Jason's BLOG pages

 
 

 


How Did I Get Here?

(and what is that smell?)

May 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:

"In the 60's, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal."

- Unknown

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Little About Me (OK, A Lot...)

One of my PC Students from last year wanted to interview me for her U.S. History class. I was immensely flattered but she might have bitten off a little more than she intended. Here is the interview.


A.P. United States History
May 2005

Oral History Interview Questions: Two individuals will be interviewed in order to compare motives and experiences as a United States Marine at mid-century and during the Persian Gulf War through the present day.

1. Why did you decide to join the United States’ military? Why Marines, specifically?

Wow, this is involved. How far back do you want me to go?

OK, I had a rough upbringing with a lot of divorce and step-parents on both sides. I spent my 8th, 9th, and 10th grade years with my father in Seattle. Then my father divorced my first step-mother and my father could not afford to keep me. My brother graduated and went into the Army while I was involuntarily shipped back to Oklahoma to live with my mother and disciplinarian step-father. That year was rough as I didn’t get along with my step-father so the summer after my 11th grade year, I decided to run away to live with my dad in Seattle. But he put the condition that we would live as roommates and not “father and son.” He lived in what could only be described at the poverty level.

This is when I decided to join the Marines. I had always been very patriotic but never considered something as dangerous as the Marine Corps. Who would volunteer to go get killed? You join, you go to boot camp hell, you go to war, you die. Who does this sound good to?

Before I ran away from Oklahoma, I lay in my bed and thought about what I was about to do. My step-father would never pay for my college even though he had the means. My father couldn’t and probably wouldn’t either. I had straight A’s in advanced classes so I figured that if I didn’t get a scholarship, I could just join the military and get to college on my own later on down the line. It was also that night that I decided on the Marines. I hated my step-father and he had served in the Navy. My brother was in the Army and that didn’t impress me much. I thought about the Air Force but I didn’t want to fly and thought that there were only two social castes in the Air Force: pilot or peon. I didn’t want to be a peon.

Then it hit me: if I was going to do this, I was going to do it the right way. I was going all the way and how outrageous it would be for me, the bookish, non-athletic “good boy” to join the Marine Corps? Yep, if I was going to do this, I was going full throttle.

The next day, I went to the recruiter in Oklahoma and told him I was going to “move” soon so he told me to talk to a recruiter once I got to where I was going.

When I got to Seattle, life was not what I was used to. I had gone from upper middle class to poverty. I got a job and paid more than my share for rent and food. I went to the recruiter and told him I wanted to join but he didn’t believe that I was serious because of my good grades (must be college-bound) and apparent lack of any disqualifiers.

I was “too good to be true.” I had no record, no police involvement, no drug involvement, no pregnant girlfriend I was running from, and had high grades in advanced classes. It wasn’t until I almost aced the ASVAB that he took me seriously.

I had to call my mom (the first she had heard of me in weeks after I ran away) to have her sign the papers so that was, you know, awkward. She told me I couldn’t “come home” and that I had made my first adult decision. She wouldn’t stop me from joining the Marines. Also, she told me that the Naval Academy had called two weeks prior to inform me that I won a full ride scholarship. But it was too late. How different my life would have been…

I was in the Delayed Entry Program throughout my senior year in high school and left for bootcamp on July 28th, 1987. (I’ll send the expanded version of all this if you’d like to read it. It involves a lot more drama.)

2. Did you have any qualms about joining? Did/does your experience in the U.S. military meet or surpass your expectations?

Qualms? Absolutely not. I qualified for the Quality Enlisted Program which made me an avionics technician for the Harrier aircraft: one of the best and most technical MOSs in the Marine Corps. I thanked my recruiter years later because he could have made me a cook if he wanted to. All I said was that I wanted to be a Marine but he saw that I had potential and got me the best deal there was at the time.

After being trained in advanced avionics, I was sent to war where I put those skills to use to serve my country. When I got back, I applied for a commissioning program and the Corps let me go to the college of my choice (University of Washington) for 4 years. The GI Bill picked up my tuition and after 4 years, I was commissioned an Officer. Then after a few years I applied for the Special Education Program which gave me this deal: we’ll pay you to get a free master’s degree and you will do so in Monterey, California for 2 years. You will have no other duties but go to classes and study. Are you kidding me?

So now I get to work in the filed of IT for 4 years (my “payback” for taking the master’s degree) at which time I will hit my 20 year mark and be able to retire at 38, get half my pay for the rest of my life, and have a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and 4 years of experience in the field.

Back to the original question, the Marine Corps has exceeded my expectations and I just outlined the benefits I got out of it. I poured my life into it so I could argue that I’ve given and much as I’ve got and I think the Marine Corps and I can tip our hats at each other in 2 years knowing we both benefited from the 20 year love affair.

3. How has it shaped you as an individual?

Being a Marine starts at boot camp. Once you survive through that crucible, you are changed forever. You are a Marine and that is the most valuable possession a Marine can have. It’s not like this in the other services or at least not to that degree. So I was a young, somewhat fractured kid when I entered with literally nothing but the clothes I was wearing and a $10 bill I was told to bring.

The Marine Corps served as my surrogate father. It taught me how to be a man and provided everything for me. Food, shelter, clothing, pay, a trade, and ethos, and a reason to exist. It enabled me to surpass my parents’ standard of living within a few years. It allowed me to build a family and transform from a poor, broken teen into a strong fighter, a caring father, and a loving husband.

So how has it transformed me? It defines what I am today and since I’ve been a Marine for almost exactly half of my life, and all my adult life, I have to say that I am a reflection of the forces that the Marine Corps possesses.

4. How has your view of your country changed from before joining the Marines to after?

I made a vow to my country when I was 18. I was to protect and defend her no matter what. I was not to judge policy or question the decision made by the President. This has not been easy, especially during the Clinton years, but I’ve always believed that a nation needs the strong arm of an obedient military. How to employ that military is not my decision. I have my opinions and I trust that the more powerful members of the military will hold the check and balance at the appropriate levels so we are not abused or expected to be mindless automatons. There is a certain amount of trust that needs to exist and again, it has not always been that easy.

My personal view is that we are the post powerful country this world has ever seen but I also believe that is not a guaranteed continuing situation. We have never been in danger of a foreign army invading our shores and putting our populace through the ravages of occupation. How would that feel to have a foreign enemy rolling across the Midwest?

No one really takes that seriously because they never thought it would be possible. But why isn’t it? Without a powerful deterrent like a strong military, there are plenty of nations that would be more than happy to see America take a hit. Look at 9/11 for a vivid example.

Before I joined, I just saw it as a way to take care of me and to nobly serve my country, as amorphous as that was. But now, I see it as a tangible duty to make it safer for my family and the Americans that I have grown to love. And if that sounds too “flag-waving” and altruistic, consider that we don’t get much money for doing this. As enlisted, I lived just the poverty level (I qualified for WIC when we had Alex) and for what I do now, I could easily make over 6 figures annually. But I’m still here.

5. Can you describe the typical recruit when you joined the Marines? (age/education background /ethnicity/ motives/etc.)

Normally right out of high school. Recruits are required to have a high school education and Officers are required to hold a bachelor’s degree. The demographic varies and is a slice of America itself but the majority are those who are bright but either don’t have the means or the desire to go onto college.

There is a common misconception that we only get the rejects of high schoolers who can’t get into college. Many just don’t want to continue on in education right after high school and most intend to continue their education after or during their stint in the Marines.

And there is another misconception that Marines are stupid knuckle draggers. This comes from the old days when they recruited Marines for one thing: mindless fighting. They wanted the scrappers and the mean bastards that just liked to fight so they went to the bars and recruited the “less than mentally advanced.” But since then, a lot has changed. They still want tough people and that’s what we make. But there is a heavy emphasis on intelligence to go along with the toughness. We don’t want idiots. For this reason, we have the HIGHEST requirements, both mentally and physically, to even join. Yes, higher than any other service.

In the Marine Corps, you are not judged by the color of your skin or where you came from. I know all companies say that but it’s no more evident than it is in the Corps. You rise to your abilities totally void of your ethnic background. For this reason, we do have a lot of minorities in the Corps because it’s the most level playing field for anyone who wants to join and works hard to succeed. I was a poor, half-Mexican runaway with $10 to my name when I joined. I now enjoy a better life than I could have ever expected. That’s a big draw for minorities who don’t get a shot like that from any other place in American society.

6. What was the political climate when you joined the Marines?

Reagonomics. Ultra-Republican. (need more?)

7. How old were you when you joined? Did you join planning to make a career out of the military?

I actually signed the papers when I was 17 but didn’t go in until age 18. I did plan on making it a career and my simpleton’s plan was to serve a few years, get an Officer’s program, and finish out my career as an officer. That it turned out that way is an extreme case of coincidence. I had no idea the twists and turns that my career would take and that it turned out exactly like I had planned overall is just a stunning example of irony. I had not foresaw what it would take or the opportunities that afforded themselves to me. It would have been impossible to project them and since many of them required the opportunity before them to appear, I don’t suggest anyone else count on the same path or try for the same one from their beginning. The likelihood that it would turn out like it did for me is minuscule.

8. What are/were your specific responsibilities/jobs as a Marine? Where were you sent?

OK, here is where you get my official bio:

I was born in Arkansas City, KS and enlisted in the Marine Corps in July 1987 from Seattle, Washington, graduating from San Diego in October 1987. I was then sent to Millington, TN where I learned basic and advanced avionics. In October 1988, I was assigned as an avionics technician with MALS-13 MAG-13 at MCAS Yuma, AZ.

On August 12, 1990, I was sent to King Abdul Aziz Air Base, Saudi Arabia, where I served during the Gulf War as an avionics technician and the Corporal of the Guard for the perimeter defense. Returning on March 21, 1991, I was promoted to Sergeant and was accepted the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program (MECEP).

After 10 weeks of MECEP Prep training at MCRD San Diego, I reported to the NROTC at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington in the Fall of 1994 where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Technical Communication with a focus on webpage design in the Spring of 1997.

I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on June 13, 1997. After completion of the Basic School in March 1998, I completed Adjutant School at Camp Johnson, South Carolina and was then assigned to 1st Tank Battalion, MCAGCC, 29 Palms, California where I served as the Battalion Adjutant until January 2000. I was then chosen to serve as the Regimental Adjutant for 7th Marines (REIN), 1st Marine Division (REIN) until June of 2001.

From there, I reported to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey California to pursue a master’s degree in Information Technology.

Currently, I am stationed at Quantico, VA in a payback tour as a Project Manager for the Training and Education Command Information Management System (TIMS) which is a web-based system that replaces 7 legacy system and tracks all aspects of formal schooling Marine Corps-wide.

I married the former Carrie Schramm of Renton, WA in 1988 and we have a son, Alex (13), and a daughter, Stephanie (10).

9. How has your attitude toward your service changed with (if any) unfavorable administrations?

A lot of tongue-biting during the Clinton years. But toward the service, it has never wavered. Like I pointed out before, I serve the Office of the President of the United States, not the man. And I’m a Marine, my loyalties are for God, Country, Corps, in that order.

10. Did/do you see a lot of government interference in the military as a Marine?

Yes. Of course. And that’s the way it should be. We work for the people of the United States and they are represented by the government. This is what people don’t understand; we are a military force that exists for the people we protect. They call the shots and employ us as they see fit, through the government. We may not like it but we’ve given up a certain amount of freedom to make those kinds of choices when we took our oath.

We do not exist to make the decision on who, where, or when we fight. That set-up only exists in countries where the military is in charge of the government and we all know how that normally turns out. So when people think that we military members hate the “government interference”, they don’t understand that we are aware of who we serve.

11. Any anecdotes? Words of wisdom?

Eat your veggies (if you want to pull anything off my site, I have about a million words you can use. Some of them even make sense.)

For Capt. Jason D. Grose:

13. What was the Persian Gulf like?

Dry. Hot during the summer, cold during the winter. Lonely. Scary. It felt like life was very cheap over there. Again, you can ask more specific questions or read my stories online.

14. How are you being used now that we are at war in Iraq?

Ahh, the hard question. Well, my family is thrilled that I’ll end up spending the rest of my time stateside. And I’m no masochist so the thought of going over there and getting blown up is not topping my list. But I’m a Marine. And I’m trained to do one thing: run to the sound of guns. To fight and to win. That’s what I do. So being told that I will not be going over there is like working hard at every practice and then sitting the bench during the big game. When I was in Monterey, this is when the whole thing started and the Marines there had a hard time looking at each other in the eye.

Given the chance to go, I wouldn’t hesitate.

But I don’t think it’s going to happen. They try to make us feel better by using logic: we are playing an important role right now. If we leave, there will be a bubble in that important role. The Corps set me to get a master’s degree which makes me a very rare commodity in the Corps and they need me in the technical job I’m in because it will help all Marines now and in the future. If we can develop systems that accurately track their training, we take care of the Corps as a whole but also enable that individual Marine to be better trained. A better trained Marine is a stronger Marine and improves his fighting ability. That’s the goal.

So I’m filling a slot that’s hard to fill and that they invested a lot in me to get me here. They will get their money’s worth but despite those facts, it’s rather difficult for a Marine to work in an office when his country is at war.




Free Advice for Today:
"Get your priorities straight. No one ever said on his death bed, 'Gee, if only I'd spent more time at the office'."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"Why does a slight tax increase cost you two hundred dollars and a substantial tax cut saves you thirty cents?"

- Unknown

Monday, May 30, 2005

Remember The Dead, Not Me... Yet

Today is Memorial Day.

I received some very nice emails from people but I have to point out what the real intent of this day is. Although I am proud to serve in the Armed Forces for the last 18 years, I am not dead.

Again, I hate to point out the obvious (unless you know something I don’t) and I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but the official intent of this day is…

A day where we actively remember our ancestors, our family members, our loved ones, our neighbors, and our friends who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

How else can you celebrate it?

  • by visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
  • by visiting memorials.
  • by flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon.
  • by flying the 'POW/MIA Flag' as well (Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act).
  • by participating in a "National Moment of Remembrance": at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day, and for Taps to be played.
  • by renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of our falled dead, and to aid the disabled veterans.

Also, here's a great poem.




Free Advice for Today:
"Take care of your reputation. It's your most valuable asset."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism."

- Unknown

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Clown Punching

I was listening to the radio this morning and it reminded me of this story.

I had a good friend while going through TBS in 1997 and we spent a lot of time together, mostly making fun of stuff. He told me some of his OCS stories and one involved being out in the woods during some miserable evolution. The Sergeant Instructor came around at night, shined the light in the faces of candidates in their sleeping bags, and yelled "Hey, where are your hands? What are you doing? You punching the clown?"

Believe me, it was much funnier when he told it but that's not the important part of the story.

It was Halloween in 1997 and I was bored. My buddy told me to come over later and we'd go out to Georgetown to watch all the crazies on the craziest of crazy nights.

In my barracks room, all I had was a radio to keep me company so I got intimately familiar with the local radio station, B101.5. I would always call in to answer some of their trivia questions. So I had an idea.

I called them up and started talking to the DJ, asking him if I could dedicate a song. The song was "Tears Of A Clown" by Smokey Robinson and gave him the following background story:

"A few years ago, I went to a Halloween party with my friend Leon and when we got there, we had a great time up until the time Leon got into a fight with another guest. The guy was dressed up as a clown so the sight of a vampire hooking and jabbing with a clown was beautiful. So if I could, this goes out to the most clown-punchinest guy I know, Jesus Leon."

The DJ told me offline that they were doing the Halloween theme so instead of "Tears Of A Clown" he was going with "Monster Mash." Oh well, the treasure was just putting my story over the waves and unknowingly helping me call Leon an Uber-masterbater to the greater Washington D.C. area.

I got ready and rushed over to Leon's apartment, knowing there would be a delay in airing the dedication. I darted into his apartment and made him turn on the radio without explanation. A few minutes later, we sat there in his apartment and heard the entire thing. Then laughed for 20 minutes.

Somewhere, I have a tape that has this. I set my radio on "record" before I left for his house.

But the sweet topping on the whole story was that the DJ got into a little conversation with himself over it when he introduced the whole piece.

"Yeah, this guy goes around punching clowns, I guess. A clown-punching vampire..."

I swear he said some form of "clown punching"at least a half dozen times, never aware of what we knew to be the truth.

Here's to you, Clown Puncher.




Free Advice for Today:
"Don't allow self-pity. The moment this emotion strikes, do something nice for someone less fortunate that you."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again."

- Unknown

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Rio Down

Well, another $200 right down the shithole.

In my never-ending quest to find the perfect MP3 player, I bought a Rio Karma off of Ebay for $200. I didn't find out until after I had won that it was refurbished and the first time I took it running, it started freezing up. But then I slammed it like an idiot and cracked the face so I couldn't return it. It flaked a few more times and tonight, it met its final demise. It had stopped hard and I decided to take it apart to see if it could be salvaged.

This is the aftermath. You be the judge.

My Rio Karma History:

The Beginning

Bad Karma

I Got More Space Than Picasso Got Paint

Heavy Handed Electronic Repair 101

Heavy Handed Electronic Repair 201




Free Advice for Today:
"Improve your performance by improving your attitude."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"Have you noticed since everyone has a camcorder these days no one talks about seeing UFOs like they used to?"

- Unknown

Friday, May 27, 2005

Hypocrite!

I almost got in a wreck on the way home. Some kid wouldn't let me merge and I went anyway, easing into the lane even though he tailgated. I just kept coming and he wasn't budging. It was getting very disturbing and Truckasaurus wasn't giving an inch. I kept coming, halfway into the shoulder with no place to go and way past the merging area. But I kept coming.

Finally he relented and I shot into the space. He got in the other lane and glared at me, as did the other young teens in the car. I was hiding my white hot anger very well and was quelling the desire to follow him until he stopped so I could have a few non-Christian words with him.

I was on my cell phone with my brother at the time.

We are all hypocrites, just to varying degrees. Today was not a shining example.




Free Advice for Today:
"Do business with those who do business with you."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing."

- Unknown

Thursday, May 26, 2005

This Bud's For You!

I got this from a friend today and almost choked laughing so hard:

I had a fun weekend; Lynda took me and a bunch of people out Saturday night to celebrate my b-day. She was asking Jason (surfer) what he does for a living and he explained that he works for a company that makes CD's and DVD's and stuff. She said "Oh, that's not a job you hear about every day; you need a Budweiser song!"

You've heard the commercials, right? Mr. Over-zealous Foul Ball Catcher and all that... this bud's for you.

