Jason's BLOG pages



How Did I Get Here?

(and what is that smell?)

January 2005




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.

Quote of the Day:

"Just remember... You gotta break some eggs to make a real mess on the neighbor's car!"

- Unknown

Monday, January 31, 2005

Office Spaced

I am the boss (or at least I have his office, now).

When I came into work this morning, I was really looking forward to getting my new office. The Major that I worked for retired while was on my trips so when I came in today, I expected to see a completely empty office where I could move my stuff into. I was as excited as a kid on the first day of school.

Walking toward his office (actually a walled off cubicle area but still!!) I could see above the partitions that his pictures were down. So you can imagine how my heart dropped a little when I rounded the corner and saw that all his stuff was still in there.

Asking around, everyone said that he had been gone for a couple of weeks so now I was stuck in a situation. I didn’t really want to move his stuff around but on the other hand, he WAS gone.

I was relieved to run into him late in the morning and he told me to just push his stuff aside if I wanted to move into the office.

“Well, OK, I guess I an move in there” was my external reaction while my internal reaction was “Wooooo-hooooooo yes, yes, yes, It’s your birthday, it’s your birthday….”

For the rest of the day, I carefully and respectfully crammed his trash into the corner and delicately moved my stuff from my squad-bay-like work area, uh, excuse me, EX-work area, into my spacious new office with its own external patio area. I also inherited the parking space in back of the building. Yeah, I take the train in most days but when I drive, me likey me parking space.

When I got done, I sat there with more satisfaction than was called for. I had semi-privacy once again and with it, came the responsibility of managing the program. I had reached the pinnacle of my professional career and now it was time to get to work.

I sat in the office and giggled like a school girl for the rest of the day. So much for jumping right into the work.

On the way home, I looked in my rear view mirror to see some woman bopping her head and singing along to what I have to assume is her stereo, simply because the alternative would mean a crazy woman was driving directly behind me talking with her “other voices”.

And because I live in Northern Virginia, I was, of course, stuck in traffic and going at a pace that saw valium-popping snails zooming past me and I got a nice long look at the American Idol behind me, making herself famous.

For those of you that know my Sarah McLachlan fetish, you know I was NOT listening to the radio but was enjoying the sweet vocals off Sarah’s (yes, we are on first-name basis. Or would be if she knew my name) latest offering and thus had no idea what the woman behind me was singing. And because being stuck in traffic has climbed to the top of my Purgatory short list, I kept trying to figure it out while NOT slamming Truckasaurus up the kazoo of the Pacer in front of me.

I was mesmerized by this woman because not only did she have the singing down, she even had the little head-dance movements, side to side like Kermit the Frog. She was workin’ it and it was worth it, she put her thang down flipped it and reversed it…. Ti desrever dna ti deppilf nwod gnaht reh tup ehs…

Then it struck me; maybe she’s listening to B101.5 which is the only Top 40 station around here. I popped out my beloved Sarah (insert you own joke there, I’m tired), and what should my ears perceive? Why, it was the classic Summer Lovin’ off the Grease soundtrack and as I peered into my rearview mirror, I saw that the Rush-Hour Princess was sure enough getting jiggy wit old John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.

This amused me.

Then it struck me that I had her busted and I could have some fun. So I started bobbing my head to the music and since I had to take off the tinting from the back window of Truckasaurus (it was looking like it was hit with a blister agent), I knew she could see me. I smiled in the rear view mirror to let her know I knew what she hoped no one would know despite her broadcasting her karaoke behavior.

After stopping too long at a stop sign, I caught her eye and she figured out what I was doing.

It got to the part where Sandy and Danny were alternating lines and I was doing the Danny part in the rearview mirror while she did the Sandy part. Just as the song was ending, she took her turn and flashed me a big smile.

Yeah it was dopy and yeah, it was weird but I had a surreal moment with a perfect stranger who will forever be a stranger. For that minute, we had this random connection made possible by technology.

And for the first time since I’ve lived here, I actually felt a kinship with and didn’t want to send a large caliber round through a fellow commuter.

I need counseling.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't drink anything blue."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Quote of the Day:

"Never accept a drink from a urologist."

- Unknown

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Bad Karma

Yeah, it’s a little overused but aptly named in this situation.

Here’s what happened. As you recall from my Jan 5th post, I won a Rio Karma from Ebay but didn’t have enough money in my PayPal account to cover it so I transferred money from my bank account to PayPal. Because PayPal uses the same goblins as Harry Potter’s Gringotts, it took forever for the money to hit my account.

The money did hit but I was away on business and therefore it seemed prudent that I get my lovely wife to complete the transaction in my absence. Now I’m not going to say she completely hosed it up ten ways till Sunday or punted it into the stands or anything because none of the three couches we own are of sleeping quality. But I will say the results were less than stellar.

They said it should have arrived in 2 to 3 working days and by the time I got home from my trip, it was way past that. I looked online at the tracking information from UPS and made a startling discovery. I was adopted and was raised by my angry aunt and uncle and am actually a wizard.

No, sorry, wrong story.

They had shipped the Rio to Seaside California which instantly invoked a hearty “WTF?!” from my lips. How could this happen?

An inkling and a little experiment*.

(Note, experiments shouldn’t be done when in a perturbed state.)

(Note #2: I failed to adhere to note #1.)

My inkling had to do with default settings. And rather than just checking it on PayPal, I decided to go on the road less traveled, A.K.A., the stupid, idiotic long way.

The experiment consisted in going through most of the moves of making a payment until I see the “Are you sure you want to do this?” screen and then punching out. It would let me know what I wanted to know.

It was what I thought was a quick and dirty way to see what they put on the default payments. Quick? Of course not. Dirty? As a Christine Aguilera video but with less gonorrhea.

I tried to send a payment to myself. It seems that this falls into the “Hell no you freakin’ retard” column for PayPal. Of course I didn’t discover this until I got through most of the process yet just before it gave me the default shipping address.

So I tried to use a fake email address. It didn’t like that either. Then I tried to pay again on the Rio but it said I already paid that one.

It was all I could do not to take a bat to the computer at this point.

I finally figured out how to do it and as my wife was beckoning me to the breakfast table, I got the answer I was looking for: the default address for PayPal was still my Monterey address.

Naturally, I shifted the blame like a champ. I blamed my wife for not noticing this at the bottom of the transaction when I had walked her through it over the phone and thus it was her fault that my Rio was on a fun-filled trip to California.

(Never mind that I’ve lived here in Virginia for almost a year and a half and never bothered to change my default address in PayPal. Hey, whose side are you on anyway?)

Now I had a whole new set of problems. No, I will not call them “challenges” at this point. These were PROBLEMS, dammit.

I called the company but they didn’t work on weekends and by the time they opened, the Karma would be delivered.

So I built out this entire disaster scenario. The UPS man would deliver the damn thing to my old address. Now if no one lived there, he might just leave it there to rot or until some bastard thief decided that Christmas came early this year. If someone did live there, they would either say it wasn’t for them or they would have a bright new shiny Rio compliments of good old Jason with the detail-ignoring wife.

If it came back to the company that sent it, now I would be looking at another $15 shipping charge to get it to my current residence. Things were not looking all that good and my mood reflected it.

My next thought was that I could call UPS but to me, it seemed that they wouldn’t or couldn’t do much for me. I mean, I’m the recipient and shouldn’t have the authority to alter the route of a package. If I could, anyone could call up and screw up the shipping of legitimate packages to legitimate recipients.

“Yeah, this is Leisure Suit Larry and you’re sending a new computer to my old address. Why don’t you just go ahead and reroute it to this temporary, er, I mean this PO Box for me, thanks.”

I thought that at least I could get them to ensure they deliver it to a live person and make damn sure he knows who the package is for. I foresaw a lot of coordination over this but I had to give it a try.

They say honesty is the best policy so when I called up UPS, I laid it all on the line for them, explaining in excruciating detail the situation. So now there’s some customer support person at UPS who either thinks my wife is a ditzy simpleton or that I’m a filthy asshole of a husband for blaming her.

Either way is irrelevant but something unexpected did happen.

“OK, Sir, what is your tracking number?”

I gave it to her.

“OK, Sir, I’ve rerouted it for you and someone will call you next week to let you know when the new expected arrival date will be. Will there be anything else today?”

I stood there, stunned silent.

I don’t know why they did this and it put me in a moral dilemma of how to feel about it. I mean it’s one of those situations that you feel companies shouldn’t do what they just did but on the other hand it benefits you. I don’t think that a person should be able to clal up UPS and reroute packages supposedly sent to them. Maybe since I had the legitimate tracking number, that was my ticket. I don’t know but I do know that my Rio Karma is back on its way to me and the only extra cost to me is a few more days.

Looks like Carrie dodged a bullet. (I am so dead when she reads this).

Free Advice for Today:
Never call anybody stupid, even if you're kidding."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Quote of the Day:


- Unknown

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Captain Paul Alaniz, United States Marine Corps

I got an email the other day that really shook me up.

It seems that the helicopter that crashed last week, killing 31 Marines, was piloted by a friend of mine. Paul Alaniz was a Marine I went to TBS with back in 1997-1998 and we were in the same platoon and section together.

At TBS, I kind of clashed with just about everyone in the platoon but Paul always treating me with respect when others didn’t. I always thought this was strange because he had kind of that tough-guy exterior and you would expect him to be abrasive but he wasn’t; he always had a greeting for me even when the others wouldn’t talk to me. I always remembered and appreciated that.

It seems strange that this is the first time in all my years as a Marine that I’ve personally known a person killed in combat. By no means am I bragging about this, I’m, in fact, very thankful for the fact. But it almost borders on bizarre that after 18 years in the United States Marine Corps, and especially considering our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, that this would be my first experience with personal loss.

I spent a lot of time thinking about Paul today and feel for the family that is left behind. It’s a bit eerie to look back at those days at The Basic School when we were all learning about concepts that didn’t really seem urgent at the time. But Paul was out there, lived the life of a Warrior, and paid the ultimate sacrifice for it. As selfish as it may be, it makes me hug my kids a little harder and reminds me that what we do as Marines and the intangible rewards we get comes at a price. Paul was the latest contributor. God Bless, my friend.

Here is an article with Paul’s picture.

KRISTV.com -- CORPUS CHRISTI - Back in the mid 90's Captain Paul Alaniz was a substitute teacher at Miller High School. The 32-year old Marine was the co-pilot of that helicopter that crashed Wednesday, during a sandstorm in Western Iraq.

The chopper went down near a town called Rutbah, killing all 31 on board. The captain's family now lives in North Texas. Captain Paul Alaniz has a big joy in life, simply spending time with his 18-month-old baby girl, Yvette and his wife Thelma, also a Marine. Captain Alaniz's brother Marc Pizano told 6News the couple just got married before his deployment last August.

"This was his second deployment, so in between the first and second he was spending a lot of time with family, using that time, that quality time." said Pizano. His brother describes Alaniz as a family man, who loved flying helicopters, similar to this one, for the Marine Corps.

"He sent an e-mail right before he went out on a mission just basically say hi."

Alaniz graduated high school in North Texas, near Amarillo. He eventually made his way to Corpus Christi, enlisting in the Marines. Paul's family is proud that he served his country but right now they're just dealing with the pain of his loss.

"We're just pretty much pulling together. We are here, supporting each other, and you know we're getting through. We are getting a lot of support from the community here." Funeral arrangements for Captain Alaniz are still pending.

Free Advice for Today:
Blow a kiss when driving away from loved ones."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Quote of the Day:


- Unknown

Friday, January 28, 2005

TSO: The Knotted Fallopian Tube Making the Skies Safe

I’m up, I outbrief, and I’m out.

That was the idea. We had spent a week at the depot giving classes and implementing our new system to a very “like we’ve always done it” environment and it was time to go home. Although I’ve wanted to leave the depot more badly (badder?), I was really looking forward to getting home this time.

But first we had to give an outbrief to the LtCol and get the hell outta Dodge. The man was very busy and we filed into his office just as another group was leaving and I felt sorry for the man. I mean it was Friday morning and we were his second (maybe 3rd or 4th) brief before 0900. He looked like he was already shell shocked from whatever he was already dealing with. Oh, well, that's why he gets the silver oak leaf.

So basically he wanted a thumbs up or a thumbs down. In the situations we had dealt with the last few days, this was going to be impossible. We didn’t deal with simple binary status reports and told him a much of the truth as he would listen to:

“The system is up and usable…but…”

He wasn’t too interested in “buts” so we got in what we could, told him our concerns, and made our way to the door. He thanked us and made sure we would be providing follow up support to the depot as needed. Go back to San Diego for a week here and there? I think I can swing that.

Now it was time for the Superman routine. I couldn’t outbrief a LtCol in civies so now I was faced with having to change, get on the road, return the rental car, get to the airport, and catch a plane. There was no time to waste.

It wasn’t like Kansas City where the Gunny and I changed in the parking lot while on the lookout for any passersby who would get a free show. Things were a little riskier on the depot since it was more public, more regimented, more proper, and downright more dangerous if caught. Maybe it was the recruit still buried somewhere deep inside but stealth changeover in semi-public wasn’t going to happen.

We dashed into the gym and although they still made us sign in (come on!!!!), we still made record time.

The trip home was not as bad, although my negative pessimism almost guaranteed a crappy seat. It was touch and go because this is what happened:

We got to the airport and it was, of course, jam packed. The line for Delta was wrapped around and I instantly regretted not checking the bags at the curb. Amazingly, the phone banks were wide open (why people don’t use these to check in, I don’t know) and the Gunny and I picked up receivers next to each other.

Gunny was having trouble with his check-in but mine sailed straight through. Standing there feeling very smug as Gunny struggled with the person at the other end of the phone line, the airline guy came out with my ticket and put the little tag on my bag. I was all set to go. I think the term is "Na na na na na..."

“Better check your ticket, Sir, they are telling me that the flight out of Cincinnati was cancelled.”

I called back to make sure and I discovered that they had changed my second flight, putting me in at Dulles.

“That ain’t gonna work, Sparky, because my car is at National.”

Tap, tap, tappity, tap, tappity, tappity, tap, tap……..

“I can get your in tomorrow, Sir.”

“No, you can get me in today. To National.”

By this time, Gunny got a connecting flight in Houston and was feeding me the information.

“Look, get me on flight xxxx leaving at xxxx and connecting with xxxx.”

Luckily, because I was doing this idiot’s job for him, I got on the same flight and I was happy that it was Continental. I hadn’t flown Continental since I was a kid but I knew it had to be better than Delta. Hell, riding piggyback on a flatulent giraffe would be better than Delta.

The next drama happened when we got flagged for inspection due to our last minute flight change which, I will point out, was THEIR fault and not a voluntary event and thus shouldn’t have flagged us for detailed inspection.

This is where Gunny's assholeism did some good for once. He told the lady he was exempt to which I thought “Crap, here we go again…”

He tells her that active duty military are exempt from these inspections, according to TSO regulation xxxx (and he actually knew the number and the version date). Then the lady asked if he was on orders.

“Doesn’t matter.”

I thought, criminy, Gunny we ARE on orders so why split hairs?

“Yes, Sir, it does matter because the exemption applies to active duty on orders only.”

“No, according to the latest change dated (xxxxx), they changed it to ALL active duty military on orders or not.”

The lady walked over to the computer and after looking it up, sure enough, Gunny was dead on. She exempted the both of us from detailed inspection.

So if you are keeping count, if left to my devices I would have ended up in Dulles instead of National and would have received the full latex glove treatment courtesy of my new best friends at San Diego TSO department. Jooooy.

The rest of the plane trip was uneventful and I was treated to 2 movies which were at least watchable. Taxi, starring Queen Latifa and Jimmy Fallon made me chuckle and Without A Paddle spoke to my teenage funny bone. Hey, it was a total of 3 hours where I didn’t have to do anything but stare. Don’t judge me!

