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.
of the Day:
the 60's, people took acid to make the world weird.
Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make
May 31, 2005
Little About Me (OK, A Lot...)
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.
United States History
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.
Why did you decide to join the United States’ military?
Why Marines, specifically?
this is involved. How far back do you want me to go?
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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…
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.)
Did you have any qualms about joining? Did/does your experience
in the U.S. military meet or surpass your expectations?
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?
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.
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.
How has it shaped you as an individual?
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.
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.
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.
How has your view of your country changed from before joining
the Marines to after?
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.
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?
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.
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.
Can you describe the typical recruit when you joined the Marines?
(age/education background /ethnicity/ motives/etc.)
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
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.
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.
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.
What was the political climate when you joined the Marines?
Ultra-Republican. (need more?)
How old were you when you joined? Did you join planning to make
a career out of the military?
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.
What are/were your specific responsibilities/jobs as a Marine?
Where were you sent?
here is where you get my official bio:
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.
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).
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.
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
there, I reported to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey
California to pursue a master’s degree in Information
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.
married the former Carrie Schramm of Renton, WA in 1988
and we have a son, Alex (13), and a daughter, Stephanie
How has your attitude toward your service changed with (if any)
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.
Did/do you see a lot of government interference in the military
as a Marine?
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.
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.
Any anecdotes? Words of wisdom?
your veggies (if you want to pull anything off my site,
I have about a million words you can use. Some of them even
Capt. Jason D. Grose:
What was the Persian Gulf like?
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
How are you being used now that we are at war in Iraq?
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.
the chance to go, I wouldn’t hesitate.
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
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.
Advice for Today:
your priorities straight. No one ever said on his death
if only I'd spent more time at the office'."
of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays
no attention to criticism."
May 29, 2005
was listening to the radio this morning and it reminded me of
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?"
me, it was much funnier when he told it but that's not the important
part of the story.
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.
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.
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:
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."
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.
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.
I have a tape that has this. I set my radio on "record"
before I left for his house.
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.
this guy goes around punching clowns, I guess. A clown-punching
swear he said some form of "clown punching"at
least a half dozen times, never aware of what we knew to be
to you, Clown Puncher.
Advice for Today:
allow self-pity. The moment this emotion strikes, do something
nice for someone less fortunate that you."
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
you noticed since everyone has a camcorder these days
no one talks about seeing UFOs like they used to?"
May 27, 2005
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.
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.
was on my cell phone with my brother at the time.
are all hypocrites, just to varying degrees. Today was not a
Advice for Today:
business with those who do business with you."
nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals
dying of nothing."
May 26, 2005
Bud's For You!
got this from a friend today and almost choked laughing so hard:
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!"
heard the commercials, right? Mr. Over-zealous Foul Ball Catcher
and all that... this bud's for you.
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.
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?"
I didn't skip a beat but went right into my bud commercial,
off the cuff...
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!"
a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach that
person to use the Internet and they won't bother you
May 25, 2005
work computer took a dump.
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.
did this translate to?
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…)
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
this is what it comes to.
Advice for Today:
your children overhear you saying complimentary things about
them to other adults."
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."
May 24, 2005
Takes a Hit
was sitting in my office when this email came in from one of
the contractors I work with:
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."
seems they thought I was gone but I was tactically hidden...
IN MY OFFICE!!!!
was no damage to Truckasaurus but the Corporal who hit it asked
David if I was "high strung" to which David answered
really did!!! Contractors are evil.
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
Advice for Today:
give a loved one a gift that suggests they need improvement."
only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth."
May 22, 2005
See Dead Animals
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.
saw a lot dead animals on my run. Mostly possums and I don't
think they were playing.
just looked at them and really didn't feel all that bad. My
reaction was "Dumb bastard." Does this make
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.
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
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!!!
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.
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!!"
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!).
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.
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.
an 5th level asshole sometimes.
Advice for Today:
let anyone talk you out of pursuing what you know to be
a great idea."
is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can
May 21, 2005
New Blog Is Born, Again, Sorta....
things kind of related, here.