Well, we all thought that was pretty funny, especially me. So later we are in the club waiting for the Reggae band we are there to see, but we are watching all the drunkards dance to the opening band. There's this dude out there, probably forty-ish, trying to hang with the younger crowd and doing the head-banging hard rock thrashing dancing that I used to see people do when I was growing up so I just had to show Lyn.

I pulled her over by me so she could see around this beam and just as I pointed him out, he turned his head, threw up, then kept dancing. She was freaking and yelling "He puked! Oh my God did you see that?"

So I didn't skip a beat but went right into my bud commercial, off the cuff...

"Here's to you, Mr. Puke-On-Your-Shoes-and-Keep-Dancing-Man...yes, you know who you are! You're out to have a good time and no amount of alcohol-induced nausea is going to ruin your fun! When your violent thrashing to the music brings up your breakfast, you don't care; you'll puke on your shoes but it won't mess up your groove! So have a Bud Light, Mr. Puke-On-Your-Shoes-and-Keep-Dancing-Man, and show them how a real alcoholic gets the job done.... this Bud's for you!"




Free Advice for Today:
"Never eat the last cookie."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach that person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks."

- Unknown

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Technological Dependence Realization

My work computer took a dump.

I came in this morning and there it was, blue screen of death. There was kernel-dumping, requests to start over the computer, and advice to call my sysadmin if the problem persists.

What did this translate to?

“OK, here’s the deal. You’re screwed. And I mean like Elton John at a Chippendale’s screwed. Because I know you haven’t backed up in like forever and I know that your entire professional existence is carelessly stored right here on the one drive. Oh, you have it partitioned, you say. Ha, ha, ha, ha. As though that makes any difference at all. I’ll tell you what, I’m just going to shit the bed (in fact, I already have) and you can go ahead and see if the little partitioning thing helped you out…” (..maniacal laughter fade out to silence…)

So I had no email. I had no Internet. I had no will to uncurl myself out of the fetal position nor remove my thumb from my quivering mouth.

Then it occurred to me: I have become so dependent on a computer, A COMPUTER!!! that when it’s gone, I’m rendered almost completely useless.

I mentioned this to my friends the contractors and I tried to convey the abject horror this produced in me that I was a Marine and brought to my professional knees by becoming computer-less. Has it really come to that?

The contractors assured me that it really wasn’t that bad nor uncommon in this computer age. That the computer has become the new “pencil” and it what I do for the Marine Corps, there can be no other way just as they would be set adrift without the omnipotent computer.

But as much sense as that made to me, it still bothered me. They had accepted that reality in their civilian minds and had the luxury of being so dependent. But I was a Marine. I should have contingency plans, a way to changeover to “stubby pencil” if such a technology failure rears it’s ugly head.

But how? I run an IT system for the Marine Corps. I track all my contacts and “to do” lists via my email. Sure, I could go and talk to people but without the background information (the intel) on what specifically I would talk to them about, a sort of dossier, I would just be walking in unarmed.

So this is what it comes to.




Free Advice for Today:
"Let your children overhear you saying complimentary things about them to other adults."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"Some people are like Slinkies . . . not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you see one tumble down the stairs."

- Unknown

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Truckasaurus Takes a Hit

I was sitting in my office when this email came in from one of the contractors I work with:

"A driver in a government vehicle backed into your truck in the parking lot. No visible damage to your truck. The GOV's back bumper is dented and scraped. Law enforcement was called. They determined it was a fender-bender and did not file a report. The driver is from TBS. I have his name and contact information and will leave it on your desk. Should you want to get additional information or it is determined that there is damage to your truck you are to call US Claims. They are the insurance company that cover all government vehicles."

It seems they thought I was gone but I was tactically hidden... IN MY OFFICE!!!!

There was no damage to Truckasaurus but the Corporal who hit it asked David if I was "high strung" to which David answered "Oh, yeah."

He really did!!! Contractors are evil.

So I called the good Corporal and assured him it would take a lot more than that to damage Truckasaurus and that I appreciated him taking the time and effort to come inside and take responsibility personally.




Free Advice for Today:
"Never give a loved one a gift that suggests they need improvement."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth."

- Unknown

Sunday, May 22, 2005

I See Dead Animals

I got done running 18 miles, yes 18 because I'm stupid like that. I never thought I'd say something like this but here it goes: the first 9 were great. The back nine: not so much.

I saw a lot dead animals on my run. Mostly possums and I don't think they were playing.

I just looked at them and really didn't feel all that bad. My reaction was "Dumb bastard." Does this make me callous?

Who asked you?

All I really thought about was the last moment when the little retard was flailing back and forth trying to decide which way to go until **splack**, suddenly its spleen is being forced out its ass.

Of all the hundreds of square miles of woods, it picks the only time available to get hit. I mean what a combination of forces must conspire for that little dumbass to be right on that comparatively narrow strip of road at the right time when a car happens to be coming by. And then most people will swerve, at least a little, to avoid hitting it so it really had to try hard to get under that wheel.

But this doesn't even compare to what I saw in California a couple of weeks ago. I saw the Grand Pubah of all dumbass roadkill. Open freakin' desert, literally as far as the eye can see. In all directions. And maybe an average of 1 car every few hours!!!

So the little moron had to wait! Time it just right and somehow overcome the overwhelming odds that would place a lone car out in the middle of the desert at any time other than what it would take to get hit. I mean, think about it. It could have chosen to be ANYWHERE in the hundreds and hundreds of square miles but it had to choose that little piece of pavement at one of the sliver-thin time slots when a car would be coming by.

"OK, I'll cross... waiting, waiting, waiting... what's that in the distance? I should wait...waiting, waiting, waiting... don't go... don't decide to go...getting closer... must overcome urge to go... waiting... F#^% IT, I'M GOING!!"

**sploit**

Animals are dumbasses.

I stopped by and saw a friend after the run who is home for two weeks from a year deployment overseas. He was mowing the lawn. Travels half way around the world to mow his lawn. And who says life ain't hilarious? (And I can't get off my lazy ass to mow my own lawn, and I live here!).

Got home, took a shower to get the disgusting amount of salt off of my body, ate a turkey sandwich, some pretzels, carrots, and a few chicken tenders. The grapejuice tasted like crapjuice so I dumped it.

Then it was off to blissful sleep. I asked my wife to wake me at 4:00 and I awoke by myself at 4:20, startled from a nightmare. Then I blamed her for not waking me up and if she did, I wouldn't have the nightmare.

I'm an 5th level asshole sometimes.




Free Advice for Today:
"Don't let anyone talk you out of pursuing what you know to be a great idea."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die."

- Unknown

Saturday, May 21, 2005

A New Blog Is Born, Again, Sorta....

Two things kind of related, here.

Because I have so little to do these days and wile away the hours counting the ever-increasing number of grey hairs I seem to be accumulating at a disturbing rate, I decided just the ticket was to start another blog.

“Why would you possibly start ANOTHER blog when it’s obvious that you can’t even keep up with this one, you jackass.”

I’ll ignore the name-calling and answer the fair question.

Because I’m a jackass.

OK, now that my wife has had her say, can I explain?

It is precisely BECAUSE I can’t seem to keep up with this blog that I must start another.

(…jackass…)

See, I fall behind here but what you don’t know is that I normally have notes or at least a good idea of what I am GOING to write for each day but then I get behind and can’t write about new stuff when the old stuff is sitting in my temp file waiting to be fleshed out (that really sounds dirty, huh?).

So with this new blog, I can write shorter entries when the mood strikes and can keep up with it while still attempting to catch up with this one. Make sense?

(…jackass…)

And the second thing I wanted to point out is that the other blog also provides a way to get the current thoughts down so that I can wholesale steal from it when trying to catch up with this one. So yes, I will be double posting sometimes (like below) but if you are so inclined, check the other site for smaller posts that might not make it over here to this blog.

And if you thinks it unseemly to copy and paste entries from one blog to the other blog, may I remind you that most of YOU don't even do ONE blog? (THWAP!!!)

Here is the link so get it on your favorites: Viper's Den

Oh the tangled web….

Sir Phil's Preakness Freakness

Quick background: Sir Phil is a retired Marine Major who happened to be my first boss as an Officer. He was First Tanks XO and I was the Adj. We became friends and we run marathons together now. I still can't bring myself to call him "Phil" even after his retirement so I compromised with "Sir Phil."

Sir Phil is....unique. OK, a weird freak. But a lovable weird freak with enough idiosyncrasies to fill a dozen therapy sessions. I think my wife nailed it by describing him as a "quirky little man."

So here is his email invitation to a get-together we are going to today. It kind of encapsulates and says it all:

OK, it's time again for the (periodic) horseracing party. As I continue to make plans that interrupt the Derby, I am focusing on the Preakness this year. Accordingly on 21 May, at my hooch in the urban sector of Spotsylvania County, I shall throw out the welcome mat and host a get together.

As with the last time, there shall be an eclectic mix of folks mirroring my sordid past. I have only a vague idea of when the actual race is going to be run (somewhere around 5 or 6 PM) so I figure to start playing Seabiscuit on the TV around 3 and have the thing adjourn when all the food is gone.

RSVPs help in chow planning, so you can hit me up with an e-mail at (removed by Jason) or you can try working through my social butterfly's "phone networking" existence and calling in at (removed by Jason). We're still at (removed by Jason), still mark the terrain with an old British car (though the current exposed one is blue instead of the red one I have to hide from the neighbors).

Directions have changed due to the latest Wal-Mart incursion, so here's how you get here now (assuming you're all in from the North):

Down I-95 to the (removed by Jason) exit, right turn at the light at the bottom onto (removed by Jason). You go down and turn right at the second light (the newly opened (removed by Jason) which takes you up to the Super Wal-Mart) and blow through any lights there. After you have passed the growing shopping extravaganza there, you will eventually come to the traffic signal at (removed by Jason). Turn left (away from Fredericksburg) and head down to the third light. The marker is the 7/11 on your left and you turn left down (removed by Jason). Two miles down that, you come to a spot where a right turn lane opens up and you turn right onto (removed by Jason). There is a neighborhood to your left called the (removed by Jason) but the fact that there is a widening for a right turn is the best landmark. After turning right onto (removed by Jason), you go to the next stop sign (removed by Jason) and turn right. Go to the next available right turn (removed by Jason) and go down there till you find (removed by Jason) on your right.

If anybody brings kids, they better be hungry and easily amused, because the dog is about the only interesting thing to play with and she's probably going to be stuck in the basement most of the time. Our kids are mostly entertained by telephones and video games and I'll be clamping down on both of those for the afternoon.




Free Advice for Today:
"Remember that no one makes it alone. Have a grateful heart and be quick to acknowledge those who help you."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"If quitters never win, and winners never quit, then who is the fool who said, 'Quit while you're ahead'?"

- Unknown

Friday, May 20, 2005

Ba... ba ba ba ... ba ba ba BAAAA....

Continuing my long tradition starting when I was a kid, I sat in the theater tonight to watch the 6th, yet third in the series, episode of Star Wars. This time I had my kids with me, switching roles that began when I was the kid with my dad, watching the first episode in some theater in Seattle.

We got there over an hour early on the advice from the theater. After all, it was the first Friday it was out so we expected to be surrounded by throngs of people, most of which would be decked out in the nerdiest of all nerd outfits. I braced myself for the stupidity.

But came, it did not (Interjecting Yoda-Speak I will, randomly this post throughout.)

We stood in line for the 7:00 show but discovered the long line was for the 6:30 show and by the time they filed in, we found ourselves at the front of the line. I found it strange that with all the hoopla, I would be the first one in a theater to pick any seat I wanted. I was interested but not Chewbacca-clad or anything (Disturbing, I find it that Word spell-check with Chewbacca problem, it had not!).

This was a mixed blessing because, yeah, I could sit anywhere and dead center was an obvious choice. But that left it open to the Fates to decided who would be sitting around us. The first stroke of luck came when a woman walked up in front of us and reserved the entire aisle. She told us she was bringing her son’s birthday party and I mentally pumped my fist.

“Great, I was hoping for kids or midgets. A child-midget would be the ultimate.”

I think I might have frightened her a bit.

Even when they filed in, I didn’t feel any worry because like I was at that age, I knew they would be silently enthralled in the movie and I could see over them easily. This was shaping up nicely.

After the movie started, it became evident that I didn’t get as lucky behind us. Two idiots in their early twenties had a bad case of the “I can’t shut my retarded suck” and yucked it up through the previews. I thought they would quiet down during the movie.

Well, they didn’t. During the fight scenes, they were quiet enough just like everyone else but during the sappy love scenes (many, there were. Cheesy, suffer us they made) they snickered and talked. I thought my looks back at them would get the point across but they would start all over again during the next scene.

The other downer was that for some reason, the sound was not very good in the theater. It was as though the only speakers were behind the screen and the “Surround Sound”… didn’t.

But overall, here is my take. Fight scenes: cool. Love scene dialogue: vomit-inducing. Special effects: wicked cool. Nostalgia of seeing Darth Vader come to be: awesome.

And some other random thoughts:

Yoda:

Yoda getting his Jedi on. I wrote about this before but it must be restated. F#$% with Yoda, you must not. When he gets his little green ass in motion, look at him go!!!

Frank Oz does the voice and “hearing” Grover The Jedi is entertainment all on its own.

Light Sabers: When I was a kid, like all kids, thought it was “Life Savers.” Now that I’m older, the thought of these things scare me. I mean fighting with a regular sward, you can get nicked, cut, or even use body armor to thwart a direct hit. But with a Light Saber, ANY contact mean you’re losing something. Poof. Gone. That’s freakin’ scary.

Darth Vader: Another ominous name that was closely associated with “Dark Invader” for me as a kid. It was a nice touch that they got James Earl Jones to supply the voice at the end but a little tricky to tell the kids that the voice of evil incarnate was also Mufasa from The Lion King. (Again, spell check had no problem with “Vader” but doesn’t like Mufasa. Go figure.)

I don’t know all the details or the intricate relationships between all the species of characters (because regardless of what you think, I DO have some semblance of a life) so I’ll go with the General bad-guy as the topic. Fake.

Oh yeah, his name was Grievous. Come on, people. I mean you were sly with the whole “Darth Vader / Dark Invader” nomenclature and I’ll give an honorable mention to “Han Solo / Hand Solo” idea (even though it was Luke who lost the hand) but “General Grievous”? Really? This is the best you could do? Was “Colonel Evil Dude” already taken? How about “Captain Not-Such-A-Nice-Person”? "Lieutenant Poo-Poo Head?"

Worst line of the entire movie: “I don’t even know you any more.” TELL ME you didn’t say that. Good gracious.

So all and all, it was a mediocre movie but worth the spectacle to round out the Star Wars experience. And although The Force seems to be with the merchandising department these days, nothing will ever beat the moment that Luke nailed the impossible shot to kill the Death Star. Man, now THAT’S a moment to remember.





Free Advice for Today:
"Criticize the behavior, not the person."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"An unbreakable toy is useful for breaking other toys."

- Unknown

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Written Word

I have found a place where trumpets blare. Where the beer flows like wine. Where every dream comes true. No, not Hooters you degenerates, I’m talking something more along my nerdtastic tastes. The place I speak of is Books-A-Million.

I’ve been to Borders. I’ve been to Barnes & Noble. I’ve been to hundreds of others but this store was a big, fat slice of heaven for me and the moment I walked in, I was hooked. (Soemwhere in there, there is a book worm/ hooked joke but I'm not motivated to find it.)

I just couldn’t stop buying. To hell with the budget, I had a charge card!!! Here was the ones I couldn’t stop myself from buying:

Not Proud: A Smorgasbord Of Shame by Scott Huot and GW Brazier
The Little Guide To Your Well-Read Life by Steve Leveen
This Book Will Change Your Life: 365 Daily Instructions For Hysterical Living by Ben Carey and Henrik Delehag
Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul (For Carrie)
Guinness Book Of World Records 2005 (For Alex)
Mad Cat (For Stephanie)

There were many others that I wanted to get but withheld due to the thousands I have unread on my bookshelves.

Here are a few of my random thoughts about the evening:

1. It scares me that I now consider going to a bookstore for a few hours “a good evening.”
2. Suzy Ormond, the financial counselor, scares the holy living crap out of me with her insane eyes.
3. She is only outdone by the cover spokesman for the female version of “Body For Life.” It just screams “RED RUM!”
4. I still think Rachel Ray sells a lot of books because she puts her own face on the cover.
5. I had to stop from buying Rachel Ray books just because of the cover.
6. There is a reason some books are 90% discounted.
7. There is more “sex sells” approaches on modern book covers than even movie posters.
8. I judge books by their covers. For example, I almost bought the entire Lord Of The Rings series because it was bound in quality leather and looked real dignified.
9. The girl on the “To Kill A Mockingbird” cover catches my eye every time. She is the perfect “Scout.”
10. I’m starting to get tired of being called a dummy.
11. Grown men in comic and anime section REALLY scares the bejesus out of me.
12. There is no wider demographic than book store employees.
13. Life is good when shopping for books and they play an entire Enya CD over the sound system. Or Norah Jones.
14. It depresses me to think I will only read a small sliver of available books in my lifetime.
15. I wonder if I will ever add to the ever-increasing choices of books available in this world.
16. People who leave an aisle really fast probably farted.




Free Advice for Today:
"Make it a habit to do nice things for people who'll never find it out."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"Life is sexually transmitted."

- Unknown

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Like Everyone Claims, I Suck At Golf. But I MEAN It!

Since I’m no Tiger Woods, I don’t feel the need to stay sober when golfing. It just isn’t that necessary and something needs to offset the numbing boredom of hitting a tiny ball with a stick and then roaming around a yard better than yours will ever be only to maybe or maybe not find the ball at which time you whack it again.

Doc invited me to go after we were done inspecting and who was I to turn down the opportunity to make a complete and utter fool of myself? And pay real money to do it.

I caught a break when I showed up late and they had already played 3 holes. Doc met me at the clubhouse and maybe because we were the last group of the day, the guy only charged me for 9 holes. Doc’s friend, another Marine Captain, lived in the area and was a member so not only did I get member prices, I got it half off. Doc’s friend was there with his wife and they brought along some clubs for me. The beer was there so I literally just had to show up, pay $9, and off we went. Maybe the big Guy upstairs felt the need to make up for the directions fiasco or something. Gift horses, people, gift horses.

Look, have I ever lied to you? No. So here’s what happened.

I pretty much suck at golf. I mean, I’ve never really tried to get any better because the moment I take it too seriously, my temper takes over and it’s a big snowball with shit-chips throughout after that. I took a few lessons at my mom’s insistence when I was young and played almost every Saturday with a buddy back in the late 80s in Yuma, AZ, trying to beat the heat but in the intervening years, I’ve pretty much stayed away from it. Here and there I’d be roped into a game or two but never just gone out for the pure experience of hate and discontent.

