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I Hold The Key(s)

Friday, September 30th, 2005


- Unknown

Hotel Key

A week in San Diego and it’s time to return home. And because Gunny made the reservations and not me, we left midday and didn’t get home until after midnight, rolling into my driveway at almost 0100.

Before we left the base, we had to give an outbrief to the people we came to see which normally becomes a pain in the ass since we have to get into uniform, give the brief, do the Superman change-over, and rush to the airport. But with such a late flight (!!!) we were able to go back to the hotel and change there.

I had 4 room keys. Why? Because I locked myself out one day and they issued me 2 more. What I didn’t know is that in issuing me two new ones rendered the old ones useless. So when the power went out in my room and I went over to Gunny’s room to work on the after-action report, I grabbed a key but had the forethought to test it, unsure if the power outage would affect the auto-lock door thing-a-ma-jig. It gave me the green light so I thought I was good, slipping the key into my pocket.

After a half hour, I went back to my room to see if the call I made to the front desk resulted in any help. I pulled out my key, slipped it into the lock, and got a red light.

You know, doing this 50 TIMES doesn’t change things.

So I huffily walked to the front office and when I entered, there was a line of about 5 people and a very confused looking person behind the counter.


So I decided to wait. The outward expression of my total lack of patience was to slam both my hands in my pockets.

Both hands wrapped around keys.


I pulled both hands out and sure enough, I had two keys. It all fell into place.

I had a new key in one pocket which I had tested before I left the room. I also had an old key that I pulled out to get back into my room which is why it didn’t work, thinking they were the same key.

So I stood there and tried to weigh my options. I didn’t want to wait there for all these slow people so I took off back to my room.

On my way over, it occurred to me that if I was wrong and made an extra trip to a locked room, I was going to lose it. Especially since I would HAVE to return to the office and explain something like this:

“Yeah, I’m in room 325 and I don’t know if the power is still on because it went out but I already called about that. I can’t check because I lost my key yesterday and you gave me new ones that I think made the others inoperable which I think I grabbed because I can’t get into my room with this one. I need two more keys and I need to know if anyone has fixed the power problem.”

This nutjob of an explanation ended up unnecessary since the other key worked and the power was on once I got into my room.

I then grabbed all four keys and tested each one. The two that didn’t work went straight to the floor.

I still maintain I did EVERYTHING correctly, logically, and in the right order to include testing the key before I left. But I gotta stop telling my Gunny these things because he’s questioning my intelligence even though I did nothing wrong but lock myself out a couple of days ago.

Free Advice for Today: “Select a doctor your own age so that you can grow old together.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


The Blood Bath

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Quote of the Day: “Don’t be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily.”

- Unknown

I’ve seen a lot of shit in my 18 years but I’ve never seen ANY shit like this.

Travis and I were talking shop to a Drill Instructor assigned to us by the depot concerning our program. After we finished, I mentioned how it would be useful to talk to a Senior Drill Instructor who was using the program and get his feedback. Yeah, really just a lame excuse to go out into the wild and see DIs at work. I got more than I could imagine.

He took us over to the barracks and we saw that the entire series was in formation, going through their first “inspection.” Allow me to provided a little background.

The first inspection is not really an inspection. It’s really a blood-fest. From the recruits perspective, they are getting ready for their first inspection and what they EXPECT is that the DIs will come in front of them, grab their rifles, inspect it, inspect them, ask them some questions, and basically ascertain the level of “squared-away” the recruits have spent endless hours getting polished.

But there’s a trick here. The real intent from the DIs’ perspective is simple. Chew up the recruits like no one’s business. Drive in the fear of God, deeply, to the recruits to show them that the level where the recruits THINK they are is quantum levels below where they SHOULD be, thus hiking up overall expectations. There is nothing personal about it and the DIs really don’t look for anything. The recruit will mentally supply his own deficiencies and attribute it to the all-knowing DIs’ insights.

The result of this is humbling: the DIs JUMP in front of the recruit and rage into the young recruit will full force. It’s a modern day slaughter worthy of the battle scenes in Braveheart.

As we approached the back of the formation, we were introduced to a First Sergeant who happened to be in charge of all the Drill Instructors for this series. When we were introduced, I almost saluted. Even by Drill Instructors’ standards, this guy was one of the most visually intimidating human beings I’d ever seen. Rugged, square jaw and an animalistic look in his eyes that spoke of years spent being the baddest son of a bitch on the planet. As a First Sergeant, he obviously had been at this for many years and just his physical appearance broadcasted that he was a man to be feared by all.

We spoke but right behind him was the formation, with the recruits’ backs to me and I could see DIs just going apeshit. The sounds of the depot are familiar to anyone who spends any time there and it didn’t seem at all strange to be carrying on a normal conversation with someone while maniacal screaming was going on all around.

But I was severely interested in the process, not seeing that level of stress applied since my days in shaky recruit boots. I kept having to concentrate on paying attention to the conversation when all I wanted to do was to watch what was going on.

