Jason's BLOG pages

 
 

 


Jason Grose's BLOG

July 2005

 

 

 


What's a blog, you ask? It stands for "weblog" and it's basically an online journal of daily thought. We'll see how long I can keep this up (as though I don't have enough to do!)

If you must have a title, I'll go with: The daily thoughts/rants of a Marine Officer, father, scholar, husband, marathon runner, Flash cartoonist, computer nerd.


I'm back.

And I have a month worth of blogs that I've kept up with while on vacation and devoid of connectivity for the most part.

But you of short attention span, will not read them. If I post them, you will not take the time to go back and read of my epic adventures. You just won't. I know you. Stop arguing.

Babies.

So here is what I'm gonna do. I will keep up with them but will only post two per day starting with the oldest until I catch up. For you math whizzes, you will see that it will take two weeks to catch up in this manner.

If you detect a tone here, it's because I'm going to be harder on myself about all aspects of my life which includes you. Sorry if it bleeds over but it's past due.

So come live in the past with me...


Quote of the Day:

“Tough times don't last but tough people do.

- A.C. Green

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Am I Cursed?

I consider myself in pretty good shape. Not great, but better than average.

Yes, I run marathons and yes, I do the training necessary but I always feel that I could be farther along the scale (and lower, if you know what I mean).

So it always amazes me that for a person who is in decent if not above-average shape, I can get so sick, so fast.

Last night, I started sweating just watching a movie. This morning when I awoke, I felt warm and clammy. I got up, went to work, and it just didn't get any better. By lunch time, I realized that I had only got 5 hours of sleep and that I probably needed double that. I could not deny it any longer: I was sick.

When I got in the car to go to lunch with Carrie, I said, "Feel my neck."

"Feels normal to me."

"Well, I should be freezing. I had the fan blowing air conditioned air right on me. I should be cold to the touch. The 'normal' you feel is actually a fever."

Then we went out in the heat and ate lunch.

Getting back to work, the symptoms started multiplying. Dizziness, nausea, fever, lethargy. I told my boss I was going to medical and tied up loose ends at work.

At medical, I talked to the desk nurse and she said I could sit there and wait but it would be 1 to 2 hours before I saw a doctor and even then, they would likely just send me home. So I thanked them and decided self-medication and some rest was the way to go.

Getting home, I was a mess. In one fluid motion, I stripped off my soaking wet shirt and all my other clothes on the way to my bed. That's all I remember for 3 hours.

My God, maybe it was a witch.




Free Advice for Today:
“Never give a friend's or relative's name or phone number to a telephone solicitor."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“No negative thoughts cross my mind on race day. When I look into their eyes, I know I'm going to beat them.

- Danny Harris

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Let's Hope It's Assexual

Look, I'm not a great looking man. I don't even consider myself particularly handsome. But compared to the train population, I'm prime rib, baby.

This is not a statement about myself, only about the people I see on the train so ding me for being shallow but I got pushed over the edge today.

I sat in my normal spot with the little table with the same hope that I could get through the two stops between mine and my destination without anyone wanting the other side. This rarely happens but I can hope, can't I?

Today was no different except the example of human/gnome cross-pollination that slumped into the seat across from me. This may sound harsh and it is but I just couldn't help at marvel at the startling ugliness of this woman.

If it was just her size, so be it. People are fat. Hell, I'm not svelte as I want to be by any stretch of the imagination so no big deal. But what caught my soon-to-be watering eye was when she placed her arms on the table.

They were hairier than Mel Gibson's. Like Robin Williams-level; big course hairs against doughy white skin. I felt my stomach turn a little.

OK, OK, I hear what you are saying; people can't help these things. I know, I know and maybe she is a working single mother or a cancer patient or something so I'm going to hell for being disgusted by her. But then, while I was trying to ward off this shallow judgment running through my head, she pulls out a BIG bag of McDonalds.

Steady, Jason.

Out came the hash browns. OK, no big deal. It's a pseudo-breakfast item.

Then Sasquach downed it in like two bites.

Hmmm.

Then came out the Egg McMuffin, and into the cavern it went.

Breath, Bertha. For crissakes, say moo or something.

Dear, you DO know you weigh like 300 pounds, right? And you DO know you are downing Mickey D glutton-buttons like they're Tic Tacs, right? You do realize that these things make you FAT. I mean, I'm over here trying not to judge, trying to give you the benefit of the doubt that you have some medical problem that prevents you from keeping the pounds off but then you turn into a deep-fried breaded Crisco-ball vacuum cleaner right here two feet in front of me.

Stop it, Jason, you have been known to devour more than a few Krispy Kremes at a sitting.

Yeah, but I don't do it in public. I HIDE my shame. And I run a bazillian miles to pay my penance for such weakness. Something tells me Bessie here hasn't seen the business end of even a trot since Ho-Hos went on sale down the street.

I get control of myself and try to ignore her. After all, it was just a hash brown and Egg McMuffin and despite her eating it like it was crack and that it was from the single most horrid fat-factory on the planet, it WAS a weak facsimile of a breakfast.

Just when I thought it was over, she pulls out to coup de gras.

A two-foot Slim Jim.

You have GOT to kidding me.

Tell me, tell me oh Faticus Maximus, that you are NOT tearin' open a Slim Jim at 0800 in the morning. And not just the normal one, a big monster Costco-version that looked like the trunk of a small tree.

Oh, but she was. For all to see. Ignoring the fact she has beastly arms hairier than mine, ignoring that she's busting springs out of scales, ignoring that she is uglier than the sediment at a sewage treatment plant.... You gotta help me, lady. You cannot continue to be utterly revolting in every aspect and expect me not to cringe in your presence.

Obviously she doesn't care what other people think so I'm gonna comment. If she did, she wouldn't share with the public her grazing habits.

"I don't know why I can't lose weight."

Want a list?!

And for the love for all that is good in this world, wear long sleeves! You don't see me wearing half shirts, do you?

I'm done. (drops mic)




Free Advice for Today:
“When you are going to buy a car, leave your good watch at home."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“I have met my hero, and he is me.

- George Sheehan

Monday, July 25, 2005

Hot, Sweaty, and Towel-less

Today was a record-setting day for heat. OK, maybe not of all time but it might have set the record for how much suck the weather can cause relating to underwear stickiness.

The temperature was a high of 99. But with the heat index was 115. What does this mean? The difference between 99 and 115? It really doesn’t matter to me all that much.

“But it’s only 99 degrees.”
“Yes, but the HEAT INDEX is 115.”

You know what?

It’s a 115 friggin degrees! Don’t give me this bullshit about only 99 but feels 115. If it FEELS 115, guess what, Sparky? IT’S 115 DEGREES!

I drove to work and it was in the 70s by early morning as I scampered into my air conditioned office where I stayed giving wistful looks out the window all morning wondering if the glass was going to melt any time soon. Before I knew it, it was time to venture to the gym.

Outside to run, you say?

Screw that! I’m going to the gym where it’s air conditioned, where I can sweat in relative coolness. What kind of schmuck do you think I am? (Don’t answer that, even with a question about how many varieties there are!!!)

I’ll admit, this was a “Return To The Nest” day at the gym which meant I was not to work out all that hard but gently ease back into the concept of pushing my body. In A/C.

Yeah, I know.

The end result was that I sweat more coming to the gym and walking back to the office than I did at the gym. But boy did I look like I worked hard coming back into the building.

“Wow, that Captain Grose really tests his limits. Did you see the amount of sweat he had on his forehead? Why, it’s 99 degrees outside, but FEELS like 115, ya know.”

My most Jason-Gets-Irritated-At-Everything moment today was in the form of the “worker” at the gym. I had been gone a month so I was hyper-aware of any changes around the gym as I saundered up to the gear check out desk where I get my towel.

No towels.

Instead, there is a civilian worker obviously enthralled in his phone conversation, slumped in a position I can only attribute to his melting or removal of any skeletal material in his entire body.

I stand there for a moment, receiving no reaction from below his sideways cocked baseball cap and toothpick.

“Where do I get the towels now?” was my eventual query that obviously interrupted a very intense listening session since he had not uttered a word.

Without looking up, he pulled out his toothpick and pointed to his right. Suppressing my desire to grab and shove said toothpick clear up his ass, my eyes followed his rude indication where I found a sign that informs me that due to the cost of missing towels and budgetary cuts, towel service was discontinued on July 15th.

So Jelly Belly here is now responsible for……?

Maybe it’s to wipe down that brand new wooden counter in the middle of the gym. That must have cost a pretty penny with its hand-made, inlaid wooden craftsmanship. This impressive specimen’s function is… help me out here… I know there must be a use for a long wooden bar-like counter sitting in the middle of the gym.

Maybe it has something to do with that flatscreen wall-mounted LCD television behind it that flashes nothing but info about the gym. Advertisement for the gym … that you are in? To … attract … people … that are already …. in … the………….gym…….??????

So now I’m towelless and I swear that if I get any grief about this from ANYONE in the actual gym for not having a towel, I’m going to the brig.

The first thing I do is a little stretching, i.e. don’t commit to anything strenuous and try not to talk yourself out of just calling it quits before it begins (returns to the gym after long absences really bite ass.)

I go over to the mat to start my delay tactic and look down to see people. Not really people, but sweat people (not "butt-sweat people", come on!) Actually not people at all, just the shape of people made out of sweat all over the mats, so I guess “sweat angels”. A sweaty group of people had just done something rather nasty on these mats and there was nowhere on the entire mat that was devoid of massive amounts of sweat.

Yeah, this no-towel concept is really working out.

I can hear you. Half of you are saying,

“Come on, Jason, stop being such a puss. You are supposed to get sweaty, it’s a gym for crissakes. Sweat is sweat. Jump in and get with the program!”

The other half: “Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!”

I’m with you, Other Half. I mean, I’m all for sweating but I’ll stick (ewwwwwww) with my own.

So I went to the sit-up room and used a dry mat. Prissy? Maybe but I kept to my own sweat. It’s kind of a rule I have. Rocky hugging Adrian after the fight? Yeah, gave me the willies.

My last point is that while I was there in the gym, I saw a record use of paper towels formerly used only to wipe down machines. Now, the baskets were full of them and people were using them like Kleenex to wipe their sweat off.

My last thought as I exited the gym was how much more they are going to pay in paper towels than if they had towels. It adds up and I wouldn’t be surprised if they take an overall loss. Then there’s increased wear and tear on the machines as salty sweat is left on them in increasing amounts: sweat that would be properly absorbed by towels.

But who am I to expect TOWELS provided by a HEALTH FACILITY?

Silly Captain.




Free Advice for Today:
“This year, buy an extra box of Girl Scout cookies."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

- Robert Frost

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Yet ANOTHER Trip To The Chocolate Factory

Again with the Willy Wonka. This time it was to see the latest movie yet again with my daughter. The rest of the family decided to tag along so my wife and daughter got a taste of it. Taste. Get it.. ahem.

The best moment was a particularly dramatic scene when Charlie opened up one of the chocolate bars that potentially had a Golden Ticket.

The whole theater was on edge (even me despite I had already seen the movie) when they ripped off the wrapping and as the music crashed and then complete silence to show no Golden Ticket, a small child at the front of the theater gleefully yells out, “CHOCOLATE!!!”

The entire audience laughed, loudest of all, me.

I bought a watch today. This is always a huge production for me since I’m so picky. First it was the kiosk (nope), then Sears (maybe), and finally Hecht’s (or however you spell it). I needed something to replace my Timex Expedition I bought in Hawaii a few years ago when Carrie lost my watch on Waikiki Beach (yes, I blame her. Disregard the actual facts, I gave it to her to put in the bag. She brought the bag back to the room. No watch. Ergo, SHE lost it. It’s really that simple, folks).

I ended up with the Timex Triathlon with a ridiculous amount of lap possibilities.

I use the time, the date, and sometimes the chronograph. I don’t go down to 100 meters below water. I don’t need to know what time it is in Zimbabwe. I don’t need 64,000 split times (mainly because I don’t know how to use that function).

Sometimes I use the alarms but I don’t need 14 of them. I occasionally use the Indiglow function, though.

I need something that don’t make my small wrists look any smaller but not one that is so small that I might be considered “Unisex.” I need digital because analog takes a microsecond too much processing.

I need black or silver. Mostly black.

I need big fat numbers that jump out at me right away. I need a clean interface without a lot of dials, windows, holes, displays, etc. Time, date, day please.

I also need minimum buttons on the face so when I lay down with my arm under me (just to get that great limb-falling-asleep feeling going), I don’t reprogram my watch.

I don’t ask for much folks.

And for $32, I got what I needed.




Free Advice for Today:
“Exercise caution the first day you buy a chainsaw. You'll be tempted to cut down everything in the neighborhood."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“If you start to feel good during an ultra, don't worry you will get over it.

- Gene Thibeault

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Back To the Original Chocolate Factory

I rented and watched the original Willy Wonka and the Charlie Factory with my kids today.

I learned quite a few things:

The original book was called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but Quaker (yes, Quaker!) put up the duckies for the movie in order to promote a new candy bar they were putting out. So they changed the name to promote the candy bar.

The candy bar had a defective formula and melted in the stores resulting in a recall. The movie became a classic although it flopped when released.

I love this movie. I could go on and on (and probably will). I love it because it’s a dual movie: for adults and for kids. So as a kid, I enjoyed the kid parts. As an adult, I enjoyed the endearing aspects and life lessons. I also got to revisit scenes that are familiar to me, kind of like revisiting an old friend, seeing the scenes from my childhood.

Here are my quick character/actor impressions based on the interviews of the kids who are now adults:

Charlie: sorry, Charlie, you are looking gay. I love this movie and I have a deep affection for everything that it stands for but I have to say, Charlie, it’s the look. I’m sure you are not (I HAVE to believe you are not) but the short cropped hair, round glasses, and handlebar mustache on the chiseled face…. argue with me.)
Mike TV: sucks to lose all that hair, huh Mike?

Augustus Gloop: Looks exactly the same. I laughed and rewound 5 times when he came on the screen.

Violet Beauregard: Looks like a grandmother already

Veruca Salt: doesn’t look like a grandmother. Still hot. I know I have an unhealthy fetish about this but I truly believe she was instrumental in my development and concept of the opposite sex when I was a kid. And now, well, roots run deep, enough to color my perception of the older version of the actress. I might need psychological help on this one, folks.