When I have played, it’s been feast or famine. I can hit the ball but either it cuts a line down the fairway that you could use as official surveying information or I lose the ball. Nothing in between. As a boss of mine one stated, I have “a lot of postage but no address.”

It had literally been years since I even hit a golf ball (even though my last two duty stations, I’ve lived within ½ mile of a gold course) so I made the appropriate warning to the other three. I suck. I know I suck, and I front-loaded the excuses so there would be no mistake.

“Which one of you three are the worst golfer?”

That would be me” said the lady.

“Good, because today is your lucky day. You will NOT be coming in last today. Congratulations.”

But if you have ever played golf, you know this is a common tactic for people who don’t really suck. But I did. The more I assured them of my suckiness, the more it sounded like I was one of those people who is a decent player but feels compelled to announce otherwise just in case they have an off game.

The time frame between me showing up, having the conversation and approaching my first shot in many years was about 2 minutes. I squared up to the ball, mentally noting how strange if felt after all these years to even hold a club, and was very aware that three people were intently staring at the statement and impression I was about to make.

PING!

I caught all of the son of a bitch and the ball went screaming in a perfectly straight trajectory, dead center down the fairway.

(“Crap, that ain’t gonna help my argument.”)

I was stunned at what may have been the best tee off I had ever accomplished. I watched it shoot past the other two balls already on the fairway.

On the way back off the tee area, Doc was already mocking me with the dialogue I had just spouted about not being good. Great, I thought, this is only going to make my real game look that much worse when I start mulching up divots like a John Deere.

I had a few more good shots after that and managed not to embarrass myself too much. After a couple of beers, I loosened up even more and despite having a few really embarrassing shots that didn’t go past the ladies’ tees (which they forwent the pants-down requirement out of respect for the lady present), I managed to hold my own. No, not like that, you know what I meant. Pervs!

I insisted they NOT keep my score, even though I noted that because I missed the first three holes, I’d be well ahead of them. I just didn’t want the stigma of a score on my conscious so I just hit the ball down the fairway and drank beer. What could be better? Keeping score was only necessary if you planned on improving on it and since I wouldn’t be golfing until I was dragged out again, what was the use?

OK, I did have my moments. I lost almost every single ball in the bag and after hitting two separate houses on a single hole, I decided I should just sit the rest of that one out. If anyone would have come out to complain, I'd have to pull out my tried and true argument against such complaints:

"YOU LIVE ON A GOLF COURSE!"

But I also made some pretty respectable shots. Nothing like the worm-burner our host accomplished which, and I am NOT exaggerating her, skipped on the water hazard, BOUNCED OFF THE HEAD OF THE CROCODILE THAT HAPPENED TO SURFACE AT THE EXACT TIME THE BALL HIT HIM, and bumped up to the green to end up 20 feet from the hole.

You just can’t make these things up but I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it with my own two eyes.

But the shot that made everything worth it had to be THE PUTT. I’m gonna go with about 50 feet because that’s what the Doc guesses. And he’s a doctor (although I don’t know why I had to take my clothes off.)

It was the 17th hole and I was on the green. I had consistently overshot all my putts so I thought hey, maybe this was my distance. I knocked it and it looked good…looked good…. LOOKED GOOD…. Klunk. OH MY GOD!!!

I couldn’t believe I sunk it. I threw my arms in the air and just fell backward, flat on my back without moving to break my fall. Screaming. Maybe the beer had something to do with it but it had worn off by then and it was actually an incredible shot. It would have at least made it in the top 5 on SportsCenter.




Free Advice for Today:
"When you see visitors taking pictures of each other, offer to take a picture of them together."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"There are two kinds of pedestrians: the quick and the dead."

- Unknown

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Remove Your Clothes. Don't Worry, I'm A Doctor

Tonight, a friend and I were eating at Logan’s Steakhouse in Jacksonville. It’s one of those places that give you a bucket of peanuts and you can throw the shells on the floor. Or at least I hope you are allowed to because if not, I really made an ass out of myself.

Continuing on that tangent, those peanuts are more addictive that crack-laced heroin. Shaped like Skittles. I finally stopped when my food arrived but up to that point, I had eaten, oh, I don’t know, about a cubic ton, give or take a few hundred pounds.

OK, OK, back to the story.

After a few beers (and don’t think this had ANYTHING to do with it, dammit!), Jeff and I had an interesting conversation.

Let me set the table on this one before we go any further. Jeff is a Marine Captain just like me. But unlike me, he holds a doctorate in education which instigates me to say “What’s Up, Doc?” maybe a few too many times, if you define “a few too many times” as every time I see him.

Anyway, he looks at me at one point in the night and says “Jason, it’s time to start getting your doctorate’s degree.”

My first thought was, whoa, I’ll have whatever he’s having! But he was serious and it struck me as weird because although I’ve harbored a desire to someday pursue a doctorate, I had never spoken of this. He told me that he thought I had what it took to get the degree based on my work and what he’s seen of me since we met a year ago.

But wait, there’s more.

He thought I would be perfect for and EDD which is the program he went through. It seems that there are two kinds of doctorate degrees: PhD and EDD. The difference is that a PhD deals more with the philosophy of learning where an EDD is more “in action” work. I guess when you get a doctorate degree, along with the secret handshake, it’s your duty to recruit people you think would add value to the field so Jeff was just doing his part. Obviously, his recruiting criteria needs work but I listened intently (while shoving another gross of peanuts in my suck).

He also told me he would help me through the degree since he had done it himself. He said he would make himself available and show me the way through the degree over the next 3 years.

How would I possibly afford a degree like this? Here is where it gets good.

Jeff also teaches classes online through Strayer University. The classes are asynchronous so he just assigns the work, answers questions via email or phone, collects the work, and grades it. They try to keep the class sizes small and with the sudden increase in student population, they are always looking for instructors. So Jeff asked if I wanted to teach classes and the money would pay for the degree.

I looked at him and said “You realize that you are treading dangerously near to ‘Too Good To Be True’ here, don’t you? You are telling me that you can help me get a job teaching online classes which will pay for a doctorate degree, of which you are offering to help me navigate? That’s what you’re saying?”

He nodded and then immediately spewed a combination of semi-digested beer, peanuts, and the dinner special all over my face before his head hit the bar.

Actually, he just wanted a commitment and told him while it sounded like an incredible opportunity, I would have to talk to my wife over the weekend and I’d get back to him next week.

Then I spewed a combination of semi-digested beer, peanuts, and the dinner special all over his face before my head hit the bar.




Free Advice for Today:
"Don't think you can fill an emptiness in your heart with money."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement. Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway."

- Unknown

Monday, May 16, 2005

Ahhh... We Meet Again

Today was simple. I get up, pack, and head to Jacksonville, NC for a week’s TAD trip. No stress, no hassle, no blinding flashes of anger at my own stupidity. See, I’m learning.

After last week’s fiasco on the road, the very same stretch of road, I kept my promise to banish Mapquest from the Earth, or at least my computer. Yes, Mapquest can choke on it for all time. Choke!

Instead, I went to Yahoo! Maps and even then, I consulted an atlas and decided the best way was to keep to the major highways and avoid the hassle.

All was going fine until I had to get onto I-40 and here is where I will spend a few moments to complain and you judge if I was wrong.

I don’t know the area very well so how am I supposed to know which way to go given only two cities? Can I get a cardinal direction here? No?

Yep, that was the situation. How confoundingly retarded is it to tell a driver “Go this way if you are going to Stickitinyourassville or go that way if you are going to Cramitinyourcrapperville?” I don’t know these places!

Oh, I tried to take a quick glance at the atlas but my only shot before the interchange was foiled because the one I chose to scan for (while driving, mind you) was not on the map. So I took a shot.

A few miles down the road I came to a rest stop and pulled over. Studying the map I determined that yes indeed, I had chosen poorly. Fifty-fifty shot and as you surely guessed by now, I was heading in exactly the wrong direction.

No problem, only a couple of miles back.

The rest stop did not allow you to go the other way.

No problem, I’ll just take the next exit.

A mile goes by. Then Two, THree. FOUr. Freakin’ FIVE!!

Ten miles and a very angry chord in my neck later, I came across a sign that said there was an exit a mile ahead.

WHAT KIND OF FREAKIN’ BACKASS HILLBILLY SHITSTAIN OF A STATE PREVENTS YOU TO TURN AROUND FOR 11 FREAKIN’ MILES?

Answer: North Carolina. Oh, and Ohio as I learned last year.

It took me most of the trip to fully calm down but I made it to Camp Lejeune and checked into my room at the BOQ. Walking in, the first thought I had was that they thought I was a Navy Captain (0-6) instead of a Marine Captain (0-3). The accommodations were… palatial!!

They gave me a suite with a living room, a bedroom, and big bathroom. The ceilings were about 15 feet and all the furniture was new and made of wood. I really didn’t want to mess up the place, like I was staying in someone else’s room. So I abstained from crapping the bed, as is my normal custom.

After getting settled in, I found my route to the school I was to inspect tomorrow. I wanted to get the route down instead of leaving it for the morning because, well, you know me and directions. I didn’t want to end up in Arizona.

By the time I got back, I knew that the Day of Reckoning had come. I had to go for a run since I put it off all weekend and I thought that a night run right as the sun was going down after a long drive was just the thing I needed. After all, I had just run a marathon and I should be primed for a good, solid performance. Four silly little miles should do the trick, just to get the old engine going.

The first mile was wonderful. Mile two was a bit curious because I seemed to struggle. Mile three was debilitatingly horrendous. Mile four was a lot of walking.

What the f#%#$%? Had I NOT just finished a marathon in record time last week? Was 4 miles not a child’s toy in the hands of a man who can run 16 mile training runs? Was that my spleen I left out on the track?

I don’t know folks. I know that the humidity really took its toll but that couldn’t have been everything. Maybe it was that I hadn’t drunk enough water during the day (a common ailment on travel days since the opportunities to go to the bathroom are limited). I was soaking wet by the time I got back and felt like I had just run the entire day. It was pitiful and didn’t really instill a lot of confidence.

So I plopped sown in my King’s Quarters and tried to put it out of my mind. I would do better, humidity or no humidity. I had all week to overcome. And I had a new bed to ... oh yeah, I said I wouldn't. Damn!




Free Advice for Today:
"Toss a coin when passing a wishing well."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"Gardening Rule: When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant."

- Unknown

Friday, May 13, 2005

Leslie's Campaign Slogans That Never Made The Final Cut

I'm proud to introduce one of my students. OK, well, I call her one of MY students despite being her volunteer instructor at the Presidential Classroom a year ago for 5 entire days. All of the 40 kids will forever and a day be "MY STUDENTS." Get over it!

This particular student took me up on my caucus-wide offer to stay in touch because I wanted to know how things were going with them and with the magic of email, I have been kept up to speed on her progress over the last year in Catholic School. Yes, folks, it's been a wild, vicarious ride but she made it another year and I'm proud of her NOT being stressed, as was so stressfully explained to me recently.

Here is a list of her school election campaign slogans she came up with but discarded. Note, people, that the future of wit and sarcasm will not be in jeopardy. These kids have "smartass" down to a science. I'm getting all verclempt!

"Leslie Capuano: Dictator For The People!"

"If I Win, I Promise To Never Demand A Recount!"

"Vote For Me - Or Else.....Just A Friendly Suggestion!"

"I Haven't Dated Your Ex - The Least You Can Do Is Vote For Me."

"Hey... Harry Potter Thinks I'm Magical."

"Vote For Me...Please?"

"Vote For Me, At Least My Empty Promises Sound Convincing!"

"Vote For Me, I'm The Lesser Of Two Evils"

"U Can't Spell Leslie Without 'Lie', Which I Will Never Do To U"

"U Can't Spell 'Quality Care: Free Lobotomies' Without 'Leslie C.'"

"U Can't Spell 'Leslie Will Be The Best President' Without 'Leslie.'"

"Read My Lips: No New Taxes"

"Is Leslie The Best Candidate? It All Depends On The Definition Of The Word 'Is'..."

"Hey - It's Not like I Have a Social Life That'll Get in the Way!"

"I Met With Foreign Leaders the Other Day At IHOP And They All Said I Have Their Support For Ousting The Current Administration"

"I Like People......They're Tasty."

" 'Cos I Haven't Disgraced The Junior Class Office Yet!"

"Elect Me and I'll Take Whatever Steps Necessary for the Total Annihilation of Chemistry."

"Who Ever Said Scandal Was A Bad Thing?"

"Elect Me And I'll Make Canada A Holiday...Somehow."




Free Advice for Today:
"Require your children to do their share of household chores."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"I used to eat a lot of natural foods until I learned that most people die of natural causes."

- Unknown

Thursday, May 12, 2005

When Good Captains Go Stupid: A Less Than Stellar Night With Sarah McLachlan

OK, I’ve put this off for long enough and you people deserve to know the truth. Especially since I make such a big deal of Sarah McLachlan. Things did not go quite as spiffy as I would have liked them tonight.

Here’s a little background to set this story up. I’m a big Sarah McLachlan fan and last night I went to see her in concert for only the second time. Earlier in the week, I had been so busy getting back from my marathon and going in ten thousand directions at once that I was unable to keep up with my constant need to set myself up for the next “big event.”

What am I talking about? Well, I got an email from another Marine who is stationed at the same base I am and she had stumbled on my page, noticing I was a big Sarah fan. It seems that her unit volunteers to provide security for local concerts and the money is used for their Marine Corps Birthday Fund. She wanted to know if I was interested in participating since Sarah was playing in Fairfax, VA.

Once again, because of my hectic schedule, I was not able to work this (if that shows you how busy I was) and left it to TODAY to give her a call and see if the offer was still good. Talking to her, she assured me that she could get me in even though they probably had enough to cover this concert. I was very thankful. Word-fumbling so.

This sudden opportunity created a bit of a logistical problem. I needed to wear black slacks, black shoes, and a white shirt, all of which were at my house. I would have to go home, get changed, and get back to the base in time to meet up with the other volunteers. While I did this, it occurred to me that I had seen her concert the night before and was not only going to see her again tonight, but possibly even MEET her!!! It was another one of those moments where I couldn’t believe the turn my life had taken and the opportunities that presented themselves, almost without asking. I was feeling on top of the world.

Meeting up with the other volunteers made me a little nervous. I was the only Officer in the group of young Marines (and to find out, the only Officer that had EVER volunteered for this), some of which didn’t even know who Sarah McLachlan was. They were just there doing another “working party” and I couldn’t help but consider the fact that my preoccupation for Sarah was a little out there. So I was quiet.

I was introduced to a rather large Sergeant whose age and attitude made it hard for me to believe he was “only” a Sergeant. He seemed like a seasoned Staff NCO and it was evident that he did a lot of these kinds of security details. He was the man in charge and I made sure that I made it clear that I was a worker bee in this situation. It felt kind of strange to once again be a brick in the wall and I hoped it wasn’t awkward for the others, having an Officer in their midst. It helped that was a formerly enlisted Marine but I couldn’t help but feel I was somewhat invading their little inner sanctum.

When we got to the stadium, we parked and I grabbed my backpack that had everything I wanted to bring but didn’t want to carry on me: sunglasses, wallet, water, digital camera. We headed toward the back entrance where all the tour busses were parked and passed the elderly guard sitting on a chair by the entrance. With all of us dressed in black and white, it really felt like the poster for Reservoir Dogs as we walked.

As we walked in, I saw that there were a group of maybe 6 people standing in a circle kicking a hackeysack. I recognized a few of the opening band members (The Perishers) from last night and whispered over to one of the others “That’s the opening band.” Of course I wasn’t star struck because before last night, I had never heard of them but I thought it was neat that I was seeing them up close.

Then I took another look and I saw Sarah.

I almost dropped my backpack.

From the point I saw her to the point I entered the building, I had about 20 steps and I was aware of every single one of them. I looked over as many times as I could, trying not to look like I was gawking but the fact was blaring in my mind’s ear that that was the woman who I had spent many many years with in a detached, listen-only kind of way.

She was not wearing any make-up and her hair was in no way “done.” She was wearing jeans, no shoes, and a casual shirt. Nothing about her said “Vocal Goddess” but instead was just a woman trying to kill some time with her friends.

She looked up as we passed by and I got a smile. It was ever so brief and didn’t return it because I was shocked. Just as fast as it appeared, her concentration went back to the game and the remnant of it lingered on her face, mixed with concentration.

Sarah McLachlan just smiled at me.

Ask my wife, I have never been shy about talking to celebrities. Over the years I’ve come face to face with famous people with not as much as a hesitation about talking to them but this was different. For one thing, it was obvious that we were supposed to just keep going and not interfere with the “talent.” Also, it was Sarah and I don’t think I could have put together a coherent sentence if I read it off a script.

What would I say? Explain to her what her music has meant to me over the years? Yeah, that would sound real stable. And I bet she’s never heard that before. During the day, I had thought about what I would say if given the opportunity and I finally came up with an introduction that went something like this:

“Look, I’m probably going to sound like a nutball but I have a few things that I’ll only be able to get out if I say it in one big confession. So if you will allow me 5 minutes, just 5 minutes, I can say my peace and then I’ll leave you alone if you wish.”

I thought it might just be unique enough to work and then I would spew forth what I had to say, totally blowing past the 5 minute mark. Then she’d be so impressed at my speech that she would ask for more information and we’d spend the next hour with me going into detail about why I’m such a fan.

Yeah, I know, it was a long shot. And the opportunity never came up.

We went back to a room where we were issued yellow wind breakers that just screamed “The Hired Help.” It was the concert industry equivalent to leprosy and we were quickly relegated to the bottom of the concert food chain. We then had to wait so we were told that we could go back out to the loading area and hang out.

You mean back to where Sarah was? Really? FOOLS!!!

When we got out there, I was disappointed to see that the group had already gone away. So then it was just hanging out in a loading area. Fun.

When we got back to the staging room, the Sergeant asked if I wanted him to put my bag in a locker. I kind of wanted to keep it with me because of the camera but I knew this would be problematic, not knowing how they were going to employ me. I was hoping for backstage but wherever it was, I knew keeping track of a bag would be a hassle. So I let him take it and put it away. In a fateful move, I never saw exactly where he put it.

Like any hierarchy, there is a pecking order in the world of concert security of which I was on the bottom rung. The Sergeant was responsible for our group in general but the assignments were made by a supervisor who walked in and grabbed people at random. This did not bode well for a couple of reasons.

Since the Sergeant had no apparent control of the actual assignments and the supervisor had no idea that I wanted to get as close to Sarah as legally possible, I suddenly found myself at the whim of someone who saw me as no more special than a warm body.