The First Sergeant called over one of his DIs and it was WEIRD. He beckoned one who came running over. And I mean RUNNING!

“Yes, First Sergeant?”

The Staff Sergeant had an earnest look on his face and a trace of fear in his eye. FROM A DRILL INSTRUCTOR! This made my blood run cold just seeing the respect the First Sergeant got. I mean, this Staff Sergeant was a Drill Instructor who had seconds before been yelling full force in the ear of a recruit and now subjugated himself to he First Sergeant like a puppy of the pack to the alpha dog.

We all talked for a few moments and with a wave of his arm, the First Sergeant told the Staff Sergeant that “that’s enough, get back to work” which the Staff Sergeant gave a “aye, aye First Sergeant” and went scampering back to the inspection.


Another Captain and a First Lieutenant came walking up and it struck me that they both looked about as dopy as I felt. These guys weren’t geeks or anything but in the company of howling mad DIs, I suddenly FELT my place as an Officer. I saw on their face a lack of hardness that all the DIs had and I saw from the DIs perspective how officers are there just as pseudo-necessary figureheads. The DIs were the ones who ran the show, at least where the recruits hit the road.

As we were talking, I saw movement in my peripheral vision. What happened next is certain but what caused it can only be conjectured.

My best guess is that a wayward recruit from another series was walking by, saw the antics of the Drill Instructors eating recruits alive, and must have either smiled or maybe even laughed.

That’s conjecture. What I actually saw is fact.

A Drill Instructor escorted the wayward recruit over to the First Sergeant and by the time I turned around, the feast was in full roar.

The recruit was in green cammies (which is why I identified him as a recruit from another series since all the recruits being “inspected” were in desert cammies) within a sea of angry DIs.

All I heard was an EXPLOSION of screams as no less that a DOZEN DIs enveloped the single recruit. They were like a pack of angry wolves, all in motion, screaming, swirling around the recruit, trying to get to the middle. It was like a hurricane with the recruit as the eye, head down, screaming “Yes Sir!”

Again, I’ll point out that whatever this poor lad did, he probably deserved what he was getting (in the world of Marine Corps Boot Camp) or the First Sergeant wouldn’t have let it happen. I was amazed that in the presence of the Series Commander, the Company Commander, and another Captain (me) that this would be allowed.

It went on for about a minute.

And it made me sweat.

They were giving it to this kid like no one’s business, all straining to get to the center and “get some.” I thought the kid’s fight or flight instincts would take over, or that he would just faint. One DI in your stuff is bad. Two is worse. Three is getting into sensory overload.

Twelve is just an insane man’s deepest nightmare.

Travis and I watched in awe until the First Sergeant opened his arms to which the DIs reacted instantly, backing off. The First Sergeant put his arm around the shaking kid in a fatherly manner and said something to him before telling him to get the hell out of the area. The kid got about 10 feet away but didn’t have the presence of mind to give a last “AYE AYE SIR!” to the First Sergeant which prompted the pack of DIs to reconverge on him.

It started again as intense as before but this time it lasted only until the First Sergeant strolled over and broke it up again. The kid’s voice cracked as he yelled a final “AYE AYE SIR!” and RAN for his life.

Whatever the kid did, he’ll NEVER do again. And it couldn’t have been too comfortable to hear with your back turned toward it for the recruits standing at attention, after getting a very scary inspection, albeit nowhere near to what they just heard behind them.

The kid ran away, turning left and disappeared behind the barracks. Suddenly, there was a roar of another DI.


All I could see was a side-view of a DI pointing with his hand down the corridor between the barracks where the recruit had disappeared.

The DI wasn’t involved in the recent bloodbath and probably knew nothing about it. All he saw was a recruit running and as happens in bootcamp, decided to have a talk with a random recruit. And one that is running for no apparent reason was a prime target.

I know the kid was probably in tears after enduring what was the most stressful bootcamp moment I had ever seen. Now he got randomly nabbed by a DI who neither knew nor cared what had just happened.

As Travis and I walked away with our assigned DI, we discussed what we both saw. I assured him that I had NEVER seen anything like that and we were both in awe.

We went back to an office building and as we were walking, two recruits were coming the other way and I kept saying in my head “Salute! Do it! Come on…”

Sure enough, they didn’t and the DI with us barked “STOP!”

He walked away from us, went over to the recruits as Travis and I stopped, and watched what we all knew was coming.

One of the recruits had a canteen and other items tucked in his arm but was carrying it with his right hand (a bad move since you are never supposed to carry anything with the hand you will need for saluting). The DI knocked it out of his hand and started berating him about saluting officers. The other recruit did a quick about face and with a look of terror, popped a salute.

The problem was, I saw the second recruit start to turn around and didn’t want to salute until both of them were saluting. This made the first one wonder why he had saluted and I was just standing there. That, and I felt like an ass because I was the reason for this whole scene (I know, they screwed up, but I still felt bad for them).

So I saluted them both and the DI barked at them to pick up their trash and carry on.