(It didn’t help that in the interview, she said that she just got qualified as a fitness instructor.)

Low whistle.

New favorite quote:

Willy Wonka: “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of all of you.”
Mr. Beauregard “Yeah, you took real good care of that August kid.”

I need something from any or all of you. I need a souvenir. Any prop from the movie. I would love to have (although I know it would be next to impossible) Willy Wonka’s top hat, coat, or cane. Anything from the “half room.” Maybe an Everlasting Gobstopper.

Or maybe the grand puba of all: the actual Golden Ticket Charlie found.

Oh God. I can’t breathe. You don’t understand. I can’t… calm down.

You might end me if you find anything like this.

If you knew what this would mean to me, you would fly out like locusts to find something. Anything.




Free Advice for Today:
“Don't be so open-minded that your brains fall out."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“Some of the world's greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible.

- Doug Larson

Friday, July 22, 2005

Road Raging Retard

My family was reunited today. After being together for two weeks and then two weeks apart, it felt like much longer apart. I was glad to pick them up from the airport.

But someone else was not as happy.

I ran into a road rager. And it wasn’t me this time.

I was going my normal 80 MPH down the freeway, thinking I was getting really lucky to be going this fast on a Friday night. For some reason, I had a total mental meltdown when it came to getting to BWI (a trip I’ve made many times) and the directions I found took me on a route I had never been. And that I never want to go on again.

I am such a directions rock.

Anyway, I was zipping in and out of the clearly retarded population of northern Virginia’s Friday night drivers when I must have cut off someone. I justify this by the fact that I keep pace and even if I shave someone a little close, they either deserved it for going slow when they didn’t have to or the fact that I don’t actually impede their driving. I continue on and get out of the way they might feel I got into in the first place.

Well, this guy wasn’t buying it and ended up punching his Camero to get into the right lane next to me.

And he was gesturing. And yelling. Why he felt the need to yell when my windows were rolled up, I don’t know.

Now I could have had a variety of reactions to this. I could have gestured back. I could have cussed profusely. I could have completely ignored it. But I did none of these things.

As he looked me in the eyes with his furled scowl and said something I have to assume was not wishing me a nice day, I simply put a curious look on my face and held my hand to my ear as though I didn’t catch what he was throwing.

Oh, this had the effect I was looking for. RAGE.

I did it a few more times and he kept falling for it. Then it was time to take it to the next step.

I laughed.

I opened my mouth, through back my head, and gave the biggest laugh I could muster. Then I looked in the back to Alex, who was oblivious to all of this because he was watching a DVD, and I gestured to him to look at this guy. He didn’t see me do it but it wasn’t for Alex. It was for the Rage-inator. He saw me laughing and pointing to the occupants of my vehicle to look at the idiot and laugh along with me.

I then wiped my eyes.

This behavior did more to agitate this jackass than all the threatening gestures I could possibly come up with.

Suddenly, he swerved into my lane and I had to slam the brakes.

This temporarily paused my laughing and I had to quell the rage myself. But I got it under control and dove into the right lane and punched the accelerator. As I passed him, I made sure to laugh once more right in his face, waved goodbye, and sped up. He was trapped behind someone slow and the gap behind me filled up before he could catch me. I kept going and soon he was many miles behind me.

That was about all the excitement of that kind for the night. I got Carrie and Stephanie and we drove home in traffic. Yes, 11:00 at night and it was bumper to bumper.

I hate I-95 like that road rager hated me. Ooh, I hope he didn’t hate me THAT much.




Free Advice for Today:
“Replace the batteries in smoke alarms every January 1st."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming.

- Frank Shorter

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The New Willy Wonka

I took Alex to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory today.

I got mixed feelings.

I felt a lump in my throat when Charlie found the golden ticket. And his interaction with his family.

I was not too impressed with Johnny Depp. Kind of weird Michael Jackson sort of Willy Wonka. I think that name would lose its childhood innocence when attached to this performance.

Charlie: will give a thumbs up.
Grandpa: not quite the Jack Albertson performance (especially that horrid dance)
Willy: um, you know where I stand
Augustus Gloop: not too hard to find a big fat German kid.
Violet Beauregard: Blonder and prettier than the original but just as annoying
Mike TV: this kid needed a beat'n. In 1971 and now.
Veruca Salt: I refuse to comment on the grounds it will incriminate me.

Anyway, the plot took a new twist getting deeper into why Willy was off his Wonka.

I still think the original can’t be beat and although there were some nostalgic moments, I would rather my kids have seen the original and left it at that.




Free Advice for Today:
“Don't trust a woman who doesn't close her eyes when you kiss her."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“The gun goes off and everything changes... the world changes... and nothing else really matters.

- Patti Sue Plummer

Monday, July 18, 2005

I Almost Died Today

Or at least I was certain that I was going to. Everyone that reads this blog regularly knows that I am terrified of flying, which isn’t the greatest personality trait of a frequent traveler. And folks, it’s getting worse.

It doesn’t help when I have to fly on a roller-coaster of an airplane ride like I did today.

We got the back seats of the plane and I was by the window, Alex having the center seat. The flight was from Denver to Virginia and everything seemed to be going fine as I paid for Alex’s inflight entertainment of “Ice Princess.” No, it wasn’t an adult theme and no, my boy is not a fruit; it was the least of all evils they offered and the boy wanted to watch SOMETHING. So Ice Princess it was. Shut up.

Bumpity bumb… bump… BUMP!!!!!

What the hell is wrong with these people?

OK, I went into frightcon3 which consists of me grabbing two napkins and balling them up in my fists. This is simply to absorb the gallons of sweat that start spewing out of my palms.

Alex noticed my mounting discomfort and was actually amused. I tried to be brave so as not to scare the lad but after a particularly heinous jolting, my ruse all but evaporated. I was scared silly.

I put my balled fists on my knees, laid my head back and closed my eyes, listening to my iPod for comfort that never came.

BUMP!!!!!

My eyes shot open and I saw they had freeze-framed the movie and the captain was saying something over the intercom. This could not be good. I pulled off my headphones with shaking hands and heard the captain giving instructions to the passengers of how to use the sickbags. Then he goes on to explain that we can expect this kind of ride for the next ½ hour.

Great. And who’s going to scrape the scare-paste from my underwear Mr. Bumpity Bump?

I really wasn’t doing well at this point and not even watching Ice Princess without sound could calm me down, believe it or not. I think I’ll have a Pavlovian thing going on whenever I see that movie again. I’ll scream and duck under the table.

By the time we got to the end of the Terror Express, the napkins in my hand were nothing but round little panic lumps that I handed to my son to pass along to the trash. He laughed at me. He will pay.

If you remember, we drove to a friend’s house who then gave us a ride to the airport and took our car for safekeeping while we were away. Now on the return trip, we took a cab to get to his house so we could pick up the car.

I’ve never taken a cab from the airport to a house but it seemed like a simple process. And for the most part it was but it still strikes me as weird that we had the perfect stereotype for a cab driver. I think he was Indian.

I don’t know if he ripped me off or not. I’m not good at these things. I DO know that that meter was ticking off pretty damn fast and that ¼ of a mile was the metric. Then he can’t find the place or even follow my directions (which I’m trying to convey via cell phone conversation with my friend.”

“Turn at the second light. You’ll want to turn left but you really want to just veer…”

So of course he got turned around and I assumed he was going to shave off some of the toll since it was really his fault and even a minor detour was costing me dollars per ¼ mile. He’s a cab driver, for God… or whatever’s sake.

He didn’t. Well, really he DID because guess what… your tip’s in there too buddy. Have a good one.

I guess there really is something to this karma thing because my buddy’s wife, who was supposed to be home, was somewhere other than home. And as a welcome home, the Virginia area was disgustingly sweltering so Alex and I proceeded to get soaking wet in our own sweat waiting for my friend to come up with a solution. The car was right there but we had no key. I just wanted to get home after my harried flight halfway across America via millions of different altitudes.

A bit frustrating.

We finally found the hidden key and got in to grab my key set. And we were off…

I had to get a haircut. I couldn’t stand it!!! After three weeks, I was just plain nasty and horrified to see that almost all of my sides were stark white. Maybe it was the flight. Whatever the cause, this had to come off and I couldn’t wait so we stopped on the way home and I got de-nastied. It was good getting back to “me.”

We dropped off the bags and went right over to pick up Buster who was staying at yet another friend’s house. (Before you start of accusing me of having a lot of friends, I’ll point out I used both of the ones I have to help me out here.)

The initial report for Buster’s behavior was “Well, he’s definitely a boy.”

I took this to mean he had … um… carnal relations with their female German Shepard but I thought, what damage could be done? He’s fixed. (Every time I say that, I imagine him looking at me and saying “I was never broken, Jackass!!!”)

It ends up that wasn’t the problem. It seems that he decided to mark territory that wasn’t his. Specifically, the walls, the end table, a box of books, etc.

Damn.

What do you say? “Sorry my dog pissed all over your house. So, we’ll be going…”

I felt terrible but they explained he was OK for a couple of days but then I guess he started doing it at night. So they locked him up in the bathroom at night and that seemed to solve the problem. Except of course all the urine that had already left the reservoir.

I offered to have their carpets cleaned but they said they owned a steamer. So I offered to come over and help Sir Phil clean it and they said he was going to be moving the furniture to paint the walls next week so I told her that I would come over and help him.

“It’s really OK, don’t worry about it. It’s fine.”

I told her that of course she’s going to say that and if Daisy came over and pissed all over my house, I’d be telling her it’s OK and she would feel like it wasn’t. So let me have this to put my mind at ease.

I glared at Buster who had no idea why.

On the way home, I saw a house that got hit by lightning and the entire top floor had burned. No one was hurt but the house was jacked.

Bummer.

Finally I was home. And the top floor wasn’t burnt up. And there was no dog piss all over everything. And the house was not lurching up and down, threatening to crash to the ground in a ball of flame.

It’s good to be home.




Free Advice for Today:
“Don't pick up after your children. That's their job."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“Most people run a race to see who is fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts.

- Steve Prefontaine

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Back To Civilization

We had bacon and eggs for breakfast. It was great.

The rabbits outside had cigars. Specifically the cigars one of the guys left outside. The thought of a rabbit knowing on a cigar is both really gross and really funny to me.

“Dude, that was the WORST friggin carrot I EVER tasted.”

But the highlight of the morning had to be the shower. Yes, there was a shower but the whole spirit of “camping” was that we didn’t use the shower until the last day. Sometimes “spirit” kind of stinks. (I know there is a Nirvana joke in there somewhere about Smells Like Teen Spirit but I’m too tired to dig it out.)

When I did take a shower, it felt like back when I did a Combined Arms Exercise (CAX) in 29 Palms. We had to walk from tent to shower hut and then back afterwards. By the time you got back, you had a layer of dust on you. But you were “clean.” Well, as “clean” as you were going to get.

But I digress.

We got packed up and ready to go. Only me, Alex, Scott and his son, and Mark were heading out today. The rest were staying an extra day so we bid them farewell and headed to Denver. I think I saw some vomiting rabbits on the way out but I’m not sure.

The drive back was kind of stressful. Oh, I had my iPod blaring in my ears the entire time but the deal was that the others were going to drop me and Alex off at a hotel and then take the van back before they got on their flights. Our flight didn’t leave until the morning.

The stress came because I really didn’t want to return that van. Why? Because it was pig-shit nasty. Uncle Kenny had already paid for it so it would have just been a matter of handing over the keys but still, I didn’t want to look into the eyes of the poor schmuck who had to clean that puppy.

So I stressed the whole time while they decided if they had time to return it and get to their flight. I would have returned it but I really didn’t want to. I wanted to get to my hotel room and relax and luckily, that’s what we did, although it resembled a body dumping when we got there, tumbling out and grabbing our stuff while the van was practically moving. There was no time to dally so goodbyes were short.

Getting a room was easy but expensive. It was well worth it to be on our own and in a clean, comfortable, cool room. And no deranged forest creatures eating tobacco. We paid extra for that.

Alex was really interested in the pay per view cartoons and since he had been away from TV for a few days, I let him watch them and told him I’d meet him at the pool. It was a chance for me to get in the hot tub before he showed up and would want me to join him in the pool.

That was a good plan until I got there and realized that Mother MacTruck and her son Tubby McTwotons were just lowering their immensities into the hot tub as the water level rose considerably. No way was I going to go over and join perfect strangers, especially ones that looked like circus fat lady and Augustus Gloop, simmering in broth.

So I jumped in the pool and waited ever so impatiently. Before long Alex showed up and we played in the pool with an inflatable ball. When the beefatrons lumbered out of the pool and waddled out of the pool area, Alex and I went over and enjoyed the hot tub. Ahhh, just what I needed after a day of traveling.

When we got back to the room, my cell phone rang. It was Mark and he told me that when they returned the truck, they noticed that Alex had left his carry on bag in the van and they left it with the rental car place.

Now I was screwed. I had all night to get it but I had no transportation. I talked to the front desk and explained to them the situation but they said the shuttle was too busy to take me to Avis. I would have to take it to the airport, catch the Avis shuttle back to Avis, get the bag, have Avis drive me back to the airport, and then catch the shuttle back to the hotel.

Yeah, it sounded 10 kinds of screwed up to me too. I was not happy and unfortunely because I’m a world-class ass, I let my frustration shift the blame to Alex. I didn’t exactly yell at him but I made it clear that I wasn’t happy and he was the cause. I know, but I’m human. I apologized later.

What happened next was interesting, to say the least.

I waited outside for the shuttle to come and when it did, it was driven by a young college girl. I would point out that she was attractive but the fact that she had more piercing on and around her general head area disqualified her from my interpretation of beauty. She had dark eyeliner looking like an escapee from Hot Topic and a general disposition hovering somewhere around her assuming I pointed out disparaging comments about her lineage.

She got out of the van, walked around the van without a word, opened the side door, grabbed a footstool, slammed in down in front of the open side door, and stood back up looking at me like I had just crapped my pants.

With eyes half-lidded, she said very sarcastically “Welcome, Sir.”

Oh, I just couldn’t let this slide. It was too chalked full of opportunity.