And I thought I was OK with this. It had been a long time since I was at the bottom of any food chain and I tried to shake the feeling of resentment. It was irrational, I knew.

The supervisor took a few of us into the causeway and after a few indecisive postings, I ended up guarding the side of a beer tent. They set up some scaffolding inside the walkway with curtains hanging off them for a designated drinking area. They didn’t want anyone sneaking in under the curtains so they posted some of us there to prevent such activity, leaving me standing there and watching the crowd go by.

I was given no instructions at all other than not to let people duck under the curtain. There were many things that sucked about this, some of them being:

1. I was guarding a beer tent
2. I didn’t know the answer to 90% of the questions people asked me because of my authoritative yellow rain coat.
3. I had to watch a demographic I really didn’t want to see up close, despite my penchant for Sarah McLachlan music.
4. I had to stand there for a couple of hours. I was standing a post again!!!

We had been handed off to another supervisor and I liked her because she treated us with respect. I explained to her why I was there and although she had never heard of Sarah McLachlan before, she saw how much I liked Sarah and told me that when the beer garden shut down, she would make sure I got a good posting with a great view of the concert.

That made me happy and got me through the rest of the “beer garden” time.

At one point, as I was really starting to get fed up with standing there like a dope, I saw a man who I correctly determined represented the next level of supervisor up. He was hurriedly walking from place to place with a walkie-talkie in his hand but what really bugged me about him was that he never even so much as looked any of the workers. It was as though we were pillars not worthy of his attention and I took a dislike to him immediately.

As he passed by me, making no eye contact at all, he walked over to my supervisor and started talking to her, pointing my way with the walkie-talkie. She looked over and me, shook her head, and he walked off in the other direction. She came over to me and said,

“They want you to move over here under the emergency exit.”

Internally, I was livid. The exit was literally 3 feet down from where I was standing, along a 50 foot curtain. I saw it as either cowardice to tell me of this glaringly stupid request or arrogance that he wouldn’t bother himself talking to the yellow jackets.

But I smiled.

“Why didn’t he tell me that himself?”

“What?”

“He walked right passed me, said nothing, did not even acknowledge my existence, and tells you to tell me to move. Why couldn’t he bring himself to tell me himself and save us all the time and hassle?”

I think she saw my point and was not used to anyone asking. She looked slightly embarrassed and my smile nor my gaze never wavered.

“Oh, they are supposed to go through us on things like that.”

“Uh-huh.”

After the beer garden shut down, I was getting worried because no one, including my benefactor, was anywhere around. The concert had started and everyone was leaving to see the show. I kept thinking to myself “5th General Order, to quit my post only when properly relieved” and waited for her to show up to take me to my new post with a great view of the concert.

She didn’t show up but another supervisor did. Crap! He wouldn’t know nor would he even care what promises were made to me. What’s worse, he seemed to be taking his supervisory role rather seriously. As far as I could tell, once the concert started, the yellow jackets were put somewhere in the entrances to the seating and allowed to pretty much just watch the concert.

Then I saw her walking up just as he was taking us. Great, I thought, she would snag me and make sure I got somewhere worthy of my obsessive Sarah McLachlan fanaticism.

Whether it was that she forgot (not likely) or that I had pissed her off with the whole authority question, I don’t know but she didn’t seem to eager to step in and instead, let the guy take me with some of the others. Walking around the deserted hallway, I just knew I was going to be stuck, once again, far away from where I wanted to be. When he snapped at us and said “Follow me,” I had to bite my tongue, hard. I had accepted my role as lowly security fodder, I had stood my beer garden post, and now I was being beckoned disrespectfully. I was getting near the end of my patience.

We made a full rotation around the arena without any openings so the supervisor told us to take a 10 minute break and meet him back at his location where they’d find places for us. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to get my camera from my bag so that if I got a good shot, I could take a picture of Sarah.

The problem was that I did not know how to get to the depths of the stadium to where we put our stuff so I asked the lady supervisor, telling her I needed to get into my backpack. I wanted to keep this low because I didn’t know how they would feel about the camera despite being told by the original Sergeant that invited me that cameras were OK.

Instead of giving me directions, she turns to Mr. “Follow Me” supervisor and tells him I need to get to the security area. Thanks a lot because it’s not like I’m about a micron from telling this guy a very enlightening story about respect or anything.

He turns to me and says “Why do you need your bag?” in a way that relayed that he was not too happy about it.

More teeth clenching.

“I need my bag. And I don’t know how to get there.”

“Just a minute.”

What he saw in my eyes, I’m not sure but he got on his radio and relayed the request up the chain. It was at this point that I wondered how many links were actually in this chain.

In what was apparently “lucky for me,” there was someone in the room down there and I was allowed to come down. After getting a set of directions that almost instantly confused me, I shook my head knowingly and set out to find the place on my own.

When I got down there with no problem, there was an older British lady down there and I told her I needed to get into my bag. She was nice enough but didn’t know where the bag was. Since the Sergeant had not told me where he put it, other than “in a locker” we set out to search around the small office. But we couldn’t find it and I was about to give up when I asked if there was any way we could call up the Sergeant and ask him.

She told me he was in the pit to which I asked if there was any way we could contact him. She said “Well, the show has started, hasn’t it?” which prompted me to suppress a really smartass remark since the music was blaring all around us.

“Wait a minute, let’s just go out there and maybe we can get his attention.”

She led me out the door, down the hallway, and through another door into darkness. Except the “darkness” was that of backstage.

I was quite literally backstage at the concert. And I was giddy!!!!

I walked by the sound boards, the roadies, the security, and all the instruments waiting to be handed on stage. I saw the little stairway that led to the actual stage and my head was swimming. I was REALLY here.

We got to the side of the stage were there was a security guard I didn’t know sitting on a chair with a direct view of the entire pit. The Sergeant I knew was about ¼ of the way down and there was only one other guard ¾ of the way down.

I looked up and Sarah was at her piano on the other side of the stage. My heart was about to leap out of my chest.

The British lady told me to go get him and I hunkered down to scuttle over to him with her in tow.

“Hey, Sir,”
“Hey, I need my bag. Where is it?”
“In the locker room.”
“We looked but didn’t see it.”
“OK, I’ll come show you.”

With that, the lady took the seat and we exited the pit area, returned to the locker room, and he showed me where my bag was (the only place in the small office we didn’t look and I was slightly embarrassed as well as confused). He asked me where they had put me and I told him the entire story and how I would appreciate a little help. Maybe even some time in the pit if he could swing it. While we were talking, I took out my camera and put it in the pocket of my yellow rain jacket.

“I don’t know, Sir, they only need two people and I don’t know who that other guy is.”

I knew my chances were low but then he said that maybe he could get me in and we headed back to the stage with new hope. He told me to follow him and I could stay in the pit if no one had a problem with that so when we blew past the first guard, I was hoping no one would say anything. When we got to the seat, the British lady got up and headed back and I had a sneaking suspicion she had expected me to follow. But I stayed with the Sergeant and he asked me if I wanted to man the post.

“If I could. For 5-10 minutes or as long as I could. I’d really appreciate it.”
“No problem, Sir.”

And with that, he hunkered down and left me in the pit.

The realization hit me like a sledgehammer. I was working the pit of a Sarah McLachlan concert. Yesterday I had been on the second row and tonight, right at this moment, I was mere feet away from the stage and in charge of keeping crazies like myself away from the Vocal Goddess.

I set to work right away. I looked up and saw that she was still at her piano and this was an opportunity to get the most treasured picture I had ever taken. Never would I have this chance again.

I pulled out my camera, turned it on, and pointed it at the piano but one of the band members was in the way and I couldn’t get a clear shot (this really does sound like an assassination attempt, does it not?). My hands were shaking furiously as I tried to steady myself and zoom in for a picture. I was almost there… almost… I can’t believe I’m actually…

I never heard him coming.

Suddenly, someone grabbed my right tricep and my right trapezoid. The music was so loud that I was effectively deaf to any approach and I jumped from being startled. All I heard was,

“OK, your outta here. You have to go. Come on!”

Many, many thoughts and emotions bolted through me at that moment. I was startled and almost swung my elbow around out of instinct. It was only the authoritative voice that stopped me. Instantly, that was replaced by confusion. Did he not see that I had a yellow jacket? Could this be a big deal, enough for someone to lay hands on me?

Then anger, how dare he grab me like that. It wasn’t overly violent but was made more dramatic by my convulsing at being surprised by this sneak attack.

“Come on. Let’s go!”

"But I... "

"NOW!"

I fumbled for my camera case that was on the ground and crammed the camera inside it. It was embarrassment that was taking over and cooperation now that I realized that I had really made someone angry enough to grab me like that.

The night before, cameras were going off all over the place and the pit security leaned over to someone and told them they would overlook it if the flash didn’t go off. No flashes. So my next thought in the lightning round was that he might have thought I was using a flash.

How pathetic it must have sounded when I told him on the way out of the pit “There was no flash!!!”

Then came “I didn’t know. No one told me.”

Whoever this man with a “Security” shirt much more important-looking than my yellow windbreaker was, he wasn’t really all that interested in hearing my story.

The next emotion, closely tied to embarrassment was hyper-embarrassment because I realized that the Sergeant who let me into the pit was really going to catch Hell. He put me there and not 20 seconds later I was hauled out of there like a criminal, sputtering excuses about ignorance.

We rushed past the Sergeant who I never got to even look at and I offhandedly noticed he had gone to take my spot (his spot) in the pit. The security guy who was not looking happy told me “It’s lucky I saw you before the performer’s security saw you.”

What? How many flavors of security are we talking here?

He took me further backstage where the British lady was with a similar scowl on her face. While my embarrassment was still in full effect, a bit of anger flashed, probably misplaced, but I was not going to take an entire series of ass-chewings from these people. I had no illegal intent in this matter and I was ready to explain myself. But not over and over.

Now it was just the three of us and I explained that I didn’t know I was forbidden to take a picture. If I would have known, I would have never tried it. He repeated to me that it was lucky that he caught me and not Sarah’s security or there might be a lot more trouble.

Then, in a strange move, he turned to me and apologized for grabbing me like that. He said that he needed to get me out of there before “they” saw me. He then turned to her and asked what they should do.

“Well, I need to talk to him” and she motioned for me to follow her back to the locker room. I had explained myself and while I would reiterate my story to her, I was not going to allow myself to be treated like a criminal. But I was still shaken up over the whole thing.

When we got back to the locker room, I started in first, telling her I was unaware of the rules concerning picture taking, that if I knew, I would have never tried it, and that I now understand, based on their reactions, that it was wrong of me and that I officially apologize. As I was saying this, I was putting the camera in my bag and returning it to the locker, ending by holding up my arms to show her that I had no other equipment nor desire to break the rules again, knowingly or unknowingly.

She was also shaken but very gracious about the entire thing, likely based on the forthcoming explanation I had just given and then obvious embarrassment I had over the matter. She, too, was worried that I would have been caught by the other security team and only briefly mentioned that I was supposed to be watching the crowd and not taking pictures.

“Normally we don’t mind if people take pictures as long as they are not the long, professional lenses but you were right in front of the entire crowd. With a security jacket on.”

I asked her what she wanted me to do and she said to go back upstairs to my assigned area. I was shocked that it would be left at that but I knew that the Sergeant would have to answer to my actions and I knew I would have to take him aside to talk to him about it, as awkward as I knew that would be for the both of us.

For just a moment, after it happened, I must have lost my mind and thought we would get it straightened out and I could get returned to the pit. Then that moment was gone when the reactions became apparent. Then as I was leaving, there it was again. That moment where I thought I could ask. But then the common sense that had obviously been lacking returned and I made my way back upstairs.

It occurred to me that despite being very very embarrassed about the whole situation, only the Sergeant, the security guard, the British lady, and I knew what had happened. But I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed as I ran into a few of the other Marines who were watching the show. I wasn’t about to go back to Mr. “Follow Me” and just found a tunnel to stand in, sulking.

The embarrassment morphed. Shame.

I thought I could watch the concert but when I found a great spot (on the other side, 2nd level) with a great view, I found myself wanting to go home. It no longer mattered that Sarah was singing her little heart out on stage, singing songs I had listened to thousands of times. When I looked down, all I saw was the pit and another mixture of feelings washed over me.

“I could be there. Right there. Look at that, he could reach over his head and grab her ankle if he wanted to. I could be right there and see her singing as close as that. If I would have just been cool.”

“There is the Sergeant. I let him down. I really put him in a bad position and abused his trust. Look at him, sitting there, wondering what was going through my idiot brain.”

“Those pit security guys. They have a job to do, to watch the crowd. How silly I must have looked up on my haunches trying to take a picture. Look at that. Everyone could see me. And the guard at the end had a clear view of the stupidity I was performing. How could I have thought it was OK?”

I no longer wanted to be there. A couple times I left the tunnel but then I had nowhere to go and Mr. Follow Me was roaming around. I was afraid he’d snag me to watch some side door and I’d have to tell him where he could go. I had been through enough this night and didn’t want any more drama. I was through being a cog.

I tried to remember how many songs were left and when Sarah left the stage for the first time, I was glad. But there was a 4-song encore I had to sit through and as relieved as I was to get through it (a situation I could have never imaged with my beloved Sarah), my stress level was rising as I knew I’d have to face the Sergeant after the concert.

When we got back to the locker room, I looked for the Sergeant. I handed in my jacket to the British lady and nothing was said about the incident but I couldn’t find the Sergeant. I looked around and tried to figure out how I could pull him aside without making it too obvious and without putting the other security on high alert if we snuck away to some area where I was probably being watched to ensure I didn’t invade again.

When I found the Sergeant, I didn’t even give him time to say anything.

“We need to talk.”
“Sure, Sir.”

He told everyone to head out and we’d join them in a minute as I led him down a hall and out into a deserted hallway. Closing the door, I had no idea what he thought I was going to say but I bet it wasn’t what I actually said.

“OK, let me have it.”
“Have what, Sir?”
“Don’t give me that shit. I screwed up. You were in charge and in this situation, it is not Sergeant to Captain but superior to worker. If any one of those others would have done what I did, you would have their ass. I pulled a dumbass move and it’s your responsibility to do what must be done so take your best shot and show me what you got.”

He smiled.

“Sir, I’m not going to yell at you. This is a civilian operation and that’s not the way it’s done in the civilian world. You screwed up, you know you did, and that’s all that matters.”

“Look, I really didn’t know. If I thought for one second…”

“Don’t worry about it, Sir. It was a mistake and you obviously know it was.”

“Well, let me tell you this. No matter what you could have come up with, I guarantee you it couldn’t be worse than what I feel about it right now.”

“We’re just lucky the concert security didn’t see you doing it.”

“That’s what everyone keeps telling me. What the hell would they have done that everyone is so afraid of?”

“I don’t know, no one’s ever tried that before.”

“Thanks, that makes me feel a whole lot better.”

“I’m surprised they let you stay. Normally they would have taken your jacket and escorted you to the street. I don’t know why they didn’t.”

“OK, I need three things from you. First, did you or are you going to get an ass chewing from this? Because I want to tell them that I acted independently and that you are not to blame at all. I don’t want you taking heat for this.”

“No, Sir, it’s already done. No one is going to say anything else about it.”

“OK, second, are they going to pay you for my time? Because if they decide to not pay you because of what happened, I will reimburse your Ball fund of the amount you would have received for my hours.”

“Sir, they will pay us. You stayed the entire time and they didn’t kick you out. Don’t worry.”

“OK, and lastly, no one knows about this except you, me, and the other two security people. I would request it stay that way.”

“Don’t worry, Sir, I won’t tell the others.”

(BTW, I’m probably blowing that away if any of you guys are reading this but I didn’t want anyone to know that night).

“Well, I appreciate it and am truly sorry about all this. I doubt if I will be invited back.”

“Oh, no, Sir. If you want to work more concerts, we’d love to have you help out. Just let us know and we’ll get you in to any you want to work.”

I was amazed.

The car ride home was awkward. Only two of the 5 people in the car (the Sergeant and me) knew what happened but I was much quieter than I had been on the drive up. The Sergeant did a good job on including me in on the conversation as though nothing had happened but I couldn’t get over the cocktail of emotions I had running through me. It was with much relief that I bid farewell to the other Marines as I headed toward my car on base. It was well past midnight and all I wanted to do was get home.

But I was still haunted on the 40 minute ride home.

What was I thinking?

You always hear that if you learn some lessons from your mistakes, they were worth something.

I learned not to be blinded by my desire. I had wanted a picture (that I never got, by the way) so desperately, I overlooked the obvious.

I learned that I have a real problem with being at the bottom of the food chain. I never saw this one coming and while I thought I was OK with subordinating myself, I see that I’ve become accustomed to being in charge of situations and decisions.

I learned that one bad experience can sour the milk of something that has given pleasure for many years. I just can’t shake the negative feelings when I hear Sarah music now and I hope this is a temporary condition.

I learned that a Sergeant’s graciousness can be unlimited even when given a justified free shot at an Officer who made a bad move.

I learned that I can still make mistakes even after all these years of being “Officer-Trained.” This was the hardest lesson because I started falling for the infallibility of my choices and this experience made me be more aware of the decisions I make. Yes, in my profession I am rarely challenged and that makes it even more important to evaluate each decision with a very small-toothed comb. Because at best, the wrong decision is very embarrassing and at worst, it could cost someone their life.




Free Advice for Today:
"Be tactful. Never alienate anyone on purpose."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"Money isn't everything, But it sure keeps the kids in touch."

- Unknown

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Sarah McLachlan and No Fear

Today was the day. I had Sarah McLachlan concert tickets and I was thrilled because

1. Sarah is the goddesses of all music
2. It was only the second time I got to see her live
3. I got tickets through the fan club so it was within the first two rows
4. Isn’t that enough for you people?

If you keep up with my blog, you know that I’m a huge Sarah nut, that I’m pretty sure I’m a lesbian because of it, and that the only reason I joined her fan club was to get some CDs only available through the club (I mean, come on, I still have the remnants of a Y-chromosome). And since I got the tickets through the club, they play a little game of “Pick Them Up At Will Call And Only Then Will You Know How Close You Actually Are".

Carrie and I drove to Norfolk for the occasion and decided to make a day of it. After safely navigating to the location, we set out to the city to see how we could kill a half dozen hours in the raging metropolis that is Norfolk.

Unless you are into maritime history, Norfolk is not all that raging. We managed to find a mall and sunk $2 into a parking meter for as many hours. Once we got to the mall, we noticed there was a $5 valet service for all day so I went and got the Pilot, handing over my brand new vehicle to someone who likely didn’t have a high school education. I hoped she liked Enya because I let it play. I was counting on the soothing factor so she wouldn’t pull a Ferris Beuller’s Day Off on me.