Free Advice for Today:
Ask someone you'd like to know better to list five people he would most like to meet. It will tell you a lot about him."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Quote of the Day:

"Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me, either, just leave me alone."

- Unknown

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Saluting The Ghosts

(If you are looking for the funny, you will not find one in the following entry. What you will find is a serious moment at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California.)

I took a walk through the depot. I doubt if I could explain this adequately if you, the reader, have never been through bootcamp but I will try.

I went to my barracks.

See, this is going to be tough. You can’t fathom what that means. It's not a fault of yours but simply a fact.

This place was a womb. I went through a psychological reprogramming here and while it was a daily dose of paralyzing horror, it was also the only toe-hold of comfort in a place conspicuously void of it.

I was just a kid with a tender heart and thin skin. I had just escaped from a high school experience that saw heartbreak, living on my own, self-support, and lack of any parental guidance. I did it and have always taken responsibility for it but they allowed me to throw myself into the cold abyss of the raw world I was not equipped to handle. It was so bad that Marine Corps bootcamp seemed like a more stable environment, if that gives you any indication.

So entering the hallowed halls of the Marine Corps, I was already walking a hair-thin mental tightrope. And that's when the real horror began.

I will admit, I was a mental basket case through bootcamp. The yelling and stress crashed into me and hit pay dirt every time. I'd like to say that I got tougher because of it but I think the result was delayed by years because I was comically destroyed every minute up until graduation. It was all I could do to hide it and get by. I left with my tail between my legs but I learned how to hide that and perform. To tell the truth, I think that is the intent since that is the recipe for surviving in combat.

My squadbay is a sanctuary for me. And I'm not talking about a place of comfort, I mean I revere the place like a holy shrine. It was a place I transformed over a period of three months. I shed tears in this place many nights. I scraped along the very bottom of my existence here and was also propelled to my loftiest heights (by any minute indication of success from the DIs). I learned more about human nature in this place that my 6 years in college combined. I loved this place and hated it, both with all my heart.

Today, I walked into this place. A Captain.

No one was occupying it so all it had was bare bunks. Everything was stripped down which seemed proper because I saw it stripped down and for what it was. But it was still my sanctuary.

I was scared. A Captain has pretty much free reign over this base and is a rank that strikes fear and respect in just about anyone in the area. I could do no wrong here.

But the skin of a Captain housed that scared private and I could not shake that feeling that a DI would come stomping in and hand me my ass. Logically, it made no sense. But I quivered as I walked through.

I was completely alone. I walked up and down the aisles, staying only where the recruits were allowed to go. I found the approximate spot where my bunk was and stood facing the center, like I was ready for nightly inspection.

My hands were shaking.

I walked in silence, lightly touching the bunks, the walls. Remembering.

When I got to the other end and made my way around the other side, I approached the DI hut which has a window. But it has a one-way mirror so the DIs can see out but the recruits can't see in. I think this was new because I didn't remember it. But it stopped me dead in my tracks because what I saw was a 36-year-old Captain looking back at me. The uniform was modern. The Captain bars shone. But the eyes...the eyes were the scared orbs of Recruit Grose, Platoon 3075.

I must have spent 45 minutes walking around an empty squadbay. It was like visiting an old friend and it hurt me a little to see that the place had fallen in disrepair. They were getting it ready for the next platoon and it was a bit of a mess. But like me, it had the basic characteristics of its former self, almost 18 years ago.

I walked into the duty hut and something changed. I had always been so frightened to enter there and when I did today, I felt more like a Captain. It was weird because I was a recruit out in the squadbay and my "Captainess" came back to me as I entered the DI hut. Because I had never associated that room with Recruit Grose (we weren't allowed in and wouldn't want to go it even if we could), I was "the Captain" inside the hut.

I spent time looking out the window, watching planes take off. From the third deck, we had an unobstructed view of the runway so we saw planes take off from left to right as though it was a big movie. I watched like I had done so many nights while waiting for my firewatch to end, dreaming of being on that Freedom Bird some day.

As the time grew short, I realized that I am a vastly different man than I was back then. In many ways I'm the same but being in that squadbay today made me realize that it was harder that I realized to remember specific details and feelings I had way back then. Oh sure, the big ones are easy but I don't recall the introspection details; how specifically I felt, thought, etc. To go back, I remember the general shape of my world but the finer details have faded and been replaced with what I am today.

I could revisit the sanctuary but not the recruit. I was a Captain now.

All that is left are the over-arching, dulled, detailess emotions of that time in my life: fear, accomplishment, despair and elation.

I walked out of there thinking I had finally made peace with who I was and who I am now. I thought it was all good. I thought those ghosts just needed me to come, salute, and they would be satisfied. I left happy and oddly at peace.

Later that day I found out the base will probably go away in 2010. My sanctuary would be razed and gone forever.

If I was at peace, this would not phase me. I made good and said my goodbyes, right?

Free Advice for Today:
Give thanks before every meal."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Quote of the Day:

"If you don't like my driving, don't call anyone. Just take another road. That's why the highway department made so many of them."

- Unknown

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Guada Loopy

Teaching was getting old. Much like Ground Hog’s Day, each class seemed to morph into the next one until I felt compelled to slit my own throat to experience the sweet release of death. Or have a seizure just to have something to do. I considered complete Grand Mal but then I’d have to deal with paramedics and such so I decided to nix the idea.

The people I was with might have raised eyebrows about now because they did most of the teaching. I do have to admit that to be true because I did the introduction (who we were, why we were there) and then Eric would go into his hour + class on our system while I would go to an open computer and look official. So my whining about the repetitiveness of the classes is slightly unfounded since Eric REALLY must have felt the pain, especially with audience after audience of Drill Instructors.

I know the following observation will be totally alien to anyone who have endured the wrath of a Drill Instructor but I must say it: I found that they were really calm, mellow, low-key people when sitting in front of a computer. It may have had something to do with the fact that they were likely dead tired but I found the absurdity of a roomful of Marine Corps Drill Instructors sitting in front of me, meek as schoolchildren on the first day of school, intensely ironic.

But I knew. I knew that at the drop of a hat (and before it hit the ground), they could turn. And the aftermath would be as ugly and sad as the fat girl at the prom. I knew they had the potential to be the worst nightmare a human can have which made it that much more surreal.

And when they would call me “Sir” and defer to me in mannerisms, it was full-on spooky weird.

Last night, I had to live through the Sushi ordeal. Two nights ago, Gunny claims to have suffered through God Fat. So tonight, it was necessary to go to neutral ground and hit the Mexican restaurant in Old Town: Guadalupe’s. The difference this time, at least for me, was that I was not driving. And you know what that means: I don’t have to validate?

No, it means I can drink until I vomit toenails.

After eating here last trip, we were told that this place makes world-famous margaritas. Well, I don’t know about the “world-famous” part but as long as they didn’t make me retch (at least not right away), I was game. Bring on the glass bowl of happiness!!!!

I limited myself to one and it loosened me up a bit. I think that it would have gone farther if the first couple of sips wouldn’t have given me an icee headache so maybe that’s a good thing. A drunk me out in public is only overshadowed by a hung over Captain in the morning.

So after punching the waiter in the face and tearing off my clothes, running on all the tables singing La Vida Loca, I was finally subdued by authorities. And I don’t even want to go into where I found the after-dinner mints the next morning.

Free Advice for Today:
Before leaving to meet a flight, call the airline first to be sure it's on time."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Quote of the Day:

"If the cops arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?"

- Unknown

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Don't Bait Me, EVER!

I hate sushi.

"But how can you hate something you've never tried?"

"I've never eaten a plate of shit, but I'm pretty clear in my mind that it's not something I'm salivating over after a long day at work."

Driving around San Diego in a seemingly never-ending quest for a parking space, I was not looking forward to this night. Everyone (defined as the other three other than me) wanted sushi. I wanted that delectable culinary treat called "Anything but sushi."

But I'm a team player (and I was out-voted).

From the moment I walked in, it smelled like a bait shop.

It was an upscale, out-of-my-element, elegant place with cloth tablecloths and the table setting aligned just so. I hated it from the moment I walked in. But that's me. And that's SO me.

Looking at he menu, the only thing that was non-sushi was chicken teriyaki and fried rice. The rest was bait. Smelly bait.

Eric tried to convince me that I would like at least some of the sushi. Oh, silly, silly man. I told him over and over that I didn't even liked COOKED fish. I also made a comment that I would sooner cram sushi in a certain orifice of my body rather than eat it. I think I adequately expressed my disdain. That about covered it.

I ended up ordering a plate of rice and while we were waiting, I got a lesson in all things sushi. I was not impressed. Even less so when the plate-o-bait arrived.

The plate they brought out was colorful, I'll give it that. But what created that color, therein lied the problem. Bright orange mush that, I was told, was tiny eggs. Then there was a little package of bigger eggs that actually looked like eggs. Like the ones you put on a hook. I started whistling the theme to the Andy Griffin show but found it difficult while dry heaving.

I watched in horror as everyone ate the calamity that was this meal. They seemed to enjoy it until Eric took a bite of eel. Now, it seems a foregone conclusion that eel would taste like feces. But I guess this was a particularly heinous example of good old eel and Eric spewed out a contender for the "line of the night":

"What part of the eel was that?"

I immediately came back with "Eric, you are assuming that one part of the eel is that much better than the other. Does it really matter? It's freakin' eel, for crissakes! If that was the butthole meat of the eel, is that any worse than its arm?"

And yes, I did immediately identify in my head that eels do not have arms but I think he got the general outline of my point.

Another observation I had was that they had put a piece of tin foil between two offerings on the plate. Here is the conversation that came out of that:

Me: "I notice there is a tin wall between those two."
Eric: "Oh, the eel is raw and the squid is cooked so they keep them separate."

Then I came up with, in my humble opinion, took the trophy for lines of the night:

"Yeah, because you wouldn't want your squid touching your eel. That would be disgusting."

When they ordered the sushi, they were given this sheet of paper than had every disgusting wad of … pardon me…. Sushi. They would mark off the number of each kind they wanted and after they were done with this Bait-Keno, they handed it in. I was a sushi virgin by design but Travis was relatively new to the experience and wanted to know all about it. One of his questions was how many of each you get for the price and the answer was, it told you how many on the Keno sheet.

"You get two of these but if you order this one, you only get one…" explained Gunny. Then I piped in with "The hammerhead balls come in twos. Yeah, you get a pair of those. Yum."

I couldn't help myself.

Through the, OK, we'll go with "meal," everyone explained the different varieties of sushi. Eel, squid, crab, salmon, Loch Ness, Mermaid breast milk, Ahab's taint, etc. I asked the obvious question:

"What's for dessert, the whale shit soufflé?"

Again, I was unable to help myself.

I actually filled up on the rice and since they didn't cook it in fish oil or anything, I was adequately isolated from the nasty fish taste. The smell, well, that couldn't be helped and I just bided my time until this mess was over.

Then Gunny wanted seconds and it was all I could do to stop myself from throttling him and yelling into his reddened face that eating raw fish was not normal behavior. Instead I sat there and continued to watch the spectacle, forcing down bile that I still consider a better treat for my pallete than what I saw on the table.

When the bill came, Eric grabbed the check and paid it. Well if I would've known that, I WOULD have gotten the chicken teriyaki. Ugggg! Missed opportunity for free chow. I stand ashamed.

When it was time to go, it had been time to go for awhile. Walking out, I had a strange reaction to incoming patrons. For some reason, I didn't want to be identified as one of them. As one that did the whole "sushi" thing. I didn't want them to think for even a moment that we shared this cuisine defect.

When all this began, I was for sure that I would be making a run for the border (I meant Taco Bell but around here, I guess it could have another meaning) later tonight. But after leaving the, OK, we'll go with "restaurant" instead of "bait shop," I realized I was full. Not stuffed, like every other night for the last three weeks, but comfortably full. I was a weird feeling and since I had actually run the last two days, I thought a reduction in the metric butt-tons of food I was consuming would be in order.

Free Advice for Today:
Put the knife in the jelly before putting it in the peanut butter when you make a sandwich."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Quote of the Day:

"If a turtle doesn't have a shell, is he homeless or naked?"

- Unknown

Monday, January 24, 2005

Pizza Of The Gods

I can’t believe I had to force the Gunny to eat a Godfather’s taco pizza.

I mean, it’s only the best pizza human beings have ever devised as a result of millions of years of evolution. All our crawling out of the primordial muck just for the making of this delectable creation. But Gunny acted like I was dragging him to a vat of monkey butt-fudge. Eventually he relented and I had two Godfather’s Taco Pizza virgins in front of me. Oh, what a treat they were about to enjoy. It was more than he deserved, the blasphemous heathen.

It didn’t bode well that the Godfather’s sign was burnt out so to read “God Fat” but I didn’t care; I could not exist within 10 square miles where there was a Godfather’s Taco Pizza and fail to take advantage. I would sooner pass up a Borders.

The waiter arrived with the Holy Grail of pizzas as a small tear ran down my cheek. “It’s just so…beautiful…” Moments later, I dove in head first and wallowed around loudly, laughing maniacally. When I was done, the fuzzy shapes that were Eric and the Gunny came back into focus, all of us looking at only a couple of pieces remaining.

Gunny was not impressed which led me to determine he simply has no taste buds. Yep, must be a birth defect. Totally devoid of any taste receptors. Poor bastard.

Eric liked it but he’s known to be nice even when he’s not thrilled. But this is my little world and so I’m making it so Eric was overly excited, even to the point of questionable propriety when he started mounting the pizza.

Once again, I ate until my distended gut creaked from the strain, sounding like the ropes that hold a large ship. I sweat taco sauce and I do believe that there were little chunks of beef rolling through my veins. At some point that really sneaks up on you, the pizza suddenly looks like the very last thing you would ever want to put in your mouth. The very thought of placing a piece of the pizza on your tongue is disturbingly similar to doing the same with monkey butt-fudge.

After we were done, and believe me, I was DONE, Eric and the Gunny tipped me over and rolled me out of the restaurant much like the girl who ate the full course meal-candy on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Once again, I had partaken in the divinity that was Godfather’s Taco Pizza. Gunny was not impressed so I had to sacrifice him to the pizza gods. Eric was smart enough to at least act like he liked it so I allowed him to live.

Do not mess with me and my taco pizza. You will live, at least for a few moments, to regret it.

Free Advice for Today:
Just because you earn a decent wage, don't look down on those who don't. To put things in perspective, consider what would happen to the public good if you didn't do your job for 30 days. Then, consider the consequences if sanitation workers didn't do their jobs for 30 days. Now, whose job is more important?"
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Quote of the Day:

"When companies ship styrofoam, what do they pack it in?"

- Unknown

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Going' Back To Cali

Luckily, the snow stopped and by the morning, the roads were clear. Not that this would matter to the average Northern Virginia driver. Der’s snow out der and I ain’t going over 10 for nuttin’!!!

I had breakfast with my in-laws, one of the few meals I would be able to share with them on this trip and keeping with the “fill’er up until you want to retch before the big trip” theme.

We planned plenty of time to get to the airport. In fact, after coming up with the plan, for some reason we doubled it and called it good. Because it was Sunday midday, the idiot population was at its normal low and then you add in that it was cold and the normal amount of idiots present was even lower. The roads were dry so the sum result of these conditions meant we got to the airport in record time. Just enough time to have 2 extra hours to do nothing.

I did have time to people watch and I determined that civilian pilots look like dopey simpletons. This scared me because they are the ones that are in control of the massive metal tube hurling through the air, fighting to overcome the effects of gravity and are the only thing between getting to my destination and smashing into the ground in a ball of flame.