Gotta love boot camp.

Free Advice for Today: “Answer the phone with enthusiasm and energy in your voice.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


R.I.P. Godfather’s Taco Pizza

Wednesday, September 28th, 2005


- Unknown

To my horror, they did it.

They closed down Godfather’s and replaced it with some cheap facsimile of a pizza joint that surely could not have replicated the famed taco pizza that Godfather’s is famous for.

The bombshell came as we passed by the former sacred grounds and I saw that alas, it was no longer.

Today at lunch, I decided that maybe, JUST MAYBE, they just changed the name but the menu was the same. It was a long shot seeing how Godfather’s was a chain and changing the name was unlikely. But I had to try.

Travis and I entered the familiar haunt and the first indication was not a good one.

“Do you have taco pizza?”

Complete confusion erupted from the young woman’s face.


Looking down at the menu on the counter, I saw what I was looking for and excitedly stabbed at the picture.

“This!!! Yes, you do!!!”

It ends up that the girl was new and that’s why she had the confused look. I was so excited, I didn’t care as I noticed that the pad she was writing on had the Godfather’s logo on it.

“This used to be Godfather’s. What’s with the name change?”

“Oh, two guys owned it before and one sold out to the other. Then decided to go with his name for the place.”

I didn’t really understand this but again, I didn’t care. I was going to have taco pizza and everything was good in the world once again.

I ordered me up a small since Travis decided to be a big puss and go for the buffet. I sat back and waited for my prize to show up.

And I waited.

And waited…..

After an absurd amount of time (there was hardly anyone else in the place), I finally went to the front and asked if they were going to bring it to me or if I had to actually pick it up. This put a fire in their ass and not long after, they brought me…. they brought me….

What the hell did they bring me?

First of all, it had big globules of sour cream on top.

Um… EW!

Hello, it’s called SOUR cream. What’s it doing all over my taco pizza like bird droppings?

And what’s with the slices of dill pickle? Yes, DILL FRIGGIN’ PICKLES!!!!!

The sauce was off. The cheese was somehow wrong. It was undercooked.

It sucked ass.

It was not the taco pizza of old that the “helper” assured me was from the same menu with the same ingredients.

What was worse was that after I ordered it but before I got it, I Blackberry-emailed my Gunny who was in Pendleton today informing him that I was putting a M-F (and that ain’t Monday through Friday!) piece of M-F Godfather’s pizza in my damn mouth (I decided against accusing my mouth of such heinous behavior).

He had given me no end of shit about Godfather’s being gone, to the same degree I talk about his sushit fetish.

So now not only did I NOT get my beloved taco pizza, I had to pay $17 for a small pie-o-shit which I didn’t even eat half. And along with it, I had to eat my email.

Today was a black day.

Free Advice for Today: “What you must do, do cheerfully.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


Pitcher This

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

Quote of the Day: “A bartender is just a pharmacist with a limited inventory.”

- Unknown

Since most of the official business is not really noteworthy outside my specific job, I decided to just write about the extracurricular activities. With the three hour time change, I wake up at like 4:00 AM and then after we do our business on the base, we get ready to go have an early dinner and come back tired at around 7:00 PM.

Lame, I know.

Tonight, Gunny wanted sushi(t) so we made our way out to Junior Seua’s Sportsbar where we were seated in the sushit bar in the back which obviously doubled as the deep freezer. I thought, well, maybe if I start drinking beer I will warm up. Such is my logic.

Gunny had his normal assortment of disgusting raw fish bullshit and I sat there, freezing and drinking. After he was done eating his bait and I was two Coors Light into failing the warm-up routine, we got a seat in the main restaurant where me and the contractor with us would order and eat REAL food.

I was feeling pretty good with the two beers and hungry so I naturally ordered the porterhouse (in my defense, they didn’t have a T-bone).

When the waitress came, I asked if the beers were still $2 which had surprised me when we got the first bill. No such luck, though, because the price had jumped up to $4 a bottle. The pitchers were about $12 and I figured since Gunny was driving, me and James could tackle a pitcher.

“No thanks.”
“I don’t want any.”

Damn, now I’m on the horns of a dilemma. I was on the edge, thinking that surely James would partake if I ordered the pitcher.

“What do you have on tap?”
“We have Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light….”
“STOP!! What do you say, James?”
“No, really, I’m good.”

Awww, he’ll drink some.

Then the final nail.

“They don’t want any and I can’t drink a whole pitcher.”
“Sure you can”
came the response from pretty waitress.

“Yeah, you’re right, bring a pitcher of Coors Light.”

And so that’s how it is when you have testosterone.

The pitcher she brought was not a pitcher but the big brother of what you normally expect a pitcher to look like. I gulped when she sat it down. The others laughed.


The first glass I poured barely lowered the line at the top of the pitcher. I’m not kidding, it’s like it didn’t MOVE. Like it didn’t WANT to move.

And this is how it went. I got my steak, I got my beer, and I was on a mission. True to his word, James never touched a drop and I’m too much of a cheapskate to let paid-for beer go to waste.

