissed it. I must refrain from giving technology human characteristics. It’s not Data, after all.

Wouldn’t that be cool? Having Data with you? OK, maybe not. He would never get tired and would end up just pissing me off, never sweating, talking all logical. I’d end up beating his ass with a branch. Wait, he’s like almost indestructible and knows all recorded martial arts.

How did I get here? Sorry about that.

So I’m not really sure. Boy, all those satellite communications classes at the Naval Post Graduate School are really paying off, huh? I guess I should have showed up more than once a week.

Then again, is knowing how my GPS works really worth hours and hours of satellite gobbledy-gook?

Score!!!!

Free Advice for Today:
Don't be fooled. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

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Saturday, October 16, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"The trouble with life is there's no background music."

- Unknown

I got GMail accounts to give out. I noticed today that a link on my GMail account appeared that allows me to invite 6 people. If you don't know what I'm talking about you can read this but most likely, don't bother. You must have geek credentials.

OK, so how should I do this? No, I’m not accepting bribes. Do I dole it out to family members? Fans of the site? Complete strangers? You think Sarah McLachlan would email me if I gave her one? How about if I gave her all 6? And my liver... OK, maybe that's a little extreme. But I have TWO kidneys so maybe...

I don’t know, I haven’t decided but I feel drunk with power. Mu-hahahahahaha….

So if you think you deserve one (and note I have absolutely no criteria to go off of) then email me. If you seem to want one as bad as I did and you really think you will use it (unlike me), then I’ll think about it.

Oh, and you must be willing to have me post your Gmail address on an update blog. And call me Supreme Master of All Dorkonian Geekdom and Rightful Master of All Nerdicus Spazoids. Thaaaaaaaanks.

Free Advice for Today:
Hear both sides before judging."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

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Friday, October 15, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"HAM AND EGGS -- A day's work for a chicken, a lifetime commitment for a pig."

- Unknown

The Great Pretender.

I don’t floss all that often. OK, save the lectures, I’ve heard them.

Maybe sometimes when I eat steak or get a piece of popcorn spot-welded to the side of a tooth at the gum line, but regularly? I leave that to my wife. I figure my teeth are eventually going to fall out and I can get a nice set of fake ones that I keep in a glass at night.

Today, I had to face the jury. I had a dental checkup. It started from an email from the Company Gunny a few weeks ago (yes, right up-to-date on my work email) that told me it was about that time. I called and much to my surprise, they could get me in the next day. Whhhhat? Is this the military dental organization I’ve come to know and hate? Oh, that’s medical. Sorry.

I wasn’t about to let this appointment stop my daily coffee intake. No siree, I must have the Joe. So I brushed my teeth in the morning (I DO brush my teeth in the morning, for those that are grossed out that I don’t floss) and grabbed my trusty Mugasaurus as I headed out the door.

Here is the game they play: tell the idiots to show up a half hour early and then they will show up MAYBE 10 minutes early but most likely get there on time. Then they can chastise us for not showing up on time (1/2 hour early) to the appointment. Then they can make us wait another ½ hour after our scheduled appointment. I’ve played this game before. I brought a book.

I got caught up at work (yeah, talking to the civilians, so what) and showed up about 15 minutes early. I got a snide look from the receptionist who I had to wait 5 minutes for while she helped someone else. But I played Mr. Happy, or Captain Happy, I guess and didn’t let any stress show reflecting my “late” status.

My penance was simple.

“Please fill out this form, date here, sign here, answer here, here, here, here, and here, but not here, date here again, initial there, fill out there, here, not there, leave that blank unless you filled out this, initial and date any cross outs, and sign the bottom. Do you need to borrow a pen, Sir?”

OK, so I’m filling out forms.

The calamities listed on these forms were horrendous. I knew I’d have a good day after answering “No” to all of them but was careful to read each malady. Sometimes they trick you by asking if you have vision in both eyes and if you are just blindly (get it?) answering "no" because you don’t think you have anything in the genre of venereal disease or missing limbs, you would be busted when answering “No” to the “vision in both eyes” question.

There was no trick question on this particular questionnaire and I assured the fine staff at the dental clinic that I indeed did NOT have dizziness, heart murmurs, told that I can’t give blood, or am HIV positive.

After waiting a few minutes, I was called in and I thought, “Hey, they are pretty quick.”

It turns out I should have said “Hey, I'm a dumbass.”

They sat me in the dentist chair and everything and I thought I’d get in and out like a thief. Cool!

“Can you push up your sleeve so I can get your blood pressure?”

I this a little odd but I remembered they do this at the dentist, too. I crammed up my rolled up sleeve and she took my BP. Something like 161 over 46 which she assured me was good. She could have said “2456 over Pi” and I wouldn’t have known better but it’s nice to know that all this running at least helps my blood pressure.

After she was done, she says,

“You can go back out in the waiting room and they will call you shortly.”

What? You drag me in here, sit me down in the torture chair, all just to take my blood pressure? That’s it? Try taking it now!!!

That’s what I thought. What I said was “Thanks.”

I wasn’t out there two minutes before they called me again. OK, it’s their game.

This time it was a man and he took me to a room where I thought I’d be checked out. Once I entered, I realized the situation. Sit-up chair with a metal chest coat. Could only be X-Rays. It still wasn’t my turn in the chair. At least not the “check me out, Doc” chair.

I sit there and get to put on the heavy metal coat which protects the rest of my body from the same crap they are zapping into my head. Is it just me or is it strange that they are protecting my body from the very thing they are bombarding my brain with? Come on, aren’t we kind of wasting time with the metal coat, gents?

I know what’s coming. I’m 35 years old and I’ve been here before. The cardboard torture.

Sure enough, he makes me open my mouth as he jams a cardboard film cartridge into my mouth. It’s specially designed to dig into the top and bottom of your gums. And tastes so great.

He gets this thing into place and it bites me back as he makes me chomp down. Then he says smile. I find this difficult until I imagine me kicking the crap out of this guy.

He repositions the big machine so the cannon shoots right into my face. He makes a dozen micro-adjustments, making me smile the whole time as visions of blood pooling at the bottom of my mouth swim through my head (the one about to be zapped).

When he’s ready, he tells me to hold still and dives into his little protective booth. Sure, no danger but let me just stand behind 4 feet of metal while the concentrated cannon points right into your brain. Smile.

He repeats this little play for the other side and then tells me to wait in the lobby again. For the third time, I’m sitting in this little area making all the enlisted Marines uncomfortable and ignoring the lame local news on the TV. I don’t care about a local bond!!!

A few minutes later, I hear the nurse once again slaughter my name. And once again I use the tried and true response. “You pronounce it just like what you don’t want to say in case you’re wrong.”

I get into the chair again and I find myself alone. I sit there for a few moments and then realize I should just get up and grab my book. No telling how long I’m going to be sitting here. Of course this guarantees that the Doc will be along soon.

Sure enough.

He seems like a nice enough guy. I learned long ago not to stand on strict military protocol with dentists. They seem not to like it and most of them are Reservists who are doing their 2 weeks anyway. I normally stick with “Doc” and that seems to be the happy medium. Since the conversation with this is usually a lot of small sentences, the formal use of “Sir” at the beginning gets stale.

He asks me the normal questions, “where do you work, what do you do, have you ever had a grown man rub your back.” Just kidding and checking to see if you’re paying attention. (The answer is "No", by the way).

As he’s poking around in my mouth, he says this to his assistant:

“Looks like we got a flosser here.”

I’m glad I have my mouth wide open with two hands in it. Otherwise, I would have laughed.

Resisting the practical joke of eating a bag of Oreos and Cool Ranch Doritos, I made sure I flossed right before the appointment and brushed my teeth according to plan. I felt OK about drinking coffee, knowing I would be brushing again.

He then asks me “Do you floss often?”