So looking at these people and noticing that they looked pretty goofy kind of increased the pucker factor. But when you think about it, it’s a pretty boring job. You get the bird in the air and then go through checklists to make sure the whole ball-o-flame thing doesn’t happen. Then it’s auto-pilot until you get near your destination and then do the landing thing (I hope they have better titles for these chapters at pilot school). So the only thing that you are really good at, or at least I hope you would be good at, is what to do if stuff goes into the “bad day” category. Pilots are good at stuff they hope never to test.

I had a positive outlook. I really did. I was not sick, I was going to San Diego when all of Virginia was under a blanket of snow and getting buffeted by freezing wind. So all was well, right?

My first question to Gunny was if he reserved an aisle or window seat. I didn’t care which but after my last trip to San Diego when I was lodged between mountains of human fat, I wanted to make sure I had an end seat. He assured me he requested it so imagine my surprise when I came down the aisle and saw my “B” seat was, in fact, a middle seat. “B” for “Buttcrack.”

I tried not to get irate about it, keeping in mind the flight was only 1 ½ hours. I could live with it but the fact that he had requested an aisle seat and actual received a middle seat, it did not give me a warm and fuzzy about the 4 hour leg from Atlanta to San Diego (yes, thank you Delta for making me go for 1 ½ hours perpendicular to my actual intended course). To make matters worse, my “boarding pass” from Atlanta was not even a boarding pass. I don’t count passes that say “Request Seat” as a “boarding pass.”

Sure enough, it was worse than I could have imagined. I did have a middle seat. And not just any middle seat. It was the WORST middle seat you can actually get. Why, you ask? Why, let me answer.

Not only was it a middle seat but it happened to be in the row directly in front of the exit seat row. This means, for those that aren’t retracted in horror like all the frequent flyers, means that my seat does not recline at all. I know that even on a good day, those seats only go back an inch or two but try NOT pushing it back for 4 hours and you’ll see that even that small recline is important.

So, middle seat. Middle seat that doesn’t recline. Oh, but there’s more.

The few inches that my seat did not recline seemed to be donated to the seat in front of me. This guy could almost lay horizontal which for me, meant that I could have kissed the top of his head if I wanted. This is NOT an exaggeration, my lips could have touched his head if I leaned my head forward a couple of inches.

Well, I was in a reading position where I really couldn’t move. If I opened my book, looked down, I had a straight line down to the text and I had no other lines of sight. So I could lose myself in my book, trying to ignore that my back and gut was starting to hurt just because of the Catholic nun-enforced posture I was forced to maintain.

I opened my book and it took about 2 minutes to realize that the book I was reading would be on my top 5 all time worst reads. The Catcher in the Rye was really a painful experience and it only seemed right to having it on this flight under these conditions. I had read a little over half of it and was not impressed but this day, its shitiness just laid on top of the steaming pile that was this plane ride.

Oh good, they are offering a movie, I thought. I was cramping by now and the book was making me yearn for the days when I didn’t know how to read. I thought I would be getting over on all this bad karma because I remembered to bring the adaptor that lets me listen to the dual plug-in Delta has for their planes. Take that, Delta!!!!

So I plugged it in and settled back for the in flight movie. The screen was tiny and far away but I was taking anything they were going to give me.

Or so I thought until I was exposed to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Now I really shouldn’t bash this since I didn’t see the whole thing but the depth of assedness this movie represented in the first 10 minutes, I think I got the general gist.

This movie SUCKED. I mean sucked monumentally. All the other really really bad movies got together and watched this and determined that it made them sterile.

Are you on the same page with me here? Middle seat, no recline, balding idiot in my face, bad book, and worse movie. And taking all of that into consideration, just take a moment and imagine how bad this movie would have to be if I voluntarily removed my headset and went back to reading the bad book.

When this nightmare ended, I couldn’t even make a clean getaway. Because I forgot to inform you that the beginning of this calamity started when all the overhead bins were full by the time old “Zone 7” Jason got to board. So I had to go back a half-dozen rows to stow my backpack. Therefore when it was time to leave, I had to salmon my way back to get it and the sum total of people willing to let me go back when they were going forward was hovering somewhere near “Where the f#$%#$ are you going?

When I finally made it to the back and recovered my bag, debarked the plane (“Thank you, fly with us again…”), I came into the terminal in less than a stellar mood. Gunny was giving me a curious look since we were in the same row (he in the other lottery seat on the other side) and it took me so much longer to get off the plane. I gave him my patented “Don’t even think about F$%^%^ with me” look and that was that.

We found Eric, who had taken another flight, and then it all started to get weird. I had just gone through this whole process at the same airport a couple of weeks ago and I had to finally stop myself from repeating “When I was here two weeks ago…” and then blabber on about what I did. I realized it was annoying, likely many minutes after everyone else did.

We got the rental car and decided it would be least painful to get In&Out (sorry, Honey) and call it a night. I went back to the hotel and watched TV for the rest of the night. After the day I had, it was the best of all worlds: just leave me alone and let me deflate. I will be back to human tomorrow.

Free Advice for Today:
Think twice before deciding not to charge for your work. People often don't value what they don't pay for."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Quote of the Day:


- Unknown

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Snow Daze

It felt good to sleep in my own bed and I had nothing to do in the morning but attempt to stay there as long as I could before Nature made it impossible to get back to sleep.

It was supposed to snow all day starting at 0800 but 0800 came and went without as much as a flurry. That’s not to say it wasn’t cold enough to freeze the Devil’s ass solid, a fact I verified by going out to get the morning paper. The whole bathrobe and slippers thing was not the greatest idea, in hindsight.

There was really only one thing on the agenda for the day and that was picking up the in-laws at the airport, if their plane was not cancelled. This whole area has been bracing for a big winter wallop that, according to local reaction, should result in the entire Northern Virginia area imploding and ceasing to exist.

Starting at about 1:00 PM, the snow started coming down in big, fat flakes. The kind that fall slowly and are about the size of small birds. The implosion was beginning.

My weather-obsessed boy was spending the night at a friend’s house so his original disappointment of not seeing a blanket of snow fall from the sky first thing in the morning was probably turning to ecstasy when these mutant snowflakes started invading.

By the time it was time to leave, my world was white. Carrie was freaking out because she was afraid the flight would be delayed or that the roads would make the trip to the airport next to impossible. So naturally, I introduced more stress by insisting I get a haircut before we go. I realized late in the morning that I would not get another chance today, maybe snowed in tomorrow, and was teaching first thing Monday morning.

I called the barber shop just to find out if they were open, seeing how the radio was telling everyone to repent because the end was near and most businesses were closing up as a result of the Cataclysm. The barber shop, made up of tiny Asian women with old school work ethics, told me they were open and they’d be open for the normal work hours. This didn’t surprise me and I figured they’d probably stay the night at the shop if the snow got too bad. And by their standards, “too bad” would have to consist of them not being able to open their front door.

Carrie wanted to take care of a few other house-straightening things so my little surprise threw a kink in her plans when we had to leave early. She wasn’t too happy about this set of events but we left and headed toward the barber shop, driving like a blind old lady on her way to church.

My beloved Trucky Truckasaurus is a great vehicle. But as far as snow goes, it really exists in the “suck” category and tends to be left to shiver at the house. Its light back end combined with 2 wheel drive make it a bad choice for slippery roads. Instead, the sporty little Saturn gets the nod and we take it out during inclement weather. It made it fine to the barber shop and Carrie initially wanted to wait in the car while I got my haircut but after awhile, she came in to the waiting area.

This new barber shop is suffering from success. Word has gotten out that they do a really good job and combined with the head massage and hot-towel treatment, the wait has because excruciating. Today, I was treated to a small boy who found a very loud toy in the waiting room and decided it was necessary to pull the little trigger (which spun the damn thing and made it whistle) for approximately… forever.

After my cut, we headed out to the airport and the adventure that is driving in the snow.

For the first half of the ride, there was a lot of different conditions. There was a blanket of snow, there was packed snow, and there was a slush combo of dirt and snow a couple of inches thick. These road treats made the speed about 45 MPH max but on the upshot, there were very few cars on the road.

Half way there, two things changed. First, the roads were cleared of snow so in effect, it was just wet roads. Second, someone raised the gate to the idiot farm and all the occupants drained out onto the roads. Come on people, at this point it’s nothing but WET roads. No snow, no ice, no slush, not even accidents on the side of the road. Just water. So why are we going 25 MPH?

If the law would have allowed, there would have been many burning hulks along I-95 and I-395 today. It was not the weather that was going to make us late, it was the imbeciles.

We barely made it to the airport on time and picked up the in-laws coming in from Seattle. On the way home, we had to pick up Alex at his friend’s house which meant that I was driving, Lyle was in the front passenger seat, Carrie, her mom, and Alex were in the back with Stephanie laying across all of them. Not exactly the safest of all situations but a bit safer than taking Truckasaurus out for a slide along the interstate. But even this was dicey when we the wipers froze and the disgusting road spray put a white haze across the windshield.

Having a Y-chromosome, I didn’t want to stop to clean it up which in turn caused Carrie to keep her anger in check. We made it home but the truth be told, I was almost completely blind at certain spots but I assured Carrie that since I take this road home every day, I could do it blind. But I never thought I’d have to test that theory.

To round out the night, we watched the first two episodes of American Idol. I don’t normally follow this stupid competition but I do find the first few episodes humorous since all the bad singers come out to howl. This season was no different as I smugly sat there with unbelieving eyes and ears at what delusional people think pass as talent. It was both horrible and impressive with its sheer ghastliness.

Free Advice for Today:
Ask for a raise when you feel you've earned it."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Quote of the Day:


- Unknown

Friday, January 21, 2005

To Hooky Or Not To Hooky, That is The Question

I had a choice today: to go to work or not to go to work. Here was my logic:

Go to work, you idiot:
- You have been out of the office for 2 weeks
- It’s a regular work day
- The last time you took a “meritorious” day off, you got your naughty bits slapped

Stay home, what are you, a moron?
- You have been on the road for 2 weeks
- It’s Friday
- You are leaving on Sunday for another week

These two morality plays unfolded but in the end, I went into work. I thought I should try to catch up on some work and whittle down the mountain of back-work. It occurred to me that this is one of the major differences of being a young enlisted Marine and an Officer: as enlisted, when I would leave for any amount of time, the amount of work when I left was the same as when I returned. I was a worker who processed repairs on avionic equipment and if I wasn’t there to do it, someone else would, and there would be others coming down the assembly line.

As an Officer, my work is all mine and it just piles up to gleefully greet me when I return from any absence. This is also why Officers usually have massive amounts of vacation time on the books and even end up losing some every fiscal year. It’s just not worth the pain to go away, knowing what will back up (much like a clogged toilet).

So I went in to my little cage and filled out travel claims, filled out my fitness report draft since my boss is getting out of the Marine Corps, and caught up on the approximately infinity squared emails that was crushing my inbox.

Then, as happens every once in awhile, I figured out what was the deciding factor of coming in today. It’s simple really and not listed above.

I’m a geek stuck in a brick building, watching over an training tracking system with a bunch of civilians. Some of my Marine counterparts are strapping on body armor, stowing a lot of ammunition on their person, and going on patrols in Iraq while hoping that they and their Marines come back with the same amount of holes in them as when they left.

Suddenly, coming in to work was not so tough.

Free Advice for Today:
Buy whatever kids are selling on card tables in their front yard ."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Quote of the Day:


- Unknown

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Visiting The Top

Today I got to once again revisit a big part of my past. I had lunch with a guiding figure in my life. No, Sarah McLachlan was busy so it wasn’t her.

You might recall that I had lunch with one of my Drill Instructors last year and today, I paid another visit to Top Garcia. Yes, the annoying Captain once again pestered the poor Top into breaking bread once again.

Taking Marty with me this time, I thought it would be neat to introduce them since they had in common a history of being a Drill Instructor. I explained to Marty what Top meant to me and he was glad to come along and have lunch with us. Plus I needed the ride. <sheepish grin>.

My idea was to have Chinese food since we had covered all the other nationalities in the last few days and I was hankering for some lo mien. How one “hankers” I’m not quite sure but I think it’s pretty close to “having a durn tootin’ desire fur.” (Note: we are in North Carolina.)

Top had just the place to take us to and when we pulled up, it was a Polynesian place. I thought to myself, “Polynesian? What the hell?”

Then Top’s thoughts interrupted, saying “Shut up der you. Jus’ stop runnin’ you suck and get inside.

The sign did say “Polynesian” but I’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between Chinese food and the buffet they were offering this day. And it became evident that Top was a regular because he was welcomed by the owner and his usual server who he showered compliments over. The food, from what I remember, fit the bill and was actually pretty good. My Little Buddha was happy with it.

OK, this may come as a surprise to you but I ran my mouth throughout the entire meal, hardly stopping to even eat. With Marty there, I was able to recount many of the bootcamp stories involving Top who sat there with a big grin, obviously reliving the glory days as a Drill Instructor. I made sure I pointed out the lessons I took from each story and made it clear how much he had affected me throughout my entire career.

It was one of the best lunches I can remember and one that I vaguely recall tasting anything.

Top told me he is looking into becoming a counselor for returning Marines who had seen battle. As a career Marine and a DI, he is ideally suited for such a task and it would keep him connected to the Marine Corps; an organization he dedicated his life to and even has a son serving in now.

Speaking of his son, Sergio Jr. was promoted to Sergeant and is looking at becoming a Drill Instructor himself. He plans on applying in a few years and this thought kicked off an interesting scenario. I have a 13-year-old son who might be going to bootcamp in 5 years or so, if that’s what he decides to do. If Sergio Jr. happens to follow through with his Drill Instructor intentions, there is a possibility that my son will have my Drill Instructor’s son as his own Drill Instructor. Alex and I would each have our own “Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Garcia.”

That would be really, REALLY weird.

After lunch we returned to the motel and I got a few pictures with Top. I wanted to give him a coin that I recently bought at MCRD (where it all started.) The coin had Captain’s bars on one side and the Marine Corps Seal on the other side and I wanted to give it to him as a reminder of what he created and how much I appreciated it.

The rest of the day, I was on air. It’s just something about closing a loop and checking back with those that started you on your path. I felt good to check in with Top and let him know I was doing OK.

It was also a great day because I got to go home. The drive home was long (as it always is) but I was a passenger and my only responsibility was to sit there and breathe. I couldn’t fumble that one and I’m proud to say that I was a raging success. I hardly forgot to breathe more than twice.

Free Advice for Today:
Let your word be your bond."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Quote of the Day:


- Unknown

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Saucey Explosion

I did not want to get up this morning. I know this shocks you but I was working the old 9 minute snooze button like a champ until I couldn't justify staying in bed one moment longer. Then I hit it one more time.

Then, like always, I was in crisis mode getting ready and couldn't remember if we agreed to meet at 0700 or 0715. I was kinda hoping for 0715 because I had waited so long to get up but at 0700 on the button, there was a knock at my door. Damn ex-Drill Instructors with their precision timing.

I got Marty to give me a few more minutes (invoking the "dumb Captain" defense) and rushed to finish up and get out the door. When I did, I was greeted with the coldest morning yet. I think I frozen tear fell down my raw cheek.

No one showed up for the first class so I spent the morning writing emails and surfing the net while trying to ignore the conversation that was going on in the room between Marty and a Master Sergeant who was.....very opinionated. I will not go into detail but he had opinions on everything and was not shy about expressing them. I couldn't tell if Marty was putting up with it out of a sheer boredom or if he was enjoying the conversation. I tuned it out and let myself get sucked into the computer in front of me.

For lunch we went to mainside and hit the food court. I chose the sandwich shop with the Robin Hood theme (eating the actual "Robin Hood") while Marty opted for the Anthony's Pizza. Health food at its finest.

Being at a grunt base, I notice that as a Captain, I tend to be the most senior guy around. It's weird to see all the young Marines and see how young they really are (yet another indication of how old I'm getting). Two Lieutenants at the next table didn't look any older than my 12-year-old son. I was shocked and I think I broke a hip.