The mall was great and we even snuck in a movie (Fevered Pitch). I love Jimmy Fallon (not that way, you perv!) and Drew Barrymore is actually starting to become palatable.

When we got to the concert, I was as excited as a little kid. Once again, I noticed the fan base was somewhat…how do you say… well… not of my exact demographic make up. Let’s just say that a lot of us batted for the same team. Uh, in case you took that wrong, let me clarify: just about everyone in the place liked chicks.

We got up to the Will Call window and with a shaking hand, gave them my ID. There was a tense moment when the employee (who I couldn’t help but imagine he might not even know WHO Sarah was) searched a few different piles for my tickets. If they didn’t have them, we’re talking mushroom clouds, folks.

He did end up finding them and when he handed this to us,

I had no idea exactly it put us on the floor.

“Let’s see, you are…about… second row… here.”

(My bowels opened.)

All I got out of my mouth was a garbled “Thanks” and walked off on wobbly legs.

Getting inside, I felt like a VIP when we were allowed to go in the “Floor Entrance.” The usher led us down to the stage area and we got closer… and closer…and closer…

By the time we got to our seats, I was ready to faint. I could see the detail of the metal cross pattern on the lead mic. We were so close, she would be RIGHT THERE.

Sarah.

Right there.

Never in my life had I been this close and as I sat there, ignoring the line of site to the microphone because it made me mental, I tried to imagine any other concert I’d rather be at. There was none. And I was mere feet from my single most favorite artist of all time. I would be able to hear her voice without the aid of the speakers!!! We were practically under her piano!!!

When the concert started, the front row wasn’t even filled all the way and Lady With A Peacock Up-Do sat right in front of me but we were to the right so my line of sight was not directly in front. The seat next to Cockatoo Lady was empty so yes, folks, my direct line of site was unobstructed. What was better is that the seat to my left was also empty so I could kind of sit sideways to see The Sarah more clearly (although it would be harder to be closer than I was without sitting in her lap.)

I was hoping that the opening band would be Anna Nalick. She had all the right possibilities: just came out with her debut CD, had a song climbing the charts (Breath (2 AM)) and had a definite “Sarah” flavor to her music. But instead, the band was called The Perishers and were from Sweden. They were your typical moody, skinny, young guys with angst filled love songs. And they dressed retro with Beatleesque hairdos. Yeah, yeah, yeah, your missing the girl but can’t get along with her, yadda yadda yadda, just bring on the Sarah.

The website specifically said no cameras. It even said they would be checking and you’d be asked to take it back out to your car if found. So like the little rule-follower I was, I left it in the car and felt like yet one more chance to get a Sarah pic was lost forever.

When Sarah came on stage, thousands of cameras in the crowd snapped like crazy. Great.

So in response, I whipped out my cell phone and tried to take a bunch of pictures with in. In the viewfinder, Sarah just glowed a bright light like she was in Cocoon. When I got around to downloading the pictures, I got crap like this so the viewfinder was accurate.

You can have a good phone or a good camera. But nary the two shall meet.

When Sarah came out, I was stunned. There she was. Right there. A living Sarah McLachlan singing just a few feet away from me. It didn’t seem real. I was really trying to grasp reality and understand that I was so close to someone who I’ve listened to for an uncountable amount of hours over the last decade.

My God, she was a living, breathing human being after all!

I had seen her show last year in New York and the order of the songs were a little different. Every song she sang, I knew. Word for word, note for note.

About halfway through, I realized she was singing songs she hadn’t in New York and this lead to the logical conclusion that she would have to leave some out. Would my favorite song, Fear be among those that got cut.

Well, it ends up, yeah. You would think I’d be upset about this but the combination of being so close and knowing I had seen her sing it in New York made it all alright. I let her live.

Carrie and I enjoyed the rest of the show and I was content that I had arrived in a point in my life where I could sit on the second row at a concert starring my favorite recording artist of all time and simply enjoy the music. Her voice was simply spectacular and we left talking about the wonderful concert we had just seen as we drove the few hours to get home.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Sarah was wearing a sleeveless shirt that showcased her arms. If you didn’t know it, I’m an arm guy and obviously Sarah knows this because she wore the shirt for my benefit. She knows it drives me crazy and she’s such a tease with those awesome arms. But I hardly noticed….




Free Advice for Today:
"Park next to the end curb in parking lots. Your doors will have half the chance of getting dented."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"In a hierarchical organization, the higher the level, the greater the confusion."

- Unknown

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Day Of Reckoning: Day 2

OK, still suffering over here!

“I can tell I’m getting better at these marathons not only because my times are getting better, but I’m recovering faster.”

DUMBASS!!!

Why? Why did you leave me burning in the desert without you? Oh, joyous pain-free legs. Where for art thou, you bastards?

I see dead people!

That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. GO PISS ON YOURSELF!!!

Now I know why Philippides bit it after the first marathon. He CHOSE to!!!!

No one touch me. Just get away. Don’t even think about touching me. In fact, when the subject of “me” comes around, “touching” should be as far away as possible and beat yourself in the head with a diamond mallet if you even get the urge to think about coming within 100 feet of me.

Can one really be tried for murder if it’s the family dog. Who jumped on, oh, I don’t know, let’s say… post-marathon legs?

Why Grandma… you’ve been dead for years…what are you doing here in….




Free Advice for Today:
"When a waitress or waiter provides exceptional service, leave a generous tip, plus a short note like, 'Thanks for the wonderful service. You made our meal an special experience'."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"If you screw with something long enough, it will break."

- Unknown

Monday, May 9, 2005

Day Of Reckoning: Day 1

I swear this is the statement I made yesterday:

“I can tell I’m getting better at these marathons not only because my times are getting better, but I’m recovering faster.”

What a freakin’ moron.

I was so sore this morning, I couldn’t get out of bed. And I’m not just saying “I can’t get out of bed” like an exaggeration or that I was just too lazy. I mean: I. Could. Not. Get. Out. Of. Bed.

Which made having to go to the bathroom a real challenge.

So I’m lying there basting in my own urine and feces (OK, maybe THAT’S exaggerating. I was more like lightly breaded in it.)

Actually, I got up and luckily, the bathroom is a lean and two stumbles from the bed. Then it was Frankensteining over to the phone to let work know that I made the command decision to extend leave for a day. Or two. Or fifty.

Wow, Jason, with a whole day off, you must have achieved gobs and gobs of the little things you’re always bitching about never having time to do.

You know, you shouldn’t mock the invalid like that. It’s unbecoming.




Free Advice for Today:
"Don't expect the best gifts to come wrapped in pretty paper."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"Once you open a can of worms, the only way to get them back is to use a larger can."

- Unknown

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Viper Slithers Home On Mother's Day

Waking up the morning after a marathon is always an interesting proposition. Of course, I slept like crap but when I was asleep, I was like at REM stage 45, near death, couldn’t fog a mirror type of sleep.

When I awoke in a hotel room in Vegas (it’s not often a story that starts like that ends very well), I was momentarily confused at where I was at and why someone had apparently removed my legs and replaced them with burning logs. I finally coaxed them off the bed and when they hit the carpet, all Hell broke loose.

Sir Phil had already been up and wandering around so I had the entire room to myself which was good since I didn’t want the whimpering to wake anyone up. I stiff-legged it to the bathroom and after a few goes at “Electo-Spikes From Legs To Brain” they started loosening enough to restore my sight somewhat.

Everything went smoothly getting to the airport up to the point that we boarded. We were in the last category of seating which meant we got hind tit on the seats (hello, middle seat) and the thought of having overhead bin space was a distant joke. I just didn’t have the will to fight since my defenses were down. Just give me a seat and allow me to be immobile for a half-dozen hours. I promise to try not to vomit.

Getting on the plane, there was only one person behind me. Since it was Southwest, there was no assigned seating and like all cattle, mooed my way to the back of the plane to find a non-existent seat. About halfway, a stewardess came at me and the guy in front of me and told me to turn around because there were no more seats. I had a problem with this because of a few reasons:

1. I thought I saw some seats back there
2. She did not have the cheery, stewardess on X attitude that I KNOW they teach at the Academy.
3. There was nothing but middle seats at the front
4. I had already put my computer in an overhead bin and going forward of the cabin would abandon it, requiring me to fight “upstream” to retrieve it.
5. I had enough lactic acid inside me to choke a horse

Turning around, there was only one person now behind me (lady previously in back of me deftly grabbed a seat already). As I got nearer to the front, I saw two open seats: one middle seat on the left and amazingly, one window seat on the right. But there was a small child on the lap of his mother in the middle seat. The kid had previously occupied the window seat but upon interrogation by Nurse Ratchet the Stewardomimatix, it turns up the kid didn't have a paid seat so had to give it up for the paying customers.

I had to make a split decision. Window seat good. Middle seat bad. Kid on lap. Bad. Fat guys on either side of middle seat bad.

I was temporarily confused on what to do. Should I… but then…. I could…. AHHHH!!!

So I’m sitting next to the kid and he shits his pants.

And I don’t mean Junior just made a little poo. This toxic waste dump gave birth to the most rancid butt-mud I have ever encountered. I think I lost vision for the second time this day for awhile and was surprised the oxygen masks didn’t come tumbling down.

What’s worse is that I seemed to be the only one offended by it. Of course the little mudd-butt didn’t seem to mind but what was more curious that mom and pops either didn’t know (quite impossible) or didn’t have the motivation to get off their own asses to take care of the situation. I was starting to believe it may have been one of them!

Then the turbulence started and it made it just a five star trip.

Laugh it up, jackasses.

When I finally got home (after a healthy dose of road rage because I’m, you know, a Level-5 Road Rager) I was pretty much a mess. Happy Mother’s Day!!!!

Yeah, here is the deal I made.

“How about we delay Mother’s Day until next week? That way we can do it right because to tell you the truth, right now, I’m not in a happy place. And I would not make your place a happy place either so for the sake of domestic tranquility, let’s do the belated approach, waddya say?”

Rest of night: let’s see, 6 hours of flying, 4 hours of driving, post-marathon lactic bath.

Do not go near the Daddy!

(Which made me feel real crappy considering here is a sample of the decorations when I got home)




Free Advice for Today:
"Pay attention to the details."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"I've learned that you can keep puking long after you think you're finished."

- Unknown

Saturday, May 7, 2005

Wild Wild West Trail Marathon Version 2005: The Return of Viper

Race day always starts early. Why does it have to start so damn early? Don’t answer that; I know why.

I had a really bad night’s sleep which is not uncommon for runners before a big race but my deal was not the norm. I was not nervous or even anxious about the race. I think the combination of reading Dean Karnazes’ stories about running 100 miles and the Badwater scare yesterday, 26.2 miles didn’t seem all that intimidating. I knew I was ready and had done all I needed to do to have a good race.

So why couldn’t I sleep worth a damn? Mostly it was the heat. For some reason I was cooking all night as I tossed and turned, ripping the bedding from all sides. I’m sure the maids made sure to change the sheets after they saw and assumed what was going on in that bed.

I got up, took my shower in our OWN BATHROOM just because I could while settling my nerves for the race. By now the early morning routine in Lone Pine was just that: routine. And since my body was still on east coast time, getting up at 0330/0630 was no problem. I was ready to get the race course under my feet.

We met Chris at the café which was renamed High Sierra Café. I asked the waitress why it wasn’t named PJ’s anymore and she simply said “She’s dead.”

OK, a little Asics Gel Kayano along with my eggs. Thanks.

I ate a light breakfast and for the first time, was social and talkative before the race. I told Chris a few more stories and realized this was the social aspect of racing I had always ignored. It felt good to share the stories and a good way to revisit my past experiences in preparation for this 6th installment of the Wild Wild West Trail Marathon.

The day was going to be perfect. Yesterday had seen scattered clouds but I just knew without being told that this day would clear up and be ideal for the run. Everything had fallen into place up to this point so it was a foregone conclusion that the weather would step up and give what it could in the form of a perfect running day. So it didn’t surprise me when the morning was a crisp, clear, windless desert sunrise. I had no excuses this day.

When we got to the course, Chris jumped out to check out the starting line as Sir Phil and I stayed in the warm car. I understood Chris’s need to go out there early, not only to check out the start line but to have a few moments to himself to prep the mind for what was about to happen. There is no more magical running experience than your first marathon and he needed to get his head into the game before putting the body through the grinder.

When it came time to leave the warmth of the car, I took a deep breath and said “Let’s do this” as I popped open the car door and stepped out. The cold air hit me but all I felt was the rush of the beginning of the journey.

Wait a minute, maybe that rush was of a different variety. Historically, I have written many stories about my inability to empty the barn before a race. This has become less of a problem over the years but somewhere in the back of my mind, the questions lingered.

Well, I thought, maybe I can be a hero at the rest room after we make our final preparations. I’m glad you asked. The “final “preparations” consist of applying lubrication to places you don’t want to talk about. And before you think this subject a little raw, try running a marathon without it. Nuff said.

Sir Phil popped the trunk and I rooted around for the plastic bag that had a jar of Vaseline, a tube of the same, and a humongaloid bottle of Coppertone. But there was a problem. Where was it? I know I got it ready and had it sitting next to everything else. I searched through the trunk, I searched through my luggage, I searched the entire car. I was freaking out.

After all of these years I have NEVER forgotten something so important. All the training, all the preparation, all the effort and I have to deal with no lube? Are you kidding me?

Well, maybe these shorts will do the job. Throughout my training, a pair of shorts and a specific shirt had risen to the top and proved themselves the most comfortable in my wardrobe. I had never had chafing issues with these shorts so maybe I could survive. I would have to depend on this.

If this is THE THING then that’s good. There’s always THE THING but each year it takes on a different form. Sometimes it’s getting to the race a little late and having to rush. Sometimes it’s not being able to find the drop bag site. Sometimes it’s not getting your earphones on before the race starts. And sometimes it’s not being able to empty your bowels before the race. Whatever it is, it’s always there and if forgetting my lube at the motel is the 2005 version, so be it. At least the wondering was over.

Coming out of the bathroom, practically skipping and feeling a smidgen too ecstatic about what had just occurred in the bathroom (the women’s again, just like at Badwater), I became what Sir Phil dubbed a “Lube Whore.” Yes, I had to ask perfect strangers for a heaping wad of grease to slather around my crotch. Obviously this took more than a little tact to pull off.

“Got any lube I could borrow?”

Right as I said it, the thought occurred to me that using the term “borrow” was way wrong. Just about as wrong as can get. I struck gold on my first try but the guy handed me what looked like a Speedstick. I didn’t exactly want to use the applicator, roaming the stick up, down, and around my most personal of areas. Just seemed as wrong as the “borrow” fiasco.

I rubbed it on my hand and as I did so, Sir Phil walked up and asked if he could partake. He was huffy about the fact that he couldn’t find one single person with an item that he considered a staple at the beginning of a race. When I handed him the stick, he dug his fingers into it creating big gouges in the soft bar.

OK, so that’s how you do it. I followed suite and before I knew it, I was nice and greasy. Let’s go run.

Sir Phil headed back to the car to get some extra socks and I headed toward the start line, shivering like a Chihuahua at a fireworks show. Looking ahead, I saw the woman I call “I Have Issues” (which was printed on her shirt yesterday) and accused her of being lost before the race even started.

“Hey, Snake.”

Great, that’s my new running name. You shit on one snake and you’re branded for all of time.

“Ooh, no, I know, how about ‘Viper’”?

Now “Viper” I can live with. “Snake” sounded way too phallic. And since you can’t pick your own nickname, I was glad to accept Viper from another runner, especially someone who had completed Badwater. It don’t get any more official than that.

“How fast do you plan on running this?” I asked. She looked at me like I had just spoken Swahili.

“Oh, I get it. Run when you can, walk when you have to.”
“Yep, that’s pretty much it. But anything under 5 ½ hours would be great.”

At this point, I felt pretty good because I knew this woman could run and that was my exact goal. So if I found myself anywhere near her toward the end of the race, I knew I’d be golden. But I wanted to run this race by myself so I wasn’t interested in company during the entire race. I wanted to put my headphones on and ignore the time and mile markers. Just go.

The warm and fuzzy I got when I found out her goal dissipated when I realized she was running the 50 K and not the marathon. She wanted to finish 32 miles in under 5 ½ hours instead of my 26.2 in the same time frame.

OK, back to reality. Thanks for the foray in the elite world for just a heartbeat.

Sir Phil showed up 10 seconds before the race started with regular tube socks around his hands. I took a few pictures and got my camera put away just in time to hear Ben Jones count down 10 seconds. At zero he blew his canned foghorn and I was off.

My approach this year was simple. Keep a study pace, stay strong through the points where I historically falter, run while I can (but control it) and walk only when necessary.

The only specific strategy I had thought about over the last few days had to do with the beginning. Because the first 3 miles are uphill, most people end up walking the majority of it. I had a choice of either trying to make up time by running it or save my strength for the end of the run. If I hammered my way up the mountain, would I be spending what I would need at the end? I never came to a firm conclusion about this before the race and just shot from the hip based on how I felt.

I guess I ended up with a happy medium. I ran portions of this first leg that, in past years, I had walked. But I definitely had to walk at points. After about 10 minutes, I was surprised to realize I was still running. Never had I gone this long at the start without stopping. I also looked around and saw that I was near the front of the entire pack of runners and could even see the front-runner in the distance. This was weird. Never had I been in such a position in 10 marathons and 2 ultras.

At about 16 minutes, I had a short conversation with a bearded man. His first comment was “It’s not all like this.”

“I know. This is my 6th time. I know this ends and I don’t judge the book by this bastard cover.”
“I won it last year.”

I was running next to last year’s runner? Sixteen minutes into the race and I was stride for stride with #1 guy last year? WTFO?

One of the most surprising moments of the race happened awhile later. I was alternating running/walking up the steepest part of this first leg when suddenly I got to what I thought was yet another false summit. Looking over the edge, realization spread across me like honey poured on my head. I was at the top.

Wait a minute. I’ve run this before. Many times. And I know what I feel like when I get to the top. In fact, it normally goes like this.

I start to walk.
Then I start to cuss.
The course cusses back with more hills.
I push on my thighs.
I sweat profusely the clean sweat of perspiration that hasn’t had time to ferment.
I wonder when the top will arrive.
I get dejected over and over again as I reach false summit after false summit.
When I finally stumble to the apex, I’m more mad than happy with a “it’s about f$#%ing time” attitude.

But this was different. I was still strong. And I was not paying attention, convinced that since it had yet to start to get testicle-crushing, the top was nowhere near. But suddenly, there I was looking over the edge and turning around to see the now-familiar spot I take a picture of each year. I was barely winded.