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
would you possibly start ANOTHER blog when it’s obvious
that you can’t even keep up with this one, you jackass.”
ignore the name-calling and answer the fair question.
I’m a jackass.
now that my wife has had her say, can I explain?
is precisely BECAUSE I can’t seem to keep up with this
blog that I must start another.
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?).
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?
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.
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!!!)
is the link so get it on your favorites: Viper's
the tangled web….
Phil's Preakness Freakness
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."
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
here is his email invitation to a get-together we are going
to today. It kind of encapsulates and says it all:
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.
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.
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).
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):
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.
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.
Advice for Today:
that no one makes it alone. Have a grateful heart and be
quick to acknowledge those who help you."
quitters never win, and winners never quit, then who
is the fool who said, 'Quit
while you're ahead'?"
May 20, 2005
ba ba ba ... ba ba ba BAAAA....
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.
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.
came, it did not (Interjecting Yoda-Speak I will, randomly this
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!).
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.
I was hoping for kids or midgets. A child-midget would be
think I might have frightened her a bit.
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
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.
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.
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”…
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.
some other random thoughts:
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!!!
Oz does the voice and “hearing” Grover The Jedi
is entertainment all on its own.
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.
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.)
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.
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
line of the entire movie: “I don’t even know
you any more.” TELL ME you didn’t say that.
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.
unbreakable toy is useful for breaking other toys."
May 19, 2005
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.
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.)
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:
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)
were many others that I wanted to get but withheld due to the
thousands I have unread on my bookshelves.
are a few of my random thoughts about the evening:
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
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.
Advice for Today:
it a habit to do nice things for people who'll never find
Everyone Claims, I Suck At Golf. But I MEAN It!
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.
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.
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.
have I ever lied to you? No. So here’s what happened.
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.
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.”
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.
one of you three are the worst golfer?”
would be me” said the lady.
because today is your lucky day. You will NOT be coming in
last today. Congratulations.”
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.
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.
caught all of the son of a bitch and the ball went screaming
in a perfectly straight trajectory, dead center down the fairway.
that ain’t gonna help my argument.”)
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.
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.
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
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?
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:
LIVE ON A GOLF COURSE!"
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
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.
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.)
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!!!
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.
Advice for Today:
you see visitors taking pictures of each other, offer to
take a picture of them together."
are two kinds of pedestrians: the quick and the dead."
May 17, 2005
Your Clothes. Don't Worry, I'm A Doctor
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
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, back to the story.
a few beers (and don’t think this had ANYTHING to do with
it, dammit!), Jeff and I had an interesting conversation.
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
he looks at me at one point in the night and says “Jason,
it’s time to start getting your doctorate’s degree.”
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.
wait, there’s more.
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).
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.
would I possibly afford a degree like this? Here is where it
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.
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?”
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.
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.
I spewed a combination of semi-digested beer, peanuts, and the
dinner special all over his face before my head hit the bar.
Advice for Today:
think you can fill an emptiness in your heart with money."
easiest way to find something lost around the house
is to buy a replacement. Never take life seriously.
Nobody gets out alive anyway."
May 16, 2005
We Meet Again
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.
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!
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.
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
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?
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!
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.
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.
problem, only a couple of miles back.
rest stop did not allow you to go the other way.
problem, I’ll just take the next exit.
mile goes by. Then Two, THree. FOUr. Freakin’ FIVE!!
miles and a very angry chord in my neck later, I came across
a sign that said there was an exit a mile ahead.
KIND OF FREAKIN’ BACKASS HILLBILLY SHITSTAIN OF A STATE
PREVENTS YOU TO TURN AROUND FOR 11 FREAKIN’ MILES?
North Carolina. Oh, and Ohio as I learned last year.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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
May 13, 2005
Campaign Slogans That Never Made The Final Cut
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!
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.
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!
Capuano: Dictator For The People!"
I Win, I Promise To Never Demand A Recount!"
For Me - Or Else.....Just A Friendly Suggestion!"
Haven't Dated Your Ex - The Least You Can Do Is Vote For Me."
Harry Potter Thinks I'm Magical."
For Me, At Least My Empty Promises Sound Convincing!"