We finished eating and went wandering through the PX since we had nothing to do until 1300. And since I had been freezing all morning and didn't see any relief in sight, I decided to buy a green Marine Corps sweatshirt I could wear underneath my uniform. With snivel-gear in place, I was more comfortable and didn't walk around anymore all stiff-looking, trying not to let my skin touch my uniform for fear of instant freezer burn. Yes, I was adequately comforted in Snivel-Con 3.

We actually had students show up for the afternoon class so actually had to, you know, teach. The class went well and I think both Marty and I are more and more comfortable with the system since we are teaching the same classes over and over, tweaking our presentation based on the feedback from the students. We tend to head off questions before they are asked so are met with a roaring silence at the end of the presentation. Or maybe we're just boring the Hell out of everyone. Either or.

I was inexplicitly tired. Pitiful, I know since all I'm been doing is eating and sleeping but the fact remained, I was tired. After the last class, all I wanted to do was get back to the room and take a cat nap (meow). But we had been requested to go over to the Field Medical School office and help one of the Petty Officers. When we got over there, she was not there and had to wait for her to get through teaching a class and return. No big deal except that I was tired (yes, I know, I know...pitiful) and wanted to get this over with.

Her name, and I'm not making this up, was Petty Officer Crazy Bear. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't actually see it sewn on her uniform but that was the name. Wow. And I thought "Grose" was an easy target.

When we finished and got back to the room, we had about an hour and 15 minutes so I got undressed and .... crashed. I told Marty we would meet up at 6:00 to eat and when I looked up, it was 6:01. Twice in a day I was late.
What the hell?

I didn't care what we ate and since I have been a consumption whore-pig the last few weeks, I thought we could do something light. Yeah, right. Marty wanted steak so we ended up at Outback.

Cue the whore-pig.

There are probably a hundred entries in this blog covering the bad service I tend to draw. I'm almost become famous for it. So when events unfolded tonight, I almost felt guilty that I didn't warn Marty of my penchant for attracting the worst service imaginable.

We were sat at a little table which shared a bench across an entire wall. There were people seated on both sides of us and when we were led to the table, I thought about offering the bench to Marty and taking the chair in the aisle. But because I'm a selfish bastard whore-pig, I slid right into the bench seat, leaving Marty in the aisle.

As we sat down and opened the menu, a waitress dropped a bottle or something of hot sauce and some kind of galactic alignment happened that scientists should study which resulted in an amazing eruption of sauce. It came down like rain in huge droplets.

All over our table. All over my sweatshirt. All over Marty and his suede leather jacket.

For a second, we just sat there and wondered what the hell had just happened. I had even felt a huge drop fall on my head. The couple seated behind Marty, across the aisle, was looking at us with huge eyes and pointed out that it was all over Marty's back. I got up and used my cloth napkin to dab the sauce off his back with was splattered with the sauce.

It was incredible, like a hot sauce grenade that launched sauce shrapnel all over us and our table.

Then came the apologies. One by one we got visits by the busboy, the waitress that dropped the bomb, from our own waitress, from the manager. At this point, I thought we'd get a comped meal as we used a half dozen napkins to get everything clean. Marty was not too happy about his jacket and the manager took our names and addresses, telling us to send them the bill for any dry-cleaning that was required.

Now I could have got all upset over this but in reality, I knew I was a lightning rod for this kind of supernatural service event so I was not all that shocked. Plus, I was wearing an old sweatshirt and jeans. Nothing that I couldn't wash and it wasn't like I had a tux on or anything. Marty had a legitimate gripe and will get his jacket cleaned but overall, it was no big deal; more humorous than anything. Even when they didn't offer to comp anything, I was not outraged because in reality, all that happened is that I got a little sauce on me and they offered to make good on that.

The rest of the meal was uneventful (I had the ribeye, if you must know) and we left after another round of visits-O-sorrow from half the employees.

So I got away with a full gut and a crunchy spot in my hair. Yet another link in the Chain of Unfortunate Events that are my dining experiences. I expect nothing less and tip my hat to this latest variation on a theme.

Free Advice for Today:
When you complete a course, shake the instructor's hand and thank him or her."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Quote of the Day:

"If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you've never tried before."

- Unknown

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Technical Difficulties and Seymon Clan

New River in the morning was like the arctic. OK, maybe not that cold but cold enough to convince me that I despise being cold. Walking out of my room, the wind hit me and there was no doubt that today I would come face to face with the Cold Monster. I hate that bastard.

Meeting Marty and getting in his new truck, I couldn’t wait for the heat to kick in and it occurred to me that I had really become sensitive to discomfort. Nobody LIKES being uncomfortable but since when have I become downright prissy about it?

To battle the cold, my mind fell to coffee; the sweet Brew of Life. Am I addicted to coffee? Of course not. GIVE ME BACK MY MUG!!!!!! A-hem, I mean at least not physically. But on a cold morning, a nice steaming cup of coffee was first in my mind. Followed closely by sharing a hottub with Eva Langoria but that's another story we don't have to get into here .

I felt bad because I had to depend on Marty to get the coffee. I was in uniform so couldn’t go into the store to get my own coffee. This also happened in San Diego last week with Travis and both times, I said the same thing:

“Grab me a great big handful of sugar” and even emphasized it by holding my hand up like a big claw.

Marty brought me back 4 sugars.

I can’t complain because he DID go in and he DID get me coffee….but… I NEED SUGAR. LIKE INSTA-DIABETES AMOUNTS!!!

But I’m not addicted. I'm not. (Fingers in ears... "La la la la la....")

We got onto Camp Johnson (a name that my 10-year-old mature mind still giggles at) at it was the first time in a year since I had been here. I taught a class last year at the Instruction Management School but before that, I had left here a 2nd Lieutenant fresh from Adjutant School after a lonely couple of months away from my family which started 6 months before when I went to TBS. So for the second week in a row, it was a sort of a homecoming, although this one was not as fun as last week at San Diego. It was Lejeune, aftr all. Let's not get carried away, folks.

Our class started at 0800 and to my surprise, it was jam-packed. Almost every seat was filled and as a special bonus, the instructor’s computer was in-op. So the main computer that we were supposed to use, the one hooked up to the projector, yeah, it was down!!!

Second up on the Murphy’s Law parade was the site we were supposed to use to teach the class was down. We were going to use a server to show our system but the server, located in Virginia, was not working.

Full class. Main computer down. Server we would use, down.

I made a very quick phonecall to the civilian contractor back in Quantico. He was sending someone to restart the server (yes, this still fixed 90% of all computer problems at all levels).

I did a little song and dance to buy time (not really because I can’t sing, nor can I dance. Well, I may be able to dance a little but not in a way that would entertain a roomful of Marines) and after 20 minutes, we got both problems fixed and started the class.

There’s something just inherently intimidating about giving a class at the Instruction Management School. I have never taken the course but have never had a problem with public speaking. But standing there in front of people who are going through the course or what’s worse, the instructors that teach Marines how to teach, the pucker factor rises just a bit.

The way these classes go is that I introduce our system, give some background, and describe what we intend to do. Then I introduce Marty, the expert, and he walks everyone through the system as I perform mousing duties that are projected on each screen and then we then answer the inevitable questions together. We work together well (Granted, Marty's blog would likely take a differing view to the effect of the Captain losing the audience from the get-go by babbling incessantly to the point of audience-coma). We did the same thing last week with Travis but that was in (at first rainy but after 2 days) sunny San Diego. Teaching here in an ice cube is a cause for my Whine-Meter to peg out.

For lunch, Marty knew of a little sandwich shop so we went there and wolfed down some chow. Fighting the cold (and when I say “fighting” I mean rushing from warm building to warm truck and into another warm building), we agreed that just when we thought this place couldn’t suck any more, we were proven wrong.

The afternoon class was just as full as the morning class which was surprising since the turn out in San Diego was lacking. Add to this that there was a Lieutenant Colonel but it turned out the Colonel was very interested in our system and had a general acceptance to what we were teaching. This was good because when the pappa bear is happy, the cubs are cooperative.

Before I left home, I sent out two emails. One was to a former Sergeant I knew who is now a 1st Sergeant. The other one was my Drill Instructor who retired here and runs a motel in town. Both of them called me today and left messages on my cell phone as I taught.

I made plans with Mark, the First Sergeant, for him to pick me up at the PX at 1630 so I could have dinner with his family. Our class ran long and I was a little late so after going back to New River to change over, I called Mark at exactly 4:30 and the First Sergeant chastised the Captain because he had just pulled into the PX parking lot and I was 25 minutes away. Oops.

Like I said, Mark was a Sergeant when I was a young enlisted Marine in Yuma, working on avionic equipment for Harriers. We had been good friends as were our families, although Carrie and I had no kids at the time. I had seen him a few times over the years and we had been in contact sporadically.

The best one I ever pulled on him was when I was a newly minted 2nd Lieuteant and I called his place of work out of the blue. His Corporal answered and I asked for “Staff Sergeant Seymon.”

“We have a Gunny Seymon…”

Hmmmm, must of got promoted.

“Can I speak with him?”

“Sorry, he’s in a CPR class. Can I take a message?”

“Tell him a very pissed off Lieutenant wants to speak at him as soon as possible.”

I left my number and hung up the phone. About an hour later, my phone rings and it’s Mark.

“Hello, this is Gunny Seymon. I got a message you wanted me to call, Sir.”

Thinking that he’d recognize my voice, I blurted out “Well, Gunnery Sergeant, then I suggest you put a little more respect in your voice when speaking with a superior commissioned officer!”

Dead silence.

“Uh, Sir, I really don’t know what this is about, I was told to call….”

“Well, then Mark, I guess you can just call me ‘Jason’ then. Ha, ha ha ha ha ha ……”

“You son-of-a-bitch!!!! You almost gave my poor Corporal a heart attack. He thought his Gunny was going to the brig!!!”

Today, he picked me up and drove me to his house to have dinner. His three daughters were teens now and I bored them all with stories of when we all lived in Yuma and Ashley, the oldest, was a toddler and like a daughter to Carrie and me.

We had spaghetti which was a wonderful change to the restaurant food I’ve been eating for a week and the conversation was good as I entertained the girls with stories about their parents from way back when.

Mark used to have a Doberman and it was even more spastic than Buster, if that’s possible. She died a few years ago after getting fat and calming down (two things I would never have imagined this dog doing and also two things I’m fighting with myself) so it was a surprise that they had a new addition to their family. They had a new boxer puppy that was part rabbit, as indicated by the jumping. But the little guy didn’t quite have the grace needed and ended up flopping around like a beheaded pig.

And as big and tough as Mark likes to think his 1st Sgt ass, he had minimal control over the spazatroid. Kind of like when I was a Lance Corporal.

Free Advice for Today:
Eat at a truck stop."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Quote of the Day:

"A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory."

- Unknown

Monday, January 17, 2005

Puttin' the "Ton" in Gluttony

I should be grateful that I got the weekend with my family. But being the selfish bastard that I am, I begrudge the travel gods for making go to Lejeune between week-long trips to San Diego. But the gods do not care about begrudging. In fact, I think they like it. "Begrudge away, you whiny schmuck!!!"

At least I didn't have to fly this time; I rode with one of the contractors who used to be a Master Sergeant and DI. So we had a lot to talk about and I've always got along with Marty. Before he retired, he held the position that my current Gunny does now so I have two resident experts and on top of that, Marty is now the guru of the new system. This enables me to be the stupid Captain nodding his head knowingly.

The drive to Lejeune took about 5 hours and was uneventful and comfortable as a result of Marty having a brand new truck. I was in bucket-seat paradise. I think Truckasaurus won't be talking to me when I get home. He gets that way sometimes.

By the time we got to Jacksonville, it was dinner time and Marty suggested we do Golden Corral. I thought it was just a Denny's-style place but I soon learned how wrong I was. It ens up that Golden Corral did me instead.

You pay one piece (about $9) for all the food you can cram down your gullet. And another factoid that I soon learned: Golden Corral has more food than humans should have access to for a single meal. For 10 meals.

I wanted to be good. I really did. But there was temptation everywhere in mass quantities. So I summoned all my discipline, wadded it up in a small ball resembling a raisin, and buried it in a clump of mashed potatoes and gravy.

It was an epic battle as I piled mounds of nastiness on the plate. Spoonful after forkful, I the Gluttony God attacked until all that was left was a heaping pile of remains and tears streaming down my flushed cheeks.

Of course I had to go back and get one more plate full just to take a couple of bites and leave. It’s one of many personality flaws I have that I must eek out every consumption at an all-you-can-cram restaurant to the point of leaving food on the table. I am not proud of this. (OK, maybe I am, just a little).

I was paid back by the Man Upstairs for this as we got to the hotel. In my rush to grab all of my stuff out of the truck, I crammed all the remaining newspapers I intended to read on this trip into my backpack which I couldn’t shut. So I left it unzipped as the newspapers stuck way out of the bag. Walking in the cold night toward the check in lobby, I heard a ripping sound that initially confused me. This is not an entirely new situation but it suddenly came to me what it was. It was too late. It was my bag's zipper, ... unzipping. I had about 3 seconds and at the 3 ½ second mark, I tried to swing the bag off my back to make a saving play.

The result: two Sunday papers and a Saturday paper, ads and all, came splaying out of my bag along with all the other contents. Real impressive right in front of Marty and a particulary convenient time; in the cold, cold parking lot after a long day of travelling. Good thing the Officer isn’t looking like a total buffoon at this moment.

I spent the rest of the night at the New River Officers Quarters reading my papers and wondering how I can lose so much control when faced with unlimited food.

Maybe I should just have my stomach stapled in half. I wonder if the Swingline is up to the task.

Free Advice for Today:
Listen to your favorite music while working on your tax return."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Quote of the Day:


- Unknown

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Buster Earns His Name

I awoke to bad news: the black screen was back from yesterday saying the same thing:

Did you shit your bed last night?” (that just NEVER gets old)

No, really it said "OS Not Found."


Yes. Another offering from the Anus of Satan. The harddrive was dead so I'm sending it back which also means I will not have it for my trip to San Diego next week. I picked a bad week to stop heroin.

Carrie was still terribly sick so I decided to take care of breakfast. No problem, I know just how to do everything and I had the kids to guide me through anything I had forgotten. I was ready; just get out everything and go to work. No problem.

Of all times to pick to do this, it was categorically the worst choice because we had no supplies. We were out of Bisquick. We were out of bacon. We were out of orange juice. We were out of heroin.

“Oh, thanks for volunteering to make breakfast. Here is a shopping list you need. Thanks.”

OK, fine, so I’m going to the store. No big deal.

“Who wants to go with me?”

Total silence and blank looks from both kids. But Buster was raring to go which he indicated by jumping up at me and nailing me in the stones. Attaboy, Buster, I expected nothing less.

So Buster and I it was as I limped out to Truckasaurus. When I opened the door and ordered Buster to get in, he jumped up but because the 3/4 front passenger seat was folded forward, he jumped on its back and hopped in the back.

Fine. Whatever.

I got in and pushed the seat back and started driving out of the neighborhood. After less than a minute, this thought occurred to me:

“You know what, I feel like a damn chauffeur for my stupid dog who is sitting in the back seat like the Queen of England.”

So I snapped my fingered and told him to hop forward into the front seat.

“Come on, boy…”

A couple of things happened at this point. Buster leaped, or I should say “tried” to leap forward. Considering Buster has the grace of a three-legged deer, the move was not all that successful. I think his little dog-mind believed that the seat was a solid, steady object. What he soon learned was that the locking mechanism doesn’t work and the seat just flops forward if you push on it.

Add to this little scenario that I was stopping at a stop sign so all his momentum was thrown forward at the critical moment he hit the back of the seat and you get the beginning of a very bad ride for dog and master.

His back legs caught the seat which immediately flopped forward with his weight and newly introduced momentum of me stopping. His front paws slammed into the dash and he was propelled forward. If it would have stopped here, the only damage would have been to old Buster’s nerve and to what microscopic ego he possesses.