I finished the son-of-a-bitch. And was real quiet on the way home.

The only other thing that happened was that the cheerleaders from the San Diego Chargers were wandering around the place trying to get people to buy their autographed calendars for, get this, the victims of Katrina. I am NOT kidding.

When they came over to our table and gave their little speech, I was about ¾ done with the monster-pitcher. When they asked if anyone was interested, we all looked at each other with an awkward silence. I finally broke it with the statement I ain’t buying one.” That kind of broke the mood and the others more politely refused the offer. The girls said “OK, so you’re good?”

It was good to see that I hadn’t lost ALL self-control in the face of alcohol and professional eye-candy.

I’m really gonna pay for finishing that pitcher but at least I don’t have a Charger Girls calendar to remind me of my lack of drinking judgment.

Free Advice for Today: “When you need to apologize to someone, do it in person.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


So, Come Here Often?

Monday, September 26th, 2005

Quote of the Day: “If you ain’t makin’ waves, you ain’t kickin’ hard enough!”

- Unknown

Well, folks, the law of averages says that it has to happen eventually.

I had a smooth ride to San Diego AND something just as rare happened also. It’s every guy’s hope that he will be sat next to an attractive female on a plane. More often than not, I am sentenced to sit next to a greasy, fat businessman with a penchant for garlic who won’t shut up until you elbow him in the throat.

But as I was walking down the aisle, I saw off in the distance a pretty young thing sitting in a middle seat, but I didn’t know if that was my aisle. As I got closer, I realized that yes, indeed, that was my aisle seat next to her.

What? OK, what’s the catch? Will she be in shackles? Will she have an uncontrollable flatuance problem? Will she be more of a flight-terror than me and freak out when we hit turbulence? I just couldn’t accept that this beautiful young lady was who I drew out of the big straw pull.

Next to her at the window was a very young Marine, obvious from his high and tight haircut. Why he was going TO San Diego, I don’t know. He looked like he should be leaving, post-bootcamp. But I assumed this was his girlfriend as I settled into my seat.

I’ve seen it plenty of times. Airline Casanovas making their moves on women who are as attractive as they are trapped on a plane next to their would-be suitors. I’ve listened to weak game many times and rolled my eyes at the utter lameness of the attempts.

Not only do I never want to be that guy, I’m like super-paranoid that I would APPEAR to be that guy to those around me. But it’s just too obvious, I thought. Good-looking woman sitting next to me for three and a half hours and add to the situation that the Marine and the girl never said a word to each other which told me they weren’t a couple after all.

I almost felt a pressure from those around me saying “Yeah, you know she’s hot so what are you going to say?” They were waiting for me to make my move so they could ridicule me inside their heads.

Our complete conversation was as follows:

Her: “Excuse me, I need to…”
Me: “Oh, yeah, no problem.” (as I got up to let her by)

Yes, folks, that was it. And the lesson is complete.

When I was young and single, I was too shy to talk to beautiful women. So the situation would have been the same two decades ago. And now, I’m too worried about society’s view to even have a plutonic conversation with anyone in public who happens to be attractive.

So with the understanding that I was not going to even talk to this pretty young woman, I sent some pretty strong mental waves at the young Marine at the window.

“Dude! She’s gorgeous! Say something you moron! Strike up a conversation and don’t be too damn shy to talk to her!!!! The time will come when it will not be acceptable to talk to such an exquisite example of the female race!!!”

He never did.

And the cycle continues.

Free Advice for Today: “Wage ear against procrastination.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


Double Dose

Sunday, September 25th, 2005

Quote of the Day: “Hard work has a future payoff. Laziness pays off NOW.”

- Unknown

Today I got a double dose of fun: I got to see my good friend Rob and I got to take him and his doctor friends around the Nation’s Capitol. He’s an uppity, big-pants ER doctor and was in town for a conference. This is just one more chapter in an old book of memories for Rob and me.

I met Rob when I was a young enlisted avionics technician in Yuma Arizona. He worked in the avionic shop next to me and our friendship grew exponentially when we deployed to the first Gulf War together in 1990. Since then, he has left the service, become a doctor, and we’ve stayed in touch all of these years. I have been present at his first wedding and even his second, and he has seen me graduate college, become an officer, and was even present during the birth of my son.

He was also featured in my story about an infamous night at Scuds and Suds.

Today, I picked up him and three of his doctor friends and along with the kids, we tested out the claim that my new Pilot seats 8 people. With the luggage, it was kind of a tight squeeze but they didn’t seem to mind, appreciative of a free ride from the airport to their hotel.

We invited all of them to come along as we saw the sites so after dropping them off at the hotel, we immediately proceeded to get lost in downtown DC.

We actually lost “the Big Stick” which is what we refer to the Washington Monument.

Think about that for a moment: we got so lost that we lost sight of a 555 foot monument. Yep, I’m quite accomplished in getting lost and today was no different. Just as accomplished is my wife at making lemonade.