I am no spring chicken but the difference between 36 years and college age is not so far apart that I would need a step stool and called "Sir" by a civilian who knew nothing of my existence as an Officer. I know it was just policy but it was just such an informal situation between two people too close in age to keep up this ultra-formal charade.

“You’re kidding, right?” was my quip as I gave a little grin.

This did not make her happy nor at ease. In fact, it seemed to piss her off even more.

“It’s a courtesy for our customers, SIR.”

So I got in the back and waited for her. Great, I had managed to piss off my only ride. When she returned, she was quiet, brooding and took off.

“Bad day?”
“No, not at all.”

Silence.

“Sorry if I insulted you back there.”
“No, you didn’t.”

Silence.

I explained to her my situation and she rolled her eyes but it was about them telling me the shuttle was “too busy” to take me to Avis.

“I can take you there. Next time, just talk to the driver. They don’t know how busy we are.”

OK, now it was my turn to be pissed off.

First, like this was going to happen a lot that I would need the advice to talk to the driver when the next multiple times I need a ride to recover a forgotten bag from a rental car. Second, why did the people inside assure me that the drivers were too busy when they weren’t? They just assumed “no we can’t” rather than “let’s make it happen.”

So now we had something in common: we were angry with her authority figures. She stopped glaring at me like she wanted my spleen.

But I must thank her because she did take me there, I got the bag, and took me back to the hotel. I told her she didn’t have to get the stool down and by then, she had softened up enough to smile at my little joke. But then I had to push it and say,

“Or I could be a total ass and MAKE you get the stool.”

As fast as the smile came, it ran away from her face. Back to the mask.

Way to go, Jason.




Free Advice for Today:
“Never miss an opportunity to have someone rub your back."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“It hurts up to a point and then it doesn't get any worse.

- Ann Trason

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Only Eggs the Fish Seemed To Favor was Goose

Every day seems have a later and later wake up time. This time, it was 0700 instead of 0600 and that’s just because that’s when I decided to roll out of bed. I was one of the first ones to rise. Of course Uncle Kenny was already up and moving things around.

My second cousin had football camp starting next week so his dad, Mike, asked if I wanted to take him running. Sure, I thought, I would take him for a short 1 mile run because:

1. I knew he didn’t want to go in the first place
2. The air was thin
3. I hadn’t run since the marathon
4. The last thing I wanted to do was get all sweaty the first thing in the morning, halfway through 3 days of not showering.

MJ was not too thrilled but he went. He moved pretty good for a big boy but a couple of things detracted from the run for the both of us. First, it became evident in about 2 minutes that there was a COMPLETE lack of oxygen. I felt like I had a plastic bag over my head and I quickly found that I’d rather dig my cuticles out of all my fingers going under the nails rather than doing this.

For MJ, he suffered along with the same problem but compounding it was the fact that he severely needed to take a dump. (A seriously messed up situation for any runner.)

We made it back after stopping only once to let MJ deal with the scared turtle situation and I was impressed he made it back to camp, heading straight to the bathrooms without breaking stride. Luckily, that wasn’t the only thing he didn’t break.

If you will recall, I caught the first fish. Now calm down, calm down, I know it was quite an accomplishment but I won’t be able to finish this blog if you keep breaking out in applause like that. I don’t think I didn’t detect a little sarcasm there.

Anyway, I was goose-egged for the rest of the day and was not too happy about it. Which makes a FULL second day of said goose-eggs much more gravel-in-the-underwear irritating.

You know, when the fish are biting and you are reeling them in like a machine, fishing can be a spectacularly fun time. When they are not biting, it’s pretty much standing in a cold river getting burnt up by the sun. I mean, if you don’t catch anything, all you’ve accomplished is throwing a hooked worm upstream, let it float past you, reel it in, and repeat. FOR HOURS. Who would do this?

Apparently me.

For lunch, we had Bubba Burgers. Bubba Burgers are the best hamburgers you can buy. Sir Phil used to talk about them but I thought it was Sir Phil being Sir Phil until he showed me that yes, indeed, they are actually called “Bubba Burgers.” Kinda goes along with Cheese Nips as far as racially slurred edibles go.

After lunch, we took a trip up to the memorial. “Bosker” was my Uncle Kenny’s neighbor in Colorado and co-founder of the annual Wyoming trip until his death years ago. In remembrance, they made a plaque on the highest hill around and they visit it every year to pay their respects. It was cool to see it and you could tell it meant a lot to Uncle Kenny.

We had one last chance to catch some fish so we headed toward the river but got split up. When we took an alternate route to get there, we came upon a most interesting scene:

The other group was chasing a herd of antelope at full speed across a wide plain! So naturally, we took an angle to cut them off and hit the gas. We didn't quite succeed because they all got away but both sets of men on both vehicles were screaming at the top of their collective lungs.

Yeah, 9 males left to our own devices.

I guess we pretty much pissed at Mother Nature because for the final time, we got dealt a goose egg in the fishing department. They didn't want what we had to offer. Screw them. Bastards.

So to celebrate our final night there, we lit off fireworks that we had stopped and purchased along the way. The explosions echoed off of the Chalk Cliffs and the birds were probably wondering what the hell was going on.
Screw 'em. Go talk to the fish!

The night ended back at the cabins where one of the kids was once again attempting to start up a poker game. Every night, he tried but no one seemed all that interested. By the time we got back to the cabins, we were ready to eat and get some sleep. Spending all day taking worms for a swim in the blazing sun will do that to a guy.

So we all ate and I started a little packing for the trip home tomorrow.

I had a great time but living out of a suitcase for the last three weeks, I was ready to see my house again.




Free Advice for Today:
“Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt, but it's the only way to live life completely."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“I always loved running...it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.

- Jesse Owens

Friday, July 15, 2005

Fish Heads, Fish Heads, Roly Poly Fish Heads....

At 0600 I was ready to get up and go fishing with Alex. Nothing like standing in a river all day waiting for a fish to bite on a wiggling worm. Actually my disillusionment and lack of patience did not manifest until later and at this point, I was excited to get our of bed and go to the river.

The Platte River is the river that we fished, specifically a portion right after some rapids where there is a large wall across the bank. I don’t know if the official name is The Chalk Cliffs but that’s what we called it. The wall of cliff was right across from us and the birds had build nests toward the top so we had an audience the whole time we were fishing. Hundreds of little birds whose chirps would echo back from the wall, combining with the sound of a river. It was incredibly serene.

One of the traditions of this trip was to let the kids drive. There’s nothing out there but dirt roads so traffic wasn’t a problem. Careening off a cliff, now that was a problem but luckily, we managed never to go there.

Brandon was the smallest and since he couldn’t reach the pedals, he sat on the lap of his father and steered. The question came up that ignoring the obvious laws about underage drivers, could you get a DUI for just pushing the gas pedal? All the adults were drinking to some degree and while no one was lampshade on the head drunk or even close, it would be an interesting argument with the authorities. Also, we were going about 20 MPH so that in itself might have motivated the local Barney Fife to check us out. But like I said, we were out in the middle of nowhere so we never even saw other people on the road, who would have had an interesting site of a little boy driving a big van.

We dropped our line in the river and about 10 minutes later, I got a bite. THE FIRST OF THE TRIP!!! I reeled the baby in thinking I had caught Orca. The battle was tremendous as I kept the line tight and reeled like there was no tomorrow. I got him to the shore and… and…. and it was not Orca. Maybe his small little distant cousin, the 2 pound trout.

I walked up and down the line showing everyone, only to discover we didn’t have a stringer. My Uncle Kenny advised me to throw it back before it died because we would be catching much bigger ones than that and my limit was 3. So with more than a little trepidation, I let him go and he lazily swam away. Come on, Orcette, if you’re free, I would high-fin it out of here, dumbass!

The next fisherman to snag a trout was Alex. He caught a monster than he reeled in like a pro and I was more proud of that than with my own (even though, I will point out, I DID catch the FIRST. Let’s not forget that, shall we?).

We took it over to Uncle Kenny and since it was obviously big enough to be a keeper, Uncle Kenny pulled out a knife and gutted it in a smooth, effortless procedure that was as quick as it was impressive. I don’t think Alex was expecting this because he had the look on his face somewhere between “What the Hell are you doing to my fish?” and “That’s really barbarically gross.”

Right before lunch, we were all in our own little fishing world when from out of nowhere, the wind kicked up and as I looked up behind us, just on the little rise, I saw a tornado. OK, it was as much of a tornado as my fish was Orca but it was absolutely unexpected. This huge, OK, “dust-devil”, just appeared and danced around our little camp area. One minute everything is calm and cool and then the next, there’s a 30 foot high funnel dancing around the area. Friggin’ Wyoming!!!

We returned to the cabins for lunch and when we returned, I continued to stand in cold water without a bite. Not that I was getting impatient but my worm was just as desirable as everyone else’s, right? RIGHT? They why….. arrrrrrrrr!!!!!!

I calmed myself, listening to my iPod. I know that purist will pshaw my use of iPod, arguing I should be soothed by the sounds of raw nature all around me but I realized I’m just too much of a modern culture junkie. Gots to haves my music, man, even if its while wading in a Wyoming river trying to pull trout out.

It became increasingly evident that I was not a fisherman. I know this put my Man Card in serious jeopardy and I did have a pang of fatherly failure when it also became evident that I had not passed this non-existent fishing know-how to my son. But Uncle Kenny was there to help and showed us how to attach a hook. I went back one too many times to have him do it because I was jokingly informed that he had already showed me. I took the hint that shouldn’t have had to be given and sheepishly rigged my own from that point on.

I got a few more bites but didn’t land another fish for the rest of the day. Alex was getting a little fed up also but we had another day and everyone was catching enough that we when we returned to camp, there was enough to grill.

That’s great but I don’t do fish. No, don’t argue, don’t try to convince, just read this very slowly and digest it: I DO NOT EAT FISH.

No, see, still arguing! I don’t. I just don’t. I won’t, I don’t, I will not eat it with a fox, I will not eat it in a box.

And unlike the Dr. Seuss book, I will not end up trying it and liking it. So let’s drop it.

I was glad to hear that we were doing “Surf & Turf” so that meant that I could have steak. Uncle Kenny added this, that, and the other to the fish, wrapped then in foil, and cooked them on the grill.

BTW, today it was just Uncle Kenny and me at camp when it was time to light the grill and he took one match, lit it, and got the coals going right away. Yesterday, it seemed to need a flamethrower and a few gallons of nitroglycerine. Tonight, it took Uncle Kenny and one match. Figures.

We ate like kings. It was surreal to be out in the middle of nowhere, all dirty, grimy, and sun-beaten, yet have a big dinner of steak, baked potatoes, salad, rolls, beans, and beer. It was like eating at a restaurant and we all got our fill so that after cleaning up, it was all I could do to lumber to my bed.

For the last two nights, the moon has been out at sunset so the starts were not as visible as they usually are. So at 0300 this morning, I woke up Alex and we went out to look at them.

You couldn’t imagine if you haven’t seen it. I don’t think the altitude has a lot to do with it (you think a mile closer to stars that are trillions of light-years away is going to make a difference?) other than the fact there was less atmosphere to get in the way. But the lack of any city lights anywhere around made it look like a planetarium out there. There were just too many stars to look at and I found out why they call it the Milky Way. It so thick in a band that it looks like milk (duh. But this concept escaped me when I was a kid).

Alex and I stared for ½ hour. So far, this or the moment he caught the fish vye for the best of the trip.




Free Advice for Today:
“When eating cinnamon rolls or prime rib, eat the center portion first."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“I'm going to go out a winner if I have to find a high school race to win my last race.

- Johnny Gray

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Golden Trip

I didn’t know it until this morning, but do you know where I am?

Golden, Colorado.

Do you know what that means? Why that is special? Come on!!!

Well, if you knew ANYTHING about me, you would know that my most favoritest of all beers in the entire world is Coors Light in a bottle (yes, it has to be in a bottle, if you must know.). For me there are only two kinds of beer I drink: Coors Light in a bottle or “Free.”

So how are these two facts related? They MAKE Coors in Golden, Colorado. I found myself in the place where the golden brew is actually created. I remembered the old commercials where they talked about Golden Colorado and when I realized that was where I was, I was all geeked out about it. I even took pics of the brewery way on the horizon. While making fake “angel singing” noises. “Ahhhhhhh…..

I know, I just can’t help it.

We loaded up the van and headed out. We were going to meet the others at a point an hour down the road since they were flying in this morning and would rent a vehicle for the trip. We met at Fort Collins and hit the Wal Mart for a few more supplies.

Not long after, we were on our way and we were loaded for bear (that’s the saying but what the hell does it mean?) We got to the mountains and stopped at a vista point to take some pictures. Here is how the conversation went near the trunk (Mark is my cousin):

Mark: “Do you think we should open the trunk?”
Me: “I don’t know, it’s pretty packed.”
Mark: “Do you think anything will fall out?”
Me: “I can’t see that it would be too catastrophic is we open it slowly.”

As I said that, Mark opened it up slowly and an entire case of Coke fell out and three of four cans EXPLODED on impact.

So the logical reaction was for the kids to grab the cans and start throwing them on the ground. They were ruined anyway, right?

The littlest kid, Brandon, threw one and it literally exploded. The aluminum can was in tatters. Alex picked up one and threw it but when he saw the look I gave him, he knew it would be his last thrown can. I’ve become adept at conveying entire lectures with one look and this one said “I don’t care what the others are doing, you will NOT throw another can.”

As we got deeper and deeper into the mountains, we kept a look out for antelope which Uncle Kenny pointed out that we would see scores of. We did and before the night was over, we had seen antelope, deer, cats, frogs, goats, cows, and rabbits. I kept Alex laughing by naming each one of them and coming up with conversations they had when they talked to their buddies about the close call they just had.

When we got to the cabins, we had a kind of gold rush. Everyone kind of poured out and started staking claims to rooms and beds. Most of the beds were bunks in large, open rooms but a few had little private rooms. The one I picked out for Alex and me turned out to be the one Uncle Kenny traditionally gets so I had to move to one farther into the cabin which meant I wouldn’t be enjoying the window to outside where we would have a breeze. The cabins were warm inside and even though they had A/C units, the coolers were small and taxed. But we got our own room with a bunk bed setup.