But the ending to this story, if you have not guessed, is that the rock-hard boulder that is Buster’s head slammed into the windshield. Now I have to assume the 13-year-old windshield, full of small chips, and the cold morning had something to do with it but more likely, it was a 60-lb body behind a granite-like dog-noggin that caused my windshield to shatter.

I really was not going that fast and I knew that Buster was most-likely not hurt. But he was frozen there, dog-head under glass, as I pulled him back. Maintaining the Buster-theme, he was scared that he did something wrong when I yelled out his name. I guess the whole flying dog and shattering windshield thing made me lose my bearing for a second. But I quickly recovered and pulled him back, assuring him it was OK.

I say the windshield was shattered but I guess I should point out that the spiderweb was about 10 inches in diameter, in the middle of the windshield. Just enough to make Truckasaurus look even more like Sandford & Son. And since we dropped full coverage on Truckasaurus a long time ago, the burdon of cost will be on us to the tune of a few hundred bones. And not the kind of bones I could eek out of Buster for payment but real American money-type bones. Thanks Buster, old buddy.

I immediately called Carrie and tried to get to the meat of the story before she thought I was in a major accident. I discovered this is almost impossible. How do you tell this story without making it sound, at least initially, that there’s been a big accident. If there is a way, I didn’t find it and scared my poor wife until I could explain.


... Carrie was not sick (she would have gone to the store as usual)

... I would have taken the car instead of Truckasaurus

... either one of the kids would have wanted to go to the store (providing weight against the seat preventing the flop)

... I had not taken Buster with me

... I wouldn't have left the seat flopped forward last night (Buster wouldn't have jumped in the back)

... the windshield was not old, chipped, or cold

... Buster wouldn't have chosen to jump at that moment (OK, if I wouldn't have summoned him...)

... the front seat latch worked so it didn't flop

If any of these would have happened or not happened, I wouldn't have a cracked windshield. They all had to happen just perfectly for shatterville. How beautifully perfect this all had to line up.

I got home and made breakfast for the kids while Carrie wallowed upstairs in her sickbed. Well, that’s the way it should have happened but to tell the truth, Carrie couldn’t stand it and got up to make the breakfast. I tried, not too hard, to get her to relax but she insisted.

What I did succeed in doing was taking the kids to see the SpongeBob SquarePants movie at the base. The kids had seen it but since it was playing at the base theater, they wanted to see it again and for a buck, why not.

Why not?

Because it’s SpongeBob. Didn’t you catch that?

OK, a couple of quick facts I found out. The guy who does SpongeBob’s voice is the same guy who does Dog in the CatDog cartoons. If you don’t know what that is, never mind.

More interestingly, the voice of Patrick Starr was the guy who played Dauber on Coach. Once you know this, it makes sense.

The voice of Mr. Crabb is the hardcore guard on the Shawshank Redemption.

Other voices were provided by Biff from Back To The Future.

The other thing I noticed is that most of the people that provided voices have done a lot of other voices on a lot of other cartoons. It seems like a small population.

The rest of the night was spent packing for Lejeune. Yes, I printed out my little report and yes, I made check marks. When will you accept that this is the best way to go when it comes to packing for a business trip? Guh!

Free Advice for Today:
Never let anyone challenge you to drive faster than you think is safe."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

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Saturday, January 15, 2005

Quote of the Day:


- Unknown

A Shitty Bedtime Story and a Laptopectomy

Back from a week on the road and what do I do on a free morning? Get up and do the running that I’ve been seriously neglecting since Halloween, you suggest?

Who let in that dumb F%$@er?

No, I slept in. And when I say slept in, I mean like serious, industrial sleeping in. Take it from a guy who takes sleeping as seriously as Oprah takes Ho-Hos, I did me some sleeping. My normal description of this depth of sleeping usually involves a very vulgar visual to convey the sheer intensity of my sleep. Ask my wife, who is the unwilling recipient of my vulgarity.

I historically go with, “I’m going to sleep until I shit the bed.”

Why I must take it to this level or even why beshatting the bed is required to signify an extreme form of sleep-getting, I don’t know. But I do and it does. (Re-read the last two sentences slowly and make the question/answer connections if you think I actually admitted to shitting the bed.)

But at the risk of minimizing the effect of this description, I will admit, I don’t really go through with it. I shouldn’t have to say that but I know you guys. I really MUST say that. So I did (say it not… nevermind).

Next week I go to San Diego so I want to get my personal laptop fixed. This way, I can take it on the plane and actually watch a DVD during the 4 ½ hour ride across the country. My harddrive beshat its own bed (maybe it slept too long) and I ordered another drive for $80. It came in last week so I was psyched to go through the process of getting it set up.

I should have noticed that “psyched” and “psycho” have the same root word: Jason.

I put the drive in and turned it on. The black screen told me a very simple message:

“Did you shit your bed last night?”

Kidding, people!!!

It said: “OS Not Found.”

This makes sense considering it was a virgin drive. I even expected it but didn’t have a good alternative plan to overcome this.

You see, I don’t have any original OS disks other than an old Win98 set. Every computer I have has come with the operating system already on it and my graduate school offered free upgrades to Windows XP. They even gave you the disks but they were UPGRADE disks that don’t work on a virgin system. Damn those Redmond money-grubbing geeks!!!!

I have three desktops in my house and in the last year, I have scraped all three of them and reloaded all the software for a variety of reasons, normally centered around them being rat bastards straight from Satan’s anus. Or something to that effect at the time. Things get hazy when I turn green.

Each time I did this, I had to load the old version of Windows 98 and then use the XP upgrade disk to, well, upgrade them.

You may ask, “Why didn’t you just do that with the laptop?”

AGAIN, who let in that dumb F%$@er? Seriously? Get him the F%^* outta here.

Well, Mr. There’s No Such Thing As A Dumb Question (which is a crock of my late-sleeping bedsheets), my laptop does not have a 3 ¼ disk drive.


That’s it, beat his ass.

To load Windows 98, you have to have both the CD and the 3 ¼ disk. Why? I didn’t design the freakin’ system, why ask me? Maybe it's an elaborate plane put into motion decades ago with the foreknowledge that I would be in my living room without a means to load an old OS onto my laptop. Stranger things have happened. OK, that would be pretty strange and maybe stranger things haven't, in fact, happened. Where was I?....


So I was stuck, nothing worked. I called my Gunny who lives near enough by that I would be willing to drive over but he had loaned his XP disk out to someone far away. So then I went over to my neighbor and tried to explain to them what was going on. This was pretty much like explaining the space program to aborigines. Deaf, in-bred aborigines with a learning disability and a hair lip.

They are nice enough people but the magic box works and they have a collection of these disk thingies they’ve never used. These are the same people who have thirty-some cats and a pet pig inside their house. Yes, I said thirty-some and no, I am NOT exaggerating. They really do. Plus they smoke…. a lot…. inside. Cats, pig, smoke. It’s a bonanza of olfactory bliss.

I got the disk I needed and even though it claimed to be a backup disk (which I THOUGHT meant that you had to have it partially on your system already but I guess not) it loaded up. It was Windows XP Home Edition and I had all the intentions in the world to upgrade it to the Professional Edition I had but after doing some research, I realized none of the extras that the Professional gave you were things I ever use. Fine, we’ll stick with the Home Edition. Happy?

Funny you should ask; it wasn’t. And didn't I order a kicking of your ass? Anyway, just sit there and be quiet.

It wanted me to register the copy through Microsoft. YIKES!!!! That wasn’t going to happen and falling back on the loophole of site licenses from my grad school upgrade disk, I went ahead and upgraded. Nothing to see here, Mr. Gates. Just ignore the little man with the laptop...

So it was going fine and I got everything loaded. I hooked up the laptop to my home network to transfer all the other programs and files I wanted from my external hard drive (my teeth are starting to buck again…).

First, I went through all the downloads to bring the OS and Office up to speed. This, if you’ve ever done it, takes forever even with cable internet. It also kind of made a statement along the lines of “Our product was so assed up and inside out, we have to send out these massive fixes. P.S. Thanks for the money.”

Wow, so this is the view from the bandwagon. Wassup, Linux?

Then it was time for the software: Antivirus, Office 2003, Photoshop, FTP, Dreamweaver, Flash, Adobe, etc. Then the drivers for the printer, scanner, etc. Then those files ....nevermind.

It was taking all night but by the time it was time to go to bed, I launched it to pull over all my MP3s (just over 2,700 at last count).

Tomorrow, I will wake up to have a new laptop with all my data, ready to take to the road next week.

So if you’ll pardon me, I have to go soil my kind-size bed.

Free Advice for Today:
Remember that bad luck as well as good luck seldom lasts long."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Friday, January 14, 2005

Quote of the Day:


- Unknown

Up in San Diego, Down in Virginia

Going home coast to coast is both exciting (I’m going home!!!) and not-so-much (I gotta be stuck in a metal tube all day?).

To make sure the day started off right, we ate at IHOP. Here’s my justification: traveling all day means you either live off the sustenance of airline food (which now can be measured in crumbs) or starve all day. Yeah, I could probably live off my disgusting fat stores for many weeks but that’s a tertiary argument and I feeling really binary today.

I’ve done the starvation thing before and it is made possible by the criminal prices ANYTHING costs in the airport, assuming you even have time to buy in during a layover. And because I am cheaper than I am undisciplined when it comes to food, starvation wins out.

IHOP was in (although they are a old school Shit List veteran) as the last meal we would enjoy in San Diego. I had a lighter affair than I normally do at IHOP but that was like ordering a diet coke with a double bacon cheeseburger; a little too late to do any good. (And for the record, I have NEVER sunk so low as consuming a double bacon cheeseburger. The very thought makes my arteries constrict.)

This may be the one I’m always on the lookout for: come on aisle seat, come on aisle seat, come on….. middle seat? DAMMIT!!!! Why do I not think of these things when I make my reservations? Oh well, maybe on the second leg, I will not have to endure two strangers sandwiching me.

Nope, same deal out of Atlanta.

By the time I got in, I hated humanity. Hated it. Hated it with the red hot intensity of a billion galaxies burning on the edge of a jagged razor raking across my spouting jugular.

This was my state driving home this night. Good thing the roads were wide open and I got to enjoy a ride down I-95 going 80 MPH. Since it was so late, I could do this and it soothed my nerves after a day of travel.

I am now officially regretting my statement when I first started working here: “I love traveling!”

When they build a time machine, and they will, I WILL go back and bitch-slap that version of myself. And not even explain.

Free Advice for Today:
Teach your children that when they divide something, the other person gets first pick of the two pieces."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Quote of the Day:

"Never share a foxhole with anyone braver than you."

- Unknown

Turnover Jacket For The Supreme Idiot

For the second day in a row, we got up, drove to Pendleton from San Diego, and taught classes. And for the second day in a row, I blathered incessantly to Travis about all manner of things that he likely was too polite to ask me to stop my mindless chattering.

I had an epiphany yesterday I forgot to write about. Here it is so pay attention:

The Marine Corps, while good at kicking the crap out of bad guys and such, reinvents the wheel every couple of years. It’s due to our heavy rotation which cycles about every two years or so. Therefore someone is always new (reinventing) or leaning forward to their way out the door.

Oh we write turnover jackets (“This is how you do this job”) but hardly anyone really reads them. The guy before you is ALWAYS dubbed a supreme idiot who didn’t know what he was doing and you spend your first year un-assing what you perceive he invariably screwed the football on. Then you spend the last year leaning forward and becoming the Supreme Idiot, in preparation for your replacement. And even if you wrote out the Turnover Jacket for Being the Supreme Idiot, you would be heckled by your replacement that you couldn’t even quite get that one right.

And the cycle goes on.

I noticed this when I sat at Edson Range waiting for the S3 and watching the office dynamics of the same range I shot at some 18 years ago. I heard questions float around that induced a single thought, provoking the above epiphany: You would think after all these years, the answer to that would have been institutionalized. Why is it still a mystery to be researched? Why do I still have a Subway sandwich and a couple of In & Out Burgers SOMEWHERE inside my body?

That last thought kind of edged out the others. I know, kind of gross.

Back to today: we had lunch at the staff club which, as far as anyone knew, had always been an all-hands club where rank was not a factor. We were supposed to meet a Captain there but he never showed so we ate with another colleague (when you are all officerish, you have colleagues. Oh, and you don’t refer to yourself as “officerish.”)

When we got there, there was a big expo selling all kinds of advanced weapon systems. I’m not kidding, there was booths and everything for rifles, armor, and even high caliber, advanced weapons. We took a gander around but for the life of me, I had no idea why these people were doing this. The Marines I saw were NOT the decision makers. These things get bid out and high muckity-mucks (and their colleagues) go through excruciating debates to decide what to buy. Private Snuffy bopping around the Pendleton area will not have a say. But hey, cool bumper stickers.

As we entered, we were looking for the dining area but there were Marine Corps League people handing out a little sportsbag full of SWAG. I told them I was not here for the expo but that didn’t seem to matter (or his hearing aid was all the way down) because he insisted I take it. OK, free bag, coffee cup, and a magazine I would never even open. Cool.

By the time we finished out day, it was evident that we had abused our bodies with crap food for the last few days. I felt like going out to eat was akin to eating breaded shit-cakes deep-fried in piss. So we did the only logical thing: Wendy’s.

People, don’t ask. I don’t why I’m doing this. It’s as though my body has performed some atrocity to me and I must punish it mercilessly. It begged me for leniency just this one night. For a carrot or a salad. Something other than putrid, Satanic colon-ripping sludge from the fast food industry.

But it was not to be. Reap it, body. Pay for the sins you don’t even know you committed.

Oh, the humanity.

Free Advice for Today:
When walking a dog, let the dog pick the direction."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Quote of the Day:

"The enemy invariably attacks on one of two occasions:

a. When you’re ready for them.
b. When you’re not ready for them."

- Unknown

Starting Today I'm Adding Titles To These Entries
(This One Doesn't Count. Fine, How About "Fast Food Fandango." (They'll Get Better...And Shorter)

We didn't know where we were going, how long it would take to get there, or how long it would take to set up once we got there. All we knew is that we were supposed to teach a class at Camp Pendleton California at 0800.

So like the smart people we are, we found it necessary to leave at 0100. OK, not really but that's what it felt like. It was dark, it was early, and it was "not sleeping in the king size Holiday Inn bed."

Pacifica-mounted GPS not withstanding and the fact that we could SEE I-5 running parallel, my imbecility prevailed in trying to find an onramp. Add to that the fact that it was stupid-early and you have my general mood as we wandered hither and too. (How do you wander hither and too? Picture Little Billy on Family Circus going to the neighbor's house via the dashed line. I swear that little bastard had A.D.D.)

Once we found the longest possible route to I-5, we were off and because of the early hour, the highway was pretty much clear. We made it to Pendleton and to my astonishment, drove right to the building we were teaching in.
Even a blind clock finds a broken bone... ok, too many analogies mixed in there. Suffice it to say I was happy to not end up in Connecticut.

We taught the class to people that came from all over. I felt bad for the 29 Palms guys and kicked myself for not remembering how much of a pain in the ass it was to have 0800 start times in Pendleton when you had to drive 3 hours. I always cussed the morons that made those plans without considering us desert rats. Now I have seen the moron and he is stapler... I mean "me."

After class, we hit the only place around that actually had food. It was a Subway and not your average perky little Subway. I figured since they had a food monopoly at this little camp we were at, they really didn't have to try all that hard. No posters on the wall, no ambiance at all. Just a counter and some table and chairs. The overall theme was "Don't want to eat here? Go f^%%$# yourselves! Starve, bitches."

I don't think Jared would be pleased.

After teaching the afternoon class, we headed back to San Diego and decided to take in the city. That is simple code for "drive around without making a decision and wonder how I forgot to have a fun time."