I was ready for this question and gave him my practiced answer:

“More than I used to but not as much as I should.”

He told me my teeth and gums looked great and had no problems. I proudly beamed, knowing I had pulled a fast one over on him. Why this gave me any joy I’m not sure but the fact remained, I had like super-hero teeth. OK, maybe I’m embellishing.

Flush from this realization, I found it confusing when he started slinging technical jargon at his assistant:

“Level 1 on the anterior 4, same with exterior 3 but a 2 on 1 and 5.”

What? Hey, I want it ALL to be a 1. I think. Maybe low numbers are bad. But he said my teeth were god-like.

“Minor gingivitis on…”

NOW WAIT A MINUTE! I KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS!!

How can he go from “Great teeth” to “gingivitis”? I suddenly pictured all my teeth a rotten green with visible green smoke emanating from my entire mouth.

“Looks like you have a bit of staining but other than that, it looks great.”

“From the coffee?”

“Probably but we’ll set you up with a cleaning to take care of that.”

So it seems that “gingivitis” is a common thing that is only really bad at the advanced stage. But to hear it applied to my own mouth, almost makes me want to…want to…want to FLOSS.

Well, almost.

Free Advice for Today:
Regardless of the situation, remember that nothing is ever lost by courtesy."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Thursday, October 14, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS, but it uses up three thousand times the memory on your computer."

- Unknown

I had guests tonight. The Sergeants Wildes came calling. Let me explain.

A long time ago I got an email from a young Marine who had read my “Rolling the Threads” story and wanted to know if it was authorized to wear his Dress Blue “A” uniform for his wedding (to another Marine. A female one, come on!!!). Here is the entire story.

The other day, I got an email from him telling me he and his wife were in Quantico for a couple of days and asked if it was possible to meet up. I was delighted and we set up tonight for them to come over. Sounds simple, right?

You’re new around here, aren’t you?

First I had to run the gauntlet. For only the second time since I’ve lived here, I got in a massive traffic jam coming home and it took me 2 hours to make it. I was just a bit peeved when I exited I-95 after traveling about 4 miles in 45 minutes and decided to dive off onto Highway 1.

Bad move.

Two hours after I left work, I rolled into my own driveway. Is it wrong to hope there were charred bodies? OK, then I’m wrong.

The Wildes had called from a friend’s house coincidentally only about a mile from where we lived and were waiting for my phonecall. I called them and invited them over for dessert. I didn’t stop to think they would feel obligated to stop by the store and get something to eat. Hell, I don’t normally even eat dessert anyway.

In the meantime, I scarfed my dinner down and tried to de-pissify myself after a couple of hours of moving one-car length at a time. I thought 14 shots of Jaeger ought to do it. (Just kidding).

It was a delightful evening and we all talked in the living room. I found out that they read this blog regularly and it sometimes spawns conversation on the way home. They are stationed in Okinawa and will be coming to Quantico next year.

I showed them my set up here at the house, in essence showing them where the magic is done. I think they will agree, it’s not all that intricate or sexy: just a computer and an internet connection. What they didn’t see is the hours each night banging away at something or other on the computer. And the daily scenes that pass in front of my eyes which feed this journal. And the heroin. (Again, just kidding!!!)

We discussed the page, specifically this blog, and came to the conclusion that the reason it’s so unique is that I dump all my thoughts out here for all to see and I guess people, specifically enlisted Marines, aren’t used to seeing such unguarded thoughts from an Officer.

I get a lot of email on this same subject and most are amazed that I have the same day-to-day irritations that everyone has. I guess I forget the stereotypical view enlisted Marines have of their Officers. I did too. But we don’t sip tea with our pinkies up and live in a mansion. We take out the trash, fight traffic, question ourselves about mundane things, get irritated, love our families, and worry about life in general just like everyone else.

Yes, I guess we’ve been exposed to unique training and are held responsible to a high level but that only augments our personalities. I think deep down, we are just people with a hell of a job. The lines between work and life blur but that doesn’t mean we go home and read professional magazines every night and live a high society or Spartan life compared with that of enlisted Marines.

So when people see the “at-home” version, which all of you reading this normally do, they are a bit surprised, hopefully a little entertained, but mostly interested in the similarities of their lives whether they are civilians, enlisted Marines, or for that matter, any serviceperson.

So we discussed this and many other things. I even got into telling them about my latest train rant and they ended up getting a live version of me telling the story. If they enjoy the blog as much as they indicated, it must have been a little weird to see a “3-D” version of an entry.

They stayed late and I was glad. I know they were tired but the conversation stayed lively until almost 11:30 at night and they gracefully excused themselves. OK, maybe I babbled incessantly and they bolted at first opportunity. Either, or.

It was a great night and the visit really turned the crappy day around.

Free Advice for Today:
Say something positive as early as possible every day."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"He who dies with the most toys is nonetheless dead."

- Unknown

Sir Phil sent me a link today that had results and pictures from my half-marathon. The only two pictures they have of me is on the final ¼ lap when I’m soaking wet. Where were these bozos on the course? Did the rain make it tough on you? Sorry if the 13 miles you could have driven to taxed your photographic dedication.

Here I am running for the tape. Actually, there was no tape. Just a chute with some girl desperately trying to rip off the finishing tag from a bunch of people who wanted little to do with her job. I, of course, had my headphones on, blocking out everything and everyone for most of the 1 hour and 43 minutes I was running. Most of the time, I am not a social runner.
Showing a little more stress, it was important to get to the end of this. Notice I'm soaked to the bone and the track is covered in water. For the complete story, go to the blog entry.
Here comes Sir Phil, my running buddy I shamelessly left behind at about mile 5. Don't feel bad for him, he did the same for me during our last Wild Wild West adventure.
Oh, Sir Phil, you should have worn a hat. Yes, yes you should've. Notice the girl laughing at Sir Phil. This happens a lot.
Obviously, Sir Phil has finished and is sporting his finisher's medal. He's going back to help run in a friend. I, on the other hand, was content to eat bagels and wonder if I would ever breath normally again.
Sir Phil helps a friend run in and thus finishes the race for the second time. He stole another medal, I saw him. I think he said something about selling it on Ebay.

Free Advice for Today:
When there's a piano to be moved, don't reach for the stool."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"They call it PMS because Mad Cow Disease was already taken."

- Unknown

Death, the great equalizer.

I noticed today that celebrities are falling like flies. And like birthdays, you get this awkward collection of disjointed celebrity you would never put together any other way.

Christopher Reeve died. No matter how he tried, he was always known as Superman. Not a bad rep, if you ask me, but when he became paralyzed, that took on a situation that was too ironic to ignore. Poor guy should have stayed off that horse. Kind of makes me think how the horse would take it if he knew. If he could know. Like the other horses were saying,

“Way to go Wilber. That was Superman, you dumbass.”

Also, Rodney Dangerfield died. This should come as little surprise. I mean, come on. Rodney was old and didn’t ever look the picture of health to begin with. But it makes you think, even though he was a jokester, the fact that he is dead is a sobering counter-thought to his public reputation. Must be a bitch to give the eulogy. What is the joke to sentiment ratio?

Then there’s Ken Caminiti. I could fake my way through this and make some funny remark but the truth be told, I recognize the name and likely could have attached him to professional baseball but beyond that…not so much.

As I understand it, this guy was pretty good in his day but then he was a bad boy and got in lots of trouble. Now he’s dead and has to be lumped together with Superman and Rodney. Tough break, Cammy.

Most auspicious of all though is pioneering NASA engineer Maxime Faget. You don’t know who that is? You know who Christopher Reeve, Rodney Dangerfiled, and Ken Caminiti is but you don’t know Max? What kind of one-dimensional pop culture moron are you anyway?

OK, I found out this guy died when researching all the celebrity deaths as of late. I’m sure he added a lot to humanity but again, it’s sad that society will remember a bug-eyed comic’s death over yours. Bummer, Faget.