For Me, I'm The Lesser Of Two Evils"
Can't Spell Leslie Without 'Lie', Which I Will Never Do To
Can't Spell 'Quality Care: Free Lobotomies' Without 'Leslie
Can't Spell 'Leslie Will Be The Best President' Without 'Leslie.'"
My Lips: No New Taxes"
Leslie The Best Candidate? It All Depends On The Definition
Of The Word 'Is'..."
- It's Not like I Have a Social Life That'll Get in the Way!"
Met With Foreign Leaders the Other Day At IHOP And They All
Said I Have Their Support For Ousting The Current Administration"
Like People......They're Tasty."
'Cos I Haven't Disgraced The Junior Class Office Yet!"
Me and I'll Take Whatever Steps Necessary for the Total Annihilation
Ever Said Scandal Was A Bad Thing?"
Me And I'll Make Canada A Holiday...Somehow."
Advice for Today:
your children to do their share of household chores."
used to eat a lot of natural foods until I learned that
most people die of natural causes."
May 12, 2005
Good Captains Go Stupid: A Less Than Stellar Night With Sarah
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
I took another look and I saw Sarah.
almost dropped my backpack.
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.
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.
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.
McLachlan just smiled at me.
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.
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:
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.”
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.
I know, it was a long shot. And the opportunity never came up.
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.
mean back to where Sarah was? Really? FOOLS!!!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!!!
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.
made me happy and got me through the rest of the “beer
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.
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
want you to move over here under the emergency exit.”
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.
didn’t he tell me that himself?”
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
think she saw my point and was not used to anyone asking. She
looked slightly embarrassed and my smile nor my gaze never wavered.
they are supposed to go through us on things like that.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
turns to me and says “Why do you need your bag?”
in a way that relayed that he was not too happy about it.
need my bag. And I don’t know how to get there.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
a minute, let’s just go out there and maybe we can get
led me out the door, down the hallway, and through another door
into darkness. Except the “darkness” was that of
was quite literally backstage at the concert. And I was giddy!!!!
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.
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
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.
British lady told me to go get him and I hunkered down to scuttle
over to him with her in tow.
“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.”
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.
don’t know, Sir, they only need two people and I don’t
know who that other guy is.”
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.
I could. For 5-10 minutes or as long as I could. I’d
really appreciate it.”
“No problem, Sir.”
with that, he hunkered down and left me in the pit.
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.
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.
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…
never heard him coming.
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,
your outta here. You have to go. Come on!”
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?
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.
on. Let’s go!”
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.
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.
pathetic it must have sounded when I told him on the way out
of the pit “There was no flash!!!”
came “I didn’t know. No one told me.”
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.
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.
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.”
How many flavors of security are we talking here?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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
embarrassment morphed. Shame.
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.
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.”
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.”
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?”
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.
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.
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.
I found the Sergeant, I didn’t even give him time to say
need to talk.”
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.
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.”
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.”
I really didn’t know. If I thought for one second…”
worry about it, Sir. It was a mistake and you obviously know
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.”
just lucky the concert security didn’t see you doing
what everyone keeps telling me. What the hell would they have
done that everyone is so afraid of?”
don’t know, no one’s ever tried that before.”
that makes me feel a whole lot better.”
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.”
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.”
Sir, it’s already done. No one is going to say anything
else about it.”
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.”
they will pay us. You stayed the entire time and they didn’t
kick you out. Don’t worry.”
and lastly, no one knows about this except you, me, and the
other two security people. I would request it stay that way.”
worry, Sir, I won’t tell the others.”
I’m probably blowing that away if any of you guys are
reading this but I didn’t want anyone to know that night).
I appreciate it and am truly sorry about all this. I doubt
if I will be invited back.”
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.”
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.
I was still haunted on the 40 minute ride home.
was I thinking?
always hear that if you learn some lessons from your mistakes,
they were worth something.
learned not to be blinded by my desire. I had wanted a picture
(that I never got, by the way) so desperately, I overlooked
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.
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.
learned that a Sergeant’s graciousness can be unlimited
even when given a justified free shot at an Officer who made
a bad move.
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
isn't everything, But it sure keeps the kids in touch."