It really wasn't my fault. OK, maybe it was. But we drove up and down the Gas Lamp district and I can hear those of you that know saying "If this dingleberry can't find a good time in the Gas Lamp district, he needs to pack it in and strap on the Depends."

Be that as it may (and it isn't, thank you), all the bars looked the same, as did the little cafes. So there was nothing but general themes to differentiate the quality or quantity of "good times" hidden inside each.

Plus, it was like 4:30 PM so drinking spirits was out (sound of the Depends box being ripped open with liver-spotted hands). So we drove around looking at all the potential good times and in the end, found nothing we wanted to take a chance on.

We did follow a line of traffic into Horton Plaza which we found out was an outdoor mall. For chicks. And by “for chicks” I mean there was a bookstore for the man of the family and every other store was a shrine to the feminine gender. There was so much estrogen in that place, the floor was slippery with it. Eww, maybe I should rephrase that. Not the best analogy but I’m leaving it. Deal with it.

I really wanted to find a book or something because you had to get your parking validated or pay out the ass for every 20 minutes of parking. But I was unsuccessful at finding anything so the rat bastards ended up getting $4 out of me as I left. It’s OK though, I put a curse on them so if you live the general San Diego area, you might want to take a visit to….anywhere but San Diego. I’m not saying I will be the cause but just head East, folks. I’m just saying.

After driving aimlessly through the great cultural Mecca of San Diego, we ended up partaking in that great American dining experience known as In & Out Burgers. To me, this was no big deal because it’s pretty much like Wendy’s to me but for my wife, who was stuck in the great wasteland of In & Out-less state of Virginia, this was a particularly painful bit of news. I promised I would bring her home a greasy wrapper. How about ODB? (Yeah, he’s dead but it makes it that much funnier. No? Oh, grow up.)

Free Advice for Today:
Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Quote of the Day:


- Unknown

It rained today for the second day in a row. This is Travis’s first visit to California and he’s starting to think the whole world was playing an elaborate practical joke on him. Sunny California? Kiss my ass!!!

After the class, we hit the exchange for lunch. Since we had time, we poked around and looked in all the little shops they have there, mostly for the families that invade the Depot every week to watch their young Marine graduate bootcamp. The shops are full of the “Oooh-rah” stuff that families eat up. I have to admit though, I did get sucked into this vortex when I found something I had never seen anywhere else: a coin with Captains’ bars on one side and the EGA on the other. I decided it was necessary to buy their entire stash of 6 since I had never seen them before and don’t know if I will ever again. I knew that I was going to Lejeune next week and definitely had to give one to Top Garcia.

The outdoor food court holds yet another good memory. When I was attending the MECEP prep course for 10 weeks back in 1993, my son was less than a year old. Carrie and Alex were living in Yuma and I sped home every weekend to see them but the first few weeks, they were visiting family in Seattle. I remember that when they finally got back, they were going to meet me at the food court as they came down from the north on their way back home to Yuma. I anxiously awaited their arrival and when I first saw them at the food court, Alex came running up to me with a big grin. It had been about a month since I had seen him but for the first time, I really saw a lot of me in his developing face. It’s a moment I will never forget.

Later that day we got him his first haircut, appropriately on the Recruit Depot where I had received quite a different haircut many years prior.

A couple of things just didn’t fit in my mental image of San Diego. There was all the rain of course, but seeing Drill Instructors driving around in little golf carts was way weird. Granted I only saw this once but once was enough and it just seemed odd. Even seeing them in little cars was all wrong; they belonged in big monster trucks that crushed all the little cars as they drove across base. Now that would be normal, on MCRD at least.

I also got a little shot of generation gap as I showed Travis the famous arch that the color guard came marching through at the beginning of each Gomer Pyle episode. Travis’s reaction was “Gomer who?”

Liver spots popped out all over my hands.

At night, we decided to check out Old Towne (that’s how they spell it). We had been lost a few times in the Pacifica and although I knew that Old Towne was right near the Depot, I still ended up all over the place and finding everywhere EXCEPT Old Towne. When we finally stumbled into it, through sheer process of elimination, we immediately saw what we were looking for: a Mexican restaurant. It was named Guadalajara and was exactly what we were looking for the first night. Gluttino del Mexicano.

Did I chip out, you ask? Oh, you know I did, Silly Reader.

Day 3 and I was still stuffing myself like a maniac. As though I still have the metabolism of a hummingbird. As though I was PTing every day to keep off the pounds. As though I could slam massive amounts of food down my gullet and expect everything to stay the same.

But it was Mexican food; good Mexican food. I know, I know.

We went back to the hotel. You know the rest, down for the count.

Free Advice for Today:
Accept triumph and defeat with equal grace."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

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Monday, January 10, 2005

Quote of the Day:


- Unknown

My first morning on the depot was a far cry from the very first one. For one thing, it didn’t involve crying, far or otherwise.

It actually started by leaving the hotel and having Travis, the civilian I was traveling with, agree to be my coffee bitch. I know that sounds harsh but, well, OK, it’s harsh. If I wanted to be more politically correct, I should point out that he was kind enough to agree to grab me a cup of coffee at the local 7-11 since I had my cammies on and couldn’t go into the store. AKA: coffee bitch.

I tease because I like him. And because I can. Sorry, Travis (C-Bitch).

We got to the computer lab and was all ready to teach. I had a mixture of excitement that I was in San Diego, at the Depot, and teaching a class plus a little bit of trepidation about teaching a system I only knew since Friday. But I had a job to do and I was being paid to come out here to teach these people.

The copy situation was touchy, though. As a former admin guy, I know how much of a pain it is for any schmo to come in and make copies so faced with the necessity to make a few hundred copies, I was not too comfortable about asking the admin shop, even though they had one of those high speed printers. But I got over it and asked and they had no problem with it.

My plan was to make 20 at a time and then come back begging if I needed more. The packet I needed copied was about 27 pages long so in all respects, I should have tried the base repro office but that would involve time, effort, and possible failure. So I politely asked the admin clerk if I could copy and she was happy to oblige the wayward Captain in need.

This would have been great if, as I discovered later, I wouldn’t have grabbed an old copy of the packet and made 20 copies of the wrong version.

Way to go, wayward Captain!

We had made the copies (unaware they were wrong), worked out a teaching strategy, and was raring to go by 0800 when the class started. And then… no one showed.

Great start.

OK, granted there was only two people slated and one came in to tell us she was sick and would be attending another class but still, the other one didn’t bother to even call or anything. So we had the morning to do whatever we wanted and decided to take advantage of the time. An unteathered former recruit with the run of the base. Mu ha ha ha ha....

We had not slated any classes for Wednesday afternoon so that we could make some coordination with the powers that be for the return trip we will be making in two weeks to implement another part of our computer system. We had planned to use Wednesday afternoon for this but since we had the morning free, we decided to see what we could get done today instead.

The first person we looked up was a Captain that would be involved in the new system. I had spoken to him on the phone for months but had never met him. I was glad that he was a formerly enlisted Marine and had been on the Depot a long time. He had always been interested in getting our system launched aboard the Depot and then I learned something even more impressive: he was formal Drill Instructor.

I should explain; I am extremely jealous of Officers who had been a Hat. It was my biggest dream while enlisted and my biggest regret looking back that I never accomplished this. By the time I got around to looking into it, I was told I would have to choose an Officer path or a DI path, based on my age. I obviously took the Officer route but I still have regretful memories that I never donned the Smokey. Give me a minute, I'll get over it...

So this Captain had done it all: boot camp, enlisted Marine, DI, and now and Officer. And he just couldn’t help himself when we walked around the Depot when a recruit would come nearby. He would bark something at them, but not really in a DI way but with a flavor of it. The poor recruits would just about crap themselves, seeing two Captains and a civilian walking around in the area and one of them being a former Hat. Poor bastards.

We ended up going to one of the squadbays to test out the DIs’ computer. When we walked in, all Hell broke loose as expected and the gear guard totally punted the report in the stands. He stumbled through a rough approximation of what he was supposed to say and of course got his butt chewed for it.

When we entered the DI hut, it was a very strange feeling. That was the most sacred of off-limits areas as a recruit and despite my Captain-ness, my pucker factor was high walking into the tiny room. We talked with the DI in there and of course he was very polite to us and he actually knew the other Captain so they were a bit more chummy than the normal Captain-DI relationship. Shortly after we walked in, the DI skirted around us and shut the door. He then was more at ease and the Captain even started grab-assing with him as they laughed. Talk about surreal: a Captain goofing around with a DI and the DI acting just like any other Marine. I think the recruits would have fainted if they saw it. As a former-recruit, it was really bizarre.

The next place we visited was the armory. I had forgotten my ID card (which I cursed myself for) so we couldn’t go in the actual area where the weapons were but was able to go into the office area. There was a Warrant Officer that I knew from 29 Palms that ran the place and it was good to see him for the first time in years. He was friendly and the familiar face put me at ease. The old cliché really is true: it’s a small Marine Corps.

We got a lot done but it was time for chow so we made our way over to the bowling alley.

I know that sounds like an odd choice but it was the closest area and was known for having a decent buffet. It was also the place I drank my first beer after bootcamp, when we graduated and was let loose. The bowling alley served beer and was the closest place to get it. I had a couple of hours before my flight and so I did what many recruits do; find the nearest beer. By the way, it hit my 120 lb alcohol-deprived body like a sledgehammer, making the reality of being done with bootcamp even more strange.

The buffet wasn’t all that great. They had Dijon pork chops which is French for "pork chops smothered in baby shit." It was food and it would keep us alive but it was like a bad catering job gone ugly.

The afternoon class went better since we had students. That tends to make the whole “teaching” thing a bit more useful and we actually bluffed our way well through it since we were teaching a system we knew little about for the first time. Neither one of us knew the old system it was replacing so anyone with specific questions could have hammered us. I would have had to throw a flash grenade and ran from the room. Luckily, that was not needed.

When we got done, we headed back to the Holiday Inn and changed over. It was the second night of eating out and coming home from dinner last night, we ran across a Godfathers Pizza joint. Upon spying their burnt out sign, I knew where we would be having dinner tonight. Allow me to explain.

Godfather’s makes a taco pizza that, if the truth be told, will be served to me every day in heaven. Everyone knows I’m wide open to new culinary combinations (insert a heavy dose of sarcasm here) so it should be no surprise that I’m willing to try a pizza with a taco motif. I really don’t remember how it happened but somewhere along the way, Carrie made me try this stuff and since then, it’s been the food of the gods.

Travis had never had it so it was foregone conclusion that we would stuffing our pie-holes with taco pizza this night. Walking up to the counter, I had a moment of fear when I imagined they had discontinued the taco pizza and I would have to spray the place with a high-caliber weapon. Luckily, they still had it and of course I couldn’t just order the damn thing but had to describe in excruciating detail to the poor worker how taco pizza would save the world from communism and how I had been neglected this culinary ecstasy for over a year.

It was a good thing I made such a big deal of it because the lady seemed real happy to make me an extra special pizza with extra toppings and all I had to do was give her a review of her work after we were done.

I kept watching for the pie to appear as we made small talk and the anticipation was killing me. Not only was I to experience the nirvana that is taco pizza, I was to sit across a taco pizza virgin, my coffee bitch.

When it showed up, I was shaking with excitement as I pulled a monster slice onto my little plate. I didn’t even care what Travis thought at this point because I was in my own little taco pizza world. After closing my mouth on the first bite, everything went blank; too much pleasurable input at once.

I ate until it hurt. And then I had one more piece. There’s that moment where you will be fine if you stop but your mouth is yearning for that one last piece. If you eat it, you will pay. And pay dearly I did.

I took two slices back to the hotel but just as intense the yearning was to eat it at the beginning, there was equal repulsion to even consider ever eating those last two pieces. I would be full for eons.

Travis liked the pizza and I don’t know if he was just being polite or not. It didn’t seem to slow him down as we ate all of a large save two pieces.

I Fred-Sandforded my way back to my room and for the second night, was attacked by the Full-Gut Demon as I collapsed on my bed. This gluttony must stop, I said to myself as I smiled at the memory of taco pizza. Mmmmmmmmm……..

Free Advice for Today:
Put your jacket around your girlfriend on a chilly evening."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

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Sunday, January 9, 2005

Quote of the Day:


- Unknown

Another crappy night’s sleep but I feel a bit better this morning. Maybe it’s just my body gearing up for the trip or maybe my plague is starting to lose steam. I WILL live longer than this horrid curse that was bestowed upon me. I think. I hope.

The trip to the airport was a smooth one because an early Sunday morning drive on I95 seems to be the ONLY time that there is no traffic. I made it to the airport in plenty of time to sit around for an hour and a half and read my book. I’m reading The Firm by John Grisham and it’s REALLY good. I didn’t mind at all that I get to the airport so early and had time to sit down and read the book. I might set a personal record today and finish the last 120 pages today. You see, normally I read at the pace of Stevie Wonder (and don't give me the Braille argument. Just give me the analogy so we can move on. Thanks.)

OK, I know you are all waiting to hear about the freak shows that undoubtedly seek me out to sit by me any time I fly. Today’s winner, I think, missed the comet or was going to Atlanta to do another school shooting. He was a skinny guy dressed in all black, to include a black trench coat, long greasy hair in a pony tail, and pale skin. At least he was small and quiet so his annoyance factor was minimal. The only memorable moment was when he put his Coke down on the lip of the drink holder depression, causing it to tip over and spill all over his lap. I tried not to laugh. Tried.

Changing planes in Atlanta, they had me going 14 light years to my connection but I had an hour. I made it in plenty of time but on the way to the gate, someone put their hand on my shoulder and I turned in surprise. I was under the impression I would be completely anonymous because running into anyone I know in an airport is extremely unlikely and undesired (is that a word? Probably not but you get my drift. Did I really use that phrase? GUH!). The guy waved and I vaguely remembered him although the short hair gave him away as a Marine. When I gave him a curious “I don’t know who the hell you are” look, he said “29 Palms?

I faked my way through it at that point, still not knowing exactly who he was and in the ensuing conversation, figured out he was an XO from the AAV battalion who I had dealt with here and there when I was stationed at Regiment. He was now working in Quantico and traveling to San Diego on business, like me.

Unlike me, he had returned from combat in Iraq. I explained to him how I was sidelined after going to NPS and then required to do this payback tour, in essence keeping me out of the combat zone for the rest of my career. I feet so inadequate when I meet those who have gone over and done the fighting while I sit in office buildings and go home to my family at night. He tried to play it off but we all know, yes we all know, that going over to do the fighting is where it's at these days. As a Marine, we feel so emasculated if we "stay back to fight from the home front." And whoever came over with that little justification gem, I guarantee you, was left behind also.

Getting on the plane, it was a big 767 with two seats on either side and three seats in the middle. I was on the aisle seat in the middle row and was lucky enough to sit next to a skinny woman about my age. She had got on the plane with a male friend who was seated away from her but not wanting to get involved in a conversation, I left my headphones on and ignored the situation. I felt like an ass when the guy on the other side of her offered to switch places with her companion and she accepted. I didn’t think she’s accept if I offered. OK, I didn’t want to move, I’ll admit it, because I had all my stuff out and was set up for the plane ride. So much for chivalry.

The plane ride was 4 ½ hours, give or take an eternity. The movie was Wimbledon and because Delta’s planes are equipped with a dual prong headset adaptor, my phones didn’t work too well and I wasn’t about to pay $2 to watch a Kirsten Dunst chick-flick. The only appeal was seeing Kirsten in a tennis outfit and I could do that without the headset. When I got bored, I put in my own dialogue and it was quite humorous.

I scare myself often.

Actually, I read my book and couldn’t put it down. I ended up finishing it even though I had to shut it a few times as I white-knuckled through some turbulence. It only happened a few times but it was enough to convince me that we were going down in a fiery ball of screaming flame.