Lastly, we have Janet Leigh, star of ‘Psycho.’ To millions of people, she was already killed in the shower scene so her death at 77 really just ties up a loose end. I’m sure she was a nice lady and I don’t like to speak ill of the dead so I’ll refrain from some snide joke about her passing. I won’t even talk about a lost opportunity of a remake of the famous scene with her reenacting her starring role.

OK, wrong on many levels. I apologize.

Free Advice for Today:
When there is a hill to climb, don't think that waiting will make it smaller."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Monday, October 11, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"STUPIDITY IS NOT A HANDICAP. Park elsewhere!"

- Unknown

It’s that time of year to get pumpkins.

I think that pumpkins get a bad rep for most of the year and then come Halloween, they are having their days in the sun. I mean, who goes out and looks for pumpkins any other time of year? Could you even find a pumpkin in July? So they totally sell out around October and like the ugly girl on the USO tour, they get plenty of attention just because they are in demand, despite being the ugly duckling of the general squash world.

OK, anyway, we had to follow the rest of the world like some mindless automaton and visit the local pumpkin dealer.

We had a choice. We could have gone to this big plantation where they make an entire spectacle of the pumpkin-picking idea. For a mere $52 for a family of 4, we could go visit a pumpkin patch and a huge corn maze that look like a crop circle experiment on crack.

Ah, remember the days when the harvest season was over and food was plentiful? The crisp air was starting to signal the start of the fall season, full of sweaters and frolics in the falling leaves? The long winter was coming but for now, the crisp crackle of life and the first fires on a cozy Sunday afternoon…

OK, hand over your 50 bones and go get your memories. For an extra $5 a piece, you can take a cornstalk with you.

The other alternative was to drive 5 minutes down the road and pay the part-time high school student at the roadside pumpkin dump for a reasonable facsimile of a Halloween pumpkin. Which alternative do you think we took?

So as we are wading through the roadside pumpkin dump, Steph is crawling up the haystacks (window dressing to give it that country feel which is simultaneously shattered by the gridlock 20 feet away long Highway 3).

Trying to ignore the fact that I’m about to pour out cash for a squash that is already rotting before I even pull out my wallet, I’m watching a small girl who obviously missed her Ritalin shot for the last few days. She’s running around the pumpkin patch, expounding the virtues of seemingly identical pumpkins to her mother who has the look of a Vietnam Vet after a month in the bush.

As she crawls up the hay bale, she slips and stumbles backwards, bumping into a pumpkin as she places her foot in the only spot that could save her fall, and proceeds to fall straight on her ass.

What came next made me hide in order to laugh deeply.

Her mother says, “Are you OK, Grace?”

Her name was Grace.

Grace.

Oh, that was rich.

Steph found her pumpkin and at a mere 39 cents a pound, we shelled out about 6 bucks. Of course I had to lug the damn thing around while she looked around for a better product. As I waited, I watched Grace holding her latest catch by the stem which proceeded to disconnect from the body of the pumpkin. The stemless pumpkin fell to the ground and rolled “ungracefully” in a semi circle showing the stress fractures at many points due to the fall.

I think these kinds of things happen a lot to Grace. Just a hunch.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't be intimidated by doctors and nurses. Even when you're in the hospital, it's still your body."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Sunday, October 10, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance."

- Unknown

The Big Kahuna.

Today, I ran my last big training run for the 2004 Marine Corps Marathon. My training plan called for a 20 mile run but I extended that to get the full effect. I went for the Full Monty: 26.2 miles of feet-pounding insanity.

Everything was perfect for the run.

Well, not exactly everything since I ate like crap yesterday, ate movie popcorn, and didn’t hydrate all that much.

But this morning, I was ready to hit the road. I got up, grabbed a small cup of coffee, and sipped it as I drove to base. Last night I had spent about an hour getting everything I would need ready and got to bed as early as I could. I was in one of my pre-running don’t-even-look-at-me moods.

The coffee did what I wanted to do and I got to the starting line at about 0800. Ready to run. MP3 player going. Watch set. GPS talking with the satellites.

I stepped off and I felt good. I tried to keep my pace steady and relaxed, knowing that I would need every morsel of energy for the end of the run.

Things looked great as I approached the 1 ½ mile mark. The gate was open which meant I could take the road out to the training area. I could go the entire 8.5 miles out and 8.5 miles back which would take care of 17 miles (that’s right, right?). The advantage to this was that I wouldn’t have to do the 8.3 mile loop around the camp three times and it would give me a chance to visit Truckasaurus and the bathrooms at TBS at the 17 mile mark.

I had no problems going out nor coming back. I kept a 10 minute pace, had plenty of water, and the weather stayed cool even when the clouds cleared at the 8 mile mark. Everything was going according to plan.

A memorable mile (and there is always one) was between 11 and 12. For some reason, everything clicked and I was floating. It was a feeling indescribable to anyone who’s never run distance.

When I got to the 17 mile mark, I was starting to worry. I was doing fine physically but I could tell that my body was starting to tire. I still had a lot of miles left. I tried to fight the mental battle and stay on track; everything was ok, my body was ready for this, let later worry about later; it doesn't help to worry now, only tires you....

I was glad to see Truckasaurus because it held the Vaseline. It was a good opportunity to reapply so as not to face the chafe monster. Every little bit helps when things start to break down and that's one problem I just didn't need to deal with. Ahh, the indignities of distance running.

It was also a good time to stop at the bathrooms and fill up my Camelback. Having a full pack of water for the last 8 miles took out a huge worry for me. Water was not a problem. Legs, on the other hand...

OK, here’s where things start to go bad. When I started running again, things did not want to cooperate. I looked ridiculous. I could not run. My legs completely rebelled and I could not even get a respectable trot going. Everything hurt and I could not coordinate my body.

What was happening? I’ve done 20 mile training runs and not been in this shape. I was only at 17!!! But nothing was working. I couldn’t get my legs to alternate, my arms to get into the rhythm, nothing. I must have looked like I was having a seizure.

I hobbled down the road, through the main street of TBS hoping no one would come out and see the Jerry Lewis impression I was making. It wasn’t long before I hit the biggest hill of the course. This monster is leading out of the base and looks like an enormous humped back sea monster. From point to point it’s probably ½ a mile but the drop and corresponding rise makes even the best runners wonder why God could be so cruel. And I am by no means “the best runner.”

Going down the hill, a steady supply of pain shot through my shredded quads. I more fell down the hill than ran down it. My pace was suffering as bad as my legs but at this point it was just staying at a run, not stopping, that was the main goal.

As I started back up the hill, everything got ugly. I slowed to a miserable pace but at least my quads were not screaming at me anymore. I tried to find a happy place but none was to be found. Could I be the same person who hours ago was running confidently with actual joy? What happened to that guy?

I lumbered to the top of the hill which ended, ironically, at a fire station. I had to take a break to try to gain some composure at my completely uncoordinated running technique. I found a shady spot on the side of the fire station and prayed to God that no firemen would come out to discover me. In the state I was in, I was genuinely scared that they would not let me continue. I was at mile 20 and felt completely drained.

I sat down, took off my shoes and relaced them. I then took out my bag of raisins and gobbled them down. A few more minutes of rest and some water and I was ready to get back on the road. Or at least I thought I was. I was wobbling again but not as bad. At least I wasn’t dizzy anymore and I tried hard not to think of the 6.2 miles I still had to cover.

Running a marathon without any support is a lot different than running an organized race. I had to fight with the demons that kept asking why I was out here voluntarily, without even the knowledge that I was going through an organized event. No one would know or care that I did this yet for most of the world it was a monumental feat.

But the thought of quitting never entered my head. In fact, the only consideration was the time. Not that I really cared that much but I didn’t want to repeat my 5.5 hour debacle from last year’s Marine Corps Marathon.