May 11, 2005
McLachlan and No Fear
was the day. I had Sarah McLachlan concert tickets and I was
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?
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
did end up finding them and when he handed this to us,
had no idea exactly it put us on the floor.
see, you are…about… second row… here.”
I got out of my mouth was a garbled “Thanks”
and walked off on wobbly legs.
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…
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.
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!!!
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.)
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.
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.
Sarah came on stage, thousands of cameras in the crowd snapped
like crazy. Great.
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
can have a good phone or a good camera. But nary the two shall
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
God, she was a living, breathing human being after
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
Advice for Today:
next to the end curb in parking lots. Your doors will have
half the chance of getting dented."
a hierarchical organization, the higher the level, the
greater the confusion."
May 10, 2005
Of Reckoning: Day 2
still suffering over here!
can tell I’m getting better at these marathons not only
because my times are getting better, but I’m recovering
Why did you leave me burning in the desert without you? Oh,
joyous pain-free legs. Where for art thou, you bastards?
see dead people!
which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. GO PISS ON
I know why Philippides bit it after the first marathon. He CHOSE
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
one really be tried for murder if it’s the family dog.
Who jumped on, oh, I don’t know, let’s say…
Grandma… you’ve been dead for years…what are
you doing here in….
Advice for Today:
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
you screw with something long enough, it will break."
May 9, 2005
Of Reckoning: Day 1
swear this is the statement I made yesterday:
can tell I’m getting better at these marathons not only
because my times are getting better, but I’m recovering
a freakin’ moron.
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.
made having to go to the bathroom a real challenge.
I’m lying there basting in my own urine and feces (OK,
maybe THAT’S exaggerating. I was more like lightly breaded
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.
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.
know, you shouldn’t mock the invalid like that. It’s
Advice for Today:
expect the best gifts to come wrapped in pretty paper."
you open a can of worms, the only way to get them back
is to use a larger can."
May 8, 2005
Slithers Home On Mother's Day
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
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.
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
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.
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:
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
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.
had to make a split decision. Window seat good. Middle seat
bad. Kid on lap. Bad. Fat guys on either side of middle seat
was temporarily confused on what to do. Should I… but
then…. I could…. AHHHH!!!
I’m sitting next to the kid and he shits his pants.
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.
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!
the turbulence started and it made it just a five star trip.
it up, jackasses.
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!!!!
here is the deal I made.
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?”
of night: let’s see, 6 hours of flying, 4 hours of driving,
post-marathon lactic bath.
not go near the Daddy!
made me feel real crappy considering here is a sample of the
decorations when I got home)
learned that you can keep puking long after you think
May 7, 2005
Wild West Trail Marathon Version 2005: The Return of Viper
day always starts early. Why does it have to start so damn early?
Don’t answer that; I know why.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
a little Asics Gel Kayano along with my eggs. Thanks.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
any lube I could borrow?”
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”
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.
so that’s how you do it. I followed suite and before
I knew it, I was nice and greasy. Let’s go run.
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.
that’s my new running name. You shit
on one snake and you’re branded for all of time.
no, I know, how about ‘Viper’”?
“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.
fast do you plan on running this?” I asked.
She looked at me like I had just spoken Swahili.
I get it. Run when you can, walk when you have to.”
that’s pretty much it. But anything under 5 ½
hours would be great.”
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.
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.
back to reality. Thanks for the foray in the elite world
for just a heartbeat.
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.
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.
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.
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.
about 16 minutes, I had a short conversation with a bearded
man. His first comment was “It’s not all
know. This is my 6th time. I know this ends and I don’t
judge the book by this bastard cover.”
won it last year.”
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?
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
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.
start to walk.
I start to cuss.
course cusses back with more hills.
push on my thighs.
sweat profusely the clean sweat of perspiration that hasn’t
had time to ferment.
wonder when the top will arrive.
get dejected over and over again as I reach false summit
after false summit.
I finally stumble to the apex, I’m more mad than
happy with a “it’s about f$#%ing time”
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.
shivered at my potential.
this is going to be one hell of a race.
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
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.
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
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.
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…
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.