(If that ever happens, I will not be the stoic Marine accepting the hand of Fate. I will be the one who loses it and goes to my death screaming like a woman and crapping myself raw. Hey, at least I admit it.)

When I got to San Diego, I realized I hadn’t been on an inbound flight to San Diego since the night I arrived at bootcamp in 1987. This was a weird feeling and I couldn’t help but think about and relive that fateful night when I was a scared little 18-year-old embarking on a life-altering journey. This time, I was a confident 36-year-old Captain arriving to provide training to the system that had created me all those years ago. Wow, what a ride.

After getting my luggage and finding Travis, we waited out front to get a ride to the car rental office. San Diego airport, I guess, has all their rental car offices off-site so we waited by the curb as a parade of rental car “courtesy” buses came and went. It did not bode well that ours took forever and that I had never heard of “Advantage” rentals. I was hoping I wouldn’t have some homeless guy offering a ride in his grocery cart (although it might have been quicker in the long run).

When we finally got picked up, we were not alone and shared the ride with a gentleman I had seen on the plane. I remembered him simply because he was horrendously fat, totally bald, and had a scraggly beard kept in check by a rubber band. And when I say “horrendously fat” I mean that in a bad way. This guy looked like he was going to pop, as though he didn’t have quite enough elasticity in his skin to hold back the pressing fat inside his body. He sweat just getting his luggage onboard.

Getting to the rental car place, it was a hole in the wall with the added bonus having the new guy helping us. After every screen, he had to ask the other “associate” what to do and if he was doing it right. And there were many screens. It seemed he was writing a Stephan King novel just getting me checked in but for my troubles, he upgraded me to a mid-size without me asking. He made a big production of it having a GPS system, a DVD (which is of no use to me since I have no DVDs on me nor would I be spending any time in the back watching them if I did), and a collection of other upgrades.

When we got out to the parking lot, we were escorted to a Pacifica. Never heard of it? Neither had I but it was basically a mini-van. Fine, no problem. Appreciate the upgrade. Little did I know that this area has parking spaces the size of matchboxes which is completely inadequate for the likes of the mighty Pacifica.

I had made reservations at the Holiday Inn so we got checked in there and I was happy to see that I had two rooms and a king size bed (and no Buster to share it with). Two TVs and a fold out couch, microwave, and fridge. Better than usual so I was happy.

The area seemed like a nice one, if not a little touristy (is that a word?) but it had everything we would need for our week’s stay. But I started to notice that there was more than a few nude bars in the area and after awhile I determined that you could not throw a rock and NOT hit one of these places. OK, "swing a dead cat" if you like. I just thought "shake a stick at" was out of contention just because of the context.

But it was a nice area and not the seedy part of town so it was a mystery why these places were so prevalent in this area. I decided to ignore the big neon signs that advertised “Live Girls” (as opposed to dead?) and “Gentlemen’s Clubs” where I doubt if many gentlemen frequented.

Travis and I made a visit to the base in order to get some intel about where we’d be teaching in the morning. I knew it was at the recruiter school’s lab but that’s about all I knew.

Getting on base, I had the eerie feeling I always get when I return to this place. I had spent three horrifying months here as a kid and here I was again, a Captain this time. As the time between then and now grows, the specific memories are starting to fade but the feeling is still there, strong.

Stress. Loneliness. Fear.

I showed Travis around and we found the lab we would be teaching in tomorrow. When we tried to find it, none of the recruiter students even knew there was a lab in the building which made me a bit nervous until we found it. But it was better to go through this little dance tonight than in the morning when we were expected to teach. As a rule, I try to get a recon of the area every chance I get and it paid off with peace of mind.

We took a drive around the base and I found the receiving barracks and the famous yellow footprints I stood on so many years ago. I found my barracks and had a good time explaining to Travis my memories of each of these places. Since it was getting dark, we just took a quick tour around, never getting out of the vehicle and even got to see a few platoons of recruits marching around in the dark, likely very tired after a long day. OK, scratch the "likely." I KNOW they were tired.

It was getting late so we decided to find some dinner and get back to the hotel. Our bodies were still on East Coast time and thus we were tired from the time change and the jet lag.

You would think we could find a nice sit-down Mexican restaurant in San Diego California. But every place we found was just a drive through or fast-food type. We looked high and low (OK, maybe far and near) but gave up and ended up at the Sizzler. Travis had somehow never been in one and although it wasn’t exactly the California thing to do, we stumbled into the local Sizzler and ordered us up some seared cow flesh.

All-You-Can-Eat salad bars are evil. And it wasn’t just salad, it was chicken too. And tacos. By the time my steak got there, I was already half full from the salad bar. I’m so undisciplined when it comes to things like this. So much for self control: if I pay for an all you can eat, I’m eating all I can eat.

I’ll show them!

What I showed them I can walk out of their restaurant with a painful distended stomach. Damn them to hell!

Early rise, all day on a plane, three hour time difference, full gut.

This story ends with me curling up in my king-size bed and biting the pillow.


Free Advice for Today:
Never threaten if you don't intend to back it up."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

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Saturday, January 8, 2005

Quote of the Day:

"Chevrolet is a French car?"

- Anonymous Friend Who Wishes to Remain Unnamed For Obvious Reasons

You are sick of me whining about being sick. Well, guess what, I’m sicker of being sick than you are of hearing me whine about being sick. So take your complaints and ….

Sorry, this sickness and really getting to me. I’m leaving tomorrow and that compounds the problem because the only thing worse than being sick at home is being sick on the road. I proved that on my trip to New Orleans but of course you can’t read about it because I decided to skip a couple of months of blogs. Have I used the word “sick” enough in this paragraph?

There is not really much to write about today. I garnered enough strength by the end of the day to start my geeky packing process to include printing out my database report of all the items I take. Laugh if you will but it really makes it easy to just print out the list and go down the line, checking off everything I need. I don’t have to worry about forgetting everything. OK, you can stop laughing and stop rolling your eyes while you’re at it.

Free Advice for Today:
Get and stay in shape."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

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Friday, January 7, 2005

Quote of the Day:


- Unknown

OK, this is getting ridiculous. My throat has rebelled and this sickness has taken on plague-like proportions. Sore throat for days now and I don’t seem to be getting better. I’ve taken too much time away from work and with all these trips looming, I can’t afford to be away from my desk.

Well, that made me feel a little better. Thanks for listening.

Today, I had a meeting at 3:00 in the afternoon and for a Friday, that was poorly planned. But I had no way of getting out of it because it was my first peek at the interface I will be teaching starting Monday at MCRD San Diego. Yes, that’s right, my FIRST look at the interface and I will be teaching it next week.

Because of an oversight and reshuffling of teams, I got put on a two-man team where neither one of us has experience in the old system our new system is replacing. Ironically, the other team is comprised of two experts on both the old and the new system. So next week should be interesting.

I think my internet connectivity will be spotty at best so I will have to write blogs on my laptop and post them as a huge blast when I get back. Don’t worry, they will be there next weekend when I get back.

While I’m gone, three things are going to happen that I wish I was at home for.

First, the new hard drive I ordered for my personal laptop will come in. I want to get that laptop back on its feet because I have admin control over it and it plays DVDs, unlike my work laptop. Plus, it’s better quality.

Second, the transfer of money from my bank account to my PayPal account will hit so that I can send the money to the people holding MY Rio Karma hostage. OK, it’s theirs until I pay but stupid PayPal takes forever to transfer money and I have to wait until they get around to posting my funds in order to get my Rio sent. Hang in there, little buddy.

Third, Lee Ermey is making an appearance at the Quantico PX on Monday. I will be in San Diego. How ironic that the man known to the world as the baddest bad-ass Drill Instructor will be coming here and I will be on MCRD San Diego.

Oh, I forgot to mention. My running is at a dead stop until I get over this Bubonic Plague. It sucks I have to miss the first week of my training but I don’t want to make this last any longer than necessary.

Free Advice for Today:
Seek quality rather than luxury."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

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Thursday, January 6, 2005

Quote of the Day:

"The god of war hates those who hesitate."

- Euripides, Heraclidae, circa 425 B.C.

Another “sick” day but I had to get to work. I have this week and then I’m gone for the next three so I couldn’t play dead any longer. But that didn’t stop me from feeling that way.

When I got in to work, a lot had happened. First, the contractor came up with a half dozen reasons why we needed to delay our big launch that was slated for the end of this month. He had valid reasons, some of them being technical details that made my already-swimming head swim some more. Seems we need the flux capacitor hooked up to and advanced security system to the tune of $10,000 or so. Or something like that. I might have my terms mixed up a bit but the bottom line is that we have to slip the deadline. I know, surprising for a major project but it’s true.

We decided to keep the training on track because we had told the entire Marine Corps that we were having the training at multiple sites and to cancel the week before they started would have resulted in a lot of angry Marines. And ask the Taliban or insurgents, that’s not a good place to be.

Therefore I spent the entire morning and early afternoon making preparations for next week. And for all of those that think the life of an Officer is all prim and regal, let me say bu11$***!!!!

First I had to fill out the TAD request (mother-may-I paperwork) to go to San Diego next week. I’m supposed to leave Sunday so doing this on a Thursday before is not the way to make friends up the line. Something about my oversight not becoming their emergency. But Omega obliged and I got a flight (going through Atlanta and taking all damn day).

Then there was the cost estimation which is about as accurate as astrology. I got the flight: check. I had to get a rental car. OK, not too bad. Then I had to call the base on MCRD San Diego just to be told that they had no room at the inn.

Using the high-end military technology, I logged onto Mapquest to find a nearby hotel. You’d think it was more institutionalized than that but…nope.

I found a Holiday Inn nearby and from my days past, I knew that you could get into some real fleabag hotels around San Diego so I made sure I got a decent room. I found out that I had about $129 a day to spend so when I asked for their military rate and they said it was $140, I was a bit dismayed.

But immediately, they said the non-military rate was $109.


I guess they didn’t have any regular rooms at the military rate but only suites, therefore the high price even at a discount. So I went with the regular room at the non-military rate. Seemed weird but all I wanted was a room and to come under the price cap.

One of the last things to do was to get a non-availability number from the MCRD billeting office. If they have no room, they give you a number and then you are authorized to go out in town to get a room. I called back for the number but they said they needed my orders before they would give me a number. I told them I needed the number to put on the form to cut the orders. They said they were very sorry but that’s the rules. Let’s hear it for senseless red tape without a brain to infuse common sense. Hey, they are only doing their job and it’s not their problem if it doesn’t make sense.

I had my flight. I had my car. I had my Holiday Inn room. I filled out my form (without the non-availability number) and emailed it up the line, hoping a load of feces would not roll my way due to the late request.

My fears were assuaged when the Major I sent it to asked me what he needed to do with it (he was filling in for my boss who was still on emergency leave). I told him what to do and he approved and forwarded it up the line.

The week after I get back, I’m supposed to go to Camp Lejeune to teach a class. I went through the same process with the paperwork and was given a tip from my Gunny: if you stay at New River, say you are teaching at New River.

The class is really at Lejeune but New River is close (as is Camp Johnson) but Johnson and Lejeune did not have rooms available. So I got a room at New River and made the TAD request for New River. See, people? This is the “let’s infuse common sense” rule I was mentioning.

By the time I got all this done, I was starting to go downhill fast. My throat was almost closed and was on fire. I couldn’t eat because of my nausea and all I wanted to do was go home. I thought I had sufficiently passed my sickness to Gunny and Eric so there was only one thing left to do. I had to make sure San Diego knew the plan.

I called there and quickly explained what we planned and ensured everything was locked on. I don’t know if it was the gods smiling but this went off without a hitch and I got off the phone feeling like I might have covered most bases. It was a weird feeling and I’m sure quite off the mark.

I didn’t even have the strength the get out of my uniform and probably shouldn’t have been driving. But I headed home and made it there on a prayer.

I hope I will feel human tomorrow. Fridays were not made for misery.

Free Advice for Today:
Never get yourself in a position where you have to back up a trailer."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Quote of the Day:


- Unknown

(Blog Catch-up Update: I posted Nov. 1, 2004. More to come as I play catch up.)

You know those people who never get sick or if they do, can carry on normally?

I’m not like that.

I tossed and turned last night with a sore throat and queasy stomach. When the alarm went off at 0530, I knew I wasn’t going to be making it into work. I just didn’t have it in me to get up and drag myself to work. So I laid there and continued to toss and turn until it was 1030, But then, my body was too sore to stay in bed so I decided I should go downstairs and email work to let them know what they probably figured out already: I was down for the count.

With a whole day off, you’d think I would have a lot to write about. But I languished in and out of consciousness all day and had to suffer through daytime TV. It was horrid.

I did learn a few things, though. Daytime commercials really suck. They are aimed at their demographic which are people not currently employed and the television assumes these people are too stupid, lazy, or brain-dead to respond to normal advertising. And it’s obvious they have the impression that these people will jump at the chance for get-rich quick schemes and low investment programs to get degrees and technical skills. I felt dumber after watching them for only an hour.

I also heard that some Arab news agencies are blaming the United States for causing the tsunamis. An Egyptian paper claims that we were testing nuclear detonation devices that caused the earthquakes which, in turn, caused the tsunamis. As crackpot as that may sound, at least it was physically possible, unlike their co-claim that the earthquakes were caused by the “bad thoughts” of America. The stupidity of these claims just boggles my mind. If “bad thoughts” can cause earthquakes, then what would their monumental stupidity cause? Hurricanes?

Since reading is about the only thing I can accomplish without wanting to die, I finished a book by Jack London last night called Martin Eden. It was one of those “classics” that I felt smarter for reading but was not all that easy to read through. Written in the early 1900s, the style was different and was a statement on socialism, the bourgeoisie, and early 20th century wealth. The main character was a low class sailor who, through sheer will, becomes self taught in order to win the hand of a rich daughter of a high society family. He becomes a writer and works hard to become self-educated in order to rise to the level of this girl. There were some dry spots but I was glad that I read it.

On the heels of that, I decided to give my thinker a rest and go for my first Grisham novel. I don’t have his first one (A Time To Kill) so I started with The Firm. I’ve seen the movie with Tom Cruise so I can picture the characters. So far, it’s just like I expected: easy to read and interesting.

But the big news is that I bought a Rio Karma. For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s a 20 GB MP3 player. They retail for about $300 but I bid on one at EBay, thinking I wouldn’t have a chance of winning at the $170 I originally put in.

If you’ve ever done the EBay thing, you know it’s easy to get sucked in.

I went back and forth and ended up putting in a max bid of $200 at the last minute. The price rose to $188.50 and my wife and I watched the screen as I hit the refresh button repeatedly the last few minutes. The price never changed and I came out the winner. With shipping, I’m on the hook for just over 200 bones.

But you just got a Sony Lyra, Jason” you might be saying. Well, you’re right and even though I can hold up to 93 songs on it (by lowering the sampling to 64 KBS and adding an expansion card), the Karma can hold 5000 songs at full sampling (or good enough: 128 KBS). Plus, I can now give the Lyra to Carrie who only needs it for exercise.

So a few of the unknowns and drawbacks are as follows.

First, it’s an internal rechargeable battery which means if I run out of juice on a plane or something, I’m done until I can find an outlet and a few hours. This is a drawback because there have been plenty of times I’ve changed batteries on the go. So I will have to make sure I’m fully charged when it counts. I get about 15 hours per charge, supposedly.

And the other thing about the battery is that when it goes for good, it’s gone. You can probably send it in for a replacement but at what cost?

The next thing that is problematic is that it’s a disk drive. As I’ve explained before, these little suckers come in two flavors: flash memory and disk drive. With all my former players, I’ve used the flash so with no moving parts, I could run with it without fear of hurting it. With the disk drives, you run the risk of jarring it and making it skip or something. I’ll have to be careful.