“Well, you guys get to see parts of DC you would have never seen otherwise.”

Because the ghetto slums is something that 4 young white doctors wants to find themselves in a brand new Honda Pilot.

“Windows up!”

That’s what we expected but what we saw was strange. Remember, it was Sunday morning so suddenly we found ourselves severely underdressed and everyone outside the car were dressed to the nines. Plus, a lot of people there literally have their “Sunday car” that they drive only to church. As one of the docs joked, “It’s in the Bible: thou shall not drive thy beater to church.”

Sure enough, all the beaters were parked and I found myself in the traffic with Mercedes, Beemers, etc. It was weird.

They fixed up the Washington Monument and it looks great now. With a skirt of grass around it now and a ring of American flags, it no longer looks like crapola like it did for the longest time, trying to get the area fixed up.

Lincoln looked good, still just sitting there but the Reflecting Pool looked more like a sewage pond. Let’s just say that Forrest would likely need a detoxing if he ran out there now to hug Jenny.

Because you can only really tackle one Smithsonian per visit, we decided to take on American History. Why we felt the need to have lunch at the Air and Space first can only be explained as 4 ER doctors and a Marine unable to make a forceful decision. At one point I quipped that this would be the best time to fall down and have some kind of medical emergency but then I added that I’d probably bleed out while they argued about the appropriate course.

“We’d call 911 for ya before we took off.”


Back to American History, we skipped the big display on Presidential First Ladies. I really didn’t want to hear about Dolly Madison’s evening gowns.

But the exhibit on Presidents in general was interesting: we got to see a lot of “stuff” which is what everyone wants to see. Let’s be honest, we want to see the actual stuff they used/owned, etc. We don’t want replicas or explanations. We want to see the everyday stuff like the scribbled Hearts score sheet with Air Force One letterhead. Ike’s golf clubs. The actual filing cabinet they busted up inside the Watergate hotel. The chairs and table that Grant and Lee sat in when they signed the surrender documents.

But they kindly skipped over any Monica Lewinsky paraphernalia. Imagine that.

I thought one of the more entertaining interviews they had was a History channel interview with all the surviving Presidents. They asked each one what they will miss most about being the President and I caught the part where Clinton answered. He noted the people (Monica), the job (you know what kind), the perks (Monica), the ability to make a difference, etc. To me, it was kind of tense because you knew what everyone was thinking, even the interviewer and Clinton himself.

But I got to hand it to him, he did make a very funny little featurette for the Press Corps where he spoofed himself doing mundane things around the White House like taking out the garbage to the curb, laying out sprinklers on the lawn, and being left at the curb with his sack lunch as the Presidential limo sped off.

The other really good exhibit was the Americans at War. It covered all of the wars and the exhibits were chocked full of interesting items from each time period. The best part was the Medal of Honor exhibit which had some videos of guys who won it telling their own story. It was very humbling.

The night ended when Rob joined us for dinner at a little pizza joint. At one point, he excused himself to go to the bathroom and caught the waitress somewhere, paying the bill before we got a chance to object. Classic Rob.

Of course, being the idiot, I didn’t realize this even when it was obvious. Carrie stated that they had not brought the bill and Rob suggested we “Dine-n-Dash.” I thought he was kidding and when he got up, Carrie caught on and I just sat there like a dope.

“Whaaaa….ohhhhhh. You picked up the bill, didn’t you?”


OK, OK, so I wasn’t all that bright tonight. But we did discuss how we should have really sold it to the kids, planning on just jumping up on signal and running out of the restaurant, leaving the kids inside wondering what the hell was going on.

Would I have done it if I thought of it?

Damn skippy.

Free Advice for Today: “Sing to your children.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


Quantico Half Marathon 2005

Saturday, September 24th, 2005

Quote of the Day: “Success is a matter of luck… just ask any failure.”

- Unknown

Quantico Half Marathon 2005

Quantico Half Marathon 2005

Another half-marathon is in the books. What books? Do you really think I keep books? Maybe a corkboard with all my medals but as far as a book, well, I guess that would be my marathon page. But anyway….

Here was my plan: just go out and run it, have a good time, and don’t even think about the time. I haven’t had a decent run for weeks and my long runs have been non-existent. I haven’t been able to run longer than a mile without walking for I don’t know how long so I had no aspirations to rock this run.

But the funny thing was that I was not nervous about this. With the pistol range going on last week, I’ve been too busy to be nervous and have shied away from anything resembling a hard run at lunch for fear of wearing myself out and having it affect the next day’s shooting. So no last minute running heroics before the half-marathon. I even considered not signing up for it but since Sir Phil was running it, I’d rather deal with the sadness of the run than the ridicule for not signing up.

I picked up Sir Phil at 0600 and we picked up another guy for the trip to the base. Getting there in plenty of time, I didn’t even care that I drank a whole mug of coffee on the way. Up until the start time, I had absolutely no nerves at all.