I shivered at my potential.

Oh, this is going to be one hell of a race.

Coming down the steep backside of the mountain and down to the first creek, I hurried at the front of a line of runners. I even threatened a woman behind me that she was not going to pass me and that I’d trip her if I had to. I said it in a joking manner and she might not have realized that I really meant it. OK, maybe not but I was on a giddy high.

You would think that after so many years I would have a solid mental picture of the course. But then consider, I’m damn near retarded sometimes. I remembered the uphill switchback that came next but after that, I thought I’d encounter the sweetness of Hogback Road, a 7 mile gentle downhill that will treat you to sub 7-minute miles if you get out of the way and let gravity do the work.

There was a downhill and I took it with abandon. No rest stops, just good old fashioned running. I just let myself fall down the hill while controlling my foot placement. I wasn’t even feeling winded as I glided down; strength balanced with relaxation.

This all came to a crashing end when I unexpectedly hit a big uphill. What the hell was this? I don’t remember this and maybe that was a good thing because it was hurting me. I started to walk and it seemed to me that Hogback Road was a lot shorter than I remember.

Suddenly, the path let out to a hardball and across the street was a sign that said Hogback Road. What the hell? Wasn’t that other one Hogback? But if that’s so then that means…

There was a slight incline to an aid station. Up to this point, I had minimized my time at the aid stations, knowing that I could make up valuable minutes from past years when I lingered too long. I also minimized my food intake, concentrating on water and cytomax drink, making sure I drank more water than cytomax. I needed hydration but Gu would take care of my nutritional needs.

Looking down the path, I saw what I now remembered; the big slide called Hogback. I turned to the aid station workers and said “They should call this place ‘The Launch Pad’.” After downing another cup of water, I took a deep breath and called out “Yippe Kay Yay, motherfucker!” and threw myself down the mountain.

I don’t know how fast I went. I don’t know exactly how far I kept pace. But I do know that I have NEVER, EVER experienced anything remotely like the next hour.

I was on a treadmill set for 6 ½ minute miles.

My lungs were enormous bellows.

My stride was twice my normal length.

I was a runner. A horse that never tires. I had cruise control on and was just enjoying be along for the drive.

I didn’t question it. I accepted that the Piper was being paid and unlike the normal direction of the transaction, I was the recipient. Paid in full for endless training runs, aching muscles, refused junk food, and crushing fatigue. Here is where we were settling up.

“You know you are going to pay for this.”
“Shut up.”
“You’ve never gone this fast for this long.”
“I know.”
“And you think you will get away with this scott-free?”
“Shut your f$#% mouth!”
“Remember the cramps last year at mile 20?”
“I’m prepared. Running is 90% mental.”
“Yes, but even 10% can knock you out of the race.”
“I said SHUT UP!!!!!”

By the time I got to the bottom, I was nervous. Good God, what just happened? I have a shot at cracking 5 hours. No, I refuse to think about that. Don’t even do the math. Just run and let the time take care of itself. Just keep running through the parts you faltered in past years. Just run.

Strange moments just kept appearing. Specific milestones in the race, points that I remember were coming into view way before I expected them. I knew I was running faster and stronger than I ever had at this race but I couldn’t shake the feeling of awe when I got to an aid stationed I’d remember from previous years and it seemed I shouldn’t be there yet. It’s like the distances were compressed and it fed on itself. I wanted to get to the next point even faster and it felt like an addiction. Would I pay for this later? I didn’t feel like I would so I kept going.

Reality has a way of bringing you back to your senses and I wasn’t as foolish as to think there still wouldn’t be challenges. The hills that had crushed me over the years were still there, waiting patiently. One in particular was Mother Hill which is a massive switchback at about mile 18. The good news was that it was mostly downhill after that so all I had to do was make it up this monster.

I discovered a method that worked really well. In past years, I had just let big hills like this get into my head and resigned myself to walk up them. Running the entire thing was unthinkable but walking it took so much time. So this year, I would run until it got really steep. Then I would walk and pick out a point ahead where I would walk to before starting running again. At the same time, I picked a farther point that I would run to, setting the distance in my mind and convincing my body that all it had to do was run that distance and I would get back to the walking. Then the cycle would start over again. It was a definite give and take trade-off, bartering situation for the body and it worked beautifully.

I got to the top of Mother Hill to see that Ben Jones was there. I intended to get some sunscreen on my arms and some lube but my mind was reeling by the time I got to the top and I got in a quick conversation with Ben.

“Hey, are we done yet?”
“You keep asking that.”
“Well, if you find me curled up in the fetal position down the road, you can go ahead and spit on me.”

With that, I was off and enjoying the hard-earned downhill.

Going through the Alabama Hills was easier than I had ever encountered. I found that I was all alone, not seeing another runner in front nor in back of me. The temperature had risen but it was still in the 70s, maybe dipping into the low 80s. I still felt strong and the small inclines and declines didn’t seem to bother me as they had in past years. No cramps showed up so I was excited about being able to run like a runner through this scenic portion of the race. Lots of boulders. Lots and lots of boulders that made me smile. Maybe the heat WAS getting to me.

I still had one big nemesis to contend with. The Buttcrack.

A few years ago, they changed up the course so the ending went through a rocky, hilly range and ended at the town park. It was a trade with the uphill sand finish originally designed but with the hills, it was an even swap. The new portion, looked at topographically, resembles a large ass and we had to run right up the center, thus the name Sir Phil and I dubbed it the first year it was in effect.

This portion of the race was notoriously terrifying for me, not because of the prospect of running up Lone Pine’s ass, but because I have weak ankles. I mean like baby-weak butter ankles so crawling around a narrow horse trail with steep inclines and declines means the rock strewn path represented a definite challenge. I was still strong, confident that I could attack this portion based on all the other challenges so far had bowed down for the first time ever for me.

I knew a twisted ankle could change this in a step. Or the cramps could bring my pace to a pained walk. Like most athletes, the only thing that was scarier than a bad day was a seemingly good day when nothing has reached out to bite you. Yet.

And my training has not been ideal for this kind of terrain. In fact, I did absolutely no training on anything but road so why I think I can kick butt on trails, I don’t know. Probably the same logic that allowed Vegas and beer.

You can run most of this race like a road race if you accept you will have to walk the steeper portions. But in this technical area, foot placement must be your focus and for me, even more so due to my ankles. It wasn’t even like running, more like walking over hot coals. Your knees come high and you “hop” along the trail making a constant decision loop with where you will step, how you will shift your weight, how you will commit your next few steps, where to speed up, where to slow down. It’s a very intuitive existence and one that will make you pay dearly for one small miscalculation.

I guess it takes your mind off the fatigue because I seemed to have Spidy-sense as I was running. Like I knew the path I needed to take before I got there and it was almost like my feet knew where to go. There was a barely detectible rhythm in it and I made good time. Not spectacular but my metric was simply to run better than past years when I died a thousand deaths on this trail.

The cramps around my knees started about halfway through. They were old friends and I wasn’t surprised to see them arrive but I had a conversation with them right away, to set the record straight.

“OK, I understand, it’s been a rough day and I’ve asked a lot. But we got a great time going, the best ever in fact, so while I understand what you’re saying, I can’t let you take over this time. Shut up. Go away.”

Amazingly, they listened and in the end, it was just this momentary whining. In past years, these same cramps had brought me to a pained walk and killed any chance I could hope for for a respectable finishing times.

I was halfway through this final test of terrain and I knew my reserves were being used. The hills started to be really, really tough. Since it was such a hilly area and the path meandered, I could not see an end to my suffering. My armor was being stripped, piece by piece as I turned corners to see another valley and corresponding uphill.

“OK, all other transition points have come up faster than expected, it’s got to be around that next corner.”

Another hill.

“Ok, well, then it must be the next one…”

This went on and my mood started to sour. I didn’t want to succumb but it was getting harder and harder to negotiate after every hill. Just when I thought I could not take another one, an even bigger hill appeared. I felt it was taking super-human effort to stave off the anger and negotiated for the next hill.

I finally broke when I was reduced to pushing on my thighs and stumbling up a particularly nasty upgrade. I called out, cussing impressively, not caring if anyone could hear me. I should have been past this portion and it was ridiculous that I had to deal with this. I was running the best race of my life and suddenly, due to some supernatural fluke, the course had extended and I was made to endure an extended version of the toughest part of the course. What the hell was going on here? Why am I such a ….

I got to the top and saw that it was over. It was like the course was testing me, seeing how much I could take. Hill after hill, I had accepted its trials and the minute I cracked, it relented.

Was it evil intent? “Take this and this and this… OK, you broke. I got you. You failed again. Your faith is weak. I’m done with you.”

Or was it the patient teacher? “You accepted what I threw at you over and over and over. When you found your limit, I realized you had gone further than you had ever gone. And that is all I wanted to teach you today. No reason to be evil about it. Here is the end. You are getting stronger and I hope you take away what I wanted to teach you today. Come back next year and we’ll continue the lesson.”

Coming out of the hills, I was happy but knew I was still not out of danger completely. The fact remained that I had pushed hard and like baseball, it ain't over until it’s over. I could still blow it and at this point, I was weaker than I had been all day. I was feeling the heat and despite drinking at every station, I was feeling the tale-tell signs of acute dehydration.

I came across the cone that said 24 miles. Looking at my watch, I was at 4 hours, 40 minutes. For the first time, I did the math and since it was so easy, I entertained the fact that all I had to do was 2 10-minute miles to crack 5 hours.

Could I do this? I had yet to put a solid, specific time requirement and didn’t want to endanger myself. Was the very reason I didn’t consider pace during the race the magic excelsior than got me to this point. And would it evaporate the second I throw in a time hack?

But I could crack 5 hours.

I train at 10 minute miles.

I have 2 miles of straight road.

I can die at the end.

But I would have to commit. I would have to risk disappointment. Why did it have to be so close? Why would I have to push hard instead of being able to glide in?

I picked up the pace and realized it would be a rough order. But it was possible. It was within reach…

About ¾ of a mile later, I was given yet another dose of reality. For the second time in the race, cramps showed up. This time, in my hamstring but it wasn’t a big production. It was just a quick spasm that sent a bolt of pain up my leg, up my spine, and landed in my brain like a javelin vibrating in the ground.

It was a warning.

Call it justification but a few things went through my head at that moment.

First, I had been reading the book about ultraracing and there was a story about a guy who made it 99 miles into a 100 mile race and collapsed. The people that were helping him asked him if he knew what “DNF” meant. He answered “Yeah, it means ‘Did Not Finish’” which is what they record if you drop out of the race. They said “It also means 'Did Nothing Fatal'” and what they were trying to say is that sometimes, it’s wiser to accept a setback rather than doing something that will endanger your health, permanently. It’s a tough subject for ultra runners but one every one has to contend with at some point.

Next, I realized that even if I asked my body for two back to back 10 minute miles (a tall order at the end of a marathon, especially this day’s), I still had the .2 miles to contend with.

If there is one things that bugs me more than the question “How long is the marathon you are running?” (all marathon are 26.2 miles by definition), it has to be when people leave off the .2 miles. Anyone that has ever run a marathon knows about that .2 miles because by then, progress is measured and paid for with individual, pain-filled steps. Leaving off that “.2” is insulting. I pay dearly for that .2 and I’ll be damned if others round it down for convenience.

So even if I cranked out the 10 minute miles, I would still be short .2 miles and that would put me over the 5 hour mark anyway. I would have to do better than 10 minute miles and even that, as my legs were informing me, was a highly risk-filled proposition.

I knew I would crush my PR anyway and to tell the truth, I’ve rather come in at 5:10 than 5:00:10. So I pulled back and did what I could while keeping mind and body at bay. I would cruise in to victory.

Crossing the finish line, I clicked my watch and saw that it read 5:04:36.

I did it. I was a runner and looking around, I saw there weren’t that many people around me. This was striking to me because the first few years, I had come in and they had already started tearing everything down and were long done with the awards ceremony. I had come in those years to one or two people who hung out to hand out finishing medallions to the slow-runners.

This year there were few people around for a very different reason. They were still out on the course.

I came in 17th overall and seeing my bib slip stapled to the board, under the very few that were already there, I almost cried. It was almost too much to take in.

Sir Phil came in 8 minutes later. With only two training runs under his belt (a 20 miler I forced him on and an 8 miler we agreed to do on base), he accomplished yet another freakish feat. Sometimes I hate Sir Phil. I train my ass off, he doesn’t, yet he comes in a mere 8 minutes later than me.

Standing there, still reeling from my finish, one of the ladies walked up to me and ignoring that I was about to fall over, informed me that I was wearing the wrong bib.

“You have the number of a female. You must have got them switched somehow on the course. Did you run into her during the race?”

In my depleted state, I wondered just what kind of logic this woman was using. “Yeah, we slammed into each other and lo and behold, our pins came undone, the bibs were swapped, and repined themselves on our racing shirts.”

Or better yet, we found some boulders and retreated for a little run break after which we accidentally put on the wrong racing shirt. Happens all the time.

I realized what the problem was and had to once again explain how active.com had somehow switched my information with my 10-year-old daughter’s. Here was yet another person who thought there was a ten-year-old somewhere out on the course.

Straightening all this out required me to explain it to no less than two more people before they got it straight, assuming they did.

Which they didn’t. Here is the “official” result.

Bib Name Home Race Sex Age Cat Time
201 STEPHANIE GROSE Fredericksburg VA Marathon F 10 <20 5:04:36

Another first for this race is my post-marathon routine. This time, I just fell over in the warm grass and let the shining sun heal my wounds. I laid there in the grass, took off my shoes and socks, and did a whole lot of not moving. We were waiting for Chris to come in because Sir Phil had promised a ride for him back to his hotel. I was in no rush since all we had to look forward to was a long car ride back to Vegas.

I got to talk to “I Have Issues” and found out she did well. She introduced me to a friend of hers and we all sat there in the sun and talked about running. Another social aspect I’d always shied away from but sitting there in the glow of the afternoon sun, reveling in my best Wild Wild West marathon time, I felt that for once, I had a legitimate shot in fitting into this culture and the possibility of a run at Badwater was, for the first time, real.

The other runner had never seen my site so “I have Issues” brought up the snake story so I had to give the live reading of the story. After hearing it, I was assured by both that I definitely had the personality for the ultrarunning culture and that they’d would, without a doubt, embrace my sense of humor, storytelling, and skewed view of the world in general.

As a side note, it seems that Sir Phil was running with a Badwater alum and keeping with tradition, dubbed him “Badwater Guy” as an identifier. So Badwater Guy and Sir Phil were chatting on the course when they heard “Princess coming through!” Turning around, Sir Phil recognized none other than “I Have Issues” herself. She knew Badwater Guy and she joined in the chatting.

At some point that I’m sketchy about, Badwater Guy teases “I Have Issues” about some inside joke/story involving two jars of honey. Sir Phil never got the inside scoop on this (but assumed it was not as sordid at it sounds). Whatever the story, it caused Sir Phil to dub yet another famous name.

So Sir Phil, Badwater Guy, and Honey Jugs continued on for awhile, chatting up a storm. I really need to get their real names and let me officially apologize if you guys are reading this.

We couldn’t wait any longer and had to leave. I felt bad, knowing Chris was on the course but there was plenty of people to give him a ride down the street if need be. We had to get to Vegas to meet another Horseman.

I convinced Sir Phil to make a pitstop at the Dow Villa just in case they had not trashed my bag. The jar of gel was almost gone but the tube of lube was almost new and the bottle of Coppertone was expensive stuff.

I hobbled into the Dow Villa where the receptionist was obviously busy talking to her boyfriend on the phone. I quickly explained to her that I left something in my room but had checked out. Interrupting me, she asked what room and without interrupting her conversation, she pulled out a key to room 250 and handed it to me while looking away, engrossed in her conversation.

Steady, Jason.

I painfully went up to the room and the door was wide open. The room had been cleaned and my heart sank. In the hall I saw a large trash barrel on wheels and it occurred to me that it might still be in there. I walked over to it and fished around the top, not wanting to go full dumpster dive. I heard voices in the stairway right across the hall and I didn’t exactly want to be caught digging through the trash, getting a little irritated that the only spot I could be seen doing this was the only spot in the abandoned hall this can was placed.

Finally, I figured the voices were the maids and poked my head around the corner. There were two Mexican men staring out the window looking at some guests at the pool and talking in Spanish. I cleared my throat and they looked embarrassed.

I told them what I was looking for and one of them translated it into Spanish to the other. The translated answer I got was that it was down at the front office.

Now I was pissed. It was hard enough to go up the stairs but to do so for no reason and the reason I was made to do this was because Miss Attitude at the desk was more interested in her phone call than her guests really caused some blood boiling.

Going downstairs, there was yet another person at the desk and after explaining the situation to her, she went to the back room and came out with my bag. I had a combination of relief and contempt but was too tired to do anything but hobble out to the car to an irritable Sir Phil who wondered what the hell took me so long.

We made our way to the local high school for showers. Again, the routine took over and I discovered something about myself. I realized I was getting better at these races not only based on the faster finishing times but also because I’m less and less destroyed after a race the more of them I run. Past years had seen me shuffling around painfully trying to get a shower at this school but while I was in no way “normal,” I was at least mobile with a minimal amount of pain. Now there’s a rousing endorsement for running a marathon!!!

We had a limited choice about what to eat. The marathon decided to do away with the post race lunch at the park which, to me, was more important than the spaghetti dinner the night before. I mean, I would easily pay $10 for a cold cut spread after the marathon and consider it a bargain but opt for Pizza Factory the night before rather than the race dinner.

Because we wanted to get on the road, McDonalds it was. I know, nasty. And I paid.

The drive back to Vegas was uneventful. I was fighting the post race meltdown and vegged the entire way. The fact that I was on the Badwater course again had less of an impact than the day before but I still stayed awake the entire time and didn’t do anything but sit hypnotized by the desert scenes passing all around me. Over 5 hours of desert beauty and I didn’t blink once.

We were lucky to find a hotel because Vegas on a Saturday night was in high demand. The place we found was a La Quinta Inn and I was duly impressed. It was 98% full when we arrived but they got us a room at a military discount ($100 down from $120). It was on the second floor and a smoking room but of course it was on the second floor (we had just run a marathon, didn’t we?) and I forgot it was a smoking room until just now. So I guess either it didn’t stink to high heaven or I was just torn to pieces and didn’t notice.

It was time to go meet Brent, one of the other Horsemen who just returned from Iraq after 13 months, 11 days of service there. In Falluja. He made the trip to Vegas with his wife and two daughters to see us. OK, the bastard came to gamble but we accepted our role as a thinly veiled excuse to come to Vegas. We’ll take what we can get.