As we were getting settled, I noticed something that I was warned about. Being out in the wilderness, it was rather dry and dusty. This meant that my nose would soon be plugged. Not my sinuses, mind you, but there was a lot of particulate in the air and everyone’s nose was doing its job of filtering the intake of air. What am I talking about? Lots and lots of boogers. There, I said it.

Being a guy around all the other guys, there was only one way to handle this situation. Push one nostril closed and blow hard (yes, I was outside. What am I, an animal?). I did this with both sides and felt better, except it felt like the ammo hadn’t cleared the barrel all the way so I had to resort to the effeminate Kleenex to finish the job.

When I did this and was about to throw the tissue away, I noticed something very shocking. The tissue was SOAKED in very dark blood.

What the hell?

It seems that we were at one of the highest points in a state that claims to be a mile high to begin with. That meant very little air and potential for bloody noses.

But this fact did not sooth my nerves after seeing a pint of blood shot out through my nose.

A dozen tissues later, I got the bleeding to stop but I felt a bit dizzy after that. Whether it was the site of so much blood or the loss of it, I don’t know. I would just have to be careful with my nose-blowing activities.

Alex was under 14 so didn’t have to have a license threfore he and the other kids were the only ones legally allowed to fish today. The rest of us bought licenses which started tomorrow so we went down to the river and let the kids drop a line. All we were allowed to do is drop another kind of line but pissing on the river bank was not exactly the funnest activity. At least it didn’t involve blood.

When we got back to the cabin, we decided we needed to make plans for dinner. It was becoming increasingly evident that we were a collection of the most stereotypical guys which means, we really didn’t have a firm grasp of what we were doing most of the time. I’m not saying that we were helpless morons, just that there was no women to interject an opposing approach to any situation. So the result was that stuff just happened and nothing was really thought through once we got there. Thank God Uncle Kenny had been doing this for 33 years or it would have been a real mess but still, I had the feeling that things were just “guy spontaneous.”

Case in point was starting the grill. The mention was made but no one really moved to make it happen until a few of us ripped open the bag and poured in the Matchlight briquets. The problem was that there was a wind and we had nothing more that small matches and Bic lighters to get the job done.

Everybody had their turn, and their own idea, of how this was going to be accomplished. One of the boys was checking the alcohol content of the peach Schnapps. Another one thought it a good idea to soak a paper towel with bug spray. In the end, we decided to pick up and move the huge grill beside the cabin, trying to shield it from the wind. This, of course meant that we were putting it right next to the raw-wood, weather-beaten cabin. Ah, who cares, we got to get it lit, right?

After many, many failed attempts and the coming and going of just about everyone there, someone got the damn thing lit and the wind whipped the flames in a hurry. Eventually it calmed down and we managed to cook some bratwursts without catching the cabin on fire.

It had been a long day of driving and we retired to our rooms. The inside temperature was a lot hotter than the outside so our room was rather warm. After re-confiscating our fan from one of my second-cousins, I tried to go to sleep but because I’m a freak, I can’t sleep when I’m warm so I tossed and turned most of the night. But that was OK, there was a big day of fishing we were looking for tomorrow.




Free Advice for Today:
“Wet your hands before lifting a trout from the river."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“Pressure is nothing more than the shadow of great opportunity.

- Michael Johnson

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Uncle Kenny's Camping Trip

Pack all the bags?

Check.

Get everyone in the car to go have lunch before our flight?

Check.

Act like a total ass when I find out that the local Godfather’s Pizza no longer existed?

And…. CHECK!

Sorry, Hon, kids.

But it WAS a chance to see the old neighborhood where I spent what was arguably the most depressing summer of my life. I had run away from home, lived in the worst part of town with my dad away from everyone I knew, anyway, it was a bad scene. I worked as a busser at a steakhouse and this is where it was, although the steakhouse has since been ripped down. Being there brought back a lot of memories and the gulf between where I was and where I am now was hypnotic.

And here I was again, at the airport but this time with my son going to Colorado to meet my uncle.

The flight into Denver was bumpy just like last time but I was thankful that Alex and I only had to deal with a 2 ½ hour flight today rather than the who trip back to Virginia. He only had to watch me squirm for half the time this day.

Outwardly: "It's OK, son, just a few air pockets."

Inside: "AHHHHHHHH! WE'RE ALL GOING TO BURN LIKE MATCHES IN A FIERY CRASH AS WE PLUMMET TO THE EARTH!!!!"

To bring you up to speed, I just spent two weeks in Seattle with my family and now my son and I were flying to Denver to meet up with my uncle and then drive to Wyoming for a few days of camping, fishing, and all around nothingness in the nothingness of Wyoming.

This whole camping trip was a long tradition that my uncle invited us to when we were visiting him last year. He started the tradition 33 years ago and the deal was that you had to be 9 years old to qualify so as his boys became old enough, he started taking them. Since then, the grandkids have started to filter up and he has kept the tradition alive.

The thing is, this trip is his big deal so the invite was a very prestigious offer that I was really psyched about. Not only was it a chance to spend some time with family members, it was a camping trip to Wyoming!

When we got into Denver, he was there to meet us. He was easy to pick out because my Uncle is huge. I think he’s about 6’4” and even into his 70s, is an imposing figure. We were also meeting my second cousin, Mike’s son. Mike is Uncle Kenny’s youngest son and inherited his size which served Mike well when he played a decade for the Atlanta Falcons. Mikes has two sons, both of which are going to continue the tradition of being huge. Michael Joe already is, a high schooler that towers over me. Mitchell is only a year older than Alex but is as tall as I am. He’s been told he’s going to be bigger than anyone in the family, which is a tall order. (tall order… get it? See… ahem…)

After Uncle Kenny picked us up, he took us to Dino’s. He used to live in the area when his kids were growing up and it was the most popular pizza joint in the area. You know the one, where you take the entire team to after a baseball game? THAT’S the place.

We were starving so while we were waiting for our pizza, Uncle Kenny insisted on getting a plate of spaghetti and then when we polished off that, he ordered another one. When the pizza came, we didn’t quite attack it like a pack of mad dogs but we gave it a good shot.

This is my Uncle Kenny in a perfect representation of how he is. Order ‘em up, boys!!! And if you hesitate or reach for your wallet, he’ll slap you across the head.

When we got back to the hotel, I had the first chance in a couple weeks to get on the Internet. The REAL Internet. The kind that goes faster than a couple of bits per minute like my in-law’s dial-up connection. I had to check out this crazy adapter thing for the wireless connection but it worked like a charm and within seconds, I was linked into the Matrix.

I was almost drunk with the speed!

Too many blog entries to keep up with (written or read) and about a ton of emails. Ahhhh, the joy of being away from technology for two weeks.

But I couldn’t spend all my time on the computer so I took the kids to the pool. (No, that isn’t code for taking a dump. Normally, yes, but this time, I mean the real kids to a real pool).

I really don’t like swimming all that much but I knew that Alex would lose his mind if I went in with him and I kind of had a responsibility to the little guy since it was just me and him represented from the Grose clan. I swam around for awhile and then sat in the hot tub until I was beet red and dizzy. Yes, folks, Jason soup. Yummy!

The rest of the night, for me, was, you guessed it, the computer while the kids enjoyed a movie (for the low low price of $8). If you have been to a hotel lately, you will see that they have almost everything pay-per-view so for a mere $8, you can mesmerize your kids in the hotel. Just as long as they don’t order up the, well, the inappropriate channels which, I was dismayed, were abundant. Made sleeping in the bed a little bit uncomfortable.




Free Advice for Today:
“Pay attention to pictures of missing children."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“HELP WANTED: TELEPATH. YOU KNOW WHERE TO APPLY.

- Unknown

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Seattle, It's Been Great...

It's been a great visit here in Seattle but like all good things, and much like a good crap, these things must come to an end. Did I just compare going home and visiting with friends and family for two weeks to a bowel movement? Believe me, much like a lot of my bowel movements, it was purely unintentional.

Enough potty talk.

We had a last family get-together and once again, the whole gang was here. I think we've seen more of each other in the last two weeks than they all see each other all year. It's a statement of what they think of us and it made me feel good seeing everyone together.

Even my brother showed up straight from work and we enjoyed a wonderful steak dinner that Lyle prepared. No one was going hungry this day. It made me a little sad that I probably wouldn't see most of these people for two more years. Buying 4 tickets cross country is an expensive venture and this splurge was to get us through the halfway mark. Two years is a long time to be away from these people. This is where I belong.

I had to pack and left it to the last moment so that I’d be nice and pissy. I'm going to Wyoming tomorrow and have to take with me all of the stuff I brought and bought. This was not going to be pretty because everyone else was coming with just a couple of days worth of clothes for the camping trip. Me? I looked like I was moving there permanently.




Free Advice for Today:
“Never miss a chance to shake hands with Santa."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“I've learned that the people you care most about in life are taken from you too soon and all the less important ones just never go away.

- Unknown

Monday, July 11, 2005

Snoqualmie Falling and Friendly Get-Together

When I woke up this morning, I looked around. For what? For the bastard who snuck in with a baseball bat and beat my legs.

I've come to the conclusion that there is no standard way my body recovers from a marathon. Every single time seems to be different. This time, it was intense pain that I hope wouldn't last long.

Here is my theory: you owe a certain amount of pain as a result of a marathon; a quantifiable amount. How that gets distributed changes but the total amount is the same. So if you feel mildly sore, that is spread out over many days. If you have an intense night after the marathon, then you should feel better quicker.

At least that's what I'm hoping because last night and this morning, I feel like I paid in full.

So what is the logical thing to do the day after a marathon? Why, go hiking, of course.

This was not my idea. My brother-in-law had a big blow up with his boss and ended up quitting the next day. It was a big decision but he had some other options lined up so he took the leap. With his new-found freedom, he decided to take his family to Snoqualmie Falls and asked Carrie if we wanted to go.

"Sure, sounds fun" said my wife.

My legs screamed in anticipation.

Granted I had the option of staying home but I didn't want to be locked up in the house all day with limited mobility so I agreed. After all, my mother-in-law was going so it couldn't be all that arduous, right? (Are you catching what I'm throwin' over here?)

I grew up half my life in the Seattle area and while I had heard there was such place as Snoqualmie Falls, I had never been there. Neither did I realize that there were actually "falls" associated with Snoqualmie Falls. I just thought that was the name of the area.

I'm not too bright, I know.

So when we got there, I was mesmerized at the sight. It seems they mean it when they call this thing "falls" because there was this huge, well, waterfall. Here's a pic of what I'm talking about.

(BTW, my body is chalked full of lactic acid, like to the nth degree of pain. Oh, and this is real, not a fake background)

This was the easy part. Standing and looking, I could do. But then it was time to hike down to the bottom and see what all the hubbub was about. This was where I started to wonder why I had agreed to this.

Hiking on post-marathon legs, I know, was the right thing to do. It hurt like hell and it was counterintuitive but remember my theory: get all the pain out at once.

That was the logical part of me. The other part was screaming bloody murder and my ego was also taking a hit because even my mother-in-law was holding up better than me. But... marathon... yesterday.....

Later on, we met up with some friends for a barbeque where I realized that I really didn't want any attention because of my marathon. I thought I did. I thought I'd be modest on the outside and intensely proud of my accomplishment on the inside. But I was wrong. I really didn't want anyone to make a big deal about it, almost like I was bragging. When they brought it up, I could see in their eyes that they didn't understand and I didn't want to explain it. It's nothing they said or did; they were gracious but I just was not ready to deal with the emotions I was still processing over it and especially with people that didn't understand running 26.2 miles in the first place.

The evening went well and I was impressed with my friend Paul. Actually, he's married to Alison who was Carrie's best friend in high school so Paul and I are friends by association. But over the years, I have come to forge a genuine relationship with Paul that I really do enjoy.

Paul is that "everything" guy. Great husband, great father, and basically great at the myriad of things he's involved with. If you think I have a lot of pokers in the fire, you should see what Paul has going on and what impresses me is that he does them all so well. He takes a lot of time with the kids and seems tireless in being involved with every aspect of their lives. He works at Microsoft and every time I visit, he gets me up to speed with all the latest gadgetry in his house.

They have a boat. They have a basketball court. They have a trampoline. They have a band!!

You read correctly, they have a band. With a bonus from work, Paul decided to buy a set of drums, an electric guitar, a keyboard, a microphone, and an amp. He set it up in a spare room and the family jams like the Partridge Family.

Here is where Paul's talent once again came to the surface. He can play ALL the instruments. Formal lessons? Please! He can't read sheet music but give him a song and he will have it down within minutes, on any instrument. He played some Keane and I was impressed.

I asked him if he knew any Sarah McLachlan (of course) and within a few minutes, I had my iPod in his ear listening to Fear. After tinkering around for a few minutes, he got the basic beat down and was playing it on the piano.

I'm torn with my interpretation of this situation. I respect that he can do this but I know that if I want to play the piano, I will have to take lessons, learn to read the sheet music, and spend years pounding out "Marry Had A Little Lamb" before I could even attempt Sarah's music. Aaaaaarrrrrrggggg!!!!!

Stop it, be happy for him.

The rest of the party was a good time with good friends we had not seen in a long time. For one, Kelly, it had been 7 years, ever since her and Carrie had a very minor disagreement that somehow turned in to something bigger than the original tiff. For whatever reason, we had not seen Kelly for 7 years and it was good to see her again. She's always been that friend who I playfully needle about everything from Huskies Vs. Cougars to misspoken slips of the tongue and if you think I pick on her and that it's one-sided, let me assure you that's not the case. And we picked up where we left off 7 years ago.

We had a good time all night and Paul took me up to the treasure trove that is his attack. His actual job at Microsoft is to maintain good relations with big customers and showcase new products. To do so, he buys a lot of "goodies" with Microsoft labels on them. Kind of like a SWAG Master, if you will. And every time I show up, he loads me up with overstock items that, being the geek that I am, just eat up.

There was one special request I had. For over a year now, Carrie has threatened to throw away my oversized Microsoft t-shirt that I use as a nightshirt. A gaping hole has developed in the armpit but I just absolutely love this shirt. I've threatened serious bodily harm if it comes up missing and she just rolls her eyes every time I put it on, which is just about every night.

So I asked Paul if he had anymore and with a smile, he loaded me up with a half dozen more.

I felt faint.

Doesn't take much, folks.