Like I mentioned, I thought I’d just go out with Sir Phil and Kevin, we’d chat, and do something in the 2 hour plus range. No pressure, no delusions of grandeur.

We started out and I hung with them for the first mile. People started picking up the pace and we pointed them out, accusing them of succumbing to the call. In stark contrast, we kept our own little conversational pace and stayed with the mass of people.

It was a lot cooler than last year and the humidity was significantly less. Last year, by the two-mile mark, I was soaked head to foot and it hadn’t even started raining yet. Today, it was overcast and in the 60s so I was happy. Along with our slower pace, it was shaping up to be a nice easy run.

Then I put my earplugs in and turned on my iPod.

Smooth Criminal.

Yes, I have Michael Jackson on my iPod but only two songs, the other being Dirty Diana because they both are great running songs. Don’t judge until you try it.

Anyway, a couple of things happened. First, the song got me going. Second, I realized that I had passed the mile marker and I was feeling absolutely no pain. Third, I was having a tough time going at this pace. I needed to speed it up and could without it becoming a race.

So my thought was that I would just increase my speed and when it started to hurt, I’d slow down.

That was a great plan except for one thing: I was with the slow crowd so increasing my speed resulted in me passing HUNDREDS of people within the next mile. And you know what happens when you start passing people, especially the chubbier ones up ahead.

“Don’t fall for it, Grose, don’t go bolting off and then die mid-race.”

Hey, since when was this a “race”?

Sir Phil and Kevin were distant memories. Like every other race I have ever run, this became an individual venture and I lost myself in the music. I was careful not to push too hard but I was going at a good clip without getting tired. What the hell was going on? I was NOT conditioned for this kind of performance.

OK, stick to the plan, when it starts to hurt, pull it back and in the meantime, just keep a steady pace.

The miles went by with no pain. I kept the pace and wasn’t even stopping for my normal 9 minute run / 1 minutes walk strategy that I’ve been doing for years. I walked for 30 seconds at the water stops that were every two miles but other than that, I just kept going.

I never did the math. I didn’t know my pace and I didn’t extrapolate my finishing time.

I just ran.

I should bonk at one point, right? I mean, no real training, short or long runs, and I was doing a respectable pace even if I HAD been training. This can’t really pan out, can it?

The only irksome detail about the run was that my iPod randomness wasn’t really getting with the program. I need to make a running playlist because I kept getting too much slow Sarah McLachlan and Enya. I was afraid my back was going to cramp when I kept having to reach behind me and forward through undesired songs.

I hit the Gu before the race, at mile 6 (because they didn’t have water at mile 5) and at mile 10. It was just the kick I needed and kept my miracle run going.

Coming in the home stretch, I finally felt the rigors of running 12 miles up to that point. But I was a mile from the finish and I wasn’t about to break completely down. I did slow down to keep the pain to a minimum but I’ve felt a lot worse in many other races. I pushed it a little bit but only to try to keep pace. I was not into the whole “sprint the last mile” attitude that I normally adopt at the end of a race.

The end came up sooner than I could believe, although the last ½ mile was really starting to suck. In this race, they dump you out on the track where you have to do a lap before getting to the finish. I did have a fleeting fear that I would be passed at the very end but I tried to fight it. Run your own race, Jason, is what I kept telling myself.

I came in at 1:52:53 which is almost 10 minutes slower than last year. I’m proud of my score but was rather surprised when I got home that I had ran that fast last year. I don’t know exactly where I’d make up 10 minutes today but I guess I did last year. I remember feeling MUCH worse physically after last year’s race.

I was accosted by the timing chip police this year. Coming through the chute, I had little interest in what the two people staring at everyone’s feet wanted. With my earbuds in, I could not hear them and since my interest in their commands was non-existent, I stumbled forward toward the people handing out medals. I wanted my medal and then I wanted some place out of the way where I could lean over at 90 degrees for just a few moment.

Leaving the chute, I could see in the remaining peripheral vision I had that the two chip Nazis were following me. Even the medal-bestower said what I believe was something to do with handing in my chip.

After catching my breath, I untied my chip and stood back up to an array of stars and spots of blackness. Just as I suspected, the two goons had followed me to get my chip and once I handed it over, they disappeared.

A bottle of water, a cup of Gatorade, two chocolate chip cookies, and a banana. That’s all I needed. I passed on the bagel since the liquid content of my mouth consisted of something near dehydrated salt packed in a jar of sand.

Sir Phil and Kevin came in sometime after 2 hours like they planned. My abandoning of him does not even phase Sir Phil any longer. He didn’t even chastise me. He’s just accepted it and knew I would even though I assured him multiple times I was just looking to start, jog, and finish.

Damn you, Michael Jackson.

(but thanks)

Free Advice for Today: “When going through the checkout line, ask the cashier how she’s doing.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


I’m A Sharpshooter

Friday, September 23rd, 2005


- Unknown

Pistol Sharpshooter Badge

It wasn’t even close. I am a shooter of the sharp variety and I’m OK with that. Hell, the way I shoot, sharpshooter is reason to get gut-retching drunk (but I will abstain in deference to my wife who would have to put up with dunk/sick Jason and there is the little matter of running a half-marathon tomorrow.)