Of course, Sir Phil cannot make an evolution like this simple. He’s Sir Phil.

We were to meet in front of the Venetian Hotel/Casino which is located right on the Strip. So almost by requirement, Sir Phil had to find a parking location that required us to walk farther than my patience could silently accept. I bitched. He bitched back. I pointed out that we had just run a marathon and then sat in a car for 6 hours afterwards. He pointed out that walking was good. I pointed out that he could, in fact, bypass the crack of my ass and kiss the very hole.

We met up with Brent and his family, bickering like an old married couple. It was good to see Brent and he looked the same. Melissa had lost 20 pounds. War is hell for more than just the fighters.

Brent told us all about his adventures as we told him about ours over dinner. We ate at one of the restaurants in the casino and I had, of all things, lasagna again. What better post marathon food could possibly exist and the fact that I had it for diner last night was irrelevant.

After dinner we went up to their room and saw the girls. It had been over a year and like all kids, they changed a lot since I had seen them. Of course, I gave them hugs and Sir Phil gave them nods. In other words, I was being Jason and he was being Sir Phil.

We returned to the casino and Melissa decided to stay with the girls. I think she somehow sensed that the Horsemen needed a little time and we retired to the casino bar. Brent told us what it was like over in Iraq as we drank beer. Once again, after a long absence, ¾ of the Horsemen were together and it was enthralling to get first-hand stories of what was going on in the war. It was good to have Brent back and I realized just how much I had worried about him and his family when he was gone.

I was fading fast. After the crappy night’s sleep, the early wake up, the race, the 6 hour drive, an emotional reunion, a big fat meal, and two beers pushing on midnight, I was fork-worthy. Stick me, I’m done.

We bid our farewell to Brent but the good news was that he was being stationed in Lejeune this summer and would be 5 ½ hours away. This was good because it guaranteed holiday trips to see him and his family and also required him to make the same time/money sacrifices to get to the Wild Wild West Marathons from the east coast like Sir Phil and I had paid two years running. Write the check, you cheap lazy bastard!

The night ended with a different kind of debt payment. I sent this note to Brent when he went to Iraq along with a 4 leaf clover.

Tonight, he handed it back to me and as required, did so in person over a beer. The clover got another Marine back from war safe. And it won’t be the last.




Free Advice for Today:
"At least once, date a woman with beautiful red hair."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."

- Yoda in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

Friday, May 6, 2005

Prepping For Battle

I slept in this morning. I got up at 0441 which is 3 whole minutes later than yesterday. I thought I’d push my limits this morning. Of course Sir Phil was up and out first thing and made his way over to the car rental place to get our chariot into the desert. Seems our chariot was a midsize sedan, the make of which escapes me but as the saying goes, do you know what kind of car can go 100 miles per hour in reverse? That’s right, a rental.

This day was going to be incredible and I was primed to soak it all in, capturing as much as I could of the events I knew would move my personal tectonic plates. I was going to see the Badwater course and despite my triumphant return to Lone Pine by day’s end, this pit stop was going to define my day, my trip, and possibly more.

Driving into the desert, we came across our first snag when we drove up to a flagger who held up her STOP sign. It was almost like a mirage because it was right on the other side of the Nevada border, in the middle of nowhere when we hadn’t seen another car for miles. The lady came over and told us that we just missed the pilot car and it would be about 25 minutes.

Naturally, we made a nuisance of ourselves. Sir Phil turned off the car and we got out to shoot the bull with flagger chick whose life must be filled with alternating strange and numbingly boring events as she stands in the middle of the desert holding a sign for 12 hours at a pop. This day, she was treated to two Marines from Virginia on their way to a marathon. Since Sir Phil is a black belt Putz and I am PIT (Putz In Training), we bickered like an old married couple much to the amusement of flagger chick.

After ½ hour the pilot car showed up and escorted us across a 10 mile swath of desert but what confused us was that there was no reason for it. The crews were not blocking the road and we even passed a second pilot car coming the other way so if they allowed traffic in both directions and there was no blockage of the road, what was the use of going 30 MPH? Flagger chick told us they are maintaining the escort service (not that kind, pervs!) 24 hours a day so it must be just to pay the poor schmucks willing to hold a sign in the middle of the desert for 12 hours.

Question of the day I came up with: “So, if you’re out here for 12 hours, I hope you brought a good book.” <chuckling at my own wit.>

At this, I got a blank look from flagger chick.

Wow. Really.

All this down time and no interest in reading. It occurred to me that these people are either painfully simple or leagues deep, with enough time for personal reflection to really discover their deepest thoughts. I'd be hardcore insane looking in those places.

When we finally got through all of this, it was a few more miles before we came across the sign that gave me goose bumps. Badwater. It was a left turn that we would have to take all the way and then turn around because I wanted to see the famous beginning and drive the entire course.


(I'm breaking out this portion due to space constraints. It deserves its own page anyway. Go here to read about my initial contact with the Badwater course)


After leaving the end of the Badwater route, we got back down the mountain and reconnoitered the start line like every year before. We saw the Brent Norquist Memorial Shit Rock where our fellow Horseman deposited more dung than you can imagine.

Getting back to the Dow Villa, we checked in and when I told the woman my name, she looked up my reservation and pulled out a sheet of paper with a quizzical look. The look then turned to a sly smile as she handed it to me and I wondered what the hell was going on. This is the fax that she handed me.

I had no idea at first who this person was. My confusion seemed to be contagious because she asked “Do you know a Captain Grose?” I told her that I WAS Captain Grose but didn’t recognize the name of the sender. I then recalled that this person had sent me more than a few emails and the mere unexpectedness of the fax was tripping up my memory. This man had read my past stories, realized I stayed at the Dow Villa every year, and faxed a note of encouragement that was waiting for me at check in. I was slightly embarrassed until the good vibes about what had just happened sunk in.

We got the same room we had in past years. It was an adjoining room with a bathroom but the other room was locked. In past years, we had stayed in the other room and the crappy deal was that they had to use the common bathroom in the hall. This year, we got the shitter and reveled in our situation. Well, not really. That came out all wrong. Oh, never mind.

It was time to hit the town. The first stop was the drug store because I had run out of battery juice in the camera and needed some water, too. But after waiting for 15 minutes while the two confused workers stumbled through filling out hunting licenses for people in front of us, we decided they didn’t want our business bad enough. The final straw was when one of them told me to come over to the other register and when I did, someone else was there and needed a license. Meanwhile, the original person I was waiting behind at the other counter left and was replaced by someone else (that should have been me) and the other attendant started helping him. And what was the transaction? Another hunting license.

“We’re so outta here.”

Yes folks, my service curse extends all the way to small California towns.

We rented the same copy of Gladiator and headed to Jake’s Saloon for a cold beer. That turned into two cold beers. And Sir Phil chickened out of the sand table puck sliding game that I beat his ass at last year. No one likes a coward, Sir Phil.

We dropped our supplies off at the hotel and headed to the junior high for the package pickup. When we got there, I saw Badwater Ben (go here for an explanation of who this is) and saddled up next to him. He looked at me like I was from Mars until I introduced myself and we had a great conversation.

He informed me I was sitting at the “Badwater” table and pointed out a half dozen people who had run the race. I felt like a little kid sitting at the grown up table. I was humbled beyond description.

I also told him that I was going to run the Umstead 100 Mile Race next April and he pointed out a woman that I should talk to. I was amused that she was wearing a shirt that said “I Have Issues.” But I wasn’t finished talking to Ben about his webpage and we talked for awhile. When I got up to leave and talk to “I Have Issues,” she was gone so Sir Phil and I made our way out of the gym and looked for the Hat Lady.

Last year, someone was selling hats that had the race logo on it and the date of the race on the back. I balked at buying one at first but changed my mind which was a good thing because I’ve worn it practically every day since. We both wanted to get this year’s version but the Hat Lady was nowhere to be found.

Outside, we ran into a guy with the same hat and informed him that they were not selling them this year and Sir Phil piped in with the statement that apparently the husband made them and the woman sold them. The man informed us that he was “the husband” and yes indeed, there would be no hats this year because they were too much work.

Too much work?

He’s lucky that I appreciated last year’s hat so much or he would have received my rant on the concept of “too much work.”

It was time to get something to eat so we made our way back to the vaunted Pizza Factory for the annual “We Toss ‘Em, They’re Awesome” Festivus. As we were about to enter the establishment, I saw “I Have Issues” walking into, of all places, the Dow Villa right across the street. I pointed her out and Sir Phil told me to call out to her.

“Like I’m gonna just scream across the street at her. I don’t even know her name and she has no idea who I am. Obviously she can run faster and farther than I can.”

So we entered the pizza place and got in line. As we talked, a voice kept telling me that I was going to miss my opportunity to talk to this woman about the Umstead so I decided to take action. Right as this thought occurred to me, the man behind us said “Hey, aren’t you Captain Grose?

“Uhh, yes.”
“And you run a webpage and have stories about this race?”
“Uhhh, yes.”
“Man, you’re famous.”

<blush>

“I read all of those and looked around your website. They’re great.”

Not knowing exactly how to react to this because the only thing I take worse than criticism is praise, I turned to Sir Phil and said “Hey, give me your stuff and I’ll take it to the room. Maybe I can catch her in the lobby. Order a lasagna for me and I’ll be right back.”

When I got across the street, “I Have Issues” was nowhere to be found. I went to the room and dropped our bags before returning to the lobby and much to my surprise, she came walking through the lobby at the same time.

Here is where I turn scary stalker guy.

“YOU!” pointing at her. Her eyes got a bit too big and I hurriedly tried to allay her fears.

“My name is Jason and I’m running the race tomorrow. Ben Jones referred me to you and…”

She interrupted me and said, “Are you a Marine?”

“Uhhh, yeah.”
“And did you run the Bishop 50 Miler a few years ago?”
“Uhhh, yeah.”
“I ran with you for like 10 miles toward the end.”

Now things were weird. I had absolutely no memory of this person. End of the 50 miler? Yep, not surprising. I couldn’t remember anything except…

“And you wrote that story on your website about the snake.”

Oh shit.

“Yeah, that’s me.”

(For those of you that don’t know, I shit all over a snake during that race. Here is the story.)

We talked about the Umstead and she gave me advice centering around getting good pacers. I was thrilled at this advice because I had thought about pacers but didn’t know exactly what the details were about using one.

As we talked, the memories started floating back and I remembered running with her. I was actually embarrassed at my initial ignorance but was glad I could pull out the memories after talking with her for a short time. And in the span of a few minutes, two people had recognized me from my webpage. This was indeed a strange day.

By the time I got across the street again, Sir Phil was seated outside and waiting for the food. Chris, the guy who had recognized me in line, was sitting with him and I joined the conversation. It seems Chris was a first time marathoner and had used my stories as a sort of prep guide. Poor bastard.

But he seemed to know what I did right and wrong, accomplishing his own training based on the lessons I had learned the hard way. We told him about the course and after a few beers, I relayed a few of my stories, the live version. I gobbled down the lasagna and talked my fool head off. It was his own fault because he seemed interested in the history we had made for ourselves in this race and soaked in all the advice we could give. This day just couldn’t get any weirder.

Chris was worried about getting to the start line on time so Sir Phil offered to have him join us in the traditional breakfast at the café and we’d give him a ride out to the start line. We bid farewell and told him to meet us in the café at 0430.

Getting back to the room, I started my ritual. I laid out all my clothes and made decisions about what I’d where, what my timeline would be, and then packed away everything I didn’t need. All my stuff was laid out, ready to go and my bags were by the door. I thought about breaking out the computer and writing some because I knew today’s entry would be a monster, just like tomorrow’s. But I gave myself a break and curled up in bed to relax and watch Gladiator.

This lasted about 45 minutes.

I had some licorice (another tradition) and some peanuts. I downed it all with plenty of water and I tried to relax. So much happened today and I felt like I’d been up for days. I had the race of my short marathoning life tomorrow and for the first time in 10 marathons, I felt like I was ready.

I fell asleep just as Maximus scissored the head off of a gladiator, threw one of the swords up into the crowd, yelled at them for wanting to see him kill, spit on the ground, and marched off.

How fitting.




Free Advice for Today:
"Rescue your dreams."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"Sometimes I think I understand everything, then I regain consciousness."

- Unknown

Thursday, May 5, 2005

Cinco Hold The Mayo

The first moment of lucidity this morning came at 0200 when I awoke with one burning need: the Gatorade in the fridge. Someone had opened my mouth and filled it with talcum powder during the night and I gave Sir Phil the hairy eyeball in the dark. After gulping down half the bottle and suffering an instant freeze-headache, I collapsed instantly for another two hours.

Mexican jumping bean music. That’s was my next sensory input but why? Why were the unexplained bad dreams I was having all night interrupted by crazy Mexican music? Turns out it was the alarm at 0400 when Sir Phil decided to get up. He normally wakes at 0400 so when you add in the time change, he was “sleeping in” until 0700. Oh, you slothingly slime-puppy, Sir Phil.

I heard him fumble in the dark getting ready to go out and do Sir Phil things in the wee hours of Cinco De Mayo and I knew I was not going to join him. Zero four was zero four any way you slice it.

So he left and at 0438, I couldn’t stay in bed any longer. I got up, got ready, and called him on his cell.

Patch.” (as though anybody but me would be calling him on his cell at this hour.)

We made plans to meet after I wandered to the AM/PM to get some coffee. He had gone out and discovered the area where the normal people shop that don’t succumb to the big city lights of Lost Wages. When we met up, it was still dark and we headed back to the hotel.

This is the cool thing about Sir Phil and me in Vegas: we adhere to our own schedules and when we feel like meeting up, we call each other on our cells and make plans. He wanted to head out before I did so off he went. Later, when I felt like it, I headed out to explore the strip.

I don’t know if you know this or not but apparently, I can order in an ex-cheerleader college girl who is tired of living on the farm and she’ll show up within 20 minutes. This begged the question if she’s late, is she free? Also, this great deal is valid 24 hours a day which also begs the question of what the 0400 version looks like.

How do I know all of this? Well, I had no shortage of people offering me cards, pamphlets, and magazines advertising such delights. Particularly annoying was that because they are not allowed to address you, they “pop” the cards against each other or whistle to get your attention, practically shoving this material in your hand. Then the poor schmucks who are gullible enough to accept these paper offerings drop them on the ground so the place is littered with smut as far as the eye can see. Ahhh, Vegas.

Want to know who’s headlining here in Sin City? Well, we have Jerry Seinfeld, Rita Rudner, Stevie Nicks, George Carlin, Alicia Keyes, the annoying Celine Dion of course, Seigfried, Roy, and their “man” eating tiger (and I use that term very loosely), and many productions by Cirque de Solie. One of note was something called Zumanity which is billed as “the other side of Cirque de Solie.” What side is that, you ask? Well, the side after the kiddies go to bed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like stripper on the pole or anything, as far as I can tell, but a production exploring the sexuality of human beings. The commercial was enough to make me blush and included not only the normal stuff but it appears to address a few fetish-related topics, as tastefully done as I assume they can make it.

My plan today was to walk the strip and that was accomplished. I walked all the way from the hotel to the fake New York skyline, took a left, and made it almost down to Circus Circus, stopping only a few times. By the time I got back, I was so tired and my legs were shot but I thought it was good prep for Saturday. I wondered if I was pushing the envelope or readying my legs for the marathon.

I made sure I drank a lot of water (this time foregoing the camelback and carrying a bottle. Of water, people, come on) and rested when necessary. I had Subway for lunch (keeping it to a 6 inch club without chips nor soda) and then on the way back, stopped at a CoCos for a $7 breakfast of eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, toast, and two enormous glasses of iced tea. I was putting coal in the furnace in anticipation to Saturday. Everything was about Saturday.

OK, maybe not everything. Maybe some things were about Cinco De Mayo. Back at the room I zonked for an hour and showered, getting ready for Cinco De Mayo at a Mexican restaurant nearby.

The restaurant ended up being the Tuscany Casino where they had a very dangerous $1 per beer celebration going on. Sir Phil and I took advantage of said celebration while taking in the local and not-so-local wildlife. Picture this: sad Vegas lounge with your requisite characters. Of course hardcore drinker guy was there sitting next to old couple. There was slightly heavy ex-showgirl turned waitress who just got off duty and raring for a few drinks. Oh, there’s biker dude with the modern twist of a cell phone in his ear. Cranky bartender bitching to the waitresses that he’s out of beer and margarita glasses. And finally, two wide-eyed tourist women with half the bar staring their way while they sip margaritas.

This didn’t last long. I mean, how long can you possibly take all of this end without wanting to suck on a double barrel shotgun? So I thanked the gods that I was not in any of these stereotypical buckets and bid my farewell. But since I didn't talk to anyone, there was no one to bid. Not that I'm anti-social or anything but I had one thing and only one thing on my mind and it seemed kind of self-important to start up with "Hi, I'm running a marathon up a mountain and through the desert in two days. What's you're name?"

I know what you’re asking: what does a half-Mexican in Vegas eat as a celebratory Cinco De Mayo meal? You would assume tacos, tostadas, burritos, enchiladas, chips, beans, rice, tortillas, and Corona, right?

“I’ll take the big burger and size that up with the meal deal, coke and fries. Thanks.”

Hey, I’m only half Mexican.




Free Advice for Today:
"Never tell a man he's losing his hair. He already knows."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"The nice part of living in a small town is that when I don't know what I'm doing, someone else does.”

- Unknown

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Head West, Brainless Runner

And it begins. Again. For the sixth time.

I got up, headed to Sir Phil’s house, and we loaded all the essentials for the trip to California for my 6th Wild Wild West Marathon. The packing list was complete with everything I'd need, not the least of which was a big mug of coffee just for that special feeling of being stuck in a car during morning rush hour with a full bladder.

We got to the airport with minimal trouble, besides bumper to bumper morning traffic through Washington DC which is analogous to a full scrotum choke hold, and did what all seasoned travelers do.

So we’re sitting there sucking on a beer at 1030 in the morning, wondering what all those flags were and before we knew it, we were feeling OK about the flight. In fact, we were feeling OK about just about everything and soon the flags, which indicated A.M. drinking was less than optimal, fell silent. Yes, folks, my marathon prep glide path is a rocky road indeed.

Unbeknownst to us or our itinerary, we were flying to Columbus before continuing on to Vegas. Yes, Vegas. Because it was Southwest airlines, Sir Phil and I had no assigned seating and thus was able to snag a window/aisle combo for the entire 60 minute trip to Ohio. This smiling face of fate would not last long because after all, I am Jason. I mean, come on.