When I got to the shooting range area, there were people all around and seemed to be some kind of shooting competition going on. In my state, I was not the most friendly person. I despised the fat, forest-camouflaged old men wandering around with their fat guts and big guns. They looked at me with a similar look and I looked down upon them and their quest to boldly kill innocent forest-dwelling animals. I hated that they even looked upon me with curious looks, knowing they could never accomplish what I was doing that day and they had no clue.

This reaction, it hindsight, surprises me and I chalk it up to the mid-20 distance I had covered and my mind being so much silly putty by then.

But oh how I hated them.

Running along the long straightaway by the FBI Academy, I started picking up the pace. I seemed to have found my coordination again and although my pace was still dismal, I at least felt like a runner again.

As I ran, I kept checking my GPS to see my progress and at one point, I looked down to find that my batteries were dead. The face showed no numbers and in my feeble mental state, I knew that this would screw up any attempt to accurately measure the distance I traveled, even if I could guesstimate. I knew it wouldn’t be accurate and I raged against my own stupidity for not putting in new batteries from the get-go.

The first moment that I saw the blank GPS, I said screw it. I had been wondering how I was going to make up the little bit at the end but my mind was too taxed to make a decision. I thought about going to the end and then backtracking but that seemed too cruel. Plus, the end was up a long hill and I didn’t want to repeat it just to get the extra mile in. No, the finish had to be the finish. I could just call it good by getting in and call it 26.2.

The logical side of me took charge and looked through my bag in the slim chance that I could change the batteries and it still held my distance in some kind of memory. But when I opened the back of the GPS, I realized they required double A and all I had was triple A for my MP3 player. For a master planner who takes great pain to cover all possible scenarios, I was bested by a stupid oversight. The rage continued.

But I had to snap out of it because I was in need of all my faculties to finish and was faced with a new problem. How would I make sure I got the total distance in? I didn’t want to go too far because I was just barely hanging on as it was. But didn’t I decide to just run it in and not worry about the last mile? I felt a temperal displacement. I was confused. What had I decided about the distance? What is Abraham Lincoln and an oversized spoon doing dancing the Jitterbug on a banana split up ahead?

*** snap****

*** snap****

*** snap****

I had gone 17 miles out and back on the first leg. The loop was 8.3. This was a total of 25.3. I needed another mile. I flashed in anger that I would even consider cheating myself out of that mile. Why would I go 25.2 and then know I cut off that last mile? Who was I trying to impress? Wouldn’t the guy shaving in the mirror know? What would be the benefit of saying I did 26.2 when I knew I didn’t? I had invested too much this day, suffered too long to cheat myself at the end.

But I didn’t have a way to measure distance. My GPS was dead, my pace was hosed, my sense of distance was dependent on my mental state and that had the characteristics of tapioca pudding at this point.

Then I had an idea. When I hit the PFT course, I would normally take a left for the last 1 ½ mile. But if I turned right, I could go for about 5 minutes. If I was at a normal pace, I would go about 4.5 minutes and turn around but the extra 30 seconds would make up for my diminished form. Then 5 minutes back and I would be at the 1 ½ mile mark and could bring it home.

That last little part was an exercise in pain and discipline. I tried to blank my mind (not very hard for a man like me) and just stick to form. Speed was no consideration but I wanted to look like a runner for the last 1 ½ miles.

I think I pulled it off. It seemed to take forever but I plugged away trying to keep some recognizable form of a running style. The finish line seemed to stretch in front of me but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other until I got to the top of the hill.

When I crossed the line, I stopped. I looked around and there was absolutely no one in sight. I simply stopped and was greeted with total silence. I had run 26.2 (more or less but I think a little more) miles in 4 hours and 53 minutes and the only victory at the end was stopping. And the knowledge that I had done it.

A small part of me wondered where the crowd was. Where was the hoopla? Where was the recognition that I had run 26.2 miles on a early Fall day? People go their entire lives and never accomplish this and I did it all alone for no more reason than to do it.

But for a bigger part of me, that was enough. I was out there for only myself and in the end, that’s who witnessed my accomplishment. And that covered that.

I was actually a bit scared of getting in Truckasaurus and driving. My legs weren’t all that happy and I know I’m prone to cramping which I had not encountered yet, much to my amazement. I called Carrie and told her I had survived. I downed a Gatorade and a protein bar before getting on the road to pick up Alex.

Alex had spent the night at a friend’s house near the base so I swung by to pick him up. I also needed to grab the Sbragia’s computer since it was having trouble and needed a good scraping and reloading of all the software. Chad was in Okinawa and Lisa had no internet to exchange email. Another family friend had tried to salvage the hard drive but to no success so it was time to take it and do the old scrapola.

I talked to Alex the entire way home to keep my mind away from the fact that my body was screaming bloody murder. When we got home, I hobbled into the house and managed to get upstairs to the bathtub where I turned on the cold water and filled it up. Dumping two buckets of ice made for just this occasion, I lowered myself into the mixture wondering if I had suffered enough this day. Apparently not.

Fifteen minutes. That was the requirement, 15 agonizing minutes in the ice bath. My legs were really wondering what they had done to deserve such treatment.

After taking a warm shower that felt pretty much like God unleashing distilled Heaven all over my body, Carrie made me a plate of spaghetti that I more absorbed than ate. Then it was onto the massage which my wife volunteered. Again, Heaven poured over my legs and they smiled at Carrie while giving darting looks in my direction. “Now SHE knows how to treat us, you rat bastard!”

After all of this, I curled up for a long-awaited nap. But 20 minutes later I awoke with a start, convinced I had slept the clock around. I must have just fainted and I suspect my heart stopped beating.

Maybe it was the blog about the guy who put off sleep after the Badwater coming back to haunt me but I couldn’t sleep anymore. I knew that later on, sleep would come like a freight train.

Despite my physical shredding, I was happy for the rest of the day. I had tomorrow off due to Columbus Day (thanks, dude) and I had accomplished my last big training run before the Marine Corps Marathon. I had extended the 20 miler to the full 26.2 (even resisting cheating a bit) and made it home to tell my story.

I am ready for the marathon. Life is good.

Free Advice for Today:
Take your dog to obedience school. You'll both learn a lot."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Saturday, October 9, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"A hangover is the wrath of grapes."

- Unknown

I have a GMail account!!!!

You don’t know what that is? What is wrong with you? And you call yourself "in the know"!!! I demand the requisite amount of status that comes with having a GMail account. Bow before me!!!!!

OK, it’s the latest geek status symbol. The webmail service, developed by the good folks at Google, is in beta so they are only offering a limited amount of accounts and they are hard to come by. VERY hard to come by because there are limited amounts of accounts and they are invite only.

I got an email from someone who has read my page for years and he thought I’d enjoy an account. Well….yeah!!!! 1 gigabyte of space, online webmail from Google? I’m stupidly excited about this. Just having an “@gmail” email account is monstrous in the IT/Geek world right now.

I know, but let my bucked teeth have their day in the sun.

Some of the good things I’ve already mentioned but it’s also cool because it’s going to put Hotmail and the like to shame once it launches. And now that I have an account so early, I got JasonGrose@gmail.com.

So to recap: 1 gig of storage (insane by today’s standards), status symbol of having a @gmail address, having my name as my email before some shithead cybersquats it.

There was only one little glitch. I actually don’t need it. I have my own domain name and the company that I buy my webspace from lets me have 250 email accounts. So it’s no use to have everyone send mail to JasonGrose@gmail.com when I can have them send it to jason@grose.us. And to change everything on my webpage over to the other name would be an exercise in frustration.

But I have a GMail account!!!!!!!!!!!!

I will go back and polish my pocket protector now…

Free Advice for Today:
Remember that a grateful heart is almost always a happy one."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Friday, October 8, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION. It comes bundled with the software."