Free Advice for Today:
“Once in your life, paint a picture."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“Don’t take for granted the things closest to your heart. Cling to them as you would your life, for without them, life is meaningless.

- Unknown

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Seafair Marathon 2005

I had decided that staying over at my brother's house the night before the marathon was not a good idea. Plenty of times I've foolishly upset my normal routine before a race an inevitably, I end up paying for it. So once I found out there was free parking for the runners, appealing to my cheapassedness, I decided to stay at my in-laws' house, sleep in the same bed with my wife, the same room as my kids, and just deal with getting up and getting to the marathon in the morning.

I was so used to this whole routine that the morning went smooth. I had done all the marathon-eve silliness to get ready and flowed through my routine this morning like, what is it, something about a goose? Bad analogy. Let's move on.

The streets were deserted and I had no trouble getting to the race. I stopped at a local AM/PM to get a small cup of coffee and as I entered, I suddenly became very aware that I was wearing my full marathon regalia, to include the number pinned on the front of my shirt. I was more than a little self-conscious about it, not wanting to appear to be showing off and I was glad there were not too many people in the store at that early hour.

When I came up to the front of the store to pay, there were about 4 teenage kids behind the counter watching some kind of show on a small portable TV. One looked up at me as I approached and took me in with her eyes.

I know she was just being nice but you know me and my mood before a marathon. I just knew she was going to say something and at the time, I was convinced it would be something stupid. I was not long waiting.

"You running a marathon today?"

How desperately I wanted to answer:

"No, I just like to dress like this. I like to pin on a number bib on my shirt at 0600 on a Sunday morning and walk into an AM/PM for coffee."

I know, I know, harsh. But maybe the "Seafair Marathon" plastered all over the running bib should have been a clue.

I KNOW, I KNOW, she was just being polite and pointing out the obvious.

That's why I suppressed my tendency to have NO patience with people on marathon morning and simply answered with a modest mousey "Yes."

I drove to the parking area and found my way to the main lobby of the Marriott, where the free parking was. There were a few others in marathon garb wandering around so I knew I was in the right spot and did what all marathoners do at this point before the race.

BATHROOM!!!!

I must say, in my 12 previous marathons, never have I been so spoiled. The bathroom was all in tiled marble with gold fixtures and towel-warming racks.

It was weird to enjoy such lush accommodations before a marathon when you are used to Port-a-Potties and I couldn't help but feel some kind of humorous irony that I was using such high-end facilities before the race.
Thanks, Marriott! And as a token of my appreciation....

I knew no one at the race. No one single person. Even if someone I used to know was there, I doubt if they would recognize me nor me them. It had just been too long and although I scanned the crowd, I had little faith that I would recognize anyone. So I stretched and listened to my MP3s for the hour before the marathon, wondering how this day would unfold.

I did see Miss Seafair, though. Not that I would have recognized her because I had only seen a picture of her in the marathon packet and today she had on jeans and a polo shirt. So how did I pick her out? Maybe it was the sash that announced "MISS SEAFAIR" and the rather large bodyguard following her around. Yes, blue jeans and a sash plus crown is quite a look.

The weather was nice. It was cool and clear but devoid of any humidity which I prayed would continue throughout the run.

Right before they started herding us toward the start line, I felt the familiar need to use the bathroom once more but looking at the toilets, the line was spectacular. With 17 minutes until the start, I knew there was no way I was going to make it through the line so once again, I traded comfort for well-hydrated. I lloked like Forrest Gump at the White House.

I started the race feeling really good. I bought a little clip-on pack to carry my Gu and my MP3 player clipped onto my shorts also. I didn't want to deal with a running pack this race, leaving my waistline free, and thought that the course would provide the hydration I needed at the water stops.

This would prove to be a bad assumption.

The hills were a small factor but not as much as I thought they were going to be at first. As I wound my way through the city of Bellevue, I was pleased to see that I was making good progress and pain was at a minimum, especially after the first stop at the port-a-potty. Now I could RUN like Forrest Gump instead of hop around like him.

At mile 10, it was time to take my second Gu. But I had passed a water station a mile back and realized at this point in the race that the water stops were not all that great. I don't mean to insult the organizers, it's just for my personal needs (read: unimportant to the field at large), the water stops were not where I needed them.

So I did something I had never done before (which is, BTW, the worst lead-in sentence to any part of a marathon story); I ate a Gu packet without water.

I've described swallowing Gu as "swallowing someone else's lugie". And THAT'S with water to help it down. Now imagine trying to do so without the aid of water. It was a lot like swallowing superglue. Or maybe a mouthful of crackers with a bone-dry mouth.

I was gagging and actually consciously using my neck muscles to force it down my throat. It was utterly disgusting but I finally gagged it down but that would be the last time I ever try that again. EVER!

At the halfway mark, I was just under 2 hours AGAIN and AGAIN, I entertained the hope that I could still bust 4 hours on this marathon. Oh sweet, sweet hope.

As the day wore on, the temperature started to climb a bit and the humidity kept pace. The hills were becoming a little more challenging but I kept a positive outlook and kept trudging along the course.

At the 15 mile mark, everything fell to pieces. Here's what happened.

The course transitioned to a park trail about a mile long, the only portion of the course NOT on city streets. The effect this had was that it was a tree-lined path and the wind, which was the only thing keeping the temperature at bay, went away.

If it was only this, it wouldn't have been but an inconvenience. But the path also went UPHILL.

Still not cause for alarm? Agreed.

But then without warning, I felt all the energy just drain out of my body. I had felt this before in training and I knew that my blood-sugar level had just officially plummeted.

If I was a novice, I'd be really scared at this point. I had no energy and it felt like there was no way in ten Hells that I was going to be able to go 11 more miles feeling like this. And in fact, there would be no way. But I knew that energy ebbs and flows in a marathon and just because you are exhausted during the race, that doesn't mean you will stay that way.

But at this point, I was in trouble. I was feeling the effects of the heat because the trees blocked the wind. Plus, I was going uphill and I had somehow lost all my blood sugar to keep me going. From training, I knew what I needed and that was a Gu. I blame myself because there was a water station at mile 14 and I didn't take the Gu, knowing the stations were at least 3 miles apart. I had the Gu in my hand but even though I was desperate, I had recently learned that I could not choke down a Gu without water.

In the official marathon lexicon, I was screwed.

I trudged up the path, miserable, and had to walk a lot of it. I figured I lost about 20 minutes on this portion and I was not happy about it. I had my relief RIGHT IN MY HAND with no way of swallowing it. This taught me that I will ALWAYS bring a water bottle no matter what for now on. Idiot!

When I emerged from the path, I was dizzy and disillusioned. I knew I had just blown my sub-4 marathon and there was no consoling me. But quitting was never a consideration and I knew I still had a lot of hard miles ahead of me so I put it behind me and was glad to see a water stop about a mile out of the covered path. I drank 3 cups of water and 3 cups of sports drink, my body soaking it up as it hit my stomach. I slammed the Gu with the last cupful of water and when I brought it down, I simultaneously crushed the cup and thrust my eyes at the course.

I was ready to run again, dammit.

My body was really hurting but I could run again. I could feel the Gu and the sports drink move through my system like medicine while my energy level gained momentum. Now that I had this problem solved, another one hit me just as quick.

I was starving.

I mean like “give me ANYTHING edible and I will put it in my mouth" starving. And the “edible” requirement was negotiable.

I dreamed of candy. Handfuls of M&Ms. Mouthfuls lemon drops. Soup. Cookies. Oh God, cupcakes. Anything. I’m hungry. Give me food, pleeeeease.

I remembered that up to this point, there was no food offered so my heart sank. What I would give for a full turkey dinner and….

Red Bull?

The cardinal rule of all marathon cardinal rules is repeated over and over and over. Almost as many times as it’s broke: NEVER TRY ANYTHING NEW ON THE COURSE THAT YOU HAVEN’T TRAINED WITH.

It’s simple really. A rather short decision flow chart:

Did I train with this?

Yes? – Go ahead, have at it.
No? – Don’t even think about it. Moron.

Not only had I never trained with Red Bull before, I had never even TRIED Red Bull IN MY LIFE!! I actually thought it was like a V8 because of the name and had heard rumblings about it in the marathoning background. Energy drink, give you wings, yadda yadda, yadda.

Coming around a corner thinking about a big turkey dinner, I saw a huge inflatable Red Bull can tied down like a Macy’s float. Like I said above, at this point, I would have eaten my own shoe (with my foot still in it) and the thought of drinking an “energy drink” that “gave me wings” sounded pretty damn good about now.

They had skimpy-clad “Red Bull” girls with huge platters (let me finish!!!) of ice cold cans of Red Bull. Ice cold. Because of my depleted state, the girls had all the sexual appeal of Mother Teresa at the time and I thrust a shaking hand out to get a can. Of Red bull (would you STOP!).

The thought did momentarily pop up that maybe this wasn’t a great idea but that lasted about as long as it took to grab the can and pull it to my mouth. I took a tentative sip, expecting a tomatoey taste but when I realized it tasted citric, like Mountain Dew, it was on. I drank it all in two more gulps.

No immediate effect but it quelled my famished hunger and I moved on.

A mile down the road was a fruit stand. Why they had nothing for miles and then a water stop, a Red Bull stop, and a fruit stop all a mile apart, I don’t know. But I wasn’t complaining because all of the sudden, fruit sounded like the food of the gods.

They had cut melons into square pieces and filled Dixie cups with them and after one attempt at dribbling some in my mouth, I just dumped the whole thing in my hand and started shoveling like some animal. As I kept running, I grabbed a banana and an apple with my newly sticky hands. Yes, folks, I was quite a sight.

I slowed down to eat the banana, all except the last little bit that I dropped, slapped up into the air, fumbled, batted, and eventually dropped on the ground. Shit! Oh well, I still had the apple which I ate on the run.

So just in case you weren’t keeping track, I had a melt down, then was saved by 3 cups of water, 3 cups of sports drink, a Gu, a Red Bull, a cup of fruit, a banana, and an apple.

Needless to say, I had a surge of energy. I think the Red Bull had a lot to do with it but since I had so many items in such a short period of time, I can’t really pinpoint what gave me the big boost. But I was rolling once again.

I really, really hoped that there was going to be another Red Bull stop on the course but there wasn’t. Actually, I wished there were one every mile and if I would have known how much it helped, I would have grabbed another one and carried it with me.

And I needed it because despite the big boost I got, at about the 22 mile mark, life got ugly. It always does. Only two times in my running career has mile 22 to 26 NOT seemed like the 7th Ring of Hell. Those two times were when I ran my 50 mile races and mile 22 wasn’t even the halfway point. All other races, all 12 other marathons, no matter what shape I’m in, it SU-HUCKS at that point!!!

I kept telling myself “This is where you show your true colors. This is what you train for. This is where you find out if you run with the Kenyans or run with some guy named Ken. This is where…”

WOULD YOU SHUT YOUR DAMN MOUTH!!!

(Ut-oh, I was hoping this wouldn’t come out but yes, there was a rather loud argument between mind and body at this point.)

WHY DO WE ALWAYS FIND OURSELVES HERE? NO ONE CARES YOU RUN THESE THINGS! AND YOU END UP AT THIS POINT, RACKED WITH PAIN, OBVIOUSLY NOT ENJOYING YOURSELF. FOR WHAT? A STUPID T-SHIRT? A STUPID PIECE OF METAL YOU WEAR FOR AN HOUR AND THEN PIN UP ON A BOARD IN YOUR HOUSE, NEVER TO BE SEEN AGAIN EXCEPT BY YOU? THIS IS WHAT, NUMBER 13? NOT IMPRESSIVE ANYMORE TO ANYONE. NO ONE CARES AFTER THE FIRST COUPLE. THEY JUST KNOW “HE RUNS MARATHONS.” NO ONE CARES IT’S BRUTALLY PAINFUL, MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY EVERY SINGLE TIME NO MATTER HOW MANY YOU RUN. AND YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BREAK 4 HOURS, YOU KNOW. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU ACCOMPLISHED THAT? OH YEAH, ONCE. OUT OF 13 TRIES, YOU BROKE 4 HOURS EXACLY ONCE AND THEN ONLY BY JUST OVER TWO MINUTES!

It gets a lot uglier but I will just stop there. Suffice it to say, it’s tough to run with all that volume going on in your head.

Here is what I came up with to shut those voices down.

“You’ve had your say and now it’s my turn. I run these because I can. You want the damn t-shirt? Keep it. You think I care about the medal? Sometimes I forget we get them until I’m surprised at the end and remember to take off my hat to bow down. Yeah, I’m 1 for 13 with the sub-4 but you know what? I keep standing back up; I keep signing up. I keep saying I’ll beat 4 hours. And I will. If I have to run marathons for the rest of my life, I WILL crush 4 hours. And when I realize I won’t make it in any race, I will not quit. Ever. It then becomes training for the next race.

I race because I can. Because I have the ABILITY to cross a starting line and keep going until the 26.2 mile mark is reached. Because I have the luxury to train for it, a luxury not many people enjoy. Because there are guys over in Iraq, friends of mine, that would rather run these miles in full combat gear that to face another patrol. Friends that might not be able to run 26.2 FEET ever again.

I run because I’m a runner, dammit. I earned it. And those two minutes? JUST two minutes?
I don’t think so: I SMOKED that course by 2 minutes and three seconds. And don’t you EVER forget those 3 seconds!”

At that point, all the voices got real quiet and I had about 2 miles left.

In only one other race was there anyone waiting for me at the end. Ironically it was my sub-4 in Monterey but this day was different. I knew my wife and kids would be there at the finish line and there was rumor from the family that others might show up. I thought about them in the quiet solitude of the post- argument and it gave me the strength I needed to finish the race.

As I came down the chute, I heard my name called and looking over, I saw Jeff, my brother-in-law, with his very pregnant wife, holding up one of his sons. I saw Scott, my other brother-in-law with his wife, my nephew and niece… all waving, cheering. I saw my wife smiling, my two kids holding up signs.

Do you know how hard it is to run the last .2 miles of a marathon with tears in your eyes?

Internally, I facetiously asked if there were any other arguments of why I run these things. The silence continued.

I crossed the line with an official time of 4:23:33 and a pace of 10:04 per mile. Overall, I came in 47th out of 61 men between the age of 35-39.