On Southwest Airlines, there is no assigned seating, so we got to play a rousing game of “Who Will Be Sitting Between Us” for it was going to be a full flight. Judge me if you will but any human with a Y chromosome prefers pretty little woman to big fat hairy guy. Go ahead, blame me! And to be perfectly honest, she didn’t even have to be hot. Small, plain girl? Fine. Why a girl? Not because guys are just wired that way but more toward the fact that in the Land Of Guy, even accidental, slight contact between males of the same species is to be avoided at all costs. With the female version, non-sexual accidental contact is much more acceptable.

So there we sat with an open seat between us. Looking from the other perspective, it probably didn’t look too inviting to a young lady; Sir Phil and I leering at the line of people coming down the aisle. I didn’t have high expectations and fully expected Big Fat Guy to come lumbering down the plane.

We were almost heroes. Seats were filling up and since we were at the back of the plane, it got to the point where anyone that came back that far had a limited choice of seating. As it got farther and farther along, a couple braved their way to the back followed by a skinny young girl. It was almost comical. Although I would have my headphones on and read my book the entire time, it’s just hardwired into guys to give mental high-fives when a pretty woman sits next to him for 4 hours.

The couple stopped the people train and looked around. They eyeballed our seat and an open seat in front of us. They had long since missed the 2 seats next to each other option and now were looking for the next best thing. In a horrifying moment, both the guy’s eyes and the pretty girl behind his wife locked onto the seat between Phil and me.

Don’t do it.

“Honey, I’ll take this one and you take the one in front.”

Yeah, it figures.

So I get to sit next to balding hairy-armed guy for 4 hours. The good news was that he was skinny. The bad news, other than him not being the pretty woman who continued on and found a seat further down the line, was that his hairy stick-of-an-arm was just hairy enough to reach out and brush my arm like some Chewbacca-esque nightmare. Willies all the way around for 4 hours.

We got to Vegas and take it from me, if you ever fly into Vegas and have checked baggage, grab a smoke. You have to walk a mile just to get to the tram that takes you to another mile walk just to get to the baggage claim. Then it was a 20 minute waiting game just to get the carousel to start up. Then they changed carousels on us and finally, the monster crapped out my bag but not before the horror of considering a lost bag that had all my marathon running gear in it. At least I had my running shoes on but that’s it. There would be some crazy shopping if the worst occurred. And all my Vegas money would have been blown on bail.

We paid $4.50 each for the shuttle to the hotel which, as it turns out, was ¾ mile away. Once there, there must have been a retard-bomb set to general vicinity mode that hit the hotel lobby. We were there for 40 minutes despite being 3rd in line. Don’t ask, I never figured it out.

We dropped our bags, slathered up with sunscreen, and headed out. Sir Phil found it somewhat offending that I would strap on my camelback for the trip but I needed to hydrate. Plus, you just can’t beat the cool points of having a camelback on with hotel water that tasted pretty close to monkey piss. (And just to diffuse the inevitable question, yes, I do know what monkey piss tastes like. I drink it by the gallon. Don’t you?)

It was a long walk to the strip. This didn’t seem to bother Sir Phil who doesn’t consider anything a long walk. The problem I had was that all I had eaten was a protein shake, a mug of coffee, a beer, a microscopic bag of peanuts, and a “snack-pak” that consisted of graham crackers, Cheeze Nips (the most offending product name on the market), Oreo cookies, and yet another microscopic baglet of peanuts. So I was ravished by the time we power-walked to the strip.

You know how food is like real cheap in Vegas? Bullshit! We bypassed the Subway and other fares because I pointed out that I can’t come to Vegas and eat fast food. There were $5 buffets to be had, after all. When we finally decided to venture into a casino to cash in on the cheap eats, we came to the buffet which informed my non-believing eyes that it was $24.99 for the dinner buffet.

So we practically ran out of there and then were met with the realization that we had long since bypassed the fast food places and now were left with either paying out the ass or hoofin’ it back. This angered me in my depleted state because neither of the options appealed to me. I realized I was jammin’ through the most spectacular sights built by man with the sole intent on getting something affordable and good to eat.

We finally found some Italian place off the strip but soon discovered that the cheapest thing was a plate of spaghetti for $18. OK, uncle. It came with salad, bread, and a carafe of wine so we broke down and had a good meal. I figured we had earned it with the miles of walking it took just to get there and my cheapskatedness would dictate minimally qualifying pre-marathon meals for the rest of the trip anyway.

I went for the white wine. Sir Phil had the red and we both had the spaghetti. It was our intent to finish our carafes but then reality set in at the ¾ mark when we realized that it wasn’t going to happen and that I had gone blind. The marathon prep just continued.

It was time for the walk back to the motel and to set the stage for you just in case you aren't keeping score, I had a plate of spaghetti, a loaf of bread, ¾ of a carafe of white wine, a cappuccino, and a ½ gallon of water sitting in my gut. Let’s go power-walking again!!

The walk back was a mixture of strong desire to get back to the room and an ever-increasing, slight cramping feeling evolving (and revolving) in my stomach. When I got back, I stripped down and was in bed before the sun went down. Sir Phil tapped away on his computer and that served as my last conscious moment of this day.




Free Advice for Today:
"Never risk what you can't afforf to lose."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"If I can't be skinny, please let all my friends be fat.”

- Unknown

Monday, May 2, 2005

First Sergeant Mark Seymon, USMC (Ret.)

Today was the retirement of First Sergeant Mark Seymon. After 23 years in the Marine Corps, Mark is calling it quits.

Who is this guy? Well, he was Sergeant Seymon back in 1988 when I met him. I was LCpl Grose and had just barely made it out of Millington Tennessee where I almost flunked out of advanced avionics training. I did fine in the beginning but then they fast-tracked me into the advanced class which it turns out was a bad mistake. I had to tap dance in front of the Sergeant Major every Friday after failing the weekly test.

Anyway, I got out of there, drove my wife to Kansas to drop her off with my grandmother, and returned to Cherry Point, NC for a couple of more months of training. I was assigned to fix avionic gear using the Electrical Equipment Test Set (EETS) which was a new MOS. They took half the students from school and half from lat-movers who had been working in another MOS.

When we got to class, everyone knew that there was a Sergeant coming and those of us coming from school (and not too long ago bootcamp) still had a healthy fear of Sergeants in general. So it was with a bit of trepidation that we awaited this Sergeant to enter the room.

Luckily for us, it was Mark. He was an easy-going guy who made us feel at ease and had a wicked sense of humor. The class bonded well and we spent a lot of our off time running around together.

After the course, we were all assigned to Yuma Arizona so when we got there, Carrie and I knew no one. We got an apartment and Mark sent Alison (his wife) to check up on us the day we moved in. Alison and Carrie clicked right away and we all became fast friends. It really meant a lot to us that they were so proactive in making us feel welcome. I was “just a LCpl” and here was this Sergeant making an effort to help us out. And Alison was… just classic Alison. Really friendly and warm.

It wasn’t long before they invited us out on the river on weekends. It was great to pack up and go out on their new Bayliner with their only child, Ashley, in tow. Many a weekend was spent getting sunburnt and waterskiing all day and every time I offered to help clean up the boat. But Mark would have none of it so Carrie and I would go home and crash for a few hours. When we would venture outside to get dinner (no one was cooking after a day on the river) we would drive by and see Mark still scrubbing that boat. I did offer every time!!!!

For a few years, Mark and Alison were our best friends and we’d see them a couple times a week and almost every weekend. We would have get-togethers, drink, and have a great time just hanging out. For a young married couple, we couldn’t have asked for anything better. Except maybe Mark not making sexual innuendo jokes at every opportunity but waddya gonna do?.

Mark was the first person that taught me the “Sgt Seymon at work” and “Mark at home” understanding. He also took me aside one day and counseled me that I was not living up to my potential, that I was getting lazy, and that I needed to apply myself. He was right at the time and I took the advice to heart, improved my performance at work and eventually applied for a commissioning program.

Eventually Mark got snagged for recruiting in San Jose California and shortly after, I went to Saudi. When I returned, I applied for recruiter’s assistance and went to live with him for a month. Returning Desert Storm vets were in high demand in the recruiting field because the patriotism was so high. It ends up that the people I helped recruit during that period provided the bonus points on my promotion that pushed me over the top for Sergeant. Again, Mark had helped me along the Marine Corps road.

We kept in contact with them over the years and Mark rose up the rank structure. I didn’t see him again for years until I found myself in Camp Lejeune, NC going through Adjutant School as a newly-minted 2nd Lieutenant. I knew he was at Cherry Point as a workcenter supervisor so I decided to play a little joke.

(ringgggggg)

“Work Center 650, Corporal Smith speaking.”
“Is SSGT Seymon there?”
“We don’t have a ‘
SSGT Seymon’, Sir. We have a ‘Gunny Seymon’.”
“That’s him, can I speak with him?”
“Well, Sir, he’s at a First Aid class right now. Can I take a message and have him call you back?”
“Corporal, you just tell him that there is a very pissed off Lieutenant giving him a direct order to call me at this number the moment he walks in. Are we clear, Corporal?”
“Y- yes Sir.”
“Good. My number is xxx-xxxx. Out.” (slam phone then laugh for 5 minutes)

(1/2 hour later)

(ringgggggg)

“Hello.”
“Uh.. yes, this is Gunny Seymon. I got a message I was supposed to call this number?”
“Ah, yes, well, I suggest, Gunnery Sergeant, that you put a little more respect in your voice when addressing a superior commissioned officer!”
(I thought for sure he’d recognize my voice.)

(long pause)

“Sir, I really don’t know what’s going on here. I just got this message…”
“Well, GUNNERY SERGANT, then I guess you can call me ‘
Jason!’”

(another long pause)

“Mark?”
“YOU SON OF A BITCH!!!! YOU ALMOST GAVE MY POOR CORPORAL A HEART ATTACK. HE THOUGHT HIS GUNNY WAS GOING TO THE BRIG!!!”
“Well, you didn’t sound so sure you weren’t either!”

He cussed at me for awhile and we both laughed. Then we made plans for me to come over the next weekend. He hit me when I got there.

So today I drove around Camp Lejeune with Mark and we did the retirement tango: getting the DD214, signing some stuff, getting the keg, etc.

Never once did he call me Sir and we had never had occasion to exchange salutes. It was a bit awkward but we were old friends and he was somewhat of a mentor to me so who had the upper hand? Congress said I did but I beg to differ.

Before the ceremony, I pulled him in front of the guests who had already arrived and placed him in front of me. He was a little confused but I told Carrie to get to our side where the parade field was behind us. In the 18 years I had known him, we had never traded salutes. I explained to the crowd at large that I had waited many years for this and I wanted to force out a salute before he left active duty. And I wanted a picture of it.

Mark realized what was going on and he had a smile that said “You jackass.” I “permitted” him to initiate the salute which got a laugh out of the crowd. Then I just looked him in the eye at attention, turned to the crowd, and pointed out that I could keep him like that for as long as I wanted. I started to make other jokes, looked at my watch, and all the while he stood there with a huge grin, ready to kick me in the neck.

The crowd was howling.

Finally I asked Carrie if she was ready and returned his salute as she snapped this picture.

Sitting in the VIP section of his retirement ceremony, I saw Mark as everyone else has seen him for years: as a First Sergeant. It was evident that he WAS a First Sergeant and I had a general, unfocused pride in seeing a good friend rise to such stellar heights. He had a battalion of Marines in formation behind him to see him off and I was amazed at the universal well-wishing. Mark had affected so many people over the years and it was good to see that a respectable representation had come to see him to the active duty door.

As he gave his speech, he tried to use a card to thank everyone he wanted to get to but he and I both knew it would be next to impossible. He lost his place halfway through when he looked up and saw his wife in tears (which I told him to avoid).

But one thing he did get to. He wanted to thank “Captain Jason Grose… Jason, and his family for coming down from Quantico. Sir, thank you very much.”

I was stunned. After the ceremony, I pulled him aside and said,

“You realize that’s the first time you have ever referred to me as ‘Sir’?”
“Yeah, I know.”

That’s all that had to be said.

Fair winds and following seas, Mark.

Semper Fi.




Free Advice for Today:
"Never refuse jury duty. It is your civic responsibility, and you'll learn a lot."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003


Quote of the Day:

"If you dance with a grizzly bear, you had better let him lead.”

- Unknown

Sunday, May 1, 2005
Why He's The Top
Tonight was another great night in the life of Jason. I seem to have a knack for making the improbable happen and I have this whole “Full Circle” sentimentality. Tonight was a fulfillment of one of these moments mixed with the surreal.

Who would have thought, 18 years ago, when a hard-nose Marine Drill Instructor took charge of a young, scared, scrawny 18-year-old recruit in San Diego California that 18 years later we would bring our families together for a night of friendship and story-telling? Certainly neither one of the central players.

For years I’ve told my kids about my experiences in bootcamp and they knew the character that was Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Garcia. Or at least that’s what I thought but I guess I’d been remiss in telling my daughter because she asked who we were eating dinner with tonight and how we knew them. Alex had a better grasp just because I showed him the first half of Full Metal Jacket some years back and like me, the memory made a lasting impression.

It was a moment I will not soon forget that I had the honor of introducing my wife, my son, and my daughter to a man who had such a profound effect on my life. I wouldn’t be more proud if I was introducing them to the President. My reverent introductions were heartfelt and I was proud to show Top the life I had made for myself. After all these years, I realized I still seek his approval.

Top had invited his daughter and her boyfriend, ironically a young Lance Corporal fresh from Iraq. The thought entered my mind how this poor lad must feel: going to dinner with his girlfriend’s father who happens to be a former Master Sergeant and Drill Instructor. Add to that a Captain of Marines and I would think, being in his shoes, I’d have at least a few reservations about the night.

It didn’t bode well for the young Marine that he was late picking up Top’s daughter at the mall where he was supposed to get her and bring her to dinner. In his shoes, I might have wished I was back in Iraq rather than face Top.

We got to the restaurant and sat at a large round table. It was perfect since the night was more for talking than eating. The dynamics of all that were at the table was too complicated to deal with using a rectangular table. Eating was secondary and I was proud to make the acquaintance of Top’s wife, their daughter, and the boyfriend.

We talked about many subjects but I must admit, I probably took most of the conversation. I told them about PVT Long, about the M&Ms, and about breaking Drill Instructor Sgt Robinson’s foot. We talked about SgtMaj Wertjes and about Top singing “Tiny Bubble.”

Top’s family just soaked my stories in, likely getting a different peek into the man they knew as a father and a husband.

I even brought my bootcamp book and showed them this picture.

Of all the random pictures that could have been taken, this one shows Top scowling at, guess who, me during a PT session. That anyone gets to have a moment captured like that from bootcamp is amazing enough but to have it of the two people whose paths would once again cross (under infinitely better circumstances) is even more amazing.

My favorite story of the night was an email I sent Top on a Marine Corps Birthday about my Grandfather’s funeral. I think I didn’t do it justice telling it live so I’m reprinting it here. I think it summarizes what I think of Top and what the night meant to me.

Top,

I pause each year to think of those that made me what I am today. Being a Marine has infused itself into the very fabric of my being and it provides me with immense pleasure to thank one of the men that actually created that within me.

I wish I could share with you the countless examples of how I’ve made a difference in the lives of Marines over the years. I don’t say that out of self-adulation because we all affect those around us in different ways but I’ve always took to heart that duty to make a difference in the lives of those that I come in contact with. It was something that was instilled in me from the beginning and I have you to thank for that. And in turn, those other Marines have you to thank. And the Marines they affect.

I am that pebble you threw into the pond back in 1987. Every time I see the fruits of my labor, I think of those who made that possible. I have accomplished more than I could have ever hoped for on my own and starting with your guidance at the beginning, I have tried to pass on that level of positive effect at every opportunity. It’s the least I can do for the gift that was given me that summer back in 1987.

I recently attended my grandfather’s funeral and wore by Dress Blues to the occasion. It was the first time my extended family had even seen me in uniform and after the service, the VFW commander asked me if I wanted to present my grandfather’s flag to my grandmother at the burial.

I had never done this before and only had 20 minutes to get the verbiage straight in my head. When the Commander presented me with the flag, I was in essence winging it but I had done enough ceremonies to make it look official. I asked the Commander to bring the color guard, who consisted of elderly WWII vets, to parade rest.

He looked at me curiously but did as I asked, in a manner like he had done with the other commands; in a conversational tone.

With the color guard at parade rest, the Commander walked away and I stood there alone. With everything I had, with 17 years of service behind me, I opened my mouth and issued a very Marine command for the color guard to come to attention. I like to think it would have made you proud.

The old men popped, and I mean POPPED to attention, probably in a manner they hadn’t in decades. At the same time, I saw the entire crowd jump, all 100 or so of them.

You could have heard a pin drop.

I marched forward, at the funeral pace, performed a sharp right facing movement, marched forward, stopped exactly in step (with my heels parallel to my target, just like you taught me) and my heels slammed together. In cadence, I performed a left face and once again, the smacking of my heels were the only thing to be heard and it reverberated throughout the cemetery.

I knelt down and presented the flag to my grandmother. After finishing up with “…from a grateful Nation” I stood up and rendered a quick, popping salute. Cutting the salute and returning to attention, I stepped off correctly (pivot and 40 inch step) and marched back to position.

When I got there, I was very nervous because I was marching on loose Astroturf on top of thick grass: not the best surface for an about face, especially with every eye trained on me. The thought crossed my mind that I could stop, do two facing movements to get back around without anyone knowing the difference. But I heard you, Sgt Robinson, and SSGT Wertjes jump my ass viciously.

I stopped, slammed my heels together, pulled back my right leg without bending the knee, planted the toe, and pushed hard with that toe and my other heel.

Somehow, I had my center of balance in the perfect position because I whipped around smoothly without my arms leaving my side (hand curled as though holding a roll of quarters). The sound of my heels cracking together was louder than before and I didn’t even sway. Without looking, I knew my heels were together and perfectly symmetrical at a 45 degree angle.

For the second time, my voice ripped through the crowd like a buzzsaw. “COLOR GUARD! PA-RADE…REST!!!!)

The crowd was staring at me with watery dinner plates. All of them.

Afterwards, I kind of felt bad because more people rushed to me after the ceremony than the widow.

I wanted to share this with you for a simple reason. I didn’t know the exact order of events or protocol of presenting the flag. But I just KNEW what to do. I attribute that to just being a Marine and the training that goes back to those long days on the Grinder when you were belting out cadence and fixing the most minor of drill mistakes.

I guess I can sum it up with two simple statements:

See what you’ve done?

And

Thank you, Top.

Captain and Forever Your Recruit Grose



Free Advice for Today:
"Don't undertip the waiter just because the food is bad; he didn't cook it."
- 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/