- Unknown

Staying with cell plan

Today was a half day so I promised Carrie I’d take her to lunch. She likes to try new things. I, on the other hand, am happy with eating tried and true establishments that have failed to piss me off. The list is very short.

But because I make no decisions more important than bar soap replacement threshold, we ended up going to Fudruckers. Funny name aside (and something about it just sounds vulgar), it was actually a pretty good burger. And we only had to pay new car prices to eat there.

You order your fresh burger and then go find a seat. They give you one of those vibrating disks to let you know your order is ready and then you go get it, put all the fixings on it, and bring it back to your seat. There are waitresses but they only refill you drink if you want them to. So I was shocked when Carrie asked if we should tip them as we were leaving.

“Tip them? For what?”

She wanted to tip. I wanted to go. I was not about to tip at a place that I had to wait in line to order, pick up my own order, fix my own burger, and bring it to my seat. Sorry, not this guy.

And before I get hate mail about this, know that I was once a busboy and understand all about tipping and the like. But I stand by my assessment, there was nothing to tip FOR.

Since we had time before the kids got home, we went over to Best Buy to see about our cell phone plan. We were considering upgrading since our one year obligation ran out in August. Best Buy is the only place we found that offers one year plans so we decided to go in and ask them what they could do for us.

The answer: not much. In essence, we had to start a whole new plan with new startup costs, new phones (that we'd get mail rebates for), and a new contract as though we had never done any business with them.

Here was the end result:

Jason: “So what you’re telling me is that I have to pay $10 more per month, lose my current phone and the Body Glove cover that won’t fit your newer model, lose my earpiece that won’t fit the newer models, lose all our current rollover minutes, just to get free mobile to mobile minutes and 100 extra anytime minutes. That’s only an hour and 10 minutes per month more. Plus the new color screen does me no good since I don’t Internet or text message anyone.”

In the end, we decided just to stay with our plan until they sweeten the deal. And here I thought I had the upper hand on getting the better deal as time went by. I guess Cingular doesn’t care much or reward their customers for brand loyalty.

Free Advice for Today:
Celebrate even small victories."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Thursday, October 7, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"I have a degree in liberal arts; do you want fries with that?"

- Unknown

I’m in email contact with my junior high girlfriend. We had a brief yet torrid affair in 1982 when the storms of junior high were raging inside both of us. Yes, we actually “went together” and, standby for shocking detail: held hands!!! It lasted an entire couple of weeks.

She was a cheerleader (why to go, Jason!) and I was, well, I was this. Yeah, skinny little shy Ralph Machio look-alike who’s shyness often got me labeled as “stuck up.” Such is life at Totem junior High.

In 1997 while attending The Basic School here in Quantico Virginia, I missed my 10 year reunion. But I got my virtual hands on the reunion email list and sent an email to everyone telling them I couldn’t make it but to send me some email.

I guess some things never change. I got two responses.

One of them was Stephanie. Since then, we’ve been in contact as she gets to hear about my life in the Corps and I get to hear about her raising her kids back in the Seattle area. We seem to have a similar lens for the world and I enjoy her take on everyday trials and tribulations.

After reading my recent blog about my train debacle, she offered up some sage advice:

“Get the travel coffee mug with the lid that closes tightly.”

Holding myself back from responses like “Oh, thanks, I never thought of that” or other condescending phraseology due to my long-term history with Miss Stephanie, I ended up going with this:

Oh, and I appreciate your suggestion but I have emotional attachments to the two main mugs I carry. One is purple with a worn University of Washington logo and the other is mugasaurus, a big oversized yellow mug from BP. I've had both since my college commuting days and they got me through a bachelor's and masters degrees. Plus, they both have a big piece of black embossing tape across them that says "SGT GROSE". I get a lot of funny looks but it reminds me of a time gone by.

I should explain further.

I don’t exactly remember where I got the purple mug but since it has UW on it and I had it since college, it’s not a big mystery. It got me through 4 years at the University, 3 years through 29 Palms, and 2 years through Monterey. The big black tape came from a bored-silly embossing session when I was moonlighting as a security guard at the University of Washington Pavilion and Stadium. Over the years, the white letters have faded but I still like the fact that I drink from a mug that says “SGT GROSE.”

I hate to jinx it but even though I’ve lost the purple mug a few times, it always has seemed to pop back up. One time I lost it for months and thought my beloved giver-of-life was gone forever. I guess if I would have made it back to church, I would have found it sooner (guilty look).

This brings up another point. I take coffee to church. I have to. It’s early and it’s Sunday. Most churches probably don’t exactly like having people bring in mugs but are a little hesitant to press the matter out of brotherly love. So I obviously press this advantage and walk in boldly. I know, I’ve been told many times. I’m an ass. Even a church-ass.

The yellow mug was from a BP gas station near the condo I lived in during college. I bought it one day when I saw it and it was a monstrosity I knew I had to own. It, too, got the embossing treatment and is used interchangeably with the purple mug. It’s a lot bigger and doesn’t fit into most holders so I have to keep it in hand most of the time but this is a small price to pay for a gallon of coffee at my disposal.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't forget that a couple of words of encouragement can make someone's day."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"My dog can lick anyone!"

- Unknown

Today I drove Trucky Truckasaurus into work again, much to Carrie’s dismay. Something about guzzling gas instead of using the train. BAH!!!!

The reason I needed to drive was because I noticed yesterday (when I was driving by the exchange, tee hee) that James Bradley was going to be signing copies of his new book today. He wrote one of my favorite books, Flags Of Our Fathers about his own father, one of the original flag-raisers in the famous photo of Marines (and one Sailor) raising the American flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.

It was such a compelling book that I wrote one of my first reviews of it and they put it on Amazon. Here is what I wrote.

Last night I dug out the book from my library and printed out my review, putting it in an envelope with my business card.

I was not planning on getting his new book, called Flyboys, because I was not all that interested in aviation but when I got there, I saw it was about President Bush Sr. who was shot down in WWII. A co-worker had also asked me to get him a copy so I had two copies of the book plus my own copy of Flags Of Our Fathers.

While I was milling around, a lady walked up to me and unexpectedly handed me a CD. She thanked me for my service and while I was trying to figure out if she was trying to sell me something, I stood there looking from her to the CD, back to her. I couldn’t figure out the catch and finally realized she had just felt the need to make a bunch of CDs of Marine pictures she had, set it to music, and hand it out to Marines at the exchange to show her gratitude. A random act of kindness.

I talked with her for a bit and it seems that the author was from the same hometown and she had traveled an hour just to come to the book signing. She was very excited to meet him and get his book.

The problem was that she was not in the military nor was she a family member so she couldn’t buy the book there. When she tried, the cashier asked for her ID and she turned to me. I told the cashier I would vouch for her, in essence “buying” it for her under my status as an active duty Marine. She thanked me and said she figured she could get someone to do this favor for her once she got there.

We approached the author and talked while waiting our turn. I was happy to have someone there because I had brought my camera and needed a photographer.

When it was my turn, I told Mr. Bradley that I had a bone to pick with him.

He looked at me dubiously.

I told him “You are not authorized to make Marines cry. I read this book, one of the best books I’ve ever read, and found myself in tears more than once.”

He kind of laughed and signed the three books I had. I told him all about how I had read it, felt compelled to write a review of it that Amazon published, and even bought about 10 copies that year and sent them out as Christmas presents to my family.

He thanked me and said he, too, did a lot of crying in writing the book.

We got our pictures and after the R. Lee Ermy fiasco, I was a little nervous about my camera. The lady looked like she was taking pics but because we didn’t need a flash, I was unsure. After she was done, I immediately checked the last picture taken and it looked good so I was happy. I then took pictures of her and the author with her camera and we thanked him again for his writing and his time.