Was I nervous? Hell yes, always am before any kind of performance evaluation. Just like the physical fitness test: 18 years of first class scores but I still get the butterflies even now.

So I was a bit nervous this morning and kept telling myself to relax, be a robot on the line, squeeze the tennis ball, focus on the front site post, and just hope for the best. But the nerves were still there and I tried to relax, hoping that NOTHING out of the ordinary would happen lest I completely fall apart like toilet paper in the rain.

I woke up and got ready, check. I drove in (hitting a little traffic but had plenty of time), check. Visit the porta-potty, check. Look in the hole, check.

OK, everything was set.

Everything was going smooth at the 25 except I seemed to be a little spray-happy. I had plenty to drop from yesterday and still stay within the sharpshooter range and I didn’t pay attention to anything but the next shot.

The fun and games came at the magazine changing drills. I was getting the usual pings in the head from the brass casings ejecting from the Staff Sergeant’s pistol next to me but I was handling it well. Then, his second shot of his first magazine threw the shell and it hit me right in the eye. Luckily, I had just shot my pistol and my eye was momentarily shut, but it stung a little bit. The worse part was that it made me a bit nervous for the rest of that line of fire. But I did decent enough.

The very last part of the course is loading 3 rounds in one magazine and 3 rounds in the other one. You fire off the three rounds, drop the magazine, pull out the other magazine from your pouch, load it, and fire the last three. You have 10 seconds to do all of this. If anything is going to go wrong, here is where it normally happens.

For me, there was a moment when I sucked up half my underwear and part of my tourser seat. When I pulled out that second magazine, I saw that the round was crooked a little bit.

Oh shit.

There are procedures for this that you have to do right to get a second chance but I knew that if anything went wrong, I was going to FREAK and hose it all up. I put the magazine in, slammed it, released the receiver to chamber the round…. and it chambered without a problem.


Whew!!! OK, only one set left and we’re done.

This is when my freak outs, self-questioning, self-doubting, pity-party completely evaporated. Here’s why.

The Staff Sergeant next to me was shooting well. Yeah his brass casing were using my head as a backboard after every shot but I had no malice for the man. I figured he’d shoot expert and he would have, except…

The tower told us to unholster the pistol. We did. Then they said to load a magazine of three rounds. We did. Then they told us to chamber a round (by pulling back the upper-receiver and letting it go, thus chambering the first round) We did…. but wait…. I did.

In the corner of my eye, I saw that the Staff Sergeant performed the same step but when he let go of the upper receiver, a round inexplicably popped out and fell to the ground.

“SHIT!” was his words and my thought.

As unfortunate as this was, it wasn’t over. The second round jammed in his chamber. So he pulled back on the upper receiver and the second round popped out.

The coaches were right behind us and I figured they would give him an alibi since they didn’t stop anything. But for some reason when all was said and done, they didn’t do anything. I don’t know what he was told, all I know is that I felt like hell for him that he got shorted two shots. THAT is EXACTLY the situation that made me nervous for qual day.

I ended up with a 321 which is worse than yesterday but still within the sharpshooter range. Was I happy? Does “Hell” go with “yeah”? Sharpshooter, third award, baby!

Here is a conversation I had yesterday with my buddy Leon. He was having really bad back spasms yesterday before pre-qual:

Leon: I shot well today…. Back and all… 373. Lets see what happens with the qual day curse…..

Me: Damn, maybe you can manage a hernia or a grand mal seizure for tomorrow if a 373 is what back spasms give you.

I’ll be happy with my little 334, thank you very much.

Leon: Tomorrow you’ll walk away with a 394 like “wow I just did what the coach told me and it just happened” and I’ll walk away with a 320. Its how the curse works, whoever I tell my pre-qual score to will shoot better than me at qual.

“Your welcome.” -Capt Buddihas Circ. 1997

That last line is a long story better saved for some other time.

Free Advice for Today: “Don’t be a person who says, “Ready, aim, aim, aim.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


The Day Before

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005


- Unknown

Pre-qual day. You know what that means: freak out for no apparent reason.

After yesterday’s double-action fiasco, I was ready to take care of business at the 25 yard line with my single-action self.

My first few shots were shaky. I cut back on the coffee but the one thing I did yesterday that I didn’t do today was to eat a piece of fruit. I thought the little extra fuel would counteract any caffeine shakes and even if it didn’t, the increased shakiness that occurred today would naturally be blamed on the change. More likely, it was just having the “pre-qualification day” label put on it.

After my first few shaky shots I relaxed but then I realized that I was getting pelted with a brass casing each time the Staff Sergeant to my left fired.

TINK ….. right in the head, every time.

So I came up with a plan: I would wait until he fired, take the headshot, and then take my shot at my target. This would also better pace me because he seemed to know what he was doing.