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
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.
was on a treadmill set for 6 ½ minute miles.
lungs were enormous bellows.
stride was twice my normal length.
was a runner. A horse that never tires. I had cruise control
on and was just enjoying be along for the drive.
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.
know you are going to pay for this.”
“You’ve never gone this fast for this long.”
“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!!!!!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
that, I was off and enjoying the hard-earned downhill.
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.
still had one big nemesis to contend with. The Buttcrack.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
all other transition points have come up faster than expected,
it’s got to be around that next corner.”
well, then it must be the next one…”
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.
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 ….
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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?
I could crack 5 hours.
train at 10 minute miles.
have 2 miles of straight road.
can die at the end.
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?
picked up the pace and realized it would be a rough order.
But it was possible. It was within reach…
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.
was a warning.
it justification but a few things went through my head
at that moment.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
the finish line, I clicked my watch and saw that it read
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.
year there were few people around for a very different
reason. They were still out on the course.
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.
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.
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.
have the number of a female. You must have got them switched
somehow on the course. Did you run into her during the
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
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.
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.
all this out required me to explain it to no less than
two more people before they got it straight, assuming
they didn’t. Here is the “official”
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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!!!
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.
we wanted to get on the road, McDonalds it was. I know,
nasty. And I paid.
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.
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.
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
course, Sir Phil cannot make an evolution like this simple.
He’s Sir Phil.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
night ended with a different kind of debt payment. I sent
this note to Brent when he went to Iraq along with a 4
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.
Advice for Today:
least once, date a woman with beautiful red hair."
leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads
Yoda in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
May 6, 2005
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.>
this, I got a blank look from flagger chick.
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.
we finally got through all of this, it was a few more miles
before we came across the sign that gave me goose bumps.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
so outta here.”
folks, my service curse extends all the way to small California
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
lucky that I appreciated last year’s hat so much or
he would have received my rant on the concept of “too
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.
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.”
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
you run a webpage and have stories about this race?”
read all of those and looked around your website. They’re
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.”
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.
is where I turn scary stalker guy.
pointing at her. Her eyes got a bit too big and I hurriedly
tried to allay her fears.
name is Jason and I’m running the race tomorrow. Ben
Jones referred me to you and…”
interrupted me and said, “Are you a Marine?”
did you run the Bishop 50 Miler a few years ago?”
ran with you for like 10 miles toward the end.”
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…
you wrote that story on your website about the snake.”
those of you that don’t know, I shit all over a snake
during that race. Here
is the story.)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
lasted about 45 minutes.
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
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.
I think I understand everything, then I regain consciousness."
May 5, 2005
Hold The Mayo
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.
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.
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.
he left and at 0438, I couldn’t stay in bed any longer.
I got up, got ready, and called him on his cell.
(as though anybody but me would be calling him on his cell
at this hour.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?"
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?
take the big burger and size that up with the meal deal, coke
and fries. Thanks.”
I’m only half Mexican.
Advice for Today:
tell a man he's losing his hair. He already knows."
nice part of living in a small town is that when I don't
know what I'm doing, someone else does.”
May 4, 2005
West, Brainless Runner
it begins. Again. For the sixth time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
I’ll take this one and you take the one in front.”
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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!!!!
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
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
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.
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.
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
“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)
“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.)
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!’”
“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!”
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.
today I drove around Camp Lejeune with Mark and we did the
retirement tango: getting the DD214, signing some stuff,
getting the keg, etc.
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.
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.
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.
crowd was howling.
I asked Carrie if she was ready and returned his salute
as she snapped this picture.
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.
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).
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
was stunned. After the ceremony, I pulled him aside and
realize that’s the first time you have ever referred
to me as ‘Sir’?”
“Yeah, I know.”
all that had to be said.
winds and following seas, Mark.
Advice for Today:
refuse jury duty. It is your civic responsibility, and
you'll learn a lot."
you dance with a grizzly bear, you had better let
May 1, 2005
He's The Top
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
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
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
It was a
moment I will not soon forget that I had the honor of
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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?
Thank you, Top.
Captain and Forever Your Recruit Grose
Advice for Today:
undertip the waiter just because the food is bad;
he didn't cook it."