Lastly, I didn’t notice until after I bought it that it was a refurbished unit. The title said it was sealed and like an idiot, I assumed that meant new. So much for reading the fine print. So the warranty is only 30 days and if it goes tits up after that, I’m out a lot of money.

I looked up some reviews for it and it was feast or famine. People either love or hate this thing but the tide seems to go to the likers instead of the dislikers. God, I hope I have no trouble with this because it’s a lot of money and my first foray into the big capacities.

I really don't need a "I told you so" at this point. It's been a hard past few weeks.

Free Advice for Today:
Insist that your children complete a driver's education course at their school."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Quote of the Day:

"Thingy (thing-ee) n. female: Any part under a car's hood. male: The strapfastener on a woman's bra."

- Unknown

I can get sick at the drop of a hat. How do I accomplish this feat? I don’t know but it happened today.

I woke up at 0600 for my first day back full time after the holidays and everything went OK on the way to work. I did take note that we are still having freak weather where it’s short-sleeve temperature. It almost feels like it’s saving up for a brutal cold but that’s just me being a pessimist.

When I got into work, it was hot, and I mean really hot, inside our office. I thought that wearing a coat over a sweatshirt had something to do with it but even stripped down to a t-shirt, I was still wiping sweat from my brow. What the hell was going on?

I never cooled off all morning and started to feel a bit queasy; something I blamed on the heat. The feeling never went away as we made our way to the other side of the base for a meeting.

As a side note, I felt self-conscious again today because I’m still out of uniform. The Marine Corps changed their policy and now everyone is supposed to have both green pattern cammies and desert pattern. To make sure this happens, the base dictated that the first week of every month, we will wear the desert cammies.

When I first got here from Monterey (where we didn’t wear cammies at all), I had to buy the new cammies and knowing no better, I bought two sets of green ones. It kind of chafed me because I had plenty of sets of the old style and I was only going to be in for 4 more years. But I bit the bullet and shelled out the coin (wow, two ammo references in one phrase). I still have an untouched set in my closet and figured I was through with cammie-buying for the rest of my life.

Then the policy changed and I’ll have to go out and get another pair, adding it to the other set that I may or may not use in the next 3 years.

But those are the rules and I can bitch all I want but it won’t change anything. I have yet to take the step and actually buy the cammies but I will before next month as to not look like the butthole Captain who doesn’t want to get with the program.

So I’m walking around the building with the highest concentration of high ranking officers on the entire base in my green cammies, feeling like an idiot. No one said anything but I could FEEL it. Ironically, the last time I came to a meeting at this place, I was in the same predicament last month. Get with it, Captain!!!

After the meeting, I went back to my office and knew I was definitely feeling like crap. But I had to run to stay on schedule and knew that it would make or break me for the day.

It broke me.

Not that it contributed, but I forgot running socks and had to go without them. Again, it was unseasonably warm and I realized I hadn’t been on a serious running schedule since….since…Oh My God, BEFORE the Marine Corps Marathon. That was Halloween which means that November and December flew by without me in the running world. Oh, the nastiness!!!

So, let’s recap: felt like crap. Unseasonably warm. No socks. Hadn’t run much in 2 months.

Let’s just say it was not one of my better runs. In fact, it sucked. I did a fair amount of walking which I will not elaborate on due to a shred of ego I still maintain.

When I got back, I was feeling worse than ever. It seemed to have cooled down but I was still hot. I thought that maybe my blood sugar was low and that eating something would perk me up.


So I knew what I had to do: muster all the manliness I possessed and … call my wife to come get me. But when I called and before I could tell her my predicament, she informed me that she was feeling nauseous and dizzy.

Aha!!! It wasn’t just me!!! She never gets sick so it must be legitimate. I celebrated this little fact by dry heaving. Yayyyy <huuuu..>!!!

Due to her condition, my plan for her to come get me took a hit. So I told her I’d catch the next train and then made a flurry of emails to all the other commitments I had that day. I was homebound to be pitifully sick with my bride. I know, how romantic.

The ride home seemed longer than it should have been and I couldn’t get to my bed fast enough. Sweating and feeling like I was going to hurl, I faded in and out of sleep for a few hours. Then it was time to do nothing which I do splendidly.

So that was my night. Not as exciting as some of them but depressingly, a lot more to write about than others.

Free Advice for Today:
When loved ones drive away, watch until you can no longer see the car."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Monday, January 3, 2005

Quote of the Day:


- Unknown

I got a call from my friend Tuffy last night. He is an old TI (Air Force equivalent to a Drill Instructor) who happens to be a living legend in the Air Force.

Anyway, the last time I visited him in San Antonio, we talked about R. Lee Ermey who we both think is a legendary figure himself. We watched Full Metal Jacket and talked endlessly about him to include my two run-ins with the Gunny (at Husky Stadium and at a Mail Call show in Quantico).

It seems Tuffy found his address and wrote him a letter asking the Gunny if Tuffy could send him an autographed copy of the book about TIs he had written.

Last Thursday night Tuffy’s phone rang and the voice on the other end identified himself as Lee Ermey. He said he had a few hours and wanted to call Tuffy to “make his day.”

Well, he just about ended them with Tuffy’s high blood pressure. They talked for 45 minutes until Tuffy started to think he was taking up too much of the Gunny’s time. Tuffy was beside himself because he told me that incredibly, HE had ended the conversation before the Gunny did!!!

Here was the weird part. In the letter, Tuffy had mentioned how I had been down to see him recently and the Gunny brought me up in the conversation first.

“Was Captain Grose down there on business or pleasure?”

Tuffy went on to describe why I had went and how much fun we had. Then Gunny says, “The last time I saw Captain Grose was when I was doing a show out at Quantico last September or October, I don’t exactly remember the month.”

OK, by now, my heart was palpitating. The Gunny knew ME? He remembered me by name and brought me up first in the conversation? And then remembered our second and last meeting?

Tuffy said the Gunny went on to say that “Captain Grose is a fine young Officer.”

Well, this fine young Officer proceeded to crap down both legs.

Then when I got home tonight, Carrie hands me this flyer.

The problem is, I might be in San Diego during this visit and would miss an opportunity to meet the Gunny once again and return the favor by talking about Tuffy to the Gunny. Oh, the inequity!!!

Other happenings tonight include selling something on EBay. I had done this a long time ago but it had been years so I had to stumble through the process like I was a newbie.

It started this morning when I had to apply some Frontline to old Buster to protect him from ticks and fleas. We apply it to his neck at the first of the month and for a day, he is dubbed “Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts and Marinated Monkey Butts.” In fact, we use this as both a verb (“Honey, did you Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts and Marinated Monkey Butts Buster?”) and as a general description (“Honey, is Buster Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts and Marinated Monkey Butts?”)

Yes, it’s frightening.

Well, looking through Buster’s supplies, I found an unused 4-pack of Advantage packs. We used to use these until we discovered they don’t protect against ticks which Buster needs around here. So we got to Frontline and had the extra Advantage packs just laying around.

EBay to the rescue.

I started out at $14.99 and choose a “Buy It Now” option for $20. We’ll see how things go. If you want a peek, go here. So far, no bids!!! >:(

Free Advice for Today:
Never tell a car salesman how much you want to spend."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Sunday, January 2, 2005

Quote of the Day:


- Unknown

Yesterday I said this crap has got to stop. After sleeping in until 1030, I knew I had to break myself of this habit. So I vowed not to let it happen again.

I awoke at 0945. So much for leaps and bounds. But tomorrow will break me of this sloth-like behavior because it’s back to work. Oops, we don’t have to be in until noon so I guess I got one more day of Slothville. But I will be taking the kids to school so that will get me up by 0730 but this is still 1 ½ hours more sleep than the rest of the week and 3 ½ hours more than the coming weeks.

You see, I fell victim to the holiday season and indulged with both quantity of food and lack of exercise. I tried to enjoy it, knowing its temporary nature, but the last week, I’ve felt like I’m carrying around a bowling ball in my gut. So starting next week, a couple of things are going to happen.

I start my 4 month work-up to the Wild Wild West Marathon in May. Here is what my program is looking like.


In addition to this, I will be going to the gym at lunch, 5 days a week. To help me in this endeavor, I will be joining a Staff Sergeant who works in the office near me and we made a pact to meet at lunch and work out.

So here is what it will look like:

Work Out
Work Out
Pray for the sweet release of death
Work Out
Work Out
Pray for the sweet release of death
Work Out
Get Drunk
Get ready to do it again

Pile on top of this my travel schedule which is substantial and you have my plan for the coming months. And you also have the reason I’ve let me sleep hours multiply and my eating habits degrade. It will all be a fond memory soon.

I’m also going to my protein diet to help me along. It goes something like this:

protein shake
protein bar
chicken or turkey, salad
Mid Afternoon
protein shake
chicken or turkey, salad
protein shake

I get one cheat meal once a week of whatever I want but in sensible portions, like a pizza the size of a jet tire.

Other notable mentions for the day was getting through the backlog of newspapers. The earliest one was October 17th. But I got to the bottom of the stack where the term“news” was no longer accurate. The most useless parts were the election debate articles. And the pre-tsunami catastrophes that seemed newsworthy.

I also got my email inbox down to 121 items.

OK, I think I’m about as ready as I’m gonna get for the new year.

Free Advice for Today:
Never decide to do nothing just because you can only do a little. Do what you can."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

Saturday, January 1, 2005

Quote of the Day:

"If a motorist cuts you off, just turn the other cheek. Nothing gets the message across like a good mooning."

- Unknown

Happy New Year and a return to blogging for me.

OK, here’s the deal. I’ve been horribly behind on my blogging for like two months so instead of trying to catch up, I’ve come up with a plan.

I’ll just start today with the new year. There, problem solved.

Yeah, not the greatest plan but there’s more. I skipped November and December so I will work on those, post them, and provide links to the old entries as I make them. And so you don’t think I’m making crap up as I go, let me point out that I did write some notes about those missing days with the intent on writing about them some day. That “some day” will be within the next couple of months while I concurrently keep up with the modern blog each day.

So here we go.

We slept in. And by “slept in” I mean to a disgusting degree. It was about 1030 by the time we got up. And you might say “Hey, it’s New Year’s Day and old Capt. Grose tied one on and had to sleep off the pain.

No, I don’t even have that excuse. We stayed home, watched movies, and played Cranium. So I have no excuse because I went to bed before 0100 and only had two beers all night. I’m getting old.

We are having freakish weather here in Virginia. It got into the 70s today and because I couldn’t let a day like this go by inside pounding away at the computer, I decided we should take advantage of this gift from above.

But what to do. We ran across this problem yesterday when we were all home but did nothing about it. So we decided to check out Fredericksburg since we’ve lived here for over a year and never really checked out the historic downtown.

My first idea was to take a carriage ride I see downtown on the way home from the train station. That was a great idea until I looked up the prices and decided $50 for the family to stare at a horse’s ass for 45 minutes wasn’t going to happen.

We drove to the train station and parked in the cool-guy parking which was wide open on a Saturday. We walked to the little local grocer who sold train tickets because I was out and took the opportunity to buy the tickets today so I wouldn’t have to in the morning when I needed them, when I'd be sweating bullets about how slow the guy would inevitable take, and then missing the train and having to mow down a crowd of people.

I thought it would be a simple in and out affair today. Ahh, ... no.

When we walked in, there were a few people at the counter buying lottery tickets. You want to strike it rich, good to go, but do you have to make a fiscal transfer on the scale that would make Donald Trump vomit? It’s lottery tickets, not mapping human DNA. But you wouldn’t know it by the time and effort these people were taking to figure out some insane permutation that would give them the best chance of winning.

Thanks, lady, that only took about 10 minutes of my life for you to throw away $10. “You can’t win if you don’t play” you say? Well, you played and you didn’t win. And you are $10 poorer. Have fun?

By the time this little Greek Tragedy played out, the line had grown to immense proportions. Everyone was rolling their eyes and when we got a clear path to the counter, I was feeling kind of self-conscious because I was about to buy 10 ten-trip tickets using my Metrochecks.

Here is my defense: I had taken the time AT HOME to calculate exactly what I wanted and how much it would cost. Like the soup-Nazi scene, I stepped up, told him exactly what I wanted. He punched it into the computer and said “$328.” I gave him 11 Metrochecks and the longest part of the process was waiting for the machine to spit out 10 tickets.

Yeah, I could feel the eyeball roll behind me but I think that was unfair since they were ancy due to the Highrollers in front of me. I took the minimum amount of time and got out of the way. And if I would have been one of the people in line, yeah, I would have been eye-rolling too but I’m an ass.

We started walking around Fredericksburg but what we hadn’t realized was that most everything was closed on New Year’s day. There were a few trinket and antique shops open but on the whole, it was a chance to walk outside and enjoy the 70 degree weather.

We made it to a park by the river and sat for a few moments. I watched the mighty Rappahannock slowly roll by with Carrie as my kids complained about any manner of things. Alex culminated his appreciation of this historic river by pulling out his Gameboy and going away for awhile.

After thoroughly exhausting everything there is to do on New Year’s Day in Fredericksburg, Virginia, we headed to get something to eat.

We settled on the A&W place that is one of those combination set-ups where they serve either A&W food or Long John Silvers. First, I don’t like this concept because it just screams of disloyalty to either joint. Plus, my fries always taste like battered fish. I like my French fry oil pure crap as opposed to fish-contaminated crap.

Walking in, the place was a disaster. The floor was wet with root beer and extremely sticky. There was trash on the floor everywhere and every empty table needed cleaning. There were dirty mugs waiting to be cleared. This did not bode well for the unearthly root beer pirate mutants.

Carrie ordered as I cleaned off a table and we sat in the booth for a very long time. Although we were in no hurry, waiting a long time for “fast food,” especially in a dirty restaurant started to make me mad. Go figure.

We waited and waited and waited. It seemed the whole mood of the customers was about to boil over as we all waited and one guy even asked for his money back and stormed out of the place.

Up to this point, I could take it. I was hungry, I like A&W, and I was in no hurry. It’s fast food, what do you expect?

But then they broke the cardinal rule: they made us wait and then gave us crappy food even by fast food standards (which are gutter to begin with).

My fries: cold and rubbery. My burger: missing lettuce and tomato. And cold.

Carrie’s meal was in the same state so we exchanged the fries and had them fix the burgers. But the whole experience was ruined and I was intent on calling the feedback number that was ironically posted on the wall.

But then the manager saved the day: she came around and without fanfare, handed out a free meal coupon to everyone in the store. Yes, I had a crappy meal and yes, all I got was a coupon which gave them a shot at doing the same thing to me once again but there is something about getting something for free that makes up for a lot.

I’m so easy.

Afterwards, we headed over to Circuit City so I could geek out for awhile and looked at stuff like the Rio Karma MP3 player (but for $300, I was benched from the MP3 player buying field). But I had it in my hand!!!

I looked at the XM kiosk and discovered that the $10 investment was something I might want to beg for soon. But everyone knows that the monthly subscription is only the tip of the iceberg. Once you add in the receiver, the car adaptor, the home adaptor, and the plethora of other gadgets they will gleefully sell you, well, it’s a bit more than $10 per month. Once I can determine if I can get it to work on the run, I will look further. Until then, if you are an XM company exec and want me to be a beta tester or something, I'm willing to consider it a box of happy sent to my house.

Lastly, I hooked up Truckasaurus by replacing the bug shield on the front. Carrie had got me a new one since the first one we had, we got when Tuckasaurus was new in the early 90s and by now, it had cracked down the middle and each side wavered in the wind like an aileron. I thought it was kind of cool but it really did look like baked dog feces.

I put the new one on and it looked, well, it looked like a new bug guard on an old truck. I have to face it, Truckasaurus is getting a little long in the tooth. But she has a new bug guard. Merry Christmas, Truckasaurus.

Free Advice for Today:
Meet regularly with someone who holds vastly different views than you."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

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