We walked around a little bit (OK, I wobbled) and we decided to get something to eat. I blame the following on my wife because in my depleted state, I probably would have agreed to anything, even sushi(t). We decided we should join Scott and his family at Chipotle and since it was within the city (meaning nice and quick), I agreed to it. Of course I was a lot like Rain Man at the time so it's not too surprising.

For the second time today I found myself in full marathon regalia, this time in the sweaty version, inside a public place. I think I might have been the only marathoner in there so of course I stood out a bit. I walked like an old man and maybe the bib and the medal gave me away, too.

I wanted something simple so Carrie ordered me three tacos. Seemed innocent enough. Until it came and the meat was a bit more spicy than I had thought.

Crap.

But did this stop me from eating all three? Oh, no, that would require intelligence and I just made sure the burning sensation flowed all the way down my throat and settled in my weakened stomach.

This might win the title as the dumbest thing I have ever done.

By the time I got home, hobbled upstairs in the most comical situation imaginable (if you saw the steepness of my in-laws’ staircase to the upper portion of the house, you’d understand), took a shower that bordered on pure Nirvana, and flopped on the bed, I thought I might sleep the entire night away.

But an hour later, I had enough of the pain and heat emanating from my legs. It was obvious my body was not going to forgive me for the little taco incident and I was left to suffer through a conscious state for the rest of the night.

But I finished.

#13 in the books.




Free Advice for Today:
“Stand out from the crowd."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“Don’t give up when you still have something to give. Nothing is really over until the moment you stop trying.

- Unknown

Saturday, July 9, 2005

Yesterday, Pickle Ball. Today, It's Whirley Ball

Like I explained yesterday, my wife’s family is competitive. I mean like John Macenroe reaction to a close call competitive.

That little visual sets the stage for a little game called Whirley Ball. Keep that in mind as I describe the situation.

Whirley Ball is basically bumper cars meets trackball meets soccer. You pay an exorbitant amount of money to play climb into a bumper car and team up for the spectacle. You have a track ball racquet and the object is to throw the ball into a small hole at your end of the court. Different distances result in differing points based on difficulty and for 20 minutes, you zoom around, pass the ball to your teammates (or DON’T in some cases) and try to score points on your opponents trying to do the same.

That’s about it.

Simple, huh?

OK, now, reach over and grab that bowl full of “Like I explained yesterday, my wife’s family is competitive. I mean like John Macenroe reaction to a close call competitive” situation I explained above and you might be able to piece together the finished product.

I’ve determined I am a master. I mean like Jedi prodigy level. I’m expecting calls for product endorsements and heavy recruiting packages coming my way soon.

OK, maybe I was just better than average. At least good. Fine, I didn’t stink up the place but I’m not going any lower than that, dammit.

I discovered I can readily pass a trackball to a young child from quite a distance. And that I can’t hit a round hole with the same ball even if I’m mere feet from it.

And that my brother-in-law Jeff has scary-ability even in this sport. Like uber-skills. Hell, he probably could roundly school me at tiddly winks.

We all had a good time and despite the $80 we had to lay down for three 20 minute games, the camaraderie we enjoyed was almost worth the hefty price tag. I didn’t much care for the score and never knew who “won” until someone informed me at the end of each game. Everyone got to play and the kids were just as competitive as the adults so my final judgment is that if you can afford $200 per hour, look into it.




Free Advice for Today:
“Remember, it's not your job to get people to like you, it's your job to like people."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“When putting cheese in a mousetrap, always leave room for the mouse.

- Unknown

Friday, July 8, 2005

Pickle Ball With the Schramms

I can get away with saying many things about my family.

“You are my favorite son.”
“You are my favorite daughter.”
“You are my favorite niece.”

But some things are forbidden.

“You are my favorite nephew.”

I have three of those so it’s evident why I must stay away from that declaration.

We had a family get-together at my brother-in-law’s house (Jeff) and yet another unlikely gathering of family members occurred. With such a large family, it’s rare that we can all make it under the same roof at the same time so I was honored to see everyone make the effort. Even my sister-in-law from Montana made it so the Schramm family was all present and accounted for.

You will not find a more competitive collection of people no matter how far and wide you search. Sports had always been an important part of their childhoods and while their differing natural ability promoted different levels of expertise, all of them benefited from massive exposure to sports over the years.

Jeff is just a freak. His hand-eye coordination is legendary and he doesn’t even have to try. A civil engineer by trade, his current profession does not convey the natural ability he has with just about any sport. As a high schooler, he was the starting quarterback, the starting pitcher, and the main point guard, earning him a recent induction into the school’s Hall of Fame. High school!

I didn’t even know high schools had a hall of fame and unless mine enacted the Geek version of said Hall, I doubt if my phone will be ringing off the wall any time soon.

The other siblings have a lesser but still impressive degree of grace when it comes to sports so these kind of get-togethers inevitably involve backyard games. Today, the game of choice was pickle ball and if there is any more humbling, field-leveling backyard sport, I’d like to see it.

As a kid, I spent many a summer passing the time with badminton waiting for my dad to get home from work so racquet sports came easy to me. I held my own if by “my own” you consider my pride and ego and by “held” you mean wadded it up and threw it in a bucket of manure. Then you nailed it. Kudos.

But I still had the respect of the little ones so I’ll concentrate on that. Especially one of my nephews who, for some reason still a mystery to me, thinks I hung the moon. I took him aside and talked with him one time early in this visit and I must have hit a chord because I now seem to be the topic of discussion within his 5-year-old world. Now he has to sit next to me anywhere we go and in all plans for the rest of my trip, I am his main interest. Where is Uncle Jason? Is Uncle Jason going to be there? I want to sit by Uncle Jason.

There is very few things in this world, if any, that is more satisfying that seeing a 5-year-old’s eyes full of love and worship for you. I challenge you to come up with anything comparable.

Suddenly, pickle ball skills became very unimportant.




Free Advice for Today:
“When someone gives you something, never say 'You shouldn't have.'"
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“COMPUTERS MAKE VERY FAST, VERY ACCURATE MISTAKES.

- Unknown

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Back To Da 'Hood

What is going home for vacation and NOT taking time to revisit “the old place”? Which old place, you ask?

All of them.

I took my son with me to visit Federal Way, the city I spent a lot of my high school years in. The first stop was KC’s who, if memory served me, made the best hamburgers ever created by human beings. And that’s not just me talking here. Really. The best. Ever.

Not only did we get to experience said best burgers created by human beings, but I got to play the role of good Samaritan when the lady totally hosed the correct change situation. Our total came to $14 and some change so I handed her a $20 and she gave me the coins but forgot to hand me the bills. She realized this mistake right away, before even I noticed and embarrassed, handed me a $10.

Now I don’t claim to be the best mathematician on Earth. Or even in the top billion for that matter but I knew something was amiss here. I smiled and told her I think she intended to hand me a 5. She was momentarily confused, looking at the total, looking at the bill I was handing back, and back to the total. When it finally struck her, she turned beet red and exchanged the $10 for a $5. I was happy that Alex witnessed the entire thing.

My old house and all the ghosts associated with it was our next stop. When we pulled up, there were two young girls with their bikes in front. I pulled up slowly and tried to figure out a way to talk to them without looking like some pedophile stalker.

“Hi.”

Well, there goes that attempt.

“Do you live here?”

0 for two, Grose.

Externally: “Yes.”
Internally: “Oh my God, this freak is probably the kind that has a thing for the Veruca Salt actress from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or something. Help!!!”

“I grew up in this house.”

Blank stare.

While this was an infinitely interesting fact for me, it apparently had the same interest factor for her as belly-button lint.

I tried to make small talk and ask about the internal changes to the house which likely set off even more sirens for this poor girl. At least it should have and as much as I tried, the more I talked and tried to avoid sounding like Chester the Molester, the more I heard myself reading pages from the pedophile playbook. I finally gave up and ended the one-sided conversation awkwardly.

I drove around the old neighborhood and pointed out houses of former friends to which my poor son gamely feigned interest. Oh, what that boy had to endure. Then it was on to the high school and I didn’t even bother getting out of the car for that one. I would like to think my son would have some kind of latent interest in seeing where his dad attended high school if only for the fact that he himself is on the verge of attending his own version.

Maybe not. But God bless the little guy for at least pretending to be interested. I love that little knucklehead.

In my continuing search for the affordable Seattle Mariner jersey, we headed for the Seatac Mall. No, it’s not the Commons as they tried to tell me. Forever and a day, it will be “Seatac Mall” so let’s dispense with this silly re-branding attempt.

It’s Seatac Mall. It’s not “The Commons.”

It’s Southcenter Mall. Not “Westfield Mall.”

It’s stewardesses. Not “flight attendants.”

It’s employees. Not “associates.”

It’s Christmas Break. Not “Winter Break.”

It’s trashman. Not “Waste Engineer.”

It’s fake. Not “replica.”

Speaking of which, I finally caved and laid down the duckies for a fake jersey. It was the one I wanted: the glowing white baseball uniform I have always loved. I almost settled for a blue one because it was “authentic” but I just couldn’t go with the XXL. So I had to settle for the $75 replica, excuse me, FAKE, and be done with it.

I wore it out of the store.

I also hit the bookstore and bought yet another book. This one was about a guy who decided to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z. I had seen this book in the store last week and kept it in mind but when I asked about it in B&K yesterday, they didn’t have it so I decided that the next time I had the opportunity to get it, I would snag it right up.

My wife didn’t understand what would be so interesting about a guy who read the encyclopedia. And I couldn’t understand how she could be married to me for 18 years and not know by now why such a concept would interest me.

Why did a non-athletic bookworm decide to runaway, forgo college, and join the Marine Corps?

Why did a Sergeant decide to grab the golden ring as an Officer of Marines?

Why did a 30-year-old with no skills play full contact football against young Marines when the last and only time he had played was in 6th grade?

Why did a guy who detested running decide to not only run a marathon but tackle the 7th most difficult trail marathon in the United States in his marathon debut?

Why did he a few years later decided to run 2 marathons a week apart and then in the middle of training, decide to tack on his first attempt at a 50 mile race two weeks after that?

Why did he decide to do the same a year later to prove that the success of the first trio of races was not a fluke?

Why does a poor half-Mexican think he can be a Marine and earn a bachelor’s degree in Technical Communications, a Master’s in Information Technology, and eventually a doctorate in education?

Is there not a pattern here? Is it not apparent that an attempt to read the ENTIRE FREAKIN’ SET OF ENCYCLOPEDIAS would hold some kind of kindred spirit appeal?

Because it shouldn’t be able to be done.

Or more precisely, because “common knowledge” dictates these things shouldn’t be possible.




Free Advice for Today:
“Never buy a Rolex watch from someone who's out of breath."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, pretty soon everything begins to look like a nail.

- Unknown

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

University Daze

What a day! What did I do, you ask? Glad you asked…

Today was a day set aside to revisit the University of Washington. Every time I visit, one day is dedicated to doing this and the recipe rarely varies, based on me being such a creature of habit. Let me take you on this ride with me.

Driving from Renton to Seattle was a ride down memory lane, especially when I hit traffic on I-5. Why didn’t I take 405? Because I’m a moron. Can we move on?

But it did give me a chance to listen to my favorite radio station (Star 101.5) and to my favorite radio personalities (Kent and Allen). I laughed out loud (probably scaring the bejeebies out of my fellow commuters) when they played a familiar jingle…

“Won’t you do my ass….. strological chart, won’t you do my ass (do his ass)….. strological chart, won’t you do my ass….. strological chart… won’t-you-do-my-astrological chart..”

It don’t take much, folks.

Even the commercials were fun to listen to since I hadn’t heard about the local offerings in a few years.

When I got to the campus, I knew to park in the big lot and braced myself for the price gouging. When I attended there from 1993-1997, the price was $1.75 per day to park. When I pulled up today… an even 4 bucks.

Sonuva….!!!!!

OK, fine, it’s just one day but the problem was, it only took quarters and call me insane but I don’t make it a habit of carrying around a sack of quarters so I pulled up to the change machine (the wrong way, of course) and had to get out of my car to feed in my flimsy $5 which it took 4 tries to decide that yes, this was actually a $5 bill and I wasn’t putting in a damp napkin. It probably helped when I oriented it correctly but that’s beside the point.

It was like I hit it big time on a slot machine. Ching, ching, ching, ching…. We have a winner!!!!

By the time I pulled around there was three cars behind me, probably with auto-passes, and I felt just a bit self-conscious feeding in 16 quarters into the damn machine. Oh God, don’t lose count….

The first order of business was to go for a run. The plan was to start at the ROTC building, run through the campus hitting a few memorable places, and then head on out to Gas Works park. Then it was all the way back to campus and all the way through Greek Row and around Greenlake and back.

That was the plan.

I accomplished most of it.

Most of it.

The part about visiting the ROTC building went without a hitch, other than the fact that a friend of mine who is the Marine Officer Instructor was fox oscaring somewhere and I had to leave a note. This is a story within itself but suffice it to say that I knew him as a green midshipmen and the thought of him as the MOI is akin to seeing that class clown you remember as the principal of your high school in that as an “adult” he might be quite capable of fulfilling the role but for forever and a day will be Gilligan. But even that is not an apt comparison because despite knowing Tim’s past youthful goofiness, he struck me as an outstanding leader of Marines. Plus he’s a Major so who am I, a lowly Captain, to make fun?

My next stop was at the Department of Technical Communications who, many years ago, were foolish enough to bestow upon me a bachelor’s degree. I stopped by to say hello to any professors that still taught but since it was summer, no one was around. Damn, it was a chance to show them that despite my less-than-stellar performance so many years ago, I went on to attain a master’s degree. I guess I have a few issues about that period of my life which were not helped by the conversation I had with the only professor in the office. I did not know her but here is how it went:

“What is your name, I’ll tell them you stopped by.”
“Jason Grose. I graduated in 1997.”
“Oh, I’ve heard of you.”

It was telling that this statement turned my stomach. Then, like an idiot, I had to made the following statement:

“Is that good or bad?”

(Don’t ask questions you don’t want to hear the answers to.)

(Laughing) “Well, we won’t go into that.”

“I produced the posTComm that year.”
“Yeah, that’s where I remember your name.”