The first picture where I was less than aware if everything was going smoothly. My camera and I have been on the rocks lately.
Confusion ensues as Mr. Bradley starts to feel the angst between me and Digi the Unpredictable Camera.
Finally things calm down and we get this pic. No Marines nor authors were harmed in the filming of this shot.

The lady’s name is Sharon Valencia and her website is www.sharonvalencia.com.

When I got home, I popped in the CD and it was a great presentation. I thoroughly enjoyed the CD and sent her the following email.

Sharon,

I watched the CD you gave me in the exchange today and appreciate your obvious hard work in putting it together. Your random act of kindness did indeed hit its mark today.

I will be providing a link from my site to yours soon, if that’s ok.

I also wanted to thank you for taking the pictures of James Bradley and me today. Here are some links you might enjoy:

http://www.grose.us/pics/jamesbradley%20(1).jpg

http://www.grose.us/pics/jamesbradley%20(2).jpg

http://www.grose.us/pics/jamesbradley%20(3).jpg

and one to the review I wrote about Flags Of Our Fathers:

http://www.grose.us/ARCHIVE/Adjutant/flags.html

Again, I thank you so much for your work and very much enjoyed meeting and talking with you today. For more about me, my career, my writings, and my family, go to www.grose.us and drop me a line anytime.

Semper Fi.

-- Jason

Free Advice for Today:
After going to bed, refuse to worry about problems until the morning."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Procrastinate Now!"

- Unknown

Today I ran 8 miles which is “The Loop.” It was the first visit I had to Purvis since the half-marathon and we exchanged some words. It got the last laugh in, though. It amazes me that I can do so well a few days prior and then an 8 mile run can hand me my own ass.

It wasn’t hot, it wasn’t windy, it wasn’t anything but a great day. So why all the trouble? I have no idea. But it sucked and I felt horrible by the time I got back. Sometimes I guess you just have to chalk it up to a crappy day of running.

Today I noticed a trend in the running books that I’ve recently become interested in. They all have something to do with the “edge.” I don’t exactly know what this is the edge of or what is the other side but almost every title indicates that this is a very important aspect of extreme running.

First, Kirk Johnson takes me “To The Edge.” Now that I’m there, Michael Bane takes me “Over The Edge.”

At some point, I am given a break from the “edge” and Neal Jamison has me “Running Through The Wall.” where I’m not sure if the edge is before or after. But since Don Allison commands me to take “A Step Beyond” I think I have to go “to the edge”, take “a step beyond” which puts me “over the edge”, and then I find this wall I’m supposed to run through.

I think this is why Galloway is the guru of running. He puts it out there simply: Galloway’s Book On Running.

Free Advice for Today:
To put someone in your debt, do something nice for their child."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Monday, October 4, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Wrinkled was not one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up."

- Unknown

I got quite a surprise last week. I got a book in the mail.

No, that is not the surprise. I seem to get a steady stream of books coming to my house all the time although my reading speed approaches that of a sleeping Helen Keller.

The surprise was this particular book because it came without me ordering and had a few extras.

Back in May, I emailed Frank Schaeffer, the author of Keeping Faith and Faith of Our Sons. Both of those books were about his son, a Marine. They were a wealthy Northeastern family who did not often offer up their sons to something as “Southern” as the military. When their son joined, it was pretty much an embarrassment that no one could understand. But after they were exposed to what being a Marine really means, the father was converted, realizing being a Marine is a noble duty.

In the second book, the son goes to Afghanistan and Iraq. The family has to cope with the unthinkable: a son in harm’s way. Both books were outstanding explanations of what the family goes through when a loved one chooses to serve our Nation.

My email to Mr. Schaeffer was a result of his request. I had met him at a book signing and he asked me to give him some feedback after I read his book. This is what I did.

When he read my email, he wrote me back and asked me if he could use it in his upcoming new book containing correspondence from military men and women. He sent me a release form and requested a picture of my family to include in the book.

I did all of this and sent it away. I was excited about it at the time but as life marched on, I forgot all about it.

That’s why it was a surprise when Carrie handed me a package from Frank Schaeffer. When I opened it up, it came back to me and I was delighted to see he included both my email and the picture, sent me a free copy of the book, signed the book, and sent a check for $50 (for the use of the email and picture).

So another book. THAT’S what was missing. Because the stacks just aren’t getting high enough around here. But this one I will get to soon and read cover to cover. I am, afterall, a contributing author!!!

Free Advice for Today:
To open a bottle of champagne, twist the neck, not the cork."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Sunday, October 3, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Being 'over the hill' is much better than being under it."

- Unknown

I’ve been accused as of late of being insane.

It seems that every time I outline my plan to run the Badwater, I get the same reaction. And it’s not exactly encouraging.

But I’m OK with that. I guess you have to be a little off to approach something like this but in my defense, on the insanity spectrum, I consider myself at the lesser end.

Let me submit Exhibit A I found about a runner who ran it a few years ago:

He kept chugging, running and walking and taking long drinks of as much ice water as he could consume. He finally scrambled to the finish line at about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.

His time: 45 hours, 29 minutes, 30 seconds.

"I don't think I'll ever forget this one," he said of his experience. "It was awesome."

One problem remained: At the Mount Whitney Portal, elevation 8,360, there was no place to sleep or even celebrate.

After making sure Schoff and Clark, also operating on two days with only brief naps, could navigate back down a dark roadway that still had other runners coming up, Ostor clutched his belt buckle and the three climbed in the van and headed 15 miles back to Lone Pine for quick showers. After toweling off, they took off for Furnace Creek near the race start to pick up their other vehicle.

Then they drove directly to Las Vegas.

"I didn't take a nap until we got to the airport; I snoozed there for about 15 minutes," Ostor said.

About 2½ hours after reaching the air-conditioned airport, they were in the air, headed back to the Twin Cities. Ostor finally slept in his own bed Wednesday night. Then, believe it or not, he got up Thursday and reported to work at 5:30 a.m.

"I was a little tired," he reported, "and I limped a bit because I had some blisters. But it wasn't too bad."

OK, let’s dispense with the obvious. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Badwater, 135 miles in the blazing heat of Death Valley in July and all that.

But I gotta think that one of the monsters at the end is sleep deprivation. I also assume the promise of sleep is a major motivator to getting to the finish line. Just a horizontal surface, to stop, to escape the mind-blender that is this race.

So with that said, this guy waits until he gets home to get some good sleep? There are motel rooms in Lone Pine (I know because I’ve slept in them). He even passes up the hotel room he has at Furnace Creek (yes, I did notice the name and it’s apt). He goes all the way to Vegas where you can get a room for spare change. He flies on a plane and then waits to get home to give in to his body’s its most necessary rest in his entire life?

If all this wasn’t enough, he then goes to work the next day.

THE F%^#% NEXT DAY!!!!!

I might not be seen the next WEEK!! If there was ever a reason to call in dead, this would be it.

I’m looking to do the Badwater. I’m planning on running road marathons, trail marathons, triathlons, 50 mile ultras, and 100 mile ultras for 5 years just to train for it. I plan on wearing lots of winter clothes in the summer heat and exercising in saunas to condition my heat tolerance.

And I’M saying THIS guy is NUTS!!!!!

Free Advice for Today:
Look for the opportunity that's hidden in every adversity."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Saturday, October 2, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Ever stop to think, and forget to start again?"

- Unknown

Time to pay the piper. The half-marathon; 13.1 miles of reckoning.

Sir Phil insisted on driving so at 0600, he showed up and I was ready. Riding down I-95, I was in a daze, trying to get my head into the run and preparing to unleash whatever training I had gathered in last few months.

This race was very important to me and I didn’t know why at the time. But afterwards, I figured it out. I had poured a lot of training into getting ready for the Marine Corps Marathon as a result of my poor showing last year. I would be in my final push after this race to get ready and this half-marathon would tell me where I was at. If I faltered and didn’t have a good race day, it would tell me that all my training, the hard miles and early hours, were for naught. Plus, it would really be tough to be motivated for these last few weeks to make final preparations for the big run on Halloween.