At the end of the 15 rounds, I did not shoot as well as I expected from going from double-action shots to single-action. My target looked a little sprayed and my shaking even elicited a few visits from the coach telling me…. That I was shaking.

“Are you nervous, Sir?”

What an emasculating question.

“No, just shaky today”…. You miserable little….

When I finished and we looked at the target, I was all around the bulls on most of the shots but I had about half in the black. The rest really had no pattern so there wasn’t much to say except the pistol-shooting version of catch-all advice “Keep your eye on the ball” made famous by father’s throughout time.

“Focus on your front site post.”


During the speed drills, we load 8 rounds. They then yell “TARGETS” and we fire off two shots in 4 seconds. Then they do it again. After 4 times, we are done and go see how we did.

I only pulled one shot out of the black. All the rest were in the bulls.

I was floored.

But wait, there were only 6 shots in the bulls, one in the white…. Where was that 8th shot?

“What do you think, Sir?” (the coaches scored the target today and tomorrow)

“I don’t know, I don’t think I could have missed the whole fucking target.”

A couple of things confused me here. First, where was that 8th hole? Second, why was the coach asking ME where I thought it was. He’s the one in charge at this moment and closer to the target.

He just looked at me like what should he do.

“Which hole do you think it went through?”

OK, now I get it. But it was hard to swallow.

“Well, that one on the 9 ring looks like the biggest hole.”

He bent over and looked at it closer. Finally, he marked it and mumbled something about owing him a case of beer.

I felt bad about it but upon further reflection, I knew he wouldn’t “give” it to me. The fact was that I had knocked 6 holes in the black and the only one I dropped was just outside the black. So while improbable, it is at least possible that that eighth shot went right through one of the other holes.

If I would have been all over the target, or even an errant shot near the edge, he would have never even considered it.

My very last shot today hit so near the bottom right of the target, it almost MISSED the target. The sad part is that it was only from 15 yards away and part of the 3 and 3 magazine exchange drills. Most of the others were decent shots and that last one was just a bloody afterbirth of a spazmotronic moment.

I really thought I pumped the pooch today. I never had a REALLY impressive grouping and I at least hoped for a sharpshooter score.

That’s why I was totally surprised when the coach told me my score at the end: 334 which is a mid-sharpshooter, only 11 shy of an expert.

The weird thing is that the entire time, I felt like everyone around me was doing better and I was always just bringing up the rear. Staff Sergeant Shell Casings To My Head ended up with a lower score and Gunny I Have My Own Personal Shooting Gear did MUCH worse than I did.

I don’t know. I definitely not getting a big head because I know that I have untapped potential to ram my score prison-style for qual day tomorrow.

The pressure is on.

Free Advice for Today: “When you find someone doing small things well, put him or her in charge of bigger things.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


Pistol Day Three: The Retardeding

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

Quote of the Day:



Oh, I outdid myself today.

For those of you that don’t know, I’m on the pistol range and all week I’ve been, well, let’s just say not the stellar little pistol shooter. But today, I took it to the next level….down.

The first course of fire is 15 shots from 25 yards back at your own pace, as long as you get them all shot within 10 minutes; plenty of time to squeeze one off, put it on safe, lower the pistol, cry, pray, cry again, space out and relax, and then get ready for your next one. The main sin perpetrated by most is that they rush this and end up with all kinds of time at the end. But I would NEVER… who am I kidding?

I’m a main sinner to be sure but that was not the most heinous idiocy I accomplished today.

As I squeezed off the 13th shot, my coach came over to me.

“Sir, you didn’t cock back the pistol. You squeezed off a double-action shot on that one.”

To explain this, there are two types of shots: single-action and double-action.

Double-action is when the hammer is fully seated and you squeeze the trigger, pulling the hammer ALL the way back before the pistol fires.

Single-action is when you use your thumb to pull back the hammer, where it locks, and THEN squeeze the trigger. Just like in the movies when someone wants to make a point and they loudly cock the pistol and whoever it’s intended for shits their pants and becomes a lot more cooperative.

Anyway, the main difference is that it takes a lot more trigger pressure to pull back the trigger for a double-action shot and in comparison, a single-action shot is A LOT easier. This helps because the longer you hold the pistol up, the shakier it gets and also, the force it takes to pull back a double action shot also adds to the instability of your aim.

Now you will be able to appreciate my coach’s comment. I had mistakenly neglected to cock the trigger so I shot a double action shot from the 25 yard line, a distance where even the slightest misalignment will cause shots way off the center.

If it was just that, so be it. But there’s more.

I didn’t even KNOW that we were supposed to be shooting single-action shots from the 25!!!!

Yes folks, on Monday, Tuesday, and 13 shots into my Wednesday firing, I was clueless that I was making things harder on myself. I had been shooting like this all week and no one told me. I felt so much like a complete idiot that the thought ran through my head that there WERE two shots left….. naw.

The last two shots were MUCH MUCH easier in single-action.

“So THAT’S what it’s supposed to feel like. Humph.”


Free Advice for Today: “Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.