So I don’t know if my name is mud around there or not. I didn’t have the greatest relationship with the department mainly because the NROTC took up so much of my time, I was an occasional participant in TC in general and admittedly, did the minimum within the department to get the degree. I don’t know how this made me look within the department because, by the nature of the situation, I was not plugged into the general hum of life within TC. So either I faded into the background, rarely seen, or was enshrined into the obscurity of mediocrity. That’s the best case scenario. The worst is that the general reaction to my memory is “Oh, that guy. Yeah, mayor of Slackerville.”

It was time to get on the road to Gas Works. My training had waned in the last few days and even though this is what is supposed to happen before a marathon, it felt wrong. The run was not all that great and I had made the mistake of not eating anything thus my blood sugar was somewhere near what rhymes with hero.

There was one point of interest that, for some reason, I always take note of when I make this run: There is a stretch of this run where I run over and under bridges at the same time. As I cross the bridge, there is another bridge above me and I even looked over the edge just in case there was yet another bridge below. Now THAT would be outright freaky.

When I got to Gas Works, I looked over the bay to see the perfect skyline of Seattle. As I watched on top of a hill, I witnessed a small plane come in for a landing on the water. Don’t worry, it had those big water-landing feet, just in case you assumed I watched a tragedy (other than my general performance on the run, of course).

By the time I ran back to campus, a few things became apparent:

1. I needed food
2. I needed water
3. I needed to end this run
4. I needed to bag the run to Greenlake
5. I needed to be in better running shape for my marathon in a few days
6. I needed to ACCEPT that #4 probably was going to happen

So what did I do? Why, I turned to books, of course. But first, I stopped by the car, did a presto-change-O in the parking lot (hoping no one would notice the mostly naked guy hiding behind the door of the white Jeep.) I figured for $4, I could use the lot as a locker room. Screw ‘em!

I then made another stop at the NROTC and found Tim but he had a class to attend so we made a lunch date and I wandered off to the University Bookstore.

It was like Mecca!!! Rows and rows of books. Big, beautiful books of all kinds just waiting to be wandered by and ogled, kind of like a biblio-Victoria Secrets. OK, maybe not JUST like that but you get the idea.

Here was my chance. Like many of my harebrained (Hair-brained?) ideas, I got it in my head to attack the Illiad. Why? No particular reason other than the same I had for getting into marathoning and ultra-marathoning: because it had a reputation of difficulty. And simply reading it was not the way to go, as I was told. I would have to STUDY it to get the full effect and I was told that the best way to go about this was to use a text intended for a literature class which has notes. So when I found myself at a UNIVERSITY bookstore, well, the opportunity was just too rich to pass up.

If you have ever looked into anything like this, you will understand that I had somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 choices of translations of which, approximately none were a clear choice. It seems that over the years, many people have attempted to translate this story and then you have the translations of the translations which adds to the fun. Plus, you have the study guides which offer an equal number of confusing choices.

As I crouched in the aisles, crying like a small child, I finally decided that I should start with a guide and once I decided this, it was a simpler matter to choose which translation to go with since the guide specified which version it was talking about. Armed with these two books, I concluded this was my choice and for better or for worse, this is what I was going with. Let the literature self-education begin.

I met Tim and his Staff Sergeant for lunch and we mainly talked about the old times which likely bored the poor Staff Sergeant into a grand mal seizure but he hid it well. I told Tim that he had my dream job and if they gave me the opportunity in two years when the position came open, I would stay in past my 20 year mark and finish out my career as the University of Washington’s NROTC Marine Officer Instructor. I will be looking into this when I return but it’s a pretty tall order.

“So let me get this straight: we send you to graduate school for two years, paying you to get a free master’s degree and then you spend 4 years working on an IT system. Now you want us to send you to another juicy billet out of your MOS for 3 years at a university right before you retire?”

“Um…. Yeah, that about covers it.”

There are other benefits to this other than the obvious opportunity to affect incoming Marine and Navy Officers (a dream job I’ve coveted for years). The extra three years would qualify me to retire as a Major with 3 years time in grade and thus my retirement pay would be based on Major’s pay. Plus, with a 2 ½% increase per year after 20 years of service, my retirement pay would be 57 ½% of Major’s pay.

And I would be able to teach Naval Science classes so along with a doctorate in education, the experience of teaching college level courses would help me toward my ultimate goal of college professorship.

I know it’s a long shot and I’m not getting my hopes up but like every other opportunity I’ve taken during my 18 year stint as a Marine, I will make them say no to my request and thus my failure or success will not be based on my lack of asking.

You would think that all this was enough for a full day but I still had one more stop to make. Just adjacent to the University is a monstrous Barnes & Noble bookstore. I know, I know, but if you could only see this one. It’s like the Library of Congress but everything is for sale!

And what sales they had. The entire front part of the store is this big collection of discounted books. Rows and rows and rows of seriously discounted offerings just waiting to be snatched. I was dizzy with the possibilities.

With my iPod in ear, I wandered the aisles and wallowed in the selections. Ironically, I bought two more books and the one I enjoyed most was one I didn’t buy.

The two I bought was a collection of Andy Rooney’s short essays he performed at the end of 60 Minutes and a book about teenage hackers. The one I sat down and read was a behind-the-scenes book about the making of the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

I loved this movie and it made a huge impact on me when I was a child. Before the days of VCRs and DVDs, I only got to see it once per year and it was an event to be savored so to see and read about how they created such an iconic movie was indescribably interesting to me. Most of all, I enjoyed the last portion explaining “Where They Are Now.”

The one defining picture was a reunion picture with all five of the “kids” now somewhere in their 50s. Of course Charlie was of most interest and I read where he never did another movie after this one and went on to become a veterinarian in New Jersey. His current picture made him look either like a biker of gay. Maybe both. It was the bushy handlebar mustache, I think.

Then there was Veruca Salt who, if the truth be known, had a lot to do with my burgeoning attraction to girls at the time. I don’t know why a spoiled brat in white tights and a red dress played such a defining role in my developing interest in the opposite sex so no street-corner psychoanalytic drivel, please. Just take it for what it’s worth that I always had a “thing” for her that I could never explain.

So you can imagine the internal confusion as a sat in a Barnes & Noble bookstore at 36 years of age, thumbing through a book about the movie and realizing two disturbing facts:

1. The actress was 13-years-old at the time which is the same age as my son is now
2. She is now middle-aged

Disgracefully too young at the time and depressingly too old now. There is just no “good” to be found anywhere in that situation so I will move on.

On a better note, I was touched by the final story told in the book.

It seems that Gene Wilder, who played the famous chocolate factory owner, lives in Connecticut and was recently shopping in a country store when he was approached by a lady with two small children. She whispered to him, asking him if it was OK if she told her children who he was.

He knew what she was going to say and told her “Only if you keep it low so only they can hear.”

With that, she turned to the kids and said, “Children, THIS is Willy Wonka.”

The kids looked at him in awe and amazement as he gently smiled down at them.

Just take a moment and imagine how good that must feel for Mr. Wilder.




Free Advice for Today:
“Never go up a ladder with just one nail."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?

- Unknown

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Ch Ch Ch Changes...

Things change. I know that isn’t a huge revelation but I would be remiss if I didn‘t mention something about it because ever since I’ve been back, I’ve noticed it at every turn.

I grew up half my childhood in this area and then spent 4 years of college here in the Seattle area so I am familiar enough to still go places with minimal direction. If you knew me well, you would understand how much that statement means because I will get lost in a closet. Remember that scene in, I think, A Bug’s Life where the ants are carrying food in a line and a stick falls between two ants and one screams “I’m lost!!!”

That’s me.

Case in point about the changes, the area around my in-laws’ house used to be strewn with lots of vegetation. Now, houses abound. The old Hop-In Mom-N-Pop store has now turned into a modern gas station and food mart. Wide fields of woods now sport expensive homes.

Where are all these people coming from? Where will it end?

To counteract the fact that life has moved on here in my hometown, I took my boy to the mall. It used to be called Southcenter but was renamed at some time to Westfield Mall at Southcenter. But you know what, it’ll forever and a day be known as “Southcenter” to most people around here. I was amused that radio commercials are still calling it Southcenter, wondering how they could get away with that since I assume that the owners who are paying for the commercial would want the re-branding to be universal.

It was just us guys so I gave the boy a choice of what he wanted for lunch and with a slight suggestion that we should hit the Sizzler (a place my boy loves but we don’t have them in Virginia, damn hicks) he “decided” that’s where we should go.

I realized my boy is not immune to the whole change theme we have going here. He no longer qualifies for the child’s menu and is starting to order the same thing I order, although his completed quantity intake leaves a bit to be desired (paying for an all-you-can-eat salad bar in return for a half dozen chicken wings? Are you kidding me?)

We had a great time eating and talking and laughed together when I told him that once when I was a kid, I refused to eat the steak my dad bought me at that very restaurant because I was convinced the grill marks were tire tread and I wasn’t interested in eating a steak that had obviously been run over by a car.

He then told me how he used to think that a carpool lane involved a large pool of water somewhere along the route.

After lunch, we hit CompUSA which is the bestest computer store ever, if you were wondering. I heard trumpets blare as I entered but after about 15 minutes, I really couldn’t find anything that I couldn’t live without. The iPod accessories were too expensive and I bristled at the fact that the only consideration I gave to anything was a crApple product line. For shame!

We then walked next door to the Sports Authority store and let me go on record to say that they have the best selection of running stuff I’ve found. They had a lot of the Under Armor line as I salivated at the selection. The price dried my mouth, though. And I have to say that I was a bit intimidated by the muscular mannequins they had. It was just a torso with no head but it was built like a bodybuilder. If I could look like that, I would wear the skin-tight shirts they were advertising. If I wore it now… let’s move on to another subject, shall we?

The real reason we were there is because I got another obsession into my pea brain. This time it started from the Mariner game the other day. My brother had an authentic Mariner jersey and I got it in my head that I wanted one. So for the last few days, I’ve been scouring every sports store to find a better deal that $120 for the “official” version and $80 for what I call the “fake” but they call the “replica.” OK, we’ll go with “replica.”

So I’m looking at the fake jerseys…

I’m just not ready to spend $80 for a shirt. Sorry. I just can’t. This doesn’t mean I won’t, it just means I’m not ready to do it just yet. It hurts. It pains me. I have to ease into it.

It was time to hit the actual mall and all and all, it was a pleasant experience. Alex did amazingly well as I scoured the sports stores and book outlets. I bored him silly with stories about how we used to take him to this mall and the particular stores he insisted we visit, not the least of which was the Candy Store. I told him to get anything he wanted and what does he get? Nerds. Something he could get from the local AM/PM. That’s my boy.

We headed home and the only purchases that were made was a $2 rubber Mariner bracelet for my son and a box of Nerds.

But spending the day alone with my boy: priceless.




Free Advice for Today:
“When someone you know is down and out, mail them a twenty-dollar bill anonymously."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“Auntie Em. Hate you, hate Kansas, taking the dog.

- Unknown

Monday, July 4, 2005

Happy Birthday, America!!

Carrie has a big family. When you consider she’s the oldest of five and then add in all the accompanying spouses and kids (plus a dog!), you come up with quite a gathering for a celebration. What’s more amazing is that everyone was at one place at the same time for the day; an occurrence that is very rare. Oh, and no one wanted to kill someone else, even among the kids. This is another oddity of this family: everyone gets along.

This opposed to my dad’s side of the family where it wouldn’t be a gathering unless a fight broke out, blood was spilled all over the broken beer bottles, and police involvement was a given.

It was a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. There were hamburgers grilling, kids of all ages playing, and adults in deep discussion in the sunshine about taxes and house prices. It was good to be home again.

We decided that we should light off the fireworks at Scott’s house since it was in Maple Valley. They had authorized fireworks in my in-law’s county but they were right on the line and didn’t want to deal with the possibility that Barney Fife would come rolling up and exert his authority. So we all made the trip to good old Maple Valley for some good old fashioned pyrotechnic boom-boom.

As it got dark, it was like being in a battle area. Explosions were going off everywhere you looked; big ones, small ones, some that made stains in your shorts. You know, all the usual stuff in celebration of this great Nation’s birthday.

We hauled out folding chairs and “The Boom Box” to the basketball court in the little park behind Scott’s house. At first, we just let the kids play with the little stuff: snakes, black cats, pop-bottle rockets.

Earlier in the day, Scott and I had a rousing game of catch the pop-bottle rocket stick. It was a game I played with my brother and dad when we were kids. The concept is simple: you light the rocket, it goes up, explodes, and the stick comes floating down. You goal is to catch it before it hits the ground.

Of course with so many years of experience, I totally dominated. And just for the record, I was trying to guide Stephanie away so I wouldn’t accidentally step on her. Carrie incorrectly interpreted it as shoving here out of my friggin’ way. Women.

I was also attacked by a tank. My nephew had grabbed this little tank firework and opened it before we could get it from him and we managed to put it back together. But when we lit it, it was supposed to roll forward a few feet and shoot out little popping explosions from its main gun. I was behind it and because it had been opened, for some reason one of the explosions shot out the back of the little tank and if not for my cat-like reactions, would have nailed me in the shins. Everyone thought this was quite humorous and they can collectively kiss my ass.

Back to the nighttime fireworks; we expended all the rockets first. There were seemingly thousands of them and it took awhile but we were building up to the big stuff.

The Big Stuff!!!! It came with a sturdy PVC launch tube and canisters the size of my fist. We had single, double, triple, and yes folks, even quadruple explosions!! We started with the single and when we lit the fuse (and just maybe scurried away like scared cats. I’m not verifying, I’m just saying the possibility exists) the launch was dramatic.

BOOM!!!!!

It sounded like an M80. Everyone jumped and in about 3 seconds, the sky lit up with one of those big flowering displays. All the men let out a primordial scream and I had my arms raised above my head.

We had 80 of these.

And it never got old.

As we progressed, letting off one was not enough. We started launching two at a time, trying to time it just right which was difficult because Lyle had a blowtorch (of course) and we had a punk for the other one. The fuses were so thick that it took awhile to light it with a punk and then Lyle would hit his with the torch. But Lyle’s was still behind so he figured out to light the fuse a bit higher to shorten the time it would take to cook off.

Then we went to three where we had a torch, a punk, and a big fireplace lighter. I had the lighter and we had to go off the my brother-in-law’s punk in the middle to time our lights. We got it down and a few times, we actually achieved simultaneous launch.