So for these reasons, I had to do well. I just had to.

The first place we went to was my work and parked the car. The start line is about ½ mile from where I work and we had time. I had to grab a few items for the run and we both had to leave a few items, if you know what I mean. If you don't, I'm not gonna tell you.

Sir Phil then tells me that we needed to take a walk over to his work, about a mile away, to retrieve his other car. I didn’t ask for the details of this requirement and I knew the walk would do us good. So off to Hospital Point we went.

Once we got there, Sir Phil made the startling revelation that the car was not parked at his work but was actually at the train station; something we had actually passed on the way. Oh well. In Sir Phil fashion, we took it in stride (get it? The pun? No? OK, yeah, you're right).

We turned around and made our way back to the train station where, lo and behold, there it was. Sir Phil has an ancient Spitfire he keeps on base to get around in since he takes the train in. We climbed in and drove it to the car wash, close to the starting line which would give us an escape vehicle after the race.

Looking at my watch, it was about 0745 and the race started at 0800. I had not done any stretching (not a problem for Sir Phil since, as he’s quick to tell you “Dogs don’t stretch before they run”) nor had I applied any Vaseline, donned my number on my shirt, organized my running bag, etc.

We walked over to the stadium where people were milling around, mostly waiting for the bathrooms. We had taken care of this little requirement back at my work so of course we felt far superior than these mere mortals.

I hurriedly made my pre-race preparations while Sir Phil watched in boredom. He has no pre-race preparations (“When they say go, I go.”) and we made it to the starting line area with a couple of minutes to spare.

It was just then that I remembered the feeling of being at the start line. You have all this nervous energy and a self-doubt if you did enough prep training to be here. You wonder how you will do at that moment when you have to chose whether to push yourself through the pain or give in.

It’s so easy to give in and receive instant gratification. It’s so much harder to persevere because the short term result is more pain. The long term reward for pushing harder is down the line when you finish. The battle is epic at that one moment and there’s not much you can do to sway the decision beforehand. It appears and you have to make the choice at that time.

The base Sergeant Major did the countdown and they started the race with a bang. It took us about a minute to actually shuffle to the start and cross the actual starting line. I started my watch there because they didn’t have any kind of chip technology to give you an offset time.

Bang.

Go.

If you are way in the back, you'd better make up the time on the course.

I was on the run. I was feeling good. I was excited that the run felt like it was going to be a good one. We clocked the first mile at 7:15 and that was through traffic. I knew we had to slow down and I also knew it would take care of itself. My goal was to get into a groove and try to keep a steady, if not slower, pace. The course had a lot of straight-aways so if I could just ride them at a decent pace, I could do well.

I hit my first mini-struggle at about the 2 ½ mile mark. I was still going too fast and was starting to sweat more than I wanted. My breath was getting heavier and I wasn’t gliding yet. I was waiting for that switchover moment where I could find the groove and get into a long-term rhythm.

At about mile 3, it happened. We were still clocking sub 8 minute miles but that was halted when we hit a monstrous hill through a neighborhood. It was about this time that Sir Phil and I parted ways. We always say we are going to run with each other but we always separate. The only exception was when he held back during the 2003 Marine Corps Marathon and walked along with me most of the way while I struggled through the shame of sub-par training payment.

We went up the big hill, which stripped me of my will to live, and on the downside, I felt like I was on a kid’s slide. I went racing down the hill, wondering why I was the only one to take advantage of this easy decline. I was passing people left and right, catching my breath, and “relaxing” after dying a thousand deaths up the hill.

I never saw Sir Phil again until he got to the finish line.

The miles went by and I was in my rhythm. I had long since lost the ability to calculate my pace so I didn’t pay much attention to it. I do remember a few details though.

There was the water stations. God bless these people, they stand out there and hand water out to the runners. I had decided to forgo my training method of running for 9 minutes and walking for 1. I figured with water stops every 2 miles, I could just walk through those to catch my breath. It worked out good for me.

There was one though that I was not too happy with. I came running to the water stop, grabbing a water cup and gulping it down, then continued on where they had Gatorade. This is usually how they are set up, water first and then Gatorade.

As I approached the Gatorade station, the person wasn’t looking and stepped right into my path, spilling Gatorade all over the front of my shirt. I was already soaking wet from sweat and the weather but dumping a liquid on my shirt that would dry to be a sticky mess was not exactly a great moment in sports assistance.

Another less-than-optimal moment was after I shed Sir Phil while running down the main street of the base. I decided that if I was going to be running alone, I should get my earbuds on and fire up the MP3 player.

Doing this is much easier in thought than in action. I was trying to get the tangled mess of wires out of my tightly packed running pack, undo the rat’s nest it had become (despite me putting it in there nice just a half hour prior) and putting the earpieces in my ear. Then I had to turn it on, get it back in the pack, zip it up, situate the wires so they didn’t snag or flop, and get everything re-situated once again. All while running.

I’ve had easier times during calculus tests.

Once I got all of this done, I was in the groove. My next rough spot was rounding the corner at the McDonalds somewhere around mile 8. I just felt a draining of energy and I knew that the road I was turning on was a hilly one. In fact, it was a road called Purvis that I run every week but I run it in the other direction. You know what you get when you combine “Purvis” and “reverse”?

Purverted.”

I wanted to die going up the biggest hill of the course. Everyone around me was in the same state and there’s something eerie about lunging up a hill in slow motion with everyone around you heaving, huffing, and puffing with you.

Getting to the top, I had to express my thought. It just came out.

“F&^%% you, Purvis” was my comment which got a chuckle out of those around me (something I take pride in since breathing was at a premium at that moment.).

The rest of Purvis was downhill and I rolled down like a wheel. Getting onto the main drag, the weather finally broke and the rain started coming down.

Now this was not just a little sprinkle or even a light rain. This was “open up the skies and dump everything you got” kind of rain. With about 3 miles to go, it was raining sheets. Big fat raindrops (ala Forrest Gump) came gushing down and I didn’t care a bit. After about 4 seconds, I was as wet as I was going to get. Running along the golf course, I remember the surreal sight of everyone in a straight line, running through the heavy rain as cars passed by our lefts.

It lasted for less than 15 minutes and I tried to take advantage of the straight-away. When the rain let up, I had about a mile left and I made it up the last hill to emerge on the main road of the base. I was unsure exactly how this race was going to end and asked another runner what the rest of the route was. She told me we would go right down the road to the second light, turn right, and into the stadium.

I realized how close I was so I stepped it up and started reeling people in at almost every step. I felt great and wanted to finish strong. The last thing I wanted was what I was doing to everyone else: getting passed at the end.

This kept up until we took the right off the main road. I had caught up to a civilian who must have felt my presence because he seemed to be pacing just ahead of me. I really didn’t feel like passing him but it was urgent that I get this race over with. I had run the last mile as fast as the first and wanted to make sure I could finish respectfully.

Taking another left, the guy accelerated when I did and his surge put him about 5 paces in front of me. He was definitely trying to stay ahead of me and I didn’t want to race him so I made the mental agreement I would not play sprint games with this guy. For the next minute, he stayed at the same distance ahead of me and I just tried to keep my own pace.

The stadium is behind the gym, about 10 feet lower. So running behind the gym, we had to go down a ramp to get onto the track toward the finish line. I turned right to go down the ramp and as I did, the guy starts yelling and turning on his afterburners. You go, Mr. Civilian Screaming Like An Idiot Guy.

At the bottom of the ramp was the track and about 20 feet onto the track, there was a huge puddle that had formed the width of the track. Although I was soaking wet, I was not about to go through the puddle because I was not all that sure how deep it was or if there was anything underneath that could trip me.