This was such a “dude” accomplishment.

As a grand finale, we tried 4. One torch, one lighter, and two punks. This was obviously an advanced attempt and the possibility of getting the two punks to light at the same time was the long pole in the tent and slim at best but we were determined to make it work.

Some kind of cosmic alignment happened and both punk lights took immediately and simultaneously. Of course, Lyle’s blowtorch had no problem getting the fuse to light and all I had to do was click my lighter and hold the flame to the fuse.

This I did.

And in horror, I watched as the flame bathed the end of the fuse but to no effect. It was like the fuse was wet or covered in wax. I could hear the others start to jeer and I sat there, holding the flame as the other tubes boomed. I was WAY off and no one cared that I was doing everything right. All they saw was that mine was not going off.

Bastards!!!

It finally lit and it came off as pretty lame, a lone firework going off after the others had dazzled the crowd. It seemed funny that when we started, the lone firework was exciting and pleased the crowd but now, it was just kind of a late-comer and put an exclamation point on the fact that I was pitifully late to the game.

But I caught the most pop-bottle rocket sticks!!! I’m the champ there, right?

Hello?




Free Advice for Today:
“Protect your enthusiasm from the negativity of others."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“Follow your dream! Unless it's the one where you're at work in your underwear during a fire drill.

- Unknown

Sunday, July 3, 2005

Marathon Course, Mariners, The Peanut Guy, and Godfathers, All In One Day!!!

It’s good to have connections. Even though the Alanis tickets didn’t exactly come through, I WAS treated to season ticket seats for the Mariner game through family connections. My brother-in-law’s brother-in-law, if you can figure that one out.

I got two tickets so my brother and I made plans to meet up, have breakfast, and catch the afternoon game.

But before the game, he wanted to show me the marathon course. He works for a company that supplies construction supplies (cones, reader boards, etc) and his company was cordoning off the marathon course. He wanted to show me the route that he had mentioned was a flat course; information I based a potential sub-4 and PR running time on.

I have reassessed my outlook.

Up, down, up, down, up, ….

And I’m not talking dirty here, that was the course. I don’t exactly know what my brother’s definition of “flat” is but in the World of Jason, this course was the hilliest course out of all my marathons.

As we drove, I marveled at the increases and decreases in elevation. Good Lord, this was not fair. What the hell were the designers thinking? In past years, they had done a half marathon for SeaFair and this was the first year they decided to expand it to a full marathon. There will be 1000 half-marathoners and only 500 marathoners. They hope it will catch on and become a big yearly event but, as my brother put it, if 6 people get hit by cars, it probably won’t be an annual event. That made me feel real good.

So I’m sitting in the passenger seat crying…

Looks like this is going to be a “Fun Run” that’s not so fun, folks. I really don’t see a sub-4 on this monster. We’ll see.

Onto the baseball game.

Driving into downtown Seattle was just was much a thrill for me as it was when I was a kid. Rounding a corner, I had a flashback and fully expected to see the Kingdome but instead was met with the site of both the Seahawk Stadium and Safeco Field. Oh yeah, 2005.

No Mariner game would be complete without a pre-game beer or two and Chris’s favorite was the Pyramid Ale House where they set up a beer garden outside. The Mariners haven’t been doing all that hot and in fact, are in last place so there wasn’t that big of a crowd. It felt good to stand out in the sun outside of the stadium and drink a couple of beers with my brother. We had tickets in hand (40 rows back from home plate) and all was well with the world.

Luckily for us, our seats were in the shade the entire game and the temperature was perfect. Everything just fell into place as we watched the Mariners play and it occurred to me that I was really looking forward to moving back here for good. Only a couple of more years and I’d be “coming home” after a 20 year absence.

Walking up the aisle way, I recognized The Peanut Guy. Ever since I was a little kid, excitingly watching a Mariner game in the Kingdome with my dad, The Peanut Guy has been slinging peanuts. I can remember as a little kid how we would look for him and thrill at his skill at throwing a bag of peanuts an insane distance and hit his target right in the hands. He’s become an icon in Seattle and he’s been interviewed on TV, in newspapers, and magazines. He represents the Mariners at the vender contest during spring training each year and I’m told he wins most of the time.

Recognizing him, I was amazed that he was still doing what he does. I mean, I’m 36 years old and he was doing this when I was a child. It was a blast from the past and from my adult perspective, I noticed something I never had before. He was of Middle Eastern decent. As a kid, it never mattered, I never noticed. He was The Peanut Guy with the perpetual smile and dead-on aim with a bag of peanuts. People would buy peanuts for the sole reason of him throwing them from 3 sections over.

In a split second, I made a decision. Springing from my seat, I followed him all the way down the aisle to the front row behind home plate. I think he was a little taken aback when I came right up to him, not being used to people coming to him.

“My name is Captain Jason Grose, United States Marine Corps, but I’m from here in Seattle and home for vacation. I just wanted you to know that I remember you from when I was a kid and you would throw me bags of peanuts in the Kingdome. I don’t want to make you feel old but I’m coming up on 20 years in the Corps and will be coming home in a couple of years. I wish my son was here today because you represent one of my best childhood memories about the Kingdome and Mariner games as a kid and I thought it would be neat to cross the generations and you could throw my boy a bag of peanuts. I’m glad to see you are still making people happy and I just wanted to say hello. It’s good to see that some things are still the same after all of these years.”

I said all of this while shaking his hand and he had that ear-to-ear smile I remembered from my earliest Seattle memories. Then he had something to say.

“First of all, I want to thank you for your service to our country. Thank you for defending us and making us safe. I spent some time in the Army myself a long time ago so I know what’s involved. Thank you for your kind words and catch me next time when you bring your son.”

It was such a rewarding exchange that I can’t adequately explain what it meant to both of us. He was an icon from my childhood and I could tell he was genuinely flattered about what I said to him. We shook hands with big smiles and I like to think I made his day to the same degree as he made mine. It was the best part of the entire game.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law used the other two tickets so they showed up during the third inning. The game went extremely fast (2 hours and 15 minutes) ending in a Mariner victory which, since I had not been following the Mariners, I didn’t realize, but a win was NOT a common event.

I went home with Scott and Michelle and we got ready for yet another required event while visiting Washington: Godfather’s Pizza with Scott and Kristine.

It’s not an option. We MUST eat taco pizza from Godfather’s with Scott and Kristine every visit. We HAVE to! The very fabric of space and time would fall apart otherwise.

Two jumbos. That’s what we had to go with. One full taco and then ½ of the other one. The other half was beef and pepperoni for the kids who were genetically faulted not to like taco pizza. Freakishly wrong, I know, but who can argue with the defects of genetic coding?

Deep breaths. Concentrate. Don’t succumb to that pesky full feeling. Five slices were in the cards. You can do it if you concentrate.

I should have stopped at 4. With jumbo slices, we’re talking some big triangles. Scott went for the 5th piece and there is no way I could let him outdo me. Bring on the 5th slice!!!

I felt like I had swallowed a deployed airbag. But it tasted so good. Is there any higher perfection that Godfather’s taco pizza, no onions?

I don’t think so.

I then went home and exploded.




Free Advice for Today:
“If you ask someone to do something for you, let them do it their way."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“Into every life some rain must fall. Usually when your car windows are
down.

- Unknown

Saturday, July 2, 2005

You Outta Know

It all started with a seemingly innocent comment. But she should have klnown me better. She should have realized what it would lead to.

“Hey, Alanis Morissette is going to be at the Paramount on July 10th.”
Wheels started to turn.

Yes, that’s the day of my marathon and yes, Alanis is hugely popular up here in the Pacific Northwest so tickets will be tough to get but with all things considered, it became my life mission to get tickets and go to this concert.

My first move was to log onto the evil Satanistic Ticketmaster and see what they had. I had low expectations and they didn’t disappoint. Mezzanine level, way the hell back for $70 per ticket. Actually they were $56 tickets but with “event charge” (which it seems to me should be covered in the ticket price. Hello, that’s THE EVENT!!!!), the price was jaqued.

Anyway, it didn’t look good.

So I cast out my net, calling everyone I knew to see if they had connections. I seriously needed a “I know dis guy..” situation for such a short fuse request. I called my two brothers-in-law, I called my brother, I called my in-laws but to no avail. If I was going to make the magic happen, I was on my own.

On to Google.

It seems they have these ticket brokers who buy up all the good seats and then sell them for exorbitant prices. How they get away with this, I don’t know since it would seem to be a bit more illegal even than my recent fireworks purchase, but they had the tickets.

Third row. Center.

Drum roll, please……………………….

$115 per ticket.

So Carrie crapped herself. It seems she suddenly wasn’t as hyped to go see Alanis.

But Honey, she’s doing an acoustic concert of her Jagged Little Pill album for the 10th anniversary of the groundbreaking release!

No?

But it’s Alanis and I’ve been listening to her for a decade.

Still nothing?

We’re on vacation and it’s my only chance to see one of my favorite artists of all time!

Blank stare.

I called my brother and told him about it and to my surprise, he was a huge Alanis fan. Must be something in our genetic makeup because neither one of us is exactly the demographic of the average Alanis fan. I mean, I don’t FEEL like a bitter, jilted, jaded bitch. (oooh, I wonder if I’ll hear about THAT one). Actually, her music is pretty deep if you listen to it closely but it does border on a bit too existential.

So my brother tells me that he was willing to go if I can get tickets. Talking to Carrie, we decided that despite it being a huge splurge, she would forgo the concert and that way we’d only spend $115 and I’d be able to go with my brother. Now that’s a sight: the Grose brothers going to an Alanis concert. It’s almost too hard to even visualize.

I called the ticket brokers and left a message but they never called back. I finally got in touch with them and ordered the tickets but they said the people that were holding the tickets were not open on the weekends and since Monday was a holiday, they couldn’t confirm the tickets until Tuesday.

I was also worried that they would send the tickets to Virginia since they didn’t give a choice between mailing address and shipping address on the website. That’s why I wanted to talk to a live person to make sure that they send them to my in-laws’ house.

Now it’s a waiting game. I might be third row center, tired as hell after a marathon, or I might be $115 richer, cramping, and biting the pillow on that Sunday night. I’ll let you know.




Free Advice for Today:
“Occasionally walk through old cemetaries and read the gravestones."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


Quote of the Day:

“Procrastination reduces anxiety by reducing the quality of the expected product from the best of all possible efforts to the best that can be expected given the limited time.

- 50 Fun Things to Do in an Elevator

Friday, July 1, 2005

Down, Around, Up, And Back

I had a mission this morning. The marathon on the 10th isn’t going to run itself so I needed a big run. Also, there is a certain run that I have this thing with around here. I came up with it years ago and it’s just one of those vendetta runs that, depending on the shape I’m in, can get the better of me or I can kick its ass with extreme prejudice. Both has occurred over the years and I had a good feeling about today. I felt like I could subdue the sickly little wimp inside long enough to conquer this run.

The first part is always easy: downhill for about a mile. And I mean STEEP downhill. Since they are redoing the bridge at the bottom of the hill, all traffic was closed off and I had a clean run down. The weather was overcast and in the low 60s; beautiful for a good long run. No excuses.

Getting to the bottom and onto the path, I was amazed at how good it all felt. I didn’t even feel like I had started and I think that had a lot to do with nostalgia for the run, being home, and some memories of being out early delivering papers when I was a kid.

The test was about to begin. With a name like “Cemetery Hill,” you know it can’t be a walk in the park. Although there is a cemetery on the stretch of road, the root of the name is more appropriately attributed to the steepness. It’s more of a climb than a run. Cars have to downshift and pedestrians can be seen taking breaks on the way up. It’s just that nasty.

I’ve had harder times going up this monster but I’m proud to say that I’ve never had it easier than today. Don’t get me wrong, it hurt. Bad. But I made it up in one run without stopping and getting to the top, I recovered quickly and continued the run. I was amazed at how much better shape I’m in than I thought and better than in past years when that hill would have me for breakfast.

I finished the run in 1:20, happy that yet another milestone of this trip was complete. I had survived “The Loop” and live to tell about it.

Tonight, most of the huge family joined us at Red Robin and once again, I stuffed myself silly in the company of my wife’s family. But we all had a good time with a party of 12 and made a spectacle of ourselves. As for me, I downed two 28 ounce mugs of Coors Light and was feeling very little pain. All the kids were wild and we made quite a scene but I was content to sit there and soak it all in. With that many jazzed-up kids around, I was in no danger of making a drunken idiot of myself and after today’s run, it was just a sedative anyway.

After dinner, we all decided to go to the Indian Reservation and get some not-as-legal-as-the-authorities-would-like fireworks. Getting there, it was immediately evident that this crowd would make Wal-Mart shoppers look like Rodeo Drive. I felt like Thurston Howell The Third walking around there and it brought back memories of my childhood when I lived in a trailer with my dad during the summer.

I hate bargaining. Look, I got this much money, I want this much stuff, let’s not bicker about it. This was not the prevailing attitude so I just gave my kids $20 each and told them to get what they could get. They could go in together or buy individually and all I would do is make sure they didn’t get juiced.

Part of the fun for them is the knowledge that they have $20 and they are the decision maker. Like my own father did for me when I was a kid, I let them have the fun of making the choices. And like me, they took forever deciding the millions of variations they could purchase with their magic $20 bill.

While this was going on, Carrie was negotiating with the rest of her family on how much they should all pitch in for the big stuff. Our share came to about $50 so all tolled, I was in for 90 bones and the variety we purchased was beautiful in its horror.

I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest and greatest when it comes to fireworks but if you haven’t, let’s just say that with what we purchased, we could give the Iraqi insurgents a run for their money. I say we should just empty out the fireworks stands, take it over to Iraq, and end this thing most rikki-tik.

We got stuff. Big stuff. Big stuff that goes BOOM! Something like 80 canisters of artillery and more rockets than I’ve fired off during my entire 36 years. Someone was definitely gonna get hurt. Hands were going to get blown off. Kids were going to be rushed to the emergency room. It was AWESOME!!!

Only three days until serious powder burns….




Free Advice for Today:
“Don't use your teeth to open things."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

BLOG entry for this day from 2004

BLOG entry for this day from 2003

BLOG entry for this day from 1997


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