Civilian Guy had no such inhibitions. As he’s sprinting and screaming, he runs right through the water. I take a small detour into the grass and get right back on the track. At this point, I decide it’s time I gave it the rest of what I had, invoking my time-tested belief in finishing races: you can die at the end.

I start sprinting. Legs fully out, arms stretched out forward and back. As I accelerate, I am caught up in a collection of emotions. I was asking my body to do something it was not wanting to do so I needed to get this over with. I was getting annoyed at the people in my way. I was feeling bad because I was passing people left and right, not because I’m a total ass and wanted to best their time but because I needed to get to that finish line immediately.

What the civilian guy didn’t know is something I learned last year at the Turkey Trot which ended on this same track: they always make you run the lap by putting the finish line at the opposite end from where you enter the stadium. Civilian Guy had started his kick at the top of the ramp and when he bolted down there screaming through the puddle, he thought that was the finish. It wasn’t until he got through the water that he made the startling discovery that he had about a half a lap to go.

A half a lap is a long way when you’ve already “finished” the race.

As I rounded the last end of the track, Civilian Guy fell by the wayside. He didn’t even try to keep up because his spirit was shattered. He had been racing me for all of 2 minutes and I had never even started to race him. Yet I passed him and he didn’t have anything left to step up to the unintended challenge.

I charged past him and I never looked back. Mostly because I wanted to pretend he was on my heels and use that to keep my stride up to the end. Looking back would have been bad. If he was right there, I don’t know if I could have kept up my pace. If he wasn’t, there would be little need to. So I just pretended he was there and let the chips fall.

Crossing the line, I nailed a 1:42:56 according to my watch.

I was torn between an immense sense of accomplishment and the need to vomit. I didn’t but I had some explaining to do to my body for that last little jaunt. In fact, it was wanting to know what the hell the last hour and 40 minutes was all about.

Coming through the chute, my momentum had carried me past two others after the finish line so I waved them ahead of me before we got to the people ripping the finishing tags off our bibs. I was surprised to see that other people were handing out finisher’s medals, something I had not known I’d get.

I waited for Sir Phil who came in about 10 minutes later but I had stopped my watch so I don’t know his exact time. I did get a few pictures of him finishing, though. He had found a co-worker and ran with her for most of the race once I had ran ahead.

Afterwards, we mingled around the area and talked to people. I got a chance to talk to Civilian Guy who I apologized to, explaining what had happened from my perspective. He was very dismissive of my entire apology saying that we all have to run our own race and that he had misjudged the actual finish line.

I was very proud of my time but did not want to broadcast it for fear of showing off. OK, I did want to broadcast it but it was difficult without making a total ass out of myself.

I ran into a Colonel I had know in 29 Palms. I noticed he had a medal around his neck and made small talk, eventually asking him how he did. He said fine but didn’t offer a time. After pressing him, he told me he did it in 1:20 and some change. Holy s#$#!!!! I said he should crush 3:30 on the marathon and he could qualify for Boston. He came back saying he had actually run the Boston. I was starting to feel like a fat snail. Then to top it off, he said he had run his fastest marathon in about 3 hours and two minutes. Almost a full hour faster than my best.

I walked away feeling like I had earned that little lesson in humility.

We went back to my work and had the advantage of having showers and a place to change. When marathoning, it’s sometimes tough to find adequate recovery areas and this was a treat to have the place all to ourselves.

We changed over and each got into a vehicle. In Sir Phil’s master plan, we were to take his Spitfire to his work and then climb in the Mustang to go out to a Tanker’s Chili Cookoff.

I am not a big chili aficionado. In fact, I am a chili barbarian and believe there are only two kinds of chili

1. The kind my wife makes and…
2. All the others

But hey, free chili and beer, after a hard run. What could be better?

I didn’t really know anyone but Sir Phil at this get-together but he had invited me because, as he put it in the closest thing to a formal invitation:

“Adj, did I warn you about the chili cookoff? It was going to be today but has been rescheduled to the 2nd of October due to weather. This puts it, as it did last year, the day of the half marathon which means we go run the half, then go over to Lunga and get trashed with a bunch of trackers. While you're not a tanker by trade, you rode in tanks more as an adjutant than I did as an XO, so you should consider yourself my esteemed guest at such a function.”

The first person we run into is the last person I expected to meet. Sir Phil is friends with this person and his name has been thrown around at work. It seems this guy did not have the best professional relationship with my old boss, specifically over the system I know work on and, for all intents and purposes, now represent.

My old boss had burned some bridges that were left smoldering until he got out of the Corps and those of us left behind knew we had to eventually get together and mend those fences. We had put it off and so had they.

This was not the time or place for the first meeting. I was broken down over the run, it was a social setting, and most of all, I was a Captain against a LtCol when I had none of my supporting arms with me that would have answers I knew I didn’t have a chance to defend.

Luckily, he was gracious about the entire thing and we managed to get through the initial awkward meeting unscathed. He actually turned out to be a great guy to hang out with and the reigning champion from last year’s cook off. Unfortunately he had to give up the crown. I thought his chili was great but I also liked the other two I had tasted. Like these things often go, everyone but the winner thinks they were cheated.

One of the rules I never knew was that there can be no beans in the chili. I thought this strange but I didn’t make the rules. This would have disqualified Carrie’s chili since she uses three kinds of beans. I wonder if it would be as funny as I imagined if I just brought a bucket of canned chili and entered it. Just to see the reaction.

Maybe not. They take their chili seriously.

Let me take a moment to remind you: I had run 13.1 miles hard and then chased that with three bowls of three different kinds of chili and some keg beer.

Writing that out sounds like the bad idea that it turned out to be.

My stomach feels funny” was the statement that elicited NO sympathy from Carrie later that night. I was paying the chili piper with a gut full of chili and beer.

I am amazingly stupid sometimes.

Free Advice for Today:
Be prompt when picking up or dropping off your children for school or other activities."
- 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


Friday, October 1, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Consciousness: that annoying time between naps."

- Unknown

Tomorrow is the day. Well, the day before the big day which is the Marine Corps Marathon but I don’t mean temporally. OK, I totally hosed this intro in but I’m entitled.

What I meant to say that tomorrow is the day of the half marathon. Before most big marathons, there is a half marathon about a month prior which you run as a training run and as an indicator of where you are at.

The rule of thumb is double your time and add 10% to get your probable marathon finishing time.

Because I’m a geek, I had to play with this little equation. I was shooting for a sub-4 hour marathon so I assaulted Sir Phil, my running buddy, with the excruciating math details. Summoning all my technical powers and channeling my IT master’s degree, the math goes like this:

X = half marathon time in minutes
1.1 = 110% of half marathon time
240 = # of minutes in 4 hour marathon goal

(2X) x 1.1 = 240
2.2X = 240
X = 240/2.2
X = 109.09 minutes

So breaking that into hours, you divide by 60 and get ~1.82

That’s one hour and .82 of an hour, in case you missed it.

(.82) x (60) = 49.2 minutes

Bottom line: to meet the rule of thumb for a sub 4 hour marathon, we need to finish the half marathon tomorrow in 1 hour and 49 minutes.

Distance = 13.1 miles
Target time = 109.09 minutes
Average = 8.3274809 minutes per mile

Which is 8 minutes, 19.648854 seconds per mile. But I’m pretty sure we can knock of at least the “54” there at the end and still be good.

He “whatevered” me and said if we felt good, we’d run fast. If we felt bad, we’d slow down. Thus ends the Sir Phil philosophy of running. It would be a very short pamphlet, complete with the following chapters:

Chapter 2 on stretching: don’t do it.
Chapter 3 on diet: frozen burritos and coffee
Chapter 4 on gear: whatever’s on sale
Chapter 5 on etiquette: everyone else is a snapperhead
Chapter 6 on heat management: heat is good
Chapter 7 on running in the cold: cold is bad

Free Advice for Today:
Don't quit a job until you've lined up another."
- 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


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